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Game

Skullcandy’s first gaming headsets in years include Tile tracking and a wireless model

Skullcandy hasn’t offered gaming headsets for the better part of a decade, but it’s willing to give them another go — and it’s eager to catch up in some respects. The brand has introduced revamped PLYR, SLYR and SLYR Pro headsets that promise budget-friendly game audio on console, mobile and PC with a few perks. The flagship PLYR (shown above) includes Bluetooth 5.2 wireless audio, while it and the wired SLYR Pro offer Tile tracking to help you find your headset (or the device it’s connected to).

Both the PLYR and SLYR Pro (at middle) also use a hearing test to create a personalized sound profile, and offer background audio reduction whether you use the boom or integrated microphones. They can plug in through 3.5mm and USB, and an optional wireless transmitter for the PLYR promises low lag (down to 20ms) for PC- and PlayStation-based gamers. You can expect up to 24 hours of battery life in either model when you aren’t connected through USB. The base SLYR is a no-frills wired design that drops the audio processing features and USB support.

Skullcandy SLYR Pro gaming headset

Skullcandy

As with the old headsets, Skullcandy is counting on price as the main draw. The SLYR starts the line at $60, while the SLYR Pro and PLYR are relatively affordable at $100 and $130 respectively. The caveat, as you might guess, is that the gaming headset business hasn’t been standing still. The Astro A10 offers a more flexible (and arguably more visually appealing) design for the same $60 as the SLYR, while brands like Razer and SteelSeries offer both price-competitive headsets and premium models with extras like spatial audio and RGB lighting. Your choice might come down to sale pricing and personal preferences.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.

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Game

Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 wireless controller is now available in white

Microsoft Xbox has launched a new Elite Series 2 controller with a white cover plate, and it’s now available for pre-order. Like its black counterpart, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 – Core in white was designed with competitive gamers in mind, with its wrap-around rubberized grip, shorter hair trigger locks and 40 hours of battery life. It’s now available for pre-order from the Xbox website and select retailers for $130. That’s much cheaper than the black version that has a standard retail price of $180, because it doesn’t come with a case and other spare parts needed for customization. 

Instead, Xbox is selling a separate Complete Component Pack, which is also available for pre-order, for $60. The pack includes a carrying case, a thumbstick-adjustment tool, a charging dock, two classic thumbsticks, one tall thumbstick, one dome thumbstick, one cross-shaped D-pad, two medium and two mini paddles, as well as a USB-C cable. By selling the pack separately, that means those who already have all those components from the black Elite Series 2 will be able to buy the new controller on its own at a cheaper price. However, that’s $10 more than the black version for those who want to get both the white controller and the component pack.

In addition to announcing its new products, Xbox has also revealed that it’s adding the Elite Series 2 Controllers to the Xbox Design Lab this holiday season. That means players will be able purchase personalized controllers designed with various colors and patterns of their choosing, so they can go beyond these current black and white options. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.

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Game

8BitDo reveals wireless versions of its Xbox-style Ultimate Controller

Well-renowned peripheral maker 8BitDo has revealed three new versions of its , including two wireless options. There are Bluetooth, 2.4GHz and wired variants, all of which are available to pre-order now. The controllers will ship on October 28th.

Both the Bluetooth and 2.4GHz models have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and come with a charging dock. All three have a switch that allows you to swap between three profiles on the fly. You can remap the controller and adjust other settings using 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software on Windows, Android and iOS (but only on PC for the wired controller). The Xbox-style controller also has two back paddle buttons.

8BitDo Ultimate Controller

8BitDo

The Bluetooth version works with Nintendo Switch and Windows, though you may need to connect the included 2.4GHz adapter (which nestles inside the charging dock) to your PC. and it’s available in black and white. The 2.4GHz model is compatible with Windows, Android and Raspberry Pi, 8BitDo says. That one comes in white, black and pastel pink. It’s all yours .

As for the wired USB variant, that’s compatible with Switch, Windows, Android and Raspberry Pi. Other features include trigger vibration and enhanced grip. You can choose between black and white colorways for the wired version, which will .

