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Wireless connections are the backbone of most modern homes, providing high network availability with easy connections. Wi-Fi standards are a slow crawl toward progress, compared to most other factors in tech. However, each leap is a massive jump in capabilities.

Wi-Fi 7’s announcement has the networking world excited. For the first time since Wi-Fi’s introduction, there is a whole new frequency spectrum to use. Is it worth upgrading to a Wi-Fi 7 device? Let’s look at the capabilities of Wi-Fi 7 against its immediate predecessor, Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 6E is also a relatively recent development, a further refinement of Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: Side-by-Side Comparison

Wi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 6E
Data Bands2.5, 5, and 6 GHz2.5, 5, and 6 GHz
Bandwidth20, 40, 80, 80+80, 160, and 320 MHz20, 40, 80, 80+80, and 160 MHz
Maximum Speed Supported46 Gbps9.6 Gbps
Channel Width320 MHz160 MHz
SecurityWPA 4WPA 3
Access PointMultipleSingle
IEEE Standard 802.11be802.11ax

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: What’s the Difference?

Wi-Fi 7 presents a pretty substantial upgrade over the previous Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6. For a generational update, it is quite a massive leap forward, boasting even faster speeds, more bandwidth, and concurrent connections than its immediate predecessor.

Speed

wi-fi 7
Wi-Fi 7’s 320 MHz channels are twice the size of previous Wi-Fi generations.

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Wi-Fi 7 sees a massive boost in speed, with support of transmission at rates of up to 46 Gbps. This isn’t a mere refresh in the way Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E was, but rather an entirely different standard. Speed is further helped along with a doubled channel width.

Wi-Fi 7 carries forward the frequency bands of its predecessor. This allows users to connect more effectively with minimal electromagnetic interference, depending on the composition and layout of their home or office.

This contrasts with the 9.6 Gbps supported by Wi-Fi 6E. The current standard is blazingly fast for a wireless connection, but its successor is closing the gap in terms of wired connections. Do note, however, that this isn’t reflective of the speeds and specifications of your internet plan.

These are the maximum speeds supported by devices bearing these certifications. And, as such, you might experience differing speeds. Local area connections should be blazingly fast, and sharing between local network shares is approaching hard-wired data rates.

Connectivity

Wi-Fi 7 sees massive boosts in connectivity. This isn’t entirely surprising given the new support for higher speeds but is certainly a welcome new feature. The channel width itself has doubled, going from 160MHz to 320MHz. This increase in channel width is only available for the 6GHz band, but there are some creative ways Wi-Fi 7 handles routing its bandwidth.

Wi-Fi 6E saw the ability to combine frequency bands to allow for more concurrent connections, and the same is extended to Wi-Fi 7. Users have the ability to combine these bands to allow for faster connections closer to the base station, as well as more stable connections with less speed further out from the area of highest saturation.

As with all Wi-Fi standards, this range can be extended through the usage of mesh networks or Wi-Fi repeaters. Simply put, the latest Wi-Fi standard allows for more connections and allows users to prioritize speed or connectivity.

A Matter of Standards

WiFi 6E Access Points
Wi-Fi 6E represents an extension of the available frequencies that can be used to transmit Wi-Fi 6 signals.

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At the time of writing, Wi-Fi 7 is newly certified and manufacturers like Qualcomm are starting production of chips supporting the new protocol. What this means in the interim is that the defacto fastest Wi-Fi standard available is Wi-Fi 6E.

Certification and manufacturer support do take some time from wireless equipment manufacturers and, as such, it might be at least another year before consumers are able to purchase their own Wi-Fi 7-compatible hardware.

