First, make sure your iPhone or iPad has Bluetooth turned on. To do that, open the Settings app on your device. Tap Bluetooth toward the top of the list and make sure the button is green – if not, swipe the button to the right. If you see a prompt to Allow New Connections, tap on it to allow your device to connect to new devices.
Next, make sure AirDrop is turned on. In the Settings app, select General and then tap AirDrop. You can then select if you want AirDrop to be available to everyone within range or just those in your contact list. For the sake of haste, choose Everyone to see if that quickly solves the problem. It also doesn’t hurt to try turning AirDrop off and on again for it to reconnect – to turn it off, select Receiving Off.
Finally, make sure the device you want to AirDrop to is also enabled for Everyone. If your two devices are far apart, bring them closer in case they’re slightly out of range.
How to fix AirDrop not working on a Mac computer
You may need to change your AirDrop settings to allow your device to be discoverable. Open the Finder app from your Mac’s menu bar or search for it using Spotlight. In Finder, select AirDrop at the top of the sidebar menu on the left. At the bottom of the AirDrop page, select the drop-down menu next to Allow me to be discovered by and change it to Everyone.
If that doesn’t work, use the menu bar at the top of your screen and select the Wi-Fi icon. Make sure it’s switched on and that you’re connected to a network. Next, do the same for Bluetooth. You can also try turning both off and on again in an attempt to reconnect.
You should also check that your firewall settings allow for new connections. Open the System Preferences app on your Mac, and select Security & Privacy. On the Security & Privacy page, click the lock icon in the bottom-left corner of the screen, and enter your password or use your Touch ID.
On the Firewall tab, you can either click Turn Off Firewall or click Firewall Options and, in the pop-up, uncheck the box next to Block all incoming connections, then click OK.
Wi-Fi has been around for almost two decades now, and every few years, there’s an advancement that makes the technology faster and more powerful.
The most recent of these advancements is Wi-Fi 6E. Broadcasting on a 6GHz band – more powerful than the standard 5GHz and 2GHz – Wi-Fi 6E will make room for increased online traffic and also generate an estimated $183 billion in revenue in the US over five years, according to the W-Fi Alliance.
What is Wi-Fi 6E?
Wi-Fi 6E expands on the existing Wi-Fi 6 standard by adding a 6 GHz wireless band. Access to that new band offers an additional 1,200 MHz of bandwidth over the 500 MHz offered by 5 GHz.
The 6 GHz band supports up to 14 80 MHz channels, or seven 160 MHz channels. It also supports nearly twice as many high-bandwidth (80 GHz, 160 MHz) channels as 5 GHz, making more bandwidth available for 4K and 8K streaming, virtual reality gaming, and high-definition video conferencing. This means more devices can connect to available Wi-Fi channels without stealing bandwidth from one another.
Wi-FI 6E is also more secure than its predecessors due to the mandatory inclusion of Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3), making it tougher to hack networks.
Advantages of Wi-FI 6E
Coinciding with the bandwidth and security advantages detailed above, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi 6E task group, the 6 GHz band in Wi-Fi 6E will help users access the internet in crowded places like sports arenas, business complexes, and apartment buildings.
Essentially, you won’t be competing for bandwidth with people in close proximity to you, which includes anyone you live with.
Disadvantages of Wi-FI 6E
But Wi-Fi 6E isn’t without its downsides. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is that it’ll require users to have an upgraded and potentially more expensive router. To take full advantage of it, users will need to own devices that are capable of accessing its 6 GHz band, which not many devices are able to do currently.
Additionally, due to the spectrum’s shorter wavelengths than previous Wi-Fi standards, its reach won’t extend as far and it may have a hard time passing through physical barriers, so you’ll likely need to use Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters in your home or building.
How to get Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi 6E is now available, and you can find routers that support it from brands including Netgear, Asus, Cisco, and TP-Link. Wi-Fi 6E routers support all devices that are compatible with Wi-Fi 6, which include phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 (and later Galaxy models); the iPhone 11, 12, and SE models; and certain laptops, with the notable exception of MacBooks.
