What’s the difference between the Wi-Fi standards? As this standard is built into routers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, televisions and much more we look at what enhancements it difference between software and firmware bring over its predecessor, 802. 11n, and whether it is worth getting excited about.
11ac is backwards compatible with 802. This means you can buy an 802. 11ac-equipped device and it will work just fine with your existing router. Similarly you can upgrade to an 802. 11ac router and it will work happily with all your existing devices.
That said you will need both an 802. 11ac device to enjoy the standard’s biggest benefits. With any new wireless technology speed is always the headline-grabbing feature but, as with every wireless standard to date, the figures tossed around can be highly misleading. So wireless ac is roughly 3x as fast as wireless n? In our experience wireless n performance tends to top off around 50-150Mbit and our reviews of draft 802.
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11ac routers have typically found performance to be closer to 250-300Mbit. Happily this gain is likely to increase as 802. 11n supports a maximum of four antennas at roughly 100Mbit each, where 802. 11ac can support up to eight antennas at over 400Mbit each. 11ac router released so far has packed more than six antennas.
A final point: beware routers claiming speeds of 1,750 Gigabits. It is a marketing ploy where the manufacturer has added the 1. 3Gbit theoretical maximum speed of 802. 11ac to the 450Mbit theoretical maximum speed of 802. While speed is what will likely sell 802.
11ac routers, range is equally important. The first point to make is the 802. 11ac standard lives entirely in the 5GHz spectrum. While some more modern routers broadcast 802. 11n in 5GHz as well as 2. This more than counters the fact that, in lab conditions, 5GHz signals do not actually broadcast as far as 2.
5GHz is also necessary to support the faster speeds of wireless ac. The second key factor is 802. The combination of these two technologies is profound. This was most clearly seen with the Linksys EA6500 which hit speeds of 30. 13 metres away with two solid walls in the way. The real world result is 802. Full HD content, super low latency gaming and blazing fast home networking all at the same time.