Are ac routers worth it?

So ill admit that I'm not too knowledgeable about networking and i've always wanted to ask this question.
I have been looking to upgrade my router for past few weeks now and when doing my research I see today's top of the line routers boasting specs like 400+Mbps download speeds and what not "ac" going above 2Gbps often.
and those specs seem all well and great but aren't you basically limited to the max you get from your isp?

What good is a router that offers 2Gbps transfer rates if your isp tops out at 50Mbps down?

I can understand the importance of having a dual or triple band router to handle multiple devices but this one questions has always kind of befuddled me.

Can someone please explain what I'm missing.


First off, with regards to access points, you need to take all numbers being marketed with a grain of salt. The numbers that they list for "speed" are usually a combined total of all bands (i.e. if your access point is dual band, the max bandwidth will include max bandwidth for 2.4GHz + max bandwidth for 5GHz). Since some of the newer AC APs support tri-band, the max speed is a combination of all 3 bands' max bandwidth. So these numbers are a bit sneaky and inflated.

Access points that support 802.11ac are only really worth it if you own wireless devices that can connect to them that also support the 802.11ac protocol. You wont get true ac (HT80) speeds unless the devices that you use can take advantage of HT80 (80MHz channel width). In many cases, people go out and buy the newest tri-band AC access point, but only have 2.4GHz hardware in their home. In most cases, current gen flagship phones should all support 802.11ac and most can also take advantage of 80MHz channel width for WiFi-Direct (P2P) as well. However, I'd still go with a cheaper solid dual-band b/g/n solution any day until prices come down. Or you could buy an older ap that supports AC like the Netgear R6300. When it comes down to it, most people are going to run with default settings (mixed mode - 20/40/80MHz coexistence), so the AP will used the best mode available to the connecting device.

Thanks, thats some good info!

Yeah, when it comes down to it, there are still a LOT of people only utilizing the 2.4GHz band. Hell, many companies still hand out single-band routers for their high-speed packages. However, if you are a heavy user of 5GHz, meaning that your home network is operating on the 5GHz band and most if not all of your wireless devices are dual band and support 802.11ac....AND you are having speed issues...then upgrading might be worth it.

Imo there is really no point in spending much over $100 for an AP though.

I agree with @Alamar_, AC is really only worth it if you have devices or a network that supports it. Take my house for instance, we get 20 Mbps down, no more. Which falls within the 802.11g specifications. 802.11n could be useful because it uses the 5 GHz band as well, but the download speed for the house is still limited to the 20 Mbps the ISP provides.

On the other hand, something like 802.11ac makes sense if the user has a very high speed internet plan like fiber, or they need to transfer files from device to device wirelessly at high speeds. However, most people don't have the first and don't do the second, so for most people 802.11n is about as fast as needed.

I've actually got fiber, but im still limited to 50up and 50down, unless i pay like 200 a month then i can get 1gig up and down but even still I don't think it would be overly necessary to have an ac router or ap unless i had like 20 devices connected to the network. 50 up & down is plenty fast for me.
On a side note can anyone reccomend a good bang for the buck router? Ive got a belkin now and have been pleased so far, I like the look of some of the asus stuff but its pricey.

You'll likely get a bunch of different opinions about access points. Personally, I've had a lot of issues with top selling ASUS models (RT-AC66U, RT-N66U). I've had mixed experiences with Netgear stuff. I liked the older Netgear WNDR3800 and the R6300/R6300v2 is not bad either. For cheaper Netgear APs, I'd recommend the WNDR4500 or 4300 (however the 4300 takes about a year to reboot if you ever have to muck with things). Cisco/Linksys makes some decent models, but I know some folks have been complaining about changes they've made to more recent firmwares on certain ones. The N600, N600+, and N750 are all pretty good APs.

I could really only give a couple of reasons why it might be worth it (with emphasis on might) to upgrade to an AC access point (and most/all your devices along with it). If you are frequently transferring large files around on your local network. (Ideally though, that should be done over a wired connection.) The other benefit is in places with a very high density of APs (think 30+ picked up in a single location) and many people trying to using the spectrum simultaneously and you don't have the option to use a wired connection. They tend to talk over one another creating a lot of noise. If you can send your data in half the time, there is less of a chance of interference with other devices. (This not only can benefit your network speed, but that of your neighbors also.) However, there probably won't be a noticeable difference. (measurably less packet loss, yes, but probably not noticeable most of the time) These kind of situations are fairly rare unless you live in a high density apt. complex where everyone has their own wireless network.

I can't really give recommendations on devices that are currently on the market. The ones I use at work cost more than they would be worth in a home setting, and the one I use at home is discontinued.

You can do well with fairly inexpensive hardware if they are well positioned. Back in 802.11g days I installed an AP at either end of my parent's house (near where people tend to congregate) and the cabling to connect them to the network. I don't remember how much they were, but they were definitely less than $100. I've since replaced the APs with n-capable ones (also less than $100), but they've never had wireless issues. Good positioning (out in the open near where you want to use it, not stuck behind the TV next to the cable modem under a heap of cables) can be just as important as which model you buy.