Related Article Module: The best WiFi routers in 2021
However, all Wi-Fi 6E routers are also backward compatible with previous Wi-Fi standards. This means that a Wi-Fi 6E router still supports older devices which can’t necessarily take advantage of the added high-speed 6 GHz band.
All of that said, the rollout of Wi-Fi 6E as a commonplace standard is going to take a while. So don’t worry about your current router becoming obsolete tomorrow.
On an Xbox One, you need to download games into your game library before you can actually play them.
This is a relatively straightforward process, but sometimes the download speed can be slow, especially if the game itself is large and requires a lot of memory.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can speed up your Xbox One downloads.
Why is my Xbox download speed slow?
There are a number of reasons for a slow Xbox download speed, like downloading too many games at once, poor connectivity issues, or a slow internet connection.
Try these troubleshooting tricks to speed up your downloads and get to playing your games faster.
Close out of games and apps
The Xbox One conveniently lets you play other games or use apps while a game is downloading, but this sometimes results in the download taking more time than usual. This especially goes for other games that use the internet.
If you close out of any other games and apps while your game is downloading, your Xbox One will run faster, and so will your download.
To close a game or app, press the Xbox button, highlight the game or app you want to close in the left sidebar, and press the “Menu” button (it’s the button that looks like three horizontal lines). In the menu that appears, select “Quit.”
Put less pressure on your internet connection
You might have noticed that your Wi-Fi connection runs slower when many devices are connected to Wi-Fi at the same time. The same is true for your Xbox One.
If you disconnect other devices from your Wi-Fi, like your phone or laptop, it will strengthen your Xbox One’s Wi-Fi connection and allow for faster download speeds.
Reboot your internet router
Sometimes download speeds don’t have anything to do with your Xbox One itself and have more to do with your internet router.
You can try rebooting your router by disconnecting it from the wall. Wait a few moments, then plug the router back in.
This can help the internet connection and improve your overall download speed.
Restart your Xbox
If your game is downloading slower than usual or has stopped downloading entirely, try restarting your Xbox One console, which may solve a potential connectivity issue.
1. Go to the Guide by pressing the Xbox logo button on your controller.
2. Use the joystick to scroll right to the System menu.
3. Navigate to “Restart console” and press A to select it. Your console should now turn off and on again.
Pause other Xbox downloads
Download speed will often be significantly slower if you’re downloading multiple games at once.
To pause a download:
1. Go to the Guide by pressing the Xbox logo button on your controller.
2. Use the joystick to scroll to “My games & apps” and press A to select it.
3. Press A to select “See all.”
4. On the left side, scroll down to “Queue.”
5. Highlight the download you want to pause and press “Menu” on your controller.
6. Press A to select “Pause.”
Use an Ethernet cable
If you have an Ethernet cable, you don’t have to rely on fickle Wi-Fi connections to improve your download speeds.
Simply connect the Ethernet cable to your internet router and to your Xbox One. Once the Ethernet cable is connected, your internet connection will be stronger and your downloads should speed up considerably.
If your PS4 is unable to connect to the internet, you won’t be able to take advantage of many of the console’s most important features, like multiplayer gaming, streaming video, and installing new games.
Here’s how to troubleshoot your connection issues and fix your PS4.
Why won’t my PS4 connect to the internet?
If your PS4 won’t connect to Wi-Fi or the internet, it’s likely one of the following reasons:
The PlayStation Network may be offline
Your router may not be connected or having larger connectivity issues
There may be password issues with your Wi-Fi or console
You may need to change your DNS settings on your PlayStation
Check whether the PlayStation Network is online
If you can get online but can’t access the PSN, your first step should be to make sure it’s online.
You can go to the PSN Network Status Page on another device to see if the status is green. If it’s down, you might just need to wait a while for the issue to be fixed.
