The 9 Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2021

Jump into the latest wireless technology with these top-notch Wi-Fi 6 routers

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The Rundown
Does an admirable job of bringing the technology of an already great router into the Wi-Fi 6 generation,
A no-frills router that punches above its weight class with single-client speeds that rival more expensive routers.
Best Performance:
Asus RT-AX89X at Amazon
Extremely fast Wi-Fi 6 speeds joined by two 10Gbps WAN ports make this a top performer for even the fastest broadband packages.
The fastest and most impressive mesh system available for those who don't want to make any compromises on performance.
App-based configuration gets you up and running in no time while offering room for almost unlimited expansion as your needs grow.
Best for Gaming:
Asus GT-AX11000 at Amazon
Powerful tri-band Wi-Fi 6 plus a wealth of optimization features to make sure your gaming stays blazingly fast.
Best Parental Controls:
TP-Link Archer AX50 at Amazon
Affordable Wi-Fi 6 technology, plus sophisticated parental controls at no extra charge.
Looks every bit the part of the futuristic Wi-Fi 6 router that it is.
An affordable way to blanket a large home with strong Wi-Fi 6 coverage.

It’s an exciting time for Wi-Fi technology, with the advent of the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 standard ushering in a whole new era of even faster and more powerful wireless routers. Now that the Wi-Fi 6 standard has become well-established, there’s almost no reason not to get one of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers if you’re in the market for an upgrade. These modern routers are capable of delivering even faster wireless speeds to compatible Wi-Fi 6 clients, along with the ability to handle even more devices on your home network.

While Wi-Fi 6 is becoming the norm on most new smartphones, tablets, and laptops, you also don’t need to worry about compatibility problems with your older wireless devices. The best Wi-Fi 6 routers still fully support the more common 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 standard, which means you can pick up a Wi-Fi 6 router now to make sure you’re ready for the latest iPhones, iPads, Macs, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and leading-edge game consoles like Sony’s new PlayStation 5. The best Wi-Fi 6 routers are ideal for anybody who wants to make sure they stay ahead of the technology curve, but with prices getting more affordable, they should be a serious consideration for anybody in the market for a new router. 

Best Overall: Asus RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

Asus RT-AX88U
What We Like
  • Excellent performance

  • Feature-rich

  • Eight Gigabit Ethernet ports

What We Don't Like
  • Web UI can be a bit intimidating

  • Lacks multi-gig network ports

Asus’ RT-AX88U was one of the first Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market, and it remains our top pick for its perfect balance of price, performance, and versatility. It’s a router with big shoes to fill, since its predecessor, the highly-acclaimed RT-AC88U was one of the most well-rounded Wi-Fi 5 routers we’ve tested. 

The good news is that the RT-AX88U does an admirable job of bringing the technology of that already great router into the Wi-Fi 6 generation, packing in an almost identical design and all of the same core features with a whole new level of power under the hood. The AX6000 dual-band Wi-Fi offers more than ample performance for most families, with up to 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz band and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side. While you’ll need Wi-Fi 6 clients to take full advantage of these top speeds, it still handles older Wi-Fi 5 devices remarkably well, with its four beamforming antennas putting out enough power to cover a 5,000 square foot home. 

Beyond the raw Wi-Fi performance, you’ll also find a generous collection of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports around back, which can save you the need to pick up an extra network hub or switch if you have a lot of devices to connect. Like most of Asus’ other routers, it’s also no slouch when it comes to configurability and security features, and we particularly like the Asus had its AiProtection Pro suite ready to go on the RT-AX88U right out of the gate, rather than leaving users to wait for a later firmware update like many other companies did with their early Wi-Fi 6 routers. This makes us confident that Asus will keep the RT-AX88U ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering important security and feature updates. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection Pro, WPA3, 802.1x, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 9

"I was able to stream high definition Netflix to two televisions on my network while someone else was gaming, and various other phones and tablets were in use without any stuttering or slowdown." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Budget: TP-Link Archer AX10 AX1500 Wi-Fi 6 Router

TP-Link Archer AX10 / AX1500
What We Like
  • Very affordable Wi-Fi 6 technology

  • Great performance for the price

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks advanced parental control features

  • No USB port

TP-Link’s Archer AX10 completely dispels the myth you have to pay a lot to get a Wi-Fi 6 router, with an affordable price that offers incredible bang for the buck. While it doesn’t offer all the frills of more expensive Wi-Fi 6 routers—there are no USB ports at all, for instance—it does provide solid Wi-Fi 6 performance for a modest-sized home or apartment. 

While the AX1500 speed rating on the Archer AX10 is probably lower than you’re used to seeing on Wi-Fi 6 routers, that still means you’re getting a healthy 1.2Gbps of throughput on the 5GHz band, which is more than enough for 4K streaming and Zoom calls. On the downside, the 2.4GHz side is capped at a mere 300Mbps, but for most users these days that’s only needed for devices like low-bandwidth smart home accessories. On the 5GHz side, however, this is a router that punches surprisingly well above its weight class, with single-client speeds that rival TP-Link’s AX3000-equipped AX50, although of course it won’t be able to handle as many devices.

