Wi-Fi 6, which was originally launched a few years ago, is the most recent version of Wi-Fi technology, and it provides quicker and more efficient home network performance compared to previous generations. As a result, the rising number of new, second-generation mesh router choices is also worthy of consideration — particularly given the fact that so many of them are far less expensive than the router combination systems that came prior to them. Because, after all, having a reliable Internet connection is really beneficial if you’re spending a lot of time working or attending school from home as a result of the epidemic and have more than one connected device drawing on the available bandwidth.
1. TP-Link Archer AX6000
Wi-Fi 6 is the most recent and fastest version of Wi-Fi, and we anticipate to see a slew of new models that support it in the near future. You may also update your Wi-Fi router from a budget router right now to take advantage of the quicker, more efficient Wi-Fi performance provided by connected devices that support the new standard (the list is growing). Your previous devices will still be able to connect to the wireless network since Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible — but your new wireless router will have no effect on how quickly they join the network.
As a result, most of us are probably still a little too early to invest in a new Wi-Fi 6 router (and don’t forget that you’ll need an extremely fast internet connection to really notice a difference).
That being said, if you’re wanting to make the upgrade right away, or if you’re in the market for a new wireless router and want something that will be future-proofed for the next generation of Wi-Fi devices, the TP-Link Archer AX6000 is a great choice. Overall, it performed admirably in our performance testing, giving the best router transfer rates we’ve yet seen, in addition to the outstanding range and minimal latency.
The AX6000 originally retailed for $350, but it has now dropped to $300, and we’ve even seen it listed for as little as $270 on certain websites. While it isn’t cheap even at that price, if you can get a deal on it, it is a worthwhile investment in order to transform your home network into a high-performance Wi-Fi 6 network.
2. Google Wifi
Google Wifi has been our #1 mesh router selection for the past three years, because to its fast wifi connectivity, quick setup, and helpful, easy-to-use app control features. Nest Wifi, the company’s second-generation follow-up, is quicker, more inexpensive, and just as simple to set up and use as the first. In addition, the range-expanding Points may now function as Google Assistant smart speakers. This, along with a new design that is available in a variety of colors, is intended to encourage you to keep these items out in the open, where they will function better.
Although it does not support Wi-Fi 6 (and Nest’s range-extending satellite devices do not have Ethernet ports, so you cannot connect them to the Wi-Fi router), Nest Wifi does include a few current-generation upgrades, including support for new WPA3 security standards and 4X4 MU-MIMO connections, which means that this mesh Wi-Fi router can provide faster top speeds to devices that use multipl technologies. All of this contributes to Nest’s mesh router being able to punch above its weight and beat the majority of competing mesh routers with similar specifications.
The dual-band Nest Wifi, which costs $269 for a two-device setup that provides Wi-Fi coverage up to 3,800 square feet (a claim that was confirmed when we tested it in both a small home and the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home), is the most well-rounded mesh router on the market right now and the first one I’d recommend for people who aren’t ready to make the switch to Wi-Fi 6 for their internet connection.
3. Netgear Orbi (dual-band, AC1200)
It isn’t as feature-rich as systems like Nest Wifi, and the smartphone controls you’ll need to configure it aren’t quite as intuitive — but other than that, the new, budget-friendly Netgear Orbi system stands out as a clear value option in the mesh category. At $150 for a two-device configuration that includes the Wi-Fi router and a single range Wi-Fi extender, it’s one of the most affordable mesh networks available, and it performed comparably to both Nest and Eero in our speed testing. For a limited time only, it is available for much less money — only $99.
In fact, when we tested the range of those three systems with smart devices in the CNET Smart Home, the Netgear Orbi came out on top with the fastest average top speed at close range — and when we tested the range of those three systems with smart devices in the CNET Smart Home, it came out on top with a faster router speed once more. I even appreciate the new design, which features smart curves on the top that allow heat to be vented in a fashionable manner.
4. Netgear Orbi 6 (triband, AX6000)
The Wi-Fi 6 version of the Netgear Orbi (which I refer to as the Netgear Orbi 6) is significantly more expensive than the dual-band version listed above, but it is also significantly more powerful. Starting at $700 for the two-piece setup shown here, the Netgear Orbi 6 is significantly more expensive than the dual-band version listed above, but it is also significantly more powerful. A second 5GHz band was allocated to backhauling system communications between the router and its satellites, allowing the system to function well in our performance testing — and at full Wi-Fi 6 speeds, to be sure.
To be more specific, the system returned average Wi-Fi speeds of 289Mbps after I spent a few days evaluating the speeds and signal quality in various rooms at my home, where I had a fiber internet plan from my Internet service provider with speeds of 300Mbps on average. An almost flawless outcome, and one which no other mesh system I’ve tested has been able to achieve to this level of perfection.
5. Asus ZenWiFi AX
This mesh router from Asus isn’t quite as fast as the Netgear Orbi AX6000, but it’s quite close — and at $450 for a two-pack, the price tag is a lot less difficult to stomach. If you compare it to Netgear, you’re getting nearly everything you’d expect, including a multi-gigabit WAN connection and a dedicated backhaul band to keep transmissions between the router and the satellite distinct from the rest of your data network traffic.
Although $450 is a significant sum of money, this simple-to-use Asus router system proved to be quite powerful and dependable throughout our performance testing. That puts it squarely in the sweet spot for a future-proofed mesh router that looks and feels like a high-end update without breaking the bank.
6. Asus RT-AX86U
Die-hard gamers will appreciate the high performance and low latency that gaming routers provide, and it is not uncommon to see them retailing for $300 or even $400. The Asus RT-AX86U dual-band router isn’t cheap, however, coming in at around $250. However, it represents a good bargain when compared to similar-priced routers — and the performance it provides is simply outstanding.
The router’s ability to control latency is perhaps its most notable feature. As a matter of fact, it ranks first among any routers I’ve ever tested, gaming or otherwise, for having the lowest average latency throughout all of my testing, which is something that online gamers will certainly appreciate. Another thing you’ll like is the fact that An great combination of app-based controls and features, including a mobile boost mode, which allows you to prioritize game traffic to your phone at the touch of a button, are available.
The RT-AX86U does not have any gaming capabilities, but it does provide complete support for Wi-Fi 6, with fast, reliable speeds and a long range. If you want extra range, you may connect other Asus “AIMesh” devices to your home network, making your router the focal point of a mesh network.