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Technology Wi-Fi speeds are on the rise, but the router industry needs a reality check

23:27  09 january  2020
23:27  09 january  2020 Source:   cnet.com

The best Wi-Fi routers of 2019

  The best Wi-Fi routers of 2019 Your router is the unsung hero holding your smart home together. From mesh to gaming to Wi-Fi 6, here are the best we've tested, for every budget.That's given us a nice, long list of new models to test out. We're still working through that list and probably will be on through the new year -- but we've already found plenty of great picks that are easy to recommend. Whether you're interested in mesh systems, gaming routers, Wi-Fi 6 routers -- or if you just want something decent that won't break the bank -- we're here to point you in the right direction.

Commentary: As Wi - Fi speeds up, it's more important than ever for router manufacturers to get real about how fast their products really are . For instance, that AC2600 router above is the Zyxel Armor Z2. The "AC" tells you that it supports 802.11ac, now known as Wi - Fi 5. If it supported Wi - Fi 6, or

Promising a "new Wi - Fi era," the nonprofit Wi - Fi Alliance industry group launched the Wi - Fi Certified 6 program Monday. transmit beamforming for better Wi - Fi performance at range, and target wake time, which puts Wi - Fi gadgets that regularly need to ping the router on a schedule in order to eliminate

Hello, CNET's router guy here. You want to know something I'm sick and tired of? Routers, man.

a close up of a logo: Ry Crist/CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Ry Crist/CNET

Not in general, mind you -- in fact, routers are actually an extra-fascinating category at CES this year. No, to be specific, I'm sick and tired of the way manufacturers talk about how fast these things are. To be even more specific, I'm sick and tired of the misleading and borderline useless AC and AX ratings that manufacturers use to indicate top speeds. You know, figures like that "AC2600" on the box pictured above.

The problem is that those top speed ratings don't actually tell you a router's top speed. They tell you the combined top speeds of each of the router's bands -- 2.4GHz, 5GHz and perhaps a second 5GHz band if we're talking about a tri-band router. No matter what, you can only connect to one band at a time, so adding those speeds together is just pure puffery, plain and simple.

The best Wi-Fi routers in 2019

  The best Wi-Fi routers in 2019 Your router is the unsung hero holding your smart home together. From mesh to gaming to Wi-Fi 6, here are the best we've tested, for every budget.That's given us a nice, long list of new Wi-Fi router models to test out. We're still working through that list and probably will be on through the new year -- but we've already found plenty of great picks that are easy to recommend. Whether you're interested in mesh systems, gaming routers, Wi-Fi 6 routers -- or if you just want something decent that won't break the bank -- we're here to point you in the right direction.

The Wi - Fi Alliance, a consortium of companies that designs and certifies Wi - Fi standards, isn't planning on certifying devices until later this year. The routers being unveiled at CES will have the hardware to support the standard, but devices that can use the speeds won't be available for months.

Wi - Fi speed can vary depending on a few things: the type of device you are using, distance between the device and your router or point, the frequency Test your internet speeds . If the results are less than you expected, contact your ISP. Devices connected on the 2.4 GHz channel may not achieve

For instance, that AC2600 router above is the Zyxel Armor Z2. The "AC" tells you that it supports 802.11ac, now known as Wi-Fi 5. If it supported Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, that "AC" would be an "AX." That part's all well and good (if a bit technical).

Behold, an abundance of new Wi-Fi routers at CES 2020

It's the "2600" that's the problem, because it signifies bandwidth of 2,600 megabits per second, despite the fact that the router will never get anywhere near 2,600Mbps. In fact, Zyxel lists its top speeds as 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. You add those together -- which again, is absolutely not reflective of the way routers actually work -- and you get 2,533Mbps. Zyxel rounds that up to "2600" for good measure. And hey, at that point, why not?

The best Wi-Fi routers in 2020

  The best Wi-Fi routers in 2020 Your router is the unsung hero holding your smart home together. From mesh to gaming to Wi-Fi 6, here are the best we've tested, for every budget.That's given us a nice, long list of new Wi-Fi router models to test out. We're still working through that list and probably will be on through the new year -- but we've already found plenty of great picks that are easy to recommend. Whether you're interested in mesh systems, gaming routers, Wi-Fi 6 routers -- or if you just want something decent that won't break the bank -- we're here to point you in the right direction.

