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Wi-Fi 6E Upgrade: The Best 6GHz Add-on Options for Your Computer and Network

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Looking for the best Wi-Fi 6E upgrade options? You're at the right place.

Since the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E, the new 6GHz band has become a hot commodity. Everyone wants to see that little 6e attached to their device's Wi-Fi signal symbol.

Not all devices show the new standard-specific symbol. Most still use the generic Wi-Fi bars. But in either case, the 6GHz signals are a real thing.

This post will give you the best options out of that FOMO. Those with a dated router or a computer with an older Wi-Fi standard or no Wi-Fi at all will find options to enjoy the new 6GHz band.

Dong's note: I first published this post on January 28, 2023, and updated it on June 25, 2023, to include up-to-date hardware options.

Wi Fi 6E Upgrade Hardware
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: This combo of the ARRIS SURFboard W6U network upgrade kit and the Intel AX210 chip or the Netgear A8000 will give you a complete 6GHz experience no matter what your current Wi-Fi situation is.

Wi-Fi 6E Upgrade: The almost plug-and-play options

This post doesn't apply to those who already have a Wi-Fi 6E broadcaster -- like one of these -- and 6GHz-ready clients, such as most latest laptops or smartphones.

Generally, to upgrade a network to Wi-Fi 6E, you need to add a 6GHz-capable access point. If you have a Wi-Fi 6 router, you only need a 6GHz-only access point. But if you have a non-Wi-Fi router, you might want an access point with all three bands, including 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, and 6GHz.

On the receiving end, all you need is a Wi-Fi 6E adapter. This adapter, by default, is a Tri-band device -- it'll work on one of them at a time.

With that, let's look at our current six Wi-Fi 6E upgrade options, representing both ends of a Wi-Fi connection -- the broadcasting and receiving.

These hardware upgrades are listed in the order I tested them with the latest top. There's no ranking among them -- they are designed for different situations or needs.

Wi-Fi 6E upgrade on the receiving end

These are Wi-Fi adapters that can be added to an existing computer to enable it to work with the new 6GHz of Wi-FI 6e (or Wi-Fi 7).

1. Netgear A8000 USB Adapter: The most convenient Wi-Fi 6E upgrade for a Windows 11 computer

Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter plugged in
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: The Netgear A8000 looks like a typical USB Wi-Fi adapter card.

The Netgear A8000 is the first, and currently, the only, USB Wi-Fi adapter that supports Wi-Fi 6E. It works well in my testing, and the plug-and-play design makes it worth the relatively hefty price tag.

For right now, you need Windows 11 to use it -- Windows 10 only gets Wi-Fi 6 out of it. Going forward, chances are you'll find software drivers for Linux, and other platforms, though don't quote me on this.

Netgear A8000 Wi-Fi 6E Adapter's Rating

8 out of 10
Netgear A8000 Wi Fi 6E Adapter with Laptop
Performance
9 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
7 out of 10

Pros

Instantly adds Wi-Fi 6/6E to a Windows computer

Relatively compact design, software driver included

Fast (sub-Gig) and reliable performance

Cons

Expensive; 6GHz available only in Windows 11; no Mac support (for now)

No 160MHz channel support; no Mac support; No USB-C option

Could be even more compact


2. Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chip: The most versatile Wi-Fi 6E adapter for a computer

Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E Module
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: The Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chip is a standard NNGF module.

The Intel AX210 -- not to be confused with the AX200 -- is a standard Wi-Fi 6E module that you can add to any NGFF slot. It's also the only one that can work with most platforms, including Windows 10 (with a special driver.)

Intel AX210 vs AX200 vs AX201 vs AX411

The Intel AX200 chip supports Wi-Fi 6 -- it's a Dual-band adapter (2.4GHz and 5GHz). On the other hand, the Intel AX210 chip features Wi-Fi 6E -- it's a Tri-band adapter with an additional 6GHz band.

These two are generic and will work on any computer that has the supporting slot and correct software driver.

