Skip to main content

AC vs

AX Wi-Fi:

What does AX1800 & more mean?

Written by DeviceDeal blog

What does AC1300, AX1800 and all these numbers mean? Our guide will explain it all.

What does AX1800, etc. mean?

You may have noticed how many wireless routers are advertised as an AC or AX-type router, followed by a large number. For instance, the TP-Link Deco M5 is labelled as an AC1300 Mesh Wi-Fi router system. 

But have you ever looked at these numbers and asked, 'what the heck does that mean'? 

You might assume that the higher the number, the faster the router will be. That's not necessarily true, however.

We'll go over these features a little later, but in short: when you see a router labelled as AC1300 or AX5400, or some combination of letters and numbers, they're referring to the total speed throughout that the router supports (e.g. 1300Mbps for an AC1300 router), and the Wi-Fi standard that the router supports.

But there's a big caveat. These numbers are a bit misleading, and won't indicate the types of speeds you will actually get in real life. 

Let's unpack this further.

AC/AX Routers will have numbers next to them, referring to the total throughput (or speed) they can process.

Difference between AC and AX

Why are some routers labelled as AC, while others are AX?

It all boils down to the Wi-Fi standard that the router supports. Routers with AC in their name only support up to the Wi-Fi 5 standard, while routers with AX in their name should support the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, which includes benefits such as increased speed, reduced congestion and better battery life for your devices.

In a bit more detail: every few years, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) releases a new Wi-Fi standard. The official terminology for Wi-Fi standards is denoted by the numbers 802.11, followed by a combination of letters. 

The latest generation is officially known as 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6. It's often shortened to AX.

This is in contrast to the last generation, which was known as 802.11ac and Wi-Fi 5. It's short-term name is AC.

Why the big numbers (AC1300 etc.)?

If you've looked at wireless routers, you might have noticed they're advertised as either AC or AX followed by a number. For instance:

  • TP-Link Archer AX11000
  • Netgear Nighthawk AX6600
  • D-Link AX1800 Dual-Band

But what do these numbers mean?

We have to get a bit technical here. These numbers refer to the maximum bandwidth that the routers are capable of, on all bands simultaneously (including 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands), in megabits per second. So an AX1800 router, for example, should in theory be capable of transmitting and/or receiving up to 1800Mbps.

But don't take these numbers seriously.

These numbers can be misleading. Why? Because devices can only connect to a single band at a time. This means the quoted speeds won't reflect the actual speeds you'll get in reality. For instance, an AC1300 router might only have a maximum bandwidth of 300Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band.

Actual speeds in reality

When you compare manufacturer-quoted speeds to real-world conditions, actual speeds will be much lower than advertised. This means an AX11000 router won't actually make your downloads skyrocket to 11000mb/s. 

There are a few reasons for this, including:

  • Manufacturers provide theoretical speeds in very optimal laboratory conditions that are impossible to replicate in reality
  • Quoted speeds such as AX/AC5400, AC3000 etc. describe all bands operating simultaneously, while devices can only connect to one band at a time
  • Internet and device network speeds are not capable of reaching the theoretical maximums defined by the manufacturer

To illustrate this point, CNET had tested a dual-band AC1750 router, which has supposed transfer rates of up to 1300mb/s on the 5GHz band, and 450mb/s on the 2.4GHz band (in theory, anyway).

In reality, the router could only reach maximum speeds of 163mb/s on the 2.4GHz band and 802mb/s on 5GHz - far below the defined theoretical speeds.

Our Blog

Read our blog pages covering a variety of topics!

Modems and Router Differences

April 2021 / DeviceDeal blog

The two terms are sometimes confused for each other - let's unpack their differences!

What is Wi-Fi 6E?

March 2021 / DeviceDeal blog

Learn more about the new 6Ghz band and how it impacts you.

Wi-Fi 5 (AC) vs Wi-Fi 6 (AX)

February 2021 / DeviceDeal blog

Did you know you might be using outdated Wi-Fi? We'll explain the benefits of going with Wi-Fi 6.