Is the AX210 better than the AX211?

I’m trying to decide which of the following I should get:

Edit: TL;DR: If you have an Intel mainboard, then the AX210 is better than the AX211 :laughing:

And I’m not sure the AX211 is really an “upgrade.” because it’s less flexible. The AX211 is a “dumber” module. It has a Companion RF module (it’s just a radio and a signal processor, AFAIK) and all the general “network interface hardware” like the buffers, controllers, and the rest are built-in to the 12th gen intel chipset/CPU. These two subsystems communicate using a proprietary interface called CNVio2. So basically the network interface card was split into pieces: some pieces live in the mainboard and some pieces live in the AX211 module. The pieces talk using “CNVio.” And that’s why it’s less flexible. You can’t just put this module in any old computer. You must put it in a computer with special chipset support (I think that’s why the AX211 doesn’t work with the 11th gen intel mainboard).

But the AX210 is different. It uses everyday PCIe. The AX210 shows up as a PCIe device. And this module includes everything it needs: the radio, signal processor, buffers, and network controller. When the OS wants to send network data, it uses standard PCIe messages to send commands to an “external” controller that lives in the AX210. So this module could be re-used more easily.

So I’ve been wondering:

  • Why did Intel do this?
  • Is one better than the other?
  • What’s better for me?


I suppose Intel created the “Integrated Connectivity” standard (used by the AX211) to somehow make more money. Maybe at scale, it’s cheaper to just add more into the chipset/CPU/PCH than it is to make a more complex WiFi module with a controller, buffers and the rest. (I’m speculating)

There might also be some benefit for mainboard makers, like framework. I get the impression from Intel’s AX211 docs that it’s theoretically possible to make optimizations to the mainboard. But some of these “optimizations” would force the CNVio interface upon end-users. And it looks like framework decided to support both the AX211 (CNVio) and the AX210 (PCIe). (Thank you framework! I appreciate that). So this benefit doesn’t apply to framework owners.

Is one better?

So to figure out which is better, there are two groups of functions to consider:

  1. the functions shared by both the AX210 and AX211
  2. the “new” functions added to the AX211

When it comes to the common functions (like connecting to a WiFi 5 network), I think they perform about the same. It doesn’t seem like Intel somehow made a better network device when they added these networking blocks to the 12th gen CPUs. And I don’t think there’s much difference in battery life, range, latency, reliability or anything else… but I don’t know that…

But what about new features? There might be new functions added to the AX211:

  • The AX211 might support Bluetooth 5.3 (and the AX210 only supports 5.2 the AX210 might also supports this)
  • The AX211 might support “uplink MIMO” (MIMO is awesome) (the AX210 mightt also support this)

Edit: it seems both the AX210 and AX210 support all the same features.

Bluetooth 5.3

Intel says the AX211 supports Bluetooth 5.3 and Intel also says the AX210 only supports Bluetooth 5.2. But on the framework marketplace, it says both modules only support Bluetooth 5.2. Maybe framework knows something I don’t and it really is the case that the AX211 module they sell only supports BL 5.2.

But in case the AX211 really does support Bluetooth 5.3, I wanted to see what’s better about it. As far as I can tell 5.3 adds these features:

  • Connection Subrating: this ability makes it possible to switch between low power mode to high power mode more quickly/seamlessly.
  • Periodic Advertisement Interval: this can help save power when receiving data from a bluetooth 5.3 device that uses the feature. This also enables the receiver to “increase the RX (Receive) duty cycle” and that’s just a good thing all around (it could mean longer range, more reliability, and lower latency). But the opportunity to use this feature is pretty niche and it only applies when a Bluetooth LE device engages in “broadcast data communications.” And as of today, in 2023, it’s a niche use case. Maybe the Makers out there could get value from this. They’re the only people I can think of who might get significant value from this feature because they might actually use bluetooth’s “broadcast data communications” feature.
  • Channel Classification Enhancement. This is pretty cool. When BT devices are communicating they jump from radio channel to radio channel. Before BL 5.3, the “Central” device would look at the amount of radio interference and select channels that are suitable for use. Now with BL 5.3 the “Peripheral” device can also classify channels as suitable or not suitable. The “Central” device still picks what channels they’re going to use. But this way better channels can be selected and that improves basically everything. So :+1: to this feature. The only downside is that both devices need to support BL 5.3
  • Encryption Key Size Control Enhancements. The bluetooth driver in your OS can now specify a minimum key size when establishing a connection. Basically your OS controls your bluetooth device by sending and receiving messages. The bluetooth standard lists all the possible messages. This is called the “Host Controller Interface” And BL5.3 added a new message. Your OS can now tell a bluetooth device: “please use an encryption key that is at least X bits long when you connect to a ‘Bluetooth classic’ device.” Overall, this is another good feature. But it’s not essential and I think work arounds exist for older Bluetooth devices.