Determine if other devices can connect to the internet
If your PS4 is having trouble connecting to the internet, you might want to narrow down where the problem is right away by determining if the issue is with your PS4 or with your Wi-Fi network.
See if other devices are working: Check to see if other devices on your home network, like computers and tablets, are connecting to the internet.
Check your connection type: You should also make sure that devices on the same kind of connection are working – for example, if your PS4 is connected to the router with a wired Ethernet cable, then plug a computer into the router as well. If the PS4 is using Wi-Fi, connect to Wi-Fi with your phone and see if it works.
Reboot your modem and router: If your other devices can’t connect either, it’s time to power off your modem and router, wait several minutes, and turn them back on. For extra measure, reboot your PS4 after rebooting your router and modem. That means fully powering it down and turning it back on.
Check your PS4’s internet connection to the router
Your PS4 connecting may not always be an issue with your console. It may be your wired or wireless connection creating your gameplay disruptions – including your device settings.
Here are a few tips on how to test whether it’s your console or your internet connection.
Swap your Ethernet cord: If you are connecting via Ethernet, try swapping out the cable to see if it’s the issue. Another option is to try plugging your cable into a different Ethernet port on the router in the case that the current port has blown.
Move your PS4 console closer to your wireless router: You may be experiencing intermittent signal loss due to the distance – or even walls – between your console and router. You should first try to move them closer if they aren’t already, and if that doesn’t work, try rebooting both your modem and router.
Re-enter your Wi-Fi password
If you are using Wi-Fi, be sure you are using the correct Wi-Fi password. You can also re-enter it on your PS4 to see if that refreshes your connection. Here’s how.
1. Using the PS4 controller, select “Settings.”
2. Select “Network” and then select “Set Up Internet Connection.”
3. Select “Use Wi-Fi”
4. Select “Easy.”
5. Choose your Wi-Fi network from the list, enter the password, and wait for it to connect.
Check your PS4’s DNS settings as the last resort
If none of the previous steps solved your problem, some users have found that changing the PS4’s DNS server settings – which is like an address book that tells your PS4 how to find locations on the internet – can fix connection issues.
1. Using the PS4 controller, select “Settings.”
2. Choose “Network” and then select “Set Up Internet Connection.”
3. Hit either “Use Wi-Fi” or “Use a LAN Cable” depending upon how you’re connecting.
4 . Select “Custom.” If necessary, choose your Wi-Fi network from the list.
5. Choose “Automatic.” Then select “Do Not Specify” and then “Manual.”
6. Pick “Primary DNS” and then enter “184.108.40.206”
7. Select “Secondary DNS” and then enter “220.127.116.11”
If you’re new to setting up or troubleshooting your Wi-Fi connection, you might be wondering what a network security key is. Luckily, it’s not as confusing as it sounds – your network security key is essentially just your Wi-Fi password.
Of course, it’s not actually that simple – if it were, we wouldn’t need another word for it. A network security key is a specific type of password that allows your Wi-Fi router to talk to the device you’re using, and allows you to use the internet securely.
What to know about network security keys
Network security keys have become more sophisticated over time, and there are now a few different kinds that work a few different ways. Knowing what kind of network key your router uses can be important for setting it up and solving issues.
There are three common types of network security keys.
How to find your network security key
Depending on which security key you go with, your password might be located in a couple different places – most of the time, default WEP keys can be found on a piece of paper given to you by the network owner with the router. Default WPA/WPA2 keys are usually printed somewhere on the side of your router, often on a sticker.
If you’ve forgotten your Wi-Fi password, it’s not the end of the world. As long as your computer is already connected to the router, you can pull the password up that way instead – this works on a Mac or on a PC. You can also share access with others across Apple devices, whether you’re using a Mac or an iPhone.
How to create a strong password
Network security keys are an important part of keeping your network protected – and in a world where we do most of our business online, that protection is more important than ever.
