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NETGEAR Nighthawk RAX80 Review

The Nighthawk RAX80 is ideal if you have 1,200Mbps internet or slower

front shot of nighthawk rax80

Is the Nighthawk RAX80 right for you?

The Nighthawk RAX80 is an affordable pick if your internet plan is 1,200Mbps or slower. It’s the smaller, cheaper sibling of the RAX200 model, packing one less band, one less internet connection option, and fewer streams. It’s a tad bit slower than the RAX200, too, but that’s okay because the RAX80 offers a better megabit-per-dollar value. And it’s a far more attractive setup than the RAX50 model we previously tested.

Pros:

  • Built-in OpenVPN server
  • 160 MHz channels
  • 2Gbps internet support

Cons:

  • Subscription-locked features
  • No multi-gig internet port
  • No free security

Fastest internet plans for the RAX80

You can link the WAN port with the LAN 1 port to create a single superfast connection to a compatible modem, gateway, or fiber ONT. However, it doesn’t support multi-gig internet—the fastest plan the RAX80 currently supports is 1,200Mbps.

To see if you have the best internet speeds for the RAX80, run our speed test first:

 

 

 

You don’t absolutely need a 1,200Mbps plan to use this router—any plan under 1,200Mbps will do. Here’s a list of options if you were already thinking about an upgrade anyway:

PlanSpeedTypePriceOrder online
AT&T Internet 1000Up to 500MbpsFiber$80.00/mo.View Plans for AT&T
CenturyLink Fiber GigabitUp to 940MbpsFiber$75.00/mo.
Cox Go Super FastUp to 500MbpsCable$99.99/mo.§View Plans for Cox Communications
Frontier Fiber 1 GigUp to 1,000MbpsFiber$59.99/mo.||View Plans for Frontier
Google Fiber 1 GigUp to 1,000MbpsFiber$70.00/mo.||||View Plans for Google Fiber
Mediacom Prime Internet 1 GIGUp to 1,000MbpsCable$54.99/mo.#View Plans for Mediacom
Optimum 1 Gig Fiber InternetUp to 940MbpsFiber$45.00/mo.**View Plans for Optimum
Spectrum Internet® GigUp to 1,000Mbps
(wireless speeds may vary)
Cable/fiber$89.99/mo.††
for 12 mos.
View Plans for Spectrum
Verizon Internet 1 GigUp to 940MbpsFiber$89.99/mo.‡‡
WOW Internet 1 GigUp to 1,000MbpsCable$50.00/mo.##View Plans for WOW!
Xfinity Gigabit ExtraUp to 1,200MbpsCable$80.00/mo.§§View Plans for Xfinity

Nighthawk RAX80 standout features

close up of logo on nighthawk rax80

The RAX80 has a few callouts, like the OpenVPN server and media streaming. It has some basic parental controls through Circle, but features like bedtimes and malware protection require two separate subscriptions.

The best features at a glance:

  • OpenVPN server
  • Media server
  • File sharing
  • Link aggregation

Compare the Nighthawk RAX80 to the competition

ProductWi-Fi versionMax throughputPrice*Get it
NETGEAR Nighthawk RAX80AX60006,000Mbps$209.67View on Amazon
TP-Link Archer AX6000AX60006,000Mbps$249.99View on Amazon
TP-Link Archer AX5400 ProAX54005,400Mbps$149.99View on Best Buy
NETGEAR Nighthawk RAX50AX54005,400Mbps$229.99View on Amazon

All four models had roughly the same speed ranges in our tests. They started off at around 850Mbps (give or take, depending on the model) at close range and benchmarked roughly 242Mbps at our 120-foot spot across the street. The only exception of the four was the Archer AX6000, which hit a higher 280Mbps average at our 120-foot marker.

Of the four, the RAX50 is the only model that doesn’t support multi-gig internet. Technically, the RAX80 doesn’t either, but it comes close with real-world wired internet speeds of around 1,880Mbps. The Archer AX6000 and AX5400 Pro models have a dedicated 2.5Gbps port for multi-gig internet.

