ARRIS informed me today of its very first Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) broadcaster, and it’s not a standalone router. Instead, it’s a Mesh Wi-Fi system, called SURFboard mAX Pro, or mAX for short. The news is quite exciting because ARRIS is a known maker of cable modems and residential gateways.
By the way, this is ARRIS’s very first Wi-Fi system. Before this, the company released a power-line system, the SurfBoard SBR-AC3200P, a few years ago.
Update: The full review of the SURFboard mAX Pro is now available here.
Tri-band 4×4 Wi-Fi 6
The new system includes two hardware units and, according to ARRIS, uses Tri-band 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 in both. In other words, each unit has two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band.
Tri-band is significant in a Wi-Fi system since one of the 5GHz bands can work solely for the job of connecting the hardware units. This band is called the dedicated back-haul or dedicated link and helps reduce or even eliminate the deficiency when signals have to jump from one node to another.
As for how all Wi-Fi systems work, you connect one of the units to an Internet source and then place the other a distance away to extend the Wi-Fi network further. What’s also interesting is mAX doesn’t have a built-in cable modem, which would make it a contender of the Netgear Orbi CBK40.
Large Wi-Fi coverage
ARRIS claims a single unit of the mAX can cover some 3000 ft² (280 m²), and with two units, you’ll get double that. The system is slated to be some four times faster than the speed of existing Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) counterparts.
In reality, you’ll need Wi-Fi 6 clients to enjoy the new speed. With existing clients, you’ll get about the same as that of a Wi-Fi 5 system. Nonetheless, the fast Wi-Fi 6 speed will allow for a larger distance between the two hardware units, hence increase the Wi-Fi coverage, without affecting the broadband connection they carry.
The SURFboard mAX Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System is available in the first half of this year. Currently, its price is not yet available. By the time it ships, however, there will be many more Wi-Fi 6 mesh options, including those from Asus, Netgear, TP-Link, to name a few.