Networking Device Specs - What All Those Numbers Mean


When trying to determine how fast your device can connect over Wi-Fi, there are a couple of things to consider. First, your router needs to be capable of delivering certain speeds, and your connected device needs to be able to receive them.
Wondering how to read all those device specifications? We've broken down some of the bigger hurdles below. And don't panic! If it's overwhelming, feel free to give us a call - we're more than happy to walk you through it.
Here's an example of a networking specification:

802.11ac Wi-Fi Wireless networking, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible

The piece of this we're most interested in are the letters right after 802.11. So in this case, it's "ac". 
Wi-Fi Standards:
These are the different Wi-Fi standards, in order of their release dates:

Standard: Transfer Speed: Frequency:
a 11 Mbps 2.4 Ghz
b 11 Mbps 2.4 Ghz
g 54 Mbps 2.4 Ghz
n 130 - 450 Mbps 2.4 & 5 Ghz
ac 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) + 5 Ghz

Most networks/devices are backwards compatible, but will usually specify.
The other factor we want to consider is the Wi-Fi operating range.

2.4 Ghz – A WiFi network operating on a 2.4Ghz frequency can broadcast very far, and isn’t affected much by walls, floors, or other physical barriers in your home. What does affect it, though, is everything else operating on that frequency. Many household items, like garage openers, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, use this same frequency – not to mention every other WiFi network nearby.

Houses are usually far enough apart that this isn’t an issue, but if you’re in an apartment building, dozens of separate WiFi networks and devices that close together can lead to mutually assured slow speeds.

5 Ghz – This frequency doesn’t have the congestion issues that plague 2.4Ghz, meaning that even in a crowded building, your WiFi will work great (even as your neighbors bemoan their dropped connections).

However, because the frequency is higher, your network’s range is going to be much smaller. Additionally, you may find that physical barriers like walls or doors can have a noticeable difference on your signal strength.

Right now, the fastest connection you can obtain is an 802.11ac (5 Ghz) connection. Because the technology is still new, devices capable of connecting over this standard aren't quite common yet.

5 Ghz Capable Devices Non-Capable Devices
Amazon Fire HD 8 Amazon Fire HD 6
Google Nexus 5 Playstation 4
HTC One Phones Xbox One
Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 Wii U
Samsung Galaxy Note III Nintendo DS
Samsung Galaxy S4 Nintendo 3DS
Macbook (after July 2013) iPhone 5
iPad Pro Samsung Galaxy S3
iPad Mini 4 Macbook (before June 2013)
iPad Air 2 iPad (Original)
iPhone 6 iPad Air (Original)

Something to keep in mind - connecting an older device to your Wi-Fi network (specifically 802.11B/G devices on an 802.11N network) can cause all the other devices connected to your network to run slower. If you have any really old devices on wifi, you may want to consider wiring them to your router, rather than using them wirelessly.
Finally, keep an eye out for "dual-band." What that means is that a device is capable of using both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz frequencies. For a router, this means that newer devices can connect at faster speeds, but your older devices will still work just fine. Additionally, those older devices we mentioned earlier? Since they're running on the 2.4 Ghz band, they won't slow down your AC capable devices running on the 5 Ghz network.
Looking to buy a router?
If you're looking for a new router, we highly recommend purchasing a dual-band AC router for the best performance. For reference, Socket provides our customers with a dual-band AC Router.