Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi Explained: 2021’s New Bandwidth Question

For years, I’ve received a lot of questions regarding Dual-band vs. Tri-band in Wi-Fi routers. For this reason, in the past two years, folks were super undecided between the Netgear RAX200 vs. RAX120 or the Asus GT-AX11000 vs. RT-AX88U.

Then 2021 came along, and now there is also a new tri-band option: The Wi-Fi 6E standard. Things start to get even more confusing.

So, I’ll explain the differences between them, as standalone routers, in this post. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s the gist: It doesn’t hurt to go with a tri-band router, and in some cases, you can even say you need one. But most of the time, investing in an additional band is unlikely money well-spent.

OK, let’s start with dual-band.

READ  Mesh Wi-Fi System Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters

Dong’s note: I first published this post on October 28, 2019, and updated it on January 9, 2021, to include additional relevant information.

Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi: Netgear RAX200 vs RAX120
Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi: You can’t tell the dual-band Netgear RAX120 (left) and the tri-band Netgear RAX200 apart, appearance-wise, and, for the most part, also in Wi-Fi performance.

Dual-band Wi-Fi: It’s all about compatibility

Dual-band goes back to the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard (called Wi-Fi 4 nowadays), first commercially available in 2009. Things were still simple then, and dual-band routers came into existence because we needed them.

READ  Home Wi-Fi: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know

Indeed, initially, Wi-Fi started with only the 2.4GHz frequency band, which was, and still is, too ubiquitous. Apart from Wi-Fi devices, cordless phones, Bluetooth gadgets, and home appliances (like microwaves) also use this frequency. It’s saturated.

Available to too many applications, 2.4GHz generally suffers heavily from interferences. Soon after the introduction, it quickly proved unreliable for Wi-Fi in urban areas and has remained that way.

That’s when the 5GHz came into play. This frequency band, for the most part, is dedicated to the use of Wi-Fi and has a much higher wireless speed.

For a short period, 5GHz was available in 802.11a Wi-Fi standard as a single-band solution that could even slowly replace 2.4GHz. But due to its shorter range, the then not-so-fast speed, and the fact that there were many 2.4GHz-only clients, 5GHz couldn’t manage to survive on its own — nobody wanted a 5GHz-only router.

As a result, starting with Wi-Fi 4, we’ve always had dual-band: The co-existence of 2.4GHz and 5GHz. A dual-band Wi-Fi router delivers both performance and backward compatibility. Everyone is happy.

Asus GT-AXE11000 Router
The GT-AXE11000 is one of the first Wi-Fi 6E router on the market.

Tri-band in Wi-Fi 6E: It’s the new dual-band

Speaking of compatibility, 2021 comes with Wi-Fi 6E. This is an extension of the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard that includes a brand-new 6GHz frequency band.

READ  Wi-Fi 6E Explained: Better Wireless Connections at the Expense of Range

And just like the move from single band to dual-band that took place more than a decade ago, now we’re doing the same, except it is a move from dual-band to tri-band, as a necessity.

That’s right. A Wi-Fi 6E device will need to have these three bands (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 6GHz) to work with all Wi-Fi devices, new and old. And that’s great, except it makes the tri-band notion confusing.

That’s because traditionally, a tri-band router (be it a Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 one) has an additional 5GHz band purely to add extra bandwidth. It does not need this band to work with existing devices.

Keep that in mind for the rest of this post. From here on, “tri-band” is used to convey this type of traditional pre-Wi-Fi 6E routers, namely those with an additional 5GHz band.

Traditional tri-band: It’s all about the extra bandwidth

To understand the idea behind the tri-band, we first need to know how a router’s bandwidth works. Take the Asus Blue Cave, for example; it’s a Gigabit dual-band AC2600 router.

Gigabit means its network ports (four LANs and one WAN) cap at 1Gbps (1000Mbps). AC is short for the 802.11ac standard (or Wi-Fi 5). And 2600 is the rounded combined bandwidth of the router’s 1733Mbps speed on the 5GHz band and 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

Since a Wi-Fi client can only connect to a router using one band at a time, the best wireless connection you can get out of the Blue Cave caps at 1733Mbps.

But that’s only when there’s just one client. If you have two clients connecting and being active simultaneously, each gets only half of that bandwidth. If you have ten simultaneously active clients, each now connects at only around 170 Mbps; or 17 Mbps if you have 100 clients.

You get the idea. And generally, a home router can host up to 253 clients. (More about clients in this post that explains routers in detail.)

A traditional tri-band router includes two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band, or 5GHz + 5GHz + 2.4GHz. In other words, it has double the bandwidth on the 5GHz frequency, compared to a dual-band (5GHz + 2.4GHz) router.

To increase the bandwidth, in 2014, chip makers decided to add another 5GHz band and splitting the use of the 5GHz channels into two groups — upper channels and lower channels — and giving one to each band.

As a result, the total number of channels remains the same, but each channel has more bandwidth.

A tri-band router now has double the bandwidth on the 5GHz, compared with a dual-band like the Blue Cave above. And networking vendors loved this. A higher number means a better marketing tool.

Extra on router bandwidth: Wi-Fi vs. Wired

It’s worth noting that the wireless speed mentioned above is the theoretical rate. In my experience, a 1733 Mbps Wi-Fi connection in real-world usage delivers a sustained speed of around 1000 Mbps.

Using radio to transmit data, Wi-Fi is susceptible to interferences and therefore has a lot of overheads.

