WIRELESS G vs N vs AC vs AX
What is the difference? A simple wireless standard guide for consumer wireless routers. Really, your main decision is wireless ac vs n.
- 2.4 GHz ONLY
- 54 Mbps max bandwidth
- Very dated technology (2003)
- Might as well go with N
- Stay away
- MIMO not supported
- 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz
- 600 Mbps max bandwidth
- Dated technology (2009)
- Less expensive
- Best for budget under $50
- 4 MIMO streams
802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5)
- 2.4 GHz, better 5 GHz
- 3,466 Mbps max bandwidth
- More recent technology (2013)
- More expensive
- Best for gaming
- 8 MIMO streams
802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)
- 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 6 GHz
- 10,530 Mbps max bandwidth
- Cutting edge technology (2019)
- Most expensive
- Least compatibility, very new
- # MIMO streams unknown
2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz WiFi
What is the difference? A simple guide for consumer WiFi routers.
- Most common (bad thing)
- Highly congested
- Largest coverage area
- Best at penetrating walls
- Slowest transfer speeds
- 3 non-overlapping channels (bad)
- Much less common (good thing)
- Much less congested
- Small/medium coverage area
- Bad at penetrating walls
- Higher transfer speeds
- 25 non-overlapping channels (good)
What are channels?
If every router used the same frequency, all routers would hopelessly interfere with each other. In order to combat this, the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies are broken down into smaller sub-frequencies called channels. As a result, a 2.4 GHz router can negotiate a more specific frequency with other nearby 2.4GHz routers. This allows them to communicate with their respective clients without interfering with each other.
2.4 GHz networks have 3 non-overlapping channels. In effect, 3 routers nearby each other can communicate independently without interference. But once a 4th router is turned on nearby, there are no more available channels. Consequently, it would have to choose a channel already taken. Therefore, all the routers communicating on the same channel will interfere with each other. The more channels, the better.
What is MIMO?
Multiple Input, Multiple Output allows wireless devices to communicate using multiple transmitters and multiple receivers (multiple antennas). Devices communicating with this technology can reach higher speeds than those without. Wireless N and AC devices support this.
MU-MIMO, Multi-User MIMO, attempts to make this work with multiple wireless clients at once. Only Wireless AC wave 2 devices support this. These routers tend to be on the more expensive end because it's newer technology.
What is dual band?
Dual band means the router supports 2 wireless networks.
Tri band means 3 WiFi networks.
Quad band means 4 networks.
Most people would be content with a dual band router. Tri and quand band routers make more sense for gamers.
What is N750, N900, AC1750, etc?
The letters represent which version of WiFi the router uses (802.11n, 802.11ac or 802.11ax).
The number represents the total bandwidth capability of the router. Bigger numbers are better.
Only the letters N, AC and AX matter in this classification. For example, R6700 and WNDR4000 or anything else not starting with N, AC or AX are only model numbers for the router. Unfortunately, we have to sort through it all while shopping.
Wireless Router Buying Tips
Low Budget Routers
- Wireless N (802.11n) routers work fine. You likely will not achieve blistering speeds, but they're cheap and will get the job done.
- N routers make great, cheap travel routers
- You can find decent N routers and even some AC routers under $50
Bachelors, Bachelorettes or 2 Roommates, Non-gamers
- You can find some of the best routers under $100
- Buy a Wireless AC (802.11ac) router
- Ignore MU-MIMO. It's a headache and most likely not worth your time or money.
- Tri or quad band would be overkill and a waste of money
- Avoid WiFi for gaming if possible. Wired will always provide lower latency. Latency kills.
- If a wired connection is not feasible for your gaming device, look for a tri-band router.
- If you have more than one gaming device being used at a time, consider a quad-band router.
- Your gaming device will work best on its own network all by itself to minimize latency.