Wi-Fi 5 Vs. Wi-Fi 6 – Which is Best For You?

The difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 is that Wi-Fi 6 is faster and better at managing more devices, while Wi-Fi 5 is cheaper. If you have more than a 500 Mbps internet plan and 10 or more smart devices, Wi-Fi 6 is better. Otherwise, Wi-Fi 5 will most likely be enough for now.
Wi-Fi 5 Vs. Wi-Fi 6

As a Network Engineer, I have researched and tested to find the real difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6.

And in this article, I will explain the difference, reveal all market jargon, and tell you which version is best for you. 

Keep reading to learn more. 

Speed, and Lots of It

When it comes to the internet, the faster, the better, right? Who wants to sit around watching Netflix buffer? Wi-Fi 6 offers speeds that are up to 40% faster than Wi-Fi 5. [1]

How is this possible? Data encoding with Wi-Fi 6 is more efficient than its predecessors, which results in high throughput capabilities.

Plus, higher-powered chips easily handle any additional workload, so the network doesn’t get bogged down.

Wi-Fi 6 also increases the speed of your 2.4GHz network. While most people default to using 5GHz – which offers decreased interference – using 2.4GHz will most likely handle any online or streaming activities your household will use.

Increased Security

Wi-Fi 6 introduces the third iteration of WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). WPA is a protocol used to protect and encrypt passwords on your router and other Wi-Fi devices.

So, for example, you have to sign into a network using a password. It’s probably using WPA. 

While WPA2 has been widely used for a while now, Wi-Fi 6 is changing that. With WPA3, networks are more difficult to hack thanks to advanced security. [2]

This is due to a secure authentication process that uses a sophisticated handshake method with the Wi-Fi network.

This level of protection is an excellent example of how Wi-Fi 6 is improving the user experience without directly impacting the user.

Capacity

How many connected devices do you have in your home? If you’re by yourself, you might have six or seven, right? You could have a laptop, a smartphone, a smart tv, a tablet, and a gaming console.

But what about other connected devices?

Your wireless doorbell counts, as does your smart thermostat. If you think about it, a single person could easily own a dozen connected devices.

And that number just goes up when you add more family members. With Wi-Fi 6, access points can support all the devices you own thanks to increased capacity.

This is due to improvements in technology that allow up to 30 users to share a single channel simultaneously. (3)

By comparison, Wi-Fi-5 can only allow a single user per channel. That means your Wi-Fi 6 router is much more efficient and offers more capacity than your Wi-Fi 5 router. 

Target Wake Time

Target Wake Time, also known as TWT, is a popular feature you’ll often hear about Wi-Fi 6. With TWT, your access point communicates with other devices on the network and tells them to go to sleep if they’re not in use.

It will also tell them to wake up when Wi-Fi is needed. (4)

When the wireless radio in your smart device spends more time in sleep mode, it saves on power, which extends the battery life of your unit.

This is an excellent feature if you have many connected devices like a smart doorbell, smart thermostat, or smart lighting. 

Wi-Fi 5 Pros and Cons

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of Wi-Fi 5

Pros

  • Cheaper than Wi-Fi 6
  • Default for many Wi-Fi devices
  • Efficient with lower speeds

Cons

  • One device per channel
  • Susceptible to buffering
  • Will eventually become obsolete

Wi-Fi 6 Pros and Cons

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of Wi-Fi 6

Pros

  • Faster than Wi-Fi 5
  • More efficient
  • Can handle more devices
  • Increased security

Cons

  • Lack of compatible devices
  • More expensive

Who Should Use What?

Here I have put together some tables with my recommendations for what Wireless standard you should use depending on internet speed and devices. 

Below you can see what wireless standard I recommend for each internet speed. These are not set in stone but are some approximations. 

Since the best Wi-Fi 5 router will be faster than the slowest Wi-Fi 6 router. 

Internet Plan SpeedRecommended Wireless Standard
100 MbpsWi-Fi 5
200 MbpsWi-Fi 5
400 MbpsWi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6
500 MbpsWi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6
600 MbpsWi-Fi 6
1000 MbpsWi-Fi 6

Below you can see how many smart devices each Wi-Fi standard can function with efficiently. 

These are also not set in stone since the best Wi-Fi 5 router will have more capacity than the worst Wi-Fi 6 router. 

Smart DevicesRecommended Wireless Standard
1-5Wi-Fi 5
5-10Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6
10+Wi-Fi 6

Who Should Use Wi-Fi 5?

If you are budget conscious or don’t have an internet plan above 500 Mbps or too many smart devices, it probably makes sense to use Wi-Fi 5. 

Since Wi-Fi 5 is currently the default in most markets, you won’t be missing out on much. 

Plus, you’ll save money by not needing to upgrade all your hardware so that it’s compatible with Wi-Fi 6. 

Who Should Use Wi-Fi 6?

On the other hand, if you have a faster internet plan and many smart devices, then Wi-Fi 6 is probably right for you. 

Just remember that there aren’t as many Wi-Fi 6 compatible devices on the market yet. But it won’t take long for them to get here.

Price can deter upgrading to Wi-Fi 6. However, once the market starts migrating to the newer technology, those costs will come down. 

Plus, you’ll have a network that can handle more devices, is more efficient, and offers faster speeds. What’s not to like?

Is It Time to Upgrade?

Unless you’re in the market for a brand new router, there’s not much of a point in running out and updating everything you own to Wi-Fi 6. 

Yes, this technology is most definitely the future of wireless connectivity. Still, right now, it’s going to be expensive to upgrade everything you own. 

If you’re an early adopter and need to have the latest technology, have at it. Otherwise, it’s probably best to wait.

Bottom Line

In short, Wi-Fi 6 is better if you have a faster internet connection and many smart devices. While Wi-Fi 5 is enough for most other situations. 

Wi-Fi 6 is the future, but as for now, it’s still new. So there is no rush to get it. 

If you are looking for a new router and want some help. Then check out our articles on the best router for your ISP.

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