And that’s why wired connections are generally superior in terms of throughputs. A Gigabit connection via a network cable has a sustained speed of almost 1000 Mbps.

In other words, the net rate of a wired connection is about the same as its ceiling speed. Among other things, the wires inside a network cable are shielded from the elements and can work unhindered.

Also, in a router (or switch), the network ports don’t share the bandwidth. Each port delivers its full rated bandwidth even when all of the ports are active. So, if you copy data from one Gigabit device to another, the speed between them is still 1 Gbps.

But wired networking has one major disadvantage, you need to use wires. And that alone means it can’t beat Wi-Fi.

Dual-band vs. tri-band Wi-Fi: The reality

As far as I know, the first tri-band router is the Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6 that came out in 2014. I remember reviewing it in my past life and having a hard time figuring out how to demonstrate the need for the second 5GHz band.

Frustrated yet curious, I got one for my personal use and ended up putting it in storage without ever figuring out the advantages of the additional 5GHz band. I still have that router today.

Netgear X6 R8000 Tri band Router
My Netgear R8000 Nighthawk X6 router straight out of storage. It’s one of the first tri-band routers on the market.

And that’s just the way it is. In real-world usage, you’ll probably see no difference between dual-band vs. tri-band in standalone Wi-Fi routers. The first reason is that chances are you don’t have that many active clients anyway.

Connected clients vs. active clients

As mentioned above, a router’s Wi-Fi bandwidth is divided between active clients — those that are sending or receiving something. You can have hundreds of connected clients but only the active ones that count.

The faster a Wi-Fi connection is, the shorter a client remains active — it needs less time to finish transmitting the same amount of information.

For example, as you’re reading this, likely, your computer (or mobile device) is no longer active since the post has been fully downloaded. So, in a typical home, chances are you’ll have just one or two active clients at any given time.

And even when you have lots of active clients, how taxing they are on the Wi-Fi pipe also depends on their tier of Wi-Fi, the application they use, and the Internet speed.

Wi-Fi tiers

The numbers I mentioned in the Blue Cave example above were that of the highest 4×4 Wi-Fi 5 clients. In most homes, though, chances are you’ll use clients of different Wi-Fi speed grades and standards.

For example, if you use a 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 clients, its speed already caps at 867 Mbps, even when it’s the only connected client. If you use a 2×2 Wi-Fi 4 clients, this number is now 450 Mbps at most. So on and so forth. Also, some clients use the 2.GHz band and put no load on the 5GHz frequency at all.

So, not all active clients use the max amount of bandwidth available at the router’s end, even when working at capacity.

Applications

And Wi-Fi clients tend not to work at capacity. That’s because most applications only need a certain amount of bandwidth. You can make more available to them, but that won’t translate into a better user experience. It’s the law of diminishing returns.

Take movie streaming, for example, a 4K stream requires 25 Mbps and won’t use more than that. So the Blue Cave router’s 5GHz band alone can theoretically handle some 70 Wi-Fi concurrent clients streaming 4K content. Add another 32 clients on the 2.4GHz band.

The actual number of possible simultaneous streaming clients are fewer in real-world usage, but still, any dual-band Wi-Fi 5 router can deliver a lot more than a household would ever need.

Internet speed

The broadband speed is likely the main factor that renders tri-band overkill. That’s because we use Wi-Fi mainly as a bridge to the Internet. And since Wi-Fi and Internet are two different things, faster Wi-Fi doesn’t necessarily translate into speedier Internet access.



(Note: This test will use up your data. Also, Ookla may collect certain information from your connection.)

Click the Go button above and do a test right now, and you’ll get an idea of how fast your Internet currently is. (If you want to make sure, check out this post on how I conduct Wi-Fi and Internet testing.)

Let’s say your broadband is 150 Mbps, which is quite decent. When you have ten Wi-Fi clients accessing the Internet at the same time, using the same application, each of them will be allotted with 15 Mbps.

And even if you have just one client, 150 Mbps is still much lower than how fast Wi-Fi can be in general. That said, no matter how much more bandwidth you add to your Wi-Fi, you can’t access the Internet any faster.

The point is, chances are the broadband connection will be used up way before you have to worry about your local Wi-Fi’s speed. Consequently, getting more Wi-Fi bandwidth doesn’t do anything other than making you a bit poorer.

When a tri-band router is useful

There are few instances where a tri-band router makes sense.

Clearly, first, you need to have many 5GHz clients even think of using a tri-band router. And then, make sure you have at least one of the following to make the investment worthwhile.

Asus RT AX92U 2 Pack
The Asus RT-AX92U is a tri-band Wi-Fi solution that transcend Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 standards

Wireless mesh setup

This is by far the best use of tri-band.

But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to what a wireless mesh system means. That’s when you use multiple hardware broadcasters that link to one another wirelessly. In other words, you don’t use network cables to hook them up.

In this case, generally, a tri-band system will dedicate one of the two 5GHz bands as the dedicated backhaul, which has the sole job of linking the broadcasters. This leaves the other two bands (the other 5GHz + 2.4GHz) free to serve clients. Among other things, this setup helps reduce or even eliminate the signal loss.

It’s important to note, though, that using a network cable to link broadcasters is by far the best way to get a non-compromising mesh system. In this case, you only need to use dual-band broadcasters. In fact, getting a tri-band system with wired backhaul can be wasteful since one of its 5GHz bands might not be used at all.

