Over the last few months when we have a newly-reformed Malaysia, a big change was in how our internet worked. The biggest upgrade that everyone was – and still is – waiting for, is the Unifi Turbo. And damn, existing Unifi customers are getting 10x the speed upgrade. But is your home network ready for this sort of intense speeds? Today we’re doing a test using different routers and find out the importance of AC WiFi using the D-Link DIR-882.
Especially for those who are long-time Unifi customers who are using the default router that TM provided, then this is definitely something you need to know.
Not all WiFi is equal
Yes, not all WiFi is equal. There are many WiFi standards out there – the most common one nowadays being the 802.11n and also 802.11ac WiFi. We’ll just call it N-WiFi and AC-WiFi for short.
N-WiFi was first introduced in 2009 – and that’s already a 9-year old technology. It can already join PewDiePie’s army! N-WiFi is quite a unique generation in WiFi technology as it has both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
AC-WiFi on the other hand, was announced 2013. For a 5-year old technology, there are still many devices that don’t support AC-WiFi, which uses only 5GHz frequency.
And here’s the reason why.
Difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz
These two different frequencies dictate a lot a lot when it comes to range and speed. They’re in a game of trade-off too. It’s either you choose longer range, or faster speed. The two of them will never co-exist.
For better range, then 2.4GHz will be your choice. That means you’ll be getting way better range but the theoretical maximum speed through the 2.4GHz is lower.
If you want speed, then you’ll have to sacrifice range – which means you’ll be using 5GHz. Though you get much better speed, the range will be a lot short.
But then again why is 2.4GHz still used in many devices? Perhaps for cost reduction, in our opinion. We saw many smartphones that only support 2.4GHz network – like the ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom, ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1), the Neffos X9, just to name a few. Though, as far as we know, all flagship phones come with 5GHz support.
Any router that supports AC-WiFi will also support N-WiFi, but not the other way around. However, supporting 5GHz network doesn’t mean it supports AC-WiFi. It might mean that 5GHz N-WiFi is supported – which only adds more confusion. For us, we check at SIRIM’s database to know if the device supports 2.4GHz, 5GHz, N or AC-WiFi.
Back to Unifi Turbo & Benchmarks
For my test case, I’m using an old router that supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz N-WiFi and another one D-Link DIR-882 since it is one of D-Link’s greatest router for now. The Unifi that I have here has been boosted to 300Mb/s download and 50Mb/s upload. I’ll also be using Speedtest.net as the benchmark tool. For the receiving end, we used an ASUS GL553VD gaming laptop and also a Samsung Galaxy S9.
Testing was easy. First, I connected to the 2.4GHz N-WiFi of the old router and tested. Then repeated the test with 5GHz N-WiFi and recorded the result.
After that, I changed to the D-Link DIR-882 and connected to that router via AC-WiFi and repeated the test.
Since my Unifi has been Turbo’d to a maximum of 300Mb/s for download, I’m expecting to see around 300Mb/s in the speed test result. For the N-WiFi, it can never reach 200Mb/s – but on the AC-WiFi, it’s always around 300Mb/s without fail. The results were consistent with both our devices.
By merely switching to AC-WiFi, we can observe a stark difference.
The D-Link DIR-882 has more features
The idea of buying a brand new router and setting it up is actually quite a daunting task for many. We know, because these routers aren’t cheap. Once we screw up, there will be no internet and we’re left alone.
The D-Link DIR-882 makes it a bit simpler. We’re not doing a setup tutorial here but we’re going to show you our experience with it.
When we entered the control panel of the router, we were greeted with a clean UI that brings up a wizard to guide us through all the basics like setting up the WiFi and connecting to the internet. Unifi uses PPPoE and requires a username and password, by the way.
After setting everything, we realized that the D-Link DIR-882 actually only shows up as one SSID in our WiFi connection menu. Modern routers typically have two SSIDs – one for devices that can only use 2.4GHz, and another one for 5GHz.
I entered the D-Link DIR-882’s control panel and checked again – we found out that this router has an option called Smart Connect, where the router will automatically assign you to either 2.4GHz or 5GHz network. However, this feature didn’t work well for me as it connected my phone and laptop to 2.4GHz even though it can take advantage of the 5GHz network.
So, we disabled the Smart Connect feature and we were greeted by the familiar two separate SSIDs – one for 2.4GHz and another for 5GHz.
The D-Link DIR-882 also has a few other special features as well. D-Link claims that the DOR-882’s AC SmartBeam feature will form beams of AC-WiFi to wherever is needed the most, and you can select the WiFi transmission power as well. Obviously we want it to be at the highest power so that we can get the best experience.
For some other non-internet related features, the D-Link DIR-882 has two USB ports and supports DLNA as well. You can copy your files to and fro a USB drive by plugging it into the router, and also stream your files on another DLNA-supported device – like a speaker or TV for example.
What should we do now?
This is definitely not the most straightforward or the easiest to understand. There are even more things about WiFi standards that we’re not going to discuss today – like 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2.
The general idea is this – have you gotten your Unifi Turbo yet? If yes, connect to your router’s 5GHz network (if available) and run a speed test via Speedtest.net. If you get the same speed as what Unifi Turbo provides, then you’re good. No need to do anything.
If you can’t reach the Unifi Turbo speed in your speed test, then see if you have AC-WiFi available. If not, then please get a new router. We do recommend the D-Link DIR-882 for its simplicity yet powerful WiFi as it can reach up to 1,733Mb/s through AC-WiFi. The maximum Unifi Turbo only reaches 800Mb/s download speed!
Routers aren’t cheap or easy to setup for first-timers as well – so make sure you have a backup plan or ask a friend to help.
If you do need a suggestion on routers or just want to verify if your router or smartphone/laptop’s WiFi, drop us a PM on our Facebook Page. We’ll try to assist.