You can access the user interface of the Nighthawk AX8 either through the web on your desktop or laptop PC, or by using the mobile Nighthawk app that is available for Android
devices. The app adds some color and looks more modern, though both offer the same general controls, such as being able to name and configure the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, setup a guest network, and monitor traffic.
The first thing to do when setting up the AX8 is to either plug an Ethernet cable into one of the LAN ports or connect to the default wireless network, credentials for which can be found on the bottom of the router. Once you do that, you can navigate to http://192.168.1.1 or http://www.routerlogin.net in your browser. The default credentials are admin and password, and we highly recommend changing the latter. You can do that by clicking on the Advanced tab and heading to Administration > Set Password.
Other than a bit of initial housekeeping, most users will find that the Basic interface is sufficient. It's also easy to navigate. While not the prettiest interface in the world, everything is clearly labeled
The Wireless section is where you can change the default SSIDs for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and setup the password. There are also a few other settings, such as enabling AX features (such as OFDMA), selecting a specific channel (or leaving it on Auto), and choosing a mode of operation / speed, in case you're having compatibility issues.
We did run into one such issue ourselves. When attempting to connect our ASUS ROG G751JY
laptop, it would not recognize either of the wireless bands, even though it has a built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter. After doing some digging, we found a support article
that essentially says the AX8 does not play nice with some "older" Intel wireless adapters. They include:
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC-3160
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC-3165
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC-7260
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC-7265
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC-8260
That may not be a complete list. Either way, if you run into this issue, you can try unchecking the Enable AX box, or buy a new network adapter. For our testing, we chose the latter route. After a quick trip to Best Buy, we plugged in a Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi USB adapter (A7000) and were off and running. Unfortunately, no Wi-Fi 6 USB adapters exist yet, so we went with the next best/fastest available.
Once we had the right hardware, connecting and setup was a breeze.
Netgear offers up some basic quality of service (QoS) controls, which it prefers to handle automatically (there's a pop-message that warns of the perils of misconfiguring QoS manually if you select that option). By default, the router uses Wi-Fi Multimedia QoS, which prioritizes voice and video traffic. Overall, it's fairly basic as far QoS controls go.
The only part of the interface that we found more confusing than it needs to be is configuring a router to operate in bridge mode. To do this, you would have two routers—one that is configured normally, and a second one in bridge mode for faster connections to certain devices. The way it works is, you wire certain devices into the router that is in bridge mode, such as your TV, game console, streaming device, and so forth. The bridge router then wirelessly connects to the main router in another room. This allows those devices to take advantage of speeds that they might not natively support.
In many of Netgear's routers, you can find this option by heading to Advanced > Advanced Setup > Wireless Bridge
, as Netgear outlines in another support document
. On the AX8, however, there is no Wireless Bridge mode in that section. Instead, it shows a VLAN / Bridge Settings
option, but that is not the right section. So, where is it?
As with previous routers, you need to navigate to Advanced > Advanced Setup, but then you go to Wireless Settings and scroll all the way down. There you will find a box labeled use other operation mode. Checking that box will make an Enable Bridge mode radio button appear, and once you click on that, there will be a setup bridge mode wireless settings button.
This is the only section of the UI that is not straightforward or intuitive (and is different from some of Netgear's previous generation routers), but the option for bridge mode does in fact exist.
Shown above is a look at the mobile Nighthawk app on iOS. Many of the same controls can be found, particularly general settings, though several of the more advanced knobs are not accessible. For example, there is no place to configure the router in bridge mode through the mobile UI, or not that we could find, anyway.
Now let's have a look at how this router performs...