The Netgear RAXE500 is an early entry into the Wi-Fi 6E router space, and on paper it looks like a wireless network powerhouse. It also looks good and is easy to set up – at least on the hardware side – with no antennas to attach. But as we’ll see in testing, it struggles a lot on a congested network. And despite the very high price, Netgear charges extra for ongoing security support.
But before we get into the details of the router, a quick advanced Wi-Fi introduction: While it may seem like Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is still new, Wi-Fi 6E is the latest generation of standards for our wireless standards. needs data. The names of these standards can certainly be confusing, in part because Wi-Fi 6E is also referred to as 802.11ax. However, 6E has even higher potential speeds on the 5 GHz frequency. The big change, though, is an all-new frequency — 6 GHz — that should be a lot less crowded, at least until all your neighbors upgrade their gear too. But don’t expect your existing technology to benefit much from 6E. Until you upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E on the device side, you won’t be able to take advantage of these improvements. Check out our feature for much more about the differences between wifi 6 and 6EI
Design of the Netgear RAXE500
The housing of the Netgear RAXE500 is made of sturdy black plastic, which is easy to deploy because there are no antennas to screw onto the housing. Hardware installation is as easy as unfolding the two wings – the design certainly saves time and effort. The overall aesthetic seems to be somewhere between an Imperial TIE fighter and an ocean-dwelling manta ray. If you’re concerned about the amount affecting performance, the wings hide a total of 8 antennas inside.
The size of the router isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but it’s certainly not small. Measuring 11.7 x 3.07 x 8.3 inches (298 x 78 x 211 mm) and weighing 3.2 lb (1.45 kg), the Netgear RAXE500 feels substantial without being too bulky to carry. to be.
The back of the router contains four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, along with a WAN Gigabit Ethernet port and a 2.5G Multi-Gig port. The Netgear RAXE500 also supports link aggregation of the Gigabit ports for even faster speeds. For adding network-accessible storage, there are also a number of USB 3.0 ports.
Specifications of the Netgear RAXE500
Under its plastic shell, the RAXE500 houses a 1.8GHz quad-core processor with 512MB NAND flash and 1GB DDR3 SDRAM. With its formidable hardware and support for Wi-Fi 6E, the router has some impressive speed specs. We’re talking 2.4 GHz to 1.2 Gbps, 5 GHz to 4.8 Gbps, and 6 GHz to 4.8 Mbps, for a total theoretical bandwidth of 10.8 Gbps. This makes it a Tri-band router, with three different frequencies.
Netgear’s RAXE500 also includes some of the lesser-known latest wireless technologies, such as support for 1024-QAM (with 25% better data efficiency and faster speeds than 256-QAM routers), additional DFS channels to reduce interference, support for WPA3 and 4X4 MU-MIMO.
Installing the Netgear RAXE500
Setting up this router could certainly have been smoother. We chose the browser for us, but there is also an option to install and use a smartphone app.
It got off to a good start when the router informed us about the initial installation of a firmware update and started downloading it. We were then told that the upgrade was complete after waiting a few minutes for the control panel. However, when we went back to the router software, the firmware actually had the same version number as when we started. We had to manually activate it and wait for the upgrade process again. This would be very easy to miss if you were a novice, or just not paying close attention. For a router in this price range we would expect much better. That is a feeling we will come back to shortly.
The RAXE500 does have security, but we were disappointed to find that there’s an extra cost involved, despite claims that it’s “built into” the router. After a 30-day trial, it’s an annual fee of $69.99. The software can work through the router at the network level to scan all traffic and keep it safe. However, some competitors, especially in more expensive gear, offer security at no extra cost. That said, users who do pay not only get Bitdefender security, but also Bitdefender VPN, so if you were going to pay for a VPN anyway, the price is reasonable.
