Wi-fi is just as important as electricity or heat these days, and just like you don’t want to live in a home with electricity that’s cutting off in the middle of the day or sub-par heat that causes you to wake up shivering in the middle of the night, you don’t want to have D-tier wi-fi that forces you to stare at loading screens all day long. That means that picking the perfect wi-fi router for your home is just as important as any other utility, and you may be struggling to choose between a dual-band router or a tri-band router.
A dual-band router broadcasts two different wi-fi signals – one at the slower and outdated 2.4 GHz signal for all of your older devices, and another at the faster speed of 5 GHz for all of your modern devices that are compatible with the new format. Similarly, a tri-band wi-fi router streams one 2.4 GHz signal and two 5 GHz signals. The reason why you might want two of the same wi-fi signal will become clear as you keep reading. For now, it will suffice to say that by the time you finish our article, you’ll be absolutely sure which type of wi-fi router is best for you.
Which Router Is Faster?
The short answer is neither, but, as is usually the case, it’s more complicated than that. As we mentioned, both dual-band routers and tri-band routers project one 2.4 GHz wi-fi signal and either one or two 5 GHz wi-fi signals. If you’re comparing the 2.4 GHz signal to its 5 GHz counterpart, there’s no question. As a matter of fact, GHz (which stands for gigahertz) is a measurement of speed. Obviously, that means that 5 GHz is objectively faster.
Of course, that brings us to the benefit of having two 5 GHz signals. The main point of having two 5 GHz signals is to clear up your signals and decrease traffic and save bandwidth. This means that the actual speed of each signal should be more or less the same regardless of whether you have a dual-band router or a tri-band router; that is, if you only have a few devices at home. If you have a whole slew of devices or live with a lot of other people who each have one or two devices, then all of those devices on one signal will really make you notice a big delay on your wi-fi signal, even if you took the effort to spring for a good plan and buy a router with the newer 5 GHz speed.
In this case, it’s definitely worthwhile to buy a tri-band router to spread the wealth, and the result will essentially be that it’s faster than the alternative of having a dual-band router. Of course, if you aren’t really competing for bandwidth, then a dual-band router will be just fine for your purposes.
Which Router Is Better for a Network with a Lot of People?
Without beating around the bush too much, the answer is tri-band routers. Of course, there’s more to take into account than the number of people on the network. The really important factor to consider is how much bandwidth is being used.
If you live with 4 other people but two of them are your technophobic parents, the third is your sibling who really only uses the Internet for social media, and the fourth is your toddler niece or nephew who doesn’t use the Internet yet, then they’re not really using that much bandwidth among them, and you’re free to use the leftovers. In this case, a dual-band router will probably do just fine.
Of course, if you only live with one other person but it’s your roommate who’s constantly video-chatting with their significant other or streaming their gaming sessions on twitch, then it might be worth it so spring for a tri-band wi-fi router and essentially have an entire network to yourself so that you can stop staring at the Netflix buffer screen.
Everybody’s situation is different, and it might be a good idea to look at the numbers from your wi-fi provider to see how much bandwidth you’re actually using, as that will be the big decision-maker in the debate between our different wi-fi routers.
Which Router Is Better for Gaming?
We’ve all dealt with lag. We all know it’s the worst. And we all want to minimize it as much as physically possible. Of course, you might be noticing a pattern by now, and whether a dual-band router or a tri-band router is better for your gaming needs depends on your wi-fi situation at home.
If you live alone and you can guarantee that nothing else will be clogging up the network, then you can make use of all of your bandwidth when you hunker down for a long gaming session. In this scenario, a dual-band router will do just fine.
Of course, if you have roommates, then you might want to splurge for a tri-band router just to have one network to yourself and be sure that nobody will suddenly cause a spike in the traffic on the network. Especially if you’re streaming your gaming sessions, it’s definitely worth making sure you have an entire signal to yourself to maintain a reliable Internet speed.
Another reason you might want a tri-band router is if you plan on hosting some local LAN parties. You can split up your friends among the two 5 GHz signals and make sure that you’re not all cramming one network.
As has been established, dual-band routers are just as fast as tri-band routers all things being equal. But if bandwidth is at a premium, then tri-band routers are the way to go.
Which Router Is Cheaper?
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Since they offer more networks, tri-band routers are obviously going to be more expensive than dual-band routers. There’s also just the appeal of tri-band routers being newer and therefore usually superior in other aspects as well.
We’ve discussed at length the reasons why you might decide you need an extra third network, and those are the factors you have to consider when you’re making your decision. But if it comes down to the number next to the dollar sign, then the clear choice is a dual-band router.
What Is the purpose of Dual-Band Routers?
The big appeal of having two 5 Ghz networks as opposed to just one is probably (if I did my job well) pretty clear by now. What you might not understand, however, is why you’d want an option for a 2.4 GHz signal at all. After all, why would you voluntarily go use a slower network when you have the option of a 5 GHz network that will provide with an internet speed of 1300 Mbps?
The simple answer is that certain older devices aren’t compatible with the newer 5 GHz speed. So if you have some “retro” iPads or computers connected to your home network, you’re definitely going to want to have the option of a 2.4 GHz network. Luckily, very few routers come with only a 5 GHz signal, so you don’t need to worry too much about your 10-year old laptop with all of your old files being kept out of the loop on your new wireless network.
What about Mono-Band Routers?
With all of this talk of dual-band routers and tri-band routers, you may be wondering about mono-band routers. Mono-band routers, intuitively, are wi-fi routers that only have one network. From what you’ve learned from our article so far, you may have gathered that one wi-fi signal is fine if you only have a few devices that will be connected to said signal. However, the catch is that mono-band routers are only compatible with the slower Internet speed of 2.4 GHz.
For a lot of users, that’s really not a deal-breaker, as 2.4 GHz is still lightyears ahead of what the older folks among us will remember from the dial-up days. But if you really want the best speeds possible, then a dual-band router is worth it even if the 2.4 GHz band doesn’t get used at all.
That just about brings us to an end of our article comparing dual-band routers and tri-band routers. You might still be struggling to decide which type of router is best or your home network, and we’re not going to abandon you just yet. The simplest way to address the problem may to boil everything down into broad statements, so that’s what we’re going to do.
If you want the best value for your money, pick a dual-band router.
The bottom line is that most homes just don’t need a tri-band wi-fi router. Your signal strength will be more than enough with just one 5 GHz network, unless you have a ton of devices or a family member/roommate who uses a ton of bandwidth for one reason or another. That means that unless you’re a specific exception, the better use of your money is to keep things simple and just go with a dual-band router. Sometimes the fancier product is just an unnecessary luxury.
If you need to guarantee you have an entire network to yourself, pick a tri-band router.
While it’s true that most customers just don’t need the two 5 GHz networks that tri-band routers provide, there are plenty of valid reasons why you might want to upgrade your wi-fi from your current dual-band router.
Maybe you’re constantly on important video conference calls for work, and you can’t risk missing something or getting dropped from the call because of a choppy signal. Or maybe you want to be able to game with reckless abandon or stream and download videos faster than ever. Or maybe you suspect that your neighbor is “borrowing” your wi-fi. No matter what your reason is for not being satisfied with a dual-band router, you need what you need.
The best way to guarantee that you’ll have all of that precious bandwidth to yourself and that you’ll never have to worry about the signal strength of your wireless network ever again is by purchasing a tri-band wi-fi router.
If you want to keep the spend cheap, buy a mono-band router.
There is that third option that we’ve only briefly mentioned until now, and that’s a mono-band router for your wi-fi network. Even dual-band routers are just not worth it if you don’t have at least 3 devices connected to your wi-fi router. The price of a more traditional mono-band router just can’t be beat.
Remember, the actual theoretical max speed doesn’t increase with the amount of bands in your router, so no need to overcomplicate things if all you care about is decent speed. Mono-band routers don’t have access to the newer 5 GHz speed, but the fact is that a lot of Web surfers don’t even need it.
If you’re just browsing through social media, watching videos, and engaging in other casual Internet activities, then 2.4 GHz will be fine. Don’t waste money buying an extra band if you don’t need it. For just a few devices that aren’t fighting over bandwidth, stick with just one band for your router.
That brings us to the end of our article, and you are now officially an expert on all things related to dual-band routers. The truth is that the choice between a dual-band router or a tri-band router (or a retro mono-band router) is pretty straight forward once you’ve assessed your home situation and have the facts in order. 90% of the time, a dual-band router will be just fine. But if you have to guarantee some privacy, then it’s worth splurging and buying a tri-band router. It’s basically the wi-fi equivalent of having an entire highway all to yourself.
That’s it for now. We hope this article has helped, and we hope you enjoy the Web surfing!