When the epidemic sustained our lives, many of us were forced to stay indoors and transfer our work and hobbies to the Internet. Office meetings and classrooms were replaced with video calls. We binged on Netflix, played more video games and shopped online.
Results: We slammed our home Wi-Fi network with more devices that are doing more than ever before. Our congested Internet connections, which contribute to spotty video calls and slow downloads, Became the No. 1 tech headache.
Now the new generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6, has come to solve this problem. It brings high speed and wide coverage. Most importantly, wireless technology does a better job of sharing data connections on a large number of home appliances, such as phones, tablets, computers, smart speakers, and TVs.
With Wi-Fi 6, when a device consumes a huge amount of data, such as a video game console downloading a huge game, it won’t slow down the entire network, unlike it did with previous Wi-Fi technology. .
Started with Wi-Fi 6 In 2018 But it only reached mainstream this year, when it became more affordable, with devices that cost $ 70, and was more widely available on the new wide router. Many new smartphones and computers now also include chips that help them take advantage of Wi-Fi 6.
So how exactly does it work? Imagine driving cars on a road. On older Wi-Fi networks, cars, which represent devices that transmit data, drive in the same lane. A device that takes a long time to complete a data-heavy task is such that everyone is forced to apply brakes in order to run at an unpleasant slow pace.
Wi-Fi 6 reduces congestion by directing traffic. There are now several lanes: car pool lanes for new, faster equipment and slower lanes for older, slower ones. All vehicles are also full of people, representing large batches of data being taken together over a network.
“Wi-Fi 6 can be more efficient in driving more cars down the road at high speeds,” said David Henry, a senior vice president at networking company Netgear.
I recently tested two new Wi-Fi 6 routers and compared them to the previous generation Wi-Fi routers, which led to some results as well as more amazing improvements. Here’s what I learned.
I usually have more than two dozen internet-connected devices, including smart speakers, a thermostat, and a bathroom scale. This appeared to make my home an ideal test environment for Wi-Fi 6.
The Wi-Fi 6 router I selected was Amazon’s Eero Pro 6, Which costs about $ 230, and Netbier’s orby, Which costs $ 380. I compared them to A. Google wifi router, Which when released in 2016 was roughly $ 130.
One trial involved downloading an episode of the Netflix series “The Final Table” on two smartphones and one tablet while streaming video to another tablet.
Wi-Fi 6 routers did better than older routers, but only marginally:
On Eero and Netgear routers, all three devices took about 45 seconds to download TV episodes. On older Google routers, the task had 51 seconds, 13 percent slower.
When I tried streaming a high-definition video on a tablet while downloading files from other devices, the playback of streaming video on a Wi-Fi 6 router or older router did not take noticeable delay.
I ran the routers through several tests like the one above, including downloading video games while making a video call. The results were often overwhelming. So what gives?
Nick Weaver, CEO of Amazon-owned router manufacturer Nero Weaver, said the benefits of reduced congestion with Wi-Fi 6 would be more visible in environments with many more devices, such as an office with hundreds of computers that did heavy tasks Are going at the same time.
“It’s less important in a home environment,” he said. Most households still do not have so many appliances.
Keyway Melcote, founder of Aruba, a Hewlett Packard enterprise company offering Wi-Fi products to businesses, introduced another theory. Most devices in my house need to have chips that make them compatible with Wi-Fi 6 before the benefits become more apparent, he said. Nearly a quarter of my internet connected devices are still there.
They were not jaw dropping results. But the good news was that while using Wi-Fi 6, I noticed subtle changes throughout my house.
For one, my Amazon smart speakers are now more responsive. In my bedroom, I ask Alexa to control a pair of light bulbs connected to the Internet. With the old router, whenever I said, “Alexa, turn on the lights,” there was a delay of about two seconds before the lights turned on. Now it is less than half a second.
I noticed something similar about MyQ, which lets me use a smartphone app to control my garage door. At first, after pressing the button, I waited several seconds for the door to open. Now the wait is another split.
My video calls are also much clearer than watching, and they take less time to connect.
This suggests that Wi-Fi 6 is a long-term investment. In the coming years, the more Internet connected devices will enter people’s homes, the more visible they will become.
“It will take time, but the improvements will be real,” Mr. Melcote said.
Of the two Wi-Fi 6 routers I’ve tested, I preferred the Ero Pro 6. It is $ 150 cheaper than Netgear Orbi, and both routers were equally fast in my tests. The setup of Ero was also simple.
But who should buy?
My experience indicated that people who have purchased a router in the last five years will probably not see major improvements immediately, so there is no hurry to upgrade.
Those customers are probably better off waiting for Wi-Fi 6E, a newly unveiled technology that provides even more improvements to reduce network congestion in dense areas. The routers that work with Wi-Fi 6E are just getting started – and are very expensive – so it may be several years until it becomes practical to consider upgrading.
But if you bought a router more than six years ago, then upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 will provide a big boost in speed, and overall gains will be more noticeable. This is largely in 2015 because Federal Communications Commission lifts ban Wi-Fi routers had limited wireless transmission power, making the new ones 20 times more powerful.
Here’s an even simpler rule of thumb: If you’re happy with your internet connection at home, keep what you have and upgrade when you feel like it. Even Mr. Melcote did not leap for Wi-Fi. He said that he planned this year because his family was working and going from home to school for the future.
For me, even though the improvements to my old router were only marginal, it did not back down. I connect half a dozen new devices to my network every year, so I’ll need those extra lanes.