If you have ever looked at the back of your router, you might have noticed both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi band. This can often get confusing. Should I use 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz? Which one offers more speed on Netflix? Which one is better for gaming?
Now, before we decide what to choose, we need to understand the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. And well, there are two major differences in these WiFi band, speed it can travel and range it can cover.
Speed: Under ideal conditions and I quote ‘under ideal conditions’ 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi can support up to 400 – 600 Mbps, depending on the router of course. 5 GHz router, on the other hand, can support up to 1300 Mbps. So, even in not so ideal condition, you are going to get more speed on 5 GHz connection.
Another reason why you get more speed on 5 GHz connection is the number of channels, 5 GHz has 23 channels, while the 2.4 GHz band has only 11 channels. Since most WiFi-enabled household devices (such as microwaves, gaming console, security cams, etc) use the 2.4 GHz band, they are often fighting over a small number of channels. This results in overcrowding and thus decreasing the speed of wireless networks.
Range: On the other hand, since 5 GHz band have higher frequency compare to 2.4 Hz, it’ll have a shorter wavelength. Meaning it’s less able to penetrate walls and solid objects. Resulting in a shorter range than the 2.4 GHz band.
Congestion: The third diff between 5Ghz wifi vs 2.4 Ghz wifi is the network congestion. 2.4 Ghz is more prone to interference; usually more devices using this frequency. It could be your microwaves, security camera and phones etc. If you have many of these in your home, or if you live in apartments or condos surrounded by other people, that 2.4 GHz band is likely to be congested, which can damage speed and signal quality.
Where as 5Ghz is less prone to interference; usually fewer devices such as laptops and smartphone are using this frequency.
Simply put, if you want to live stream Red Dead redemption on your PS4, assuming that your TV is closed enough to your router – go with 5GHz. On the other hand, if you want to casual web browsing on your iPad from your lawn or terrace, then go with 2.4 GHz.
I personally, like to broadcast both WiFi bands on my Netgear Nighthawk router by adding the frequency as the prefix. This way, if you have an old WiFi-enabled device that only supports 2.4 GHz like microwave or garage door, it’ll automatically connect to 2.4 GHz, and, if you have a device that supports dual-band (most modern smartphones and computer do) then it’ll automatically connect to the one that has more signal strength. Of course, you can manually switch between 2.4 and 5 GHz band by simply disconnecting from the old band and connecting to the new one.
Finally, if you have a device that supports a wired Ethernet connection and it’s not too awkward getting a cable to the device, we highly recommend using a wired connection over a wireless one. That’s what I use while going live on YouTube.
A general rule of thumb, I connect to 2.4 GHz WiFi on all my devices unless I need a high-speed internet connection for games and video streaming, then I go for 5 GHz. But the difference isn’t that drastic, and you can always do speedtest to find which one is better.