At CES 2021, Arris makes tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers a bit less expensive

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The new Arris Surfboard Max is available in stores now at $400 for a two-pack.


CommScope

This story is part of CES, 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 Wi-Fi 6 — 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 top-of-the-line mesh performance. Now, for CES 2021, the company is releasing another new tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 Surfboard Max — and it’s the most affordable one we’ve seen yet.

Available now at Best Buy after initially being pitched for release last year, the new, AX6600 Surfboard Max looks just like last year’s Surfboard Max Pro and Max Plus models, 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 Asus ZenWiFi AX two-pack, which is one of our top-recommended mesh systems, and right on par with the well-reviewed Eero Pro 6 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.

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Later this year, Arris will release a mini-sized, plug-in range extender called the Surfboard Max Express and bundle it with the full-size router.


CommScope

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 fastest version of Wi-Fi yet.

The Surfboard Max doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6E, though, a new designation for Wi-Fi 6 devices equipped to transmit in the newly-opened 6GHz band. For that, you’ll want to check out the latest offerings from Netgear, TP-Link, and Linksys Velop, but be prepared to pay up.

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 the AX6000 version of Netgear Orbi, 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.

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