8BitDo Ultimate Controller

8BitDo

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Game

The ASUS ROG Phone 6 has a ‘wireless’ thermoelectric cooler add-on

Following the ROG Phone 5 and 5s, ASUS decided to skip Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in favor of the more efficient 8+ Gen 1, which brings us to the new ROG Phone 6 series today — almost a year after the 5s. In a nutshell, this beastly gaming phone is all about its faster 165Hz 6.78-inch display, 720Hz touch sampling rate, up to 18GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage, bigger 6,000mAh battery, enlarged internal cooling system and IPX4 splash resistance, in addition to its handy ultrasonic triggers and proven audio performance by Dirac. The most notable change, however, lies within the revamped clip-on cooler, which has now integrated a thermoelectric chip and yet doesn’t require external power.

This new AeroActive Cooler 6 is noticeably bulkier than before, partly because of its larger, more ergonomic physical buttons — and there are now four of them instead of just two. It also has a bigger kickstand that flips out from the bottom (though not necessary), and there’s a spring-loaded clamp at the top to secure (and activate) the cooler. The new Peltier cooling chip inside — positioned right over the phone’s processor when mounted — is sandwiched between the fan and a large piece of copper plate, and there’s also a humidity sensor nearby to help avoid condensation.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro and AeroActive Cooler 6.

Richard Lai/Engadget

You can toggle between four cooling modes in the updated Armoury Crate app’s console: “Smart” is basically automatic, “Cool” is fan only, “Frosty” is fan plus Peltier chip, and “Frozen” is pushing the Peltier chip to the max, but this is only available when there’s external power plugged into the cooler. ASUS claims that in “Frozen” mode, the AeroActive Cooler 6 can lower the ROG Phone 6’s surface temperature by up to a staggering 25 degrees Celsius. The cool air blowing out of the two sides serves as a nice bonus for gamers with sweaty palms (like me).

The company also provided some figures from more realistic scenarios. After a 60-minute session in the notoriously resource-intensive Genshin Impact (at 60Hz), “Frosty” mode lowered the phone’s surface temperature from 44.8 degrees Celsius to 37.2, and “Frozen” mode took it down further by one degree. Under the same test environment, the ROG Phone 6 was apparently able to maintain an average frame rate of 59.7 fps while staying cool at 37.2 degrees Celsius in “Frosty” mode, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro Max apparently reached a lower 56.8 fps but higher 46.3 degrees Celsius, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra allegedly only managed 47.3 fps while reaching 47.9 degrees Celsius. This goes to show how cooling is key to maintaining a stable frame rate over a long period. 

The AeroActive Cooler 6 can use its RGB lights to indicate the temperature of the ROG Phone 6 Pro.

Richard Lai/Engadget

Sadly, the AeroActive Cooler 6 — along with its own bumper case — is an optional accessory for the ROG Phone 6 series, so you’ll likely have to pay extra for this handy piece of kit. But there’s some good news for existing fans: ASUS plans to release a variant of this attachment for the ROG Phone 5 and 5s as well, and it’ll make use of the old pogo pins instead of the USB-C side port. Release date to be announced later.

The ROG Phone 6 series comes in two flavors: the regular ROG Phone 6 and the higher-end ROG Phone 6 Pro, with the main difference being the latter has the small “ROG Vision” PMOLED display on the back for showing off customizable animation graphics, as opposed to just having an RGB-illuminated ROG logo. Internally, the Pro packs up to 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM instead of just 16GB. The trade-off — if you want to call it that — on the Pro is that it only comes in “Storm White,” while the regular model also offers a “Phantom Black” version. Save for the different camera module layout, “ROG Vision” positioning and printed graphics, the two ROG Phone 6 variants bear a strong resemblance to their immediate predecessors — to the point where they can share the same glass screen protector and ROG Clip controller. 

An ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad at the bottom, with an AeroActive Cooler 6 with bumper case at the top left corner, and the gamepad's handheld grip at the top right.

Richard Lai/Engadget

The modular Kunai 3 Gamepad — now available in white as well as black — has once again been granted a life extension by way of a bumper designed for the ROG Phone 6. If you already have this controller since the ROG Phone 3 or 5, you’ll only need to get the new bumper in order to attach these Joy-Con-like sticks. Or you can just slot them into the same old gamepad grip and use the entire assembly wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The ROG Phone 6 packs an improved (apparently) main camera featuring a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, along with a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera. On the other side, there’s a 12-megapixel selfie camera with a Sony IMX663 sensor — as seen on the compact Zenfone 8. The main rear camera is capable of shooting videos at up to 8K@24fps, though I’d imagine most people would default to 4K@60fps to get the best of both worlds.

