RAXE500 Tri-Band WiFi Router Review: Fast But Imperfect

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The Netgear RAXE500 is an early entry into the Wi-Fi 6E router space, and on paper at least it looks like a wireless network hub. It also looks great and is easy to install – on the hardware side at least – with no antenna to attach. But as we’ll see in testing, it struggles a lot on a congested network. And despite its hefty price tag, Netgear charges extra for ongoing security support.

But before we get into the specifics of the router, a quick primer on advanced Wi-Fi: While it may look like Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is still new, Wi-Fi 6E is the latest generation. standards to power our wireless data needs. 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 faster potential speeds on the 5 GHz frequency. The big change, however, is an entirely new frequency – 6 GHz – which should be much less congested, at least until all of your neighbors upgrade their equipment as well. But don’t expect any of your existing technologies to reap a lot of benefits from 6E. Until you upgrade to device-side Wi-Fi 6E, you won’t be able to take advantage of these advancements. Check out our feature to learn more about the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and 6E.

Design of the Netgear RAXE500

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Netgear RAXE500 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)
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Netgear RAXE500 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The body of the Netgear RAXE500 is made of sturdy black plastic, which is simple to deploy as there are no antennas to screw onto the body. The hardware setup is as simple as unfolding the two wings – the design certainly saves time and effort. The overall aesthetic appears somewhere between an Imperial TIE hunter and an oceanic manta ray. In case you are concerned that the quantity will affect performance, the wings hide a total of 8 antennas inside.

The size of the router isn’t the biggest we’ve seen, but it’s by no means small. At 11.7 x 3.07 x 8.3 inches (298 x 78 x 211 mm) and weighing 3.2 lbs (1.45 kg), the Netgear RAXE500 feels substantial, without being too bulky.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The rear of the router has four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port and a 2.5G Multi-Gig port. The Netgear RAXE500 also supports Gigabit port link aggregation, for even faster speeds. To add network accessible storage, there is also a pair of USB 3.0 ports.

Netgear RAXE500 Specifications

Under its plastic shell, the RAXE500 houses a 1.8 GHz quad core processor with 512MB of NAND flash and 1GB of DDR3 SDRAM. With its terrific hardware and support for Wi-Fi 6E, the router boasts impressive speed specs. We are talking about 2.4 GHz up to 1.2 Gbps, 5 GHz up to 4.8 Gbps, and 6 GHz up to 4.8 Mbps, for a total theoretical bandwidth of 10.8 Gbps. This makes it a tri-band router, with three distinct frequencies.

Netgear’s RAXE500 also includes some of the latest lesser-known wireless technologies, such as support for 1024-QAM (which has 25% better data efficiency and faster speeds than 256-QAM routers), Additional DFS channels to reduce interference, WPA3 support, and 4X4 MU-MIMO.

Configuring the Netgear RAXE500

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The configuration of this router certainly could have gone more smoothly. We chose the browser for us, but there is also an option to install and use a smartphone app.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Things got off to a good start as the router informed us of the initial setup of a firmware update and started downloading it. We were then notified that the upgrade was complete after waiting a few minutes on the setup screen. However, when we went back to the router software, the firmware was actually on the same version number as it started out. We had to manually trigger it and wait for the upgrade process again. It would be really easy to miss if you were a novice or just didn’t care. For a router in this price category, one would expect much better. This is a feeling that we will come back to shortly.

Security

(Image credit: Netgear)

The RAXE500 is secure, but we were disappointed that this came at an additional cost, despite claims that it is “built-in” to the router. After a 30-day trial period, it’s an annual fee of $ 69.99. The software can operate at the network level through the router to analyze all traffic and secure it. However, some competitors, especially on high-end equipment, offer security without additional payment. That said, paying users not only get Bitdefender Security but also Bitdefender VPN, so if you had to pay for a VPN anyway, the price is pretty fair.

Netgear RAXE500 Performances

2.4 GHz near 2.4 GHz away 5 GHz near 5 GHz away
Bandwidth (Mbps) 210.3 160.1 1398.5 951.8
Telephone test (download / download) 168 / 36.7 172 / 36.7 341 / 36.8 325 / 35.6

We put the RAXE500 through the usual battery of tests, starting with the throughput. The test is carried out with an Asus gaming laptop PC, with an Intel WiFi 6 AX201 card. Unfortunately, it does not support WiFi 6E, so we cannot test the performance on the 6 GHz frequency. The 2.4 GHz speed was a solid 210.3 Mbps in the near test and dropped to 160.1 Mbps in the far test. The 5 GHz test was more impressive, with a test close to 1398.5 Mbps and a drop to 951.8 Mbps on the far test.