Making sure you select the highest security network you can is part of that, but another part is selecting a good password. Experts say that a strong password has as many of the following qualities as possible:
Is 12 characters or longer (the longer the better)
Uses a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols
Doesn’t use common substitutions (like zero for “O,” $ for “S,” et cetera)
Doesn’t use an easy keyboard path (like “asdfjkl,” “qwerty,” or 123456)
One of the most highly recommended ways to create a secure password is to make it a random combination of words that one might not usually find together, or else a simple sentence. For example, security experts would likely say that “PeanutButterManPants” and “PutThatDownJordan” are both strong passwords. Add some numbers or symbols and you have one of the best possible defenses against hackers.
When traveling somewhere there isn’t Wi-Fi, having a mobile hotspot can be very useful.
A mobile hotspot, otherwise known as a personal hotspot, is a device that lets users connect to the internet by acting as a localized Wi-Fi network.
There are ways you can get a portable hotspot sold separately, but nowadays, many mobile hotspots come as a feature on your smartphone.
What is a mobile hotspot?
A mobile hotspot is a device that has the ability to cast a wireless signal for other devices to connect to while on-the-go. This is not to be confused with a hotspot, which can be picked up in public places like hotels, malls, and coffee shops, where buildings or businesses have private networks that offer free Wi-Fi.
Mobile hotspots generally operate by taking an LTE connection, sometimes from your phone, and converting it into a Wi-Fi signal. You can then “connect” your computer or another device to it the same way those devices would connect to a home or public Wi-Fi network.
Physical mobile hotspots are small enough to fit into your pocket and have a generally reliable battery life, sometimes up to one day. They can be utilized when about in public, say in a park or at the beach, while traveling abroad, or anywhere your LTE connection works. They’re able to connect to any Wi-Fi-based device, such as a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or game console.
While hotspots have become pretty standard on mobile smartphones, accessing them might incur additional costs depending on your carrier and device. Your mobile hotspot’s speed and longevity will also depend on your data plan and how many gigabytes you have.
Digital security and reliability with mobile hotspots
Mobile hotspots are a great but imperfect solution. While they can go practically anywhere, they are not as fast as an at-home or in-building broadband or fiber Wi-Fi connection. With them being mobile, their range is also not far when connecting other devices to it.
Having access to data, you can create a Wi-Fi signal wherever you are, but because smartphone hotspots are connected to your mobile device, they can take off a lot of battery life rather quickly.
On the upside, your mobile hotspot’s Wi-Fi network can be protected with WPA-2 encryption, making it just as secure as any home router. Just be sure to keep your password protected and enabled. If someone gets ahold of it or you aren’t using password protection, anyone will have the ability to connect to your hotspot and access data transmitted through it.
Does my phone have a mobile hotspot?
Many modern smartphones have a built-in hotspot feature, which you can likely set up and enable somewhere in your device’s settings app. In general, many carriers and devices offer the service so long as you have a minimum of 4G LTE service, though support for a 5G network will likely improve your experience.
Most smartphone mobile hotspots allow you to connect multiple devices to your network, in some cases up to 10. Just know that when sharing this kind of network with other people, you may make an already noticeably slower experience even slower.
Depending on the device, you can rename your hotspot and change its password from the defaults, hide your device so others can’t see your network, and decide whether you want to use WPA2 security or go without it.
Depending on your device, you may be able to enable your mobile hotspot and connect to other devices via Bluetooth or USB tethering.
For those without an unlimited data plan, it’s important to note that the hotspot is drawing from your data caps, which means you can run out – and you may do it much quicker than regular browsing on your phone, depending on what you’re using your mobile hotspot for. Even those with unlimited plans may find their experience slowed if their service carrier slows speeds after certain data caps are hit.
Once connected, connect a computer or other smartphone and surf the web, stream videos, and listen to music just like a regular internet connection.
TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is an affordable router, but its performance makes it a reliable pick for the best router.
