Should you buy a dual-band or tri-band router?

TP-Link Archer A7
TP-Link Archer A7 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Should you buy a dual-band or tri-band router?

Best answer: Dual-band. Unless you specifically need to provide internet to several people at once, a dual-band router is more than enough for most people.

What's the difference between dual-band and tri-band routers?

Linksys Router 2-20e2

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Wi-Fi routers provide internet via specific radio frequencies, or bands. Dual-band routers do this by offering both a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHz band. The former is ubiquitous in routers and offers a long range with average Wi-Fi speeds. The latter adds speed but lacks range. Generally, dual-band routers can stand a fair amount of connected devices across their two bands without suffering from network congestion.

Tri-band routers are an upgrade from dual-band routers. They offer the same 2.4GHz and 5GHz band but then add another 5GHz band on top of that. All this does is increase their effective speeds and ability to deliver Wi-Fi to many more devices than a dual-band router.

Why would you want a tri-band router?

Linksys gaming

Source: Linksys (Image credit: Source: Linksys)

The main reason you'd want a tri-band router with its double 5GHz bands is to maintain a fast Wi-Fi connection to a huge list of devices. Tri-band routers make sense in environments like a business where there are many different people trying to connect to the internet. Because each device connects to different bands, it frees up the router from having to shove everyone onto only two bands.

Tri-band routers offer bigger numbers when it comes to maximum throughput, so if you need your devices to meet specific needs, tri-band might work for you. It's a niche need, but if you are someone who needs it, tri-band is the only option. If you don't absolutely need it, it's not a great future-proof choice either though. Tri-band raises the price of the router by a good amount, and unless you need that extra band, you won't even casually make use of it.

Why dual-band is the way to go


Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Dual-band routers are the best option simply because they're incredibly affordable and work fine with modern devices, like the HP Pavilion Aero 13. The 2.4GHz frequency can be congested in urban areas, but the single 5GHz band will help a lot. A second one doesn't make a lot of sense for people with only a handful of devices actively connecting to the router.

If you really need more throughput from your router, you could easily hook two dual-band routers to your modem and go that route. But you should find dual-band routers are more than enough for a realistic number of devices these days. In the future, a 6GHz band might make the tri-band moniker a little harder to define and decide on, but for now, dual-band is the answer.

Tyler Colp

Tyler Colp is a freelance writer for Windows Central. He's written about tech, games, and the culture around them across the internet. Ask him anything about Dark Souls or just follow him on Twitter.