AC vs N Wireless Router

Coby McKinley Profile image

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Updated August 10, 2022

If you’re shopping for the best router, you need to know which Wi-Fi standard you need for your connected devices. If you’re comparing AC vs. N wireless routers, then you may feel a bit confused. 802.11n and 802.11ac are wireless networking standards that use different GHz frequency bands to communicate with your entire network.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • AC wireless routers are faster than N and use a dual-band connection to prioritize the devices on your home network.
  • N wireless routers use a single 2.4GHz band that offers slower speeds than AC, but they are occasionally more stable.
  • AC, or Wi-Fi 5, is the current wireless standard and is ideal for reaching maximum speed on modern mobile devices and computers.

While that sounds complicated, the Wi-Fi Alliance recently updated the naming convention of wireless bands to make things simpler. For example, the current wireless standard is Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), but the previous standard is Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n). So, if you need to know if wireless ac router vs. n is best for your wi-fi network, read on.

Insider Tip

If you use dual-band wi-fi technology in your home, be strategic about which devices connect to each band. For example, save the 5GHz bands for bandwidth-intensive activities, while 2.4GHz can handle basic smart home tools and appliances.

Comparing AC Routers vs N Routers

The most significant differences between Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 routers are their theoretical maximums and how they communicate with every client device on your network. For example, the Wi-Fi 4 standard uses the 2.4 GHz band, a typical frequency band found in many household appliances. Most Wi-Fi 5 or AC routers offer a dual-band wireless capability so that you can choose between 2.4 or 5GHz bands.

If you plan on upgrading to a more modern router, do not throw away your old unit. Learn the difference between routers and hotspots, and you may find a use for your outdated machine.

Wi-Fi Speeds

While there are many variables in networking wireless devices, AC routers tout faster speeds on average than N routers. Of course, you can compare G vs N routers, but that’s another article. Unfortunately, the theoretical speed of most Wi-Fi networking standards is hard to hit. However, you’ll still feel the faster pace of AC routers vs. N routers. Since AC devices use the 5GHz band, your frequency is less congested and quicker at shorter ranges. That said, you should compare LAN and WAN to determine if you properly configured your network. Alternatively, you can compare single-band and dual-band routers to see which one you have before you buy a WiFi router or extender to boost your signal.

Signal Range

Wi-Fi 802.11n, or Wi-Fi 4, technically covers a larger service area than Wi-Fi 5 routers. An N router outputs spatial streams in large waves extending slightly further than some Wi-Fi 6 routers. That said, AC routers use beamforming technology to locate and directly communicate with your wireless devices. So, instead of a broad wave that encompasses your home, AC routers send independent data streams. For a look at high-end routers, check out the Xfinity WiFi 2.4 vs 5.

Stability

Since AC routers use a less common wireless frequency, there are fewer interference issues than a 2.4GHz N router. Everything from game controllers to baby monitors uses the 2.4GHz frequency range, so you can occasionally suffer from network congestion.

Warning

Never plug a device into your internet modem without going through your router. Even a basic router has security features that keep your connected devices safe.

F.A.Q.S

Why should you upgrade to Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6?

If you only have a single device in the home and seldom use the internet, Wi-Fi 4 is fine. That said, you should upgrade your router if you have a household of internet users.


When should you buy an AC standard router?

If you need a higher theoretical rate for your internet, you’ll likely close the gap with an AC router. They offer the current wireless standard, and you can divide the devices in your home based on bandwidth needs.


Do people still use Wireless-N?

Even though Wireless-N routers are a previous generation technology, they aren’t useless. While also delivering solid internet, older models are still used to create network bridges.



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