What is the difference between single-band and dual-band Wi-Fi?

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Next in our series on better connectivity we’re discussing the difference between single-band and dual-band Wi-Fi.

It sounds technical, but having read this far in our series you’ll quickly get the gist. If you’ve ever struggled with ‘lag’ while doing basic things like watching Netflix or an unreliable signal then it’s time to look at your Wi-Fi — specifically what frequency your router uses.

Once you know the difference between single-band and dual-band Wi-Fi you’ll be able to make the right router choice for your home and see an improvement in connectivity.

Let’s jump in!

The key difference between single-band and dual-band Wi-Fi

The biggest difference between the two systems is that, as the name suggests, single-band routers use just one frequency (2.4 GHz) while dual-band routers can operate on two (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz).

What does this mean for the quality and speed of your internet?

Single-band Wi-Fi operates at a slower speed but its range is greater. It’s ideal for activities that don’t use much bandwidth like browsing online, sending emails, and watching videos.

Despite its wide coverage single-band Wi-Fi is slower and prone to interference.

Operating on two speeds, dual-band Wi-Fi offers a fast, reliable signal but with a shorter range. Crucially, it can handle multiple devices and users. This makes dual-band Wi-Fi ideal for larger homes and families who want to stream videos and play games online.

That basic information alone is probably all you need to make an informed choice on whether you need single-band or dual-band Wi-Fi.

However, if you’re like us and need to know how things work, the rest of this article delves into more detail.

Single-band Wi-Fi

Single-band Wi-Fi means using a router that relays wireless signal via one frequency band — 2.4 GHz.

2.4 GHz is enough to supply a small home with fewer users and devices. It becomes sluggish when things get crowded, for example in an office setting. The more signals pinging around the more interference you experience.

Single-band Wi-Fi is best for online activities that don’t use much bandwidth. If you only need the internet to send emails or shop online, dual-band would be a waste.

But what if you want to increase your internet use in future? As more of the population goes digital, from streaming Netflix to work meetings, it might be prudent to invest in a dual-band router. If you’re looking to save money, single-band is a budget option available in any electronics shop or online.

Dual-band Wi-Fi

As you know by now, dual-band Wi-Fi uses two frequencies to send wireless signals — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

Both frequencies can be transmitted simultaneously.

The dual-band router was a massive step forward in wireless technology as it allowed for a more powerful and reliable signal. This innovation meant more devices could connect wirelessly to the internet at the same time. A breakthrough for busy offices and whole families of internet users.

High resolution movie and online game streaming is a breeze on dual-band Wi-Fi because there’s less interference from other frequencies.

The downside? Dual-band Wi-Fi offers less coverage than single-band frequencies, so if you need wireless connectivity over a greater range, dual-band might not be suitable. Dual-band routers are also more expensive than single-band routers — although they come with more perks.

Do I need single-band or dual-band Wi-Fi?

So, which Wi-Fi option is the right fit for your smart living needs?

Before making a final decision here are the key things to keep in mind:

1.   Performance

Dual-band Wi-Fi easily outperforms single-band when it comes to speedy and reliable internet.

If you need to upload big files fast or game and watch video uninterrupted, you need a router that can handle those demands. You can also use WAPs (Wireless Access Points) to further extend the coverage of your dual-band router.

2.   Network Speed

Single-band routers can only operate on the 2.4 GHz frequency, which means slower speeds. This is fine if your online activities use little bandwidth but you’ll run into difficulty if you need your internet to do more than send emails.

Operating on a 5 GHz signal provides a smooth online experience with less lag, drop-out, and connection issues.

3.   Compatibility

This consideration is crucial.

Not all devices support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Certain devices like some Apple products and games consoles only connect to the 2.4 band.

As we mentioned at the start, dual-band routers can transmit 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz signals simultaneously. This means 5 GHz non-compatible devices will hop on the 2.4 GHz signal when looking to connect to the internet.

Before purchasing a router, it’s a good idea to take stock of which devices you own and how many are actually 5 GHz compatible.

4.   Range

Do you live in a large or small property? Single-band offers wider coverage than dual-band Wi-Fi but don’t let that be a showstopper for fast internet; coverage can be extended with WAPs or a mesh network.

Read tips from the Smart Living team for more ways to boost your Wi-Fi range at home.

5.   Stability

It’s a fact that dual-band Wi-Fi is more reliable. For smart homes that rely on connectivity for entertainment and ease, stability is crucial. The more electronic devices competing for bandwidth the patchier your service becomes. If a stable network is a key concern for you then pick dual-band over single-band.

6.   Price

One area where single-band beats dual-band!

Single-band routers come with a cheaper price tag, making them affordable for everyone. Dual-band routers can be double the price but you’ll get nifty features like device prioritisation and APP-based monitoring to further cut down buffering and improve download speeds.

Final thoughts on single-band vs dual-band Wi-Fi

Ultimately, your choice of router depends on what you use the internet for.

Simply need to check emails, browse online, and watch the occasional silly cat video? Then single-band will suit you.

If you live in a big household with kids who want to play games online, stream Netflix on movie night, or need a reliable connection for work video calls, then dual-band is the obvious choice.

You can probably tell from the tone of this article which Wi-Fi option we prefer. Dual-band is pricier but offers stability, speed, and a host of modern features. We’re all about future-proofing [LINK] and a router that operates on two frequencies simply gives you more options if your internet usage increases over time.

That’s our two pence — now it’s up to you!

For more expert tips and insights on optimizing your home network, read our Smart Living blog for the latest Wi-Fi technology and advice.

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