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 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. The rollout is just getting started, but early adopters can already find a number of Wi-Fi 6 routers available for sale -- provided, of course, that they're willing to spend hundreds of dollars on one. These things don't come cheap.
You almost certainly don't need to rush out and buy one just yet, but if you want to take a gander at your options, keep scrolling through this gallery -- we'll keep it updated with new models and specs as they arrive.
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 wireless speeds of up to 6,000 Mbps -- up from 2,600 Mbps with the previous generation -- and 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 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router
For even speedier top speeds, Asus offers the ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, which uses a 1.8 GHz 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.
Available now, the GT-AX11000 is one of the most expensive routers on the market, priced at a staggering $450. We'll know whether or not it's worth it once we test the thing out, but I'll note that the previous-gen Asus GT-AC5300, while overkill for most setups, was well-received here on CNET.
If $600 sounds like overkill to you, then you might step down to the AX6000 version of the A12, which ditches the additional 5 Ghz band that comes with the tri-band model and lowers the top wireless speed to 6,000 Mbps.
It's available now with a retail asking price of $400, though prices currently seem to be higher than that, perhaps due to limited stock. Another reason to wait before buying in!
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 as the AX12 models.
Available now for $300, the AX8 is probably a little closer to the sweet spot for early adopters in search of a high-end router splurge.
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.
Later, in the second half of year, Netgear plans to release a 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 300 Mbps, so that would be a definite step up as far as top speed is concerned. No word yet on what the system will cost, but stay tuned.
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.
This year, TP-Link is also introducing us to a new generation of its popular Archer line of smart home routers. That includes the AX6000, which features a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor and 8 GB of RAM to deliver next-gen speeds of up to 5,952 Mbps for lots and lots of devices at once.
For even faster performance, you could upgrade to this space tarantula of a router, the TP-Link Archer AX11000. Like the name suggests, top speeds max out at more than 10 Gbps. The price is obviously a bit higher, too -- the AX11000 costs $450.
Here's a look at the 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports in back.
And, by the way, if you're hoping for something less expensive, keep an eye on TP-Link, because the Archer AX1800 launches sometime in Q3 2019 for a much more reasonable $130. An Archer AX1500 model will follow for an unspecified price that's presumably even lower. We'll update this space when we know more.