Last Updated on July 1, 2020 by Scott Krager
I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s familiar with the internet and not with the term Wi-Fi.
For most people, this term is synonymous with wireless home networking and rightly so.
Been present since 1997, 802.11 standard (technical name for the Wi-Fi standard) has evolved a lot. It has come in different versions like 802.11 a, b, c, n, ac, and the ax.
802.11ax, also known as the Wi-Fi 6 because it’s the 6th standard in wireless networking, is the latest WiFi standard and the successor to the 802.11ac standard. Another reason of assigning number to these standards is to make it easier for non-techy persons to know which one is better without spend some time on Google.
Best AX Routers 2020 Review
- ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 (Best AX Router For Gaming)
- Asus RT-AX92U
- NETGEAR Nighthawk AX4 (Best Budget AX Router)
- NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 Router (Best AX Router For Speed)
- ARRIS SURFboard Mesh AX11000 (Best AX Mesh Router)
So, how fast is 802.11ax as compared to 802.11ac?
To be honest, 802.11ac standard is pretty fast on its own with max. theoretical data transfer rate of 3.5 Gbps. 802.11 ax, on the other hand, is tipped to be even faster at 9.6 Gbps data transfer. As you can see, it’s a good amount of difference.
Note: One thing I should mention is that the speeds mentioned above aren’t for any one device of yours, but rather for single whole network.
But let me tell you one thing: WiFi 6 is much more than just the speed.
In last few years, the Wi-Fi devices in US have been doubled on average (from 5 to 9, and many experts believe that this number may go as high as 30-40, within a few years, thanks to things like IoT and Smart Homes, etc.
The number of devices a router can communicate in your home network is not unlimited, and since the router needs to communicate with each of them time to time, it eventually slows down your network.
With features like MU-MIMO and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), Wi-Fi 6 allows a router to send more data at one time, have greater ability to handle multiple devices at the same time, and split data signals into small parts in order to improve transmission efficiency and have more devices on each channel.
If there’s one area where WiFi networks still lag behind the traditional cable-based networks, it’s the security. WiFi networks are prone to security breaches. Yes, a lot of such attacks can be protected by using techniques like choosing a strong password, and using a strong encryption method etc. but no such method is 100% fool-proof.
This is the reason why Wi-Fi 6 has WPA3 protocol. It’s the successor of WPA2 and has a number of features not found in its predecessor.
First one is public Wi-Fi networks. Those free Wi-Fi networks feel great, but are a mess from the security point of view. Since these networks are open, anyone with a Wi-Fi device can connect to these networks – including hackers.
WPA3 solves this problem by having “individualized data encryption” where the traffic between you and the access point of that public Wi-Fi will be encrypted. The other areas this protocol improves is protection against brute-force attacks and easier communication with non-display Wi-Fi devices (like smart bulbs, or smart speakers like Amazon Echo).
The number of MU-MIMO channels (spatial channels/streams) has also been increased from 4 (in 802.11 ac) to 8. Last big feature is the Target Wake Time (TWT). Using this, your router will communicate with your smart devices efficiently. This, in turn, will led to those devices having more sleep time and ultimately improving their battery life.
So as you know see, Wi-Fi 6 is more about efficiency and stability to the existing network infrastructures around us.
But in order to fully enjoy all those Wi-Fi 6 features, you must have a capable router as well as client devices.
Best 802.11 AX Routers 2020 Guide
This post is related to the first thing as now we’ll discuss the best ax routers you can have, as of Aug 2020.
ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000: Check Price On Amazon
Best AX Router 2020 For Gaming
The first of AX routers we’ll discuss here is the Raptor GT-AX11000 by Asus. Barring a long name and a bulky design, there’s nothing wrong in this gaming router.
Design wise, it resembles to the Asus’ GT-5300 and looks slightly intimidating at first glance.
Coming with the dimensions of 9.4 x 9.4 x 2.8 inches and having 8 large-sized removable antennas, it’s not compact by any means – it’s rather the other way around. By that’s not a problem because Asus hasn’t made it for you to hide.
Instead, it’s been made for you place it where you can properly show it off – like alongside your PC.