Your router’s speed and reliability will affect the speed of every Wi-Fi device in your home.
Today’s best routers support the Wi-Fi 6 standard, which is now available at affordable prices.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
The humble router is an often-overlooked device that’s key to unlocking great performance from computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices that rely on a fast Internet connection. Buying the best router you can afford will ensure your home network’s performance doesn’t become a bottleneck.
Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless networking standard, helps affordable routers achieve speeds that used to be reserved for the most luxurious models. Mesh networking has improved Wi-Fi reliability in homes with spotty WiFi signals, as well, though it’s not necessary in every home.
2021 is a great year to buy a new router. The Wi-Fi 6 standard is now broadly supported by new devices, but it remains a fresh innovation. Today’s best Wi-Fi routers will be useful for at least five years.
TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is the gold standard in the router market. Affordable yet fast, the Archer AX50 challenges not only its inexpensive competition but also premium routers. You can spend a lot more on a router without seeing a significant boost in everyday performance.
The secret to this router’s success is a simple but fast Wi-Fi 6 implementation. The AX50 can’t claim the highest maximum bandwidth or the most Wi-Fi bands, but it consistently performs well in many situations.
It can handle real-world download and upload speeds of up to 800Gbps within one room from the router. Its performance will be slashed to half that a couple rooms over, but this remains more than adequate for most uses.
The AX50‘s range isn’t great for homes larger than 2,000 square feet unless it can be placed directly in the center of the house or apartment.
Still, this router is incredible value. It’s a great fit for a family of up to four people in a home or apartment smaller than 2,000 square feet.
The best mesh router
The Google Nest Wifi is a mesh network system that combines multiple wireless access points into a single wireless network. This happens seamlessly without additional management. Mesh networks are great for homes with Wi-Fi dead spots that a single router can’t fix and are superior to Wi-Fi extenders.
Ease-of-use is Nest Wifi’s key feature. Both setup and router control are handled through an intuitive smartphone app. Those who own other Nest devices, or frequently use Google Assistant, will find it instantly familiar.
It even supports Google Assistant. The access points serve double duty as Google Assistant smart speakers. This will be a killer feature for some buyers.
Nest Wifi is an entry-level mesh network with less impressive specifications than competitors. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6. It also offers just two Ethernet ports per access point, which can be a problem if you connect to multiple devices over Ethernet.
These flaws are forgiven by the price. The two-device bundle, which contains the Nest Wifi router and one wireless access point, is less expensive than many standalone routers. This makes Nest Wifi a great fit if you’ve found that a single router can’t provide acceptable Wi-Fi performance to your entire home.
The best budget router
The TP-Link Archer A7 was once the best value in routers. It’s an older model with good performance and range for the price. It doesn’t offer Wi-Fi 6, however, and was replaced by the Archer AX21 in 2020.
Why is this router still relevant? Because it’s ridiculously affordable. The Archer A7 is barely more expensive than a family dinner at Applebee’s. That makes it an attractive option for those who live in a home or apartment under 1,000 square feet.
As mentioned, this router does not support Wi-Fi 6. You can expect real-world performance between 350 megabytes per second and 50Mbps, depending on a device’s range from a router. That’s mediocre by modern standards, but it’s decent if your devices are close enough to the router to see the higher side of that range. This is all you need if your Internet service plan doesn’t include speeds above what the Archer A7 can provide.
Setup is easy, and the router’s range is good enough to cover most two-bedroom homes and apartments. The router itself is small but still offers the four Ethernet ports found on most routers, so it can handle several wired Ethernet devices.
The best router for value
TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 is among the most expensive routers available from the company, and its specifications receive an appropriate boost. The Archer AX6000’s maximum possible bandwidth is twice that of the AX50, and the AX6000 has a more robust antenna arrangement that can better handle multiple simultaneous devices.