If you’re looking for more info, the folks who make the Bluetooth standard wrote a blog post about these new features in 5.3. Overall they seem pretty cool but not essential. I really doubt I’ll realistically get to use these features. Maybe in the future these features will matter more.

Uplink MIMO

The AX211 may or may not have and extra WiFi feature called “uplink MIMO” but it is a pretty cool feature. It basically:

  • makes upload speeds faster?
  • makes it so more devices can use WiFi together

But you’ll need an access point that supports this in order to use it. Again it’s nice to have but I’m not expecting much of a difference for most folks.

What’s better for me?

For me the AX211 scores:

  • +1 for maybe having BL5.3
  • +1 for maybe having uplink MIMO
  • -1 for CNVio (I also have an 11th gen mainboard and it’s unfortunate that it won’t work in that mainboard)

And the AX210:

  • +1 for more general compatibility
  • +1 for already being in my laptop (connecting the Wi-Fi antennas is such a pain so I don’t want to swap the WiFi module in my laptop unless it’s worth it)

So yeah… I might get the AX210 again. I’m turning my 11th gen mainboard into a mini PC and that’s why I’m trying to buy a new WiFi module. No matter what an AX210 is going in my 11th gen framework mini PC. But I was thinking I might take the AX210 from my 12th gen laptop and put the AX211 in there to replace it. But now I think I might just buy an AX210.


Aren’t the xx1 versions of the intel card just the proprietary interface versions of their xx0 counterparts?

Edit: and according to ark both support bt5.3

Edit2: The product brief for the ax210 also mentions ul mimo, I really doubt there is much of a capability difference at this point.

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That’s very helpful! Thanks for pointing that out. I’m feeling better and better about the AX210.

It’s starting to seem like the AX210 and the AX211 offer the same features and functions. So unless the AX211 can do it better, there’s no reason to get it. And as far as I can tell, they are about the same.

On the one hand, the 12th gen mainboard includes that “partial network interface hardware” in the chipset. So there’s some sunk cost there. But is there an energy cost too? If I put the AX210 in there, am I using some energy to power both the PCIe WiFi module and the “partial network device” built-in to the chipset? I asked ChatGPT lol and I don’t think there’s much difference in power usage (but who knows!).

I also wonder if Intel was able to make a better overall networking device. Perhaps the partial networking device in the chipset uses a more sophisticated process node? Or maybe they were able to save energy somehow? Or maybe they could get better performance? I have no reason to think so but I’m open to the idea.

Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Perhaps it’s not better in any way, really. I recognize that some products exists because they provide benefit to the manufacturer but not the end user. I’m wondering if the AX211 is one of those products.

I’m going to go on a limb here and guess it’s 99% to reduce costs for oems. There is probably slightly less hardware on the xx1 version making them slighty cheaper for manufacturers and fir intel. For a consumer I’d 100% go with the xx0 because I can use that in whatever the hell I want if I ever switch it out for something else.

The power differences are likely marginal, the 210 is already a very efficient system and most of the power goes into the actual rf part that no amount of offloading some computations to the chipset which may or may not be on a more efficient node is going to reduce.


Thanks a ton! I ordered an AX210. And It feels good knowing I picked the best WiFi module. I hope this thread helps others who aren’t sure.

TL;DR: If you have an Intel mainboard, then the AX210 is better than the AX211 :laughing:

(And I get the impression that framework will sell a different WiFi module for the AMD mainboard because AMD and MediaTek developed a special WiFi module that will take advantage of AMD’s “modern sleep states” and “power management” features… Still it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the the AX210 would also work in the AMD board since it’s PCIe… but I guess we’ll find out soon)

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The biggest reason is probably they didn’t want an intel logo on all their stuff anymore XD. A lot of amd desktop mainboards still ship with ax 200/210. Amd likely bundles the wifi cards with their laptop cpus or contractually forces manufacturers to use amd branded wifi cards.

It would massively surprise me if it didn’t and that really would not be a good thing. The ax210 works just fine on all existing amd platforms I know of (arguably better than the mediatek ones in a lot of cases).

another reason intel are pushing cnvi: It gives the ME access to wifi as well, because basically all the wifi hardware is integrated into the cpu die.

For what it’s worth, vPro/AMT which I believe run through the ME are capable of putting the management interface on the AX210 without CNVio. I have not seen any evidence that the -1 parts are better for the ME than the -0 ones. :slight_smile: