This is What a Dual-Band Router Means
April 21, 2020
Home internet is a basic necessity, but with so many different options on the market, choosing the right solution can be complicated. If you’re confused by the terminology and tech-speak, you aren’t alone.
This article aims to provide clarity around dual-band routers, including how they work and how they compare to similar products. We’ll cover the basics to help you determine if a dual-band router is right for you.
What is a router band?
When you connect a phone, tablet or another WiFi-enabled device to your router, the router transmits a wireless signal to your device. To get there, the signal travels along one of two frequency bands: 2.4GHz or 5GHz.
What is a dual-band router?
As the name might suggest, a dual-band router emits wireless signals on two separate frequency bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz). By leveraging two bands, dual-band routers give you more flexibility in terms of how you want to connect to the internet.
Specifically, more devices rely on the 2.4GHz band to connect, so you will likely face lower internet speeds and more interference. This is exceptionally true if you live in a densely populated area.
On the other hand, only more modern digital devices are compatible with 5GHz. Plus, you need a dual-band or tri-band router to use the 5GHz band (we’ll delve deeper into that later in this article). As a result, fewer connections operate on this band, and you’ll experience faster internet speeds.
Dual-band routers allow you to split your internet usage between these two bands, offering improved speed and reliability. Essentially, each band takes on a smaller volume of traffic, so you can have broader coverage while maintaining acceptable speed and connectivity across your devices.
What’s the difference between a single band, dual-band and tri-band router?
As the oldest type of router on the list, single-band routers only include a single 2.4GHz frequency band. If you have one of these routers, all of the internet-connected gaming consoles, phones, tablets and other devices in your home will run on this band.
This can slow down your WiFi speed — especially since other homes or apartments in your area are also relying on 2.4GHz bands.
Dual-band routers leverage both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. With traffic split across multiple pathways, you’re able to browse the internet or play games with less interference. As a result, you’ll find that dual-band routers offer improved speed and reliability when compared with single band versions.
Tri-band routers are the newest to the market. They host one 2.4GHz band along with two 5GHz signals. These routers are a good choice if you want maximum bandwidth or require fast and reliable internet in multiple areas of your home. As you might expect, tri-band routers are the most expensive of the bunch. But they might be a worthwhile investment if your household uses WiFi quite heavily.
Pros and cons of a dual-band router
- Faster speed and reliability than single-band routers
- Devices automatically connect to the best frequency band (if they’re compatible)
- Ability to connect to newer and older devices
- Reasonable cost
- More expensive than single-band routers
- Higher-speed 5GHz band might not be compatible with your older devices
- Unnecessary features if you’re only using WiFi for basic tasks, like internet browsing and checking email
- 5GHz band will slow down as more people upgrade their routers
How to know if a dual-band router is right for you
There are several factors to think about if you’re considering buying a dual-band router.
First, how does your household use the internet? If you’re a single person and use WiFi for low-bandwidth activities, like browsing social media and chatting with friends, you might not need a dual-band router.
However, if your family tends to do a lot of gaming or streaming video, a dual-band router could be a better option for you.
With that said, a dual-band router won’t do much good if your internet-enabled devices are older and incompatible with the 5GHz frequency band. If that’s the case, you might find a single band router will save you money, since you’ll be relying on a 2.4GHz signal anyway.
Lastly, if price is a determining factor, you can also save some money by opting for a single-band router rather than a dual or tri-band router.
How to choose a dual-band router
When exploring router options, you’ll want to keep these important points in mind.
First, think about what rate of speed you need for your home internet. High-quality streaming, online gaming and file transferring will use more bandwidth than scrolling Instagram or using WhatsApp.
Keep in mind that the manufacturers’ advertised speeds can be somewhat misleading, so it’s best to refer to product reviews to get an idea of the actual speed you can expect.
Next, factor in how much you’re willing to spend on a router. If you need WiFi for critical tasks like working from home, you might be inclined to spend a bit more on a reliable, high-end dual-band router.
State-of-the-art routers also offer additional functionality, like smartphone apps, multiple USB ports and support for add-on technology, like WiFi extenders or smart home devices.
Lastly, consider how much assistance you will need when setting up and maintaining your router. Some vendors offer stateside support teams to help you troubleshoot in real-time. If you think you’ll need this extra boost, seek out a manufacturer that provides this type of support.
Top five dual-band routers
- TP-Link Archer A7: TP-Link’s routers ranked highest in J.D. Power’s 2019 Wireless Router Satisfaction Report. This model consistently receives excellent reviews, is easy to install and comes at an affordable price point.
- D-Link DIR-867: Consumers like D-Link’s routers, which also ranked near the top of J.D. Power’s report. The AC1750 version boasts high speeds and is great for gaming or online streaming.
- ASUS RT-AC68U: This ASUS router offers some of the fastest WiFi speeds you’ll find and has received high customer satisfaction reviews from PC Magazine. It is somewhat pricier than others, but a good option if you need faster speeds.
- Motorola MR2600: Motorola’s MR2600 router is a reliable option, whether you live in a house or apartment building. Although it is more expensive than some of the other models listed here, it includes the benefit of a US-based support team if you need assistance.
- Belkin N600: If you’re on a budget, look no further than this affordable router from Belkin. Its speeds aren’t as fast as other models on this list, but it does cover an impressive range.
How much is a dual-band router?
On average, dual-band routers cost between $50 and $200. For routers with advanced features, you can expect to pay slightly higher prices.
What is the network speed of a dual-band router?
To find out the speed of a dual-band router, manufacturers combine the rates of each frequency band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and include that figure in the description of the device.
For instance, a router that’s listed as an AC1200 model has a combined maximum speed of 1200 Mbps (300 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 900 Mbps on the 5GHz band).
What can a dual router do that a single router cannot do?
A dual router offers faster, less-congested internet connectivity for newer, 5GHz-enabled devices. This includes smartphones like the Google Pixel and iPhone (starting with the iPhone 5 model).
What is a dual router compatible with?
Dual-band routers can support any internet-enabled device, but older models will need to use the 2.4GHz frequency band.
Are there dual-band modems?
These days, modems and routers are often sold in a single device, so you could have a combined dual-band modem-router. A modem acts as a middle man between your router and internet service provider (ISP). The modem connects your router to the internet. From there, the router allows your personal devices to access the internet.