It has rubber feet which won’t make it scratch against your desk.
Like other gaming routers, this one features a futuristic looks through angular edges on both the router and the antennas. The antennas can be rotated so you can get the optimal range across all of your house.
In terms of features, this router has everything gamers as well as non-gamers can ask for. Things like Aimesh, Dual-WAN, Link aggregation, and VPN server can help you utilizing this router. And this is just tip of the iceberg of what it offers.
Now, let’s talk about the gaming-centric features because there are many of them. Open up your browser interface and you’ll get the real-time ping and jitter of your internet connection on the main screen. Plus, there’s a long list the games, where you can tweak the settings of each individual game.
If you’ve read our post regarding best gaming routers, you’ll know that many Asus’ routers features the ability to connect to the gaming-centric private network by the WTFast. And this one isn’t any exception, you can connect to the Gaming network by WTFast and have your ping reduced.
Then there’s GameBoost – a QoS features which automatically prioritize online gaming traffic over any other traffic on your network.
Lastly, there’s Game Radar and Open NAT. The former allows you to select a game and know all the real-time for all its servers around the globe (so that you can connect to the best one) while the latter allows you to quickly set up port forwarding for up to 32 clients whether on PC or a console.
As far as the WiFi performance is concerned, (although you won’t get the combined theoretical 10.8 Gbps speed promised across all the bands) it did great for both WiFi as well as Ethernet connections – with as much distance as 95 ft.
Thanks to its 2.5 GbE port, you can use this router as a NAS server by adding an external storage drive. We got almost 150 MB/s reading and writing speed with that port, while on regular Ethernet ports the transfer went to a more traditional 95-100 MB/s.
Being a 4×4 WiFi 6 router, it’ll perform even better with 4×4 WiFi 6 clients, of which there’s none in the market right now.
If I were to nitpick some downsides, it would be the short amount of LAN ports (only 4, although there’s one 2.5 Gbps port too), no wall mount-ability, and no support of WPA3 as of now. I think with future upgrades you’ll have WPA3, but since most of client devices doesn’t support this protocol, it doesn’t make a big difference as of now.
Asus RT-AX92U: Check Price On Amazon
When it comes to routers, Asus is usually the first of the few companies to launch something new. They were among the first ones to release the WiFi N as well as AC routers back in the day.
So here it is. Asus RT-AX92U – the first mesh WiFi solution featuring WiFi 6.
Mesh WiFi solutions have gained a lot of attention in recent times due to their easy-to-use nature and the ability a blanket Wi-Fi over very large houses.
This is the reason why many companies are trying hard to take a strong hold in a market which is far from saturated.
Coming over to this solution, it consists of two nodes. Each of them has 4 antennas and you can make those antennas flat if you want to. Design wise, it slightly looks like the ROG’s router without being a gaming router. Overall, it’s very compact than the other routers in this round up.
On the right side, there are two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), while the back side has 4 LAN + 1 WAN port.
In terms of hardware, what we have here is a tri-band AX6000 mesh router which means there’s a 300 Mbps 2.4 GHz Band, one 866 Mbps 5 GHz Band, and another 4800 Mbps 5 GHz Band. It’s powered by a dual-core Broadcom BCM4352 chip running at 1.8 GHz, along with 512 MB memory and 256 MB flash.
In terms of performance, it’s way ahead than other existing mesh solutions. For singe router too, there are good results but not as great as the former.
Its 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz was only slightly below than that of Raptor GT-AX11000 we discussed above. And when we connected an external SSD through its USB 3.0 port, it performed almost twice better than similar solutions like Synology’s MR2200ac.
The only downsides are the limited number of Ethernet ports, like in Raptor AX11000, and slightly fragile antennas.
All in all though, this the best AX mesh router you can have right now.
NETGEAR Nighthawk AX4: Check Price On Amazon
Best Budget AX Router 2020
Whenever tech companies start to roll out a new technology, they face the criticism regarding that technology being too expensive. This is the reason why most of time, new technologies struggle to gained popularity right off the bat. It’s because of it being too expensive for most of the consumers.
