Huawei WiFi AX3 Wireless Router – Wi-Fi 6 can boost speed (review)

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The Huawei WiFi AX3 Wireless Router is an affordable step up to Wi-Fi 6 AX, though it’s only faster with Wi-Fi 6 devices.

The Huawei WiFi AX3 spec sheet looks impressive, but, as we’ve gone deeper, we find areas where Huawei hasn’t gone with the latest and greatest AX options. To be fair, that would drive the price up quite a bit. Instead, Huawei aims to offer an affordable step up to Wi-Fi 6.

Review: Huawei Wi-Fi AX3

First impressions

A slender design but with four obvious antennas, it’s not the most subtle router. But it’s not the most garish either, given that some high-end Wi-Fi routers look like a giant spider lying on its back.

Setup is simple – use the Huawei AI Life app or setup via web browser.

We recommend the browser method. Access the default IP address and configure the Wi-Fi name and password, as well as a password to access the router menus. It is possible to configure separate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks to support the issues of older IoT devices. If you are not using Wi-Fi 6 devices, there is an option to make it a pure Wi-Fi 5 AC network. The default IP address can be changed.

Using the Huawei AI Life smartphone app to configure the router requires an exchange of personal information. It asks for GPS (location) – decline this but set the region to the correct time. There’s no option to deny access to Bluetooth and camera, which are used to detect and add other Huawei gear in your home.

Specifications Huawei Wi-Fi AX3

Wireless Wi-FiAX
Bands 2.4 (574Mbps) and 5GHz (2402Mbps)
Bandwidth Management 2×2 MU-MIMO (4 streams)
PALE 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
local network 3 Gigabit Ethernet port
Processor Gigahome Quad-core 1.4GHz processor
Security TrustZone security, anti-brute force algorithms, WPA3, firewall, DMZ, PAP/CHAP, DMZ/DoS attack protection
Dimensions 225mm x 159.2mm x 39.7mm
Weight 403g

Bandwidth increase for Huawei devices

Huawei WiFi AX3 has a few tricks to give it a performance boost – but Catch 22 is that these only work with recent Huawei Mate and P40 phones that support Huawei’s proprietary 160GHz AX3 6Plus. This passes more data over short distances. The trade-off is that performance degrades quickly with distance. It defaults to 80 MHz for 5 GHz.

If the router does not provide sufficient whole-home coverage, it also supports Mesh Wi-Fi by adding other Huawei routers as Mesh Extenders.

Wi-Fi 6 directing traffic – any Wi-Fi 6 router

MU-MIMO “Multi-User – Multiple Input, Multiple Output” has been around for a few years, but Wi-Fi 6 takes it a step further. MIMO bounces around multiple radio signals to improve connections. MU-MIMO adds a fast lane to the wireless network for new devices. It’s not so much about boosting speed as it’s about ensuring that old Wi-Fi devices don’t get in the way and slow things down.

Meanwhile, OFDMA “Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access” reduces latency. It allocates capacity to individual devices and allows one transmission to deliver data to multiple devices at once.

Target Wake Time allows the router to schedule check-in times with devices to reduce network traffic and save energy.

Huawei AX3 Wi-Fi Specifications

All the usual features like time limits and parental filters. These ensure that young people don’t spend too much time online or wander into the dark corners of the web. Throttling the speed of their devices ensures that they don’t throttle the broadband connection when downloading massive updates from Steam.

There’s also guest Wi-Fi to grant limited access to friends, as well as Huawei Share, which works with Huawei devices. It uses NFC to connect devices to the Wi-Fi network.

The “H” button on the top of the router makes it easy to connect Huawei Wi-Fi devices. The router also supports WPS.

The surprising omission is the USB port. This means that a USB printer or USB storage cannot be accessed over the network.

The Huawei WiFi AX3 has a firewall, DoS attack protection and anti-brute force algorithms to prevent uninvited guests from entering. TrustZone Security provides hardware isolation to hinder security breach efforts.

Performance tests with Wi-Fi 6 MacBook Air M1

Upgrading from a Google Nest WiFi 5 WiFi to Huawei WiFi AX3 WiFi 6 provides approximately 2.2x increase in network speed with an Apple MacBook Air (M1 2020) WiFi 6 . This is despite the M1 MacBook Air receiving weaker signal strength from Huawei than from Google.

Our test involved transferring a 2.5 GB disk image via FTP from a network storage drive connected via Gigabit Ethernet. At 4 meters, line-of-sight, the MacBook Air M1 achieved 585 Mbps using the default 80 MHz channel.

At 9 meters, in the next room, the speeds drop by 55%. Google’s speeds only dropped by 30%.

So the greater the distance, the less the advantage offered by the Huawei WiFi AX3 – only 1.35 times the speed of the Google Nest WiFi.

Performance tests with Wi-Fi 5 MacBook Pro

There is no noticeable improvement using an older Wi-Fi 5 laptop with the Huawei WiFi AX3.

At a range of 4 meters in the same room, the MacBook clocked in at 107 Mbps. It used a 40 MHz channel.

So, switching from a Wi-Fi 5 laptop to a Wi-Fi 6 laptop allowed to increase the speed by 5.5 times. But keep in mind that the new MacBook Air M1 is much more powerful and has the advantage of using an 80 MHz channel.

Perhaps more telling is that the Huawei-connected MacBook Pro experienced a 10% speed drop compared to the Google. At 9 meters, in the next room, speeds dropped by 35% for both.

So, at greater distances, the MacBook Pro Wi-Fi 5 performed a little better connected to Google’s Wi-Fi 5 router than the new Huawei WiFi AX3 Wi-Fi 6 router.

Bottom line: newer Wi-Fi 6 devices should see a speed boost, but the further the distance from the router, the less of the improvement. It is not imperative to upgrade from AC to AX until there are enough AX client devices to warrant it.

GadgetGuy’s review

If you have a few Wi-Fi 6 devices, upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 router should provide more speed for those devices. If you care more about coverage than speed, your money might be better spent on mesh Wi-Fi coverage.

Beyond that, your opinion of the Huawei WiFi AX3 will depend on whether you take a glass half full or glass half empty view.

The Half-Blank View misses some high-end specs like Wi-Fi 6E and superior MU-MIMO. But expect to pay 2-3 times more for a Netgear Nighthawk RAX200 tri-band AX11000, 12-stream router. Or more reasonably priced, the D-Link AX5400 dual band, 8 streams, both with Mesh capability. And there are even less expensive AX Mesh alternatives that you should also consider.

The glass half full is that with the Huawei WiFi AX3 you get basic Wi-Fi 6 without breaking the bank. You will mostly see the benefits up close. Further, the improvement diminishes unless you have other Huawei equipment.

Considering some people’s security concerns, it’s good to see the setup through a web browser without installing the app. As with any product, read the privacy policy and terms and conditions.

Would I buy it?

Only if I lived in a small house where I would benefit from the significant speed boost at close range and didn’t need the mesh Wi-Fi.

A competent entry-level AX3000 4-stream router.

Good points

Entry-level Wi-Fi 6 for small homes

Affordable

negatives

Only 2×2 MU-MIMO – 4 streams

Better and Cheaper Alternatives

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