Arris adds another Wi-Fi 6 mesh router to the Surfboard line
It's one of several new mesh routers debuting at CES 2020 that supports the speedy new standard.
Ry CristSenior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
ExpertiseSmart home technology and wireless connectivityCredentials
10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
There were a lot of new mesh Wi-Fi systems released in 2019, but not many of them supported 802.11ax, more commonly known as Wi-Fi 6 -- the newest, fastest version of Wi-Fi. Arris released two systems that supported the speedy new standard last year -- and now, at CES 2020, it's adding a third Wi-Fi 6 system for the portfolio, too.
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Like the obvious-in-hindsight naming scheme might suggest, the regular Surfboard Max is, well, regular. As in, not quite as fast as the Plus and the Pro, which ring in as AX7800 and AX11000 mesh routers, respectively. The new, regular, two-piece Surfboard Max, an AX6600 mesh router, goes on sale in the second quarter of 2020, with pricing still to be determined. Two-piece Plus and Pro systems currently sell for $550 and $650. (They aren't available internationally, but $550 converts to about £420 or AU$800.)
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So how much of a step down from the first two is system number three? Not much, from the sound of it. Like the other two, the Surfboard Max is still a tri-band mesh router with a second 5GHz band that the router and satellite use as a dedicated backhaul for passing data back and forth without slowing your connection down too much. That's certainly a step above "regular." It also supports Alexa, which lets you ask that assistant to pause the Wi-Fi or turn a guest network on, and boasts the exact same, fancy, cylindrical design as its two siblings, save for a white body in place of a black one.
The Plus and the Pro each have extra internal radios, and promise to provide coverage for homes of up to 6,000 square feet. The new, white-bodied AX6600 version promises to handle homes of up to 5,500 square feet.
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With a third system (and soon, a third price point) for 2020, Arris appears to be taking something of a shotgun blast at the burgeoning market for mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6. Judging from the sheer number of new systems making their debut at CES 2020, it looks like much of the industry is making the same bet that mesh and Wi-Fi 6 are going to make for a hot combo this year.
My question: How low will Arris go? The company likely wanted to wait to see what the competition brought to Las Vegas before locking down a price. And, with that tri-band, backhaul-based design, the Surfboard Max seems to be a cut above most of those dual-band competitors. That would seem to put it in the $350 to $450 range for a two-piece system -- but will the flood of surprisingly affordable Wi-Fi 6 mesh options cause it to go lower than that?
Time will tell. At any rate, we'll test the new Surfboard out just as soon as it's available later this year.
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