Wi-Fi 6 is finally here
Over the past decade, our homes and offices have filled up with more and more devices all connected to Wi-Fi. Each device demands some of your router’s time and bandwidth, and that’s increasingly become a problem — the more devices you have, the more your router’s capacity is spread thin. If this continues, speeds could slow to a drag.
That’s where Wi-Fi 6 is meant to help by making data delivery more efficient to ultimately offer faster speeds, and at CES this year, the new Wi-Fi standard finally felt like a reality. Wi-Fi 6 routers and devices were plentiful on the show floor. Not only that, some of the routers were affordable. If you’re buying devices in the near future, there’s now a good chance you’ll actually end up buying into and taking advantage of the new standard. The biggest leap forward for Wi-Fi 6 this year is the affordable Wi-Fi routers as last year, given that Wi-Fi 6 was new tech routers ended up in the highest price bracket. But widespread adoption depends on Wi-Fi 6 making it into the lower-priced routers the majority of people actually buy. These new routers aren’t necessarily better than last year’s, but they offer a meaningful improvement upon the cheaper models they’re replacing.
Over the past year, more affordable routers have slowly started to appear. Routers announced at last year’s CES for indeterminate points in the future have hit stores, with a small number of them coming in below $200 (a low-end TP-Link model is currently on sale for $70). This year, even more, are being announced that deliver prices on par with popular existing models, putting them in the $100 to $200 or so range that quality routers and mesh systems tend to sit in. Most notably, Netgear used this year’s show to debut the Nighthawk Mesh, which is the first mesh router from a trusted brand to bring Wi-Fi 6 to a typical price point for the category. A two-pack of the routers sell for $230, and they’re supposed to work well with internet connections up to 400 Mbps, which is most homes in the US.
Mesh router systems do tend to be more expensive than singular routers since they comprise multiple units. But they’re also increasing the recommended choice for large homes. They also solve a problem that’s very much related to what Wi-Fi 6 set out to solve: the need for faster, stronger Wi-Fi speeds throughout your house. Upgrading to a mesh system may provide even more of a benefit than upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 due to the expanded coverage they offer, so it’s important to see these two upgrades working in concert.
Wi-Fi 6 isn’t going to radically improve your wireless speeds overnight. The improvements will come as more and more of your actively used devices become ones that support the new standard. It’s going to take a while before that’s everything — but at CES 2020, we saw it starting to happen.
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