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
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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  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    True but using a 4 year old article in this example failed. In 2016 I was already using a Docsis 3.0 250/20 Cable connection. Yet that article shows 16mbps as the national average..

    By 2017 I was on a Docsis 3.1 500/20 cable connection and now in 2019 I moved up to a 1Gbps/750Mbps fiber connection.

    The majority of cable providers in the US are still using Docsis 3.0 modems and within the last year or you are finally starting to see docsis 3.1 modems mostly because Comcast started to push them out.
  • triphoppingman - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    "True but using a 4 year old article in this example failed. In 2016 I was already using a Docsis 3.0 250/20 Cable connection. Yet that article shows 16mbps as the national average"

    Anecdote vs Aggregated data? I know which one I prefer.
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    haha well played sir.

    However most of the users on that cable ISP in canada I was using went thru the same Docsis 3.0-3.1 progression and that is one the biggest Cable ISP in Canada. And everyone sent from 250mbps connection to the eventual 3.1 Docsis with 1Gbps cable. So the numbers are bigger than just my example.
  • rrinker - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    I have 350 down/15 up which is plenty fast for streaming and even downloading DVD size games 'updates', and I am not data capped.
    I can get up to 1Gb down, but I don;t want to pay more. I still pay the same as I did when I moved in when it was 200Mb down, speed has been upped 3 times with no change in the bill.
  • triphoppingman - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    No, frankly, I don't trust an anonymous Internet poster. Not when the facts are not on your side. How is the weather up there?
  • 808Hilo - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    The social trust index in the US is half of that in Canada. We made us 320 million sociopaths, So no matter what you say - the Murican will tell you that everything is better here. The murican actually believes this against better knowledge - while the facts tell that the american project is now the first and foremost failed state on this planet. Yep, internet here means gouging, unkept promises, lousy service at elevated pricing. Its ridiculously bad for the big majority. No dont trust the voice of an murican on the internet - and we should build a higher wall around the US - to keep them in.
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    What facts?
  • AdhesiveTeflon - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    Not gonna lie, Canada's cellphone coverage is phenomenal compared to anything in the US. I can be in the middle of the trans-canadian highway in Saskatchewan and still have at least 3G. I go 30 miles outside of chicago and I don't have any signal.
  • JKflipflop98 - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    I get 1gig speeds from comcast for $45 a month over cable here in Oregon.
  • flyingpants265 - Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - link

    50% of the entire "Canada" lives pretty close to Toronto.

    It's kinda rare to have somewhere that won't get 50mbps as a minimum. Places in big cities get 1gbit+. No data caps either.

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