Not surprisingly, a Wi-Fi 6 router at the price of the AX10 cuts a few corners, but we think TP-Link made the right calls here. For instance, the 2.4GHz band only supports the older 802.11n Wi-Fi 4 standard, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff since Wi-fi 6 offers no measurable performance benefit below 300Mbps anyway. You’re also not getting the TP-Link’s full HomeCare suite of security and parental control features, and while there is basic QoS support, it’s limited to prioritizing traffic only for specific client devices, rather than by application or traffic type. So, for instance, you can prioritize your smart TV or game console, but not streaming or gaming traffic in general. That said, it does include a surprising amount of other advanced options, including the ability to set it up as a VPN server, and tweak settings for Wi-Fi, port forwarding, and even Dynamic DNS. While there’s no USB port, it still includes the usual allotment of four Gigabit Ethernet ports, so finding room for your wired devices won’t be a problem either. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX1500 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5

Best Performance: Asus RT-AX89X 12-stream AX6000 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

Asus RT-AX89X
What We Like
  • Dual 10Gbps Network Ports

  • Unique Design

  • Excellent Wi-Fi 6 performance


What We Don't Like
  • Bulky design

  • Internal fan

The Asus RT-AX89X is a Wi-Fi 6 router that pulls out all the stops for users with the very fastest broadband connections. Speedy AX6000 dual-band Wi-Fi is joined by eight high-performance beamforming antennas and a staggering array of high-performance wired ports to make sure that you can handle multi-gigabit plans and deliver top speeds throughout even the busiest homes. 

In fact, the RT-AX89X proves that when it comes to Wi-Fi 6, tri-band routers don’t inherently deliver better performance unless you have a huge number of 5GHz devices vying for bandwidth. Since the advanced MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies that underpin Wi-Fi 6 already handle congested networks far better than Wi-Fi 5 routers do, you’ll find that dual-band routers are more than up to the challenge of handling busy networks, and our testing showed that the RT-AX89X can hold its own against Asus’ tri-band GT-AX11000 when it comes to delivering raw speed, even at extended ranges.

What really sets the RT-AX89X apart, however, is its pair of 10Gbps Ethernet and SFP+ ports, delivering the fastest wired performance you’ll find in a home router. This not only allows you to take advantage of the fastest broadband available today—and beyond—but you can also use them for connecting a high-speed network attached storage (NAS) device, or even linking up another RT-AX89U elsewhere in your home for the ultimate in high-performance Wi-Fi 6 coverage using Asus’ AiMesh 2.0 technology. As if that’s not enough, you’ll also find eight Gigabit Ethernet ports around the edges, plus two 5Gbps USB 3.2 ports, and of course, it packs in all of Asus’ other great features like AiProtection Pro and a wealth of configuration options to keep even the most advanced power users happy. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection Pro, WPA3, 802.1x, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 11

Best Splurge: Netgear Orbi AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System

What We Like
  • Blazing fast performance

  • Excellent coverage

  • 2.5Gbps WAN port

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Lacks some advanced features

  • No USB ports

Netgear’s Orbi AX6000 is a mesh Wi-Fi 6 system that’s guaranteed to give you top speeds in even the largest homes, which isn’t surprising as it builds on the great power and features of the standard Netgear Orbi, which is already one of our top-rated mesh Wi-Fi network systems. While it doesn’t come cheap, the Orbi Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 system dials just about everything from the original up to 11, with greater network capacity that can offer top speeds to even the busiest homes.

Like the classic Orbi, the AX6000 version dedicates one of its 5GHz bands to act as a dedicated backhaul channel—in this case at faster 2.4Gbps speeds—to keep things moving fast between all of the satellite units. Unlike the Wi-Fi 5 version, however, the user-facing 5GHz band still offers the same 2.4Gbps of bandwidth, courtesy of the faster 802.11ax speeds. On top of that, higher-end Wi-Fi 6 clients can get speeds of up to 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side. The result is more than enough bandwidth to handle 4k streaming, fast-paced gaming, and uninterrupted video calling from multiple devices throughout your home.

The standard pair of units will easily cover homes of up to 5,000 square feet, and if you need more, you can add up to five more satellite units to handle even the most sprawling estates. You’ll also get four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each unit, with full speeds back to the main router for multiple wired devices, thanks to the dedicated 2.4Gbps backhaul channel. Plus, a 2.5Gbps WAN port on the main router has you ready to hook up to the fastest broadband connections. Unfortunately, if you’re coming from the original Orbi system, you may be disappointed by the lack of USB ports on this higher-end model, but the good news is that it maintains the same straightforward setup process, as the rest of the Orbi family. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4 (per unit)

"The Orbi immediately impressed, notching a maximum download speed of 939 Mbps when measured at the router." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Mesh: Eero Pro 6 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Eero Pro 6 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
What We Like
  • Extremely easy to set up

  • Solid W-Fi performance

  • Compact design

What We Don't Like
  • Security features require ongoing subscription

  • No web interface

  • Lacks advanced features

As the name implies, the Eero Pro 6 is the encore to the acclaimed Eero Pro mesh wi-fi system. It adds Wi-Fi 6 capabilities while retaining the same features that made its predecessor so popular, particularly its intuitive mobile-driven software interface that makes setting up an Eero system a cinch—even for somebody with absolutely no networking experience. The built-in anti-malware and parental controls are also very intuitive, although it’s worth noting that like many other routers, they do require a small recurring subscription fee. However, thanks to its cloud-based management system, you can monitor and access all the settings from anywhere you happen to be. 