Keep in mind that this post talks mostly about standalone routers. While many routers from Asus or Synology can work as members of a mesh system, most standalone routers can’t. They only work as a, well, standalone router. To these, the mesh motion is irrelevant.

A super-fast broadband connection

If you’re one of those lucky who has a Gigabit-class broadband connection, then a tri-band router is also useful in maintaining the high broadband speed to more clients at the same time.

But, again, keep in mind that online applications generally require only so much bandwidth to work well —  much less than 1Gbps in most cases. The only time faster is always better is when you download a large file.

READ  Gigabit Internet Explained: How to Get the Magic out of Your Cool 1Gbps

Compatibility

You can set one 5GHz band to support top speeds and the other to work in compatibility mode for legacy clients. It’s helpful when you have clients of multiple Wi-Fi tiers or standard.

Heavy local Wi-Fi network usage

If you have an extensive network that uses Wi-Fi, instead of wired connections, for local tasks, a tri-band router is helpful, too. It allows for more local bandwidth. Examples of these include network backups, file sharing, photo/video editing. In this case, make sure all clients, including desktops, use the fastest Wi-Fi tier.

The takeaway

As you can see, strictly from Wi-Fi’s point of view, generally, you don’t need any additional band in a standalone router. In some cases, this extra band helps, but still not a must-have. A router with one band for each frequency will always suffice.

On the other hand, I don’t see any instance having more bands — that use different parts of wireless spectrums — would hurt. So, in the end, it comes down to cash. If you can afford it, I’d say go ahead and proceed with a router with the most bands. It’s always nice to be able to turn things up to eleven.

79 thoughts on “Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi Explained: 2021’s New Bandwidth Question”

  1. I know this is an old post, but I have 52 devices connected in my home. On a dual band I would have an issue with the wifi; too many of my smart devices were on the 2.4ghz and putting my speakers on the 5ghz would negatively affect my speed when music was playing.

    With a triband, I was able to dedicate the 2.4ghz to the smart devices, the 5ghz to my speakers, and the other 5ghz to my PC. I now enjoy perfect speeds even when playing music

    Reply
    • The post is not that old, Yahqoob, but that’s a good use of tri-band. However, a dual-band router of the same or better Wi-Fi grade can do the same if you create a separate virtual SSID for clients. It’s likely that your tri-band router is of the same or a higher tier than your dual-band one.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong!

        I want to thank you so much for your site, it’s really opened my eyes to stuff I never though I’d need to know.

        I’m going to piggyback on this thread and hope you can give me a bit of guidance. I’m in a very similar boat to Yaqoob, I have MANY IOT devices that basically destroyed my network. I have an XB6 modem and after a factory reset, something happened that rendered some wireless devices unable to access the internet. At all. It wasn’t until I cascaded routers and added an RT-AX92U in the DMZ that I was able to get access to all devices again.

        However, I’m having issues when I bridge my modem and try to use the AX92U as the main router. This is something I’m trying to troubleshoot as if I hook my Archer C2600 up, all is peachy. WAN addresses are painfully different (70 on the Asus, 24 on the Archer) – it’s entirely possible I’ve done something wrong in the setup, but I’m knowledgeable enough to cause damage, not enough to do much troubleshooting.

        I still, after a month of fighting, don’t know why my devices stopped working after doing a factory reset of my modem, or why adding another modem downstream solved it.

        I DO know things were very overloaded, to the point that I’d start playing a 4K DV/Atmos iTunes movie from my hardwired Apple TV and with many IOT devices plugged in, it would completely destroy my internet connection, leaving me to have to power cycle devices incessantly. Removing those IOT devices got me back (although those other devices, IP cameras, SOME iPads both new and old never reconnected) but it really seems like my system was out of bounds with the number of connections (something I’ve seen talked about regarding the XB6)

        What I’m trying to figure out is if the very difficult to get support for 92U is the better option with having the 3 bands, or should I look at investing in the RT-AX86U, which is about $20 more but has the full backing of Asus with Merlin and such.

        My goal is this:

        ISP Modem in Bridged Mode (if I can ever get it to work) —> Router (RT-AX86U or the 92U if I can get THAT to work) —> AP Deco Mesh Wifi Network

        I know the Deco units are… basic, but they’re cheap and they’ve worked well for me to at least provide stable and consistent internet access.

        What I need to know, however, is whether I’m just throwing my money away on these expensive routers. I would LOVE to have WiFi 6 for the future, but right now I just want to be able to use my IOT devices without relying on my ISP modem. Having the Deco units as a router is less than ideal for so many reasons, but would getting something like the NETGEAR RAX20 be sufficient? I worry because right on the tin that says UP TO 20 devices, and boy oh boy do I have more than that.

        I know with the 92U the “tri” band is a bit deceiving and that it really is 2 bands with an extra for wifi 6 if you’re not using the mesh, which I’m not, so…. what do I do?

        I’d love any help, this has kept me up very, very, very late the last few nights. Things are working decently well with the 92U in the DMZ and in a cascade, my NAT is open and my latency seems fine – but I’m almost $300 in the hole (Canadian) because my ISP is skimping out on the options I have available to me.

        Thanks in advance, sorry for the long winded nonsense!

        Reply
          • Hi Dong!

            Thanks so much for the reply!

            1) Yep, got that down pat! My ISP Modem was operating as both modem/router, currently I have it as both with the Asus router in the DMZ. It seems to be working okay and my latency shows little difference regardless of what I’m connected to.

