Wi-Fi 6E is an evolution of Wi-Fi 6 that takes advantage of additional spectrum at 6GHz to offer much greater capacity than 5GHz Wi-Fi. While the speeds in a lab environment will be about the same, there are significantly more 160MHz Wi-Fi channels available so you and your neighbors won’t be fighting over the same spectrum. This keeps speeds higher and more consistent on supported devices. The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 makes the most sense for most people thanks to its adequate speeds, compact node size, and great set of features.
The ZenWiFi ET8 from Asus is a tri-band AXE6600 mesh Wi-Fi system with enough power for most people, though it won’t blow your socks off if you’re using a gigabit connection. The connection breaks down to 574Mbps at 2.4GHz, 1201Mbps at 5GHz, and a massive 4804Mbps at 6GHz. Note that your fastest Wi-Fi 6 devices will top out at 1201Mbps and your Wi-Fi 6E devices will top out at 2402Mbps. That means that Wi-Fi 6 devices won’t be able to make the most of this system.
Perhaps the best part of Asus’ products is the software. The Asus Router app on Android has easy-to-use controls and the ability to quickly and easily configure your system the first time. This is also home to Asus’ AiProtection settings including parental controls. This software is able to detect and block connection attempts from malicious websites. The parental controls are also easy to use with profiles for each member of your home and specific rules that can be set for each. Asus also has a web browser interface with more settings than the majority of other mesh systems.
As for the mesh, Asus claims up to 5,500 square feet of coverage with two nodes and 2,750 square feet with just one. You can expand your mesh with more of the same nodes or with any other Asus AiMesh compatible routers. You could even set up a mesh with a fast gaming router like the ROG Rapture AXE11000 with the two ZenWiFi for the best of both worlds. Asus’ software is also the only one on this list that lets you choose your backhaul type, so if you want to force it to use 6GHz over 5GHz to link your nodes, you can.
With the Orbi RBKE963, Netgear took mesh Wi-Fi to an entirely new level with the first quad-band mesh system. This Orbi delivers a full AXE11000 connection to devices with another band left over for the mesh connection. This means that no matter which type of device you use, you can get the absolute best connection possible. You get up to 1200Mbps at 2.4GHz, 2400Mbps at 5GHz, and 4804Mbps at 6GHz, with another 2400Mbps 5GHz band connecting all of the nodes together. This setup allows you to cover up to 9,000 square feet with this three-piece kit
The Orbi RBKE963 is really all about speed. Whether you have a 160MHz-capable Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, or Wi-Fi 6E device, you can connect at your device’s maximum speed. This system is even ready for the next generation of fiber optic internet connection with a 10Gbps WAN port on the router and a 2.5Gbps LAN on both the primary router and satellites. One thing to keep in mind is that Netgear only allows you to use RBSE960 satellites with this system, so if you’ve got an older Orbi mesh, you can’t use it to add more coverage.
The software on this Orbi is easy to use and setup is quick, but with the high base cost of this system, you might expect a bit more to be thrown in. First, settings are quite basic for an enthusiast-level system, with only basic Wi-Fi controls available. Second is the subscriptions to Netgear Armor and Netgear Smart Parental Controls, which ask you to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use features similar to those Asus offers for free.
Like its little brother, the ET8, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a tri-band system. Unlike that smaller router, it takes the speed up to AXE11000 with 1148Mbps at 2.4GHz, 4840Mbps at 5GHz, and another 4804Mbps at 6GHz. This increase in speed means that this mesh kit can keep up with just about any internet connection and device with ease. There’s also a 10Gbps Ethernet port, a 2.5Gbps port, and two gigabit ports that can be used in link aggregation. Basically, no matter your multi-gig Ethernet setup, you’re covered.
It also comes with AiProtection Pro for free so you can be more at ease knowing your entire network is protected from malicious connection attempts. Asus’ excellent parental controls are also included so you can set up a profile for each member of the family to apply restrictions appropriate to each person’s age. Like the ZenWiFi ET8, setup is a breeze and can be done with the Asus Router app. If you’re looking for more advanced controls, the web browser UI is available.
This router is also compatible with AiMesh routers so you can pair it with a large number of compatible Asus routers, including gaming routers or other ZenWiFi nodes. This allows for a ton of flexibility in your home so if you want the feature set of a massive ROG router, you don’t have to give up the coverage of a mesh system. Even so, most people would be very happy with the performance of this kit alone, with up to 6,000 square feet of coverage with two nodes.
The Linksys Atlas Max 6E is a powerful and fast mesh system with a tri-band AXE8400 connection. This breaks down to 1147Mbps at 2.4GHz, 2402Mbps at 5GHz, and 4804Mbps at 6GHz. This setup allows for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices to connect at full speed so you can make the most of your current Wi-Fi 6 devices and future Wi-Fi 6E devices. Linksys has also included a 5Gbps Ethernet port on each node alongside four gigabit ethernet ports.
This balance of speeds is a great choice for many people: it gives the system enough overhead to use both 5GHz and 6GHz as a backhaul, without a big speed impact if one proves to be more reliable than the other. Still, this mesh should have no trouble at all keeping up with the fastest consumer internet connection available today. Not only that, but as ISPs begin upgrading to 2.5Gbps, this system should still be able to make the most of it.
Software isn’t Linksys’ strongest point, with a basic control panel available in its app and on the web. Still, it’s nice that there aren’t a bunch of subscriptions getting in your way anywhere. One thing Linksys does well is maintaining compatibility with other Linksys nodes including Velop mesh nodes and MAX-STREAM routers.
When you buy a new Wi-Fi router, you want something that's going to last a few years without issue. It makes sense to get one with the latest tech like Wi-Fi 6E so you can make the most of your new devices and ever-improving internet speeds. Even so, for most people one of the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers may prove to be more than fast enough. It's also worth considering if you even need a mesh system. Many smaller homes or apartments will have plenty of coverage with one of the best Wi-Fi 6E routers instead.
Overall, the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 delivers more than enough speed for most people even considering the more limited 5GHz speeds. This system also scores points thanks to its more compact design, which makes it easier to place throughout the house. Finally, Asus' compatibility make it a great value for those that want future coverage expansion. It's also nice that Asus gives you the option to take off the training wheels so you can have full control of your own equipment if you want.