Wi-Fi 6E is slow to come to a product near you. The Wi-Fi Alliance began certifying devices on January 7, and numerous product announcements related to the launch of Wi-Fi 6E were made at CES 2021.
In case you haven't heard, Wi-Fi 6E is a new standard for Wi-Fi that was approved by the FCC last year. While Wi-Fi 6 (no "e", also known as 802.11ax) is a series of technical improvements aimed primarily at making more efficient use of the existing spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E is about moving Wi-Fi to a newly shared one Part of expanding spectrum. Previously, Wi-Fi only worked in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum, but Wi-Fi 6E uses the 6 GHz spectrum. In the US, 6E has a large part of the continuous spectrum – 1200 MHz. Previously, 5 GHz only offered 140 MHz of useful non-DFS spectrum, and 2.4 GHz only 70 MHz had very crowded spectrum that is susceptible to running microwaves and other interference.
Neither Wi-Fi 6 nor Wi-Fi 6E is about speed – both are more about Wi-Fi capacity issues that are common headaches in residential buildings and large public gatherings. If your WiFi is currently terrible due to crowded radio waves in a densely populated area, Wi-Fi 6E can greatly improve your WiFi performance. However, getting started with Wi-Fi 6E means buying new customers and new access points, hence this recap.
Enlarge /. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and MSI GE76 Raider.
Samsung / MSI
The most famous device at CES was the Samsung Galaxy S21, and while the cheaper variants don't have Wi-Fi 6E, it's the $ 1,200 "Ultra" model, and by most reports it's "the world's first Wi-Fi." 6E “Phone.” Expect that trend to continue for most Android phones in 2021. Wi-Fi 6E is an option on the Snapdragon 888 SoC that is featured in most flagship devices, and you will likely to find that the more expensive models adopt them.
Wi-Fi 6E is coming to laptops too. Thanks to the Intel AX210 Wi-Fi card, the GE76 Raider from MSI will be the first Wi-Fi 6E laptop. Incidentally, the Intel AX210 card is on sale for users, so you can now upgrade most desktops and laptops to Wi-Fi 6E yourself with an add-on card. Customers come, so we need Wi-Fi 6E access points or "routers" when you talk about all-in-one consumer network devices. Most of the major brands of consumer networks showed up with a Wi-Fi 6E router at CES.
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000.
The back has USB ports, the four standard Ethernet ports, and 2.5 Gigabit WAN / LAN, which is interesting.
Who doesn't love an exploded view?
The power plug and the off switch.
I don't even want to know why there is a "Boost" button on the right.
We'll start with the router that comes closest to general availability: the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000. This was announced back in September as the "World's First Wi-Fi 6E Gaming Router" but it finally got a release window: January 2021. Newegg is currently pre-ordering it for a cool $ 549.99 with a January 29 release date, some reports say however, that the router is already shipped. As with many "gaming" routers, the GT-AXE1100 has a crazy design that looks like it could turn around and run around like a spider at any moment.
In addition to the usual 4x Gigabit LAN ports on the back and a Gigabit WAN port, there is also an additional 2.5 Gbit / s port on the back that you can configure for WAN or LAN. A 2.5 gigabyte WAN port sounds like something that would become more and more useful in the future, but I don't think there are consumer modems out there that could still take advantage of it. Comcast and Google both have 2 Gbps fiber optic service. However, both services have their own network equipment. According to Google's sign-in page, customers cannot use their own router. Do you plan for the future I guess!
Most of the specs of these routers just repeat the standard features of Wi-Fi 6 / 6E, but Asus lists a 1.8GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU with 1GB of RAM that can handle a lot of traffic without turning to slow down. The router supports 4×4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz and 6 GHz at a theoretical maximum speed of 4.8 Gbps.There are also two USB 3.2 ports on the side for a cheap NAS setup.
Netgear Nighthawk AXE11000
I hear "The Imperial March" every time I look at a Netgear router.
The back. Check out all that stuff. (It's the same as the Asus router.)
Allegedly this is the antenna layout with four wings each.