See our full coverage of the best Wi-Fi routers.

Our Nighthawk RAX80 scoring breakdown

Category Score* Summary
Performance 4 Matches the speeds of other AX6000 routers we’ve tested.
Features 3 Requires three accounts to use fully.
Design 4 Packs link aggregation to support plans under 800Mbps.
Setup 4 Gets you up and running in 12 steps.
Ease of use 4 Presents a humdrum but clean two-tab web interface.

* out of 5 points

close up of the buttons on the nighthawk rax80

Performance

4

Wi-Fi configuration:

  • 2.4 GHz band: 1,200Mbps (4 x 300Mbps)
  • 5 GHz band: 4,800Mbps (4 x 1,200Mbps)*

The RAX80 performed as expected in our Wi-Fi 6 tests, matching the speeds of similarly-classed routers like TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 and Archer AX5400 Pro models. Stating that one is faster than the other at close range seems irrelevant since we’re talking about a few megabits per second. The Archer AX6000 had a 30Mbps lead over the others by the time we tested from across the street at 120 feet.

The Wi-Fi 5 device testing was a bit more curious. The TP-Link Archer AX5400 Pro started out the strongest at close range but had the lowest average of the four at 120 feet. Overall, Wi-Fi 5 devices with an 866Mbps cap usually range from a 650Mbps average at two feet to 150Mbps at 120 feet, but our old Google Pixel 3 managed a 159Mbps average at 120 feet when we tested it with the RAX80. Not bad.

nighthawk rax8 side wings folded up

Features

3

Notable features:

  • Built-in OpenVPN server
  • Media server
  • Basic profile management

NETGEAR discontinued ReadyCLOUD on April 4, 2023, so you can scratch that off the RAX80’s feature list. The parental controls are handled through Circle, a standalone service owned by Aura. That leaves little other features under the RAX80 hood.

With the USB port, you can share files and create a local media server. The OpenVPN server allows you to use the router as your personal VPN service when you’re off the network—simply install the OpenVPN client on your device and pair it with the router. Bitdefender’s premium VPN client is part of the Armor subscription.

What we wish the Nighthawk RAX80 did better

  • Free security
  • More free parental controls

The AX80 needs more free security features. ASUS and TP-Link include free malware protection—why can’t NETGEAR offer the same basic security features?

The parental controls are managed through a non-NETGEAR service, which is weird already. The free version, Circle Basic, lets you:

  • Create a profile
  • Add an age-specific filter (Pre-K, Kid, Teen, or Adult)
  • Add devices to the profile
  • Pause the internet (by profile or device).

Bedtimes, daily time limits, and Off Times require a Circle Premium subscription.

side view of nighthawk rax80 ports

Design

4

Buttons:

  • 1x LED on/off button (back)
  • 1x reset recessed button (back)
  • 1x power button (back)
  • 1x Wi-Fi on/off button (top)
  • 1x WPS button (top)

Ports:

  • 5x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (back)
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet WAN port (back)

The RAX80 has a better design than the RAX50 we previously tested. Sure, we love the gray and black stingray design (more so than the all-sparkly-black RAX200 and RAXE500, in fact), but what it has to offer on a hardware level is a bit more savory than the RAX50’s configuration.

Namely, the RAX80 supports 2Gbps connections through two link aggregation configurations. That’s far less desirable than having a 2.5Gbps port, as pairing two Gigabit Ethernet ports gives you roughly 1,880Mbps in real-world speed, which is slower than a 2,000Mbps internet plan. The RAX80 is best suited for 1,200Mbps plans and modems supporting link aggregation.

Other good callouts here include support for 160 MHz channels, increased device capacity on the 2.4 GHz band, and a fifth Gigabit Ethernet port—which is a little unusual given most configurations have four or eight. We like unusual—it keeps things interesting.

