There has been so much fuss about Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6 in the past two years. But what do they mean? What are the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7? More importantly, are these differences worthy enough to justify an upgrade?

    In this article, I will tell you how different Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 are from an end user’s perspective.

    Differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7

    Wi-Fi 7 offers 4 times the maximum speed of Wi-Fi 6. This new standard also offers impressive performance with the help of multi-link connections and smarter management. You also get 3 frequency bands instead of 2, and the third band can help you with low-latency tasks without interference.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: the Basics

    Wi-Fi 6

    Wi-Fi 6 is currently the most popular standard for Wi-Fi. It was introduced in 2019 and has been widely adopted by network/end-point devices. It is backward-compatible with Wi-Fi 5 and 4.

    Theoretically, Wi-Fi 6 connections can provide maximum speeds close to 10 Gbps. While the official technical name of this standard is IEEE 802.11ax, the new naming system calls it Wi-Fi 6. It also means that Wi-Fi 6 is the 6th version of Wi-Fi.

    Wi-Fi 7

    Wi-Fi 7, on the other hand, is the newest Wi-Fi standard that was announced in January 2024. This standard is still in the early adoption stages, and you can find only a few devices that use Wi-Fi 6.

    Wi-Fi 7 Logo

    The theoretical maximum speed on the Wi-Fi 7 standard is a whopping 46Gbps. In addition to that, Wi-Fi 7 brings a couple of features like enhanced security and multiband operation. The standard’s technical name is IEEE 802.11be.

    I think we should also talk about Wi-Fi 6E.

    WiFi 6e Features

    Wi-Fi 6E was launched in 2021 but is not a separate Wi-Fi standard. Instead, it is a variation of the 802.11ax standard. This version offers improved latency and adds a third band to the scene: 6GHz. Like the 5GHz band, the 6GHz band is designed to provide blazing-fast speeds and latency within a limited coverage area.

    This three-band system has been adopted by Wi-Fi 7 as well, but more about that later.

    Significant Differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7

    Before I explain the core differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7, here is a quick (but technical) comparison table.

    Feature
    Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
    Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be)
    Release Year
    2019
    2024
    Max Speed
    Up to 9.6 Gbps
    Up to 46 Gbps
    Frequency Bands
    2.4 GHz, 5 GHz
    2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz
    Channel Width
    Up to 160 MHz
    Up to 320 MHz
    Modulation
    1024-QAM
    4096-QAM
    OFDMA
    Yes
    Improved OFDMA
    MU-MIMO
    Up to 8×8 DL/UL
    Up to 16×16 DL/UL
    Latency
    Low
    Further reduced
    TWT
    Yes
    Yes, improved
    Compatibility
    Backward compatible
    Backward compatible
    Efficiency
    Higher than Wi-Fi 5
    Significantly higher
    Beamforming
    Advanced
    Enhanced
    Use Cases
    High-density, IoT, gaming
    AR, VR, 8K streaming

    Now, I will consider different aspects such as speed, frequency bands, performance, compatibility, ideal use, etc.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Speed

    Compared to Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 7 brings a huge difference in speed. With a maximum speed of 46Gbps, Wi-Fi 7 has four times the speed of Wi-Fi 6. Therefore, you can notice a huge difference in network speeds. The speeds are moving closer to that of earlier Ethernet connections.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Speed

    However, your internet speed will not differ without a multi-gig internet connection. Even then, I don’t think 10+ gigabit connections are available anywhere unless you are building a data center or something more enterprise-level.

    So, considering that Wi-Fi 6 still has close to 10 Gbps of speed, you might not know the difference in browsing or download speeds. However, you can consider setting up a proximity wireless network to share data between devices.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 7: Frequency Bands

    One of the significant differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 is the number of frequency bands. Wi-Fi 6 has only two bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 7 comes with three bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. These different bands can determine where and how effective Wi-Fi routers are.

    Let’s see what these three bands are designed for.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 7: Frequency Bands

    Source: Wi-Fi Alliance

    2.4GHz: This is the basic Wi-Fi band that most devices use. This is a universal band because it is compatible with most devices. Even the Wi-Fi 7 smartphones can efficiently work with the 2.5 GHz network. This band is known for its high penetration rate and range.

    5GHz: This is a high-speed band that has a shorter range. However, because it’s a potent frequency, you can use it to get fantastic network speeds. If you want to reach the maximum speed of the Wi-Fi standard, you should have the devices connected to the 5GHz band.

    6GHz: The 6GHz band is designed for even better speed and performance and is optimized for gaming. You must connect to this band if you need the maximum speed for streaming or online gaming. This is exclusive to Wi-Fi 7.

    So, you can decide whether your purpose requires the third band, 6GHz. You should get a Wi-Fi 7 or Wi-Fi 6E router if you need that.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Performance

    Wi-Fi 7 offers a vast improvement in terms of performance, and that is not just about the speed. As I said, the 6GHz band can have extremely high throughput. It means you can use it for very intensive tasks.

    However, the most important feature is called multi-link operation (MLO). Wi-Fi 7 uses the MLO mode to connect to a device at two different frequency bands simultaneously. This way, there is more space for the data to flow. So, when it comes to data transfer and network reliability, you will notice a huge difference.

    The bandwidth channels of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 are equally different. Wi-Fi 6 has channels from 20MHz to 160MHz. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 7 has a width of 20MHz to 320MHz. This increase can also boost the reliability of the Wi-Fi connection.

    We should also consider the improvements in MU-MIMO / DL MU-MIMO / UL & DL MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and the increased QAM. QAM is a measure of data density, which can enhance the overall Wi-Fi experience with Wi-Fi 7.

