Question Is 802.11 ac/ax needed?

kep55

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Dec 31, 2007
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Although my current spectrum arris wi-fi router claims to be 802.11ac compatible, all of my kit is using 802.11n (wi-fi 5). The two main TVs are patched into our ethernet and the two secondary units are using Amazon Fire 2nd or 3rd gen. So far we've had no problems with either tvs or our computers. Is it worth going to ac/ax which will mean all new adapters for the two desktops and two laptops?
 

USAFRet

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Although my current spectrum arris wi-fi router claims to be 802.11ac compatible, all of my kit is using 802.11n (wi-fi 5). The two main TVs are patched into our ethernet and the two secondary units are using Amazon Fire 2nd or 3rd gen. So far we've had no problems with either tvs or our computers. Is it worth going to ac/ax which will mean all new adapters for the two desktops and two laptops?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
If the interconnect speed meets your expectations, don't fix it.
 
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This is where people convince themselves more and bigger is always better. If your tv uses say 25mbps to watch 4k netflix it is still only going to use 25mbps even if get fancy new wifi that can run 500mbps. Same as if you hooked it to a 10gbit ethernet it still only will use 25mbps.

The only time you actually need very high bandwidth is for large file downloads. Your average person does not actually do a lot of download. You might download a large game every so often but in most cases does it really matter if your game gets installed in 5 minutes vs say 7 minutes.
Pretty much most people do not need more than 100mbps total and that allows multiple people in the house to watch different 4k netflix shows.

The only sorta of exception might be wifi6e. Not so much because it is faster but because it runs on 6ghz which has much more bandwidth to share with your neighbors. For now at least there is very little interference from neighbors so you will get fewer errors. In the long run I am sure it will be as over crowed as the 2.4 and 5 bands.
 
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If your router is 802.11ac and all of your devices are wi-fi 5 then you are already set because those are the same, provided everything is working fine. 802.11n was rebranded to wifi 4 and honestly not much slower than ac as the major difference was a maximum of 40MHz wide instead of 80MHz on 5GHz--which only really works at short range. So n to ac would be an underwhelming upgrade and not worth much.

"Wave 2" ac went to 160MHz wide--which just about no clients supported until ax. But it did turn out to be a considerable advance at long range because the extra antennas (originally intended for downlink-only MU-MIMO which is useless for most people) worked great for diversity which greatly improved range. And ax has plenty of antennas too, so if you want to use 5GHz at long range then yes, Wave 2 ac or ax are better than n or the original ac.

On 2.4GHz though, n and ac are exactly the same (well, if you don't count the proprietary TurboQAM extension for Broadcom that's compatible with few clients--higher rate encoding schemes on 2.4GHz were not codified until ax and it turns out these actually work pretty well on 2.4GHz because the signal doesn't fall off nearly as badly as with 5GHz. On ac though, only Broadcom clients support it so it turned out to be useless like Super-G or Nitro 108G extensions for g).

In general, clients for content consumption like your TVs aren't really helped by a faster connection, and content creation devices like a PC should really be wired. You upgrade wifi stuff if it's unreliable or otherwise not doing the job adequately, and that doesn't sound like the case here.
 
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Wifi 6 adds OFDMA which does help in congested wifi areas. Most home users will never benefit from it unless they have like 5 kids all using tv's, playstations, and tablets at the same time streaming in 4k and downloading large game updates.

But for most normal people, the speed difference between wireless AC and Wifi 6 is negligible.

Wifi 6E does add the 6ghz band and proper 160mhz channel width as people have stated. You will see a massive speed benefit from Wifi 6E assuming you have gigabit internet or do large LAN file transfers(like backups or work from a NAS).
 

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