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I'm looking for a laptop to buy. One of the possibilities is advertised as supporting "Wireless-N". Some others are advertised as supporting "Wireless-B+G+N". Is there any guarantee that the one advertised as supporting "Wireless-N" will support B and G as well? (Will it be able to communicate with another laptop or an access point that only supports B or G?)

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In theory, no. I could imagine a 5GHz-only adapter, which would only support N and A. However, in current practice I've yet to see a single laptop which supported N but not B or G. –  Darth Android Aug 7 '12 at 15:57
    
Second that. Second that. Theoretically possible. But I never encountered it in the real world. –  Hennes Aug 7 '12 at 16:07
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes, all mainstream adapters are backwards compatible. So, an 802.11n device will work on an 802.11b/g wireless network.

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What if the wireless adapter only has a 5GHz radio? –  Darth Android Aug 7 '12 at 15:57
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@DarthAndroid: Well that is a possibility, however, I have never come across an adapter in the wild that won't work at the slower speeds on 2.4GHz. –  w3d Aug 7 '12 at 15:59
    
never seen a unit that only supports 5GHz –  David Murray Aug 7 '12 at 16:01
    
If it only supports 5GHz then it would only support those modes that transmite on that frequency which is limited to 802.11a and 802.11n ( supports both ) 802.11b only supports 2.4ghz –  Ramhound Aug 7 '12 at 16:23
    
@DavidMurray Have you seen a commercial 802.11n card (not just an 802.11a card) that only supports 5GHz? Think you can find it again and point me at it? I'd love to see it to prove myself wrong. I'm with w3d -- I've never seen an N adapter that supports 5GHz without also supporting 2.4. –  Spiff Aug 7 '12 at 21:39
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