This story is part of , where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.
The Arris Surfboard line from CommScope already includes a variety of tri-band mesh routers that support another new tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 Surfboard Max — and it’s the most affordable one we’ve seen yet.— and that tri-band approach, which dedicates an additional 5GHz band to backhaul communications between the router and its satellite nodes, is key to unlocking . Now, for , the company is releasing
Available now at Best Buy after initially being pitched for release , the new, AX6600 Surfboard Max looks just like , but costs less than either of them at $400 for a two-pack capable of covering up to 5,500 square feet. That’s also $50 less than a comparable two-pack, which is one of our top-recommended mesh systems, and right on par with the well-reviewed system from Amazon, which costs $600 for a three-pack.
Meanwhile, if you just want one, you can also buy a single Surfboard Max for use as a standalone router. That’ll cost you $250.
For the money, you’re getting a tri-band mesh setup with a 4×4 backhaul band and full support for 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6. That brings means that it supports the latest Wi-Fi speeds and features, including OFDMA, 1024 QAM, Target Wake Time, and other improvements that make Wi-Fi 6.
The Surfboard Max doesn’t support a new designation for Wi-Fi 6 devices equipped to transmit in . For that, you’ll want to check out the latest offerings from , , and , but be prepared to pay up., though,
The other noteworthy omission here is that the Surfboard Max only features two Ethernet jacks on each device, and only supports incoming wired speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. That’s an understandable trade-off to help bring the price down a bit, but it also means that the Surfboard Max is less future proofed than systems like the Asus ZenWiFi AX and, each of which features a multi-gig WAN port.
In addition to the new Surfboard Max, Arris is also unveiling a new plug-in range extender called the Surfboard Max Express. Built like an adorably miniature version of the router, the device plugs in like an air freshener, then uses Wi-Fi 6 to relay the signal from your router farther into your home.
CommScope says that the tri-band device supports the full speeds of the full-size Surfboard Max, and that we’ll see it bundled with that router later this year. No word yet on what that bundle will cost, or if the Express will be sold separately on its own, but I’ll update this space when I hear more.