There are variants, including the AX201, AX211, and AX411 with additional requirements:

  • The AX201 is a Wi-Fi 6 chip that only works on a computer running an Intel 10th Gen CPU (or later).
  • The AX211 and AX411 both are Wi-Fi 6E chips. They respectively require a computer running at least an Intel 10th Gen or 12th Gen.

Of these options, the AX210 is the most versatile. Still, its 6GHz band is only officially supported in Windows 11. A special software driver is necessary to make it work with Windows 10. That's also the case with the AX211 and AX411.

Unlike the Netgear A8000 above, the Intel AX210 requires a bit of work in installation. But it supports the 160GHz channel width to have twice the capacity. Most importantly, it's affordable.

Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E Chip's Rating

9 out of 10
Intel AX210 Wi Fi 6E Module Hand
Performance
9 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
10 out of 10

Pros

Adds Wi-Fi 6 and 6E to a computer; support 160MHz; affordable

Flexible application via NGFF form factor (2230 M.2 slot) or PCIe adapter

Reliable and fast Gig+ performance

Cons

No official driver for Windows 10

No USB option


Wi-Fi 6E upgrade on the broadcasting end

These are Wi-Fi broadcasters, namely access points, that can be added to an existing network via a network cable to add at least the 6GHz band to the network.

1. Ubiquiti U6 Enterprise: The complete Wi-Fi 6E upgrade to a non-Wifi router

Ubiquiti U6 Enterprise Access Point
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: The U6 Enterprise is a powerful access point that can work alone or as a mesh member.

The U6 Enterprise is a Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E access point supporting the top-tier specs on all three bands and a 2.5Gbps PoE+ port. It works well as a standalone unit with any non-Wifi router. However, when coupled with an UniFi controller, such as the UDM-SE, multiple units can work together to deliver an incredible mesh system without incurring a subscription cost.

Ubiquiti U6 Enterprise's Rating

8 out of 10
Ubiquiti U6 Enterprise Access Point
Performance
8.5 out of 10
Features
7.5 out of 10
Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
8 out of 10

Pros

Top-tier Wi-Fi 6E support, excellent performance; part of the robust UniFi family with lots of features when hosted by a controller

2.5 Gbps PoE network port

Simple setup and management via helpful UniFi mobile app, lots of features

Cons

No PoE injector included; no power adapter option

No local management or web user interface; UniFi app requires vendor login; limited features and settings as a standalone AP

Runs hot


2. ARRIS SURFboard W6U: Instant 6GHz band for any existing router

Arris SURFboard W6U Wi-Fi 6E Network Upgrade Kit
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: Compact and light, the Arris SURFboard W6U is an excellent Wi-Fi 6E Network Upgrade Kit

The ARRIS SURFboard W6U is a perfect 6GHz upgrade on the broadcasting side. It's, so far, the sole access point I know that features only the 6GHz band.

So if you have a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router, especially one with a Multi-Gig LAN port, plug this little AP into one of the network ports, and you get a complete Wi-Fi 6E network.

ARRIS SURFboard W6U's Rating

8.1 out of 10
Arris SURFboard W6U Wi-Fi 6E Network Upgrade Kit
Performance
9 out of 10
Features
8 out of 10
Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
7.5 out of 10

Pros

Fast and reliable 6GHz performance

Quickly adds top-tier Wi-Fi 6E to any existing Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 network

2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port, compact design

Standard local web user interface, optional mobile app

Cons

No 2.4GHz, 5GHz, or PoE support;

Not yet supported by the mobile app (at the review)

A bit pricey, no Guest Wi-Fi network, no media bridge role, not supporting 240V power outlets


3. ZyXel NWA220AX-6E: A Wi-Fi 6E network upgrade with some extra

ZyXel NWA220AX-6E 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E Dual Radio PoE Access Point
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: The ZyXel NWA220AX-6E is a relatively compact Wi-Fi 6E access point.

The ZyXel NWA220AX-6E is a bit odd. It's a Tri-band wireless access point -- 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, and 6GHz -- that can operate only as a Dual-band.