The Eero Pro 6 works along the same principles as the older Wi-Fi 5 version, with a single base station that acts as your primary router and one or more satellite units that you deploy around the home to blanket it with Wi-Fi; a trio of three units can handle up to 6,000 square feet, and you can add more as you need them to expand coverage even further. As a Wi-Fi 6 system, it offers tri-band AX4200 speeds, with the two 5GHz bands split between 2.4Gbps and 1.2Gbps, while the 2.4Gbps band can deliver 600mbps. In that regard, it’s similar to Linksys’ Velop AX4200 system, although it doesn’t deliver quite the same range. 

Unfortunately, the Eero Pro 6 does change up the roster a bit in terms of the expansion units. You can still add as many additional Eero Pro 6 units as you like, with tri-band Wi-Fi and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports on each. However, the plug-in Eero Beacons have been replaced by tabletop extenders that look almost identical to the main router, but lack the Ethernet ports. It’s an unfortunate change, as we quite liked the more discrete design of the Beacons, and they could even double as nightlights around the home. That said, you can still add the Beacons—or any other Wi-Fi 5 Eero devices—to your mesh system as well, although you’ll lose the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 technology in those areas of your home. Sadly, the Eero Pro 6 also remains one of the rare routers that omits support for the PPPoE protocol used by many ISPs, which could make it a non-starter for some homes. However, as long as your broadband connection doesn’t rely on PPPoE, the Eero Pro 6 offers a great way for beginners to get up and running quickly and easily, with a mesh Wi-Fi system that just works and can grow with your needs. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: Eero Secure, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX4200 | Bands:Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2 (per unit)

Best for Gaming: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

ASUS ROG GT-AX11000
What We Like
  • Fast Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6

  • Expansive coverage

  • Cutting-edge game optimization features

What We Don't Like
  • Large footprint

  • Pricey

Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a gaming powerhouse, but don’t let the designation fool you, as it’s also a great high-performance router to handle the needs of any large and busy home, even if you don’t have a gamer in the family. Packing in a powerful quad-core CPU and tri-band 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, it can handle just about anything you can throw at it, from hardcore gaming to 4K and 8K streaming.

Dual 5GHz bands deliver speeds of up to 4.8Gbps each, and the 1.2Gbps 2.4GHz band offers plenty of performance to go around for older devices and even more modern Wi-Fi 6 devices at greater distances from the main router. However, with its eight beamforming antennas, it’s actually pretty hard to stray out of its strong 5GHz coverage. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus a special higher-speed 2.5Gbps gaming port and dual USB 3 ports, so you have lots of room to hardwire in your console, gaming PC, or external storage and NAS devices.

While tri-band Wi-Fi 6 may be overkill for many homes, especially with new 802.11ax technology so much more adept at handling multiple devices, it can still be a great investment for the future. Since this is primarily a gaming router, the extra 5GHz band offers the extra edge that gamers need, letting you keep your gaming traffic in a low latency fast lane, away from all of your other Wi-Fi devices. However, the GT-AX11000 also makes a great anchor if you want to expand your network with other routers that use Asus’ AiMesh 2.0 technology, since the third band can be used as a wireless backhaul, similar to what Netgear’s Orbi does. In addition to premium Asus features like AiProtection Pro and a built-in VPN server, the GT-AX11000 is packed with a ton of other great gaming tools too. This includes the WTFast Gamers Private Network, adaptive QoS to prioritize gaming traffic, and VPN Fusion to protect your privacy without slowing down your games. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection Pro, WPA3, 802.1x, VPN | Standard/Speed: AX11000 | Bands:Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 6

"Even with multiple devices hitting it from every direction for high-bandwidth streams, it never failed to provide what was needed." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Parental Controls: TP-Link Archer AX50 AX3000 Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 Router

TP-Link Archer AX50
What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • LAN port aggregation

  • Advanced security and parental controls at no extra cost

What We Don't Like
  • Mobile app required to configure security features

  • Sluggish NAS performance

If you’re looking for a full-featured Wi-Fi 6 router at a really affordable price, TP-Link’s Archer AX50 makes a great choice. It’s a healthy upgrade to TP-Link’s really wallet-friendly Archer AX10 that adds the most important frills back in while delivering more than enough performance for a typical home. 

For one thing, the dual-band AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 gives you a solid 2.4Gbps 5GHz band accompanied by a more typical 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side, with enough range to cover an apartment, condo, or modest-sized home. In addition to the raw specs, however, TP-Link has packed in a few nice surprises for a router in this price range, including 160MHz-wide channels for getting top single-client performance, plus a lifetime subscription to its HomeCare suite of security features, which offers malware protection powered by Trend Micro as well as some pretty sophisticated parental controls and QoS features—all without requiring a monthly subscription. This lets you create profiles for different family members to set time limits, keep your kids safe online, and make sure your most important devices get the bandwidth they need for streaming and gaming. 

