Wi-Fi 6e vs. Wi-Fi 6: What’s the difference?

Wi-Fi 6E
(Image credit: Getty Images/SOPA Images)

Wi-Fi 6 has been the latest and greatest wireless network standard since it first released in 2019. Now, there’s another contender: Wi-Fi 6e. 

As you might guess by its name, Wi-Fi 6e is more of an extension of Wi-Fi 6 than it is an entirely new standard. Wi-Fi 6e offers more bandwidth and speed to users, but despite its debut in 2020, there weren’t a ton of devices compatible with Wi-Fi 6e until recently and the current router options are still pricey. So is it worth upgrading? What exactly are the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e? 

Here’s everything you need to know about the newest Wi-Fi standard, and how Wi-Fi 6e improves on Wi-Fi 6. 

Wi-Fi 6 technology

Wi-Fi 6 was a refreshing and much-needed change when it first appeared in 2019. Prior to Wi-Fi 6 launching, Wi-Fi 5 had been the wireless standard for seven years, and people were ready for faster networks with lower latency to keep up with their household bandwidth needs. 

With a few choice technologies, Wi-Fi 6 could support more bandwidth overall and handle your bandwidth more efficiently. Data transmission speeds improved with Wi-Fi 6, which was fantastic for people who frequently used online streaming services. 

Wi-Fi 6 also supported up to eight independent streams of data within the home, and could send and receive data over both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. For the first time, you could even run a single ultra-wide 160-MHz channel on the 5GHz band, which was great for data-hungry activities like playing online video games. . 

Wi-Fi 6e Technology: What’s new

Wi-Fi 6e has a lot in common with Wi-Fi 6, but there are two major differences.  

  • Wi-Fi 6e has 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands like Wi-Fi 6, but it also features a wide 6GHz band. 
  • Wi-Fi 6e is not backwards compatible with any wireless network standard prior to Wi-Fi 6.

Both of these differences translate to greater amounts of bandwidth and faster wireless speeds, which is great news for those who stream 8K content, play AR/VR games, and download large files. 

The 6GHz band available through new Wi-Fi 6e routers is only available to devices with Wi-Fi 6e support. Wi-Fi 6 devices can’t access the speedy 6GHz band. This 6GHz band does have a shorter range than 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but if your device supports Wi-Fi 6e, it’s worth setting up close to your router. 

CNET compared Wi-Fi bands to different highways, and it’s the best example on the internet so far. A 2.4GHz band is like “a one-lane country highway,” and if slower devices are on that band with you, they’ll bring your speed down too. A 5GHz band is like “a three-lane interstate,” so it’s easier to share the road with slower drivers and still maintain your speed. 

The new 6GHz band is like “a shiny, new seven-lane superhighway, and only 6e devices get access to the onramp.” With a Wi-Fi 6e router and a compatible Wi-Fi 6e device, you could possibly be the only person using that band within your home, unbothered by slower devices. Even if another Wi-Fi 6e compatible device hops on with you, you’re both going the same speed, so to speak. 

In short, Wi-Fi 6e technology can provide faster wireless speeds, lower latency, and more dedicated bandwidth. But you need a device compatible with Wi-Fi 6e and a Wi-Fi 6e router to take advantage of these perks. 

Wi-Fi 6e vs. Wi-Fi 6: Specifications

The only spec Wi-Fi 6e and Wi-Fi 6 have in common is that they’re both mesh compatible. 

When it comes to available data bands, Wi-Fi 6 is only equipped with 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, while Wi-Fi 6e boasts an additional 6GHz band. Then, Wi-Fi 6 offers one 160-MHz-wide channel in a 5GHz band, and Wi-Fi 6e offers eight, with one in a 5GHz band and seven in 6GHz bands. With faster, dedicated 6GHz bands, Wi-Fi 6e is able to achieve faster data delivery rates.

Which devices support Wi-Fi 6e?

It’s not difficult to find a Wi-Fi 6e router to replace your existing router, though they can be expensive. The compatibility trouble typically lies with the devices that you’d be connecting to your Wi-Fi 6e router. Even the best Wi-Fi router can’t utilize its speedy 6GHz band if your devices only support the Wi-Fi 6 standard. 

There are quite a few Android phones that support Wi-Fi 6e, including Google’s Pixel 6 and 7 series, and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, S22 Ultra, and all of its S23 phones. Motorola also has quite the Wi-Fi 6e compatible lineup, with the Edge 2021, Edge 2022, Razr 2022, and Edge 30 series. Plus, any laptop running Windows 11 will have support for Wi-Fi 6e. 

iPhone users don’t have access to a Wi-Fi 6e-compatible smartphone—yet. It’s rumored that the iPhone 15 will come with Wi-Fi 6e support. The only Apple products that can access that 6GHz band right now are the M2 iPad Pro, 2023 MacBook Pro, and 2023 Mac mini

Is upgrading to Wi-Fi 6e worth it?

The first question you should ask yourself is whether or not your current devices support Wi-Fi 6e. If they don’t, and you don’t plan on upgrading your smartphone, computer, or tablet anytime soon, there’s no need to upgrade. 

If you need a new router and you want to future-proof your network, you could consider splurging on a Wi-Fi 6e router or waiting for a Wi-Fi 7 router to come out in 2024. However, keep in mind that Wi-Fi 6e won’t be backwards compatible with Wi-Fi 5 or earlier standards. 

For many people, the cost of upgrading to Wi-Fi 6e isn’t worth it because Wi-Fi 6 is still fast enough to handle modern demands. The biggest reason upgrading to Wi-Fi 6e now would be worth it is if you use a lot of bandwidth-intensive applications, like 4K or 8K streaming or virtual reality gaming.  

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