Routers are an essential part of a healthy Internet connection. Routers give all our Internet-enabled products an access point that works without a hitch (most of the time), while also connecting us wirelessly and reducing the number of cables around the house or office.
And yet, for people that lack an understanding of the way we connect to the Internet, a router remains somewhat of a mystery—just another electrical box that sits in the room where the main connection is, and that only piques our interest whenever something is wrong with the Internet.
Most users are not aware that there are multiple types of routers available and not just different models, but routers that support higher frequencies and steer out devices into less congested bands whenever there is too much traffic.
“Traffic” refers to the activities performed through a router, whether it’s active browsing, streaming, downloading, or simply the number of users and devices connected at one time. When there is a lot of traffic going through the network, the Internet sometimes slows down and doesn’t perform at its capacity.
This is the main reason single-band routers and dual-band routers exist. A router is not a perfect machine and, depending on what your needs are for your Internet and what types of devices you prefer or own, a dual-band router might be the most sound option to increase Internet performance in your connection.
While all this talk about routers, frequencies, and traffic jams not related to cars and highways is confusing to many people, there’s no reason to fret. The primary goal here is to understand how you can improve the connection at home or work by incorporating the many perks that come with a dual-band router.
When we spend so much of our time connected to devices, it makes sense to want the best connection possible; the one that can deliver everything we want and need. That’s where a dual-band router comes in.
What Is the Purpose of a Router?
In simple terms, routers connect computers and other devices to the Internet. They’re the middleman between your computer and your connection to the Internet.
Besides being able to connect devices to the Internet, routers also protect users from security threats, prioritize computers, and allow information to travel so that you can stay connected at all times.
Let’s not forget that a router also helps establish a good connection between various devices so that they can communicate with each other. This is one of the main reasons prioritizing what kind of router you get for your personal Internet connections at home.
Think about it this way, a router is the heartbeat of your connection. No heartbeat means there’s no connection to establish with anything else.
What Does a Single-Band Router Do?
Here, when we’re talking about why a dual-band router might be better, it’s key to understand the role of frequencies a single-band router can reach versus what a dual-band router can do.
In order for your router to transmit information from one point to another, it uses radio waves that wirelessly transmit an Internet signal to the various devices around your house, whether it’s your phone or computer, for example.
These radio waves are helping your connection travel on one or two frequency bands, either a 2.4GHz or a 5GHz band—that’s what makes a single-band router different from a dual one. While a single band-router can only support a single band frequency, the dual-band router can support both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.
But back to the single-band router.
A single-band router has some limitations, but it’s not completely obsolete. The main issue with a single-band router is that it caps data limits to only 54Mbps, which is not great when you have multiple devices and, well, are using a lot of data.
Let’s back up and understand why a single-band router has data caps. Back in 1999, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established wireless standards so that routers and the devices that we connect to the Internet agree.
If you take a closer look at your router, you’ll see numbers that look something like this: “802.11,” and that’s what those numbers represent—basically the guidelines that the single-band routers must follow.
That was back at the turn of the century. Most single-band routers now use a somewhat newer version, the “802.11n” version which the IEEE established once again to set up new standards that could better adjust to how we use the Internet now.
Theoretically, this new guideline supposedly caps data limits at 800Mbps, but it doesn’t really happen that way. Because when you factor in your day-to-day use of the Internet, the number of devices that you connect at one time, and whatever Internet limitations your service provider imposes, it’s nearly impossible to experience 800Mbps with a single-band router.
Remember, a single band router can run your tablets, phones, computers, and game consoles on the single band. However, because all of those devices are running on a single band with a frequency of 2.4GHz, your Wi-Fi speed will most likely slow down and create a little chaos and disappointment.
Single-Band Router Pros
It’s not all bad. People still use single-band routers for a few reasons.
- Yep, you guessed it, they’re much cheaper. A single-band router is affordable and can still provide the connection to the user. It might not be the best connection, but it’s a connection.
