Netgear A8000 Reiew: A Solid Wi-Fi 6E Upgrade

Netgear A8000 Reiew: A Solid Wi-Fi 6E Upgrade

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The Netgear A8000 Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter is a much-anticipated upgrade for many. It quickly adds Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6 to any existing Windows computer.

And in my testing, the new USB dongle proved to be a good fit for those having a Wi-Fi 6 (or later) router and a computer with no Wi-Fi or still uses a legacy standard. I’d even be generous to say it’s convenient, fast, and reliable enough to be worthy of its relatively stiff $100 price tag.

Here’s the bottom line: If you have a computer running Windows 11 — and you can upgrade any machine with Windows 10 to one — consider getting an A8000 today.

Dong’s note: I first published this post as a new piece on September 21, 2022, and upgraded it to a review on January 26, 2023.

The Netgear A8000 AX3000 USB Wi-Fi 6E Adapter and its retail box. Note the included USB drive that contains the software driver for Windows.

Netgear A8000: One USB dongle to support them all, as long as they run Windows 11

While there have been Wi-Fi 6 USB adapters on the market — such as the Asus USB-AX56, the D-Link DWA-X1850, or the TP-Link Archer TX20U Plus — for quite some time, the Netgear A8000 is the first, and still the only, that supports Wi-Fi 6E, as far as I know.

Before this, you can get Wi-Fi 6E on a computer via the PCIe-based upgrade, which can be a lot of work. With the Netgear A8000, you only need to insert the adapter into the computer’s USB port. And you can even move it from one computer to another with ease.

To qualify as a Wi-Fi 6E adapter, the A8000 needs to be a selective Tri-band adapter. It has all three Wi-Fi bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz.

Consequently, it’s the first USB Wi-Fi adapter designed to work with all existing Wi-Fi broadcasters (routers and access points) and future ones.

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter in ActionNetgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter with USB C Adapter
Here’s the Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E adapter in action with a Windows 11 computer with a USB-A and USB-C port (via an adapter.)

Netgear A8000 vs Intel AX210: Hardware specifications

The A8000 uses a Wi-Fi 6E chip from MediaTek and doesn’t support the 160MHz channel width. Consequently, it has a top ceiling speed of 1200Mbps (1.2Gbps).

On the other hand. the Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E card support 160MHz and can deliver up to 2400Mbps on either 5GHz or 6GHz band.

That said, the Intel AX210 beats the Netgear A8000 in terms of speed and affordability. However, it trails behind in ease of use.

Name Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Gig+ Adapter
Model A8000 AX210
Pseudo
Wi-Fi Bandwidth
AXE3000 AXE5400
Max Ceiling Speed 1200Mbps 2400Mbps
2.4GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
5GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2×2 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
6GHz Band
(channel width)
2×2 AXE: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2×2 AXE: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Security Support WPA, WPA2, WPA3 WPA, WPA2, WPA3
Interface USB 3.2. Gen 1 (5Gbps)
USB 2.0 (reduced performance)
PCIe
Hardware Required USB-A port. Or USB-C to USB-A adapter
(not included)
Installation required
Platform Support Win 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
Win 11: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, 6GHz
Win 10: 2.4GHz, 5Ghz
(6GHz driver)
US Price
(at review)
$99.99 $20
Hardware specifications: Netgear A8000 vs Intel AX210

A standard USB Wi-Fi add-on device

Despite the Wi-Fi 6E novelty, the A8000 is standard for a USB Wi-Fi adapter.

It’s a dual-stream (2×2) adapter totaling 3000Mbps in bandwidth — 600Mbps on its 2.4GHz band and 1200Mbps on each of the other two bands. Like all Wi-Fi adapters, the A8000 can connect to only one band at a time, so theoretically, the fastest speed you can get from it is 1200Mbps.

But 1.2Gbps is generally the speed of all other Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 USB AX1800 adapters (600Mbps + 1200Mbps).

In terms of security and features, according to Netgear, the A8000 supports WPA3 security, which is required for any Wi-Fi 6E device. It features Netgear’s Explicit Beamforming that boosts the speed when used with a Netgear router.

Netgear A8000 vs A7000 USB Wi Fi AdaptersNetgear A8000 vs A7000
Netgear A8000 vs A7000: Though sharing a similar design and cradle, the Wi-Fi 6/6E A8000 adapter (right) is much more compact than its Wi-Fi 5 A7000 older cousin.

Netgear A8000 (vs A7000): A much more compact adapter

Appearance-wise, the new A8000 shares a similar physical design as the previous A7000 Wi-Fi 5 USB adapter but is now much more compact. It’s just about half the size of its legacy cousin.

Still, it’s relatively bulky, about twice the size of a typical USB thumb drive. Compared with the tiny accompanied driver USB, it’s much larger.

And like its older cousin, the new adapter also features USB 3.2 Gen 1, a.k.a USB 3.0, that caps at 5Gbps. In my trial, it also worked with a USB 2.0 port but, expectedly, at significantly slower data rates.

The adapter comes with a cradle to accommodate a desktop computer. On a laptop, you can insert it directly into a USB-A port. After that, open up its integrated antenna, and you’re all set.

The A8000 doesn’t feature USB-C nor comes with a converter. However, if you have a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter, it also works with a USB-C port. That was the case in my experience.

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter is a Typical USB AdapterNetgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter Label
While more compact than the previous Wi-Fi 5 model, the Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E adapter is a relatively large USB device.

Almost a plug-and-play setup with no 6GHz love for Windows 10

Out of the box, the Netgear A8000 includes a tiny USB that contains the driver software. Run the installer and connect the adapter to the computer’s USB port, and you’re set.

The one-time initial setup process is the same whether you run Windows 10 or 11. However, you’ll be able to use the adapter’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz band with Windows 10.

While this is disappointing, it’s expected, considering Microsoft has given the Intel AX210 adapter the same treatment — the company uses the 6GHz support as an incentive to coerce users into upgrading the OS.

Netgear A8000 software driver installer
Once the driver is installed, the Netgear A8000 works as a plug-and-play device.

Netgear A8000: Excellent sub-Gigabit performance

The Netgear A8000 performed well in my testing.

My test computer could easily connect to either the 6GHz or 5Ghz band at 1.2Gbps on negotiated speed and sustained at around 900Mbps, which is the norm.

Netgear A8000 6GHz PerformanceNetgear A8000 2.4GHz Performance
The Netgear A8000’s real-world Internet speed via 10Gbps Fiber-optic broadband when connected using the 6GHz (left) or 2.4GHz band. (Its 5GHz band delivered similar rates as the 6GHz.)

The adapter has the same range as any other Wi-Fi adapter — the range is mainly determined by the broadcaster (router/access point.) And it performed the same when tested with a Netgear AXE500, AXE300, or any other Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 6 router.

And it also ran cool in my testing, even after a long period of heavy loads. Overall, it proved an excellent way to upgrade a computer to Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.

Pros

Instantly adds Wi-Fi 6/6E to a Windows computer

Relatively compact design, software driver included

Fast (sub-Gig) and reliable performance

Cons

Expensive; 6GHz available only in Windows 11

No 160MHz channel support; no Mac support; No USB-C option

Could be even more compact

Conclusion

The Netgear A8000 Nighthawk AXE3000 Wi-Fi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter is an easy way to add Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E to a Windows computer.

Its easy plug-and-play design makes it much more appealing than the Intel AX210 counterpart, enough to justify its hefty price tag and slower performance.

Looking to make your aging Windows computer a bit less dated? Get one today!



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