Gigabit home internet has been available in the U.S. for some time, but more and more people have been able to sign up for it in recent years. Although the average home broadband connection is only around 130 Mbit / s, according to a report by the NCTA, at least 80 percent of US households can receive a gigabit broadband service. Of these, between 2.5 and 6 percent of households actually have one, depending on which report you read.
While the gigabit internet service has gained ground, it has remained a challenge to actually use this speed without tearing up your home and installing wired networks throughout. The Wi-Fi routers provided by ISPs are far too slow for a single device to reach the speeds specified, and even high-end aftermarket routers typically reach around 400Mbps over Wi-Fi .
Here, Wi-Fi 6 – especially mesh Wi-Fi systems – can make a difference. In recent years, a number of Wi-Fi 6-enabled mesh routers (read: those that use multiple interconnected units to cover a house with a strong Wi-Fi signal) have been promising very high speeds WiFi became available connections. The price of these systems ranges from around $ 200 in the lower price range to over $ 700 for the best possible performance. The Arris Surfboard Max Pro, a Wi-Fi 6-mesh system I tested for $ 649, shows how much difference a gigabit internet tariff can make.
- Fast performance
- Supports dozens of devices
- Four ethernet ports on each node
- The units are massive compared to an Eero
- App is limited in functions
- Don't experience as seamless as Eero or Nest Wifi
Wi-Fi 6 brings a number of improvements to wireless networks, including support for many more connected devices on a single network, faster theoretical maximum speeds, and improved battery life for devices connected to a Wi-Fi 6 network. To use many of the functions, you need to use a Wi-Fi 6 device, e.g. B. a current smartphone or laptop. To use the larger capacity of Wi-Fi 6 networks (e.g. dozens of devices connected at the same time), each connected device must be Wi-Fi 6. You may not have very many Wi-Fi devices in your home. I am a professional gadget reviewer, and of the almost 60 devices currently on my Wi-Fi network, only four are Wi-Fi 6.
However, if you have a Gigabit Internet service, you don't currently need dozens of Wi-Fi 6 devices on your network to take advantage of the features of a Wi-Fi 6 mesh router. This is because with Wi-Fi 6, the nodes of a mesh network can communicate at much higher speeds than with Wi-Fi 5. These speeds can then be sent directly to your smartphone, laptop, or game console connected to a nearby mesh node, even if those devices don't have Wi-Fi 6. You can get even faster speeds by connecting your computer or console The mesh node with an ethernet cable, even if you are only a few rooms away from where the internet connection comes to your home.
Not every Wi-Fi 6-enabled mesh system can provide speeds to take full advantage of a Gigabit Ethernet connection. Those who can do this have a tri-band setup that has a dedicated 5.8 GHz network for the mesh nodes for communication, and 4×4 MiMO support for the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz -Networks that your devices are connected to. Simply put, an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 system for $ 200, like a Wi-Fi 5 system, speeds up to 300Mbps, while a $ 500 or $ 700 system offers speeds two or three times faster can. Basically, you have to pay a lot of money to get a router that can use your gigabit internet service.
To test this, I installed the Arris Surfboard Max Pro Mesh system in my 2,100 square meter house on two levels. The Surfboard Max Pro is a two-part tri-band AX11000 Wi-Fi 6-mesh router system with a dedicated network through which the router and its satellite can communicate. It offers 4×4 MiMO support on all three bands, has four gigabit ports on each node (with link aggregation to support up to 2 Gbit / s services), covers up to 6,000 square feet, and can handle up to 200 devices connected simultaneously support. My internet service is a Verizon Fios gigabit plan with an announced download speed of up to 940 Mbit / s and an upload speed of 880 Mbit / s. It comes into the house on the right side of the ground floor where one of the Surfboard Max units is located.
The second unit is in my home office on the lower level of the home. Since my house was built in the middle of the last century and I have no interest in tearing the walls apart to install modern network lines, I only rely on Wi-Fi, apart from the devices in my office and most of the house. Fi connections The TV in the living room, the set-top boxes and the smart home hubs connected to a 16-port switch that is directly connected to the Surfboard Max main unit.
The Surfboard Max Pro is significantly larger than an Eero Pro device.
Each Surfboard Max Pro node has four Gigabit Ethernet ports through which devices can be hard-wired.
To see what difference a Wi-Fi 6 system would make compared to the previously tested Wi-Fi 5 mesh routers, I have a Windows 10 laptop and a Mac mini with an Ethernet cable attached directly to the satellite node connected. This setup enabled me to achieve download speeds of over 500Mbps on any computer and upload speeds north of 800Mbps with Speedtest.net, even though I was only one floor away from where the Internet was comes into the house. That's about 200Mbps faster download and twice as fast uploads as I could get in my office with similar Eero Pro and Nest WiFi setups, two popular Wi-Fi 5-mesh systems.
In more practical tests, I was able to download games at over 90 megabytes per second (about 720 Mbps or megabits per second, which is usually measured in Internet speed), with an 85 GB download of Battlefield V in just a shut down a few minutes. These higher speeds are a direct result of the Surfboard Max nodes' ability to communicate with each other at up to 4.8 Gbps in the dedicated 5.8 GHz network they use.
Closer to the main router and connected exclusively via Wi-Fi, I can routinely transfer speeds north of 400 Mbit / s directly to my devices, according to Speedtest.net and Fast.com. These speeds are not the full capacity of my internet service plan, but are slightly faster than the ones I usually see from Wi-Fi 5 routers. In my experience, whether a device is Wi-Fi 6 makes little difference in connection speed. The real benefit of a mesh Wi-Fi 6 system is the ability to achieve these higher speeds in more rooms in your home without having to install cables in the wall.
The only way to manage the Surfboard Max Pro is the mobile app. There is no web-based interface.
The Surfboard Max Pro system proves that a Wi-Fi 6-mesh system can make better use of the high-speed gigabit Internet service, but it cannot do without compromises. The units are enormous: With a height of almost 25.4 cm and a diameter of 12.7 cm, they put an Eero Pro unit in the shade and are considerably less discreet. My devices often get stuck on one of the knots without seamlessly jumping to the next one when I move around my house. This is much better for both Eero and Nest WiFi. I had to restart the system several times to make the internet work again. And finally, the mobile Surfboard Max app, which is used to set up, monitor and manage the network, is missing, the functionality and use is cumbersome compared to the more elegant apps from Eero or Google. If you are looking for advanced network controls, you will be disappointed that there is no web-based client for managing the network from a PC.
If you have gigabit internet at home and you have no way to install a wired network, you are doing yourself a bad service by not looking into a Wi-Fi 6-mesh router to benefit from it. You have to pay a high premium to get one, but since you already pay a premium to get gigabit internet, you can also pay a good router for it.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge