You have likely heard the terms 2.4GHz and 5GHz in reference to the radio frequencies your devices use to connect to your home WiFi and hence to the Internet. Maybe, your WiFi router also broadcasts a WiFi name (SSID) which has these numbers in it.
However, many people aren’t sure what they are. It appears that 2.4GHz is simply smaller or less powerful than 5GHz, but that is not exactly the case.
Two major differences between the two WiFi frequency bands are bandwidth and range, and the device you are connecting to has a lot to do with which frequency band is the right one.
Continue reading to learn all about 2.4GHz vs 5GHz and when to use each one. Many people ask the question “should I use 2.4 or 5 ghz wifi?”, and in this article you will learn exactly which one is best for various cases.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Difference Between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
- Pros and Cons of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Frequency
- Pros and Cons of 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequency
- Dual-Band Devices can Work with Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi
- Should You Use 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi?
- What Devices Should Be on 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
- Can 2.4GHz Devices Connect to 5GHz?
- Does the iPhone Use 2.4GHz or 5GHz?
- Final Words
What Is the Difference Between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
The 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi frequencies are different in several ways. 2.4GHz actually has longer range, but it supports a lower bandwidth.
Therefore, 2.4GHz transmits data at slower speeds. However, it can better penetrate solid objects, such as walls and ceilings compared to 5 Ghz.
5GHz Wi-Fi covers a shorter range, but it supports higher bandwidth. Because of this, it transmits data at higher speeds.
It doesn’t penetrate solid objects as well. The 5GHz frequency was added because so many smaller devices use 2.4GHz, and it allows you to use certain devices with less concern over interference.
Some people think that 5GHz is new, but this isn’t the case. In fact, 5GHz was ratified in September 1999, at the same time as 2.4GHz.
However, it was faster and more cost-effective to deploy the 2.4GHz frequency, so it was universally adopted.
Over time, as more and more Internet devices have entered people’s lives, the 2.4GHz frequency started to be overused.
It also suffers from more interference from other items such as microwaves or baby monitors. A need for faster speeds has increased, so companies started manufacturing routers and user devices as dual-band to accommodate both.
There is still a large market for 2.4GHz connectivity, but 5GHz has been added in to facilitate streaming, gaming, and downloading large files.
This is the ideal way to solve Wi-Fi connectivity issues and ensure that people have the ability to connect their devices to the Internet and use them for all different kinds of applications.
Pros and Cons of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Frequency
Take a look at the pros and cons of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
- Better for penetrating solid objects
- Larger coverage area
- Longer range
- Lower bandwidth and speed than 5GHz
- More devices use this bandwidth
- Prone to interference when too many devices are connected
Pros and Cons of 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequency
Take a look at the pros and cons of 5GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
- Higher data rate and speed on your devices.
- Less prone to interference.
- Fewer devices use this frequency, so there is less congestion.
- Smaller coverage area
- Doesn’t penetrate solid objects as well as 2.4GHz
- Shorter range
Dual-Band Devices can Work with Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi
A dual-band device is a piece of equipment such as a router or client device (smartphones, laptops etc) that can send out and receive both 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals.
Most modern home networks use a dual-band network, and the router can transmit both frequencies at the same time. This is valid for both WiFi 5 ( also known as 802.11 AC standard) and the new WiFi 6 standard.
If you have a dual-band router, you will find two Wi-Fi networks (SSID names), but one will be designated usually as 5GHz in its name.
Some devices have dual-band capabilities, such as laptops. One good approach is to connect your laptop to the 5GHz band since a computer needs more speed than smaller devices such as smartphone.
You can use 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for smaller devices such as smartphones, smart-home nodes (such as Alexa, thermostats) etc.
These smaller devices do not need a lot of WiFi speed bandwidth, but they need long and better coverage which is offered by the 2.4 GHz band.
However, your laptop will want to connect to the 5GHz Wi-Fi when you are streaming movies or gaming or when downloading large files etc.
Another device that has dual-band capabilities is the smart TV. Often, they will use the 5GHz frequency for streaming movies, but they can use 2.4GHz for browsing the Internet and other activities that don’t rely on higher speed data transmission.
In addition, later model smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 7 and later, as well as other brands, are also dual-band. You just need to check your device to find out if they are dual-band.
Should You Use 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi?
People often want to know whether they should use 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi, and it really depends on your needs.
A home network should use both; they can connect laptops, smart TVs, and gaming consoles to 5GHz when they are streaming and need greater bandwidth and higher data transmission speeds, and they can use the 2.4GHz for smartphones and other small home devices that connect to the Internet.
There are different factors to consider if you are planning to choose one. First of all, larger homes will benefit from 2.4GHz because it reaches further and can transmit the signal through the walls and ceilings.
In a smaller home or an apartment, 5GHz provides greater speed and helps to prevent interference from the neighbors’ networks and other devices which is one of the reason of slow wifi.
It is important to remember that 2.4GHz is more prone to interference from electronic devices, including microwaves, baby monitors, garage door openers, Bluetooth, and more. 5GHz will have less interference, and it uses a greater number of channels.
