Comparing Wi-Fi 6E Gateways: Netgear vs. Asus
In the last post we shared some preliminary impressions of Wi-Fi 6E vs. Wi-Fi 6. 6E is identical to 6 except that 6E uses the 6GHz frequency band while 6 uses the 5GHz band.
In the first test I used a Netgear RAXE500 gateway and an Intel AX210 Wi-Fi module installed in a desktop computer running Windows 10 Pro. The gateway and computer were located in adjacent rooms with one irregular wall separating them.
In this test, I added an Asus GT-AXE11000 in place of the Netgear – in the adjacent room – and moved the Netgear to a same room as the PC, some 10 feet away. This configuration provides insight into the top speed that a 6e user is likely to see with a 1.2 Gbps Internet connection.
Bottom Line First
Neither Wi-Fi setup allowed the PC to reach the top speed the PC gets when operating over its 2.5 Gbps Ethernet connection. On the wire, the PC reaches 1.4 Gbps but the top Wi-Fi 6E speed was a bit less than 1 Gbps.
Asus and Netgear provide similar 6E speeds in the adjacent room scenario, 600 – 700 Mbps. In the same room scenario, Netgear jumps up to 900 – 1000 Mbps, faster than Wi-Fi 6.
Ping times are lower with 6E than 6 at 8 ms vs 10 even when bandwidth is similar. Ping times are lower still with Ethernet, as low as 4ms.
Analyzing the Results
Location makes a big, big difference with Wi-Fi 6E. When the 6E gateway is ten feet from the PC, 6E is substantially faster than Wi-Fi 6.
When the gateways are in the adjacent room, speeds are pretty close with Wi-Fi 6 being just slightly faster. When the separation is two rooms on different floors, Wi-Fi 6 smokes 6E.
This suggests that the ideal scenario for Wi-Fi 6E is gateway and computer in the same room. So why would I use Wi-Fi instead of an Ethernet cable to cover 10 feet? In the real world people are only doing that mobile devices.
All that we’ve really learned from this testing is that Wi-Fi 6E is not currently any better than Wi-Fi 6 in a suburban home where 5 GHz is not congested. Testing in a Silicon Valley apartment complex would probably produce different results.
We also can expect to see higher speeds a year from now after the Windows Wi-Fi 6E driver is in better shape. The gateway software is also likely to be better.
One thing I did notice in doing this testing is that Wi-Fi 6 makes mesh networks much less important. I didn’t find any advantage to the Asus gateway using two or three Asus mesh nodes over the single 6E gateway.
Less Obvious Side Effects
Maintaining a Wi-Fi mesh network is something of a pain because many Wi-Fi implementations on consumer products are weak. When you’re connecting things like BBQs, thermostats, wireless thermometers, and garage door openers, a single gateway network is much more reliable than a mesh.
Netgear is better at antenna design than Asus, but Asus gateways are a better bit for tweakers who want to customize all of the Wi-Fi options and settings. The Netgear UI is horrible, with short timeouts that force the administrator to re-login way too often.
Netgear also takes forever to do perfectly simple things. The company makes nice semi-pro Ethernet switches but their consumer products are pretty sad.
While Wi-Fi 6 is considerably better than Wi-Fi 5 in terms of performance, reliability, and security, Wi-Fi 6E offers nothing of value to the typical consumer at this point. Its lower latency has gamer appeal, but it’s not clear that serious gamers use Wi-Fi at all.
It still makes sense for people upgrading from a Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac network to invest in a 6E gateway today. If this is you, you’re the mind of person who uses their gateway for several years, so it’s likely some 6E products will come along in the next 3 – 5 years that have some appeal.
But if you already have a Wi-Fi 6 gateway be happy, you’re good to go. Wi-Fi 6E may or may not promote innovation in the future, but it’s certainly nothing to get excited about today unless you’re a product developer.