Test: Netgear Nighthawk MK62, compact, efficient and affordable 6 mesh Wi-Fi routers

If the Orbi are the royal line of mesh Wi-Fi routers from Netgear for those who don’t want to bother and want the best, the Nighthawk line is much more varied, as it includes both high-end routers for gamers or users who prefer to tweak the settings and have their hands on the advanced configuration of their products. But the Nighthawks also flirt with mesh networks, which are easy to set up and use.

This is the case with the Nighthawk MK62. A meshed, dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router. The two-band limit obviously implies several restrictions. On the one hand, lower cumulative theoretical speeds, Netgear announces here 1.8 Gbit / s (574 Mbits / s in 2.4 GHz and 1200 Mbits / s). On the other hand, the impossibility of dedicating part of the 5 GHz band to serve as a backhaul, dedicated connection, between wireless routers.

The Nighthawk MK62 is therefore not a top-of-the-range product, it is even positioned rather by its price and its technical sheet at the entry level, and this is perhaps its strong point. Given to be able to cover up to 300 m2 – in a wonderful and theoretical world where we have never had the pleasure of setting foot, it is sold 300 euros for a pack of two routers.
So let’s see what these MK62 Nighthawks have in their belly.

Discretion and compactness

For this mesh model, Netgear decided to be compact. The boxes are parallelepipeds 12 cm wide and 6.4 cm high. Each weighs just 285g. Their design is quite discreet, vertical facades perfectly smooth, black and shiny. The upper part is composed of broken edges, which give a pleasant relief effect and above all make it possible to arrange openings so that the hot air can escape. The four antennas, and the components – including a 1.5 GHz Quad-Core processor – do indeed produce a little heat.

As often with Netgear, the main router (MR60, of its small name) is distinguished from its satellites (MS60) by a richer connectivity. In this case, nothing to applaud to any break, we are entitled to the minimum subsistence, nothing more. A Gigabit Ethernet port is thus integrated for connection to the box and a second Gigabit Ethernet port to connect a PC or a NAS, for example, via a cable. There is also a synchronization button, in case the configuration goes wrong or you need to add a module later. Do not expect to find a USB port or a 2.5 Gbits / s Ethernet port, these little extras are reserved for the high end.

On the satellite, we therefore logically find an even poorer connection since it only offers an Ethernet port, which will allow you to leave the wired Wi-Fi network, or if the installation of your home allows it to be connected. your router to your local Ethernet network to make it a mesh access point.

Either way, the compactness of these Nighthawks allows them to sit quietly on a shelf or a corner of a dresser. Any location in your home that leaves the router and its satellites open and away from a closet.

Installation, configuration, application

As often at Netgear since the advent of smartphones and the credo “A good router is a router that is easy to install”, it all starts with installing an application on your Android or iOS smartphone. In this case, download the Nighthawk app. You will have to pass a few steps, such as creating a Netgear account (or your authentication, if you already have one), the possible use of biometric identification if your smartphone is compatible, etc., before you can get down to the actual configuration.

During the installation of the application, plug the main router into the back of your box and place it so that it is halfway up the room and that its first satellite is, preferably, within range (for a maximum of about 10 meters) and in a clear line. Then follow the instructions displayed in the application. If the satellites are not too far away, they should be detected immediately. Then all you have to do is define an SSID (the name of your network) and the password. Your interventions will only take a few seconds and the configuration at most a few minutes. A small ten at most if a firmware update is necessary and applies automatically.

Once the network is up and running, you can take a look at the app and find that, like its Orbi counterpart, it offers only the bare essentials of settings. To the point, moreover, that it is impossible – except that this setting escaped us – to deactivate the status LED of the router, which is unpleasant at night if one of the modules is in a room …

You can change the name of your network, its password, share access via a 2D code, or even monitor which devices are connected to it. You can then block them if necessary by simply sliding a button.

