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Wi-Fi 6: The best routers, mesh systems & repeaters for the Turbo WLAN 802.11ax


In WLAN, the devices often interfere with each other – speed and range suffer as a result. The new standard Wi-Fi 6 is supposed to solve this problem. We tell you why the switch to fast WLAN-AX is worthwhile and which routers, mesh systems and repeaters are worth the money.

Fast pace for all WLAN devices: that’s what the new WLAN standard promises

Wi-Fi 6

, also referred to as WLAN 802.11ax or WLAN-AX for short. In particular, routers and repeaters in the radio network should be fit for the future. The number of end devices that want to exchange data in a WLAN is constantly increasing and will continue to increase. However, the transmission path, namely the WLAN frequencies, cannot be expanded at will. The consequence that you can already feel in your WLAN: Speed ​​and range decrease because many devices are fighting for transmission time and external WLANs are disrupting your own network. We will introduce you to the advantages of Wi-Fi 6 and explain who is worth switching to. You will also get an overview of the new WLAN AC devices – from routers to repeaters and mesh WLAN systems to WLAN cards for notebooks and PCs.

Wi-Fi 6 wants to make WLAN efficient by distributing frequencies and transmission times in such a way that every device gets enough of it. Because the different WLAN clients have different requirements when it comes to data transfer: the PC and the notebook need a high top speed for large downloads and backups, the tablet and smartphone need permanently stable connections for streaming, and finally IoT devices should transmit small amounts of data on a regular basis to save energy. 11ax wants to bring these different WLAN wishes under one roof.

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Debut with Wi-Fi 6: The Fritzbox 6660 brings the new WLAN standard.

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Debut with Wi-Fi 6: The Fritzbox 6660 brings the new WLAN standard.

© AVM

The switch to 11ac or Wi-Fi 5 was faster for many users than for 11n because they were in urgent need of better WiFi due to the rapidly growing device fleet with smartphones and tablets. Many manufacturers hope that this will happen even faster with Wi-Fi 6: Because only when as many devices as possible use the standard will its advantages come into play. That is why you can already find a comprehensive range of routers and mesh systems that will continue to grow rapidly. For example, AVM also has the


Fritzbox 6660 Cable

already a suitable router in the program. The Berlin-based company has so far not been among the early starters with new WLAN technologies, but has always waited for a wider spread.

Wi-Fi routers with 2x2 Mimo streams offer a cheap entry into Wi-Fi 6.

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Wi-Fi routers with 2×2 Mimo streams offer a cheap entry into Wi-Fi 6.

© Netgear

Wi-Fi 6 has these advantages

If you are dealing with the new WLAN standard, you first have to get used to its name: Instead of the technical name 802.11ax, manufacturers and also in the menu settings are now talking about Wi-Fi 6. Definitely both terms are one and the same standard.

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 also brings a speed plus for WLAN: The fastest routers achieve a gross data rate of 4.8 GBit / s over 5 GHz and 1.2 GBit / s over 2.4 GHz. Unlike 11ac, the speed advantages of Wi-Fi 6 can also be used via the 2.4 GHz frequency. However, the maximum data rates differ between the two frequencies because the routers can use channels up to 160 MHz wide for transmission via 5 GHz, while at most 40 MHz channels are possible via 2.4 GHz due to the narrower frequency band.

Routers, which can transmit eight parallel data streams, reach the highest speed. Most devices work with four Mimo streams. The numerous streams are also not intended for data transmission to a single WLAN device, because there will be no PCs, notebooks or smartphones with enough space for the required number of antennas. Nevertheless, a router with these capabilities accelerates the pace in WLAN: With multi-user Mimo (MU-Mimo) it can operate more devices at the same time – with eight streams, for example, four WLAN clients with two antennas in parallel that most notebooks use and smartphones. With Wi-Fi 6 this now works in both directions, with 11ac only from the router to the client.

Regardless of the Mimo data streams supported, each Wi-Fi 6 device works faster in the WLAN than a comparable 11ac client. With Wi-Fi 6, the possible data rate for a single stream also increases by around 40 percent because the data signals can be packed more tightly with the new 1024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) modulation method.

With the OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) method, the router can also use the radio medium more efficiently and allocate the resources to the clients more appropriately, so that everyone gets as much time and frequency ranges as they need – but also no more. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 reduces the interference potential of other WLANs: 11ax devices can simply ignore their data packets. After all, Wi-Fi 6 is no longer draining on the battery life of smartphones and other mobile devices: previously, these WLAN clients had to regularly exit the energy-saving mode to check whether data transmission was ready for them. Now you can agree a fixed schedule with the router according to which the data exchange takes place.