There’s good news for wired Ethernet, too. The Archer AX6000 has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports. It also has a 2.5Gbps WAN port, an uncommon feature that can be useful if you have wired network devices, like network-attached storage, that support 2.5Gbps Ethernet. USB-A 3.0 and USB-C 3.0 ports round out the wired connectivity.
The Archer AX6000 is a large router, measuring about 10 inches on a side and two and half inches thick. It has a square, industrial look that can stick out in a room. This could annoy buyers who can’t easily hide the router.
Still, this router is perfect for those who want excellent range and performance without paying a premium.
The best premium router
The Asus RT-88AX is a nice upgrade for buyers who want excellent performance and enough range to handle larger homes, but don’t want to stretch their budget into the extreme realm of tri-band routers or premium mesh networks.
This router offers eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, double the ports found on most routers. Although this isn’t unheard of in a premium router, the Asus RT-88AX is among the least expensive routers with this feature. It also has a USB-A 3.1 port. This router is a great pick for those who have many wired devices.
Despite these features, the Asus RT-88AX has a conventional, sleek router look. This contrasts with alternatives that have a more industrial design. The RT-88AX is a good choice if you can’t hide your router and don’t want it to stand out in a room.
The best gaming router
Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a top-tier Wi-Fi 6 router. It’s a tri-band router, which means it has two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands and one 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. You can choose to split the 5GHz band between devices, or reserve one of the bands for just a single device that you want to have maximum wireless performance and reliability.
This router is marketed to gamers, but its capabilities are a good fit for large families and large homes. Tom’s Hardware found it offers nearly 100 feet of range, and its performance held up well as range from the router increased. The Asus GT-AX11000 is a good fit for homes larger than 3,000 square feet.
The Asus GT-AX11000 has a robust interface with many options designed to provide better control over how devices access the network. Power users and enthusiasts will like this interface.
Wired connectivity is a weakness. This router has just four Gigabit Ethernet ports alongside a single 2.5Gbps LAN port. It also has two USB-A 3.1 ports. Although enough for many homes, its mediocre wired connectivity is odd given the otherwise extreme feature set.
This is also among the most expensive home routers sold today. Its performance, while exceptional, isn’t a great value compared to the TP-Link Archer AX6000. However, the Asus GT-AX11000 is a better fit for large homes packed with dozens of wireless devices.
The best mesh router for performance
The Netgear Orbi Pro AX6000 is a fast and reliable mesh network system for large homes. Like the Nest Wifi, this system uses multiple wireless access points to deliver more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity and get around obstacles that might otherwise block Wi-Fi signals.
Netgear’s system is far more capable, however. It supports Wi-Fi 6 and has a significantly more robust antenna arrangement. This system even provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports per router or access point, so you can attach plenty of wired devices.
The least expensive Orbi AX6000 WiFi Mesh System bundle includes one router and one access point, which should work for homes between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. You can add more access points for even greater range. The four-pack system, which has one router and three access points, should work for homes of up to 8,000 square feet.
Other Wi-Fi mesh networks can offer similar specifications, but reviewers currently lean towards the Orbi AX6000 as the best option. Forbes and Tom’s Hardware both named it the best Wi-Fi mesh router available.
Price is the only downside. This Netgear Orbi system is three times more expensive than Nest Wifi. Netgear does sell less expensive Orbi systems but, like Nest Wifi, they currently lack Wi-Fi 6 support,
The best value mesh router
Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 is a great mid-range mesh network that is suitable for most homes. It’s among the most affordable mesh options to support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard.
Wi-Fi 6 support leads to excellent performance. CNET and PCMag both named this router an editor’s choice thanks to its speed. The ZenWiFi AX6600 can deliver Wi-Fi speeds competitive with the more expensive Orbi AX6000 system in some scenarios. The Orbi pulls ahead at long range, but the ZenWiFi AX6000 is often neck-and-neck with the Orbi when connected to devices 30 feet away or closer.
