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Wi-Fi 6E routers are here, and we’re not ready for them

The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 is among the first Wi-Fi 6E routers you should purchase. The sixth technology of Wi-Fi — 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6 — is a well-established commonplace at this level. A lot better at managing dense, crowded networks with a number of shopper gadgets, and with help for faster top speeds, Wi-Fi 6 is already featured prominently in most of the newest smartphones and laptops, to not point out the bumper crop of Wi-Fi 6 routers promising to deliver the improve house.

Simply whenever you suppose you’ve bought your head wrapped round all that, one thing known as Wi-Fi 6E comes alongside. It’s not a brand new model of the Wi-Fi protocol like Wi-Fi 6, however quite, a particular designation for Wi-Fi 6 gadgets which are outfitted to broadcast in the newly opened 6GHz band, which is one thing routers couldn’t do earlier than. 

The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 is a $550 Wi-Fi 6E gaming router that guarantees “complete domination.”

Largely empty save for emergency broadcasts, that 6GHz band is more than twice as wide as the 5GHz band beneath it, with sufficient bandwidth for as much as seven nonoverlapping 160MHz channels. In layman’s phrases, if the two.4GHz band is a one-lane nation freeway and the 5GHz band is a three-lane interstate, image the 6GHz band as a shiny, new seven-lane superhighway, and solely 6E gadgets get entry to the onramp.

It’s an intriguing pitch — and now, in 2021, we’re beginning to see routers that help the usual hitting the market. I needed to know what sort of affect they’d make, so I bought my palms on the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000, which appears like a cyborg spider despatched from the longer term to kill Spider-Man, and the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500, which we’ve affectionately began calling “the BatRouter” for causes I hope are apparent. They’re two of the very first Wi-Fi 6E routers launched this 12 months, and I’ve been busy placing them by means of velocity check after velocity check after velocity check. Right here’s all the things I’ve realized to date — most notably, that there’s little or no cause for anyone to splurge on one in every of these items but.

Wait, they aren’t good?

I didn’t say that. Quite the opposite, these are highly effective, succesful routers which are outfitted to deliver all the things on-line — previous gadgets, new gadgets, gadgets that don’t exist but — on the quickest speeds potential. Actually, each boasts high speeds of as much as 4,800Mbps — 4.8 gigabits per second — on its 5GHz and 6GHz bands. (Asus says the GT-AXE11000’s 6GHz band goes even increased, topping out at simply above 5 gigs.)

At $550 for Asus and $600 for Netgear, every guarantees the newest options and top-of-the-line community efficiency (in addition to “total domination” from Asus, in typical gaming router parlance that I’m selecting to learn as a direct menace to Tom Holland).

What’s the issue, then? It’s that 6GHz band. There are only a few gadgets at present outfitted to benefit from it at this level — and even should you’ve bought a kind of, you aren’t prone to see efficiency that’s noticeably higher than what you’d see on the 5GHz band anytime quickly. Actually, you possibly can argue that the 5GHz band would really be preferable for many, if not all your common community visitors.

Don’t imagine me? Properly, I’ve bought charts, so n’yah.
Let’s begin with Netgear. On the left, you’ve got the common obtain speeds on every of the router’s three bands all through 5 spots in my home, organized from closest to the router to farthest from it. My house is a boxy, 1,300-square-foot shotgun-style home, and my fiber plan from AT&T nets me high speeds of as much as 300Mbps. To measure speeds, I used a Samsung Galaxy S21, which helps 6E and might join on the 6GHz band.

The yellow bars representing my speeds on the router’s 6GHz band present that it was capable of push my connection past the max, with common close- and medium-range speeds as excessive as 375Mbps. That’s nice, however the inexperienced bars representing my 5GHz speeds had been simply as spectacular. Speeds on each bands plummet within the useless zone that’s my again toilet, and 6GHz did just a little higher right here, however that’s about the one benefit I might discover — and it’s idiot’s gold so far as benefits are involved.

Why? Transfer your eyes over to the graph on the best. These are my common add speeds from the identical batch of assessments. The inexperienced 5GHz speeds held up fairly properly as I moved away from the router — however take a look at the way in which these yellow 6GHz add speeds instantly begin to drop off. That’s as a result of the 6GHz band gives much less vary than the 5GHz band. My house is simply too small and speeds capped too low to note it with the downloads, however it’s clear as day with the uploads, and the shortcoming would solely develop extra vital in a bigger area with a sooner connection.

Then once more, possibly it’s only a Netgear factor? Nope. Try the matching graphs for Asus. Just about the identical precise outcomes, though the 6GHz and particularly the 5GHz band hit obtain speeds that had been noticeably sooner in that again toilet useless zone. 

Regardless, with both router operating my community, should you handed me that Galaxy S21 — which, once more, is among the solely Wi-Fi 6E shopper gadgets in the marketplace proper now — and requested me to make a video name whereas wandering round my home, I might use the 5GHz community, not 6GHz. That’s not nice provided that the 6GHz band is changing one of many 5GHz bands on every of those tri-band routers, and in doing so, driving the value up.

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What about latency?

Good query. Latency measures the time it takes, in milliseconds, to your connection to succeed in its vacation spot and return with no matter knowledge you must ship an e-mail, stream a film or do anything on-line, and it’s certainly supposed to enhance on the 6GHz band.