- Routers are sensitive machines and sometimes the signal gets jumbled with obstacles like walls or furniture that prevent it from traveling where it’s supposed to go. Because of the low frequency of a single-band router, this won’t likely be an issue.
- This type of router is compatible with almost all devices, which makes it one less thing to worry about if the only thing you have available is a single-band router.
Single-Band Router Cons
Unfortunately, despite some benefits of using a single-band router, there are things you need to consider that can make the experience inconvenient and unreliable.
- The main issue is that because the single-band router capabilities limit the user to a low frequency, the signal is not reliable and users experience a continuous loss of it. As a result, the Wi-Fi speeds slow down and they reduce stability with the connection.
- Another factor to consider before possibly purchasing a single-band router is that the maximum speeds will never reach what they’re supposed to and they will inevitably be much slower when you compare them to multi-band alternatives.
- Modern routers, especially the dual-band ones, can prioritize devices and offer app monitoring that can help protect your connection from online threats. A single-band router won’t offer the same perks.
How Does a Dual-Band Router Perform Better?
A dual-band router is an upgrade of services. As previously mentioned, dual-band routers can support two frequencies instead of one: the 2.4GHz and 5GHz—and the change is monumental.
These types of routers operate on the upgraded standard of 802.11ac which, theoretically, should allow them to support speeds of up to 2,167 Mbps under the best possible conditions, assuming you didn’t have any limitations under your plan with your service provider.
To understand why a dual-band router, imagine that the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies are lanes on a highway. The 2.4GHz has always been there—it’s a good, steady frequency that will get you to where you want to go. The 5GHz is like the express lane. There’s no traffic and you’re flying.
Now imagine what a router can do when it can support both. That’s what a dual-band router can do and why so many people prefer them over the single-band routers available on the market.
Besides allowing the connection to run on a much smoother surface, some dual-band routers actually offer some pretty neat perks. For example, dual-band routers can support MU-MIMO technology.
The MU-MIMO technology is basically a way for the router to only pay attention to a single device at a time without compromising connectivity with or through other devices. Think of it as the router being able to give each device priority seating—they all get individualized attention and a comfy cushion for better functionality.
Dual-Band Router Pros
Some advantages of the dual-band router may seem obvious, but it still doesn’t hurt to go through them one by one.
- You’d think that the dual-band router, with all its capabilities and perks, would be pricier than a single-band router. Actually, though it is a little more expensive, the price is not too different from a single-band router and it’s still very much affordable by most users.
- The fact that it’s able to use two types of frequencies means it offers twice the bandwidth and, therefore, it is twice as fast as the single-band router.
- A dual-band router will offer users better stability for the Internet and a much-more individualized experience with each device, going as far as being able to cater and prioritize each one individually.
Dual-Band Router Cons
There are some negatives that you need to consider with the dual-band router. They’re not terrible negatives, but they are things you should know prior to your purchase.
- Keep in mind that while a dual-band router shines on a 5GHz frequency, it still gets a little trafficky from time to time, with so many more people using it at one time. As we continue to expand technology, the 5GHz will only become more populated and more likely to slow down Wi-Fi speeds in the future.
- 5GHz frequencies are more sensitive to obstacles than 2.4GHz. Here, you’ll have to pay attention to the placement of the router and make sure that there are no walls or furniture that might block its signal and disrupt the connection.
- The number of devices on your router will still affect the Wi-Fi speeds. While the dual-band router will still outperform the single-band router in this department, if your Wi-Fi slows down, you might need to consider how many devices are connected through the router.
Technology is changing and tri-band routers are actually a thing now. Though they’re not as popular in the market yet, they offer many more perks and positives to your connection…for a price.
For now, if you’re able to afford an upgrade to a dual-band router, most experts will highly encourage the change because the number of devices we use in our households has increased and a single-band router’s capabilities simply don’t compete in today’s technology.
A single-band router is a good option if that’s all you can afford or it’s the only thing available to you. But if you want a better connection and a better cushion for your Internet, a dual-band router is the way to go.