2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz, which is better for Wi-Fi and when?

Anton P. | October 21, 2021

2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz is an option if you own an 802.11n or newer router. For the most part, it boils down to your priorities. Do you want coverage that extends to most areas in your spacious house? Or maybe you prefer faster data transmission, and your apartment is compact enough to deal with minimal Wi-Fi range. Of course, navigating wireless technology lingo can be challenging. For one, you might wrestle with the distinction between 5 GHz and 5G. Let’s dissect the 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz dilemma together and master the common terms.

What are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz?

2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz indicates a choice between two frequency bands through which Wi-Fi radio signals cross. The 5 GHz became widely available after the release of 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) routers. Such devices are dual-band gadgets that can operate on two bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

One might assume that 5 GHz is always a superior choice. After all, it is the current technology, all the rage for many Wi-Fi users. However, making the final ruling on 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz is not as simple as choosing the latest tech trend. Consumers with broadband routers need to evaluate their situation and personal preferences before taking their pick.

For years, Wi-Fi relied on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. The digital world has fully embraced it, with all internet-connected devices supporting it. Nevertheless, 5 GHz stepped onto the scene not necessarily to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it became an alternative for users under certain conditions. For instance, many consumers might feel disappointed after switching to 5 GHz. Why? Let’s review.

Wait, 5 GHz is not the same as 5G?

5 GHz and 5G names can cause some confusion. However, these are two distinct concepts, serving equally different purposes. Some people might use terms like 5G Wi-Fi routers, which only adds to the users’ uncertainty. However, phrases like 5G Wi-Fi routers typically refer to 5 GHz routers. Why? Most likely to differentiate it from the 2.4 GHz alternative. The correct name would be a 5 GHz router.

Overall, 5 GHz is a frequency band used by Wi-Fi. On the other hand, 5G is a cellular standard, the latest tech that aims to revolutionize mobile networking. Thus, one term refers to the traditional wireless connections established by your router. The other one indicates cellular connections via mobile devices.

2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz: which is the right choice?

The frequency band chosen for Wi-Fi determines just how satisfied you will be with your wireless connections. However, the 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz dilemma does not end with one option being inferior to the other. Both can perform outstandingly; you simply need to evaluate your situation. Focus on these criteria:

  • The size of your apartment or house. The chances are you will want your router to cover as much area as possible.
  • The potential for interference. Wireless connections are delicate, and overlapping channels can prevent devices from functioning error-free.
  • Obstacles and walls. Is your router blocked by thick walls or other barriers?
  • Your preferred online activities. Are you an avid streamer or an online gamer? Your daily habits will also influence which frequency band you end up using.

These three benchmarks will govern the 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz decision.

Pros and cons of 2.4 GHz

There is no denying that 2.4 GHz has served millions of users worldwide. It continues to be a preference to this day, and here is why.

Pros:

  • Wide coverage range. 2 GHz excels in its wireless signal range. It can cover more area and will deliver connections outdoors as well. If you value connectivity across your entire house or apartment, 2 GHz is your friend.
  • Great for penetrating walls and other solid objects. Walls or other obstacles should not diminish the success of 2 GHz. It can penetrate through such hurdles to deliver Wi-Fi signals. The lower the frequency, the better bands can transmit Wi-Fi signals via obstacles.

Cons:

  • Weaker signal and speed. The ability to pierce through walls comes at a price. Thus, 2 GHz will transmit data at lower rates.
  • A high chance of interference. Many household items like microwaves, coffee makers, or garage door openers use the 2GHz band. Thus, it is fairly easy for signals to overlap. Thus, overcrowded 2.4 GHz networks can be less stable and more prone to interference.

The takeaway about 2 GHz is simple: use it if you value internet coverage and the ability to penetrate obstacles. The Wi-Fi speed might not be the best, but the connection will cover most areas in your house.

Pros and cons of 5 GHz

5 GHz has an undeniable advantage over 2 GHz: speed. However, it does offer other benefits but might leave much to be desired as well.

Pros:

  • A swift data transmission. A high frequency allows data to be transmitted much faster.
  • More immune to interference. Since many internet-connected devices use 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz is much less congested. Thus, you will unlikely experience networking issues due to other active gadgets.

Cons:

  • Limited range. 5 GHz offers the best connectivity to nearby devices. Thus, devices in other rooms than your router might struggle to maintain stable access to the internet.
  • More susceptible to obstacles and walls. Higher frequencies are not proficient at penetrating solid objects. Thus, thick walls or other objects can diminish your online experience.

The gist is that 5 GHz will be best for compact apartments or houses. If your router does not need to penetrate numerous obstacles, the 5 GHz band will offer sublime speed. However, bear in mind that the stable connectivity will wrestle with their odds in larger areas.

Why not both?

Dual-band routers support both frequency bands. Thus, you can have two access points. Then, 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz will solely depend on your location in a house or what you need at that time.

For instance, online gamers, ideally sitting close to their routers, should choose 5 GHz. However, if you are in the living room, relatively away from your router, 2.4 GHz will be a better option. Also, if one network starts acting out, connect to the alternative. It is best to have a backup option in case things go south.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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