Asus ZenWiFi XT8Source: Asus

Best answer: Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is the newest evolution of Wi-Fi and is providing faster speeds to more devices than the last generation. If you're buying a router today, you should buy one that supports Wi-Fi 6, especially now that prices have gone down.

How is Wi-Fi 6 better than 5?

Galaxy S20 UltraSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

You might have noticed that many new phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 are supporting Wi-Fi 6 alongside 5G. Wi-Fi 6 is also known as 802.11ax, which makes its derivation from 802.11ac more apparent. Don't get confused here — the Wi-Fi Alliance (the standards body that decides what happens with each new generation of Wi-Fi) has decided to stop using seemingly random letter designations for Wi-Fi versions and switch to regular cardinal numbers, even retroactively renaming 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 5. It thinks this makes it easy for us to know which is newer, and therefore better. It's probably right.

Lots of new devices are starting to support Wi-Fi 6 and the improved features it brings. To be fair, Wi-Fi 5 has gotten quite fast and in many cases isn't a bottleneck to most people. Is it worth it to upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router?

Better battery life

A device can never be too power-efficient, and that goes double for mobile devices. We only want to have to charge our phone once per day and that's after we're finished with it. Anything that helps reach that goal is welcome.

Less time on the charger? Bring it!

A lot of things promise better battery life, but how WI-Fi 6 does it is really cool. When you're on Wi-Fi your phone communicates with an access point. If both the access point and the device are using WI-Fi 6 the AP (that's the abbreviation for Access Point) can enable a new TWT feature. It's short for Target Wake Time and what it does is tell the device when to expect the next packet of data so it knows it can shut the Wi-Fi radio down until that time.

The time between data packets is really short when sending a lot of data, but even having the radio down during those times can make a difference. Every little bit helps.

Faster data speeds

Galaxy S20 UltraSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 offers faster speeds than Wi-Fi 5 (which used to be called 802.11ac), that's why it's one bigger under the Wi-FI Alliance's new naming convention.

And it will really be faster this time, too.

How Wi-Fi 6 can be potentially 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5 is — you guessed it — it can send more data in the same amount of time. It can't do it because of any new data magic, though. More data can be compressed inside every packet because the hardware is now able to encode and decode more data at once. Wi-Fi 6 devices will all have hardware that's capable of this on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz networks, too.

Better performance on busy networks

Wi Fi 6e Certified PhoneSource: Nick Sutrich/Android Central

Ever notice that a Wi-Fi network with a lot of users is really slow? That's because wireless traffic is just like automobile traffic and can get congested if too many things try to take the same lanes.

Wi-Fi handles traffic better because all the lanes are two-way.

Wi-Fi 5 brought what's called MIMO (Multiple In and Multiple Out) to Wi-Fi radios where multiple antennas allow the AP to "talk" to multiple devices at the same time. Wi-Fi 6 has upped the ante and brings MU-MIMO (Multiple User Multiple In and Multiple Out) and the AP can now listen to multiple devices at the same time, too. That means it can handle twice or more inbound traffic because devices no longer have to queue up to talk back to the AP.

Do I need a Wi-Fi 6 router?

If you're happy with the router you have right now, you're probably wondering if you really need to switch and buy one that supports Wi-Fi 6 because it's the latest and greatest. If you're not having any speed or coverage issues, the good news is that you shouldn't.

But if you do need a new router the one you buy should be Wi-Fi 6 capable. Prices have dropped since Wi-Fi 6 debuted and even if the wireless equipment you have today won't be able to use the new standard, the gadgets and electronics you buy in the future probably will.

Wi-Fi 6 for most

Netgear RAX15

Wi-Fi 6 for the masses

The Nighthawk RAX15 makes Wi-Fi 6 affordable with enough speed for most people at AX1800 as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports around the back.

Mesh Wi-Fi 6

Asus ZenWiFi XT8

Fast Wi-Fi with easy expansion

The ZenWiFi XT8 is fast at AX6600 and it can cover most homes with two units, but can even be expanded to cover more space with additional nodes.

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