Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: What’s the Difference, Is One Better?

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: What’s the Difference, Is One Better?

Network hardware is a confusing subject for the casual end user. There is so much terminology and specs to consider that it can make your head spin. The heart of any network is the router, as it is what converts the analog signals of your modem into something usable by the devices in your home.

With this in mind, what is the difference between a dual-band and a tri-band router? Both types of routers can deliver blistering speeds to your household, but there are some key differences between the two of them.

Understanding the nitty-gritty details of your home network doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Despite the plethora of jargon and seemingly abstract specs, it can be quite easy to understand with a little know-how.

Let’s take a closer look at these two types of devices, see what makes them tick, and give a greater understanding of how they function in a household.

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: Side-by-Side Comparison

Dual-Band RouterTri-Band Router
Bands SupportedTwoThree
Frequencies Supported2.4 GHz, 5 GHz2.4 GHz, 5 GHz
Release Date of Technology20092014
Area CoverageSmall offices, businesses, homesLarge homes, offices, medium-large businesses
Highest Wi-Fi Protocol Currently SupportedWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6E

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that dual-band routers are better for smaller areas, and tri-band has more coverage over a larger area.

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: What’s the Difference?

Both of these types of routers excel at providing more bandwidth and coverage to a given area. There are some key differences, as you might expect given their capabilities.


Dual-band routers, by their very nature, have two channels being used at the same time. The lower frequency one, which comes in at 2.4 GHz, is intended for further distances. The second channel, which comes in at 5 GHz, is faster overall but has less range. In theory, this provides a solid connection through a space.

Those on the outer edge of coverage should maintain a stable connection, while those closer to the router will have better speeds. Dual-band routers having support for Wi-Fi 6 means that purpose-built devices are capable of exceptional speed while still maintaining decent coverage at further ranges.

Tri-band routers are very much like their dual-band counterparts. The key difference is that there are two 5 GHz channels in addition to the longer range 2.4 GHz band. In theory, this means bandwidth is equally distributed among all devices on your network.

In practice, this leads to a second 5 GHz channel being largely unneeded. The average household isn’t going to run enough networked devices to fully take advantage of the increase in speed.

Area Coverage

As you might expect, the difference in the frequency bands on offer means there is a difference in coverage. Dual-band routers are great for smaller areas.

The 2.4 GHz band means those further from the router are getting adequate coverage, while those closer get to benefit from better speeds. You might expect to use a dual-band router in small to medium-sized homes, smaller offices, and small businesses.

Dual-band routers could excel at providing adequate coverage for a coffee shop, for example. The range isn’t a dual-band router’s strong suit, so you’ll likely want to look at getting an access point or repeater if that is a concern.

Tri-band routers offer up more availability for high-speed connections and a longer range, on the whole. You could expect to effectively use a tri-band router in medium to large-sized offices, on a per-floor basis for larger businesses, and in medium to large homes.

For wider area coverage, you’ll likely want to look into an access point or a repeater. Despite the increased number of bands, tri-band routers don’t have a huge difference in area coverage. This is thanks, in part, to the limited signal strength you can expect from a wireless router.

Area coverage with a single router is always going to be limited by the materials of the building around it and any sort of electromagnetic interference. That said, either of these should be adequate for the average American home. Those with larger homes are likely going to be looking into extending the reach of their network coverage, as it stands.

What Is a Wireless Channel?

So, with all this new information in mind, let’s clarify what a wireless channel is. Prior to the introduction of wireless networks, everything was hard-wired. All that means is that a cable ran from the back of your modem or router to the rest of the devices in your home.

This is still the most effective means of providing good availability and stable speeds. However, it isn’t the most convenient way of constructing a home network. Wireless channels are an effective replacement for this.

They function similarly to a cell phone antenna, where information departs your computer, smartphone, or tablet and goes to the router. This is a gross oversimplification of the actual process of a network transmission, but provides a general overview of the function behind it.

Where this ties into dual-band and tri-band routers is in the frequencies on which they operate. Both types of routers send out information at 2.4 and 5 GHz. 5 GHz is a higher frequency, but is more prone to signal loss at longer ranges. 2.4 GHz is a lower frequency but maintains signal integrity for further distances.

With all this in mind, it is also important to understand that wireless signals have their limitations. A wireless channel can only reach so far before the signal quality is degraded to the point of instability.

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. Dual-band routers have less room for simultaneous connections.
  2. Dual-band routers are the older technology, but support the newest protocols.
  3. Dual-band routers are the best choice for the average home.
  4. Tri-band routers allow for a greater number of concurrent connections.
  5. Tri-band routers support Wi-Fi 6E as the most recent wireless protocol.
  6. The average American home won’t take full advantage of a tri-band router.

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

After this brief networking overview, it is time to decide which of these devices is the best for your home’s needs. Strictly speaking, the average home isn’t going to take full advantage of the bandwidth provided by a tri-band router.

Yes, it is a substantial upgrade over a dual-band router, but the extra cost might be better served elsewhere. Dual-band routers are cheap, readily available, and support the latest protocols. What this means for your home is if you have any recent devices with Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, then a dual-band router is the way to go.

For those looking for greater bandwidth for running an office or business, a tri-band router makes a lot of sense. You’ll have multiple recipients in the network’s coverage area to take advantage of the additional bandwidth. Plus, the cost is less of a consideration when factoring in all the other expenses that go into the day-to-day of running a business.

With all this in mind, either device is a great fit for a home network, but make sure your budget and needs match your choice.

Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Router: What’s the Difference, Is One Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are the benefits of having a tri-band router over a dual-band router?

A tri-band router offers more bandwidth than a dual-band router. This also comes with the added benefit of greater area coverage. More users can effectively use high-speed internet at the same time, which is great if you have multiple users with devices capable of taking advantage of it.

What does having multiple bands mean for a router?

Multiple bands mean that the router’s signal is broadcast at different frequencies. Older routers would only emit one single band at a fixed frequency. Having multiple bands means you get the benefit of better coverage and higher speeds without having to compromise.

Is my device compatible with dual-band or tri-band routers?

Any Wi-Fi-compatible device is able to access a dual-band or tri-band router. The only consideration you might have to make is whether your device is capable of taking advantage of the supported Wi-Fi protocols.

Can I use all the bands at the same time on a dual-band or tri-band router?

Yes, all the bands are in play when running either a dual-band or tri-band router. You aren’t just picking and choosing which to run, but all available bands are broadcasting at the same time. What your device connects to is going to be dependent on the range of the router’s location.

Why should I choose one router over the other?

Dual-band routers support newer Wi-Fi protocols, which is great if you have newer devices. Tri-band routers have more bandwidth for more devices. It really comes down to weighing your needs against the capabilities of either type of router.

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