Last year was all about Wi-Fi 6 but in 2021, Wi-Fi 6E is all the rage. It’s a huge update that adds the 6-gigahertz spectrum on top of the existing 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, allowing for less congestion and faster speeds. You need new hardware, but Belkin-owned Linksys says its new Wi-Fi 6E mesh router (the Linksys Velop AXE8400, $450) employs all three bands for speedy performance with any device, even ones without Wi-Fi 6E support. Debuting alongside it is an update to the Linksys Aware app, which now takes advantage of Wi-Fi-connected smart home devices (in homes with an existing Linksys Wi-Fi 5 router) for precise room-by-room motion sensing.
Belkin also has new hardware of its own, the Soundform True Wireless Earbuds with respectable specs, including 8-hour battery life (20 or more in the wireless charging case), environmental noise cancellation, in-ear detection, and IPX5 sweat and splash resistance—and the Boost Charge Pro 2-in-1 Wireless Charger Stand with MagSafe ($100). You can attach an iPhone 12 to it in a vertical or horizontal orientation, and recharge another device, like AirPods Pro, at the base. Both routers are set to launch in March or April.
Confused about Wi-Fi 6E? Mike explains it below!
What the Heck Is Wi-Fi 6E?
You may see news announcements coming out of CES touting a gadget’s “Wi-Fi 6E” capability. And you may have also heard of Wi-Fi 6, the new wireless standard. So you might be wondering: what’s the difference between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?
There’s no difference! Wi-Fi 6E is just the branding the consumer tech industry has adopted to indicate that the device in question has all of the chips and radios necessary to give it the latest Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
Wi-Fi 6E is a new standard for home networking gadgets—routers, security cameras, internet-connected doorbells—that allows these devices to utilize the 6-GHz wireless spectrum. The wireless router you’re using right now likely has the ability to use the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. These new Wi-Fi 6E devices can also access the 6-GHz band, which the FCC recently cleared for consumer use. That extra chunk of the wireless band should help make your home network less congested, so traffic can flow more smoothly among all the phones, computers, smart speakers, and streaming boxes currently competing for your poor little router’s attention. This new 6-GHz band is also a higher-bandwidth slice of the wireless spectrum, so Wi-Fi 6E devices can send stronger, faster signals that contain more information.
It’s a great development, but don’t be confused by the branding. If you see Wi-Fi 6E, it’s the wireless boost you’ve been waiting for. Just know that while older devices can connect to a new Wi-Fi 6E router, only Wi-Fi 6E devices will be able to communicate with it on that newer, faster wireless band. (You saw that part coming, right?) Also, if you already invested in Wi-Fi 6 hardware, you will need to check to see if it meets the Wi-Fi 6E standard now rolling out across the industry.
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