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Wireless B vs. G vs. N vs. AC. What Is The Difference?

You’ve decided to buy a new wireless router, but have no clue on the differences between Wireless B, G, N and AC? Are you wondering if it makes a difference which one you pick depending upon your internet usage? Keep reading, for things definitely get much clearer... Who knows, maybe you’ll be known as the tech whiz in your home after reading this article.

Firstly, just as an introduction of sorts, if you use the internet for simply checking your email and doing a little bit of browsing here and there, your needs are significantly different from someone who is an avid gamer and needs a high speed and stable internet connection.

Knowing more about the WLAN Standard

When the internet became wireless, it saw a standard for WiFi technology being created which would be the model that all following Wifi routers would follow. This standard is 802.11. Released in 1997, you will notice that all wireless extensions like B, G, N and AC have 802.11 prefixed to them. Now that’s out of the way, let’s make things clearer.

What is 802.11B?

Released in 1999, wireless B was the upgrade from A. However, the A was more geared towards businesses and didn’t catch popularity with non-commercial users. With a speed of 11 Mbps, it had an indoor range of 115 feet which is pretty good – as it shares the same indoor range as the newest extension on the block – the wireless AC. However, it runs on a frequency of 2.4 GHz which is also the same frequency used by your microwave, garage door opener and even cordless phones. As this is an older extension, routers having only Wireless B are phased out, but some newer routers may still support it.

Because it shares the same frequency as many household gadgets, you may face a lot of interference if your router is placed in the same vicinity as those gadgets. For best results, your router should be placed a little distance away. However, as it is on the 2.4 GHz frequency, it means that it will be able to travel further and have a stronger signal even if there are walls or obstacles in the way.

What is the 802.11G?

Supporting a transfer rate of 54 Mbps, it runs on the 2.4GHz frequency as well, same as wireless B. It will still face the same problems as Wireless B. However, the advantage Wireless G has over B is the obvious speed and it is also backward compatible with devices that support the 2.4GHz. Released in 2003, this was definitely an upgrade from Wireless B.

What is the 802.11N?

Introduced in 2009, Wireless N supports a transfer rate of 300 Mbps which was a huge jump from the previous version. Using two antennas, a user can even reach up to 450 Mbps if using three antennas. What sets this apart from Wireless G is that it operates on two frequencies – 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This is because many devices were still compatible with only 2.4GHz while many newer electronic devices supported 5GHz, which offered faster download speeds, which seems to be the order of the day.

Running on two frequencies meant that you could achieve faster transfer rates or be able to access your WiFi from a larger distance if you so desired. This router can operate on MIMO signals (Multiple In – Multiple Out) and have 2 or more antennas. Apart from the obvious jump in speed, it has a significant increase in signal power over the previous Wireless G.

What is 802.11AC?

This is the newest and the best standard to hit the wireless market and was released in 2013. Wireless AC offers stronger signal strength, better transfer rates and speeds and is also known as Gigabit Wifi due to its 1Gbps speed. Running only on the 5GHz band, it is definitely a step up form Wireless N – and this is a great option if you want coverage for your entire house, especially when Wireless N doesn’t quite cut it.

Which is the best option? Wireless B, G, N or AC?

Wireless G, N and AC are the real contenders here as B is phased out and is no longer in circulation. The type of router you should purchase depends upon your usage. If all you do is check emails, read the news online and have only one electronic gadget or two in your home – this is your best bet.

If you have many laptops, electronic devices and smart phones connected, all browsing sites which use high bandwidth such as YouTube and Netflix, this should be your option. If you occasionally download heavy files or are an avid gamer, Wireless N could work for you.

You should choose Wireless AC if you live in a house with a large square footage and want your internet to be accessible throughout your house. As with most urban homes, you may be staying in a location which is heavily populated – using an older router may face competition from various household gadgets.

Wireless AC is great when you have multiple entertainment systems and multiple users who all want to stream HD quality videos. As any gamer or movie buff will tell you, lagging or waiting for something to stream is horrible – especially at a time when speed and performance is key.