Further, current devices on the marketplace, like smartphones and tablets, won’t have native support for the newest standard. Sure, they can take advantage of the greater means of connectivity, but the wireless antennas on the device also need to be compatible to take advantage of the increase in speed.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. Wi-Fi 7 has the fastest throughput of any wireless standard.
  2. Wi-Fi 7 will need full OEM support to deliver the best speeds and connections.
  3. Wi-Fi 7 quadruples the QAM modulation to 4K over the previous 1024.
  4. Wi-Fi 6E allows for bi-directional MU-MIMO.
  5. Wi-Fi 6E can combine frequency bands for better connection quality.
  6. Wi-Fi 6E only allows for the usage of one frequency band by connection at a time.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

For those putting together a new wireless network, it might be worth the wait to fully incorporate Wi-Fi 7 into their home setup. The greater speeds and connections on offer bode well for those enjoying 4K streaming media or using multiple devices simultaneously.

That isn’t to discount the features boasted by Wi-Fi 6E, as it remains the current standard. For those who need a wireless router and accompanying equipment now, the current standard is still a great choice. It isn’t nearly as fast or robust with connectivity, but it is a massive leap forward from Wi-Fi 5 hardware.

As for Wi-Fi 7, users will have to engage in a waiting game as manufacturers and OEMs catch up to the latest and greatest. What it shows in the current spec sheets is a great leap forward, but when supported devices come to market is still up in the air.

Wi-Fi 7 vs Wi-Fi 6E: What’s the Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is Wi-Fi 7 an improvement over Wi-Fi 6E?

It is far ahead of Wi-Fi 6E in terms of capability. Wi-Fi 7 has better speeds, more connections, and more available bandwidth for every device being provisioned on a network utilizing it. The latest standard is a vast improvement over the last two Wi-Fi standards which received certification.

The only thing holding up Wi-Fi 7 is a general lack of support by the chip manufacturers. As the standard was only recently certified, there isn’t a vast breadth of choices to make in terms of hardware. That will change given time, but at the moment you’d be hard-pressed to find devices that support the latest technology natively.

Are the latest smartphones and laptops Wi-Fi 7 ready?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much hardware support in terms of Wi-Fi 7. As it has been newly certified any hardware manufacturers likely haven’t had time to develop their own compatible wireless antennas. What this means essentially is that the latest MacBooks, iPads, Razer laptops, and so on aren’t going to be compatible with the latest Wi-Fi.

This isn’t necessarily a drawback, as while your devices might not be able to take full advantage of the speed, they can certainly benefit from the connectivity. This is also coupled with Wi-Fi 7 and is backward compatible with the various technologies at play in Wi-Fi 6E. When available, you could upgrade your router and networking devices to Wi-Fi 7 and upgrade your personal devices as they get refreshed.

Are gaming consoles Wi-Fi 7 ready?

The latest generation of gaming consoles isn’t compatible with all the features presented for Wi-Fi 7. Both the latest Xbox and Playstation were both presented well before Wi-Fi 7 was certified, and as such, they won’t be able to take advantage of the improvements Wi-Fi 7 has on offer.

For those seeking better connectivity and speeds for their home consoles, the option of hardwiring an ethernet cable into the console will net the most stable connection and blazing speeds. Ethernet is still the gold standard in terms of providing speed and connectivity, and despite shifting wireless standards will remain the ideal option for uses where latency should be avoided.

Will Wi-Fi 6E be obsolete with the introduction of Wi-Fi 7?

Thankfully wireless standards don’t necessarily mean you need to junk all your current devices. While they may not be compatible with Wi-Fi 7, that doesn’t mean they’ll lack connectivity if you’re looking to upgrade your home network to the latest standard. You will likely see a difference in speed because there does need to be compatible hardware on both ends for quick transmissions. But they should function as they do now.

This also comes along with the fact that most Wi-Fi 6E-compatible hardware is likely to remain on the market for the next few years. While you could certainly make the conscious decision to only purchase compatible hardware, you’re going to find the pool of available tech sorely lacking compared to everything else on the market that supports previously established Wi-Fi standards.

When was Wi-Fi 7 introduced?

Wi-Fi 7 was introduced in March of 2021.

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  • PC Mag Available here: https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/wi-fi-7-explained-everything-to-know-about-tomorrows-fastest-wireless-spec
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