advantages, compatible smartphones and computers

While the market is still struggling to adopt the Wi-Fi 6 standard, manufacturers are already waging war to offer devices compatible with Wi-Fi 6E, an even more recent standard. We take stock of all these standards and their specificities, their advantages and the differences to be aware of.

Wi-Fi 6E // Source: Frandroid

Wi-Fi 6 reached the end of its standard at the beginning of 2021. Since then, it has become a selling point for internet operators and even manufacturers of wireless access points. The promise is enticing with, for example, theoretical speeds exceeding the usual gigabit Ethernet port.

However, this standard is already beginning to be supplanted by its first evolution: Wi-Fi 6E. This new iteration has the main advantage of using a hitherto unused frequency band. However, it does not bring any big revolution in terms of speeds, which are very close to those of Wi-Fi 6.

What does Wi-Fi 6 bring to our digital uses? Should you invest in a computer compatible with these standards? We explain everything to you in this file which will in fact complete our tests of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices. Do not hesitate to discover the best routers and PC cards to take advantage of this standard.

Wi-Fi 6E: a bit of history

We are not going to redo the whole history of Wi-Fi and its various iterations here. We already have a file summarizing everything you need to know about the wireless network and its speeds. Here we will instead focus on Wi-Fi 6 and its evolution. However, it is worth taking a quick look at Wi-Fi 5, to fully understand the advantages of the new standards that we are going to talk about here.

To put things into context, Wi-Fi 5 in Europe had a 60 MHz band around 2.4 GHz and two bands of around 455 MHz in total around 5 GHz. This bandwidth, although rather obscure for ordinary mortals, represents, in a way, the space available for your Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi 6E Folder - Wi-Fi History
Source: Eero

These different bands, as well as the technologies used, allow Wi-Fi 5 to offer real speeds of approximately 800 Mb/s in good conditions, on a given machine. At the scale of a network, with the latest standards and high-performance devices, we can theoretically reach almost 10 Gb/s cumulated.

The problem is that these frequency bands have evolved little since the beginnings of Wi-Fi. In fact, with the development of the Internet and new technologies, it was necessary to find ways to obtain better performance in Wi-Fi. This is where Wi-Fi 6 comes in.

Wi-Fi 6, a necessary evolution

With the exponential development of connected objects, our old internet boxes and the Wi-Fi 5 that equip them are struggling to provide a quality network. This is all the more true in dense environments such as buildings in which all the networks must coexist and share the different frequency bands which are already in high demand.

This is why Wi-Fi 6 was created. Its main objective is to improve performance at the scale of a network. For this, various technical choices have been made, in order to obtain better performance, while continuing to use the same frequency bands as those used in Wi-Fi 5. Among these technical improvements, we note, for example, the ‘the use of :

  • OFDMA : a modulation technique that makes it possible to pool channels in order to transmit data simultaneously to different devices. To put it simply, it is as if we could deliver several customers at the same time with a single truck, whereas one truck per customer was needed in Wi-Fi 5. OFDMA is particularly interesting in dense environments and for uses moderated such as web browsing.
Wi-Fi Folder 6E - Principle of OFDMA
Source: Edouard Patout for Frandroid – Iconography by Freepik
  • MU-MIMO : already present in Wi-Fi 5 (but now working in both directions), MU-MIMO allows the router to communicate with several devices simultaneously. Going back to our example of trucks, we can therefore use several trucks, which would circulate in parallel to deliver more goods. This technique also works perfectly with a single client, thus making it possible to substantially increase the speed to a machine with large bandwidth requirements for video playback or streaming, for example.
Wi-Fi 6E Folder - Principle of MU-MIMO
Source: Edouard Patout for Frandroid – Iconography by Freepik
  • 160 MHz channels : the generalization of the channels with a width of 160 MHz on the compatible devices makes it possible logically to increase the flow for the latter as well as the latency. It’s like having a wider pipe, so more data flows and faster.
  • 1024-QAM : instead of 256-QAM, a modulation scheme that makes sense for uses with a high bandwidth demand and thus offers the possibility of transmitting more data in the same bandwidth.

Note also the arrival of the TWT for Target Wake Time which allows access points to tell clients when to sleep and wake up. This firstly relieves the battery of devices (in particular connected objects) and also frees up the different frequency bands when there is no need to use them.