            2) This is something I’m painfully familiar with! Rebooted multiple times, once to the point that I left my cable modem unplugged for half an hour to try and flush it, still received the same WAN IP address when I hooked everything back up. My ISP assures me nothing is wrong, but I can’t understand then why my older Archer C2600 works when connected in bridge mode, yet the second I hook my Asus up, I can’t get data through, just pings/tracerts.
            3) That’s the one area I really suffer with my connection, I have a solid 300 down but a paltry 15 up, the area we live in is terrible for internet availability and I used to have symmetrical internet, but that provider maxes out at about 75 up/down – and in a house of 6 people, 1 working from home, 2 doing school from home and lots of media consumption… that seems not enough!

            thank you so much in advance for all your help, it means the world!

          • 1. You want to put your gateway into the bridge mode or get your own modem.
            2. All the more reason to get your own modem.
            3. You need to cut down on IoT devices that use the upload pipe. They are spying on you anyway. You can use devices that record locally. There’s no magic; something has to give; you need to understand how the Internet works and not listen to marketing hypes. I myself would never use those devices you use. But you can also do whatever you want, in that case, nobody can help you.

    • That’s exactly why I ended up with a tri band mesh network – all my smart home devices absolutely killed the generic AT&T router (and the line was slow to begin with), so I switched to Spectrum for faster service and was ok with that since they allowed me to manage all the connections etc… until they replaced their routers with dumb “simple” ones that do not allow broadcasting of separate 2.4G and 5G. That makes it useless for most bulbs and switches, since your phone has to be on 2.G to add a device to the network. This article had been helpful in understanding things when I first saw problems with dozens of connections, and was helpful again when I had to ditch the generic Spectrum router for a controllable one : ) Now I have a tri band Linksys Velop with 3 nodes and it’s working great

      Reply
  2. Hi Dong,

    I am a simple person, who’s technical knowledge is limited.

    I have a 3 storey town house (1550sq ft) with 3 kids (3 ipads, 3 iphones, 2 laptops, 1 desktop, 3 echos and 1 kindle). My office is on the top floor and can only use my laptop when no-one is in the house playing Roblox or facetiming their friends whilst playing Roblox. Since getting the kids tablets, i’ve noticed wif-fi blackspots in weird places where we didn’t before.

    I have 500mbps fibre broadband with a dual band router from the provider (Virgin Media UK – Virgin Media Super Hub 3 (VMDG505) TG2492LG-VM Router)

    I was reading your article (which is brilliant by the way!) and thinking that I should invest in a 3 pack tri-band mesh thingy to help with these blackspots and be better at managing usage at ‘peak times’ (when the kids are gaming etc) so I can still use my laptop on the 3rd floor for zoom conference calls without it dropping out. I think I was going to plug one into the existing router (or is this wrong? just replace the router?) then one on the middle floor and one on the top floor.

    I also thought setting up a mesh system would be good for parental controls to limit usage and I know some do.

    My budget is up to about $275 (£200 in UK). I’m really confused what is going to be best.

    I just want to be able to use my own devices when and where I want to use them.

    Any help or direction would be appreciated.

    Reply
  3. Your articles are wonderful, thank you for explaining in such detail and clarity.
    I have very poor internet bandwidth, providing only 40Mbps (all over our area). There are currently no options for improvement but possibly this will change in a couple of years.
    I live in a 3 story house. The coverage was poor in the top floor and the basement, so I had previosuly relied on a wired repeater. We have recently rennovated so that we now have wired connections in many more rooms, but obviously still need WiFi (zoom meetings, music streaming etc).
    Our existing router is an older Netgear VEGN2610 which I assume is dualband. I am considering buying a MESH system (Linksys Velop 0303 or TPLink M9), to connect one node wired to the old router and place the other two nodes in the poor-coverage floors.
    Does this make sense, given out poor internet bandwidth?
    Would it be better to buy a less expensive dual band MESH and then be able to replace my router too?
    Thank you in advance

    Reply
  4. Hello, Dong. I appreciate the thorough explanation given in your article on dual and tri-band routers. If you don’t mind my lengthy description, I would ask your suggestions on the following: I have a two story home (4600 sft) with an attached garage. During a recent renovation of the second floor of this home I had CAT 6 cable installed (my internet cable comes in on the second floor). However, my first floor lacks such hardwiring. Fortunately, I can run CAT to the garage. I have a dual band WiFi router provided by my internet provider (Cox). My questions is: would a mesh network be advisable so that my home automation, TV (currently only 1), and security devices (all located on the first floor) would have adequate signal strength to operate satisfactorily? Currently, I have not completed the project to setup my home automation, but so far with the setup I have there does not seem to be a problem. But to future-proof my house, is there an advantage to investing in a Mesh network? Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    • It’s impossible to answer your question, Theodore. That’s because how well things work depends on your home automation hardware, too

      Reply
  5. Hi Dong and thanks for some really good writeups on this topic – much appreciated 🙂

    I live in a two-story house (159m2) with floors and (most) walls of concrete. Fiber internet comes in at the very corner of the bottom floor so one router was never going to cut it 😉

    For some time now I have used a mesh setup with three Asus AC68U routers (one at the modem in the corner, one in the hallway (same floor) and one on the second floor) with wireless backhaul.

    The throughput and general performance is fine BUT… I have to deal with frustrating node drops from 1 to 5+ times a day lasting for about 30 seconds at a time. The signal strength between the router and nodes is “excellent” so I have no idea why this happens.

    I have tried a lot of tweaking but nothing gets rid of those annoying drops.