The Netgear Nighthawk AXE11000 Wi-Fi Router requests permission to dock with starbase. The Nighthawk appears to meet the same specs as the Asus router, but it costs $ 50 more: a whopping $ 599.99.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor and a gig of memory, 4×4 MU-MIMO for 5 GHz and 6 GHz, two USB 3.0 ports, gigabit WAN, 4th generation -Gigabit LAN and a 2.5 gigabyte port for WAN or LAN. Just like the Asus router, there are eight antennas, but instead of the spider design, there are four antennas in each wing tip.
Netgear's participation in the Wi-Fi 6E router contest is now available for pre-order. Availability is expected to be available on March 15th.
The Linksys AXE8400
Linksys mesh router with Wi-Fi 6E.
The back. This "5 Gbps Internet" port seems to be a challenge.
A front view.
Um, hey Linksys, what is that Wi-Fi 6E router on your site?
If you've ever wondered what a white Xbox Series X would look like, meet the Linksys AXE8400. This is easily the least crazy design of the new Wi-Fi 6E routers. Since placing a router in a central, visible location is one of the best things you can do for connectivity, it might be a big deal for you. (Fun fact: this Linksys design is from at least 2018, so it's way older than the new Xbox! There's even an older version in black if you've ever wanted a Mini-Me version of Microsoft's game console.)
The Linksys is a mesh router and costs $ 449.99 for a 1-pack, $ 849.99 for a 2-pack, and $ 1,199.99 for a 3-pack. The Linksys press release lists the US release date as "Spring / Summer 2021" with "global availability in the second half of 2021". Mesh routers have the potential to benefit from the opening of the 6 GHz spectrum the fastest, as they could use 6 GHz for the backhaul between access points and only release 5 GHz for client connections.
As a public data sheet is not yet available, very few important details about the AXE8400 are currently provided. Only in the pictures there are four LAN ports on the back with indefinite speed and a single USB 3.x port. The WAN port is called "5 Gbit / s Internet". So Linksys is really ready for modems with multi-gigabit ports, if they are ever made.
The only interesting technical spec that Linksys is currently releasing is that the AXE8400 has a "Qualcomm Networking Pro 1210" chipset at its heart, developed by Qualcomm as a platform for companies looking to build a Wi-Fi 6E router. This is a quad core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 chip based on 14 nm process technology.
The Linksys website also teases what looks like a meshless Wi-Fi 6E router, but we don't even have a name for it yet.
TP-Link brought an SFP + port to the party ?!
This is the only picture of TP-Link's Archer AX206 router.
The archer AX96. TP-Link calls this picture "Ax90" so they are apparently identical.
Lastly with no release date or price, we have a pair of TP-Link routers. First the TP-Link Archer AX206 with Wi-Fi 6E and 4 × 4 MU-MIMO. Some serious wired network options are of interest here. It's a shame TP-Link only provided a single overhead image as the back of this thing sounds very busy: a USB-C port, a USB-A port, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a 2nd , 5 Gbit / s WAN / LAN port, a 10 Gbit / s WAN / LAN port and, if you really want to be serious, a 10 Gbit / s SFP + WAN / LAN port for a fiber optic connection. Whoa.
The SFP + port is eye catching, but I can't say I really understand the market segmentation here. SFP + ports are typically used for backhaul in business-style (or home-lab) networks to connect one device in your network rack to another. I can't think of a rackmount American who would want to touch one of these consumer plastic combo boxes with a 10 foot bar. It's hard for me to imagine selling around $ 40 worth of fiber optic cable to a non-network enthusiast, and even if you could, TP-Link's consumer division doesn't sell any other SFP + equipment. What should a normal person do with an SPF + port? I think more options are always better, but we have to see what the price tag is for those fancy, questionably useful extras.
Finally, from TP-Link is the Archer AX96, and while again, while there is no price or release date, this appears to be a cheaper Wi-Fi 6E router. The main clue is the speed rating for the 6GHz WiFi 6E which only hits "2402Mbps," which indicates that this router is only 2×2 MIMO in the 6GHz spectrum, or half the speed of the Asus and Netgear Router is running. 5 GHz still looks like 4×4 MIMO, so this router would allow a small step into 6 GHz.
On the back (again there are no pictures) there are 2.5 Gbit / s and 1 Gbit / s WAN / LAN ports, three 1 Gbit / s LAN ports, and a USB 3 port and a USB 2 connector.
Listing picture from Asus