While the usual array of four Gigabit Ethernet ports around the back aren’t a big surprise, one other trick the AX50 has up its sleeve is port aggregation, allowing you to combine two of the Ethernet ports to support a 2Gbps connection, either for a high-speed WAN link or just to get peak performance out of a network attached storage (NAS) device in your home. There’s also the USB 3.0 port that the budget AX10 lacks, allowing for file and printer sharing or network backups, and it even supports Apple’s Time Machine for Mac users. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: HomeCare, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX3000 | Bands:Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5

Best Design: Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 12-Stream AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • 5Gbps Ethernet port

  • Supports link aggregation for multi-gigabit internet plans

What We Don't Like
  • Security features require ongoing subscription

  • USB ports can't be used for printer sharing

If you want a high-performance Wi-Fi 6 router that also looks the part, then Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX120 won’t disappoint. A pair of sweeping hawk-like wings give it a sleek, futuristic, design—or as our reviewer put it, “like a cross between a spaceship and the Batmobile.” There’s more to these upright wings than just cool looks, however, since they also allow it to conceal eight high-performance beamforming antennas without leaving them protruding in all directions like some kind of high-tech spider. It’s a very clean design that could have you quite comfortable showing off the RAX120 on your credenza, rather than hiding it away in the basement. 

The streamlined edges also line up with its performance, since it’s an AX6000 router that can deliver the usual 4.8Gpbs on the 5GHz and 1.2Gbps for 2.4GHz devices, along with 8-stream MU-MIMO support to guarantee all your devices get their fair share of your internet bandwidth. While you’ll naturally get the best performance with Wi-Fi 6 clients, it’s no slouch at handling older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 devices either. 

Since it’s capable of combining two of its six Gigabit Ethernet ports into an aggregated link, the RAX120 is also ready to handle faster 2Gbps internet plans. One of those is also a special 2.5/5Gbps Ethernet port that can be used to connect a downstream hub, high-performance game console, or network attached storage (NAS) device for maximum wired throughput. Two USB 3.0 ports are included for directly connecting network storage, although you won’t be able to use them for printer sharing. The RAX120’s features are also now rounded out with support for Netgear’s Armor cybersecurity suite to keep your network safe from viruses and malware, although sadly, unlike the security features found on some of Asus’ and TP-Link’s routers, you’ll need to pay a recurring monthly fee to take advantage of it. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 6

"The RAX120 had no problem managing my numerous smart devices, nor did I experience any lag or connectivity issues on streaming and gaming devices. I simultaneously ran a gaming computer, two Playstations, and two FireTVs without the connection missing a beat." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Best Value: Linksys Velop AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (MX12600)

What We Like
  • Tri-band Wi-Fi 6

  • Great coverage

  • Affordable Mesh Technology

We We Don't Like
  • Requires mobile app for initial mesh set up

  • Not suitable for multi-gigabit broadband services

  • Lacks some advanced features

Linksys’ Velop MX12600 Mesh Wi-Fi system offers impressive range and performance at a surprisingly affordable price tag. For about the same price that you’ll pay for most competing mesh Wi-Fi systems with only two satellites, Linksys gives you three tri-band AX4200 mesh units, and while it doesn’t offer quite the same insanely fast performance as Orbi’s AX6000 mesh system, it delivers more than enough for most large homes at a price that’s considerably easier on the wallet.

You’ll also find four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 3.2 port around the back of each unit, so you have lots of space to plug in wired devices like PCs, smart TVs, or game consoles around your home. You can even hook up the three units in a wired mesh configuration, in which case you’ll have full tri-band Wi-Fi coverage throughout your entire home, since the dynamic backhaul channel won’t be needed. This differs from the Orbi mesh systems, where the second 5GHz band is always a dedicated backhaul channel, even in a wired setup. The USB port also lets you plug in external storage devices anywhere in your home, and it offers remarkably fast NAS performance. Sadly, the only really knock against the Velop system—and it could be a big one depending on your needs—is that it doesn’t provide anything special in regard to anti-malware or parental controls beyond very basic device time limits and manual URL filtering. 

To be clear, the Velop is an AX4200 system throughout—if you do the math you’ll see that the MX12600 designation just means that you get three units, but it’s a little misleading, as you’re not getting AX12600 speeds. What this Velop system does give you, however, is a pair of 5GHz bands at 2.4Gbps and 1.2Gbps, plus a single 600Mbps 2.4GHz band. Most importantly, however, all the bands are potentially usable by your Wi-Fi 6 clients, since Linksys has implemented a dynamic backhaul channel that’s determined based on network load. In practical use it works very well, and we had no problem making Zoom calls and streaming Netflix in 4K on multiple devices. Even better, the three units can easily handle homes of up to 8,100 square feet, meaning that this system delivers some of the best range-per-dollar of the Wi-Fi 6 routers that we looked at, without sacrificing performance.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed:AX4200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4 (per unit)

Final Verdict

Asus’s RT-AX88U checks all the right boxes for a versatile and affordable Wi-Fi 6 router that will meet the needs of most households. For a really affordable way to step into the world of Wi-Fi 6, however, TP-Link’s Archer AX10 is a no-frills router at a price that’s really hard to beat for the performance it offers. 