Setup

4

Inside the box:

  • 1x router
  • 1x power adapter
  • 1x Ethernet cable
  • 1x Quick Start Guide

The web-based setup process is no different than the one we experienced with the RAX50 model prior to this review. It’s a relatively painless 12 steps that get you up and running in no time flat. It can feel a little longer than the competition as you wait for the speed test and firmware updates. The security questions add to your setup time too.

In the end, you’d expect to end up facing the router’s home screen, but no. Instead, NETGEAR prompts you to create a cloud account and register the product. You must open a new tab to access the router’s web interface (sigh).

nighthawk web interface

Ease of use

4

Router interface:

Unlike TP-Link, NETGEAR uses the same two-tab web interface layout across its non-gaming standalone router family. It’s not the prettiest design on the planet—we’re still wondering why we can’t get a dark mode—but it gets the job done.

The big difference over the previous RAX50 we tested is the addition of parental controls, which in the web interface only allows you to enable and disable the feature. You need the Circle app (App Store, Google Play) to create profiles and set internet limits.

The Nighthawk mobile app borrows the tile design and offers a minimal set of controls. You can do simple things like share the Wi-Fi network credentials, allow and block devices, and view any support tickets. Things like changing the Wi-Fi channel and bandwidth mode require the web interface (which you can easily access from a mobile browser).

Are there any additional costs?

A Circle subscription unlocks extra parental control features for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The Armor subscription costs $99.99 per year and includes multi-device antivirus protection, Bitdefender VPN, DDoS prevention, and more. You can extend the router’s warranty, too, for up to $119.99.

side shot of nighthawk rax80

Our Nighthawk RAX80 review: The verdict

The RAX80 is a slimmed-down, more affordable version of the RAX200. It has one less band, four fewer streams, slightly slower Wi-Fi speeds based on our tests, and no dedicated multi-gig port. It also doesn’t have the same reach as the RAX200 (or RAXE500), but the price is so much easier to digest.

In fact, at the time of this review, the RAX80 was a far better deal than the RAX50 model we previously reviewed, costing $3 more. The RAX50 doesn’t support wired speeds over a gigabit, plus it doesn’t sport the cool stingray design like the RAX80. You simply get more bang for your buck out of the RAX80.

But there’s a catch. All NETGEAR routers lock notable security features behind the Armor subscription. Full parental controls also require a subscription—Circle in this case—although you do get some helpful profile-based device management for free.

The bottom line is that the RAX80 is our new favorite NETGEAR router. We’ll never be a big fan of subscriptions, especially when you can get similar features for free on other routers. But the RAX80 is the most reasonable out of all the non-gaming Nighthawk routers we’ve tested to date.

Get the NETGEAR Nighthawk RAX80

FAQ about the Nighthawk RAX80

Is the Nighthawk RAX80 a gaming router?
What’s included in the NETGEAR Armor subscription?

What’s included in the NETGEAR ProSupport for Home subscription?

ProSupport for Home offers two tiers. Here are the features you’ll get.

Plan:WarrantyWarranty + Support
Features:
  • Repair and replacements

  • Accidental damage coverage

  • Free express replacement service
  • Repair and replacements

  • Accidental damage coverage

  • Free express replacement service

  • Exclusive phone support

  • 24/7 access to expert tech support

  • Software support via chat, email, and phone
Duration:Two yearsTwo years
Price:$49.99 (one-time fee)$119.99 (one-time fee)

What’s included with Circle?

Circle is a standalone parental control service provided by Aura. The RAX80 includes support for this platform, but it’s not managed by NETGEAR. It has basic profile-based features you can use for free, but things like bedtimes and time limits require a subscription.

BasicPremium
  • User profiles

  • Pause internet (profiles or specific devices)

  • Platform and category filters

  • Website history

  • Daily time limits

  • Bedtimes

  • Offtimes (dinner, homework, etc)

  • Rewards (extend times)

  • Detailed usage
Free$4.99/mo. or $49.99/yr.

