A guide to single, dual-band and tri-band routers

Many of us currently use Wifi routers with two frequency bands: the 2.4 GHz band and/or the 5GHz band. And with the arrival of Wifi 6E coming soon, coverage will be expanded to the 6GHz band as well. A frequency band, or wireless band, is how your wireless data gets transmitted. When you connect a phone, tablet or any other Wifi-enabled device to your Wifi router, it transmits a wireless signal to your device through radio waves that carry data. And these different frequencies separate single-band routers from dual-band routers and tri-band routers.

The questions that arise here are: how do wireless bands affect your routers, and which router should you choose to meet your specific needs? Below you will find a complete guide on single-band routers, dual-band routers and tri-band routers, along with their pros and cons to help you make the best purchase decision.

Single-band routers

As the name suggests, single-band routers utilize one of the two available bands, 2.4 GHz. The wireless standard that you might see on your router — “802.11g” — ensures that your routers and any wifi-connected devices remain on the same page and allow all connections to run smoothly. Outdated single-band routers operate on one frequency band, the 2.4GHz one, and cap data speeds at 54 Mbps. Such speeds were also used in iPhone 3G and 3Gs.

Newer versions operate on the 8.11n standard, also known as Wireless-N. These routers operate on a 2.4 GHz band as well and theoretically offer speeds up to 800 Mbps, but let’s be honest, no one’s ever experienced such speeds on a single-band router given inevitable internet issues.

Since they contain only a single band, they’re more affordable and priced lesser than the rest. However, single-band routers also harbour disadvantages and drawbacks, especially considering recent advancements and innovations in Wifi technology.

Pros

-You can buy a single-band router for a relatively low price.

-Single-band routers are compatible with the majority of all devices since many support 2.4 GHz connections.

-Penetrating obstacles such as walls, furniture, or doors isn’t a problem for single-band routers since they operate at a lower frequency.

Cons

-Single-band routers may be cheaper, but they also offer lower maximum speeds than any multi-band router alternative.

-Unfortunately, the 2.4 GHz frequency is prone to signal interference given its outdatedness. Signal and wifi interference leads to fluctuations in Wifi stability and reductions in speed.

-With single-band routers, you miss out on modern helpful features such as device prioritization and app-based monitoring.

Dual-band routers

Dual-band routers are able to utilize both the 2.4 GHz band as well as the 5GHz band. As mentioned previously, the 2.4 GHz frequency band has only three transmission channels (non-overlapping), which makes it extremely vulnerable to interference. Electronic devices such as cellular phones, Bluetooth devices, cameras, and even microwaves can cause Wifi interference since they all operate on 2.4 GHz frequency, which has been around for over a decade now,

Luckily, the dual-band router acts as a fix to this common, yet nuisance of an issue. Instead of allowing your devices to operate on a jam-packed single-lane highway, dual-band routers offer ‘a highway with two lanes'(2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), significantly reducing any chances of wifi interference.

Pros

-Although dual-band routers surpass single-band routers in capabilities and cost, you have a chance of purchasing one at an entry-level price — making it affordable and attainable.

-Dual-band routers offer more range and stability than single-band routers due to the fact that they offer two frequency bands.

-Unlike single-band routers, dual-band routers are also compatible with recent 5 GHz-friendly devices such as the PS4 Pro, PS5, and new iPhones, so it might be in your best interest to invest in one.

Cons

-Eventually, as time progresses, the 5 GHz frequency band is only bound to become more populated, and there will come a period when you will begin to experience interference with it.

-Although the 5GHz band reduces Wifi interference significantly, it is not particularly susceptible to environments with many obstructions (walls, doors, furniture), unlike the single-band routers, which offer the 2.4 GHz frequency.

Tri-band routers

Tri-band routers are the latest and the greatest, featuring three bands: one 2.4 GHz band and two 5 GHz bands to offer users optimal performance. With two radio-free ‘highway lanes’ for your 5 GHz data to travel on, tri-band routers reduce Wifi interference even more so than dual-band routers. We can only expect more connected 5 GHz devices, and therefore, purchasing a tri-band router and future-proofing your Wifi may be the most feasible decision yet.

Wifi routers such as Xunison’s BriteHub also feature MIMO technology, improving how Wifi interacts with multiple devices. Without MIMO technology, your Wifi router can only pay attention to one device and the more devices you have, the less data you receive on each one. MIMO technology allows you to maintain a consistent connection to several devices at the same time, so you don’t have to worry about streaming your movie while your sibling plays their bandwidth-demanding video games. The internet connection runs smoothly.

Pros

-You can connect multiple devices to a tri-band router and not worry about it reducing Wifi speeds.

-Dedicating bands to various devices in the home leads to a more seamless interconnection for all members.

-Tri-band routers reduce interference even more than dual-band routers.

-High CPU speeds allow for quicker file transfers and smoother connections.

Cons

-Tri-band routers are definitely a pricier option than most dual-band models.

-If you find yourself dealing with mostly 2.4 GHz devices, tri-band routers may not be for you. However, given the number of smart home devices we have nowadays, the need for a tri-band router in every home is increasing.

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