When you are shopping online for Wi-Fi router, or walk into a local PC mall, you will be presented a whole new class of wireless routers with an “802.11ac” label, and promotion words describes the Gigabyte speed for wireless network.
So what is 802.11ac, and do you really need it to get the most out of your daily Wi-Fi connection experience?
No matter where you purchased a new router, it always share the denotation of “802.11(a/b/g/n/ac)” somewhere in their labels. We are not going to dive deep technical details, however what we are going to explain is to focus on the letter that follows after 802.11, it is the signification of both the generation of the router and the maximum speed, the capability to transmit or receive between the wired network and wireless devices.
Here is an article at Wikipedia explains most everything about what all of these mean, but to keep it simple we will discuss only 802.11n and 802.11ac. As a basic start point, it will help you to understand that on the whole most routers made within the past 5 years fully support 802.11n, the maximum transfer speed is up to 450Mbit/s (56MB/s) at its peak. This number is absolutely just the theoretical max point for the technology achieved in carefully controlled lab settings, however it is fast enough for watching high definition film online in your home, of cause you need a high speed broadband connection.
As we said on this article title, 802.11ac is the latest wireless network technology. So far it has only been approved by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) for consumers in 2014. Theoretically capable of maxing out at a whopping 1.3Gbits/s (162.5MB/s), it is more than double 802.11n. In addition, another big advantage of 802.11ac is transition available over the 5Ghz spectrum, it’s very important to note that opposed to 802.11n. Nowadays, almost every place offering Wi-Fi is running over 2.4Ghz band,and as increasing number of mobile devices, thus connection is much more crowded than other band, e.g. 5Ghz, its larger wavelength allows it to penetrate walls over longer distances with less signal loss. In another word, if you have a 802.11ac router installed some walls away from your wireless devices, you will be not easy to get wireless connection with good signal, no matter how good throughput offered by 802.11ac technology.
Do we need 802.11ac Routers?
Again, as the latest and only approved wireless technology, router manufacturers have just begun to roll out their new products as fancy promotion.
If you want to confirm whether a router is ac-ready, just check the product model and label. For the time being, all routers featuring 802.11ac will have an “ac” stashed somewhere in its name (e.g. Asus RT-AC3200, D-Link AC3200). On average market list price $100 – $300 for an 802.11ac router. It will be a good choice to have one or two devices in the house that are actually capable of tuning into the channel in the first place.
In order to decode 802.11ac signal, you also need the latest wireless devices, e.g. the iPhone 6 and 6s. Hmm, have you ever found you have been struggling with the fact that 802.11n only transmits at a ‘mere’ 56 megabytes per second?
Without any doubt, 802.11ac will be a great technology for us to play 1080p or even 4K movie on smart TV over the Wi-Fi, but presently it is just a luxury for computer geeks.
After all, 802.11ac is not a choice for most people, at least right now. If you have budget to taste 4K videos to your smart TV, iPhone 6/6S, with HPC in living room, or a server with monster level hardware, why not try 802.11ac?