That’s an acceptable compromise for homes and apartments that are smaller than 2,500 square feet. Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 system also provides smaller, more attractive satellites that will be easier to hide. The system’s router has three Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 2.5Gbps WAN port.
While not the most powerful mesh system, Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 hits a sweet spot of price and performance. It’s a great alternative to similarly priced routers which, although packed with more capable hardware, are often more difficult to manage.
Why you should buy a Wi-Fi 6 router
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest wireless standard. It’s backward compatible with previous standards but also offers a huge leap in performance.
The maximum theoretical speed of Wi-Fi 6 is 9.6 gigabits per second (Gbps), up from 3.5 Gbps with Wi-Fi 5. While most consumer Internet service plans can’t hit these speeds, they’re still useful for devices on your local network, such as network attached storage.
More importantly, the measured real-world performance of Wi-Fi 6 routers blows away their predecessors. A 20 to 50 percent improvement is common. Wi-Fi 6 routers also have better range and see less reduction in performance when handling many devices, traits that are useful in any home.
This comes with an important catch. Both the router and the device connecting to it, such as your smartphone or laptop, must support Wi-Fi 6 to boost performance. If not, the connection will fall back to the Wi-Fi 5 standard (or an even older standard, if you’re connecting an ancient device).
Still, Wi-Fi 6 is the way forward. Most new smartphones, computers, and smart home devices introduced in 2021 will support Wi-Fi 6. It will be the expected standard for new devices by 2022.
A Wi-Fi 5 router or mesh network can work well, but only makes sense when pricing significantly beats alternatives with Wi-Fi 6 support. That’s why most routers and mesh networks on this list support Wi-Fi 6.
What is a mesh network, and should you buy one?
Mesh networking is the latest trend in wireless connectivity. Mesh networking devices, often sold in packages as mesh network routers, mesh access points, or mesh network systems, provide multiple wireless access points for your network.
Each access point can communicate with its partners to balance network load, which ultimately provides a more reliable home network. The use of multiple access points can also help deliver Wi-Fi coverage to hard-to-reach wireless dead spots, like a basement or a room on the far side of a concrete or brick wall.
This might sound complex, but simplicity is among mesh networking’s best features. Most companies that sell mesh networks provide attractive companion apps that are more approachable than a typical router’s user interface.
Mesh networks will make standalone routers obsolete in the future. Pricing is all that holds them back. Even the most affordable examples are priced to compete with premium routers. This makes sense; you’re getting multiple access points instead of one router. Still, high pricing will turn off many buyers.
While mesh networks are excellent, buyers should beware so-called mesh networking devices that are glorified Wi-Fi range extenders. They’re often sold as add-on devices instead of mesh network systems with multiple access points in a single package. The term “mesh network” doesn’t refer to any specific technical standard, so the marketing minds at router companies are slapping the term on anything that can extend a wireless network.
What we’re looking forward to testing
The release of Wi-Fi 6 means router manufacturers are in the middle of updating their product lines. Most manufacturers have updated their consumer routers to the new standard, but mesh network products and specialty routers are still in the middle of updates.
The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced a new standard, Wi-Fi 6E, in 2020. Wi-Fi 6E adds a 6GHz wireless channel to the options available, alongside the 5GHz and 2.4GHz already supported. This is helpful because congestion on existing bands is a constant issue. The 6GHz band should also provide better performance in ideal scenarios.
Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, Asus, and Arris announced Wi-Fi 6E routers or mesh systems at CES 2021. The Wi-Fi 6E options announced include:
Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 mesh router
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 router
Asus RT-AX68U router
Linksys Velop AXE8400 mesh router
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 router
TP-Link Archer A96 router
TP-Link Archer AX206 router
TP-Link Deco X96 mesh router
TP-Link Deco X76 Plus mesh router
Most of these options won’t be available until the second half of 2021. Though Wi-Fi 6E will improve performance in some situations, you shouldn’t hold off on purchasing a router because of this new standard.