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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  • Impulses - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Is internet that fast really only available to 10% of the US population or was that an off the cuff "stat"...

    I'm surprised it's still that bad if that's accurate, I used to weep along with everyone else when I'd see comments like this but I've had 1Gbps (up/down) fiber at home for over a year now in a US territory that isn't exactly known for having it's stuff/infrastructure together (Puerto Rico)... For $70/month, no clue how competitive that is but it's affordable enough for me and well worth it (nor any more expensive than a lower speed package from the cable ISP).

    Cable company is doing it's own fiber rollout to compete and they already offer 500Mbps over coax (tho 250-300Mbps is really what's sanely priced, the premium for the top tier isn't worth it). I was actually complacent with my 250mbps service with them but I'm glad to see some competition in the market.

    Obviously those services aren't available island wide tho, I really dunno what % the rollouts are at... The fiber ISP has taken an interesting approach where they poll neighborhoods to decide where to build next.
  • oynaz - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    1Gbps internet is around 50 euro/month in quite a few parts of Europe.
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    The GT-AX11000 has a 2.5Gbps port that can be turn into a WAN Port.
  • YB1064 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    I see this as a potential problem:
    "The devices would adapt their power levels for transmission to avoid them actively interfering with each others’ transmissions."
  • evilspoons - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    It's like two people starting to talk to friends with them in a soft voice instead of shouting louder and louder and making both conversations impossible to understand.
  • Xyler94 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    That's how enterprise gear works, it's to avoid interference, which is worse than modulating power. boosting signal introduces noise, the less boosting you need to do, the better.
  • Whiteknight2020 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Because who has greater than 1Gbit ISP connections?
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    My ISP provides 1.5Gbps Fiber connection with a plan to offer 5Gbps in the future.
  • Whiteknight2020 - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    And no more than a couple of dozen people in the entire UK can get over 1gbps. And even if you could get it, what, as a consumer, would you use it for? Unless you have a houseful of individuals all watching different 4k streams it's got absolutely no use case.
  • CharonPDX - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Many routers, including the Asus they're using as their testbed, include a >1Gb port that can be used as either LAN *OR* WAN. If you set the 2.5Gb port to WAN, the "nominally WAN" port becomes another 1 Gbit LAN port.

    Yes, I'd prefer *TWO* >1Gb ports, one for WAN and one for LAN (or configurable,) but hey, one is better than none.

    Most, even the ones without a >1Gbit port, also support bonding the WAN and one (or more) LAN ports.

    Note that most >1Gbit internet services' modems don't yet have >1Gbit ports! The one available locally to me has a modem with two 1Gbit ports that if you want faster than 1 Gbit, you *HAVE* to use them bonded. (It also has a built-in WiFi router, and if you use the built in router, it allows >1Gbit *TOTAL* bandwidth, just not >1Gbit to any individual device.)

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