2.4 vs. 5GHz: Which WiFi Speed Is Right for Me?
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There are a few things everyone considers when setting up their home Internet connection: price, value, speed. Less often considered, but equally (if not more) important, is bandwidth . There are two bandwidths you can choose from—2.4 GHz and 5 GHz—and both have upsides and downsides. So the question becomes: Which frequency is right for you?
In this article, we’ll break down the differences between 2.4 vs. 5 GHz WiFi to help you determine what’s best for your household’s needs. Read on for the details, and use your newfound knowledge to get the most out of your home Internet.
What Does GHz Stand For?
First, some background. GHz (which stands for gigahertz) is a unit for measuring alternating current (AC) and electromagnetic (EM) wave frequencies (and no, it’s not the same as 5G WiFi ). If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry—you don’t really need to know the science behind it. What you do need to know is that GHz is an electromagnetic radio frequency most commonly used to transmit information (specifically, sounds or images) via radio, mobile phones, television, and wireless internet connections. Having the right bandwidth, or GHz, for your needs is imperative for being able to use your devices seamlessly.
If you need an analogy to help visualize it, think of signals as cars and the frequency channel as a highway. When too many cars try to pile onto a highway at once, you’ll get a traffic jam. Usually, they resolve fairly quickly but not always: Back in 2010, Chinese commuters endured the unthinkable when their normally-smooth commute on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway became delayed for several days by a massive traffic jam. The jam spanned more than 62 miles and took nearly two weeks to clear. Obviously, that was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. And even with interference, you’re unlikely to have to endure WiFi delays for more than a few hours. But, the historic event serves as a great example of what can happen when unexpected interference crops up and you (or your WiFi connection) are unequipped to handle it.
What’s the Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?
The biggest difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz is that one bandwidth is higher than the other. But that’s not the only distinction between these two frequencies. Learn more in our 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz breakdown below.
When comparing 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, you may be inclined to automatically opt for the latter—a higher frequency is better, right? Well, not necessarily. The lower the frequency, the further the range. In layman’s terms, this means 2.4 GHz can travel further—and therefore, provide WiFi to a greater area—than 5 GHz. However, there are only three channels (or, to go back to the highway metaphor, lanes) on the 2.4 GHz frequency. This means that you may experience traffic, which can result in drops and delays. It’s also the slower option of the two, supporting WiFi speeds of up to 300 Mbps under ideal conditions.
5 GHz is a higher frequency, so it doesn’t travel quite as far as 2.4 GHz frequencies. However, it has 23 channels (“lanes”), which means it can handle a large amount of traffic—and do so at higher speeds (up to 1300 Mbps under ideal conditions). It’s also capable of handling data from numerous sources (think: your phone, your computer, smart TVs, etc.) at once.
Which Frequency Is Right for You?
Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between these two wireless frequencies, we can answer the question at hand, namely: Which frequency should you set your WiFi router to? Our recommendations, below.
When to use 2.4 GHz
Generally speaking, we recommend opting for 2.4 GHz WiFi if your main priority is distance, rather than speed. For example, if the only place you can connect your router is far away from where you usually use the internet (like your desk, or the living room). A 2.4 GHz connection may also be suitable for those who live alone and don’t use many devices or download a lot of data.
When to use 5 GHz
The only notable drawback of using 5 GHz WiFi is that the range—that is, the distance it travels—is less than that of 2.4 GHz WiFi. However, it makes up for that in fast connectivity, excellent upload and download speeds, and low latency times. Set your WiFi to this frequency if you stream, game online, or have multiple devices on your network (not just phones and computers, but anything that uses WiFi, including smart home devices ). It’s also a great option for those who live in smaller spaces and don’t have to worry about how far the signal will travel.
How Do You Set Your WiFi Frequency?
Once you’ve determined which frequency—2.4 GHz or 5 GHz—better suits your needs, you’ll need to actually set your router. First, you’ll need to make sure that your router is dual-band, meaning it can operate on either frequency. Some older devices only support 2.4 GHz, in which case, you can’t change it. If your device is dual-band, you can change the frequency by accessing router settings via your computer. Select the frequency and channel that you’d like to use, and get browsing.
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