Call it the early adopter tax if you want, but the smattering of Wi-Fi 6 routers have, up to now, cost hundreds dollars. That changes today. TP-Link has answered the call for a more affordable path into Wi-Fi 6 territory with its Archer AX3000 and AX1500 routers, priced at $129.99 and $69.99, respectively.
Wi-Fi 6 is the more consumer friendly nomenclature for 802.11ax, the next-generation successor to 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5). It's a true generational leap in that it offers more capacity for potentially faster wireless speeds and much better handling of simultaneously connected devices.
That latter bit is really the main draw. If you think about today's connected homes, it's not uncommon to find as many as a dozen or more devices tapping into your wireless network. Desktops, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, smart speakers, game consoles, streaming sticks—the list goes on. TP-Link's guide (with accompanying video) does a good job of explaining the tech, and it wrote a piece earlier this year on why games should care about Wi-Fi 6. The short of it is that Wi-Fi 6 is purposefully designed for the modern connected era.
The caveat is that both your router and host devices need to support Wi-Fi 6 in order to take full advantage of the spec. Some of the first routers out of the gate have been rather expensive, like the Asus ROG GT-AX11000 ($397.69 on Amazon (opens in new tab)) and Netgear Nighthawk AX8 ($359.99 on Amazon (opens in new tab)).
TP-Link's routers are not quite as enthusiast-oriented, but they are both Wi-Fi 6 models. Importantly, they cost significantly less.
The higher-end Archer AX3000 is a four-stream Wi-Fi 6 router powered by an Intel dual-core processor. It offers theoretical top speeds of up to 2,402Mbps on the 5GHz band and 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Like just about every modern router, it also has a built-in 4-port gigabit LAN switch for wired connections, along with a single USB port for printer and storage sharing.
TP-Link's Archer AX1500 is also a Wi-Fi 6 model, with speeds of up to 1,201Mbps on the 5GHz band and 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Like the AX3000, it has a 4-port GbE LAN switch built into it. Curiously, though, there are no USB ports. Even for a sub-$100 router, that's a disappointing omission, though not necessarily a deal-killer.
On the host side of the equation, very few devices sport a Wi-Fi 6 adapter. Fortunately, Wi-Fi 6 routers are backwards compatible. There are also fairly inexpensive ways to upgrade your hardware. For example, a Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 module for a laptop is just $35 on Amazon (opens in new tab). Likewise, you can find non-Killer versions that are also based on the same Intel chipset for even less.