Wi-Fi 6 Is Here: Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 in 2020?

The Wi-Fi 6 logo on a smartphone.Daniel Constant / Shutterstock.com

Wi-Fi 6 hardware is here. You can buy routers, smartphones, and laptops that support the latest generation of Wi-Fi today. AT CES 2020, we’ve seen many other Wi-Fi 6 devices advertised. You could actually get Wi-Fi 6 hardware this year, but is it worth upgrading?

What is Wi-Fi 6 and why should you care?

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest generation of the Wi-Fi standard. The Wi-Fi Alliance retroactively renamed the old standards, 802.11ac is Wi-Fi 5 and 802.11n is Wi-Fi 4. Wi-Fi 6 is also known as 802.11ax, but version numbers make things much simpler. It’s easy to understand which versions of Wi-Fi are faster and newer.

When using a router with only one device, Wi-Fi 6 can provide data transfer speeds up to 40% faster. But Wi-Fi 6 should really shine in crowded areas where the waves are crowded. Intel claims Wi-Fi 6 will improve the average speed of each user “at least four times” in these areas. Whether it’s public Wi-Fi in a busy cafe or home Wi-Fi in a dense building, Wi-Fi 6 could improve speeds.

RELATED: Wi-Fi 6: what’s different and why it’s important

A new router only helps you if you have Wi-Fi 6 devices

TP-Link Archer AX6000 Wi-Fi router 6.The AX6000 router from TP-Link supports Wi-Fi 6. TP-Link

Newer, faster Wi-Fi is always great. As usual, Wi-Fi 6 devices are backward compatible with previous generations of Wi-Fi. You can get a phone with Wi-Fi 6 and connect it to your Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 4 router. You can get a router with Wi-Fi 6 and also connect your old Wi-Fi devices to it.

But, as always, it’s important to realize that you need Wi-Fi 6 on an access point (router) and a client device to get it. If only one of the two supports Wi-Fi 6, they will communicate using an older version of Wi-Fi, they both speak.

Of course, not all devices on the network need to support Wi-Fi 6. For example, if you connect a phone that supports Wi-Fi 6 to a router that supports Wi- Fi 6, but you also have a bunch of old Wi- Fi 5 connected client devices, the phone and the router will communicate via Wi-Fi 6 and the router will communicate with other devices using Wi-Fi 5. Your router can do both of them.

When we talk about moving to a new generation of Wi-Fi, it’s important to understand what it means. Sure, you can upgrade your router and get Wi-Fi 6, but do you already have client devices with built-in Wi-Fi 6? You probably don’t want to miss out and buy a new smartphone or laptop with Wi-Fi 6 just for that reason – this new Wi-Fi isn’t a big upgrade! There aren’t many Wi-Fi 6 compatible client devices on the market yet.

You will likely be gradually taking Wi-Fi 6 enabled client devices as you buy new phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices. Wi-Fi 6 will become standard, just like Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) it’s today. Then upgrading your router to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 will be more tempting.

Routers with Wi-Fi 6 are available

Some routers with Wi-Fi 6 are already on the market. Do a search on “Wi-Fi router 6“On an online electronics store and you will see a handful of high-end models from manufacturers like TP-Link, NETGEAR, and Asus.

However, you have fewer options than when purchasing an 802.11ac router (Wi-Fi 5). The Wi-Fi router 6 is also much more expensive. Upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 router from a solid Wi-Fi 5 router doesn’t make much sense right now, especially when you probably don’t have Wi-Fi 6 devices.

In early 2020, Wi-Fi 6 hardware was a very early product. On the other hand, if you still need to buy a new router, consider choosing a Wi-Fi 6 model to make your configuration last – assuming you can find one at a good price.

At CES 2020, many router manufacturers announced new Wi-Fi 6 routers later in 2020. You’ll have more options later this year, and they should also be more reasonably priced.

Which devices support Wi-Fi 6?

Apple iPhone 11 in different colorsAll Apple iPhone 11 models support Wi-Fi 6. Apple

Most devices on the market still do not support Wi-Fi 6. Smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices that support Wi-Fi 6 are still quite rare.

Apple’s iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max all support Wi-Fi 6. However, older iPhones do not include Wi-Fi 6. Apple does not yet offer Wi-Fi 6 on any of his iPads or Macs, Either.

Few Android phones support Wi-Fi 6, but some do. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold series support Wi-Fi 6. That’s it, for now.

Most laptops also do not support Wi-Fi 6. Dell released an XPS 13 laptop with Killer Wi-Fi 6 hardware in late 2019, and HP released a Specter x360 13 system with an Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset. The 10th generation Intel architecture (Ice Lake) will have a built-in support for Wi-Fi 6, which means it’s about to become more common.

Other devices also don’t support Wi-Fi 6. We don’t know of a single game console or TV streaming box with Wi-Fi support 6. Your PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Apple TV and everything you have connected cannot use this new standard. We also didn’t see a smart TV or smart home gadget with Wi-Fi 6.

Although Wi-Fi 6 is technically there, it is still early for this new standard and few devices support it. Even if you wanted to upgrade everything in your home to work with Wi-Fi 6, you couldn’t.

Is upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 worth it?

HP Specter x360 Notebook PCThe latest HP Specter x360 laptop supports Wi-Fi 6. HP

Is Wi-Fi 6 good? Of course! This is a newer, faster version of Wi-Fi that will eventually become the norm on all devices you buy, as will Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n ). Technology works and Wi-Fi improves and becomes faster. It’s awesome.

But is it worth switching to Wi-Fi 6 today? Not necessarily. If you’re looking to get a new router anyway, you can check out the models with Wi-Fi 6 and see how they compare to Wi-Fi 5 routers at the price you want. This is a good way to perpetuate your configuration, but we do not recommend that you rush to obtain a Wi-Fi 6 router if you are satisfied with your current router.

On the other hand, if you have an iPhone 11, a modern high-end Samsung phone, or one of the few laptops with Wi-Fi 6 and you really want to take advantage of potentially faster speeds, you might get a new one. router with Wi-Fi 6. If you are the first to adopt, go for it! Wi-Fi 6 hardware is available and you can get it. (Don’t be surprised if you don’t see huge speed increases, though: the big improvements in Wi-Fi 6 help tackle congestion.)

Everyone should wait. Wi-Fi 6 is good, but in a few years, almost everything you buy should have it. Wi-Fi 6 routers are also expected to drop in price and improve in the coming years.

What about Wi-Fi 6E?

To further complicate matters, Wi-Fi 6E is also on its way—Waiting for changes to government regulations. There is no release date, but Wi-Fi 6E will extend Wi-Fi 6 to the 6 GHz frequency band, adding to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands as Wi-Fi already use.

This should further reduce the footprint, but you’ll also need Wi-Fi 6E compatible hardware. You can’t just connect a Wi-Fi 6 phone to a Wi-Fi 6E router to use the 6 GHz channels. You will need a Wi-Fi 6E compatible phone and a Wi-Fi 6E compatible router.

Technology is advancing and there is always something new on the horizon. By the time Wi-Fi 6E hardware arrives, we’ll probably all be talking about Wi-Fi 7.

RELATED: Wi-Fi 6E: what is it and how is it different from Wi-Fi 6?

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