    In your opinion: Would it be a worthwile investment to go for the Zenwifi CT8 which is tri-band instead? Mind you – wired backhaul is not an option (yeah technically it is an option, but I really would prefer to avoid the hassle 😉

    I just can wrap my head around why these drops happen when the signal and throughput seem absolutely fine. I am willing to shell out for the Zenwifi system but only if there’s a reasonable chance it will be more stable. Do you think the dedicated wireless backhaul could make that difference?

    Best regards
    Julian

    Reply
    • Hello! I have a two story home with a basement (5000) square feet. I really need to update my cable modem (Comcast is provider) and router. Can you please recommend these two items. I hate to say price doesn’t matter but in this case it doesn’t. I also have the ability to connect a mesh system with cables. Please help! I currently have 600MPS speed from (ISP) I do not have thick walls it is open living. I just have a few dead spots in the upstairs corners.

      Reply
  6. Hello, I have a 1,200 sq.ft home with Comcast Xfinity. I bought my own modem, the Arris SB8200. I have an Airport Extreme as a router with a service of 200-250 mpbs, but in the back of the house it does not go up to more than 10-20 mbps. I tried a TP-Link extender but the connection was unstable and dropped a few times a day. Apple told me there is a compatibility issue and recommended me to upgrade the router to a mesh system (2-pack or 3-pack.) I’m not sure if upgrading to a WiFi 6 Mesh like a Netgear MK62 2-pack or a TP-Link Deco X60, or move to a tri-band like a Linksys AX4000 or others. I can’t spend +$400 (i.e. Orbi) I need stable, steady fast internet in all areas of the house. We are using Zoom/streaming in 4-5 devices at the same time. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Apple stuff is not good and extenders are even worse, Pablo. For that place, you might just need one router. I’d recommend the Asus RT-AX86U, place it as close to the middle of the place as possible. Or you can go with the CT8. Also, note:

      1. Your internet speed is actually barely fast enough for that many simultaneous streaming devices. That means chances are it’s not fast enough since you do more than just streaming. No router can make your Internet faster.
      2. Check out this post on QoS, that might help.
      3. Take your time and read this post, it will help.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Thanks so much for the quick reply, and great reading your articles!

        The Internet cable comes from the basement at the front of the house, and no chances to change that. The modem and the router have to be at the front—I may be able to move the router to the other side of a half wall and leave the modem in the front.

        In terms of your two suggestions, the router is WiFi 6 dual-band and the mesh system is tri-band but not WiFi 6, right? Was that just based on my budget or technical needs? If cost is not an issue, would you recommend a tri-band WiFi6 mesh system then?

        Thanks!

        Reply
        • Yes, my suggestions were based on your budget, Pablo, and with the consideration of your current hardware. You can also consider the XT8 or one of those tri-band on this list. Of course, things vary based on locations but I’ve set up a single router to cover 1800 square feet places, give or take. It’s not a good idea to use a mesh when you don’t need to. But on the other hand, I’ve seen smaller places than yours that need multiple pieces — thick walls are always problematic. So, it’s hard to predict. That said, I’d recommend taking some time to find out how your place really is and see what will fit. It’s a bit of a pain, but if you pay attention, you’ll impress everyone. It’s worth it. 🙂

          Reply
          • You hit a good point, apparently my place has problematic walls! From front to middle the performance reduces drastically, and from middle to back much worse. So the fact that I can’t place the ASUS AX5700 in the middle concerns me. I’ll go with a mesh system.

            Linksys Velop 4000 (triband/WiFi6) vs Asus 3000 CT8 (triband/WiFi5) at same price ($300), both in a 2-pack set, which one would you choose? The WiFi6 seems like the best option unless the CT8 has more advantages I’m not seeing…

            Thanks a lot! I’m clicking your Amazon link, well deserved!

          • Hi, sorry to bother again… I did more research and checked available products. If I understood correctly, tri-band vs dual may be more important that 6 vs 5… plus the configuration of QoS.
            Given my configuration need and budget, I don’t think I’m in a rush to go for both WiFi 6 and tri-band, especially if before the end of this year 6E will be available.
            Do you think it’s a good idea to prioritize bandwidth over speed and get a system which is tri-band but WiFi 5? Or would you still prioritize WiFi 6 and get a dual band if you can’t get both WF6 & tri-band? Does a it make sense at all? Thanks a lot!

  7. I have a 2 story , 2000 sqft house. I would be running a wireless backhaul. Do you recommend the rbk852 (2 pack) vs rbk753 (3 pack)? Or maybe the Tp-Link AX5700. I have 1gb service. Thank you for your help.

    Reply
  8. Hello,

    I am still very confused over internet speed vs wireless speed. Most standalone routers or mesh routers market their product such as AC1200, dual band. Essentially it is providing 867mbps on 5ghz band and 433mbps on 2.4ghz.

    If i have a fiber broadband speed of 500mbps so even having just one active device connected to a 2.4ghz band will be insufficient since the maximum speed is only 433mbps?

    Reply
    • On paper, yes, in reality, not really, Jasmine, the 2.4GHz, in my XP can almost never give you more than 250Mbps. That’s just the way it is and is part of the reason why we have the 5GHz band in the first place. Check my reviews. You’ll see the real-world number of that band on any router.

      Reply
  9. Hi Dong. I use the Deco M9 triband mesh routers (3-pack) and have been loosing connection when multiple devices are connected at the same time (around 10-20) the area to cover is around 1200sqft and the wifi speeds are 200/200mbit on two floors.