    On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6 is limited to the standard numbers and the bandwidth selection. So, if you need additional speed and reliability, you may choose Wi-Fi 7 over Wi-Fi 6.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Range/Coverage

    Both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 offer similar coverage across bands.

    You might think there is a difference because Wi-Fi 7 comes with three bands instead of 2. However, the band is added for extra reliability and low latency, not better range. So, in this case, there will be one 2.4 GHz band, one 5 GHz band, and a 6GHz band.

    The 5GHz and 6GHz bands have become more powerful thanks to features like high data density.

    Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6: Compatibility

    let’s say that you are planning to get a Wi-Fi 7 router. The biggest concern you should have is compatibility. There are two aspects to this: one is device compatibility, and the other is the availability of devices.

    Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6: Compatibility

    As far as device compatibility is concerned, Wi-Fi 7 is backward compatible. So, even if you have a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 device, it will work without any problem. But of course, you can’t get those maximum speeds or the additional bands unless you have a Wi-Fi 7-enabled smartphone or laptop.

    The other problem is the availability of the devices. Wi-Fi 7 was launched a few months back and manufacturers have only started taking it up. So, it will be a year or two until you see widespread adoption of Wi-Fi 7.

    Therefore, you should be ready for an infrastructure overhaul if you need all the benefits of Wi-Fi 7. On the other hand, Wi-Fi 6 devices have become common and inexpensive. You can even go for Wi-Fi 6E devices at lower costs.

    Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 7: Budget/Costs

    You probably know the answer to this aspect already.

    Since it’s a new standard and requires high-end hardware, Wi-Fi 7 routers and devices will be costly.

    That happens to be the case for end-point devices as well. Only a few flagship-level smartphones have shipped Wi-Fi 7 within them.

    So, you need some time for mid-level smartphone manufacturers to catch up. That puts us in a challenging position.

    In addition to the required infrastructure overhaul, you must spend more money to get these devices. For reference, a base-level Wi-Fi 7 router from NETGEAR retails for $699.

    As for the smartphones, here’s a list of Wi-Fi 7-enabled smartphones:

    1. Asus ROG Phone 7
    2. Asus Zenfone 10
    3. Google Pixel 8
    4. Google Pixel 8 Pro
    5. Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro
    6. Asus Zenfone 11 Ultra
    7. Motorola Edge+
    8. Nubia Z50S Pro
    9. OnePlus 12R
    10. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
    11. OnePlus Ace 3
    12. OnePlus Open
    13. Motorola Edge 50 Ultra
    14. OnePlus 12

    This list will only get bigger, but they are super-expensive. You should note that even the latest iOS devices don’t have Wi-Fi 7. It is rumored that only the Pro variants of the iPhone 16 will get it.

    Is Wi-Fi 7 Worth the Upgrade?

    It depends on what you expect from the upgrade.

    Wi-Fi 7 cannot offer you extended coverage by any means. So, if you want to upgrade the Wi-Fi coverage across your home, you might want to consider something like a Mesh Wi-Fi system. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are available on different standards, including Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and Wi-Fi 7.

    However, if you already have a lot of devices and want to benefit from low latency and a lot of data transfer, the Wi-Fi 7 upgrade could be worth it for you.

    But I would like to highlight that you need to spend a considerably high amount of money, at least for a few years. Since Wi-Fi 7 is available on select devices, you might have to go for flagship devices.

    For instance, if you pick a laptop, you should get the most modern one with Wi-Fi 7 support. Otherwise, even if you have a Wi-Fi 7 router and a gigabit connection, you cannot benefit from it.

    In a way, the Wi-Fi 7 upgrade is a future-proofing. You will have a ready-to-go network as more devices offer Wi-Fi 7 support. Looking at things this way, the upgrade is appealing. Since Wi-Fi 7 is backward compatible, you can use it as a Wi-Fi 6 dual-band modem until you have enough devices to leverage Wi-Fi 7 performance.

    The short answer?

    If you must choose a router for your workstation or a large house, you can get a Wi-Fi 7 router. But, if your budget does not allow it, you will be perfectly fine with a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E router for a decade.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can Wi-Fi 6 penetrate walls better?

    No, Wi-Fi 6 cannot penetrate walls better than its previous versions. This Wi-Fi standard lacks a band optimized for coverage, except for the 2.4GHz one.

    How much better is Wi-Fi 7 over 6?

    Wi-Fi 7 is four times better than Wi-Fi 6 in terms of maximum speed. It also offers improved performance while handling low-latency tasks.

    Does Wi-Fi 7 require new hardware?

    Yes, to use Wi-Fi 7, you should have a specific Wi-Fi 7 router and end-point devices. You may have to upgrade to flagship-level devices to achieve this.

    Which phone supports Wi-Fi 6?

    Most smartphones launched in the last year support Wi-Fi 6. For reference, the iPhone was the first iPhone to have Wi-Fi 6. These days, most mid-range and budget-range devices are also equipped with Wi-Fi 6.

    Conclusion

    I believe this guide was comprehensive enough to clear all your doubts regarding Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 6.

    Of course, the decision to upgrade comes down to your requirements and other features you need.

    But if your budget allows for it, I recommend a Wi-Fi 7 router if you are in the market.

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    Rajesh Namase is one of the top tech bloggers and one of the first people to turn digital marketing and blogging into a full-time profession. He has unwavering passion for technology, digital marketing, and SEO. With a penchant for exploring the digital world, Rajesh covers a wide range of topics, from Internet to the intricate universe of the technology, including WiFi, Browsers, Windows, and more.

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