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The unusual looking Nighthawk WiFi Range Extender
The unusual looking Nighthawk WiFi Range Extender IBTimes / Jeff Li

Who is the Netgear Nighthawk EAX80 WiFi Extender for?

  • People who are seeking to expand their WiFi signal reach to cover the whole household
  • Those with tough walls for the WiFi to penetrate will appreciate the powerful broadcast of the Nighthawk EAX80
  • For those who want a simple a straight forward set up process, the EAX80 is setup via a mobile app, which is intuitive enough that no instructional manual is needed

When both the adults and children who would normally vacate the house during the day suddenly find themselves stuck at home, needing to do both work and homework under the same roof - what is the first problem they will encounter?

When the lockdown took place in my household, this hypothetical scenario suddenly became a reality. Like many other households, the first problem was finding a quiet and reasonably isolated space to work in - which luckily did exist in the back half of my suburban house. But the solution immediately led to the next problem: the WiFi signal did not reach this part of the house.

Being in a one story brick house that has a long profile, the wireless router that's at the front of the house had two brick walls go through just to get to the living room. To get to my new 'office' at the back of the house, it needs to pass through another two brick walls, and there was no way the existing router signal was going to reach.

The situation called for a capable WiFi extender, that needs to bring a stable connection to reach through all the obstacles, not to mention retaining high speed for video conferencing and the transfer of large files from my new workstation.

This is where the Nighthawk EAX80 came in. As a top-of-the-line WiFi extension solution from Netgear, I'm here to share my thoughts after using them for the last 2 months.


Serious Hardware

Honestly speaking, I always thought of WiFi extender as small white boxes attached to power outlets, with antennas sticking out of it. The EAX80 was nothing like what I expected.

With design cues from the F-117 stealth bomber, the Nighthawk WiFi extender has a fully black body covered in acute angles. It stands upright and is roughly the size of a broadband modem/router. The aggressive looking vents on its case suggests good heat dissipation, not to mention putting on a stylish glow out the front grills when the extender is switched on.


The back of the extender is fairly clean, with 4 Ethernet outputs, an USB 3.0 port for network drives, DC in, and the power switch.


Configuration with a Smartphone

What's interesting about the EAX80 WiFi Extender is that a computer is not needed to configure it's connection. Instead of needing to connect to it via a laptop, entering through some browser interface, you can just download the Netgear Nighthawk app which does all the hard work for you.

What's important to note is where you are situated when you're setting up the EAX80. My first try of setting it up right next to the router didn't go so well. On the second attempt I went to the area where I had around 50-60% of the WiFi signal strength, that's when the set up process worked for me, and is also where I kept the extender set up.


The process itself is fairly intuitive, at no point did I need to refer to any instructions other than what the app was telling me to do. The app itself did the verification and configuration, connection, and checking and updating the firmware. Once everything was set up, I was able to manage the devices that were connected to the extender, WiFi settings - and those were pretty much what I needed.


Signal Strength and Range

The EAX80 once set up, I am suddenly getting WiFi signal in the house where I have never seen signal before. At the very back of the house, the furthest point from the WiFi router, I was getting full WiFi signal or just slightly less - whereas without the extender there was absolutely no signal and I normally had to resort to using the phone's data. The EAX80 was now broadcasting the WiFi signal through the living brick walls, the kitchen brick walls as well as shelving and appliances - with ease.

One of the great features about the EAX80 was that it did not broadcast a separate SSID, but the same one as my wireless router (What Netgear has coined a 'mesh' of WiFi). This I did not need to set up a second wireless connection for each device in the house, as well as providing a seamless connection even when I'm walking throughout the house, not needing to switch between connections.

When I'm at the back of the house, I wouldn't say that the speed is magically identical to what it is right next to the router. But I can see whatever speed I was getting at the area where the Netgear extender was set up, it was available to me at the back of the house.

What's impressive is seeing how many connections can be simultaneously connected without any noticeable slowdown. I had two desktops being used for streaming video contents/gaming in the living room, as well as a phone streaming in the kitchen - all at the same time, and the WiFi connection was still stable and fast in the back of the house.


Final remarks

For people in households with high demand for space as well as Internet, during the pandemic lockdown, it's a good idea to set up a WiFi system where people won't need to be crammed into the limited confines of the router broadcast range.

Especially for those who are searching to set up a new productive workspace at home like me, the EAX80 has proven to be effective to keep me connected at all corners of the house without the need to resort to long Ethernet cables. It's ability to provide a full-bar signal through multiple brick walls is especially impressive, while at the same time providing the latest tech in automating the set up process to make it easier to set up and to maintain for the users.

David is a tech enthusiast/writer who is often on the move, but since the lock-down is on a mission to explore gadgets to improve his 'home work'. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Home Productivity.