Every new Wifi release is bound to bring in a completely new performance. Over the years, Wifi has become a victim of its success. As of 2021, human beings are surrounded by access points, with each point straining to serve data-hungry devices. This has quickly become our high-density reality.
As we gather density, the latency tends to dip, and simple websites take forever to load. However, an increase in density automatically means a rise in latency levels with consistent throughput. In 1997, every Wifi update had made performance improvements based on three main areas as the modulation scheme, spatial streams, and channel bonding.
But the introduction of the Wifi 6, or the 802.11 AX, has opened up a highway in areas where traffic issues have been prevailing for ages. With significant improvements from the Wifi 5, the Wifi 6 and Wifi 6E are currently the market’s top buys. However, choosing between Wifi 5 and the Wifi 6 can be more than just confusing.
As a result, we have listed down all the critical points and differences you need to know to better help you choose between the Wifi 5 and Wifi 6. This article will walk you through everything Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 have to offer and simultaneously point down the key differences.
The Wifi 5, retroactively labeled as the 802.11 AC by the Wi-Fi Alliance, is the current generation of Wi-fi that was introduced back in 2014. The Wifi 5 is configured as per its own set of protocols. These protocols allow overall high-throughput WLANs on only the 5 GHz Wifi spectrum band. The multi-station enhancements in the Wifi allow for streaming HD videos simulaltaneously to multiple devices, rapid synchronization, and backup of large data files with ease.
It has the latest USB 3.0 interface along with the locally attached USB 2.0 that allows your Wifi router to fully utilize its WLAN capacities such as video streaming, FTP servers, and personal services. Though the Wifi offers a relatively lower data transfer speed than the Wifi 6, it comes equipped with the OFDM technology with a maximum data transfer rate of 3.5 Gbps.
Additionally, the 2nd wave in 2016 brought in new features to Wifi 5, such as a 160 Mhz width support, four spatial streams, and support for more 5 GHz channels. The Wifi 5G technology is majorly devised for outdoors and pervasive as a cellular today. This means that you will be connected to Wifi every time you walk home from work, walk to work from the coffee shop, or are just driving to work in your car.
Following the impressive response to Wifi 5, Wifi 6 is the newest and fastest version of Wifi. Physically, the hardware for Wifi 6 is quite similar to Wifi 5, which means that the client-side cell and other device manufacturers can continue to lean on the antenna design experience that they’ve gained from previous generations of Wifi.
The Wifi 6 is the latest updated version of the 802.11 standard. The last generation was 802.11 AC, which was the Wifi 5, and the new generation is the 802.11 AX. The 802.11 AX, or the Wifi 6, is specifically designed to send data to multiple places simultaneously in a highly efficient way.
It makes routers which are really good in terms of multitasking. Wifi devices translate radio waves into chunks of binary code using Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). Older Wifi 5 routers translated these radio waves at 256 QAM that allowed them to send eight binary code digits with each transmission. However, the Wifi 6 raises that capability to 1024 QAM, meaning that Wifi 6 routers can send ten digits of binary code at a time. Though this may look like a minor change, it is one of the significant reasons why Wifi 6 can move data around by up to 30% faster as compared to Wifi 5.
In addition to its solid improvements in the usual three wireless performance areas—modulation, spatial streams, and channel bonding—Wi-Fi 6 is supported by a big new acronym: OFDMA (Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access). For the first time, a wireless standard addresses the transmission issues that lead to wasted space and wasted air time.
For starters, the E in Wifi 6E stands for Expanded. Until now, Wifi devices were only able to operate in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. But thanks to an FCC vote, it is no longer the case as it opened the 6 GHz band. As a result, Wifi 6E devices are the only ones that can operate on all three bands and not just the first two.
The new 6 GHz band is the biggest of all, operating as a major expressway with room for lots of traffic all at once. This is one of the key highlights of the new Wifi 6E. With the Wifi 6 routers and devices on your network, your house will have the fastest possible version of Wifi. Meanwhile, your older generation Wifi devices will still be able to connect just like always as the Wifi 6 and Wifi 6E are totally backward compatible with all the previous versions of Wifi.