So, it’s good to see Netgear releasing a budget WiFi 6 router with an under 200 price tag. It features black-grey color scheme on its body and has one non-removable antenna on either of its sides. These two antennas are the reason why its smaller than most of the recent Nighthawk series’ products.
The backside is the are where you’ll find things like WAN port, 4 Gigabit ports, and one USB 3.0 port, while the front side accommodates all different LED indicators.
Being an AX3000 router, AX4 gives you a maximum theoretical speed of 600 Mbps on its 2.4 GHz Band and 2400 Mbps on its 5 GHz Band.
In terms of performance, it did good without topping any chart. In fact, it performed as good as Asus’ AX88U in wired throughput testing. In USB 3.0 transfer through, it could do only half as good as AX88U.
Overall though, it’s good for those looking to buy a no-so-expensive AX router at this point.
NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 Router: Check Price On Amazon
Best AX Router 2020 For Speed
If you are looking for routers that defy the limits that are imposed on them by the industry standards, the one company that you can never go wrong with is Netgear, they have been producing some of the best routers or other internet related products for a quite a while and the best part about them is that they are only getting better as the time goes by.
With that out of the way, the router we are looking at today is the NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 router, it is one of their recent routers and it has definitely made much needed waves in the market. How good is it? Let’s find out.
Starting with the good things, the router is one of the strangest, most gorgeous looking devices available in the market. At first glance, it might look like something that is right out of the Star Wars or Star Trek universe, but the good thing is that this router does not overdo it, which definitely works in its favour.
As far as the overall performance is concerned, this is definitely one of the faster performing routers available in the market, and it will definitely give you the results you are looking for provided you have the internet to back it up.
Another great thing about this router is that it is perfectly ready for the new Wi-Fi 6 devices that are coming out.
The overall interface of this router is also excellent, and if you are looking for a sleek management app, you are definitely getting your money’s worth because you won’t have to worry about getting something that is not on par with the latest devices available in the market.
With so many good things, you often expect some downsides as well, and same is the case with this router as well.
The only issue that I did notice is that for a package that warrants such a price, there are no parental controls available. However, considering how this is a feature that can easily be fixed with a new firmware update, I look forward to Netgear releasing a firmware for this feature.
In conclusion, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 router is definitely one of the best routers available in the market. Granted, it looks like it is right out of a science fiction universe but if it is performance you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
ARRIS SURFboard Mesh AX11000: Check Price On Amazon
Best Mesh AX Router 2020
There is absolutely no denying that when we are talking about good quality networking products, one of the leading names that are in the market happens to be Arris.
Granted, the mainstream users may have not heard about the company but if you have been around for some time, it is hard to miss such an iconic company and that is the point.
Today, we are looking at one of their mesh Wi-Fi systems that have been making some wave in the market. In case you are wondering, I am talking about the ARRIS SURFboard mAX Pro Mesh AX11000. Let’s have a look and see what is so special.
To start with all the things that are good about this router, the good news is that it offers Gigabit class speeds on a Wi-Fi. I know it sounds too good to be true, but that is how this works, and we are thoroughly surprised by the overall performance, as well.
Another great thing is that it has one of the best backhauls that you could look for in a mesh router, the coverage is excellent and while that is something we did predict beforehand, we are glad this is what we are getting from this router.
The overall design language of this router is also exceptional especially when you look at the fact that this does come with a fan-less design, making it easier for you to carry the router without any issues, whatsoever.
As far as the things that did bother us a bit, I would tell you that you are not going to get any web interface with this router and the mobile app that does accompany this router is lacking at best, and does not give you that many features, to begin with.
Each router comes with four network ports, however, you are not getting any multi-gig port, which does sound strange, given the price of this router. Another thing that wasn’t according to our requirements is that the router does not come with the ability to be mounted on the wall, which in my opinion, is slightly disappointing.
To sum this all up, if you are looking for something that is not only powerful, but also packed with some great networking features, the ARRIS SURFboard mAX Pro Mesh AX11000 is definitely for you.
Granted, it does lack some of the more basic features like a web interface or a fully polished app, but if you overlook those, you are getting an amazing mesh router setup that you won’t be regretting at all.