    I have seen the price on the Deco X60 dualband Wifi 6 mesh (3-pack) is only about $20 more than what i originally paid for my M9, and i am thinking of returning the m9 to switch to X60 in hopes of better coverage around the house and also being able to handle the devices better.

    My question is about the triband vs dualband on the M9 and X60. How much will the dualband on the X60 affect it when the sattelites are going to connect wirelessly except for the router thats connected to the modem? Will i lose coverage or speed, or should it not be too bad compared to the triband?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Hi,
    Thank you for your informative article. It is also nice to see how you answer questions. I have a large 100 year old brick home that I am trying to cover with fast reliable Wi-Fi. Including finished basement – 3 stories. Approximately 7500 sq ft. The challenge is thick mesh wire, plaster encased walls and ceilings.
    I bought a few years ago the Amplifi HD mesh system with 2 satellites with 150mb internet speeds from Comcast Xfinity, and I was relatively happy. Definitely much better than DSL. With Covid-19 and everyone trying to videoconference at the same time, add security cameras and Google Home devices, and we started having dramatic slowdowns.
    I increased our internet bandwidth to Gigabit speeds. However, I quickly realized that the Amilifi HD system was not maintaining the gigabit speeds, not on the 5ghz channel and of course not on the 2.4ghz channel.
    After extensive testing, I’ve discovered that right next to the main router I am getting around 866mb speeds. And right next to the satellites it is also around 866mbs. However, almost any other room, devices switch to 2.4ghz and do not get speeds above 78mbs.
    Multiple devices and we are back to our bottleneck problems.
    I am debating whether to get additional Amplifi HD satellites or switch to a system like the Orbi Pro WiFi 6 SXK80, which would be a very expensive investment.
    Bottom line, we have around 30 connected devices. After having read your article, I am trying to determine, will we get better signal strengths and speeds with the tri-band Orbi Pro 6 or will the dual-band Amplifi HD (WiFi 5 – but rated to exceed gigabit speeds) do the job with additional satellites distributed around the house?
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    Reply
      • Thank you for your advice, even though it’s not what I was hoping to hear.
        I read your WiFi 6 article,
        https://dongknows.com/wi-fi-6-explained/
        This article and your best router roundup.
        I came away thinking that because of physical barriers, gigabit speed internet, fairly heavy local WiFi traffic, and wireless mesh system that cannot be wired [We have existing cat 5 Ethernet, with speeds not exceeding 100mbs. Walls too thick to upgrade cabling, without major renovations at great expense.], that our environment is the best environment to take advantage of a tri-band mesh router with a dedicated backhaul. Especially one like the Tp-Link AX5700 that has the 160ghz channel and seems to perform well, even far away.
        Bottom line, in our situation that there is such dramatic signal loss anywhere over 10 feet away, tri-band and 160ghz channel won’t help?

        Reply
        • No, it won’t help much, if at all, Yosef. 5GHz has a short-range and can’t handle thick walls as well as the slower 2.4GHz. I’d use the CAT5 cable as backhaul. Chances are you’ll get 1Gbps out of it.

          Reply
          • After reading your explanations and reviews, I finally bought 2 sets, 4 units, of the Deco x5700 WiFi 6. 3 of the 4 units are connected via existing Ethernet Cat5 (Cat5e not an option), as backhaul. 4th WiFi, as there’s no cables in that corner of his. Huge old home, 3 floors, thick walls. I’m now getting 500+ mbs speeds in most of the house. Lowest speeds I’ve hit were between 200-300mbs. (I guess I’ll never get gigabit speeds, because signal degrades between multiple mesh units. My office PC, connected to Deco via Ethernet is getting 800+mbs) I’m using my older Amlifi HD mesh router as a second WiFi network for our smart devices, switches, cameras, Nest, Google Home… It’s connected via Ethernet 5 as well but not getting more than 100mbs (doesn’t matter).
            I guess question is, was this overkill ($800!!) or should I be thrilled and keep it?
            I keep asking myself if I can get anything close to these speeds by buying another 3 or 4 mesh satellites for my older Amplifi HD mesh system? Before switching, Amplifi HD with 2 satellites wasn’t doing better than 150mbs in most of the house. Many areas around 70 or so. Too many users and we kept having slow downs and Zoom interruptions. Also satellites needed to be on 2.4ghz. It does not have Ethernet backhaul abilities on any of the satellites, they plug in wall and that’s it. And only 2 dual channels. (The software for Amplifi is much better, for whatever that’s worth.) Any chance if I add a bunch of satellites ($120 each) around the house, they can get me anywhere close to the 500-600mbs I’m now getting with the Decos?

          • That’s not gonna work well, Mike. Powerline is just too slow or unreliable to deliver fast connection speeds. Generally, it’s suitable only for those with slow (sub-150Mbps) Internet.

          • tp-link powerline gear won’t likely give you would expect, but devolo has the Magic 2 lines that might suit you. You can spend as much as you want to set up a full mesh of magic2 + wifi nodes around your house if you want high speed everywhere. Note: They say up to 2Gbps on the powerline, and you won’t get that reliably, BUT you’ll get more than you need for any reasonable applictions. A 3 node mesh has streamed 2 4K streams + other miscellaneous tasks reliably for my house…and I’ve never tried more. Good luck.

      • Sorry, one more question. Will the 2.4ghz band (which seems to work well despite barriers, albeit not faster than 80mbs),
        be significantly faster with a tri-band WiFi 6 router, with mostly WiFi 5 clients?

