This year marks the big rollout of Wi-Fi 6, the latest version of the 802.11 wireless communication standard that we commonly call Wi-Fi. This new standard, 802.11ax, will support faster, more efficient performance from your router, and it'll enable it to handle lots of connections with lots of devices all at once (you can read more about exactly how that all works by clicking here).
Of course, to take advantage, you'll need to upgrade to devices that support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard -- most notably, your router itself. You've already got plenty of options, but brace yourself -- most of these things don't come cheap.
More important than how it looks: the next-gen specs. Like the "AX" in the name suggests, this is a Wi-Fi 6 router, and that means it supports key Wi-Fi 6 upgrades like OFDMA, which lets it transmit data to multiple devices at once on a single channel, as well as 1024-QAM, which lets it pack about 25% more data into each of those transmissions than previous-gen, 256-QAM routers (again, click here for more on how all of that actually works).
Specifically, the AX88U and its four antennas promise combined wireless speeds of up to 6,000 Mbps across the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, which is up from 2,600 Mbps with the previous generation (and remember that you can only connect to one band at a time -- the speedier 5 GHz band is clocked at just under 5,000 Mbps). It's compatible with the Asus AiMesh system if you want to add some extenders throughout your home to maximize coverage.
Like with other Wi-Fi 6 routers, your existing Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 4 devices will still be able to connect just fine, but don't expect them to be much faster, if at all. You'll need Wi-Fi 6 devices in order to take advantage of everything that a Wi-Fi 6 router like this one has to offer.
ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Triband Wi-Fi 6 Router
For even speedier top speeds, Asus offers the ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, which uses a 1.8GHz quad-core CPU to promise wireless connections as fast as 11,000 Mbps.
The target demographic: die-hard gamers who require the best connection possible in order to stay competitive during online play. To deliver it, the GT-AX11000 supports Asus' GameFirst V feature, which prioritizes gaming traffic from ROG devices. The router also features a second 5GHz frequency band that you can dedicate to gaming only -- that way, your gaming setup won't have to compete with traffic from any of the other Wi-Fi devices in your home.
Meanwhile, Asus also offers a new Wi-Fi 6 mesh system that consists of two separate devices. You'll plug one into your modem like a traditional router, then place the second somewhere else in your home to act as a range extender. The two devices use a dedicated Wi-Fi 6 band as a "backhaul" to relay the signal back and forth at the fastest possible speeds, and with as little signal loss as possible.
You can also use this two-piece system to extend the range of an existing Asus router, including that Wi-Fi 6 ROG model from the previous slide.
We're still in the process of testing it, but early results are pretty promising. Current asking price: just shy of $400.
Here's a look at the back: four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports and the ability to aggregate two LAN ports at once for faster file transfers.
We used that last trick to connect the Nighthawk to two separate MacBooks, which we used as servers in our first Wi-Fi 6 speed test. From there, we used a Wi-Fi 6-equipped laptop to wirelessly download files from the laptops, which let us measure the transfer speeds at up to 2 Gbps.
The result? A top transfer speed of 1,320 Mbps (1.32 Gbps). That's blazing fast -- but it isn't the fastest result we've seen from a Wi-Fi 6 router (keep scrolling, I'll get there in a few slides).
If $600 sounds like overkill to you, then you might step down to the AX6000 version of the AX12, which ditches the additional 5GHz band that comes with the tri-band model and lowers the top combined wireless speeds to 6,000 Mbps.
It's available now with a retail asking price that's been bouncing between $400 and $500 for the past few months.
Here's one more of these spaceship-looking Nighthawk routers -- the AX8. Like the other two Nighthawks that cost more, the AX8 offers a quad-core CPU, and it matches the standard AX12 model's top wireless speed of 6,000 Mbps. You only get four antennas with those fins, though, which might impact range, and as the "AX8" nomenclature suggests, you get four fewer Wi-Fi streams than the AX12 models.
Available now for $350, the AX8 is probably a little closer to the sweet spot for early adopters in search of a high-end router splurge, but it's still awfully expensive.
Don't need no stinkin' fins? Then step down to Netgear's entry-level offering in the Nighthawk's Wi-Fi 6 lineup. It's the AX4, which ditches the fins in favor of old-fashioned dual antennas, and offers four Wi-Fi streams at wireless speeds of up to 3,000 Mbps.
Remember when I told you that I'd get to our fastest-tested Wi-Fi 6 router in a few slides? Well, here we are. One of several new routers from TP-Link released this year, the Archer AX6000 features a 1.8GHz quad-core processor and 8GB of RAM to deliver combined, next-gen speeds of up to 5,952Mbps for lots and lots of devices at once.
And, in our lab-based top speed tests, where we wirelessly connect a Wi-Fi 6 laptop to each router, and then download data pulled from a local server connected to the router via Ethernet, the Archer AX6000 registered an average speed of 1,523 Mbps at close range. That's the fastest average
The AX6000 retails for $350, but as of writing this, you can get it on sale for $269. At that price, we're pretty tempted.
For even faster performance, you could upgrade to this space tarantula of a router, the TP-Link Archer AX11000. Like the name suggests, the band-combined top speeds max out at more than 10 Gbps. The price is obviously a bit higher, too -- the AX11000 costs $450.
More recently, we saw the arrival of the Ampli Alien, Ubiquiti's first Wi-Fi 6 router. It features a tubular design with LED lights around the base and touchscreen controls on the front. Available now, it costs $379.
Updated:Caption:Ry CristPhoto:UbiquitiDisclosure:We may get a commission from retail offers.
TP-Link Archer AX1500
Hoping for something more affordable? You've got one particularly interesting option: the TP-Link Archer AX1500, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and costs just $70. It's your most affordable entry point into 802.11ax if you're looking to buy in right now. A slightly faster AX1800 model is available, too -- that one costs $130.
More interested in multi-point mesh setups? Netgear is currently in the process of rolling out a new version of its popular Orbi mesh router system that supports Wi-Fi 6. Netgear claims the Wi-Fi 6 iteration will be fast enough to sustain Gigabit wireless speeds. Most current-gen mesh wireless systems provide download speeds of around 50 to 300Mbps, so that would be a definite step up as far as top speed is concerned.
The extra hardware makes for a much higher asking price, though. Specifically, this system costs a whopping $700.
Here's another new Wi-Fi 6 mesh setup, this one from Arris. It's the aptly named SURFboard mAX (AX as in 802.11ax). Available as a single point standalone router or a multiunit mesh system, the new SURFboard also comes in both a "mAX Plus" AX7800 version with top theoretical transfer speeds of up to 7.8Gbps and a "mAX Pro" AX1100 version with top speeds of about 11Gbps.
A single mAX Pro unit costs $400, while a two-piece mAX Plus mesh setup that promises up to 6,000 square feet of coverage is currently selling for about $500.
TP-Link has a Wi-Fi 6 mesh router system in the works, too. It's the X10, the latest in the company's Deco lineup of mesh networking systems. Launching in the third quarter of 2019 for $350, the TP-Link Deco X10 starter kit will include two mesh Wi-Fi nodes that you can link together to blanket a large area with wireless coverage.