Over the last generation of computing, there has been an explosion of devices that no longer have or need the capability of connecting to a hard-wired Ethernet connection, and that trend shows no intention of slowing down. When Personal Computers first started to utilize wireless Network Interface Cards (NICs) they would almost always be the sole device on the network. Fast forward to today, and practically every home has multiple devices, if not dozens, where the devices communicate using radio waves, either over a cellular connection, or over a home wireless network featuring Wi-Fi.

In the PC space, which is the focus of this article, cellular connectivity certainly exists, but almost exclusively in niche roles. While there are advantages to offering directly cellular connection on the PC, the extra recurring cost, especially in North America, means that most laptop owners will use Wi-Fi for network communication.

The term Wi-Fi is something that is omnipresent today, but if based on the Wi-Fi Alliance and adoption of IEEE 802.11 standards for local area networking over wireless. Although the Wi-Fi Alliance has recently renamed their standards, Wi-Fi has in the past been named directly based on the 802.11 standards as follows:

Wi-Fi Names and Performance
Naming Peak Performance
Branding IEEE
Standard
1x1
Configuration
2x2
Configuration
3x3
Configuration
Wi-Fi 4
Channel Width 20/40 MHz
802.11n 150 Mbps 300 Mbps 450 Mbps
Wi-Fi 5
Channel Width 20/40/80 MHz

Optional 160 MHz
802.11ac 433 Mbps



867 Mbps
867 Mbps



1.69 Gbps
1.27 Gbps



2.54 Gbps
Wi-Fi 6
Channel Width 20/40/80/160 MHz
802.11ax 1201 Mbps 2.4Gbps 3.6 Gbps

In an effort to simplify branding, the latest three standards of 802.11n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax have been rebranded to Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5, and Wi-Fi 6, respectively. In the long term, the new branding should be much easier for most people to grasp, since larger means newer, although we’ve already got some confusion with Wi-Fi 6E – the 6GHz band addition for Wi-Fi 6 – so we shall see how that goes.

One of the many Wi-Fi 6 routers announced at CES 2019 - TPLink AX1800

Today, most homes should have at least Wi-Fi 4, or what used to be 802.11n. After all, this standard came along in 2009. Many will even have Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac, which offers some speed upgrades and a few optional extra features to help with scaling. Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is a very new standard, and until the end of 2019 there were not even that many devices which could connect over it. So, what is the point of this new standard, and do you really need to upgrade your home network?

This article intends to help answer those questions, as well as show how we at AnandTech are transitioning to Wi-Fi 6 for future reviews.

Wi-Fi 6: What’s New
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  • mdrejhon - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Buddy, something like ~25% of Canada lives within 2 hours drive of Toronto. There's millions of houses with access to gigabit connections.

    I'm in Canada and I'm on gigabit (Cogeco UltraFibe) and Bell is coming to lay fiber, so we'll have 2 gigabit ISPs competing in my city (lowly Hamilton)

    Sure, if you go to the artic or the middle of our vast Canadian farmlands, it's crappy Internet. But if you go to populated Canada, there's lots of good Internet connections in urbanized Northeast Corridor now.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    “Canada is barely faster than Mexico”

    So they both have super fast internet compared to the where I live - the US. I only get 1.5 Mbps from the only ISP available in my area which is AT&T. Only basic internet available, no fiber. Don’t believe me? Open google maps and pick an address around Harbor Blvd. & Westminster Ave. CA. 92843. This is a super crowded area and we can only get 1.5 Mbps. All the subsidizes they got the government to upgrade their broadband towers have gone into their own pockets and the government do nothing. What a fucking joke.
    Reply
  • Holliday75 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Terrible for people in farmland sure. Got 100mbps around 12 years ago. 3 years ago I moved to a new ISP that uses FTTH. 500/500mbps for $70 a month. I can get 1gbps for another $20 a month, but see no reason for it. Even when downloading movies, large games, etc 500mbps is fast enough for me. Been quite pleased with it. Chicagoland overall has pretty good access to high speed offerings. Even the satellite cities are getting fiber now since prices on infrastructure has dropped so much the last 10 years. Reply
  • Dragonstongue - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    say WHERE not just "in Canada" as I know am from and living in..Fiber is far far more promised than readily available
    A
    and
    B
    for the most part (meaning most of Canada) internet and telecoms overall are wickedly overpriced with moronic staging for the price point

    lets see, get rid of majority of DSL that took a long time to even offer unlimited option, while also being on average ~$65/mth (including, sometimes without tax) for often sub 5/.768 connections, then they jack up price of standard phone lines (too expensive to maintain)

    then they turn around pretty much make all other "we will call" high speed, sometimes 10/1 more often than not, lucky to stable 5/0.5, unless you were "very fortunate" to live in major city (even then) hit and miss STABLE above 20+DL 1-2UL ~$50-$110/mth plus tax only when in bundles.

