Netgear has found a clever way to bring Wi-Fi 6E speeds to aging computers. The new standard comes via Netgear's Nighthawk AXE3000 USB 3.0 adapter, which can be plugged into a computer and upgraded it to Wi-Fi 6E.
Wi-Fi 6E has been steadily rolling out in recent years allowing devices to access the 6GHz band on top of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The standard allows for “faster speeds, more connections, and less interference from congestion.” However, there still aren’t many devices or accessories that support Wi-Fi 6E, limiting its reach. With the Nighthawk AXE3000, you're retroactively adding Wi-Fi 6E connectivity to laptops and desktop PCs that didn't have native support.
The AXE3000 comes in the form of a USB dongle that can be directly plugged into a computer’s USB ports. According to NETGEAR, it will automatically detect your router’s Wi-Fi bands so that the device can connect to the right one – be it the 2.4GHz band, 5GHz, or 6GHz. Connection speeds range from 600Mbps (megabits per second) on 2.4GHz to a peak of 1200Mbps on 6GHz. Because of these speeds, the company claims people will experience smoother data transfers and suffer through “less lag [while] gaming.”
If this concept sounds somewhat retro, it's because, as those with long memories will recall, we used to add basic Wi-Fi to some computers by plugging in USB-based Wi-Fi antennas.
You’ll also notice a stand for the AXE3000. NETGEAR says this is a cradle and can be used instead of plugging the dongle directly into a computer. Once the dongle is plugged into the cradle, you can unfold the AXE3000 and have it function as a Wi-Fi 6E antenna. On the other end of the cradle is a USB cable for connecting to your computer. And if you’re worried about security, the AXE3000 comes equipped with the WPA3 protocol from the Wi-Fi Alliance to ensure your devices are protected.
Be aware you will still need to buy a Wi-Fi 6E router, which can be rather expensive. The AXE3000 is only an adapter allowing you to access those speeds, It is compatible with any Wi-Fi router and mesh system, so you won’t have to landlock yourself to a NETGEAR device. However, the company does recommend getting a 6E router and supporting mesh system like the Orbi 960 Series to access those high speeds.
You will also need to have a computer that runs Windows 11 as, at the time of this writing, it's the only Windows version that natively supports Wi-Fi 6E (and its promised speeds). The AXE3000 does work with Windows 10 computers, according to the official specs sheet, but you’ll be missing out on those high speeds.
The AXE3000 adapter launches by the end of September for $89.99, but will only be available in the United States, one of the few countries in the world to support Wi-Fi 6E. A company representative told us the dongle might be released elsewhere as more countries adopt 6E, but didn’t say which ones.
If you’re in the market for a new Wi-Fi 6 router, we recommend checking out TechRadar’s recently updated list of the best routers. Just be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars for the 6E entry.