Specifically, you can only use either the 5GHz or 6GHz band at a time. Consequently, if you already have a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 router, it'll make an applicable 6GHz upgrade.

ZyXel NWA220AX-6E Access Point's Rating

7.6 out of 10
ZyXel NWA220AX 6E 802.11ax Wi Fi 6E Dual Radio PoE Access Point parts
Performance
7.5 out of 10
Features
8 out of 10
Ease of Use
7 out of 10
Value
8 out of 10

Pros

Reliable performance, good coverage

2.5 Gbps PoE network port, extra Gigabit port

Nice design, ready to mount

Local web interface with tons of customization

Cons

Only 6GHz or 5GHz is available at a time; no power adapter or PoE injector is included.

Sustained Wi-Fi throughputs could use some improvement

Overwhelming amount of settings for home users; a Nebula login account is required for mesh function and remote management


4. Netgear WAX630E: Standalone Wi-Fi upgrade for any network

Netgear WAX630E Wi Fi 6E Access Point 1
Wi-Fi 6E upgrade: The Netgear WAX630E is a gigantic access point, but it's large for a reason.

The Netgear WAX630E is one of the first wireless access points (WAPs) that feature Wi-Fi 6E.

Similar to the Enterprise U6 above, the WAX630E is a complete Wi-Fi upgrade for a non-WiFi router. But you can also add it to any existing Wi-Fi router. In this case, ensure you place it far enough from the router so their signals don't heavily interfere.

When multiple units are used, the Netgear WAX630E can form a robust AP-based mesh system. Unfortunately, in this case, each unit will incur a monthly subscription cost. For this reason, financially, it's most applicable when a single unit is enough for the needed coverage.

Alternatively, you can also check out the EnGenius ECW336, which is similar but, unfortunately, hugely overpriced.

Netgear WAX630E's Rating

8 out of 10
Netgear WAX630E Wi Fi 6E Access Point 2
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
9 out of 10
Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
7 out of 10

Pros

Wi-Fi 6E support, reliable performance with excellent coverage

2.5 Gbps PoE network port, extra Gigabit port

Excellent web local interface, tons of Wi-Fi settings, and lots of AP-related features

Cons

Bulky design, no power adapter or PoE injector included

Sustained throughput speeds could be better

No support for multiple units via local management, no free level of Insight-Managed cloud-based mesh setup


The final thoughts

Since Wi-Fi (6 or 5) routers are commonplace, a combo of the 6GHz-only ARRIS SURFboard W6U access point and an adapter -- the Intel AX210 or the Netgear A8000 -- is the applicable Wi-Fi 6E upgrade in most cases. Still, pick a device or a combo that works for your need.

If your laptop doesn't have Wi-Fi 6E, it never hurts to get one of the adapters because they both feature Tri-band bands and can work with all Wi-Fi networks, not just the one you have at home. And you might get a Wi-Fi 6E (or 7) in the future anyway.

Of the two, the Netgear A8000 is super easy to use -- for a cost -- while the Intel AX210 is affordable, more versatile, and delivers the best 6GHz performance.

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6 thoughts on “Wi-Fi 6E Upgrade: The Best 6GHz Add-on Options for Your Computer and Network”

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  1. Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy a new mesh system?

    I unfortunately have a TP-Link Archer AX11000 currently and find that it runs good but needs regular scheduled restarts otherwise connections get sketchy. I want to add either the XE75 Pro or XE200 mesh but I have a Synology NAS and my Philips Hue uses another network port and I’d like to do a wired backhaul. So thinking of using my Archer unit as a bridge/switch with the NAS and Hue connected with the Deco as my main router with wired ports used by backhaul and the modem connection.

    Thoughts??

    Reply
    • That works, Ian. It’s just a matter of personal preferences. The Deco is much more limited in terms of network settings and configurations.

      Reply
  2. Can I connect two Surfboard W6U to two RT-AC5200 AiMesh satellites to have 6E available at two different locations of a big home. Or is the system designed for only one unit connected to the main WiFi 5 router.

    Reply

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