        Reply
  11. Hi Dong,
    Which option do you recommend (wireless backhaul) between 2 asus routers (1 Ax rt-86 + 1 other cheaper ) with aimesh setup or 2 eero pro 6 ? Will an aimesh be able te deliver the same download speed as an mesh system like the eero pro ?

    Thanks

    Reply
  12. Hey Dong,

    I am currently living in the past. I live in a 1500 sqft ranch style home, but including the basement which is almost identical in sqft, I’m really looking at about 3000 sgft. My current setup is in the main part of the house which is an Apple AirPort Extreme, with a cat 6 running down to the basement and plugged into another Apple AirPort Extreme. We are a very heavy internet usage family, we stream everything, game, tablets, you name it we use it. I feel like the AirPort Extremes aren’t cutting it anymore. I am unsure of what I need for the house, mesh/stand-alone. I really love the simplicity of the Airport Extreme, and I think that’s why I’ve been so hesitant to upgrade. My speeds currently are 400/20, I might upgrade to spectrums 940/35 but don’t really want to pay the $200 installation fee (silly I’m sure). What are your thoughts?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Hi Dong,

    Thank you for your insights on this topic. Currently I’m using a TP Link-AC1750 and I have 2 Phone, 3 Laptops and a wired Smart TV at home. I have lately seen that my video calls are dropping and suddenly my internet is out for a min.

    So, I’m thinking of buying a new router and I have these two in mind:
    -TP Link AC4000 Tri band (Wifi 5, $100, last firmware updated in Nov 2019)
    -TP Link AX50 Dual band (Wifi 6, $150, Firmware updates available in 2020)

    My dilemma is going for latest tech (Wifi 6) vs. more power. In a dual band of 2250GHz i can have two clients which practiacally becomes 1100GHz each while in tribands i can distribute the two bandwidth consuming clients into the two 5GHz channels. So i could still end up getting 1500-1700GHz each.

    Please let me know your expert thoughts on this.

    Reply
  14. Hi Dong,

    Currently using a nighthawk r6700v3 for wfh. Seems like I’ll get these micro disconnections here and there as we have like 3-4 zoom conferences running all day long. I was just wondering if getting a tri-band will help make our wifi connections more stable? I’m just looking for more stablity. My home isn’t big, but being plagued by these micro DCS is not fun at all.

    Reply
  15. Thanks for the great site! Lots of great information here. I have a follow up dual/try band question. Would there be a difference in performance between:
    (1) Dual-band router with 1 5GHz band, up to 4804mbps
    (2) Tri-band router with 2 5GHz bands, each up to 2402mbps

    I’m trying to understand if there’s an advantage to a triband if there is more or equal bandwidth in a single band.

    Reply
    • Yes, Wayne. But it depends on what client you have, how many streams, and what channel bandwidth routers and clients use. It’s a bit complicated. But if all of them work in 2×2 80MHz then the tri-band is better in the sense that it can handle more clients at the same time without slowing down. But the dual-band is the one that can give you up to 4.8Gbps connection to a 4×4 client using 160Mhz. More here.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong. I’m debating between a stock mesh system (I.e. Eero Pro 6 which has triband but is AX4200), vs creating an aimesh with something like the ASUS AX86U (AX5400, but dual-band). What would you suggest from a performance perspective and why?

        Reply
  16. Hi Dong,

    First off – thanks for being about the only one online that posts useful information that seems trustworthy 🙂 I’ve just moved into a new 300m2 house, where the living room is half separated from the rest of the house. I have a CAT6a cable running from basement (where my 1000/1000 fiber internet comes in) to two points in the ground floor and 1 going to the first floor. Now i rushed out and bought 2 x AC11000 routers, and figured it would be fantastic even with just one. However, when i replaced my AC68U with the first one, I found the WIFI signal in the Livingroom was less than before… So i never unpacked the 2nd one and sent both of them back(also because they are so big and ugly that I don’t think my wife will ever approve of having it out in plain sight). Now I’m left thinking that maybe i should go with a Lyra or Zenwifi Setup with ethernet backhaul so that I can have one unit on each floor. . What would you recommend?

    Reply
    • I hear you, Mads, but move to an Asus and you’ll see what you’ve been missing out. Since you have wired your home, you can go with the XD4. The setup you mentioned is not good since you mixed routers of two different standards, tiers, and bands. More here.

      Reply
  17. Hello. Great article. This might be a stupid question so I am sorry in advance. I am newly researching dual vs tri band systems. I have a small house, aprox 2500 sq/ft, but a lot of devices (2 xboxes, 2 nest thermostats, 6 lap tops, 4 iPads, 4 iPhones, many amazon dots, 4 smart tv’s, Wife working from home, and 3 kids doing school from home due to COVID). I have been looking at the Eero mesh unit (3 pack). Would this help get service on my 2nd floor and help speed things up in general. My main router is on the 1st floor. The internet that I have is Gigablast from COX.

    Reply
  18. Hi Dong! Just discovered your site while trying to understand a bit more about tri-band versus dual band routers. You are a wonderfully coherent resource, BTW, and am continuing to look at other posts.