About our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.

Erika Rawes is a freelance tech writer who has written for Digital Trends, USA Today, Cheatsheet.com, and more. When she's not busy reviewing the latest gadgets on the market, she can be found fishing, playing board games, or enjoying water sports. Erika has tested more than 50 consumer technology products, ranging from kitchen gadgets to cameras, thermostats, and more.

FAQs

Is it worth buying a Wi-Fi 6 router? 

The short answer is yes. With Wi-Fi 6 now mainstream, prices have dropped significantly enough that there’s almost no reason to not go with a Wi-Fi 6 router if you’re looking to upgrade. Modern wireless devices like recent iPhones, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and even Sony’s PlayStation 5 already offer Wi-Fi 6 support by default, and it’s becoming standard on almost all new laptops, so you don’t have to do anything special to get Wi-Fi 6 compatible clients; you’re going to end up with Wi-Fi 6 devices as you upgrade your consumer electronics anyway, so you might as well get a router that’s ready for them. 

Do Wi-Fi 6 routers offer better range?

Yes. Wi-Fi 6 routers don’t necessarily offer more power output than their older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 counterparts, but they do take advantage of newer technologies that help maintain faster speeds at greater distances. This means that you won’t necessarily get better range overall, but you will almost certainly get a more consistently fast signal at the outer reaches, which is what a good long-range router is all about.

How do I know if my devices are ready for Wi-Fi 6?

The best way to do this is simply to check the manufacturer’s specifications for your device to see if they list either “Wi-Fi 6” or “802.11ax” for their wireless capabilities. However, most popular consumer electronics companies have embraced the standard, and if you’ve bought a new iPhone, Samsung smartphone, iPad, or MacBook in the past year or so, chances are good that it already has Wi-Fi 6 built in. Don’t worry if you still have older devices, however, as all Wi-Fi 6 routers are fully compatible with the older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 and even the 802.11n Wi-Fi 4 standards. 

The Ultimate Wi-Fi 6 Router Buying Guide

New Wi-Fi standards don’t come along all that often, so the advent of Wi-Fi 6 is a pretty big deal. In fact, it’s been almost ten years since the 802.11ac standard emerged (now retroactively known as Wi-Fi 5), so it makes sense that the time is ripe for a whole new class of wireless routers that can handle the needs of today’s internet users. 

After all, consider that ten years ago video streaming services like Netflix still hadn’t come into their own, Apple had just created FaceTime, and consumer-level 4K TVs were basically unheard of. Further, most households were home to only a handful of devices. In short, most users weren’t making the same kinds of demands on their home network.

Today, however, it’s not uncommon to find families where everyone has their own smartphone, tablet, and laptop, plus one or more household game consoles and smart TVs—and that doesn’t even include the fact that just about everything from your living room lights to your toaster wants to get online. 

So modern Wi-Fi routers have a lot more to handle than they once did, and while manufacturers have done an admirable job of pushing older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 technology to deliver the kind of performance necessary for fast-paced online gaming, 4K streaming, and uninterrupted video conferencing, it’s a problem that’s ultimately best solved by evolving the underlying Wi-Fi standard to handle today’s challenges.

The Netgear Orbi AX6000

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen 

Why Buy a Wi-Fi 6 Router? 

While the idea of jumping into newer technology might make you a bit nervous, the good news is that not only has the Wi-Fi 6 standard already become fairly mature, but it’s also 100 percent backward compatible with older devices. This not only includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 devices, but even 802.11n Wi-Fi 4 devices, and relatively ancient 802.11g and 802.11b standards.

In other words, you won’t have to worry about losing compatibility with your older Wi-Fi devices just because you’re buying the latest and greatest Wi-Fi 6 router. In fact, this backward compatibility isn’t just for older devices either—many connected home devices still use 802.11g as they simply don’t need anything faster. 

So, the real question should be: Why not buy a Wi-Fi 6 router? With the new wireless standard now becoming mainstream, prices have dropped to a level that’s competitive with older Wi-Fi 5 routers, to the point where you can now get a basic Wi-Fi 6 router for under $100. 

Of course, if you’re happy with your existing router, there’s no reason to rush out and upgrade right away, but if you’re in the market for a new router anyway, there’s almost no reason you shouldn’t be looking at a Wi-Fi 6 router unless you’re on a really tight budget or need some very specific features that are only available in a Wi-Fi 5 router. 

Even if you have no Wi-Fi 6 devices at all, getting a Wi-Fi 6 router now will have you ready for the future, and you’ll likely end up with some Wi-Fi 6 devices on your network sooner than you think. Consider that Apple and Samsung started adding Wi-Fi 6 to almost all of their smartphones back in 2019, so if you have an iPhone 11 or a Galaxy Note 10, you already own a Wi-Fi 6 device. 

Advantages of Wi-Fi 6

However, even if you have a Wi-Fi 6 smartphone or laptop, you won’t be able to take advantage of it unless you’re also using a Wi-Fi 6 router, since both ends of the connection have to support the same standard.

