Wi-Fi 6 is starting to become affordable for SMB cloud-managed installations. In July last year, I reviewed the EnGenius EWS357AP, which at the time was one of the first Wi-Fi 6 access points to the market and the cheapest at around £250.
I subsequently reviewed the Zyxel WAX650S offering one of the highest specs for an AP but with a price of around £650. That being said, it was still cheaper than both Cisco and Meraki solutions.
Now both Netgear and Zyxel have launched new products at much more attractive prices.
As I wrote this, I realised that Ubiquiti has also introduced their own Wi-Fi 6 AP. However, this appears to be early access only.
Admittedly, this comparison is moot if you have already committed to Zyxel Nebula or Netgear Insight, but it is worth considering if you are planning a new system and want the best performance at a reasonable price.
Wi-Fi 6 is best for business
Wi-Fi 6 is arguably a better upgrade for businesses over consumers. The new standard isn’t just about raw speed, some of the main advantages are geared towards increased capacity with reduced latency to support higher numbers of users. It is also designed to be able to work in higher density environments as well as superior performance outdoors.
Zyxel NWA110AX WiFi 6 PoE+ Access Point
The Zyxel NWA110AX currently costs around £200 and cuts down on the spec vs the WAX650S to achieve this price.
This is a dual-band 2×2 MIMO AP vs 4×4 of the more expensive WAX650S, you then get a maximum throughput for the two bands of:
- 2.4 GHz: 575 Mbps
- 5 GHz: 1200 Mbps
It, therefore, lacks the 160Hz bandwidth channel, back when I reviewed the WAX650S, I wasn’t able to get this to work on 160Hz. However, it now looks like it is enabled within Nebula.
The Zyxel hardware can work within the cloud-managed system, which is free to use, or as a standalone system which can then be managed via the ZON utility.
It features a single 1GbE POE port down from the multi-gig of the WAX650S and dropping the extra gigabit port.
Netgear WAX610 WiFi 6 PoE Access Point & WAX610Y for outdoors
Netgear has introduced two models, the WAX610 and WAX610Y, they are basically the same, but the WAX610Y is suitable for outdoor use and therefore costs more.
Priced at £179.99 and £249.99 these share most of the basic specs of the Zyxel including 2×2 802.11ax with 1200 Mbps in the 5 GHz band and 600 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band.
However they have one big advantage with the inclusion of the 2.5Gbps PoE LAN port which typically comes with a large price hike.
How useful this is when the Wi-Fi speeds are capped at 1200 Mbps is another question, but it should enable the access point to be able to handle more concurrent users across both bands better than the other options.
Other features include:
- WPA3 for the highest level of WiFi connection security
- Eight separate wireless networks (SSIDs) can be used for administration, employees, customers or guests and IoT devices (WiFi surveillance cameras, thermostats, door locks and sensors) with separate and secure VLANs
- Dynamic VLAN per RADIUS user assignment, a feature specially designed for businesses who use RADIUS to efficiently manage user accounts and access
Similar to Zyxel, these access points can work as standalone or within the cloud-managed Netgear Insight system.
Unlike Zyxel Nebula, Insight is not free and operates a per device price policy. Each device you buy from April 2020 comes with a free years worth of subscription it then costs $9.99 per year per device for the Premium Plan, or $22.00 per device/per year for the Pro plan.
These access points are available to buy now in the US and will be in the UK soon.
Ubiquiti UniFi 6 Lite Access Point & UniFi 6 In-Wall Access Point
These are both early access only units so I have no idea when or how much they will sell for at retails. From what I can gather, Ubiquiti appears to dominate the affordable cloud-managed market. Likely thanks to their no subscription service, you just need to be able to run their software, either via a cloud key, dream machine or just installing the UniFi Network Controller on an existing server.
For the UniFi 6 Lite, you get basically the same spec as the other two with a 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 access point that delivers up to 1.5 Gbps aggregate radio rate with 5 GHz (MU-MIMO and OFDMA) and 2.4 GHz (MIMO) radios. This features a single Gigabit Ethernet, powered with 802.3af PoE
The UniFi 6 In-Wall Access Point looks more interesting, and likely a lot more expensive.
It includes 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connectivity (no multi-gigabit though), one of which offers PoE passthrough for an 802.3af device. The U6-IW delivers an aggregate radio rate of up to 2.7 Gbps with 5 GHz (4×4 MU-MIMO and OFDMA) and 2.4 GHz (2×2 MIMO) radios.
The early access price of the Ubiquiti UniFi 6 Lite was just $99, which is incredible, but I expect final retail units will see a large price hike to be inline with the other brands.