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Dual-band and tri-band routers explained

AJ Dellinger

Jul 15, 2021 — 5 min read

Router types can be confusing, so we explain the difference between them to allow you to make an educated choice.

Man with router

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When setting up a router in your home, most likely, the main thing on your mind is how to bring high-speed internet to every corner of your house. But it’s not quite as straightforward as it might seem. Different routers have different capabilities, and it’s important to understand the benefits and situations that these routers are best for in order to determine which one you need for your home.

Dual-band routers

Early routers were usually single-band, meaning there was only one frequency band at which it could communicate with wireless devices. As technology advanced, the dual-band router game into play. As you might expect by the name, a dual-band router adds a second frequency at which your router can communicate with your devices. It communicates at the standard 2.4GHz frequency, as well as the 5GHz frequency. Dual-band routers also have opened up support for a number of other new technologies. Features like MU-MIMO —  multi-user, multiple input, multiple output — technology allow for steadier connections when multiple devices are in use on the same wireless connection.

This development of the dual-band router was spurred by new wireless standards. While single-band routers used the 802.11 network standard to create a local network between your router and your devices that connect to it, the newer 802.11ac standard has expanded the capability of routers to communicate across multiple bands of frequency. Because the 2.4GHz frequency band has been in use for a long time, it typically is a little slower. The 5GHz frequency, which is newer, supports faster and more stable connections. By using these new standards, dual-band routers are able to better manage multiple connections at the same time and achieve faster speeds. In the aggregate, dual-band routers are capable of supporting speeds up to 2,167 Mbps.

Dual-band routers are readily available and offer solid range and speeds, with compatibility with modern internet-connected devices including phones, laptops, gaming consoles and other internet-connected devices.

However, you will likely notice some slowdowns from top speeds when handling multiple connections. The frequencies used for dual-band routers can also struggle to maintain a steady connection through walls, doors and furniture. 

If you’re looking for an exemplary dual-band router, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than the ASUS AX5700. With support for speeds of up to 5700 Mbps and wired speeds of 2 Gbps, there are few routers capable of supporting a faster connection. It can extend coverage through your entire home with ASUS AiMesh support, allowing you to create a wide network of internet connectivity through your house. Gaming mode lets you focus your resources and prioritize high-traffic activities and built-in security features will keep you safe online.

Tri-band routers

Just like dual-band routers were an evolution from the original single-band router, the tri-band router is another improvement over existing technology. In the scheme of things, tri-band routers are still incredibly young and new technology, and are essentially a plan for the future when even more of our devices are connected to the internet (if you can imagine that). 

The tri-band router introduces a third frequency band, adding a second 5 GHz band. You can think of this as adding a lane of traffic to a highway. With a second 5 GHz band, capable of blazing-fast connection speeds, you can open up your personal network to even more connections. Oftentimes, tri-band routers will have built-in technology for managing traffic, directing different activities to different lanes to maintain peak speeds and steady connections. It’s ideal for those who have multiple people in the household who game or stream lots of content, as a tri-band router can handle it all at once.

Tri-band routers are better equipped for handling more traffic without seeing any performance loss and can support additional bandwidth from devices across your network. The frequency bands can be dedicated to specific tasks or used to move traffic around when needed, resulting in steadier connections and better top speeds. However, these routers are typically pricey and are likely more than most households need.

If you’re in the market for a tri-band router, check out the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10. With aggregate support for speeds up to 7200 Mbps and three separate bands to carry your online activity, you’ll be surprised at just how seamless the internet can feel. A built-in processor helps to manage traffic, prioritizing high-demand activities like streaming and gaming without restricting connectivity for others. This router is built to blanket your home in connectivity, with the ability to provide 2,500 square feet of wireless connection.

Dual-band vs. tri-band routers

The primary difference between a dual-band router and a tri-band router is the amount of traffic they support and speeds they are capable of. Dual-band routers are great for households with one person or a small family, particularly if you don’t have tons of internet-connected devices or anyone who is gaming 24/7. Tri-band routers are ideal for larger families or people who have tons of internet-connected devices, like those who have a fully functional smart home set up. If you have multiple people under your roof who love to stream lots of content, a tri-band router is likely to make for a better experience.

One thing to keep in mind as you search for the ideal router for you is the price point. Dual-band routers are widely available at a variety of prices. You can expect to find dual-band routers priced anywhere from $40 to $300, depending on capabilities and features.

Will tri-band routers speed up your internet?

A tri-band router is better equipped for achieving and maintaining top speeds, but it cannot actually speed up your internet — just help you get the most out of it. You’ll need to upgrade your internet plan with your service provider in order to get faster internet. 

Need faster internet?

If you need faster internet, your best bet is to get a faster internet plan from your current service provider or change service providers. Having high-end equipment like a fast router and modem can help get the most out of your plan, but you will have to subscribe to a fast internet provider in order to actually get access to faster speeds. 

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Illustration of a father and daughter in a living room. The father is sitting in an armchair and reading a newspaper, and the daughter is playing with a toy on the floor.
AJ Dellinger

Written by:

AJ Dellinger


AJ Dellinger is a writer and editor based in Madison, WI. He has spent the last 10 years writing about the internet, gadgets, technology and a variety of other topics. His work has appeared in Wired, Gizmodo, CN… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Read bio