Not every device needs Wi-Fi 6

In order for your wireless network to take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6, the devices involved in data transmission must support this standard. But Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with the previous standards, so a new router will of course also serve older devices. In addition, the radio network already benefits from speed when only a few clients transmit via Wi-Fi 6: For example, the improved MU-Mimo means that devices without this technology can be used more quickly for data transfer, since the transmission to MU-Mimo clients ends more quickly becomes.

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In addition, many Wi-Fi 6 routers also work faster with 11ac: With better antennas, a stronger CPU and more internal memory, they have stronger hardware than the routers of the previous generation, which can also speed up data exchange with older clients.

Cheap WiFi router for Wi-Fi 6

TP-Link AX100: Affordable entry into the Wi-Fi 6 WLAN

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TP-Link AX100: Affordable entry into the Wi-Fi 6 WLAN

© TP-Link

The entry into the world of Wi-Fi 6 currently costs you around 100 euros: TP-Link offers the at this price


Archer AX10

at. However, it only works with one stream per frequency and thus achieves 1.2 Gbit / s over 5 GHz and almost 300 Mbit / s over 2.4 GHz. With just under 600 Mbit / s, it is around 140 euros expensive


Asus RT-AX56U

over 2.4 GHz a little faster.

AX3000 routers, whose prices are between 160 and 230 euros, make more sense for small networks: They transmit a maximum of around 3 GBit / s, namely 2.4 GBit over 5 GHz and 600 MBit over the frequency 2.4 GHz. In addition to 5 gigabit connections (1 for the Internet, 4 for the internal network), they also offer USB 3.0 for connecting an external memory. For example, the


Netgear Nighthawk AX4,

the


TP-Link Archer AX50

and the


Asus RT-AX58U

.

AVM’s first WiFi router with Wi-Fi 6 is the


Fritzbox 6660 Cable

. The Fritzbox works with 2×2 Mimo streams and thus achieves a maximum of 2.4 GBit / s over 5 GHz and 600 MBit / s over 2.4 GHz. The LAN connection is also based on a new standard: one port supports NBase-T with 2.5 GBit / s, the four other LAN sockets transmit at gigabit speed. The box is suitable for cable connection with Docsis 3.1 and 3.0. It also comes with a Dect base for up to six wireless telephones and a connection for an analog telephone or fax.

Wi-Fi 6 router for larger WLANs

For larger WLANs, Wi-Fi 6 routers are recommended for around 300 to just under 400 euros. The


Netgear Nighthawk RAX50

is the cheapest offer in this area because it can only transmit just under 600 Mbit / s over 2.4 GHz and only has a USB 3.0 connection.

The somewhat more expensive routers create four parallel streams for a total speed of almost 6 GBit / s both over 5 and 2.4 GHz: They are assigned to the speed class AX6000 because they have a maximum of around 4.8 GBit / s over 5 GHz and 1, 2 GBit / s transmitted over 2.4 GHz. These include, for example, the


TP-Link Archer AX6000

, the


Asus RT-AX88U

and the


Netgear AX8

.

With its Wi-Fi 6 routers, Netgear hides the numerous antennas in two side wings.

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With its Wi-Fi 6 routers, Netgear hides the numerous antennas in two side wings.

© Netgear

Thanks to the numerous data streams, they can also serve several MU-Mimo-capable WLAN clients and are therefore also suitable for WLANs with many devices. You can save yourself an additional switch with these routers: They have six or eight gigabit connections. The TP-Link model also has a 2.5 Gbit port, the routers from Netgear and Asus support link aggregation. In the Netgear model, the antennas are housed in two wings, which makes the router look different.

In practice, Wi-Fi 6 routers can transmit more than 1 Gbit / s over the radio network under good conditions.

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In practice, Wi-Fi 6 routers can transmit more than 1 Gbit / s over the radio network under good conditions.

© Archer

The


Nighthawk AX12

For around 380 euros, it is worth it if many smartphones and tablets with MU-Mimo are on the move in the WLAN. Because it works with up to eight streams over 5 GHZ and can therefore simultaneously operate four MU-Mimo clients with two antennas each. However, its overall speed is no higher than that of the cheaper routers with four Mimo streams: Because like this, the AX12 can use a maximum of four Mimo streams if it transmits radio channels over 160 MHz. It only switches up to eight streams for narrower channels with 80 MHz. However, the AX12 can also pass on its WLAN bandwidth, which should ideally exceed the gigabit limit, via the LAN cable: For this it has a so-called multi-gigabit connection, depending on the cable length and quality, a transmission speed of 5 or 2.5 gigabits.

The fastest routers for Wi-Fi 6

Players in particular should appeal to the visually striking Wi-Fi 6 routers.

