Over the last generation of computing, there has been an explosion of devices that no longer have or need the capability of connecting to a hard-wired Ethernet connection, and that trend shows no intention of slowing down. When Personal Computers first started to utilize wireless Network Interface Cards (NICs) they would almost always be the sole device on the network. Fast forward to today, and practically every home has multiple devices, if not dozens, where the devices communicate using radio waves, either over a cellular connection, or over a home wireless network featuring Wi-Fi.

In the PC space, which is the focus of this article, cellular connectivity certainly exists, but almost exclusively in niche roles. While there are advantages to offering directly cellular connection on the PC, the extra recurring cost, especially in North America, means that most laptop owners will use Wi-Fi for network communication.

The term Wi-Fi is something that is omnipresent today, but if based on the Wi-Fi Alliance and adoption of IEEE 802.11 standards for local area networking over wireless. Although the Wi-Fi Alliance has recently renamed their standards, Wi-Fi has in the past been named directly based on the 802.11 standards as follows:

Wi-Fi Names and Performance
Naming Peak Performance
Branding IEEE
Wi-Fi 4
Channel Width 20/40 MHz
802.11n 150 Mbps 300 Mbps 450 Mbps
Wi-Fi 5
Channel Width 20/40/80 MHz

Optional 160 MHz
802.11ac 433 Mbps

867 Mbps
867 Mbps

1.69 Gbps
1.27 Gbps

2.54 Gbps
Wi-Fi 6
Channel Width 20/40/80/160 MHz
802.11ax 1201 Mbps 2.4Gbps 3.6 Gbps

In an effort to simplify branding, the latest three standards of 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax have been rebranded to Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5, and Wi-Fi 6, respectively. In the long term, the new branding should be much easier for most people to grasp, since larger means newer, although we’ve already got some confusion with Wi-Fi 6E – the 6GHz band addition for Wi-Fi 6 – so we shall see how that goes.

One of the many Wi-Fi 6 routers announced at CES 2019 - TPLink AX1800

Today, most homes should have at least Wi-Fi 4, or what used to be 802.11n. After all, this standard came along in 2009. Many will even have Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac, which offers some speed upgrades and a few optional extra features to help with scaling. Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is a very new standard, and until the end of 2019 there were not even that many devices which could connect over it. So, what is the point of this new standard, and do you really need to upgrade your home network?

This article intends to help answer those questions, as well as show how we at AnandTech are transitioning to Wi-Fi 6 for future reviews.

Wi-Fi 6: What’s New
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  • evilspoons - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Ubiquiti devices work as normal routers. You take your normal internet connection, wired ethernet coming out of your modem, and plug it into the WAN port of the Ubiquiti router.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    I run a custom pfSense router/firewall/gateway, so it would run as an AP only. It's incredible how terrible most consumer/prosumer routers are compared to a pfSense install on basic hardware.
  • Xyler94 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Most if not all?

    Most home routers don't have the interfaces to link directly into the feed, nor the proper security creds to get connections, but more often than not, their modem can be configured in Bridge Mode, which then the modem acts as the bridge between your network and the ISP network. The modem turns off all routing and NAT features, and basically hopes the router next to it does that work. I recently configured mine in Bridge Mode because I now have a Fortinet Firewall.
  • gobaers - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Yep, this. I refuse to allow the ISP to have a device on my internal network, they are and should remain dumb pipes.
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    I do this on Fiber.

    ISP provider modem/router is in the closet.

    Router Asus AX88U using a Media converter.

    Bell Canada uses GPON

    So Fiber going directly into media converter then Ethernet from converter to Asus router and its runs great.
  • Dug - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    OFDMA isn't necessarily broken, it's a compatibility issue though. This is from Tim on smbforums.

    "But the larger problem appears to be compatibility problems with older legacy devices that have not had driver updates. Some devices don't understand the new information in beacon frames, so they either don't associate at all or don't stay associated.

    There are more problems with 2.4 GHz devices than 5 GHz, but both bands have problems. Routers makers are very reluctant to enable OFDMA and break their customers' Wi-Fi."

    So it looks as though OFDMA could work, but by doing so it may reduce the devices that can connect if you have older devices. I've seen this commented before from others that have done testing.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    If the issue is drivers for legacy devices, I suspect the only work around on time scales shorter than the next decade (or longer if some OEMs can save a penny/unit by using a crappy chipset that doesn't support it) will be to run 2 parallel 5/6 ghz wireless connections (one with and one without) similar to how we currently run both 2.4 and 5ghz service; one for the legacy devices that will never be updated and one for modern hardware.
  • Whiteknight2020 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Well, according to that link there are some that do, Asus ax88 for one (on 5ghz).
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    What is your definition of True OFDMA.

    The article you posted which I've already read since i'm a member of the SNB forum.

    Shows its enabled on the AX88U but only on the 5Ghz. Which would be fine for me as I don't use 2.4ghz for anything.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Funny enough, Asus just finally turned on OFDMA support in the GT-AX11000 in the latest firmware, which was released last month. So that landed just as we got the hardware.

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