Publish 20 February 2021
Compare WiFi 5 with WiFi 6 Router
The world has become dependent upon something we cannot see. And we pay good money for it—wireless technology. This radio wave frequency connects our mobile devices to the internet. Though invisible, we know when WiFi is working and when it isn’t.
The primary internet provider for different areas varies. Where I live, Spectrum took over Time-Warner Cable as the internet service provider (ISP). It now offers 200 megabits per second (mbps) internet speed at the entry level. You can double the bandwidth for $20 more. Smart-device connected homes with many streaming devices can pay more for for 1000 mbps. With eight WiFi devices in my place, 200 mbps is sufficient for me.
The walls in my home are sheet rock or lath and plaster. I destroyed a new drill bit boring a hole through one. WiFi signals can pass through, with spotty connections at a distance from the main router.
eero Pro WiFi System Routers
Research led me to the second-generation eero WiFi Pro by Amazon. These routers come in a set. You can also purchase individual units to cover more area. Each is a fully functional router (with two ethernet ports), not an extender. A set of three supports up to 550 mbps within a 6000 square feet area. This is a step up from the previous generation eero WiFi Pro router set from 2019, supporting 350 mbps for about half the price.
eero achieves the boost in bandwidth by splitting the 5 Ghz radio frequency into another 5.8 Ghz band. With 2.4 Ghz included, the set of routers optimizes frequency for each device on the network. Some older devices support slower, more crowded low bands at long distances. Newer devices support faster, less crowded bands over short distances. With a mesh, there is always a router nearby.
Setup is simple. Download the software. Then plug in one unit at a time as each self configures. You’re done within 10 minutes. The user-friendly software shows the which bandwidth each device is using. It also displays whether each is using WPA2 or WPA3 security encryption. You can create and assign profiles with custom internet access for different devices. Subscribe to security add-on (30-day trial) to monitor hacking attempts and block internet advertisements at the network level.
If you have 500 mbps or less from your ISP, the eero WiFi Pro is very stable with room to grow. Support many devices streaming videos for years to come. However, for the same price of three eero WiFi Pro routers (or a little less), you can buy two eero WiFi 6 Pro routers. Why would you consider buying less routers? As mentioned, the WiFi 5 version with three routers covers up to 6000 square feet. If you have less area, two are sufficient. There are also more features in the WiFi 6 version.
eero Pro WiFi 6 System Routers
Every few months new technology comes out. In an effort to keep up, you might buy hardware you can grow into rather than out of. WiFi 6 is a new standard for large transportation terminals and homes with smart devices. As of early 2021, only about two dozen mobile devices have WiFi 6 chips in them. By the end of 2022, it should be more popular across smartphones and laptops.
WiFi 6 Smartphones
- Huawei P40 Pro
- iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max
- iPhone SE
- LG V60 ThinQ
- Motorola Edge Plus
- OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S10, S10E
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10
- Samsung Galaxy S20
- Samsung Galaxy Fold
WiFi 6 Laptops
- Asus Chromebook Flip c436
- Dell XPS 13 (2020)
- HP Spectre x360
- Lenovo Yoga c940
- LG Gram 17
- Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
WiFi 6 introduces a new 6 Ghz radio frequency that is backwards compatible with 5 Ghz. The eero WiFi 6 Pro System is a dual-band device with 6 GHz and 2.4 Ghz frequencies. The routers can transmit data up to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) when all devices are WiFi 6 capable.
WiFi 6 routers optimize bandwidth better to preserve device battery life of connected devices. Using the same eero software, you get maximum bandwidth for older devices on your network. As you purchase new devices, and increase available bandwidth from your ISP, you should not have to replace your router. Remember, most routers are backwards-, not forward-compatible.
The eero software makes initial setup painless. When upgrading your eero network to WiFi 6, the software falls short. Instructions prompt you to replace the router directly connected to the cable modem. Technical support does not recommend this method. Instead, add the new devices within the software before removing the old ones. The problem is that there is no remove option within the eero software. This means an upgrade requires a phone call to technical support.
The eero WiFi Pro system supports Apple HomeKit. In fact, you can buy the routers from the Apple website. However, eero WiFi 6 Pro currently does not have that distinction. At least, the option is absent within the eero software following the upgrade. We must wait to see whether this is a hardware issue or a delay in software support. eero WiFi 6 Pro advertises support for built-in Zigbee smart home hub.
You may be thinking, that your ISP will rent you a router for a nominal fee. Why should I pay hundreds of dollars for a mesh system? The routers your ISP provides are not mesh. They are single units with basic features for the speed you purchase. This is fine for a two-room apartment. If your home is over 2000 square feet, the signal may drop in some areas.
Coverage estimates are based on normal use conditions. Actual range and performance can vary, including factors such as interference, device usage, building materials, and obstructions. Throughput and coverage estimates are a configuration reference, not a performance guarantee.
Try centering one router within the home for best results. Add another near the furthest end of the building. Also keep in mind that the indefinite monthly rental fees to your ISP add up. You will eventually pay more for the cheap device than the advanced mesh system.
If you have a set of older devices and do not plan on upgrading from 200 mbps, the first-generation eero Mesh System will save you money. In fact, you will see no performance boost from a WiFi 6 router. If you have a few more bucks to spare, the WiFi 6 Pro Mesh System is appealing right now. Great software, up to 1 Gbps bandwidth, Zigbee smart-home compatibility, Alexa and Amazon Connected Home support. When spending roughly the same amount of money, you might as well invest in something that will last years longer.
Before you start dropping Benjamins, remember what I said earlier? Technology changes every few months. WiFi 6E will soon follow with even more improvements. Having everything on your network compatible with WiFi 6E is a few years away. By then, we will be on the threshold of WiFi 7.