Post Updated: 12/01/13
What is Wireless N & Wireless G?
People generally refer to all Wireless Internet as WiFi but, as with a lot of technical jargon, WiFi as a term is often misued. Are you one of those people constantly asking: Why is my Internet or my WiFi so slow??!? Very often, it is not the Internet provider’s fault. Rather, it all comes down to the type of router you are using and the speed it offers
Wireless-N and Wireless-G are terms referring to 802.11n and 802.11g wireless networking standards set by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the professional organization and standard bearers for electronics discussion and publication among working professionals.
By setting a wireless standard, the multitude of manufacturing entities creating wireless networking products (routers) and wireless networking devices (Laptops, Tablets, SmartTVs, Phones, Roku) can all start on the same page. Imagine if a given wireless networking device was only able to connect to certain routers at certain places. It would result in a major loss of continuity for users and would cause anything from minor headaches to mass frustration.
Wireless networking standards such as Wireless-N and Wireless-G go through many iterations/versions called drafts until they are finally settled upon for publication and mass use.
IEEE 802.11n is a wireless networking standard created to improve network throughput (maximum speed and transmission capabilities) over the two prior standards—802.11a and 802.11g. For example, most coffee shop hotspot routers run on Wireless-G (54 Mbps) or even Wireless-B (11 Mbps). They are constantly being shared by many people so it can be somewhat slow to connect and actually surf the web.
What made Wireless-N significant is that it increased the maximum data transmission rate more than tenfold from 54 Mbps to 600-900 Mbps. Wireless-N also opened up additional spectrum area for wireless transmission, allowing for the use of four spatial streams in at a channel width of 40 MHz. That is double the channel width of Wireless-G. 802.11n standardized support/technical specifications for multiple-input multiple-output (AKA MIMO). It also increased security and improved several additional features.
The most popular Wireless-N routers available include the Linksys Cisco E4200, the Asus RT-N16, the Netgear WNDR3700 and the Dark Knight Asus RT-N66U. Watch this video for more insight into the upgraded features on the RT-N66U Tomato FlashRouter.
What is Wireless-AC?
Enhancements of 802.11n are currently being drafted and tested and may even included on certain brand new routers as 802.11ac. However, there are no major devices that support the standard at this time, meaning no phones, laptops, Rokus, AppleTVs.
Since these devices don’t support the standard/draft yet, buying an Wireless-AC router will not let you connect at its increased speeds. You may be able to upgrade a laptop using a special Wireless-AC adapter, but it is only made by a few manufacturers and it could become obsolete at any time if the Wireless-AC draft changes.
(Editor’s Note 6-15-13: Wireless-AC has increasingly become more formalized. We have added the Asus RT-AC66U DD-WRT & Asus RT-AC66U Tomato as it has provided excellent Wireless-N performance and is ready for Wireless-AC upgrades. Tomato is preferred by users looking to use OpenVPN.)
Why You Should Upgrade to Wireless-N from Wireless-G?
Hanging onto an older Wireless-G router means you are sacrificing overall speed and security while actually hindering the wireless capabilities for newer devices.
Using a Wireless G router with your iPad may feel like trying to catching a fish with a stick. It may eventually work, but it certainly not the most efficient way to get the job done. This is not an iPhone 4S to iPhone 5 type upgrade where you have a little bit sleeker device and a few new features to play with. When a wireless standard is jumped, you are talking MAJOR wireless connectivity improvements.
Want to see the differences between Wireless AC, Wireless-N and Wireless-G? Well, here’s a quick breakdown for you.
Wireless G vs Wireless N Comparison
Max Throughput: 54 Mbps vs 600-900 Mbps (Wireless-AC 1200-1750)
Wireless Range (Radius): 75 ft vs up to 200-450 ft
Wireless Channel Width: 20 MHz vs 40 MHz (80 MHz for Wireless-AC)
Of course, these ranges are maximum distances in optimal conditions. Most of us don’t live in a world where there are no other wireless interference. Even if you don’t see any other wireless signals in your range, there is still a laundry list of devices that can cost you range, such as Cordless Phones, Baby Monitors and Microwaves. Getting a high performing router Wireless-N is the best way to overcome these issues. And here are some tips to make your Wireless-N router perform better in our new video:
Here is a handy list of some of our more popular Wireless-N Routers and their manufacturer speed maximums:
900 Mbps – Dark Knight Asus RT-N66U Tomato
If you are looking to get “faster wifi,” these are the devices you want to buy.
Upgrading these router’s firmware to the powerful DD-WRT or Tomato firmware platform on all of these routers, as FlashRouters does, allows you more control over the signal while improving signal strength and stability. Many of these routers have excellent hardware but the manufacturer’s firmware actually hinders their abilities. Buying one of these router with a DD-WRT upgrade or Tomato firmware enhancement can make a world of difference in their overall performance and create a new bedrock for your networking gateway.