Wi-Fi 6 also marks the arrival of BSS Coloring. The idea is to “color” the transmitted data using a unique identifier to help each access point find its young in busy environments such as buildings. We also find the beamforming which has the role of optimizing the path of the waves in order in particular to improve the range and the efficiency of the transmission.

Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

The main objective of all these technical improvements is to optimize and make even more reliable the historic Wi-Fi frequency bands. The results are clear: at the scale of a network, the speed improves by around 300% and the latency drops by 75%. On the other hand, at the scale of a single machine, the gains are less substantial with an improved throughput of approximately 40%.

Concretely, with a good access point and a decent client machine, we can hope to achieve a real throughput of 1 to 1.5 Gb/s. We then easily exceed the performance of the Gigabit Ethernet ports that equip most devices.

Beyond the improvement in performance, Wi-Fi 6 brings interesting new features in terms of security with the arrival of WPA3. For the rest, it still uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and bandwidths identical to what was found on Wi-Fi 5. And that’s where Wi-Fi 6E comes in. !

What are the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6E is no different from Wi-Fi 6. Indeed, it is the exact same standard and both use the same technologies. The only difference lies in the frequency band used since Wi-Fi 6E makes it possible to use the 6 GHz band where we were previously limited to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

This new band has a particular advantage: it was previously unused by Wi-Fi networks. There is therefore no congestion problem like those present on the usual 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It is as if a new road was created parallel to the others and accessible only to the newest vehicles.

Best of all, this strip is more than twice as wide as the historical strips. This theoretically leaves twice as much room for our networks and data to circulate properly. Taking the example of our road, it is as if in addition to benefiting from a dedicated road, it had more traffic lanes.

Wi-Fi Folder 6E - 6 GHz bands
Source: Aruba

However, European regulations do not authorize the use of the entire expected spectrum in Wi-Fi 6E. If 1200 MHz of bandwidth is available for the channels in the United States, we have to settle for barely 500 MHz, which does not really allow us to revolutionize the raw speeds of our machines.

At present, Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices therefore do not concretely revolutionize uses and performance. In tests conducted by our colleagues and ourselves, the raw speed increases slightly compared to Wi-Fi 6, but this does not change much in practice. In the idea, and in perfect conditions, some devices nevertheless manage to easily reach 1.8 Gb / s of speed, enough to tickle the performance of a 2.5 Gb / s Ethernet port.

Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi RBK352
Source: Edouard Patout for Frandroid

However, the 6 GHz band does not only have advantages since with the increase in frequency comes the usual range problems. Indeed, the higher the frequency of the waves, the more difficult they are to pass through walls and other structures of this type. Performance is therefore quickly affected.

Finally, like Wi-Fi 6, this new “E” version does not seem to be intended to offer exceptional raw performance. We are again on an evolution to relieve existing bands and improve network-wide performance and reliability. All this in order to guarantee flawless operation of the networks despite the explosion in the number of connected devices.

Which devices are Wi-Fi 6E compatible?

At the end of 2022, the overwhelming majority of mobile devices, computers and tablets are at least compatible with Wi-Fi 6. Please note, this does not mean that they are compatible with the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard and they do not. will probably never be unless they replace their Wi-Fi chip.

One UI 4 (Android 12) on a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung S21 Ultra, released in 2021 and already Wi-Fi 6E compatible // Source: Frandroid

Among smartphone manufacturers, Samsung is ahead since the S21 Ultra released in 2021 was already compatible with Wi-Fi 6E. Since then, other models have followed. Without being able to be exhaustive, we can mention the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy Z Fold 4 as well as the Xiaomi Mi 11, Xiaomi 12 Pro or the Asus Rog Phone 6 Pro and Zenfone 9. On the laptop side , most recent models, from the middle to the top of the range, are compatible with the standard. This is particularly the case with Acer’s Swift 5, for example.

If you are using Wi-Fi on a desktop computer, it will be even easier to take advantage of the 6E standard. Indeed, Wi-Fi cards, equipped with the Intel AX210 chip, can be found for around fifty euros at Amazon for example. This is the easiest way to take advantage of the 6 GHz band.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000
The ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000 is one of the most powerful Wi-Fi routers of the moment – ​​Source: Edouard Patout for Frandroid

Currently, all operators except SFR offer a box capable of broadcasting a Wi-Fi 6E network. If you do not want to be dependent on your operator for this, you still have the option of equipping yourself with a Wi-Fi router or a Wi-Fi Mesh kit.


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