    I didn’t know that third band was generally useless – good takeaway. We have used the R8000 trouble free for some time. We have since added lots of devices in the house – several cameras, 3 TVs running streaming services only, doorbells, smart gadgets – and decided its time to upgrade the very old range extender I am relying on while working upstairs (maybe one with ethernet ports). I am looking at one of the dual band (instead of tri-band) Netgear extenders – probably one of the EX7XXX versions. Any thoughts on one versus another, as I would hate to shell out $200 on something with features I don’t need? Do I need to stick with Netgear for an integrated “user experience” and integration in the Netgear phone app?

    Reply
    • The third band is NOT useless, Lisa, it’s not necessary in many cases. I think you should read the post again, it’s about nuances. And no, using an extender is always a bad idea but if you have to use one, it’s best that you use a tri-band one. More here.

      Reply
  19. Hi, firstly I wanted to say what a great site this is and thank you for your hard work.

    So my question is, do you know why the two 5GHZ bands on triband routers have different signal strength? I have bought the Netgear RAX200 and the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 but they both show the same issue. The first 5GHZ bands on each are on channel 60 and they have a much poorer signal strength than the second 5GHZ bands which are on channel 100.

    I have tried all combinations of channel widths but it seems to make no difference. I have also used a wifi analyser to check that there is no channel interference from other wifi networks.

    In fact the first 5GHZ signal strength is so poor in most of the house it make me wonder if its even worth having a triband router at all and whether so save some money and just get a dual band one…

    Not sure if it makes a difference but I am in the UK.

    Reply
    • There are many of factors involved, David, and that varies from one location to another. The channel that’s fast for you might be slow at a different home and vice versa. Wi-Fi speeds always fluctuate a great deal compared to network cables. More on that in this post and better yet, this one.

      Reply
  20. Hi Dong, My situation is this. At our lake house we have a TV on the dock running Roku. We have a satellite wifi system from a local provider. In house TV’s work great. Dock Tv freezes up. Which MESH system would you recommend? I was looking at the Linkeys tribute band that covers 4000 square feet, but my router is a NetGear dual band. what is your advice?
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Saw your question on FB, too, Myra. The distance between the TV and the router (not your house) that matters. You just need to move the router close to the TV. Or get an extender/mesh point closer to it. Any mesh system will be better than what you have right now. But try the ZenWiFi CT8 Also, read this post, I can’t tell you which because I’m not there.

      Reply
  21. Hi Dong, I used to ask you questions on cnet long ago. I am not sure if this has been asked, but can one simulate a “Tri-band” router situation by using 2 dual band routers such as the Asus top routers of RT-AC88U and RT-AX88U where
    the more powerful router is the main router/master router and the other is a client/satellite using an ethernet cable
    connecting the LAN (and not necessarily using aiMesh). Or could that even be a quad-band router since it will have
    two 5GHz bands and two 2.4GHz bands across the two routers tethered by a gigabit ethernet cable.
    Note, the 2 5GHz bands will use separate SSIDs and wi-fi traffic will be routed to each to balance wi-fi connections
    and speeds or to have faster clients access one and legacy wi-fi clients access the other.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • I remember you, Terrance. Glad you’re here! That’s a very interesting question. The quick answer is no since they share the same channels. You’d only create unnecessary interferences. Coincidently, I’m writing a post on this subject. Stay tuned.

      Reply
  22. I got the nighthawk ax6 ax4300 from Costco today and then I saw your post. The price was like $160 and my budget was under $250 so before I open this do you have something better in that price point or do you think this would be ok.

    Reply
  23. Ok so I have 2 boys playing Xbox and they are composing of lagging. My router is 10 years old so ima upgrade to something but I can’t figure out my best bet. Tri band or wifi 6. I have 6 ring cameras, a door lock that connects to wifi. 5 wifi plugs, Apple speaker and two Alexa speakers, a home thermostat that is wifi, a sprinkler timer that’s wifi, I stream music all the time through my wifi receiver and two Apple TV’s that stream and two TVs that stream through wifi also. Internet is not great here so at most I’m getting 60gbs. So if you could help me decide on something that would be able to run most of this cause it’s not all running but the kids are totally playing call of duty, grand theft auto, and fortnight.

    Reply
  24. I live on a farm I want to be able to stream CCTV cameras wirelessly to the barn about 350ft. I also want to have 4-5 wireless cameras around the house and stream to two 4k TVs also have a synology nas that I use for streaming on the internet & at home.
    Thanx Tom

    Reply
  25. Thanks for the reply, Dong! I do appreciate the features of the RT2600ac (not least of which the 4 LAN ports), so I’ll have to think about the pros and cons of using the RT as base and 2x MR as satellites, vs 3x MR.

    Reply
  26. Hello! I’m wondering about the effectiveness of using a primary router with just dual-band while having mesh satellites with tri-band (such as with a Synology RT2600ac + MR2200ac combo that you have previously recommended)? The MR2200ac has that 3rd radio for a dedicated backhaul, but the RT2600ac only has the two radios, so will the effectiveness of the system be reduced compared to having both primary router and satellite be tri-band? I

    I currently have an Orbi RBK50 with a single satellite, but I actually need one more satellite to get my network to two desktops in a living room. So I’m considering the pros and cons of adding an additional RBS50 satellite or switching to a Synology system with router and two satellites (I can repurpose the Orbi system for a family member). A dedicated backhaul is important for lowest lag to the two desktops. Curious what you would recommend.

    Reply
    • You can use an MR2200ac as the main router in a Synology setup, Ken. When using the RT2600ac as the main router, the band used for backhaul will also serve the client. As a result, the more client connects to it at the same time, the less effective its backhaul connection is since the bandwidth is shared.

      Reply

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