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Players in particular should appeal to the visually striking Wi-Fi 6 routers.

© Asus

The tri-band routers with Wi-Fi 6 are aimed at users with very large networks and especially gamers. Prices for these models start at around 400 euros. Like the tri-band routers with 11ac, they use two different channels over 5 GHz in addition to the 2.4 GHz frequency to set up three WLANs. This results in a maximum speed of over 10 GBit / s. Router like that


Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

, the


Netgear RAX200

and the


TP-Link AX11000

each have eight external antennas and five or eight (AX11000) gigabit ports plus a multi-gigabit port. Asus and TP-Link attract players with features such as automatic optimization of game streams to reduce latency or an overview of the fastest servers for a particular game.

Mesh systems with Wi-Fi 6

Elegant mesh system for Wi-Fi 6: Asus ZenWiFi AX

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Elegant mesh system for Wi-Fi 6: Asus ZenWiFi AX

© Asus

Switching to Wi-Fi 6 makes a lot of sense for WiFi mesh systems. Because they can use the new standard for the direct connection (backhaul) between the individual mesh stations. The WLAN end devices will then be connected as before using 11ac and a 2×2 antenna configuration. The mesh system is already available


Asus AX6100

for around 420 euros with two stations. Four parallel Mimo streams with up to 4.8 GBit / s are available for the backhaul, WLAN clients come with up to 866 MBit / s (5 GHz) or a maximum of 400 MBit / s (2.4 GHz) to the WLAN.

New name for the new WLAN

11ax is now called Wi-Fi 6 – and older WLAN standards have also changed names: 11ac-WLAN should now be referred to as Wi-Fi 5 and 11n as Wi-Fi 4. This is what the Wi-Fi Alliance came up with: The Manufacturers Association hopes that the new names will make it easier for users to differentiate between the different standards. Most manufacturers still use two tracks in their product names and, for example, state both Wi-Fi 6 and 802.11ax for current devices. In the settings of most Wi-Fi devices, you will also find the designation 11ax or ax. In the future, router menus and WLAN apps will also use Wi-Fi 6. The first smartphone with Wi-Fi 6,

                        
                                                                                                                    the Samsung Galaxy S10
                                             and its model variants, for example, a small 6 appears next to the WLAN symbol in the status bar, provided the phone is connected to an 11ax network.

Asus now also offers a mesh system that works completely with Wi-Fi 6: The


Asus ZenWifi AX (XT8)

connects the two mesh stations with 4 streams and a maximum of 4.8 Gbit / s. Wi-Fi 6 clients can be connected with up to 1.2 Gbit / s over 5 GHz and almost 600 Mbit / s over 2.4 GHz. The design of the Asus mesh system is also new: The devices are now less similar to classic WLAN routers, but imitate the elegant look of other mesh systems such as Google Wifi or Netgear Orbi. The mesh system


Netgear Orbi RBK852

with two stations or that


Netgear Orbi RBK853

with 3 stations offers a higher speed for WAN clients, which it can connect with 2 parallel data streams (2.4 Gbit / s over 5 GHZ, 1.2 Gbit / s over 2.4 GHz).

WiFi repeater for Wi-Fi 6

One of the first repeaters for Wi-Fi 6 is the Netgear EAX80.

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One of the first repeaters for Wi-Fi 6 is the Netgear EAX80.

© Netgear

The first repeaters that use the new WLAN standard also come from Netgear: The


Netgear EAX20

offers clients two parallel data streams per frequency (1.2 Gbit / s over 5 GHz, 600 Mbit / s over 2.4 GHz), the


Netgear EAX80

achieves twice the speed with four data streams. Both have four Gigabit LAN ports, the repeater EAX80 also has a USB 3.0 connection.

Wi-Fi 6 for notebook & PC

A notebook with Wi-Fi 6 can be equipped with an M.2 module such as the Killer 1650x.

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A notebook with Wi-Fi 6 can be equipped with an M.2 module such as the Killer 1650x.

You can also bring your PC or notebook to the level of Wi-Fi 6. There are PCI Express cards for the desktop computer


Gigabyte GC-WBAX200,

Asus PCE-AX58BT

and


TP-Link TX3000E

: Install the card in a free slot and connect to the supplied external antenna.

The M.2 plug-in card is available for the laptop


Intel AX200

with a top speed of 2.4 GBit / s over 5 GHz and 600 MBit / s over 2.4 GHz. It has two antenna connections and is located in an M.2-2230 slot. The Intel variant AX201 only fits in notebooks that use Intel’s Integrated Connectivity technology (CNVi): It therefore requires a corresponding Intel processor with this technology, for example from the current Whiskey Lake generation.

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