As you might already suspect, Wi-Fi 6 naturally offers faster speeds, but there’s actually much more to the new technology than just raw speed. In fact, single-client speed is probably the least of the benefits of having a Wi-Fi 6 router. After all, most people have a hard time maxing out a good Wi-Fi 5 connection, which can easily offer speeds of up to 800Mbps to a single device. 

Where Wi-Fi 6 routers really shine, however, is in their ability to deliver those speeds at longer ranges. Since speeds decrease as a wireless signal gets weaker, there’s always going to be some falloff, but Wi-Fi 6 routers use modern signalling methods like orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and advanced MU-MIMO to keep speeds faster even when you’re farther away from the router.

Those same technologies also allow Wi-Fi 6 routers to handle congestion much more effectively by preventing interference between devices. This means that, pound-for-pound, a Wi-Fi 6 router will be able to support more devices on your home network than an equivalent Wi-Fi 5 router. This will have the greatest benefit on public networks in places like shopping malls and sporting venues, but that doesn’t it’s not also a considerable win for home users too.

Lastly, Wi-Fi 6 is also significantly more energy efficient, which can be a huge advantage for battery-powered devices like smartphones. Thanks to a feature called Target Wake Time (TWT), devices can enter a lower power mode when not actively transmitting or receiving data. Tests have shown that this leads to 67 percent lower power consumption over an equivalent Wi-Fi 5 device, so you won’t need to worry about hitting a charger with your iPhone or Galaxy nearly as often when you’re just hanging around at home. 

Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 Wi-Fi 6 Router

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen 

Dual-Band or Tri-Band Frequencies? 

Firstly, unlike older 802.11n Wi-Fi 4 routers and the very occasional Wi-Fi 5 router, there are no such things as single-band Wi-Fi 6 routers. Wi-Fi 6 runs on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so dual-band Wi-Fi is the minimum standard on all Wi-Fi 6 routers.

This differs from 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5, which operated exclusively on the higher-frequency 5GHz band. This means that no matter what Wi-Fi 5 router you were using, when your devices switched over the 2.4GHz band they’d be dropping down to older (and slower) 802.11n Wi-Fi 4 technology. 

The rule of thumb for Wi-Fi frequencies is that the higher they are, the shorter the range, but the faster the speeds. So, 2.4GHz has longer range than 5GHz, but 5GHz is faster than 2.4GHz. It’s always a tradeoff. In the case of Wi-Fi 5 routers, however, the 2.4GHz band is even slower, since devices can only work at Wi-Fi 4 speeds.

Since 2.4GHz frequencies can penetrate walls and extend to longer distances than 5GHz ones, this resulted in even slower speeds when drifting farther away from the router. 

By contrast, the newest and fastest 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 technology is capable of being used across all the bands on a Wi-Fi 6 router. This means that you can still get surprisingly fast speeds even when your devices fall back to the 2.4GHz frequencies. 

One caution however: A few of the more inexpensive Wi-Fi 6 routers like TP-Link’s Archer AX10 cut corners by only offering Wi-Fi 4 speeds on the 2.4GHz band. While it’s an understandable omission in budget routers, it’s still something to look out for. 

Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers are also available, which offer a second 5GHz band, much like tri-band Wi-Fi 5 routers. However, since you can get the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6 on the lower-frequency 2.4GHz band, and Wi-Fi 6 is considerably better at handling congestion, there’s less of a need to go with a tri-band router, especially if most of your high-performance wireless devices already support Wi-Fi 6. 

With any tri-band router, it’s also important to keep in mind that any given wireless device can only connect to one band at a time. A tri-band router will never give you faster speeds for a single device by itself, but if you have a lot of 5GHz devices on your home network, the extra band can help divvy them up to avoid congestion. 

However, one other good reason to get a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router is for use in a wireless mesh Wi-Fi system. In this case, the additional band can be used as a backhaul channel to keep everything running fast between all of your mesh stations without sacrificing client-facing performance. Mesh systems like the Orbi AX6000 and Velop AX4200 use tri-band WI-Fi for this very reason, but it’s also something to consider if you’re looking at building out a mesh Wi-Fi 6 system with traditional routers using technologies like Asus’ AiMesh or TP-Link’s OneMesh. 

What about Wi-Fi 6E?

You may have heard about Wi-Fi 6E, which is an emerging technology that builds on the W-Fi 6 standard. As the name implies, it’s not a whole new Wi-Fi technology, but rather an evolution of Wi-Fi 6 that moves wireless traffic into a new 6GHz band that’s both faster and much less prone to congestion.

At this point, Wi-Fi 6E routers are only just beginning to appear. Most are tri-band routers by definition, but instead of one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands, they offer separate bands for 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. 

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi 6E isn’t yet available on most client devices, so buying a Wi-Fi 6E router is a bit premature at this time. Further, unlike standard tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers, which feature a pair of 5GHz bands that can also be used by your Wi-Fi 5 devices, Wi-Fi 6E routers are effectively dual-band routers non-Wi-Fi 6E devices, since they can’t get at the third 6GHz band at all. 