Performance of the Netgear RAXE500
|2.4GHz close up||2.4GHz version||5GHz close by||5 GHz version|
|Phone test (download/upload)||168/36.7||172/36.7||341/36.8||325/35.6|
We subjected the RAXE500 to the usual series of tests, starting with looking at throughput. Testing was done with an Asus gaming laptop, with an Intel WiFi 6 AX201 card. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support WiFi 6E, so we can’t test its performance on the 6 GHz frequency. The 2.4GHz speed was a solid 210.3Mbps on the near test and dropped to 160.1Mbps on the far test. The 5GHz test was more impressive, with a close test at 1398.5 Mbps and dropping to 951.8 Mbps in the far test.
To remedy the lack of a WiFi 6E card on our laptop, we further tested with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra 5g. This was performed using the SpeedTest app which can measure on both the upload and download side of the speed equation. While it confirmed the fast throughput of this router, on the 5GHz frequency, we easily made the most of both the upload and download sides, as our internet connection is officially a 300/35 connection, which is usually a bit too much for bandwidth. to ensure. This explains the speeds we achieved of 341 Mbps download and 36.8 Mbps upload with 6E on the test phone.
|Test configuration||QoS||FRAPS average||min||max||8k lost frames||Pingplotter spikes||Latency (Overwatch)|
|Ethernet + 10 8k videos||new ones||21.88||0||83||42.20%||16||288|
|5GHz + 10 8k videos||new ones||13.28||0||44||37.20%||2||243|
|2.4GHz + 10 8k videos||new ones||31.68||0||110||39.20%||12||123|
The network congestion tests showed that the RAX500 could really benefit from implementing robust Quality of Service (QoS), which allows a router to prioritize traffic to make the game run smoother and a video to run smoothly.
When this router is in a non-congested environment, such as when connected via Ethernet with no background videos, our game of overwatch achieved a respectable 142.83 FPS, with no Pingplotter spikes (which equates to dropouts). We also had in-game latency of 68 milliseconds in overwatchI
However, add to this the congestion, in our case ten 8K YouTube videos, saturating our Optimum Online cable connection, and the game’s FPS drops abruptly to 21.88 FPS and even during gameplay to 0 FPS – essentially a frozen game. The PingPlotter spikes confirmed the overloaded situation and went to a very high sixteen during our short gameplay session, and the dropped frame rate on the 8K videos was 37.2%.
In both cases, an analog situation was created for both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies with a minimum FPS of zero and high frame rates on the 8K videos.
We ended up with a situation where the raw throughput was impressive, but the congestion testing revealed a significant drop in performance. Of course, we wondered if there was no problem with this particular router (both in the hardware and in the firmware). But after we got our hands on a second version of the Netgear RAXE500, things didn’t get any better. I
We reset it, including updating to the latest firmware version, and went through another round of testing to verify. Lacking QoS, we replicated the results again, with the game freezing on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz network congestion tests, and this time both at over 50% of the frames falling on the 8K videos. ouch.
We expected better performance from the RAXE500, and that was before we factored in the price. While it’s true that ongoing Covid-19-related issues have pushed up the price of many products, the RAXE500’s suggested retail price of $599 and street price of $529 places it firmly at the top end of the high-end consumer router category. Early adopters often overpay for the privilege of bragging rights. But in this case, you’re paying more than double the price of a solid midrange router, especially for the privilege of being able to tell your friends and relatives that you have a a 6GHz wireless network.
Even if that’s important to you, keep in mind that even Wi-Fi 6 devices can’t connect on the 6 GHz frequency unless they specifically support Wi-Fi 6E. At the moment, such devices are rare, especially recent high-end phones. So you probably won’t make much use of that 6E network, since most of your devices will still be on the 5 GHz band. To make matters worse, for such an expensive router, the RAXE500 lacks some of the features we would consider fairly basic in a high-end router, such as QoS for better traffic control and including security without an additional annual fee.
Overall, the Netgear RAXE500 is a groundbreaking product that feels like it needs more work. It may have been rushed to market, but it just lacks the high-end performance that a router at this level should deliver. For now, it’s a glimpse of the promise of next-generation Wi-Fi 6E wireless, with high throughput scores, but that promise proved hollow when we tested its performance in a crowded environment. We don’t recommend buying this router based on our results, but we can’t wait to see how the next wave of WiFi 6E routers will perform, companies are getting past these 6E teething problems.