With the introduction of Mesh Wi-Fi systems, people are getting performance from their home networks like never before. But for many, moving to a new Mesh system is cost prohibitive, especially if your current router is working fine. If that is your current situation, but you need to improve your Wi-Fi coverage, the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender may be just what you are looking for.
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Apple Tech Talk Scorecard
|Provides excellent extended coverage|
Netgear AX1800 Range Extender – Unboxing
It’s been awhile since we looked at range extenders, so we were surprised when we opened the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender box.
We are used to extenders being small units that plug directly into a wall outlet and has a couple of external antennas. The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender looks nothing like that. In fact, if we didn’t know what we were looking at, we would think it was a full-fledged router.
In the box is the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender, a US power supply with attached power cord, and a Quick Start Guide. Netgear also provides a comprehensive 65-page User Manual as a free download on their web site.
The Quick Start Guide really doesn’t tell you much. It instructs you to download the Netgear Nighthawk app from the App Store and follow the app instructions to set-up the range extender. More on that in a minute.
Netgear AX1800 Range Extender – Specifications
The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender measures 9.5” x 6.7” x 2.5” (241.7mm x 169.5mm x 63.4mm) and weighs 1.1 lb. (504.4 g).
On the front of the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender are six (6) LEDs that provide the status of an Ethernet connection, a 5GHz network connection, a 2.4GHz network connection, a router link connection, a WPS/Network Security status and the Power LED. There is also a WPS button below the LEDs.
On the read of the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender is a Reset button, four (4) Ethernet ports and the DC Power connector.
The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender provides the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology and provides speeds up to 1.2Gbps on the 5GHz band. Netgear says the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender provides 1.5 times better performance than 802.11ac extenders. It is capable of handling twenty (20) devices and provides covcerage of 1,500 sq. ft.
The AX1800 is an MU-MIMO device supporting four (4) simultaneous Wi-Fi streams, and the 1.5GHz, 64-bit dual-core processor can handle 4K UHD streaming and gaming.
Netgear AX1800 Range Extender – Set-up
Before we discuss our set-up experience, we think it appropriate to make a small disclaimer.
Our current network is powered by a Netgear Orbi Mesh Router and Satellite. Under normal circumstances, it we wanted to extend our network coverage, it would be more appropriate to add another Satellite unit to our existing system. Adding a range extender, while possible, it not the most efficient way to extend a mesh network.
With that in mind, we can report that out set-up experience was not as seamless as most others will probably experience.
As stated in the Quick Start Guide, in order to set-up the Netgear AX1800 Extender, you need to download the Netgear Nighthawk app from the App Store. Once installed on your iPhone or iPad, the app steps you through the entire set-up process.
With the app installed on our iPhone XS, we connected the Netgear AX1800 Extender to a standard AC connection and let it boot up. Once the unit was fully started, we opened the Nighthawk app and followed the on-screen instructions to complete the set-up.
Almost immediately, the app found the Netgear AX1800 Extender and started taking us through the process of locating our existing network. The app asked us to confirm the SSID of our primary network for both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, along with some other simple questions and proceeded to try and add the Netgear AX1800 Extender to our network.
It should be noted that in older styles of range extenders, you often had to create a separate network with a different SSID and then let your device switch between networks as you moved from your primary router to the extender. The Netgear AX1800 Extender has done away with that by using the same SSID for both the 2.4 and 5GHz networks. That is certainly a nice feature and makes not only the set-up but the day-to-day use of the Netgear AX1800 Extender much easier.
The app tried its best to connect the extender to our network but it was never able to complete the connection.
A quick search of the Netgear site revealed an option to do the setup via a browser. Using the url; http://mywifiext.local allowed us to provide the same information requested by the Nighthawk app and this time, the set-up completed in just a couple of minutes.
It’s hard for us to tell whether our experience was unique because we were trying to connect to an existing mesh network or if the issues we had with the app have been experienced by others. What we can say is that using the web set-up was painless and took only minutes to complete.
Netgear AX1800 Range Extender – Test Results
Once the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender was connected to our network, the Nighthawk app worked as expected.
If anyone has used the Netgear Orbi mobile app, you will notice that the Nighthawk app is very similar.
Once the extender is set up, there really isn’t much you need to do and the Nighthawk app becomes more of just a way to monitor that it is online and see what devices are connected to it at any given moment.
The real control of the extender comes from the web interface, which can now be accessed by putting the extender’s IP address into your browser. Once you enter your ID and password you are taken to a main screen. From there, you can do just about anything with the extender that you can do with your primary router, including setting up a Guest network, updating the extender’s firmware, setting an access schedule and more.
One thing you can do from the Nighthawk app that you can’t do from the web interface is run a speed test.
Our ISP provides 150mbps fiber service for both download and upload. As you can see from the test screen above, we got very close to that on this particular test.
It’s important to keep in mind that the whole point of a range extender is to extend the signal where it would otherwise be weak so getting these numbers is pretty impressive.
But numbers don’t always tell the whole story. If you get the performance you want, the numbers, sometimes are secondary. In our case, the performance was a pleasant surprise.
While the Orbi system does a great job within the four walls of our location, getting any type of a steady, high quality signal outdoors was always a problem. Occasionally, we could send and receive emails and we could usually go to a web site, as long as it wasn’t graphic intensive. But streaming music from our Synology DS218 NAS (read our review here), or trying to watch a YouTube video was near impossible.
Using the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender changed all that. The Wi-Fi signal, even at the outer most parts of our property was strong and steady. Music streamed without issue and YouTube videos did not experience any pauses or buffering. The Wi-Fi indicator on our iPhone showed the same full strength as when we are indoors, near our router.
The Bottom Line
While mesh networks are all the rage, not everyone wants or needs to upgrade to the latest and greatest hardware. For those that are happy with their network performance but would like to improve it a little, a range extender may be the perfect answer.
The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender is easy to set-up and provides excellent performance. The ability to use your existing SSID (Network Name), is a big plus in set-up and management.
While we had some issues with the Nighthawk app, we can’t say with certainty that it was the fault of the app. Regardless, using the Netgear web interface was quick and easy, and it’s good to know there is a fallback solution should you have similar issues with the app.
The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty and includes 90-days of free technical support.
The Netgear AX1800 Range Extender is available from Amazon.
We would like to thank the folks at Netgear for providing the Netgear AX1800 Range Extender for our testing and review.
Do you use a range extender on your network? What do you like about it and what do you wish it did better? Why not join the conversation and leave a comment below?
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