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Speed: How Much Do I Need? 

Since the more technical term for the Wi-Fi 6 standard is 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 routers use an “AX” prefix to define their speed ratings. The number after the AX indicates the total speed that’s available across all the frequency bands.

So, an AX6000 router is capable of 6Gbps (6,000Mbps) of throughput, but this will be divided across two or three different wireless bands. Most Wi-Fi 6 routers that offer AX6000 speeds or less are dual-band routers, while AX11000 models are tri-band. 

In practical terms, the maximum single-band speeds you’ll get from any Wi-Fi 6 router right now are 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz bands, and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side. This would be an AX6000 dual-band router (4.8Gbps + 1.2Gbps) or an AX11000 tri-band router (4.8Gbps + 4.8Gbps + 1.2Gbps). 

Of course, some don’t even go that high. AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 routers are fairly common, which usually offer either 2.4Gbps/600Mbps or 1.8Gbps/1.2Gbps speeds on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels. AX4200 is also fairly common among tri-band mesh Wi-Fi routers like Linksys’ Velop and the Eero Pro 6, which have an even more unusual split of 2.4Gbps/1.2Gbps/600Mbps. In this case, the faster 5GHz band operates as a wireless backhaul. The Netgear Orbi AX6000 does something similar, except that the second 5GHz band is also 2.4Gbps (2.4Gbps/2.4Gbps/1.2Gbps).

The question you’re probably asking, though, is how much this really matters. To put these numbers into perspective, a 4K UHD stream on Netflix only requires a maximum of 25Mbps of bandwidth per device, and even when 8K streaming services arrive someday, they’re likely to cap out around 65-80Mbps. 

So if you have a small family, you may be surprised to know that you can probably get along just fine with an AX1500 or AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 router. The higher speeds are ultimately intended to handle busy homes, since they offer all that bandwidth to guarantee that every device in your home can get the internet performance it needs. If you have a larger family with kids who are always online, then a faster AX4200 mesh system or AX6000 router is more worth it. 

Of course, downloading is another story, and if you’re regularly downloading large files, it’s nice to have the extra bandwidth to get those 4K movies down onto your hard drive or NAS device in only a few minutes, instead of a few hours, but remember that your wireless router can never offer download speeds that are any faster than your internet connection. 

Range and Coverage

One consideration that doesn’t change much with Wi-Fi 6 routers is making sure that you get one with enough range to cover your entire living area. While Wi-Fi 6 routers can offer better speeds at longer ranges, there’s still a limit to their reach, and if you have a larger home and want maximum performance everywhere you need it, you’re best to look toward getting a mesh Wi-Fi system instead of a single router. 

Most of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers can cover homes of up to 5,000 square feet, but your mileage may vary depending on the construction of your home. Solid objects block wireless frequencies, and concrete and metal block more of the signal than wood and drywall. This is called attenuation, and as the signal drops off, so will your speeds.

Wi-Fi 6 is better at offering respectable performance with a weaker signal, but it still can’t change the laws of physics. If the signal gets too weak, there’s not much even the most sophisticated wireless technologies can do about it. As mentioned earlier, however, one advantage of Wi-Fi 6 is that it also operates on the 2.4GHz frequencies. These travel further, and penetrate solid objects more effectively, but they’re also still prone to interference from other household devices like cordless phones, microwaves, and garage door openers. 

The good news is that if you’ve already invested in a Wi-Fi 6 router and find that it’s not offering enough range, all hope is not lost. You can add one or more Wi-Fi extenders to a Wi-Fi 6 router to extend your router’s reach, and while there are some good Wi-Fi 6 extenders available, you can also add older Wi-Fi 5 extenders if you’re not concerned about performance. This can be a good affordable way to extend coverage to low-bandwidth smart home devices, for instance. 

Some router makers like Asus and TP-Link, also offer their own technologies like AiMesh that will let you build your own mesh Wi-Fi system by adding another compatible router. While this isn’t as cost-effective as a Wi-Fi extender, it’s a better way to increase your wireless footprint if you’re willing to make the investment. 

Netgear Nighthawk RAX80

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Wired Connections

Even with the faster performance of Wi-Fi 6 technology, sometimes you just need to plug your devices in to get the best speeds. This is especially true for gamers, where wired connections almost always offer lower latency than Wi-Fi.

Most Wi-Fi 6 routers offer at least four Gigabit Ethernet ports, while some push that up to even eight. It’s also not uncommon to see special, higher-speed 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps Ethernet ports. Depending on the router, these can be used for a variety of things, from connecting a high-performance gaming PC to a network attached storage (NAS) device. 

More importantly, however, if you’re fortunate enough to have a multi-gigabit internet plan, you’ll want to look for a Wi-Fi 6 router that lets you use this as a WAN port for connecting to your upstream provider. Alternatively, some routers also let you pair up, or “aggregate” two Gigabit Ethernet ports to create a single 2Gbps connection, although in that case, your cable modem or other upstream link has to also support the same link aggregation technologies. 

The bottom line, however, is that unless you have a Wi-Fi 6 router that offers either a faster Ethernet port or link aggregation, you’ll be stuck at 1Gbps broadband speeds no matter how fast your internet plan is. 

