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Is your broadband speed slow? A Wif-Fi 7 router can help, but it won't be cheap.

Mike Feibus
Special to ӣƵ

For the first time, my fast broadband connection actually seems fast.

This is a big deal for my internet-dependent household. Work conference calls don’t cut out anymore. Streaming clips and videos – on everything from CBS ӣƵ and YouTube to Amazon Prime and Netflix – hop to, without a trace of the annoying wait-a-minute wheel. Even the MyQ garage door opener and Schlage door lock respond faster to their respective apps.

Our problem, as it turned out, wasn’t a poor connection. It was crowd control.

Now, there’s a new sheriff in town – and it’s cleaning up our connections. Late last month, eero sent me one of its just-released Max 7 router packs. Max 7 is one of the first whole-home networks available to support Wi-Fi 7, which lines the router’s toolbox with a bunch of new tricks to keep connections humming, even on crowded networks like mine. And, for good measure, it also manages traffic on the recently allocated 6GHz spectrum, so newer smartphones and laptops can enjoy jarringly high-speed, unfettered connections.

Is Wi-Fi 7 overkill?

To be honest, though, things weren’t so terrible before. We have gigabit broadband service, for gosh sakes.  That’s more than enough bandwidth for my wife and I to collaborate on separate videoconferences, stream different movies and interact on dueling social media platforms – all at the same time.

But we couldn’t bank on our connections when we wanted or needed them to work flawlessly. Sooner or later, conference video would freeze. Streaming services would buffer.

We have more than 50 connected devices vying for capacity on our home network – including no less than eight crabby old smart bulbs that can muck up traffic faster than a hayride on a freeway. So if, for example, an Amazon delivery happens to activate a webcam while a pair of lightbulbs are updating their firmware, my video call inevitably would sputter.

Fifty devices may sound like a lot – and it is. But peg the number of connected devices in a typical U.S. household at more than 20, which is still more than enough to wrench a few unwelcome interruptions into your most pressing internet activities.

Is Wi-Fi 7 available yet?

Yes, eero released the Max 7 router packs in October.

What does Wi-Fi 7 do?

The new Wi-Fi 7 tools that Max 7 has at its disposal are impressive. In earlier Wi-Fi versions, the router allocated a set amount of spectrum to a device, no matter if it was downloading a big file or simply flipping on a light. Wi-Fi 7 adds new powers to mix and match slices of spectrum so that devices only get what they need.

That greatly improves efficiency, so more devices can coexist on your network. And as you add newer devices that can take advantage of more of the latest features, Wi-Fi 7 routers like the Max 7 will be able to make things even more efficient.

Does Wi-Fi 7 use 6GHz?

One of the coolest Max 7 features starts with a ‘6:’ that is, 6GHz. After watching wireless home networks swell from just one or two PCs to dozens of smartphones, laptops, streaming consoles, voice assistants and other smart home devices, the FCC freed up a huge expanse of 6GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi.  It’s more than twice what’s available in the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands combined.

For all the new capabilities in Wi-Fi 7, it is the pristine new 6GHz spectrum that offers the most eye-popping experience. It feels like you have the network all to yourself. And in some respects, you really do.

Do iPhones support Wi-Fi 7?

There are a few Wi-Fi 7 devices available, like the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, that can access the 6GHz spectrum. There are also some higher-end laptops and smartphones released this year with Wi-Fi 6E, an update to Wi-Fi 6 that allows for 6GHz communication. Examples include the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max or Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold5 and Z Flip5. They can’t take advantage of all Wi-Fi 7’s new management features. But they can surf the rare air of 6GHz.

For my evaluation, I used a Lenovo Yoga Book 9i dual-screen laptop with Wi-Fi 6E, and a Pixel 8 Pro smartphone with Wi-Fi 7. With each, it felt like I had the wind in my hair while connecting. I’d never seen the Chase Bank app appear so quickly. It had to be the first time I’ve ever smiled while paying bills.

How much will Wi-Fi 7 cost?

We haven’t talked cost yet. And let me warn you, that also can be jarring. Mesh systems, which greatly improve network performance by managing traffic across multiple router nodes, are pricey to begin with. Plus, Wi-Fi 7 is the latest and greatest, with marked leaps in performance and efficiency. Combine the two, and, well, are you ready?

The Max 7 platform starts at $599.99 for a single device, $1,149.99 for a two-pack and $1,699.99 for the three-pack I’ve been evaluating. But believe it or not, there are more expensive Wi-Fi 7 mesh systems!

Bottom line

I evaluate a lot of laptops, smartphones, voice assistants and smart home devices, which helps explain why our network is so cluttered. Of course, I’ve also reviewed a lot of home network platforms. The new Wi-Fi 7 capabilities on eero’s Max 7 mesh router was easily the most jolting leap in network performance I’ve experienced since I evaluated first-generation mesh networking systems when they came out seven years ago.

In my experience thus far, Wi-Fi 7 mesh routers like Max 7 are worth consideration, for example, if you work at home and your business depends on bankable performance. Or if you have a big family that’s incessantly fighting about whose internet activity is horning in on what.

Or, if you’re tired of paying for fast broadband that’s just not that fast.

Mike Feibus is president and principal analyst of FeibusTech, a Scottsdale, Arizona, market research and consulting firm. Reach him at mikef@feibustech.com.

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