Also known as 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 was unveiled last year rather quietly compared to the incessant media coverage surrounding 5G. This particular next-gen Wi-Fi is the successor to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
For many, this is indeed great news, as Wi-Fi 6 provides more speed and lower latency to all Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices, not to mention better energy management for battery-powered devices like laptops and smartphones.
If you’re using a Wi-Fi router with only a single device, the maximum potential speeds should reach 40 percent higher with Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5. Wi-Fi 6 is able to accomplish this via more efficient data encoding, which results in higher throughput. In short, the chips that encode and decode these data signals only continue to get more powerful and efficient and can handle the extra work.
In order to take advantage of these blazing-fast speeds, you need to choose a router that supports Wi-Fi 6. Even though we are still in the early innings of this new tech, there are indeed nice options out there, but there are also options that you should stay far away from. Here are five.
The specs for the ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 look pretty good – 1.8GHz quad-core CPU and wireless connections as rapid as 11,000Mbps. But for most people, this is considered overkill. Sure, if you’re a die-hard gamer who needs that extra boost in performance for online play, then go for it. If you want to own this device, though, it’ll set you back $400 – definitely not within most everyday budgets.
Next up is the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien, the brand’s first Wi-Fi 6 router, and it features a tubular design with LED lights and touchscreen controls. This high-end router is definitely futuristic, but not future-proof. That fact can really irk you when you look at the price – $379 as a standalone router, or $700 to get it bundled as a mesh system with a range-extending satellite device. Be aware that it doesn’t include a multigig Ethernet jack that can accept incoming wired speeds faster than 1Gbps, and one of its two 5GHz bands only supports Wi-Fi 5.
Verizon definitely has big hopes for its Fios Wi-Fi 6 Router, but the only thing that it has going for it is speed, and you’ll have to pay up for that. Compared to Verizon’s own previous routers, this offering’s top speeds are now about 60 percent faster. But make sure to keep in mind that the Fios Wi-Fi 6 can only transmit data as fast as your internet plan allows, so you may have to upgrade to a more expensive (and they can be really pricey) plan if you really want to see a difference. As for the price, it’s not a bargain find – you can rent the new Fios router for $15 a month or buy it outright for $299. The Fios Home Wi-Fi Extender will cost $10 to rent or $199.99 to buy.
Comcast’s reputation has never been the greatest, but it is trying to set the bar high with its xFi Advanced Gateway. It does boast 60-percent faster speeds than the previous generation, but the regular complaints have not stopped. Many have voiced their displeasure over the lack of consistency when it comes to download speeds. If you’re on a gigabit plan with Xfinity, you can get 800 Mbps on some days and 300 to 500 Mbps on others. Moreover, if you want terrible customer service, your search can stop right here.
Finally, it’s best to stay away from the Linksys Velop Wi-Fi 6, which costs $700 for a two-pack. This router looks to incorporate mesh networking that has become quite popular in recent years, but the sky-high asking price is a definite turnoff. The specs and price are pretty similar to the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router, but still does not surpass that brand in overall performance. Do keep in mind, though, that there are cheaper mesh options to be had, such as the Asus RT-AX92U, which retails for much more wallet-friendly $399.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two cats.