The

Richard Lai/Engadget

On the software side, the ROG Phone 6 runs on Android 12 with ROG UI (you can switch to the less flashy Zen UI), with ASUS promising at least two major OS updates and at least two years of security updates. There’s the usual Armoury Crate app which is mainly for accessing your game library, as well as the console for customizing your system lighting, the rear “ROG Vision” screen (6 Pro only, of course), the AirTriggers and more. When in a game, you can toggle the redesigned “Game Genie” dashboard by swiping in from any of the two top corners of the screen while in either orientation. Here, you can quickly toggle the screen frame rate, key mapping, screen recording, performance modes, do not disturb, crosshair and more.

The new AirTriggers 6 now lets you map up to 14 specific touch points, and you get a total of nine input methods with these two ultrasonic buttons, including the new “press and lift” — basically toggling one set of actions for pressing down on the trigger, and then toggling another set of actions when lifting from the trigger. That said, casual gamers like myself will likely just use the classic tap (to fire) and maybe slide (to reload). If needed, you can also map motion gestures with touch points in Armoury Crate.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an AeroActive Cooler 6.

Richard Lai/Engadget

The ROG Phone 6 series includes a bumper case and a 65W USB-PD charger (which takes just 42 minutes for a full charge). As far as availability goes, ASUS has only shared that the ROG Phone 6 series will start from €999 (around $1,000) for the 12GB RAM + 256GB storage configuration in Europe, whereas the ROG Phone 6 Pro will only have one version in Europe: 18GB RAM with 512GB storage for €1,299 (around $1,300). Prices and models will obviously vary across different countries, so stay tuned for further updates.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Computing

This could be Valve’s wireless VR headset, Deckard

A recently published U.S. patent application might provide a good preview of Valve’s wireless VR headset.

The rumor mill has been heating up recently with deep dives into Steam code, uncovering intriguing details that seem to suggest a new head-mounted display system, possibly called Deckard, is in development. So far most signs point to this being a stand-alone, wireless headset similar to Meta’s Quest 2 — or at least a device that has the option to be used without a PC connected.

Much of the patent discusses the headstrap and how it allows various adjustments for optimal comfort while still holding securely — as well as preventing outside light from leaking inside. The patent contains several drawings that show two dials at the back for adjusting the fit, allowing fine-tuning even in the middle of a game or other VR experience, without the need to use both hands or to remove the headset.

The design shown in the patent might not ever be manufactured; however, it’s interesting to see what Valve has been working on and it’s likely that at least some aspects of this design will be used in a future product. The ear speakers look quite similar to the current Valve Index and there is still a center strap that runs front to back with hook and loop straps for adjustment.

In addition to the center strap, the dials are described as a way to adjust both the top and the side tightness, so perhaps the added dial will make fine adjustments to the top strap more quickly and without having to unhook it before tightening. This can be critically important in the middle of an intense VR session if the headset is slipping, causing the image sharpness to suffer.

Valve VR headset back headstrap dials patent Deckard?

While fit and comfort are very important aspects of any VR headset, the hardware specifications are what is of most interest. Unfortunately, no details were provided in that regard. Earlier speculation suggests Valve’s rumored Deckard headset could have many of the same features as Meta’s Quest 2 while retaining the ability to connect to a PC to run higher quality games and more demanding apps.

With Meta’s Cambria and Apple’s first VR headset expected to arrive in 2022, it seems Valve might join the fray with Deckard as well, making this the biggest year ever for virtual reality hardware.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Razer Kaira headphones for PlayStation go pro with wired and wireless PS5 audio

Razer just revealed their top-tier headphone line for the Sony PlayStation 5, equipped with high-end audio and matching aesthetics. The Razer Kaira is a name you might’ve heard in the past, if you’re looking for high quality gaming-aimed headphones. Here the company has a few versions of the headphones/headsets with some key PlayStation features.

The company revealed two headsets this week, one Kaira Headset for PlayStation, one Kaira Pro for PlayStation. They also revealed a Razer Quick Charging Stand for PlayStation for DualSense controllers. If you’re looking for the least expensive Razer headphones made specifically for the PS5, you’ll want the previously released Razer Kaira X for PlayStation – that will give you just the basics!

The Razer Kaira Headset for PlayStation works with TriForce 50mm Drivers, while the Pro version works with TriForce Titanium Drivers. The Kaira works with a Razer HyperClear Cardiod Mic, while the Pro works with a similar mic that’s also detachable. Both headsets work with Razer SmartSwitch, enabling quick switching between 2.4GHz wireless connectivity and Bluetooth.