Can you boost Wi - Fi speeds by simply moving your router around a bit? Sure enough, when you look at a diagram of our house — seen head-on so you can visualize these donuts — the starting antenna angles from Configuration #1 (45 degrees on the rear and straight up on the sides) creates a

Here are a few simple router tweaks that could make a world of difference on your home Wi - Fi Have you considered changing the router 's channel? There are plenty of free tools that'll scan your local If you'd like to learn more about getting the most speed out of your router , check out our other articles

By the way, those listed speeds are all theoretical maximums according to lab-based tests that don't take real-world factors such as range, congestion and obstructions into account. In our own tests, we clocked Zyxel's router at 167Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 703Mbps on the 5GHz band -- and that was from a distance of just seven feet.

That isn't to pick on Zyxel. Though there are exceptions, like Eero, pretty much every manufacturer uses that combined speed rating to tout the capabilities of its products, and most of them proudly print the misleading figure right on the box to confuse shoppers. All that does is lead to disappointment when consumers set these things up in their homes and take them for a speed test.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Here's how one new router was pitched at CES 2020. The © Provided by CNET Here's how one new router was pitched at CES 2020. The "speeds up to 4,200Mbps" part is a laughably bogus claim. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

It's an annoyance that's been top of mind for me during CES, where we've seen all sorts of new routers make their debut. Many support Wi-Fi 6, which is touted as the newest, fastest version of Wi-Fi. Our tests confirm that it is, indeed, capable of speeds that are about 30% faster than Wi-Fi 5, which is impressive. But overstating those speeds compounds the risk of over-hyping the technology and souring consumers on it altogether. And the faster Wi-Fi gets, the bigger the problem gets.

CNET's CES 2020 Next Big Thing Panel focuses on anticipatory tech's wonders and dangers

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Thankfully, checking your Wi - Fi performance is a whole lot easier than making a doctor's The former measures the speed of data travelling to your home network, which you need to do things like Try different locations, too, as speed may vary based on the distance you are from your router .

Wi - Fi signals spread out perpendicular to your router , but Verizon warns that Wi - Fi signals weaken when traveling through walls at an angle. You may be able to improve the signal and raise your internet speeds by setting up the router on the second floor if you have a multi-level home.

For instance, you'll see a lot of Wi-Fi 6 routers listed with astronomical ratings like AX11000. Never mind the fact that the average internet connection in the US is only about 100Mbps. Never mind that even if you have a top-of-the-line fiber connection, you're still likely only to get about 1 gigabit per second (1,000Mbps) from your provider at best. Set all of that aside and focus on this: When a shopper sees "AX11000" next to "AC2600" on the shelf, they might easily assume that one router is four times faster than the other. That's exactly what the manufacturer of the AX11000 router is hoping for.

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That shopper is much less likely to realize that the AX11000 router is likely a tri-band router that's combining the speeds of three separate bands into one figure. If it's a mesh system with multiple devices, that third band is likely reserved as a backhaul between the router and the satellite, which means that it doesn't directly factor into your speed at all. In some cases, those backhaul bands account for speeds as high as 4,800Mbps, which is often how you get figures like AX11000 that appear to be four, five or even 10 times faster than other routers in the router aisle.

Razer unveils the first 5G gaming router: Gamers, meet the Sila 5G Home Router

  Razer unveils the first 5G gaming router: Gamers, meet the Sila 5G Home Router May this concept become reality.The 5G version incorporates the FasTrack engine of the Sila, which dynamically optimizes network prioritization to sustain low latency and high bandwidth for gaming; the Sila 5G can differentiate among different gaming systems, such as console or PC, as well as lock in bandwidth for online play and address some of the unique challenges posed by cloud gaming. Like most good routers these days, you can control its settings via a mobile app.

a close up of a logo© Ry Crist/CNET

Routers like those are fast, sure -- but they're not that fast. Like I said, they're typically about 30% faster than previous-gen AC routers. Not 400, 500 or 1,000% faster, as the numbers on the box make it seem.

And look, I get it. Speed is everything, and manufacturers want to portray their products with the most flattering figures possible. But they shouldn't mislead consumers with heavily inflated numbers in order to do it. The whole point of rebranding different 802.11 standards with names like Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 last year was to simplify things. As we kick off a new decade, it's time for top speed ratings to follow suit and bring the numbers back down to earth, where everyone can make sense of them.

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