What does AX6000 mean?

The AX6000 class represents the Wi-Fi type in use and the maximum amount of bandwidth the router can deliver across all bands. With the AX80, the router is based on Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and has a maximum bandwidth of 6,000Mbps. The number doesn’t represent speed, but rather is indicative of the number of devices it can transmit to in any given second. Here’s the breakdown:

Band and channel widthTotal bandwidthStream configMax device bandwidthMax device count
2.4 GHz (40 MHz)1,200Mbps4 x 300Mbps2 at 600Mbps4 at 300Mbps
5 GHz (160 MHz)4,800Mbps4 x 1,200Mbps2 at 2,400Mbps4 at 1,200Mbps
5 GHz (80 MHz)2,400Mbps4 x 600Mbps2 at 1,200Mbps4 at 600Mbps

RAX80 vs. RAX200: What’s the difference?

Besides the smaller size and color scheme, there are a handful of differences between the RAX80 and RAX200 models. Take a look:

RAX80RAX200
ClassAX6000AX11000
Max throughput6,000Mbps11,000Mbps
Bands23
Streams812
Max internet input2,000Mbps2,500Mbps
WAN optionsWAN (1Gbps)

WAN + LAN 1 (2Gbps)
WAN (1Gbps)

WAN + LAN 1 (2Gbps)

2.5GbE (2.5Gbps)
LAN Ports5x 1GbE4x 1GbE + 1x 2.5GbE
Link aggregationWAN + LAN 1 (2Gbps)

LAN 4 + LAN 5 (2Gbps)
WAN + LAN 1 (2Gbps)

LAN 3 + LAN 4 (2Gbps)
Price:$209.67$489.99

The bottom line is the RAX80 is best used with internet plans of 1,200Mbps or less, while the RAX200 is ideal for internet plans of 2,000Mbps or less. The RAX200 had slightly higher speeds during our tests (~40Mbps), and was the only one of the two that could still push a handful of megabits at 160 feet. The RAX200 price was overinflated at the time of this review, making the RAX80 a better megabit-per-dollar deal.

Methodology

We test router speed by setting up each router in an office and connecting it to a local test server. Then, we transmit test data between our wireless devices and the server, taking numerous measurements to account for fluctuations in Wi-Fi speeds.

The first tests occur close to the router, without obstructions—so the Wi-Fi is as strong and fast as it’s gonna get. We repeat the process straight out at 10, 20, and 30 feet, with only a glass door obstructing our view of the router. The same glass door and an exterior door blocks our path when we test outside at 40 and 50 feet.

We also run tests in a hallway to the left of the TV room and office—where there’s a glass door, three walls, and an air handler unit blocking our view of the router. The dining room, another testing point, sits to the right of the kitchen, TV room, and office—two walls and a glass door block the path in this test.

To test video streaming, we connect a fast storage device to the router and stream a 4K video to six wireless devices simultaneously—two phones, three tablets, and a laptop—connected to the same wireless band.

Client devices used in testing

iPhone 12 Pro MaxGoogle Pixel 3
Wi-Fi versionWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 5
Stream configuration2 x 22 x 2
Max channel width80 MHz80 MHz
Max 5 GHz speed (AX)1,200 Mbps
Max 5 GHz speed (AC)866 Mbps866 Mbps
Max 2.4 GHz speed (AX)195 Mbps
Max 2.4 GHz speed (AC)195 Mbps144 Mbps

Nighthawk RAX80 benchmarks (5 GHz only)

iPhone 12 Pro Max*Google Pixel 3*
2 feet858643
10 feet841587
20 feet817520
30 feet785463
40 feet (porch)671394
120 feet (across street)249159
160 feet (mailboxes)Not connectedNot connected
20 feet (hallway)659272

Disclaimer

Author -

Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on network equipment testing and review.