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    trivor's Avatar

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    Default Routers - How good is 802.11ac vs. 5 GHz N and 2.4 GHz N

    My 2 year old Asus RT-N56N router just stopped working (all my tinkering could not get it operating again). So I went to NewEgg looking at new routers (I have like the performance and stability of Asus routers) and saw they had a RTN-56AC router for only $89.99. I has 1 GB WAN, 4 GB LAN connections, 802.11AC 1200, 802.11n 5 GHz (300 Mbs), 802.11n 2.4 GHz (300 Mbs) and advertised beam forming to improve throughput and range. At first the only AC device I had was my LG G2 and Network Signal Info show 293 Mbs for AC vs 150 MBS for 5 GHz 802.11n and 50-72 Mbs for 2.4 GHz. I then decided to upgrade one of my Laptops which had issues streaming H264 rips with 2.4 802.11n (and would only transfer files at 1-3 MB/s). With a budget (Edimax 802.11AC 7711MAC model for $21.99) usb 2.0/3.0 device I was able to improve that to trouble free streaming and 20-25 MB/s transfer speeds for files which made it usable for file transfers to/from my PC and Windows Home Server 2011. If you are having trouble with any of these issues then an upgrade to 802.11 AC does not have to be prohibitive - highly recommended (if you have your favorite OEM I believe their AC products would probably have similar performance.
  2. #2  
    Rukbat's Avatar

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    Default Re: Routers - How good is 802.11ac vs. 5 GHz N and 2.4 GHz N

    Consider that you'll seldom if ever get a 3MHz connection on the internet. Now figure out how many connections you may have at a single time. Multiply that by 3 and that's the maximum speed you'll need from a router. (If the internet can't supply the data any faster, your router doesn't have to be faster.)

    The only time that doesn't apply is in transfering files from one device on the network to another, and unless you're running a NAS and want to load a large file from it to a wifi-connected device, it wouldn't matter anyway. (The difference in time between transferring a 1MB file on a 30mps wifi network and a 300mps wifi network isn't much, since the whole file transfers in a couple of seconds. Dealing with a 4GB movie, assuming you're copying it, not streaming it, would make a large difference.)

    Assuming there's going to be a need for faster speed in your case, N is N - 300mbps (depending on manufacturer and quality of the router, but that's the spec). If you have a lot of 2.4GHz signals floating around (other strong routers, Bluetooth, a microwave oven), a 5GHz signal would have a better chance of not being interfered with, so the actual speed (the thruput) would be higher. Interference can kill a packet or 10, causing it (or them) to have to be resent, slowing things down. Conversely, 2.4GHz penetrates walls better than 5GHz, so if you want full-house coverage, and there will be more than one wall between the router and some devices, a 2.4 GHz signal will give you faster thruput.

    802.11ac is a faster spec (500mbps minimum under ideal conditions - as high as 1gbps), but 1) that's under ideal conditions - an interference-free lab with no intervening material (between the router and the device) and no large metal objects "visible" to either (IOW, walls that totally absorb any signal). In reality, ac probably won't give you any more thruput than N. And if you have a few older devices, so you have to allow the router to operate in mixed-mode (N + ac), even an ac connection will run at about N speed (which, itself, in real world situations, is seldom as fast as 150mbps).

    When I bought my last router, a few months ago, I skipped the extra price for ac and went with an N router, and I don;t have anything that can transfer a file at even that speed. (Even with my phone sitting on my router, the thruput is less than 300mbps from the drive plugged right into the router).

    Some day the internet will have gigabit speeds, but I don't think any router you buy now will last long enough to see it.

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