The best Wi-Fi 6 routers for 2021

While Wi-Fi 5 routers have been around for years, and most homes in America likely won’t top out on the speeds that these routers support, upgrading to a Wi-Fi 6 router comes with many alluring benefits. You’ll be able to get faster speeds — up to 9.6Gbps — if your home internet plan can support it, better security, and more manageability by being able to connect more devices to an access point.

To take advantage of the best features of Wi-Fi 6, you’ll need to upgrade to a new router. Here are some of the best Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E routers that should be on the top of your shopping list

Best Wi-Fi 6 routers at a glance

Netgear Nighthawk AX8

The design of Netgear's Nighthawk is more aggressive than other mesh Wi-Fi systems on our list.

Why you should buy this: The Nighthawk AX8 boasts a unique design that can blanket a large space with Wi-Fi 6 coverage.

Who’s it for: Home users who don’t want a mesh system or unsightly antennas on their routers.

Why we picked the Netgear Nighthawk AX8:

Netgear has released a whole line of Wi-Fi 6-ready Nighthawks, but the AX8 offers some great middle-ground for those who want the best but don’t exactly need an office router. This model promises speeds up to 6Gbps across its bands — yes, Wi-Fi 6 really is that much of an improvement — and is designed for large homes that have a whole lot of devices on the wireless network.

Inside, the 1.8GHz processor helps take care of the details, managing up to eight simultaneous OFDMA connections and 16 simultaneous Wi-Fi clients while making sure there are no dead zones around. There are also six Gigabit Ethernet ports for file transfer, including the ability to combine two of the ports to create an even faster wired connection.

There are plenty of Nighthawk AX models that are Wi-Fi 6 ready if you want to choose something with a little less power and a lower cost, but the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 is the top of the line for a home router if you really want the best!

Asus RT-AX88U

Asus's gaming forward design comes with antennas for better coverage.

Why you should buy this: The Asus RT-AX88U is a fast Wi-Fi 6 router designed to prioritize gaming traffic with a simple design that’s elevated with gold antenna accents.

Who’s it for: Gamers and streamers who worry about speeds.

Why we picked the Asus RT-AX88U:

Asus has several Wi-Fi 6 routers and, honestly, we’re impressed with all of them. This particular model has a lot in common with the Nighthawk AX8, offering 6GBps speeds (around 1.15Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 4.8Mbps on the 5GHz band, the expected speeds on all Wi-Fi 6 models), plus 8 LAN ports. The dual-band router also works with AiMesh, the Asus Wi-Fi mesh system that can link multiple routers together for better, stronger coverage where necessary.

The router also supports both OFDMA and MU-MIMO for direct connections to devices for greater stability and better data streaming. Gamers, meanwhile, will appreciate the Adaptive QoS that can prioritize games to make sure there are no slowdowns that the worst possible time. As with most modern Asus routers, the Asus RT-AX88U‘s network is guarded by AiProtection Pro, a security filter to help keep your data safe.

TP-Link Archer AX6000

TP-Link's aggressive design will cater more towards gamers than home users.

Why you should buy this: The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is made to minimize congestion and offers better band steering control for tech-savvy users.

Who’s it for: Gamers, streamers, and houses with multiple IoT devices trying to connect simultaneously.

Why we picked the TP-Link Archer AX6000:

While Netgear and Asus offer top-tier ax models, you know TP-Link can’t be far behind. This Archer model offers up to 6Gbps across its bands, nine Gigabit LAN ports, and compatibility with both OFDMA and MU-MIMO. It comes with a 1.8Ghz quad-core processor, and two co-processors to help manage connection quality. By now, all this may be feeling a little familiar. But TP-Link has a few unique features to contribute.

The “band-steering” and “airtime-fairness” software helps make sure that bands don’t get overcrowded, while also ensuring that one device doesn’t get too much attention. The TP-Link Archer AX6000 also comes with a USB-C 3.0 port, useful for everything from data transfer to charging up your mobile devices — a nice benefit if your router is on your desktop. There’s even Alexa compatibility if you want to give it voice commands.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

Asus's ROG router is a gaming beast.

Why you should buy this: The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is high speed for high-bandwidth applications and can be paired with the company’s other mesh products for a whole-home Wi-Fi system.

