2019 saw, a faster, more efficient version of the networking standard we commonly know as Wi-Fi. This is the sixth generational update to Wi-Fi, so the networking industry has dubbed it Wi-Fi. -Fi 6 in order to make things a little less complex.
Now, almost three years later, Wi-Fi 6 has established itself as the de facto standard for next-gen gadgets. Most newer versions of smartphones and computers support it, and we’re starting to see support appear among devices as well. Did you pick up aWhere a media streamer for Black Friday? Both support Wi-Fi 6. Did you manage to score a new one? This year? It’s also a Wi-Fi 6 gadget.
The catch is, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6 router running your network in order to unlock the full potential of devices like these. It was an expensive proposition back when Wi-Fi 6 first arrived, but not anymore. Shop around and you’ll find a number of options available for under $ 100, as well as, , and more. Some do the job better than others – but that’s where we come in, with comprehensive, hands-on testing to help identify the best upgrade choices for the money.
Expect regular updates to this article as we continue to test Wi-Fi 6 in 2022. Anytime we find a new model worth considering, we’ll add it to the list. . For now, here are the models I would recommend to anyone making a purchase in December 2021.
Ry Crist / CNET
When a router supports Wi-Fi 6, it means that it is able to use new features such as OFDMA and 1024-QAM to deliver faster speeds and lower latency to busy networks with many connected devices. This is true even with the value choices at low cost – and among these, the one that works the best is the TP-Link Archer AX21.
Currently priced at $ 90 and often available for even less, the Archer AX21 did an outstanding job in my home speed tests. My home network uses a fiber connection with download speeds capped at 300 Mbps, and at the end of several days of testing at five locations in my house, the Archer AX21’s average download speed was nearly perfect 299 Mbps. This includes triple-digit download speeds deep in my house, a common dead zone where many routers I test struggle to stay connected.
This level of performance was strong enough that the Archer AX21 beat similar models from Netgear, Asus and D-Link, and it has even kept pace with more sophisticated routers that cost a lot more. It’s also a snap to set up, thanks to TP-Link’s Tether app for Android and iOS, which also offers quick access to basic network settings without bombarding you with ads like other apps will. router. All of this makes the Archer AX21 an extremely valid choice for small to mid-sized homes, and one of the best value picks you’ll find that supports Wi-Fi 6.
Read CNET’s review of the TP-Link Archer AX21.
Chris Monroe / CNET
2021 has been a great year for TP-Link, and it wasn’t just because of the Archer AX21. There’s also the TP-Link Deco W7200, which passed my speed tests to earn a spot as the top rated mesh router of the year. With multiple devices working as a team of routers to deliver a faster, more reliable signal over a larger area than a single router, this is a fantastic choice for taller homes – and just won’t cost you much. $ 229 for a two-pack.
What’s great about the Deco W7200, with its full Wi-Fi 6 support, is that it’s a tri-band model with the usual 2.4 and 5 GHz bands plus a Additional 5 GHz band that the system uses as a dedicated wireless link connection between the main router and its satellites. This dedicated backhaul is the key to unlocking the best mesh performance, as it keeps these system transmissions separate from your usual network traffic. Tri-band mesh routers like these will often set you back $ 400 or more, but the Deco W7200 gets you there for hundreds less.
Indeed, the performance was exceptional when I tested the system. In fact, the only mesh router I tested that returned average faster download speeds to my house costs more than three times as much as the Deco W7200. It’s unbeatable value and a better, more visible upgrade to most homes than splurging on a standard high powered router.
Read CNET’s review of the TP-Link Deco W7200.
Ry Crist / CNET
Asus is one of the biggest names in the gaming router category, delivering the best variety of fast and flashy routers that promise elite performance, low latency, and advanced controls for your connection. The Asus RT-AX86U is actually one of the more discreet routers in this mix – it doesn’t include lights that change color or an oversized, ostentatious design – but it’s still one of the best gaming routers you can buy. Gaming aside, this is one of the best 6 Wi-Fi routers you can buy, period.
Besides offering fast and consistent speeds, the RT-AX86U handled latency better than any other router I’ve tested it against, and it comes with a full suite of tools to optimize your connection while gaming. , including an adaptive quality of service engine and an Open NAT database of game-specific and platform-specific port forwarding rules. There’s even a mobile game mode that’s designed to instantly prioritize traffic to your phone.
In other words, the RT-AX86U ticks all the boxes you’d want from a gaming router (except for the lights that change color I guess – although you can get it Zaku style if you’re willing to shell out an additional $ 140). Most importantly, it makes enough use of Wi-Fi 6 to ensure that even non-gamers in your household will appreciate having it close at hand. At $ 250, it’s definitely an upgrade pick, but a reasonable pick that’s still cheaper than a lot of gaming routers.
Read the CNET review of the Asus RT-AX86U.
Remember how I mentioned that the TP-Link Deco W7200 outperforms every other mesh router I’ve tested except one? Well, here’s the one that beat it – the AX6000 version of the Netgear Orbi Mesh System.
With this all-important tri-band design and full Wi-Fi 6 support, the AX6000 Orbi blew us away with excellent signal strength and truly impressive top speeds when we first tested it. a year or two ago. These speeds have held steady ever since – whether we were recording maximum speeds in our lab or testing actual speeds at home, literally nothing else I have tested performs as well. On top of that, the AX6000 Orbi deserves to be one of the first mesh routers to offer a multi-Gig WAN port and break the bottleneck that capped incoming wired speeds to a single gig.
Performance like this usually comes at a steep price, and of course the AX6000 Orbi costs $ 700 for a two-pack. Like a Mercedes Benz for the mesh class, it’s more of a machine than most people need, but there’s nothing wrong with coveting one – or waiting for the rare sale. If that was my money I would rather go for this Deco W7200 system and spend the $ 470 I would save on something else, but if you just want the best mesh router performance we’ve seen in our tests period, period, money be damned, here it is.
Read the CNET review of the Netgear Orbi AX6000.
Wi-Fi Router 6 FAQ
If you have any questions about the ins and outs of Wi-Fi 6, be sure to check it out @rycrist) or clicking the little envelope icon on my CNET profile page to send a message straight to my inbox. In the meantime, I’ll post answers to all frequently asked questions below.and what makes it better than the Wi-Fi of yesteryear. You can also reach me by searching for me on Twitter (
What makes Wi-Fi 6 better than before?
Wi-Fi 6 includes support for new Wi-Fi features that help devices transmit data faster and more efficiently. One of the major upgrades is 1024-QAM, which stands for Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, or the trick your router uses to send out radio waves that other devices can read as a series of ones and zeros. – the binary code that makes up everything you see, read and experience online. 1024-QAM allows your router to send 10 digits of binary code with each transmission, compared to eight binary digits of Wi-Fi 5 routers that use 256-QAM. This is one of the main reasons why Wi-Fi 6 offers around 30% faster top speeds than before.
Other notable features include OFDMA, or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access, which improves network efficiency by allowing your router to send data to multiple clients on a single channel at a time. Think of it like a pizza delivery guy dropping off multiple pizzas to multiple customers in one trip to save gas. There’s also Target Wake Time, which allows the router to schedule devices that need to register periodically so that they don’t interfere with each other. And, while it’s not specifically tied to Wi-Fi 6, most next-gen routers will support WPA3, the latest standard in Wi-Fi security.
Will older devices still work with a Wi-Fi 6 router?
Yes, Wi-Fi 6 is fully backward compatible, so previous generation Wi-Fi devices will still be able to connect and connect to it. They just won’t be able to take advantage of the new Wi-Fi 6 features that speed things up for current generation devices.