“Much less visitors on the 6GHz band provides you decrease latency to your AR/VR gaming and different Wi-Fi-intense functions,” Netgear writes in its data sheet for the RAXE500 (PDF).

To make sense of what Netgear is saying there, consider your fancy Wi-Fi 6E cellphone as an Olympic swimmer. With no previous-gen gadgets interfering along with your connection in any respect, the 6GHz band is just like the pool at a non-public coaching facility — it’s the perfect setting for swimming laps and setting data. The two.4 and 5GHz bands are extra like a crowded public pool crammed with urinating kids and out-of-shape adults lazing about in interior tubes. You’ll be able to swim laps in it, certain, however there’s going to be an excessive amount of interference to notch any private bests in your butterfly stroke.

Each routers held latency to simply underneath 20ms all through all of my assessments. That’s an excellent outcome — however the 6GHz band didn’t carry out noticeably higher than 2.4 or 5GHz in both case.


That’s the pitch, anyway (kind of). In my very own assessments, I noticed some slight latency variations from band to band, however I’d emphasize slight. With Asus, my general common latency throughout all velocity assessments, every of them pinging the identical server on the opposite facet of Kentucky, was 18.8ms on the two.4GHz band, 18.5ms on the 5GHz band, and 18.3ms on the 6GHz band. With Netgear, these figures got here out to 19.4ms on 2.4GHz, 19.1ms on 5GHz, and 19.2ms on 6GHz. In different phrases, to your common, run-of-the-mill internet visitors, you aren’t prone to discover any variations in latency from band to band.

Admittedly, which may change with internet utilization that’s extra bandwidth-intensive, or with a server that’s farther away than the one I check with. I exploit that close by server throughout my velocity assessments in an effort to preserve the latency variable to a minimal, so I’ll have to run a complete new set utilizing distant servers to get a greater sense of what 6GHz is able to. Keep tuned for extra on that entrance.

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The place does that go away Wi-Fi 6E?

The takeaway right here is that it’s nonetheless very early for Wi-Fi 6E — and too early for nearly anybody to really feel any form of urgent have to improve to a 6E router simply but. I’ll know extra as soon as I’m capable of check extra 6E routers (and as soon as I’m capable of end testing these two, together with high velocity assessments at our lab), however I’ve a tough time imagining the 6GHz band performing as a game-changer for anybody’s house community anytime quickly. And bear in mind, absolutely the quickest house web connection you possibly can hope to have proper now tops out at 2 gigs — lower than half of what routers like these say the 6GHz band is able to.

The most recent Linksys Velop mesh router helps Wi-Fi 6E, which implies it could transmit on the ultrawide 6GHz band. Simply don’t count on Wi-Fi 6E mesh routers like these with a number of gadgets and a number of bands to return low cost anytime quickly.

That’s to not say that there aren’t advantages to Wi-Fi 6E. The room for extra channels of visitors through the band’s further bandwidth — the multilane expressway analogy — ought to completely enable 6E gadgets to take advantage of out of what Wi-Fi 6 is able to, particularly on crowded networks with a number of gadgets that may in any other case have to share a lane. A 6GHz connection is likely to be killer to have close by at a stadium or an airport, as an example. However that simply makes me need a Wi-Fi 6E cellphone, not a Wi-Fi 6E router.

The opposite factor I’m awaiting this 12 months are tri-band mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6E. With a number of gadgets utilizing top-of-the-line {hardware}, these will undoubtedly be among the most costly routers in the marketplace as soon as they get right here, however they’ll be capable to use that 6GHz band to maneuver visitors across the mesh with out interference, which might make your 2.4 and 5GHz connections a bit sooner, if applied properly. 

Then once more, the bar shall be very excessive right here, as Wi-Fi 6E routers will undoubtedly be among the most costly routers you should purchase this 12 months. One of many first to hit the market, the Linksys Velop Atlas Max 6E, prices $900 for a two-piece system or $1,200 for a three-piece system.

Netgear Orbi’s new Wi-Fi 6E mesh router is definitely a first-of-its-kind quad-band machine, with 2.4, 5 and 6GHz bands plus an additional 5GHz band that the system makes use of as a backhaul. The 2-piece setup proven right here would value you $1,100 — make that $1,500 if you need a three-piece setup.

One other that’s coming quickly is the Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System (mannequin quantity RBKE963). Just like the title suggests, it really comes outfitted with 4 bands of Wi-Fi visitors — 2.4, 5 and 6GHz bands, plus a second 5GHz band that the system makes use of as a backhaul. (Considerably tellingly, Netgear tells me that it thinks that 5GHz is at present a greater match as a backhaul band than 6GHz. Go determine.) That one begins at $1,100 for a two-piece system, or $1,500 for a three-piece system.

So when will routers like that be value shopping for into? Time — and many a number of velocity assessments to return — will inform, however I don’t count on that I’ll be recommending any Wi-Fi 6E routers in any respect right here in 2021. Proper now, should you’re itching to expire and improve your router to at least one that helps Wi-Fi 6E, I feel you would possibly need to maintain your horses, or a minimum of mood your expectations.


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