Wifi 5 Vs Wifi 6
Both Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 have their own set of perks and specs that can catch people’s attention. Here is a detailed table of specs that make Wifi 5 and Wifi 6 the best in the market to help you decide.
|Parameters||Wifi 5 (802.11 AC)||Wifi 6 (802.11 AX)|
|Frequency||5 Ghz||2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz|
|Modulation||256 QAM||1024 QAM|
|Max Data Rate||3.5 Gbps||9.5 Gbps|
|Performance||Less than Wifi 6||Better Than Wifi 5|
|BSS Coloring||Not Supported||Supported|
The Wifi 6 offer exclusively fast Wi-fi up to 9.5 Gbps along with ultra-smooth streaming. In addition, Wifi 6 uses the 1024 QAM to provide a signal packed with more data and higher efficiency. Whereas the Wifi 5 offers speed up to 3.5 Gbps. In short, a WiFi 6 capable router could hit speeds over 250% faster than current WiFi 5 devices.
Wifi 5 is designed to cater more outdoor networks. However, the Wifi 6 has four times more capacity to connect to more devices, making it ideal for crowded networks. Wifi 6’s more extended OFDMA symbol provides increased coverage and makes it 11% faster. With the Wifi 6, you can enjoy rock-solid coverage and get ultra-fast connections for all your smart home needs.
3. 4K/8K Streaming
Wifi 6 uses both 1024 QAM to provide a signal packed with more data and a 160 Mhz channel to provide a broader channel to make your Wifi faster and allows you to enjoy stutter-free VR or enjoy stunningly vivid 4k and even 8k streaming.
4. Number Of Connected Devices
With the traditional MU-MIMO, multiple users can access the router simultaneously without any noticeable decrease in the bandwidth quality. However, in the case of the Wifi 5, the MU-MIMO only works for downloads, whereas for Wifi 6, the MU-MIMO works for both uploads and downloads.
5. Power Consumption
The 802.11 AX comes equipped with Target Wake Time (TWT), which allows devices to negotiate when and how often they will wake up, sending or receiving data. An increased device sleeping time ultimately leads to a substantially improved battery life for mobile and all the other IoT devices. This feature is not supported in 802.11 AC.
With the Wifi 6’s Base Service Station (BSS), your Wifi router tags all the frames from your neighboring devices/networks so that your Wifi network can automatically ignore them. However, in the case of the 802.11 AX, there is no BSS coloring which is why there is a higher chance of Wifi signals being interrupted or overlapped.
7. Supported Devices
WiFi 6 routers are 100% backward compatible with WiFi 5 and older WiFi devices. Unfortunately, Wifi 6 is currently not compatible with TVs and home gadgets. However, this will soon change. To enjoy the speed and connectivity offered by Wifi 6, you’ll need to have a router that supports Wifi 6.
Wifi 5 or Wifi 6 Which one to consider?
If you are currently using the Wifi 5, then it is an excellent time to upgrade to the Wifi 6. As we have mentioned above, the Wifi 6 offers faster connectivity and has a speed 30% greater than Wifi 5. The Wifi 6 has four times more capacity to connect to more devices, making it ideal for crowded networks. Wifi 6’s more extended OFDM symbol provides increased coverage and makes it 11% faster. With the Wifi 6, you can enjoy rock-solid coverage and get ultra-fast connections for all your smart home needs.
With the 802.11 AX, you can now enjoy stunningly vivid 4k and 8k videos, buffer-free streaming, and faster downloads without losing your latency at any point in time. Some of the key features and benefits of the Wifi 6 include:
- Low Latency
- Wider Channels
- Contiguous Spectrum
- Longer Range
- Gigabit Speeds
- Extended Battery Life
In a busy multi-device household, the Wifi 6 guarantees the highest level of performance without a drop in speed or connectivity at any point. The 802.11 AX comes with increased streams that allow your router to send data to multiple devices at the same time. Many new smartphones, laptops, and other home devices in the market have now been configured to support Wifi 6
However, if you are using the Wifi 5, you may want to hold on to it for a little while. This is because the demand and clientele for Wifi 6 are still in the initial phase. Similarly, your current networking condition may not allow you to upgrade to Wifi 6. Even if you go ahead and upgrade to Wifi 6, you may not be able to enjoy all the perks that come with Wifi 6.