Dual-band routers come with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and your device will normally choose which one it needs to use.
If you are using your laptop in the room where the router is located, it will likely connect to 5GHz.
However, if you take your laptop upstairs or to a room that is further away, it will connect to 2.4GHz when 5GHz is no longer available.
Normally, it will stay connected to 5GHz until you tell it not to or until it is no longer able to connect to it.
However, there are some routers that do not let your device choose. They actually monitor the 2.4GHz traffic, and if there are a lot of devices connected, it will send your device to the 5GHz network.
They call this band steering, and it helps to cut down on the interference on your network. If you are using a device that only connects to 2.4Ghz, it will not try to change them.
If you want to use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi connections at home, you need to make sure that you have a dual-band router. If your router only offers 2.4GHz, then you will not be able to use 5GHz in your home.
What Devices Should Be on 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
One of the benefits of having a dual-band router is that you can use the two SSIDs for different devices.
This allows you to connect all of your devices and use them seamlessly whenever you need to.
You should use your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for your SmartHome devices, such as light bulbs, doorbells, cameras, and more. You can also use this frequency for your smartphone and for applications such as surfing the Internet, reading emails, and other activities that do not require higher speeds.
If you are using your Smart TV or your laptop to stream movies or download large files, you will want to use your 5GHz frequency. It will cut down the time that it takes to download these files, and it will prevent your movies from being glitchy. If you are a gamer, you will also want to use the 5GHz frequency to ensure that you never lag.
It is important to make sure that you use your 5GHz devices close to the router. This frequency has a shorter range, and it doesn’t penetrate walls and ceilings well. You should make sure that you have a wireless extender in 5GHz or keep your devices close to your router.
Your 2.4GHz has a longer range, so it will be easier to use this network throughout your home. You can download movies to your laptop and then watch them in another room. This way, you won’t have to worry about interference or slow speeds making your movie glitch.
The thing to remember is that you will have better range when you use the 2.4GHz bandwidth. You can watch movies, read websites, and do other activities on your devices, and you do not need to stay near your router.
When you use the 5GHz network, you will lose some of that range, but you gain speed. The simple way to remember this is that 2.4GHz will give you distance and 5GHz will give you more speed.
However, you should consider your devices. SmartHome devices, including smart speakers and a smart thermostat will be fine on 2.4GHz.
Your Smart TV is likely close to your router, so using 5GHz may not be a problem, but you only need it if you plan to do a lot of streaming or if you have interference from other devices.
You want to consider whether or not you need the speed as well as how far your device is from the router. This will help you decide.
You may think that you should connect everything to 5GHz if possible because it offers the faster speed for data transmission. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
You need to remember that the reason they started making dual-band routers is that there are so many devices connected, and they wanted to offer 5GHz for devices that really benefit from it.
When you connect a lot of devices to 5GHz, they will compete for bandwidth, which could actually result in a slower connection.
The best way to handle your dual-band is to connect your devices to 2.4GHz unless you need to use 5GHz for streaming, gaming, or another activity that requires more bandwidth.
Can 2.4GHz Devices Connect to 5GHz?
Devices can only connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz if they have dual-band capability. Laptops and Smart TVs operate on both frequencies, and later model smartphones can as well. If you have a device that is dual-band, you will be able to choose which frequency you want to use.
However, if you have an older device that only supports 2.4 GHz, then it will not be able to connect to the 5 Ghz band.
Many devices only connect to one frequency. If you have a dual-band router, your device will connect to the frequency it uses. Your SmartHome devices operate on 2.4GHz, and they will connect automatically when you set them up.
If you want to know whether your device can connect to both, you need to find out if it is a dual-band device. If it is, you can choose the frequency that is best for the device.
Does the iPhone Use 2.4GHz or 5GHz?
Newer model iPhones are dual-band, and they can use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The first iPhone to be dual-band was the iPhone 7 and all subsequent models are also dual-band. However, anything older than that operates on 2.4GHz only.
There are many other types of smartphones that are dual-band. If you want to find out whether your smartphone has dual-band, you can go to the settings on your device.
Look at your Wi-Fi connections. If you only have one, it is 2.4GHz. It is important to remember that all routers have 2.4GH connectivity. Some of them also have 5GHz.
If your phone finds two networks that have the same name, then one is a 2.4GHz and the other is 5GHz. Often the network will say 2.4G, 2.4, or 24 if it is a 2.4GHz network. If it is a 5GHz network, it might say 5G or 5.
If you know that you have a dual-band router and you check your settings, you will notice that your smartphone recognizes two networks if it is also dual-band. You can also look your smartphone up by model number, and you should easily be able to find out.
People often want to understand the differences between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi because it isn’t always clear. There are more and more Internet capable devices going into people’s homes, and it is difficult to figure out which one is the best.
The reality is that each one serves its purpose. The major difference is that 2.4GHz has longer range but slower data transmission rates, and 5GHz has shorter range, but it has more bandwidth.
Your devices and your router will usually work together to choose the best frequency, but you can save your 5GHz for devices that rely on speed, such as streaming movies or gaming.