To compensate for the absence of a WiFi 6E card on our laptop, we tested again with the flagship of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5g. This was done using the SpeedTest app which can measure both upload and download speed equation. Although this confirmed the fast throughput of this router, on the 5 GHz frequency we easily reached a maximum on both the upload and download side, as our internet connection is officially a 300/35 connection, which is usually slightly over-provisioned to ensure bandwidth. This explains the speeds we got of 341 Mbps download and 36.8 Mbps download using 6E on the test phone.

Test setup QoS Medium hits min max 8k lost frames Pingplotter tips Latency (Overwatch)
Ethernet no 142.83 119 184 n / A 0 68
Ethernet + 10 8k videos no 21.88 0 83 42.20% 16 288
5 GHz no 121.15 101 158 n / A 0 183
5 GHz + 10 videos 8k no 13.28 0 44 37.20% 2 243
2.4 GHz no 112.55 106 118 n / A 0 187
2.4 GHz + 10 8k videos no 31.68 0 110 39.20% 12 123

Network congestion testing has shown that the RAX500 could really benefit from implementing robust Quality of Service (QoS), which allows a router to prioritize traffic to smooth the game and allow video to play. slowly.

When this router is in an unencumbered environment, for example, when it is connected via Ethernet without background videos, our set of Monitoring hit a respectable 142.83 FPS, with no pingplotter peaks (which mean dropouts). We also had an in-game latency of 68 milliseconds in Monitoring.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

However, add to the congestion, in our case ten 8K YouTube videos, which saturate our Optimum Online cable connection, and the game’s FPS abruptly drops to 21.88 FPS, and even dropped to 0 FPS while gaming – essentially becoming a frozen game. Confirming the crowded situation, PingPlotter’s peaks jumped to a very high sixteen during our short gaming session, and the frame rate wasted on 8K videos was 37.2%.

A similar situation was created each time for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies with a minimum FPS of zero and high frame rates wasted on 8K videos.

We ended up with a situation where the raw throughput was impressive, but congestion testing revealed a significant drop in performance. Of course, we wondered if there was nothing wrong with this particular router (either in hardware or firmware). But after getting my hands on a second version of the Netgear RAXE500, things haven’t really improved.

We set it up again, including updating to the latest firmware and another round of tests to verify. With the lack of QoS, we once again replicated the results, with the game freezing on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz network congestion tests, and this time both with over 50% of the footage. falling on 8K videos. Ouch.

Final result

Netgear RAXE500 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We expected better performance from the RAXE500, and that was before we factored in the price. While it is of course true that the current Covid-19 issues have inflated the price of many products, the RAXE500’s MSRP of $ 599 and retail price of $ 529 of the RAXE500 places it solidly in the high end of the high class. range of consumer routers. Early adopters often pay too much for the privilege of bragging. But in this case, you’d be paying more than double the price of a solid mid-range router, mostly for the privilege of being able to tell friends and family that you have a 6 GHz wireless network.

While this is important to you, keep in mind that even Wi-Fi 6 devices will not connect on the 6 GHz frequency unless they specifically support Wi-Fi 6E. At present, such devices are rare, largely including recent high-end phones. So you probably won’t be using this 6E network much as most of your devices will still be stuck on the 5 GHz band. Worse, for such an expensive router, the RAXE500 lacks some features that we consider fairly basic in a high-end router, like QoS for better traffic control, and included security at no additional annual cost.

Overall, the Netgear RAXE500 is a cutting edge product that looks like it needs more work. It may have been rushed to market, but it simply lacks the high-end performance that a router of this level should deliver. For now, this is a preview of the promise of the next generation of wireless 6E Wi-Fi, with high throughput scores, but that promise turned out to be hollow when we tested performance in a cluttered environment. We don’t recommend purchasing this router based on our results, but we can’t wait to see how the next wave of 6E WiFi routers perform, businesses overcome these 6E boot pains.


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