    Now they are wanting everyone on "wireless" to get away from all other types as although infrastructure is pricey (initially) after that, is dirt cheap to support thousands of customers per "tower" with few antennas to handle it (due to MIMO style)

    when Fiber (which seems to be all over the country is actually "wired up" that would be one thing, but for now, generally quite overpriced (even when federal and provincial govt.) gave the telecoms many 10s of millions to "wire up the country by X date) and of course, things like CRTC seem to not give 2 shits.

    ...maybe because we all have full time bring in $100k per year in pocket jobs or something....yeh @#$ right.

    as far as major ISP got rid of data caps in Canada years ago...I want some of that #$% you smoking, unless you the expensive (very limited) offerings, sorry, but no ALL telecoms in Canada still VERY MUCH have data caps....not everyone can afford $80+ per month internet PLUS phone + TV just to get the "unlimited" (to a point) bandwidth (data) allowance.

    more often than not, folks living in Rural (which I currently do) NO LONGER have this option, unless you want to massively downgrade speed available, for the same price right around ~90 after tax.

    folks should be far more "legit" in what they say (myself included) such as "I live in a condo in Vancover, or Montreal where internet is dirt cheap, sorry the rest of you @#$ do not"

    ^.^
    Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    I live in Toronto.

    And I was a rogers internet customer for about 15 years I haven't had a data capped connection in 10+ years. I cannot speak for your experience.

    And you sound like you suffer from living in a small town which is a problem the US shares. If you want good internet you are screwed living in Rural in North America, so either move or stay and deal.
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Right, I have a Gigabit, full duplex (980/960) uncapped connection from AT&T Fiber for $70/mo in Chicago...I don't see any limitation of using a router with a Gigabit LAN port.

    Are there any beyond Gigabit ISP providers on the planet for residential use?
    Reply
  • Willx1 - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Minneapolis has had 10gbps fiber at $400/month for a while now. Not sure on specifics but they were apparently the first in the US to offer it to consumers.where I live with about 100k in the metro area (small area I know) in the city we are stuck with one cable provider midco. They do have fiber to the node but not the home because if cost, but a government subsidized company that offers ftth isn’t allowed in city limits and offer gbps speeds at much cheaper prices. In fact I worked for a company that did a lot of the underground work in the western half of my state and even the rural areas (including farms and ranches)have fiber to the home while the city centers don’t. So the times of rural areas either having satellite or dsl are long gone, at least in my state. Reply
  • Samus - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    Well sure, I have clients downtown with Gigabit fiber from Cogent, who offers speeds up to 10Gbps, but that isn't residential. The install alone is $5000 and it only covers the 'loop' (downtown business district.)

    I live 15 miles outside of the loop, technically in a Chicago suburb (Evergreen Park) and get AT&T Fiber, run inside my house from the pole, to a media converter that converts it to Ethernet.

    I've read some peoples installs only use one strand of fiber (so half duplex) but report identical speeds with just slightly higher latency (around 10ms) so it really depends on the ISP's implementation.

    But again, I doubt there is anywhere in the US you could find an ISP offering 'residential' internet service at beyond gigabit speed. And the router in question here is a consumer router with a gigabit uplink, so I think that's probably fine...for now :)
    Reply
  • Mvs321 - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    I live in Denmark, I pay around 36 dollars per month for a 1GB connection, to me it seems pretty cheap, but what do you pay? Reply
  • asfletch - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    In Australia, I pay more than that for a rubbish 50mbs connection. Not even joking. About US$50. Our federal Govt is so full of flat-earthers it nixed FTTH as being a threat to existing news and cable companies. Sigh. Reply

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