Strong, fast Wi-Fi throughout the house has been the holy grail of home computing for years. Could a new Wi-Fi 6 router be the answer to your prayers? Wi-Fi 6 is the consumer-friendly name for the latest 802.11ax wireless standard. It’s up to twice as fast as the previous802.1 lac system (now rebranded as Wi-Fi 5) and it’s been designed to share bandwidth better when multiple devices want internet access at the same time.
To get the full benefit, the devices you wirelessly connect to these routers also need to use Wi-Fi 6. Most laptops, tablets and phones produced in the last year or so will have this built-in.
However, older Wi-Fi 5 devices can still benefit from some of the updated technology that’s built into the Wi-Fi 6 routers we review here. We tested each router in a real house – a maisonette with a total floor area of 90m2. Each router was placed in the same location, in the study at the front of the house on the first floor. The living room is directly below and the furthest test position is in a bathroom at the back of the house.
We measured performance on both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5, so we could see exactly which routers are fastest on both networks. Our results are quoted in Mbps, but note that this is the speed of files transferred over the network, not your internet speed. Internet speed will still be governed by your broadband connection.
These routers won’t replace the device your ISP provides to bring the internet into your home, but can be connected to it via Ethernet and used to supply your house with a vastly improved Wi-Fi network. If you opt for one of these models, it’s a good idea to switch off your old Wi-Fi network to avoid clashes.
It’s worth noting that Ethernet cables, even longer ones, are relatively cheap so we’d recommend taking this opportunity to position your new router more centrally in your house, particularly if your existing device is tucked away in a comer.
List of Best wifi 6 Router Tested in 2021
This was the fastest router we tested on the Wi-Fi 6 standard, transferring data at speeds of 520Mbps in the same and adjacent rooms. However, when we tested it over the longest distance in our house it dropped to 252Mbps, falling behind the Netgear Orbi RBK752’s performance.
It’s not as fast on the Wi-Fi 5 networking standard, though, if you’re looking to boost older devices, and was particularly disappointing at longer range, dropping to 31.2Mbps.
As you might expect from a more expensive router, it’s packed with extra features such as four spare Ethernet ports and two USB ports, but some of its extra tools, such as parental control and a number of extra security options, require a paid-for subscription.
The Asus RT-AX82U can’t quite manage the impressive Wi-Fi 6 speeds achieved by the Nighthawk RAX80, with nearby speeds of 416Mbpsdropping off to 112Mbps at a distance. However, it was much faster on Wi-Fi 5, so if you’re still running several older devices, it’s well worth considering.
It comes with four spare Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB port on the rear. It also has plenty of features available via its web-based interface, including parental controls and the ability to connect to a VPN for anonymous browsing and streaming. However, while the menu is comprehensive, it can also seem a little daunting unless you’re familiar with router settings.
Those on a tighter budget can also benefit from Wi-Fi 6, with this affordable router from Honor. It cuts a few corners – it provides only three spare Ethernet ports if you use its fourth to connect to your existing router, but at this price we’re willing to forgive that.
It’s also not as fast as its pricier alternatives. It did manage an admirable speed of 460Mbps within the same room, but the signal drops away steeply when walls and floors get in the way. This applied in both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 tests, but if you live in a small open space and don’t share your connection with many others, it’s a great option for the price.
Tliis isn’t Netgear’s best-performing Wi-Fi 6 mesh router – that honour goes to the more expensive Orbi Pro SXK60 – but even with its lower specifications this model delivers strong signals at long range.
Nearby it transferred data at 452Mbps on Wi-Fi 6, only dropping to 307Mbps at the furthest distance. It showed similar long-range strength on Wi-Fi 5, ranging from 169Mbps down to 141Mbpsacross the entire house.
It’s pricey because you get the two devices in the pack. and these are effectively two routers that work incredibly well together.
Deco X20 is fairly average when it comes to network speeds, but with three units in the box for less than the price of a single Netgear Nighthawk RAX80. this could be a better option for those wanting to spread their network over a wider area.
However, it was certainly no slouch, reaching speeds of 448Mbps in the same room, but dropping to 208Mbps at its furthest point. Wi-Fi 5 coverage is also reasonable, ranging between 205Mbps and 137Mbps.
The devices themselves are small and compact but each unit only has two Ethernet ports. You have to control the network using a smartphone app, as there’s no tool for doing so online.