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Wi-Fi 6 is fast enough to download 22 Marvel movies in 3 hours

"Salvador Muir" (2019-11-07)

id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> The age of Wi-Fi 6 is just beginning. So how much faster will those transmissions be?

We're at the very beginning of the Wi-Fi 6 era, and new, next-gen routers capable of putting 802.11ax's upgraded features to work are already up for sale. It's early, though. Despite the fact that Wi-Fi 6 routers are backward-compatible with previous-gen Wi-Fi devices, they won't be able to do much of anything to speed them up. For that, you'll need new devices that support Wi-Fi 6, too -- and hardly any are currently available.

That also means that it'll be a while before we're really able to test out Wi-Fi 6's claims of being much, much better at connecting with lots and lots of devices at once. Ultimately, that might mean faster Wi-Fi at places like airports and stadiums, but we're probably a few years away from feeling the full impact.

Still, that hasn't stopped us from wondering just how fast Wi-Fi 6 top speeds will ultimately be once new hardware gets here. Early estimates describe those top Wi-Fi 6 transfer speeds as 30% faster than the top Wi-Fi 5 transfer speeds. Sure enough, a quick look at the specs on a new Wi-Fi 6 router like the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 pegs the top speed on the 2.4GHz band at 1.2 gigabits per second, which is right around 30% faster than the fastest Wi-Fi 5 speeds we've tested here at CNET.

Enlarge ImageThe Killer 1650x Wi-Fi 6 module works with select PCs, and is available now on Amazon for $35.

Rivet Networks And, while it's true that there aren't many Wi-Fi 6 client devices available yet, that doesn't mean that there aren't any. In fact, if you've got the right kind of computer, you can get a Wi-Fi 6 adapter on Amazon right now for $35.

We picked one of those up for ourselves, along with that Netgear Nighthawk AX12 Wi-Fi 6 router. With the two of them, we were able to do some early Wi-Fi 6 speed tests. Here's how that went.

Our test setup
The Netgear Nighthawk AX12 promises speeds games of thrones up to 1.2 Gbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 4.8 Gbps on the 5GHz band. There are a lot of limitations on that at the moment -- one of them being that our internet speeds at the office aren't nearly that fast.

We can still test the router's top transfer speeds by measuring its ability to move files around locally, though. The router comes with a set of two 1-gigabit Ethernet ports in the back that you can aggregate into a single connection from two incoming servers. We connected those ports to a pair of MacBooks that acted as our servers for the test. They'd transmit data to the router over those Ethernet connections for an aggregated upload speed of 2 Gbps. From there, a third computer equipped with that Killer Wi-Fi 6 module would connect to the router to download the data wirelessly. 

In other words, we'd be able to measure top download speeds of up to 2 Gbps using speed-testing JPERF software.

The result: a top speed that clocked in at 1,320 Mbps, or 1.32 Gbps. The support team for that Killer module at Rivet Networks told us that the numbers we were seeing sounded about right, and that in a different environment, perhaps one with less interference, we might see speeds as high as 1.4 or 1.5 Gbps. We'll keep testing, but for now, 1.32 Gbps is the best result we've seen.

But hey, that's a lot of numbers, and numbers are easier to process when you put them into perspective. To do so, I'mma call in the big guns.