The debate between AC and AX Wi-Fi standards is an ongoing one. This article provides an unbiased comparison of the two standards to help readers determine which one better suits their needs.
What is AC Wi-Fi?
AC stands for 802.11ac and represents a Wi-Fi standard released in 2014. Key features of AC Wi-Fi include:
- Faster speeds – AC Wi-Fi has maximum theoretical speeds of 1.3 Gbps on the 5 GHz band. This is faster than previous Wi-Fi versions.
- Dual-band support – AC routers can operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. The 5 GHz band is less congested.
- Beamforming technology – AC Wi-Fi uses beamforming to directly target devices with signals for stronger, faster connections.
- More antennas – AC routers have eight antennas compared to four on older routers. This allows for faster data transmission.
- Backwards compatibility – AC devices maintain compatibility with older a/b/g/n standard Wi-Fi devices.
Overall, 802.11ac delivers significantly faster speeds by building on advances made in previous versions.
What is AX Wi-Fi?
AX stands for 802.11ax and is the latest generation Wi-Fi standard released in 2019. Key advantages of AX Wi-Fi include:
- Even faster speeds – AX has maximum theoretical speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps. Real-world speeds will be lower but still faster than AC.
- Advanced efficiency – AX uses technologies like Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and uplink/downlink OFDMA to handle more devices simultaneously. This results in up to 4x increased network efficiency in crowded environments.
- Better coverage – AX routers can flexibly use channels to optimize signals for range and congestion levels.
- Backwards compatibility – Like AC, AX maintains compatibility with older a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi devices.
In essence, 802.11ax aims to improve overall network efficiency and capacity to handle more connected devices. Speeds can also exceed those of 802.11ac.
AC vs AX: Key Differences
The table below summarizes some major differences between the AC and AX wireless standards:
|2.4GHz & 5GHz
As you can see, AX builds upon AC to deliver faster total speeds, greater capacity for connected devices, and improved reliability.
Is AC or AX Better For You?
Determining whether AC or AX is the better choice depends on your specific usage:
AC Wi-Fi is likely the better option if:
- You’re on a tight budget – AC routers and adapters cost less than AX ones
- You don’t have very many devices connected simultaneously
- Your internet speeds are below 400Mbps – faster AX speeds will be limited by slower internet
- You use mostly older devices without AX support
AX Wi-Fi is the better choice if:
- Budget isn’t a major concern
- You want future-proof technology
- You have 100+ devices connected to one router
- You pay for gigabit internet speeds (500Mbps+)
- You use newer devices with Wi-Fi 6 support
For most home users today, AC routers provide sufficient performance at an affordable price point. But AX is ideal for tech enthusiasts, smart homes, and busy networks needing expanded capacity.
Over time, the falling prices and wider adoption of AX will make it a standard recommendation. But AC routers still deliver solid performance for many.
- AX Wi-Fi builds on AC advancements to deliver faster speeds, more simultaneous connections, and greater reliability
- AX technology offers future-proofing but costs more than AC currently
- AC Wi-Fi still provides sufficient speeds for most home users below 500Mbps internet plans
- Evaluate your budget, devices, internet speeds, and connectivity needs to decide between AC vs AX
For users wanting great performance today without breaking the bank, AC is likely the best fit. But AX paves the way for tomorrow’s crowded smart homes.
In closing, while AX Wi-Fi represents an important step forward in technology, AC routers remain a reliable, affordable choice suitable for most users. Unless you have specific needs for very high speeds or many connections, AC delivers ample performance. Yet AX shows promise for handling future network demands. Consider your individual usage, speeds, devices, and budget to determine if paying more for AX is worthwhile or if AC still fits the bill.Wi-Fi standards will continue evolving, but AC strikes an ideal balance for many between price and capabilities in the present market.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can AC devices connect to AX routers?
Yes, AX Wi-Fi routers maintain backwards compatibility with AC devices. But you’ll be limited to AC maximum speeds.
- Is MU-MIMO supported on AC and AX?
Yes, both AC and AX standards support multi-user, multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO) for communicating with multiple devices simultaneously. AX implements this technology more efficiently.
- Should I upgrade my AC router to AX?
Upgrading makes the most sense if your internet speeds exceed 400-500 Mbps or you have 100+ connected devices. For moderate usage under those thresholds, AC routers still perform well.
- Will AC routers stop working if I get AX devices?
No, your AC router will not stop working with new AX capable devices. The devices will simply connect at slower AC speeds. But you won’t benefit from the faster AX speeds.
- How much faster is AX than AC?
AX theoretical maximum speeds are over 7x faster than AC. But real-world speed improvements will be lower, though still faster, compared to AC.
- Does AX improve 2.4GHz performance?
Yes, AX introduces new technologies to improve reliability and reduce congestion on the 2.4GHz bands. But 5GHz will still typically be faster.
- What’s the difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 5 refers to 802.11ac standard routers. Wi-Fi 6 corresponds to the latest 802.11ax standard. The numbers represent generations of Wi-Fi technologies.
- Should I buy an AX router for gigabit internet?
Yes, to take full advantage of 900+ Mbps gigabit internet speeds, a Wi-Fi 6 router is recommended. AC routers max out at 1.3Gbps shared bandwidth.
- Is it worth upgrading phones to get AX support?
If you have an AX router, upgrading phones to AX-compatible models will provide faster speeds and better reception when connected to the router.
- Do I need new cabling for AX?
No, standard Cat5e Ethernet cabling found in most homes supports the faster multi-gigabit speeds of AX routers. Upgrading cables is generally unnecessary.
- What is OFDMA?
OFDMA is Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access, an efficiency technology used in AX for communicating with multiple devices simultaneously while reducing latency.
- Will Mesh AX systems improve coverage?
Yes, Wi-Fi 6 mesh router systems that feature dedicated backhaul communication between nodes will provide both faster speeds and more reliable whole-home coverage.
- Is WPA3 security supported?
Yes, AX routers support the latest WPA3 Wi-Fi security protocol standards for enhanced encryption and protections when transmitting data.
- Can I get AX speeds over VPNs?
Connecting over VPNs will limit maximum Wi-Fi speeds. Expect reduced AX throughput speeds when accessing the internet via VPN due to encryption overhead.
- Are AX routers compatible with Wi-Fi extenders?
Yes, Wi-Fi extenders that support 802.11ax are fully backwards compatible with existing AX routers. This allows you to add range to your network.
- Should businesses upgrade to AX?
AX makes sense for large businesses supporting hundreds of simultaneous devices in a small area or that have gigabit+ wired internet speeds to take advantage of increased throughput.