You might want to switch between devices – especially if you’re the sort of gamer who uses a PlayStation 5 some of the time, but switches to a cloud gaming or mobile gaming platform whilst on-the-go. Low-latency Bluetooth in the headset works with Quick Connect functionality for easy flipping between devices.

Both versions of the headset work with wireless connectivity as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Both also have FlowKnit Memory Foam Cushions around each ear, and a set of external colors that match the colors of the PlayStation 5 – blue and white.

The Karia Pro for PlayStation also comes equipped with Razer Hypersense. Razer’s “Smart Haptic Technology” allows sound from the PlayStation 5 console to be paired with physical rumbling in the headphones.

The Razer Kaira for PlayStation will be released for a price of approximately $100 USD. The Razer Kaira Pro for PlayStation will cost around $200. There’ll also be a Razer Quick Charging Stand for PlayStation available in White, Black, and Red colors for approximately $40 USD. Each of these peripherals should be available this week (mid-November, 2021) from Razer’s online store and at retailers across the United States.

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Security

Logitech’s Bolt USB dongle bolsters encryption for its new wireless mice and keyboards

Logitech is known mostly for its consumer-facing products, but it’s making a big play to appeal more broadly to businesses that take privacy seriously. It’s launching a range of mice and keyboards that will include a new Logi Bolt USB-A dongle that aims to reduce latency in crowded workplaces and greatly boost security.

These accessories can securely connect to computers and mobile devices via Bluetooth Low Energy — no dongle necessary. Though the Bolt USB dongle is also based on Bluetooth, it will enable a far more secure tether (security mode 1, level 4). Opting for Bluetooth should make the Bolt far less prone to hacking than Logitech’s Unifying 2.4GHz receiver, which was vulnerable to the “MouseJack” hack.

In Logitech’s white paper for the Bolt, it says that security mode 1, level 4 utilizes Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman P-256 (ECDH) and AES-CCM encryption. The company says these measures ensure that “a Logi Bolt wireless product and its Logi Bolt receiver can only communicate with each other.” Logitech is going as far as ensuring that its direct Bolt wireless connections are Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) compliant. These are the standards created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for use within the federal government. If you’re curious about Bluetooth security, the NIST wrote a guide on it.

Logi Bolt

Curiously, Logitech didn’t opt for a USB-C option for the Bolt dongle.
Image: Logitech

Logitech says its Bolt USB dongle offers a stronger connection, too, at up to 33 feet (10 meters), even if you’re in a congested work environment. One Bolt dongle can connect up to six accessories to your computer. It’s compatible with multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Linux, Chrome OS, and Android.

Logitech’s listing for the Bolt dongle says it’s “coming soon” and will cost $14.99. But don’t expect your current Logitech accessories to work with it. Devices that are compatible with Logi Bolt will have a Bolt logo on their underside, according to Logitech’s FAQ.

The first accessories that offer enhanced security via Bluetooth LE and include the Bolt USB dongle will launch in September, according to ZDNet. The early lineup includes Logitech’s MX Master Series for Business, comprised of an MX Master 3 and MX Keys. There are also webpages up for business editions of Logitech’s Ergo K860 split keyboard, the MX Anywhere 3, and the Ergo M575 wireless trackball mouse.

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Computing

Why I Can’t Stop Using the SteelSeries Prime Wireless

There’s a serious problem with choosing gaming peripherals these days.

With all the options available, we all tend to rely on specs and technical features when choosing products as we search for “the best.” But unlike a graphics card or processor, there’s precious little that’s objective about something like a gaming mouse.

I found this out when I took the SteelSeries Prime out for a test spin. It quickly became my go-to option, and now I can’t go back to using anything else. It’s not because it’s the best. It’s because when it comes to choosing a gaming mouse, fit and feel are king.

Staying objective

There are a few key specs to pay attention to when looking at a gaming mouse: The sensor and its maximum DPI, the switches and their technology and longevity, and the buttons and how practical they are to use. Wireless connection also plays a role, though honestly, most major mouse makers have fast wireless protocols that offer plenty of battery life.

Taken together, those specs tell you … well, nothing. Sure, I can tell you that a switch lasts for 50 million or 100 million clicks, but that doesn’t say anything about the mouse. You’ll probably replace it long before a switch fails. Similarly, a sensor may sport a resolution of 26K DPI, but only a microscopic fraction of players will ever notice the benefits of such a high resolution.