For those who often receive friends, it is possible to create a guest network. You can then define its name, password and security method. Just like the main network, it is possible to choose between WPA2-Personal, WPA-WPA2-Personal and WPA3. This Nighthawk, like other recent Wi-Fi routers from Netgear, does not offer a hybrid security mode, which would stack WPA2 and WPA3, and thus allow compatible devices to benefit from the best option.

Note also that the guest network cannot be deactivated automatically after a certain programmed period of time. Too bad. We regret even more the absence of a free parental control solution, it will still be possible to take out a subscription to Circle, but at a time when some of Netgear’s competitors are playing the card of integrating a complete security solution. , this is unfortunate.

Netgear does however offer access to Armor, developed by Bitdefender. This solution is free for three months (approximately $ 70 a year thereafter). It is for her to be both present in the router, and to offer to install security applications on a wide variety of devices, apparently without limit of number, whether they are smartphones, tablets, from PC or Mac.

On the router side, Armor will manifest itself by possibly blocking a site deemed dangerous, which will give you some peace of mind. On the device side, it will perform a regular scan to detect possible threats.

Fairly discreet and transparent, the offer allows those most stressed to know that their backs are protected and that they can let their families evolve peacefully online. It is not, however, a parental control solution. It will always be necessary to use another software for this. Netgear could really make a difference here. We repeat, too bad.

Two or three routers, the effects on coverage and speeds

We received the MK63, which includes three routers, for testing. Obviously, it is possible to use it as an MK62, which would only have two routers. Who can do the most can do the least.

Let’s first talk about the coverage, still in our test apartment, which combines with a consistency that compels respect all the elements that complicate the life of a wireless network: thick and numerous load-bearing walls, an all-round layout. length, a multitude of neighboring and parasitic networks, etc.

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With two modules, the coverage of our test apartment, of approximately 100m2, is good. No white area is to be deplored, the entire home is covered by the single network emitted by the mesh routers. However, by mapping the coverage area of ​​each module, it becomes evident that the quality of coverage degrades faster with distance than on more high-end mesh models, such as the Orbi RBK752 or RBK852. However, given its size, the set of four antennas per router provides quite a good performance.

Admittedly, in the rooms furthest from the routers, the coverage is slightly worse, but the speeds observed are sufficient to stream Full HD or even 4K videos. However, there are times when the latency is not very good, which creates some slowness in connecting to a website. Another illustration, our connected speakers sometimes also struggle to react as quickly as they do when they benefit from more efficient routers.

Adding the third router does two things: bring the main router closer to its first satellite and improve the quality of the coverage. This can be seen by observing a clear improvement in the stable peak flow rates recorded with iPerf3 when we are at the end of the network range.

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Let’s talk about speeds, then. But be careful, before that, note that the choice of dual band obviously has an impact on performance. At short distance, or in any case as long as you are connected to the first router, the speeds are linked to the bandwidth capacities offered by the device. We are far from the peaks offered by high-end Wi-Fi routers, but the speeds are good enough to allow you to enjoy a very high speed connection.

On the other hand, not having a third frequency band, dedicated to communication between the routers, has an immediate consequence on the speeds obtained as soon as one is connected to the satellites. The effect is perhaps less obvious than with the Wi-Fi 5 mesh routers, but there is a real loss in connection speed.
We obtain almost two times lower flow rates with stable peak flow rates and more than three times slower with iPerf 3. Knowing that the speed reduction effect is at its peak when we connect to the most distant satellite, at the end range.

It is under these conditions that we see the main interest of the third router, whose presence has a beneficial effect on the speeds, as can be seen in the graph above. It is above all thanks to iPerf, which requires a “long and continuous effort” to connect that we see the gain provided by the third router. At 15m and more, we go from 51 Mbits / s to nearly 90 Mbits / s, which brings much more comfort of use and is also accompanied by a much better latency.

We would therefore tend to recommend opting for the Nighthawk MK63, which includes three routers. Especially since this pack is currently in promotion at 300 euros, on the Netgear site. In other words, it is possible to buy three routers for the original price set for two.

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