Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers: The Differences

Top Picks: Dual & Tri Band Routers

Read more about Dual Band & Tri Band routers below, or alternatively click the links above to see these routers on Amazon.

Recently a whole spate of Tri Band routers have hit the market. The advertised speeds are high! With a total of 3.2Gbps data rates, we’ve seen advertising slogans such as “never been Wi-Fi like it”, “fastest Wi-Fi connection possible” and “Ultra-Fast Speed for HD Streaming & Gaming”.

But is Tri Band really that great? Are Tri Band routers really any faster or better than Dual Band routers? Well….yes and no, as we’re about to find out… and what about Single Band routers, will they do the job for me?

It’s time to find out in this Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri Band routers showdown.

To the more experienced router enthusiasts among you, sorry if we come across as a little patronizing to some of you with our explanations. We want to make sure that everyone can understand the concepts!

What Is a Single Band Router?

Single Band routers use just the one Wi-Fi band. For this example, let’s say it’s an N300 router:

– 1x 2.4GHz (300Mbps)
– Total = N300 (300Mbps)

Once common, Single Band routers are now pretty hard to come by. Yes, they are dirt cheap, but for more or less the same money, you can buy a Dual Band router. And when you buy that Dual Band router, not only will it have the extra band, it will potentially have faster wifi on that band.

Almost always, Single Band routers occupy the 2.4GHz space. We repeatedly go on about just how congested this band is. Every man and his dog are on 2.4GHz. Not only is it because there are a lot of clients that are 2.4 only, but also because by default, Dual Band devices go for 2.4GHz.

2.4GHz vs 5GHz

If you can, get onto 5GHz ASAP. Use a wifi scanner and see what we mean – especially if you live in a block of apartments.

2.4GHz only has 3 usable non-overlapping channels (using 20MHz). 5 GHz however, offers up to 12 channels (on 40MHz) or 6 if you want even more throughput (80MHz). So with having the extra band, which Dual & Tri Bands provide, you can use a channel which will likely be ahrdly used, or not even used at all.

What channel bandwidth should I use?

If you live alone, in an uncongested area, and don’t have an Internet above 50Mbps, and just want basic wireless without and frills. Single Band might be ok for you. If you aren’t sure, just get a Dual Band. If you need faster, stronger and fitter…then read on to learn more about Dual and Tri Band…

TL-WR940N N450 Single Band Wireless Router

TP-Link TL-WR940N N450 - Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers
TP-Link TL-WR940N N450 Buy Button - Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers

What Is a Dual Band Router?

Dual Band routers use two Wi-Fi bands. For this example, let’s say it’s an AC1900 router:

– 1x 2.4GHz (600Mbps)
– 1x 5GHz (1.3Gbps)
– Total = AC1900 (1.9Gbps data rates)

Most Dual Band routers are simultaneous, this is especially the case with newer ones. This means the Dual Band router can run both bands at the same time.

Each band will have its own SSID (or wireless network name) and you can choose which one you want to log into. Of course, if the connecting device only supports 2.4GHz, or only supports 5GHz, then you will only see one wireless network name available to log into. Even if you have a dual band client, which supports both bands, you cannot log into both networks at the same time.

The ‘simultaneous’ Dual Band refers to the fact that the router can provide both bands at the same time, not the other way around.

When a router manufacturer advertises Wi-Fi speeds, it is the cumulative data rates from BOTH bands added together.

Remember, you can only access one band at a time, so if a Dual Band router claims its AC1900 (meaning 1.9Gbps) you cannot have access to 1.9Gbps of bandwidth. Any one client can only have access to either 1.3Gbps or the 600Mbps network (although with 2.4GHz, it may be less than this).

Of course, you should also bear in mind that advertised rates (data rates) are usually a lot more than the actual ‘real world’ throughput rates. Because of the atmosphere, attenuation, and obstacles in general, actual throughput is usually between 40% & 50% of the advertised rate.


A Recommended Dual Band Router TP-LINK Archer C8

TP-LINK Archer C8 AC1750 Main - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers
TP-LINK Archer C8 AC1750 Buy Button - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers

What Is a Tri Band Router?

Tri Band routers have one extra 3rd band, and it’s on the 5GHz range:

– 1x 2.4GHz (600Mbps)
– 2x 5GHz (2x 1.3Gbps)
– Total = AC3200 (3.2Gbps data rates)

This is what can potentially catch people out. When they see advertised rates of 3.2Gbps, people think that Tri Band must be amazingly faster than the Dual Band routers.

Well sorry, to disappoint, but this is not the case. Remember earlier we explained that you can only log onto one Wireless band at a time? Well it’s exactly the same case in the Tri Band world. You can only log into one of the 5GHz networks at a time, not both!

Where Tri Band can be beneficial is when there are lots of clients on the network. Especially AC clients. Tri Band can balance clients over its bands depending on utilization. So if one band is getting ‘hammered’ by a client using it heavily, Tri Band routers can ‘band steer‘ clients away from that band and onto a less used band. This helps to make the entire network flow much more fluently…


Tri Band Router – Nighthawk X6 R8000

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Main - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers
Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Buy Button - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers

Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers – The Verdict

Hopefully now you understand the concept of how clients access wireless routers and how the routers are advertised.

Don’t think that Tri Band are no faster than Dual Band routers. In a client-heavy network they can be more efficient. Although, that being said, there are Dual Band MU-MIMO routers which can streamline heavier used networks as well.

If you have a large number of bandwidth-thirsty clients, Tri Band may be right for you. Otherwise, a good Dual Band router will likely suffice for most users out there.

If you are a light user, and only relatively slow Internet speeds, and are on a very tight budget, then a Single Band router might be enough for you. It’s probably better to be safe and just go for a budget Dual Band router! You could check out the Asus RT-N66U, Dual Band router for example.

Fast Dual Band Router – Asus RT-AC87U

Asus RT-AC87U Main - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers
Asus RT-AC87U Buy Button - Dual Band vs Tri Band Routers

Thanks for reading. Share and Like is always appreciated. Or why not comment below and let us know what you think…

One Comment - Write a Comment

  1. I found that my dual band wrt1900acs running at 1.6 ghz and 256 mb of ram runs a lot faster than my tri-band ea9200 running at 1 ghz with 256 mb of ram. Plus the range is better with the dual band than the tri-band.


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