I certainly can’t, and I’ve used most of the best gaming mice you can buy. The SteelSeries Prime Wireless has an 18K DPI sensor, while the $110 Corsair Sabre Pro Wireless comes with a 26K DPI sensor. The Corsair sensor is objectively better and cheaper, but that just doesn’t translate into real-world use.

Specs are important when comparing the wide range of gaming mice you can buy. But when you’re dealing with devices from major brands like SteelSeries, Corsair, Razer, and Logitech, most gaming mice are more alike than they are different on the inside. The differences come down to form, functionality, and above all else, preference.

Making the difference

Steelseries Prime Wireless on a mousepad.

I recently reviewed the SteelSeries Prime Mini Wireless. It’s a decent gaming mouse, but perhaps not good enough to earn a spot among the best gaming mice on the market, though. The weaker sensor, relatively high price, and annoying wireless dongle just didn’t cut it.

Even more, the Prime Mini wasn’t right for me in particular. It just wasn’t the right size for my hand. After having used the more standard-sized SteelSeries Prime Wireless, it became even clearer how much the ergonomics mattered.

The SteelSeries Prime Wireless is my favorite gaming mouse right now because I like using it. It’s not because of the sensor, which lags behind the competition, and it’s not because of the wireless technology, which is just as fast as the wireless tech from Corsair, Logitech, and Razer. It’s because the SteelSeries Prime Wireless feels good in my hand.

When choosing a gaming mouse, it’s all about the subjective bits: How the mouse is shaped, what the left- and right-clicks feel like, how the mouse looks. Performance is the least important thing to worry about when dealing with high-end gaming mice. I’d choose a mouse from a major brand that has RGB I like over one with a better sensor every time.

For the past several weeks, the Corsair M65 Ultra Wireless has been my daily driver. It’s a great mouse, and it comes with the best specs you can find right now. I like the shape, too, but I gravitated toward the M65 because of its listed performance, not because it was the best mouse for me. The Prime Wireless changed that in a matter of days, and I haven’t switched back.

That doesn’t mean the Prime Wireless is the best mouse for you — the point here is that there isn’t one mouse that’s best for everyone. Maybe you prefer the stubby shape of the M65, or you want to use something that’s as light as possible like the Logitech G Pro X Superlight. All three of these mice are wireless, performant, and cost around the same. So, which is the best? It comes down to what you like most.

Feel is so important that I would put it above specs, and in some cases, even looks. That’s the case with the Prime Wireless, which still has a lot of problems.

Compromise is OK

A hand on the Steelseries Prime Wireless mouse.

The Prime Wireless has some issues. I don’t like the chunky dongle that occupies the sole USB-C slot on my motherboard, the software is a couple of years behind Corsair’s iCue and Logitech’s G hub, and there’s only a thin, underwhelming strip of RGB lighting around the scroll wheel. If you laid out the 10 top gaming mice and I had to pick one without touching any of them, I wouldn’t choose the Prime Wireless.

Still, I continue to use it. It’s OK to compromise on specs, lighting, and even software support for a mouse you like to use. This should be obvious, but it’s all too easy to get caught up in the comprehensive view of a product — how it stacks up to the competition, and all the bits and bobs that contribute to the experience — while overlooking what’s most important.

Although I don’t have concrete numbers, my Destiny 2 clan said I was playing better with the Prime Wireless. And I felt better playing while using it. Even with my list of problems, I keep using the Prime Wireless. It might not be the best mouse for you, but it’s the best mouse for me.

The best for me is not the best for you

A pile of gaming mice.

The Prime Wireless lands in a strange spot in the world of gaming mice. It’s just enough below the competition to not stand out, but for a certain section of the gamers that appreciate the clicks and like the form factor, there’s nothing better. I haven’t gone back to my Razer Viper Ultimate or Corsair Sabre Pro.

It’s important, especially with peripherals, to find something you like, not something a review or roundup tells you to buy. I will scream until I’m blue in the face about how Cherry MX Brown key switches are the best for gaming and typing — but I don’t have a better argument than someone who likes Red switches. The same is true with gaming mice.

