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What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the name for the most current generation of Wi-Fi technology. Read on to learn the latest Wi-Fi technology behind the newest Wi-Fi routers.

Wi-Fi routers are the most important part of any home internet setup, and for anyone on the market for a new router, Wi-Fi 6 is the current buzzword. At the tech aisle of your local big-box store, you’ll see Wi-Fi 6 routers, Wi-Fi 5 routers, and more antennas than the fish tank at a Red Lobster.

If you’re shopping for a new router and unsure where to turn, let us answer your biggest questions about Wi-Fi 6.

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the name for the current generation of Wi-Fi technology. Wi-Fi 6 adds numerous upgrades that improve the speed and reliability of your Wi-Fi connection.

Devices built with Wi-Fi 6 (like new smartphones and laptops) support every Wi-Fi 6 upgrade, and they’ll perform best when connected to a Wi-Fi 6 router.

The term Wi-Fi 6 comes from the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry trade group that helps manufacturers maintain the same Wi-Fi standards across devices. Previous Wi-Fi generations include Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 4 (real creative names, huh?).

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What can Wi-Fi 6 do?

Each Wi-Fi generation like Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 includes under-the-hood features that improve your router’s network management capabilities.

Long story short, Wi-Fi 6’s features ensure that your home Wi-Fi performs the same whether you have 3 or 30 devices connected to your network. Some of Wi-Fi 6’s major features include WPA3 support (better network security), improved beamforming (more precise Wi-Fi signals), and orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) for better wireless traffic management.

Is Wi-Fi 6 faster than Wi-Fi 5?

Yep! Wi-Fi 6 has a maximum theoretical speed of 9.6 Gbps, while Wi-Fi 5 tops out at 3.5 Gbps.

Keep in mind that these speeds are different than your home internet speed. Your home internet’s maximum download speed depends on your internet service provider’s plan. Even if your Wi-Fi router could support 9,600 Gbps download speeds, it won’t matter if you have only a 100 Mbps internet plan.

That said, the best Wi-Fi 6 routers will still be faster than older Wi-Fi routers. Whether you’re streaming Netflix or walking around on a smartphone, your download speeds will generally be faster and more reliable.

What are Wi-Fi 6E routers?

Wi-Fi 6E is another version of Wi-Fi 6 that uses the 6 GHz frequency band for even faster Wi-Fi performance. But with prices that start in the $500 range, we’d recommend a Wi-Fi 6E router only if you’re a hardcore gamer or need a high-end Wi-Fi network for tasks like daily streaming or regularly uploading and downloading large files.

Check out our best Wi-Fi 6 router guide for our top Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E router picks.

Will Wi-Fi 6 work with my devices?

Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with older Wi-Fi standards. If you upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router, you’ll still be able to connect most older computers, smartphones, or TVs to your Wi-Fi network.

Should I get a Wi-Fi 6 router?

If your home network has only a few devices and your Wi-Fi 5 router is working fine, we wouldn’t suggest throwing your old model out the window just yet. A good Wi-Fi 5 router can still handle most families’ Wi-Fi needs without breaking a sweat.

But if your current Wi-Fi router is breaking down and you’re on the market for a new router, we’d recommend searching Wi-Fi 6 routers for your replacement.

Prices for Wi-Fi 6 routers have dipped into the $100 range, so they’re more affordable than ever. While Wi-Fi 6 technology isn’t the only item that should be on your router dream list, it’s an easy way to ensure that your home Wi-Fi network has the latest and greatest features.

Visit our fastest wireless router guide to learn more about buying a Wi-Fi router.

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