Who’s it for: Serious gamers and streamers.

Why we picked the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000:

Primarily interested in gaming? The Rapture is a Wi-Fi 6 model designed for gamers that may not be able to get a wired connection but still want the highest-quality wireless connection available. The router will prioritize gaming devices, gaming servers, and what it identifies as gaming data packets, speeding up the connection from beginning to end, aided by the 1.8GHz quad-core processor.

If you do find an arrangement that allows for a wired connection, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 has a dedicated 2.5G port for gaming devices. AiMesh allows you to connect multiple Asus devices, while AirProtection provides a nice security filter. There are also plenty of options to customize connection monitoring and prioritization so you can check up on the quality of your connections at any time. Oh, and it makes port forward extra, with the ability to pick your game and device and activate open NAT in seconds.

TP-Link Deco X60 WiFi 6 AX3000 Whole-Home Mesh Wi-Fi System

TP-Link's Wi-Fi 6 mesh network comes in an elegant design perfect for the home.

Why you should buy this: TP-Link’s Deco X60 comes with an attractive, minimalist design that can complement your home decor, and the mesh system can blanket large spaces.

Who’s it for: Home users or small business owners.

Why we picked the TP-Link Deco X60:

TP-Link’s Deco was an impressive mesh system to begin with, designed to spread multiple units throughout your building for superior coverage and no dead zones. But thanks to its 2020 upgrade, Deco is now better than ever. The new units can cover up to 7,000 square feet, making them suitable for pretty much any large space you have. They also provide up to 3 Gigabits per second (Gbps) speeds for up to 150 devices, so it’s faster than ever, too.

The router is a smart choice if you enjoy video chatting, streaming, or gaming. Expected upgrades like OFDMA and MU-MIMO are here, but note that the TP-Link Deco X60 also supports WPA3 encryption — soon to become the new required standard — along with the TP-Links suite of security tools. The initial setup is simple, too. Just follow the process outlined in the Deco app. Deco is the mesh system to pick for the new decade.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System

Why you should buy this: Netgear’s Orbi delivers strong Wi-Fi 6 signals and fast speeds with its tri-band design, and each node comes with Ethernet ports for more versatility.

Who’s it for: Home users and 4K streamers.

Why we picked the Netgear Orbi:

A mesh router system includes satellite models that function as repeaters, strengthening and rebroadcasting the Wi-Fi signal at different points to cover much more ground. This particular version offers both the primary router and one extender to cover a total of 5,000 square feet, but you can add more satellites for covering an even greater area, if necessary.

In addition to Wi-Fi 6 speeds (up to 4.2Gbps across the three bands supported by the router), this mesh system can handle more than 40 devices and includes Gigabit Ethernet ports on each device for wired connections. The Orbi app also gets a nod for being particularly easy to work with, an important factor when setting up a more complicated mesh system.

While such a high-end mesh network may not be for everyone, the Netgear Orbiis an excellent choice for large homes, businesses, and public areas where plentiful coverage is important. You can choose several different varieties if you want to look for a different price!

Linksys Atlas Max 6E

Linksys adds Wi-Fi 6E support to the Atlas Max 6E mesh network.

Why you should buy this: Linksys’ Atlas Max 6E comes with Wi-Fi 6 support and boasts speeds up to 8.4Gbps.

Who’s it for: Gamers, 4K streamers, and small offices that need fast speeds and robust coverage.

Why we picked the Linksys Atlas Max 6E:

Even though Linksys’s Atlas Max 6E wireless mesh networking system is one of the priciest options on our list, it brings advanced Wi-Fi 6E support to those who need the latest and greatest technology. Promising speeds up to 6.5 times faster than Wi-Fi 5, the Atlas Max 6E is a great tool for those with gigabit internet or faster and anyone who wants to stream games for the lowest of latency connections. The Atlas Max 6E adds in a 6GHz band and supports the same 4x channel of current systems, allowing more devices to connect to your network for speeds up to 8.4Gbps.