Advanced Features

With Wi-Fi 6 routers still relatively new, one thing that you’ll want to pay close attention to is whether they include the same anti-malware, parental controls, and other advanced features of their Wi-Fi 5 counterparts. 

In their rush to get their first Wi-Fi 6 routers out the door, many companies omitted these types of features in their initial hardware. For example, Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX series routers—the RAX80 and RAX120—were initially bare-bones Wi-Fi 6 routers that had no anti-malware or parental controls at all. 

The good news is that these were added later via firmware updates, but since such features are standard on all other Netgear routers, it’s understandable that many buyers may have simply expected them to be there. 

A similar situation remains true for the Linksys Velop AX4200 and the Eero Pro 6. Eero and Linksys were the first two companies to offer secure router features for Apple’s HomeKit on their Wi-Fi 5 routers, but as of this writing, they have yet to bring these capabilities to their Wi-Fi 6 models. We’ve been told by both companies that they’re working on it, but as of right now those features aren’t available on either company’s Wi-Fi 6 routers. 

So, it’s important to read the fine print. We also never recommend buying a router based on the manufacturer’s promises of what might come in the future. If there’s a feature that you can’t live without, don’t count on it being offered in a firmware update; either wait to make your purchase or stick with a more established wireless router that supports it. 

Brands/Manufacturers

Asus 

Asus offered some of the first W-Fi 6 routers on the market, and even those early ones are still consistently solid performers, with reasonable prices, a wealth of advanced features, and even advanced security and parental controls that don’t require an ongoing subscription fee. Thanks to its AiMesh 2.0 technology, you can also easily expand your wireless network by adding almost any additional Asus router to the mix. On the flip side, however, Asus offers so many advanced features that some users might find the user interface to be a bit intimidating. Fortunately, their mobile app helps to simplify the setup and management process somewhat. 

Asus RT-AX88U

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Netgear

With over 20 years in the networking game, Netgear still makes some of the best performing routers available, and their RAX series feature sleek futuristic designs that are as much conversation pieces as electronic devices. The Netgear Orbi also remains one of the best mesh systems we’ve tested, and although the company’s Wi-Fi 6 version is expensive, it’s well worth it if you don’t want to make any compromises on performance. Feature-wise, most of Netgear’s routers offer enough configuration options to meet the needs of most home networking enthusiasts, and Netgear Armor and Circle with Disney offer solid security and parental controls, although you’ll need to pay separate ongoing subscription fees to access each of those.

TP-Link

TP-Link has taken the Wi-Fi 6 router market by storm with some surprisingly affordable choices that still offer remarkably good performance specs. They also offer some higher-end Wi-Fi 6 routers, but it’s the entry-level models like the Archer AX10 and Archer AX50 that really stand out, delivering enough range and performance for all but the largest and busiest households. The Archer AX50 even offers TP-Link’s HomeCare security and parental controls at no extra cost, making it one of the most inexpensive routers in its class. 

Linksys

While Linksys has yet to offer anything particularly noteworthy among its standalone Wi-Fi 6 routers, its Velop mesh system stands out by providing excellent range and performance at a pretty reasonable price. Unfortunately, the company’s routers are otherwise fairly spartan in terms of advanced features, but they deliver solid performance and reliability for anybody who wants an affordable mesh Wi-Fi system that just works. 

Eero

As was the case with its original Eero and Eero Pro, the startup router maker continues to disrupt the industry by providing a holistic mesh Wi-Fi system that’s incredibly easy to set up and manage. You can use an iPhone or Android app to manage everything, and it’s the most intuitive one we’ve seen. The Eero Pro 6 builds on that by adding Wi-Fi 6 support to the mix, but it remains almost infinitely expandable thanks to its modular design that lets you add an unlimited number of Eeros to increase your coverage, and mix and match across the entire lineup of devices. The only caveat is that Eero is owned by Amazon, and managed entirely via the cloud, which has raised concerns about the possible privacy implications. It’s also the only modern router we’ve seen that doesn’t support PPPoE broadband connections. 

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a new wireless router right now, there’s almost no reason not to get a Wi-Fi 6 router, especially if you already own a few Wi-Fi 6—which you probably do.

After all, Apple and Samsung have been packing Wi-Fi 6 into their smartphones for two years now, and it’s getting harder and harder to find a new tablet or laptop that doesn’t also offer Wi-Fi 6 support. However, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6 router to take advantage of the faster speeds, improved energy efficiency, and better range available to these Wi-Fi 6 devices.

Just keep in mind that you don’t need to break the bank in buying a high-end Wi-Fi 6 router just because the specs look good on paper. When choosing the best Wi-Fi 6 router, it’s important to consider the speed of your broadband connection—both now and what you may upgrade it to—along with the size of your home and the number of devices you need to support. Even the most inexpensive Wi-Fi 6 router will be more than enough to support the streaming needs of most single users or couples living in an apartment or bungalow, but if you’ve got a large multi-story dwelling with several kids, you’ll likely want to look toward a higher-performance mesh Wi-Fi 6 system. 

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