If you go shopping around for a WiFi router these days, you’ll come across the term ‘dual-band’ featured on most routers. This refers to the two frequency bands that WiFi can run on, namely 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
In this article, we’re going over the two to figure out which one’s better and which one should you pick in what condition. Spoiler alert, it’s a little bit more complicated than you might think.
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What are WiFi bands?
WiFi bands are simply different frequencies for your WiFi signals to be transmitted. As of right now, there are two different WiFi bands in consumer use — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
2.4 GHz is the more popular one and has been around for a long time now. It utilises a longer wavelength which helps the signal travel further and through dense objects. 5 GHz, on the other hand, uses shorter radio waves which provide faster speeds but come at the cost of range.
What’s the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz?
The only difference between the two bands is their data transmission speed. All other differences are basically just side effects of the 2.4GHz band being too popular.
Under ideal conditions, 2.4GHz WiFi will go as high as 450-600 Mbps. 5GHz, on the other hand, can go as high as 1300 Mbps. However, the keyword here is ‘ideal conditions’.
You see, a lot of different devices operate on the 2.4GHz band. This includes baby monitors, cordless phones, garage doors and whatnot. This causes band congestion that can result in dropped connections and slower speeds when using the 2.4GHz band.
5GHz, in comparison, is much less congested, which means more stable connections and, of course, faster speeds. Do keep in mind that all this comes at the cost of range. Also, the shorter waves used by 5 GHz doesn’t penetrate walls and other dense objects, as well as 2.4 GHz does, resulting in an ever-shorter range indoors.
Of course, you could counter this by installing range extenders or a mesh WiFi network, but that will increase the overall investment by a lot.
|Speed||Up to 600 Mbps depending on router class.||Up to 1300 Mbps|
|Range||Offers better range, better penetration through walls/dense objects.||Shorter range as compared to 2.4GHz.|
|Connection Stability||Less stable connections in dense environments due to band congestion.||More stable connections regardless of environment,|
|Hardware support||Supported by just about every router on the market.||Only supported in newer routers.|
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Which one should you use?
Well, 5GHZ is the newer, faster standard, but the answer isn’t as simple as picking the newer standard here. There are certain conditions where 2.4 GHz outperforms its more modern counterparts.
When should you prefer 2.4 GHz?
The answer is simple if you’re setting up a WiFi network that needs to cover a longer range, for example, across a field or a large indoor environment, sticking to 2.4 GHz is the better option.
You’ll get a much better range and a more stable connection. If you’d try the same on a 5GHz connection, the weak signal will cause slow speeds and random connection drops.
When should you prefer 5GHz?
If you’re setting up a WiFi network in a dense band environment, an apartment complex, for example, where everyone’s got their own routers, 5GHz will be better.
The signal from your router will be strong enough to cover your house, and since you’re on a different band, you’ll have less congestion and a more stable connection. Not to mention you’ll be able to take advantage of gigabit speeds that come with a 5GHz connection.
An ideal situation would be to buy a dual-band router that will allow you to have a 2.4GHz and a 5GHz WiFi network running simultaneously so you can connect to whichever one is the best according to your given situation. This option gives you the most flexibility when it comes to network stability and speed.
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