If you have a local Micro Center or Best Buy, make sure to put your hand on the mouse before buying one. Feel the form, click the switches, slide it across a mouse pad if you can. That will tell you more about if it’s the right mouse for you than a sensor or spec list ever could.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

What Is Wi-Fi 6? A Look at This Wireless Networking Standard

If your current Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough to support your growing number of devices, you might be on the lookout for a better solution. Perhaps you’re experiencing frequent connection errors, slowdowns, and other technical difficulties. Wi-Fi 6 can offer a faster, more reliable connection.

We’ll talk more about this next-generation standard in Wi-Fi technology, tell you what it has to offer, and give you tips on determining what devices are compatible with Wi-Fi 6.

The dawn of generational Wi-Fi labels

The Wi-Fi Alliance is the organization in charge of deciding, developing, and designating Wi-Fi standards. As devices become more complex and internet connections evolve, the process of delivering wireless connections also changes. That means that Wi-Fi standards — the technical specifications that manufacturers use to create Wi-Fi — need to be periodically updated so that new technology can flourish and everything can remain compatible. So far, so good.

But the awkward naming of Wi-Fi standards has become a real annoyance for the average person who tries to figure out what those little letters at the end mean. The Wi-Fi Alliance is aware of this, which is why they announced a new way to label Wi-Fi standards by referring to the number of the generation. This will apply to the latest Wi-Fi 6/6E and be retroactive, applying to older standards. For example:

  • 802.11n (2009) = Wi-Fi 4
  • 802.11ac (2014) = Wi-Fi 5
  • 802.11ax (newly released) = Wi-Fi 6/6E

Easier, isn’t it? This will cause a period of confusion where some products are labeled with the old code, and some are just called Wi-Fi 4 or Wi-Fi 5 when it means the same thing. This should be resolved in time as older product labeling is phased out and everyone gets used to the new, friendly names when doing research.

What the Wi-Fi 6/6E standards bring

Now that we’ve covered the naming issue, you’re probably wondering just what Wi-Fi 6/6E brings to the table. Why was another update required? There are a lot of new Wi-Fi technologies on the rise, and Wi-Fi 6 helps standardize them. Here are the important new pieces and what they mean for your wireless network.

Intel

First off is lower latency. Reduced latency means that there are shorter or no delay times as data is sent (very similar to ping rate and other such measurements). Everyone wants low latency connections because it improves load times and helps avoid disconnects and other issues. Wi-Fi 6 lowers latency compared to older Wi-Fi standards, using more advanced technology like OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access). Basically, it’s better at packing data into a signal.

Of course, Wi-Fi 6 will also be faster. By offering full support for technologies like MU-MIMO, connection quality will vastly improve for compatible mobile devices, which should also speed up content delivery. Even if you don’t upgrade your internet speed, such improvements can improve your Wi-Fi data speed anyway, so you get more information faster. How much faster? Digital Trends tested a Wi-Fi 6 laptop and router in late December of 2019 and found a more than 60% increase in speed.

Believe it or not, Wi-Fi 6E promises to be even faster than Wi-Fi 6! While Wi-Fi 6 devices make use of the brand new 6GHz radio band, 6E devices offer “14 additional 80 MHz channels and [seven] additional 160 MHz channels,” according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. More impressively, these channels are designed to not overlap in order to reduce latency and improve congestion issues when using a device around multiple networks.

It also means fewer dead zones, thanks to some expanded beamforming capabilities. Beamforming is the trick your router uses to focus signals on a particular device, especially if it looks like that device is having trouble with a connection. The new standard expands the range of beamforming and improves its capabilities, making dead zones in your house even less likely.

Lastly, Wi-Fi 6 means better battery life. There’s a term called “TWT” or target wake time, a new technology that Wi-Fi 6 embraces. This helps connected devices customize when and how they “wake up” to receive Wi-Fi data signals. It makes it much easier for devices to “sleep” while waiting for the next necessary Wi-Fi transmission (this does not mean your device is turned off, just the parts used for Wi-Fi). In turn, this can save a significant amount of battery life for devices, which should make everyone happy.

Watch for the Wi-Fi 6/6E label

Table of various Wi-Fi logos that denote different generations of network connection.

So, how do you know if a router, phone, or other device works with the new 802.11ax standard? First, look for the phrase “Wi-Fi 6/6E” on the packaging, advertisements, labels, and so on. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance has also suggested using icons to show the Wi-Fi generation. These icons look like Wi-Fi signals with a circled number within the signal. Watch for these icons as well when picking out the right device.

Buying a Wi-Fi 6/6E device

Netgear Nighthawk AX8, a Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Wi-Fi Alliance launched its Wi-Fi 6E certification program on January 7, ahead of CES 2021 and coinciding with the official release of Wi-Fi 6/6E. CES 2021 introduced some impressive-looking Wi-Fi 6/6E routers and mesh routers from various well-known manufacturers, including Netgear, TP-Link, Arris, and Linksys, as well as a USB adapter from D-Link to add Wi-Fi 6 directly to your laptop. If you go shopping for a new router, you should check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi 6 routers. 

Mobile devices that are currently compatible with Wi-Fi 6 include products such as the iPhone 12, the Samsung Galaxy S10, and the OnePlus 8.

Laptops that support Wi-Fi 6 include the Dell XPS 13, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, and the Asus Chromebook Flip c436.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Razer’s Barracuda X wireless headset is geared toward Switch and Android players

Between the enduring popularity of the Nintendo Switch, the increasing power of flagship phones and new services like Apple Arcade, portable gaming has finally moved to the forefront. However, the disappearance of 3.5mm ports on mobile devices has left many players bereft of premium audio — Bluetooth earbuds don’t quite cut it when you need your audio synced perfectly. If you want a rock-solid connection your best bet is an RF dongle, which usually uses USB-A in a world steadily being overtaken by USB-C ports. Razer has finally stepped up with a mobile-first headset that can connect to your Switch, Android phone or thin-and-light laptop, the $100 Barracuda X.

The Barracuda X is far from the first headset geared toward Nintendo Switch players; we’re big fans of SteelSeries’ Arctis 1 Wireless thanks to its comfort and superb audio quality, and have even included it in a few of our gift guides. It’s fair to say that this headset is the Barracuda’s primary competitor. Even the RF adapters look the same.

Razer Barracuda X in black on a field of comic images

Kris Naudus / Engadget

However, while the Arctis 1 Wireless maintains the standard look of the line (as it should — it’s a great design), the Barracuda is a change of pace for Razer. Instead of the Kraken brand’s circular, grated look, the new headset resembles last year’s Opus headphones, which got a refresh last month. It’s not totally identical, with different joints on the cups, and cloth ear padding instead of fake leather. Here in New York, it’s 90 degrees as of this writing, and I can report that I haven’t felt the need to take off the Barracuda even after wearing it for a few hours. It’s still a bit warm, and I definitely feel cooler when I take the headset off, but it’s bearable.

The Barracuda X also weighs a very scant 250 grams, one of the lightest headsets I’ve tested. (I think it might be lighter than its own packaging.) In direct comparison it feels about the same in hand as similar models from Turtle Beach and Logitech, but there’s a balance in the Barracuda’s plastic build that makes it feel more ethereal. It’s not something I would mind keeping on my head for several hours or throwing it in my backpack so I can game on the train. Which is precisely the point: You shouldn’t feel that carrying this thing around is a burden.

Razer Barracuda X in black on a field of comic images

Kris Naudus / Engadget

While I wouldn’t go tossing this thing around casually in a rage, it does feel solidly built, capable of taking a few dings in your bag. I have mixed feelings about the detachable mic; being able to take it off means a more compact headset design, but it’s also another fiddly bit that I might lose. Then again, it’s unlikely you need voice functions while out and about. (Heck, the Switch console doesn’t even have real voice chat; it asks you to connect via the app on your phone.)

The Barracuda X excites me, mostly because of its USB-C compatibility. But that’s also where it falls short for me. The adapter is small, for sure, but it’s very wide. That means that if you happen to have a laptop with two USB-C ports next to each other like my 2017 MacBook, the Barracuda dongle will block the other completely. This is a hassle in my office setup, where I have an external monitor and USB hub connected on the other side. So while working I get to choose between the power cord and the headset. I’ve opted out of using the Barracuda with my laptop at all, preferring instead to listen to podcasts on my phone. However, that’s my unique situation, and on the go you might only need two ports: one for the headset and the other for power.

Razer Barracuda X in black on a field of comic images

Kris Naudus / Engadget

It’s exciting to see companies finally start to take mobile gaming seriously, and address the specific needs those gamers have. Mobile-friendly controllers are great, but many popular mobile games don’t really need them. Better audio, though? Almost everyone can appreciate that. The $100 price tag might seem a bit steep for some, but the Barracuda X seems versatile enough that you’ll more than get your money’s worth.

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