The Atlas Max 6E benefits from the same features of most modern mesh networks, including a smartphone app to access the settings, the ability to set up a separate guest network and parental controls, and firmware updates that happen automatically in the background. The system comes with 12 internal antennas that deliver tri-band coverage on the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz spectrums. Powering the whole thing is a 2.2GHz quad-core processor, and Linksys claims that a network with two nodes can blanket up to 6,000 square feet of space. WP3 security is supported on all bands.

Eero 6

Eero 6 Wi-Fi Mesh Router on a table.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Eero promises a simple setup experience and expandable coverage with optional nodes for a complete mesh network.

Who’s it for: Home users who value simplicity.

Why we picked the Eero 6:

Eero is one of the first companies to enter the mesh networking space, and the company’s new Eero 6 mesh router is an iterative update that brings massive improvements. The Eero 6, as its name implies, supports the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, though more advanced users can also look to the Eero Pro 6 for faster speeds befitting of gigabit internet plans. Eero sells the Eero 6 in multiple configurations that can blanket up to a 5,000-square-foot home with speeds up to 500Gbps.

Another limitation of the standard Eero 6 compared to the Eero Pro 6 is that the non-Pro model tops out with dual-band support. Still, unless your home is loaded on IoT devices or you need the absolute best speeds to stream or game, going with the non-Pro model will be more than adequate and will save you money in the long run. The Eero 6 is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, and it also comes with built-in Zigbee support for smart home peripherals. Unfortunately, the more popular Z-Wave standard isn’t supported here. Eero’s extremely minimalistic setup means that you’ll get discrete, attractive nodes, but unless you buy a combo pack with multiple routers, you’re not going to find Ethernet ports on the add-on satellite units.

Research and buying tips

Are Wi-Fi 6 routers worth it?

Yes. A router isn’t a device that’s replaced very often. Unlike a smartphone, it tends to sit in one spot and do its job for several years or so. While Wi-Fi 6 is only starting to show up on newer devices (as we mentioned, it first appeared on the market in late 2019), within a couple of years, it will become the expected standard, the way 802.11ac was considered standard. Getting a Wi-Fi 6 router now isn’t just good future-proofing, it’s really the only option if you want a router that will be useful for longer than a year or two.

Do Wi-Fi 6 routers have better range?

Not innately, no. Wi-Fi 6 will improve your connection quality and eliminate dead zones, but your router will still keep its original technical range. If you need a larger technical range, mesh routers are probably your best option. The big benefits of Wi-Fi 6, also designated by the moniker Wi-Fi 802.11ax, include better throughput speeds, reduced latency, and the ability to connect more devices to the same access point. These benefits will be great for applications that require responsiveness, such as gaming, augmented reality, and virtual reality, to name a few. This makes Wi-Fi 6 routers great gaming routers. To benefit from Wi-Fi 6‘s support for faster speeds, you’ll need a fast broadband connection, and that’s something you’ll have to discuss with your internet service provider, or ISP. 

How do I check if my router supports Wi-Fi 6?

It’s usually pretty obvious, but you can always look up your router model online. Compatible routers will state clearly they use Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax, which both mean the same thing. If you’ve had your router for more than a year, it probably won’t use Wi-Fi 6.

Remember that it’s also important to see if any of your new devices support Wi-Fi 6. You’ll have to make sure both your router and the connected device are Wi-Fi 6 compatible so that they can work without any disruptions.

Manufacturers are already starting work on the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, called Wi-Fi 7. Wi-Fi 7 is also known as 802.11be and the standard promises even faster speeds than the current Wi-Fi 6. It will take several years before Wi-Fi 7 begin to hit the market, and the first devices and routers supporting this new technology aren’t expected until 2024.

Can my current router be upgraded to Wi-Fi 6?

Unfortunately, a simple upgrade isn’t possible. Wi-Fi 6 requires new components that are only available in newer routers. The same isn’t necessarily true of your connected devices, though. If you are comfortable modding your computer, you may be able to add a new PC Wi-Fi card that supports Wi-Fi 6. In the future, if you’re upgrading your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, be sure to check to see if those devices support Wi-Fi 6 — Intel-powered devices will be labeled as Wi-Fi 6 Gig+. In addition to Wi-Fi 6, a revised standard called Wi-Fi 6E is starting to make its way to the market. 

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Source: Digital Trends

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