Wireless Router buying guide

Until routers came along, everyone had to buy an internet connection for each device in the home.  This proved costly and inefficient.   Then routers came along and enabled us to share one connection.

Routers are devices responsible for sending and receiving data signals on the internet.  This data is transferred in the form of bundles or packets. These routers are your connection to the internet.  They become the agent who directs the data and send it to its destination.   Next came wireless routers.  Wireless Routes have become the average persons easiest and quickest way to connect to the internet- arguably a person’s most important device.  It is a must have in order to access WiFi wherever you go.  At present, we need wireless routers almost wherever we go: at our home, educational institutions, coffee shops, the grocery store.  Even Airplanes offer wireless internet now.  Places of work make the best use of wireless technology supporting devices like PCs, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, smart phones, tablets, Kindles, smart TVs, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast etc. With Wireless routers becoming such a key component if our everyday lives, it’s important to know what to look for when you are in the market for a new ine.  Here is a guide for people who are going to buy a router for the first time, or are looking to replace their old routers.

There are many factors to be considered when looking for a wireless router.  First the speed of the router should be taken into consideration. The individual speed of the band(s) should be checked. Secondly Wi Fi standard should be looked into; the standard should be compatible with the devices that will be connecting to the router. Depending on the need of the user dual bands and USB ports should also be considered.   USB ports will provide the entire network with connection to external devices whereas dual bands tend to distribute the data load thus providing with a consistent speed.  Theses feature will increase the overall price of the router, therefore routers with these features should only be considered if you are sure they will be used. Lastly the network size, type and amount of data and the potential use should be thoroughly considered before the final decision.

After purchase another highly important factor which one should take great care of is the point of locating the router. It should be placed at a spot which helps the flow of signals easily and not create any unwanted hindrance or clash of signals between devices.

Price and Purpose

When buying a wireless router, the first thing you should decide is how much you are willing to pay for it.  Then you should venture into the features and find out what are offered at that price point.  Do not fall for anything fancy without judging the performance.  You will have to remember that you need something which can fulfill your expectation.

Prices of the routers differ based on the features, firmware, the inclusion of ports etc. Usually, you can find a very good wireless router in the price range of $100-$250.  However, if you want shorter or wider network range then the price will go down or up accordingly.  If budget is your main concern, you can find routers in the price range of $25-$50.  Keep in mind that they will not offer the latest and greatest features, but they will work decently. You can peruse product reviews on the internet or talk with the experts to learn what to expect from your router.

The quality of the router you need also depends on your purpose.  If you want a router to browse the web and to use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., then you would not need a powerful wireless router. If you are into movies and plan on streaming videos or if you are heavily into online gaming, then you will need a router with more capabilities. Again, places where a lot of different people need a wireless network for various reasons and needs, like companies, offices or university campuses would call for even more powerful and capable wireless routers.  Keep in mind the more powerful and capable your wireless router is, the higher the price point is going to be. In short, go for the router based on your needs.

Wireless Speed

You must have seen 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac etc. numbers on the package of your router. These aren’t just arbitrary numbers; these signify a router’s capacities. A normal web surfer and social media users will obviously need a different kind of router from the serious gamer or movie lovers.  So, with the advancement of technologies, companies are always instigating newer and more powerful wireless network systems.

The latest standard so far is 802.11ac, and it is generally implemented in all the newer wireless routers. The routers with this network standard can transmit up to Gigabit speeds, and it can send and receive data seamlessly within a reasonable range, provided there aren’t too many hindrances in the route between the router and the user. The previous network standard was limited at 600Mbps. So obviously, the new one is a lot faster than the previous network standard.  Naturally the actual speed will be limited by your Inter providor’s speed.

While buying a router, look for the “ac” standard, because that is the best one. However, if your PC, phone or tablet does’nt support the “ac” standard, then you won’t be able to enjoy its full capabilities anyway.  If you see that none of your device support 802.11ac network standard, it will be better for you to not waste your money on a router with 802.11ac standard.

You need to remember that a router’s speed depends on the speed of your home network. It won’t make your Internet connection faster than the speed your server provides. Most companies list the highest bandwidth on their packages. You will notice 350Mb/sec, 1900Mb/sec etc. speed limit, however, you will rarely see that high flow of data in practical usage. If you are only getting a maximum download speed of 5Mbps from your internet service provider, then a router capable of transferring 350Mbps will not be able to make your internet speed any faster. Also, various barriers usually separate your router from your devices and hinder the data flow.

Wireless Router Range

The range of your router can be of monumental importance.  If you live in a two bedroom apartment, you may need a very small range, which can save you some money.  If you live in a large house and want to make sure the whole house is covered it will cost a bit more.  Routers with the “AC” Standard, mentioned above, typically have the widest and most reliable range.  Next in line are the routers using the “N” standard.

Wi-Fi Device Band

Wireless routers can be manufactured with various band systems.  Single-band routers are the least costly ones, work on single radio. But these can be hampered by other nearby devices, which are on the same radio band, such as microwaves, Bluetooth waves of the mobile phones etc. Still, these are alright to use if you only do things like surfing the web using social media etc.  Single band wireless routers work on 2.4GHz frequency.

On the other hand, if you are a movie freak and have the habit of streaming movies and such, or if you are a gamer and use online gaming service, for example, Xbox Live and such, you should consider buying a dual-band router.

Just as the name suggests, dual-band wireless routers have two radios. One of them connects to a 2.4GHz frequency, and the other 5GHz frequency. There are not many household devices or machines which communicate on 5GHz and as a result the 5GHz band is generally not as crowded as the 2.4GHz band.  With marginal signal hindrance the flow of data is smoother when using 5GHz .  For this reason, dual-band ones are perfect for streaming videos and gaming purposes. With the dual-band routers, you can appoint each band to various particular duties, and in this way you can increase the capacity and decrease the burden of both of the bands. Sometimes you will find some dual-band routers, which actually possess single radio that can work on either 2.4GHz or 5.0GHz frequency, not both simultaneously.

Then we can talk about the tri-band routers. Like the other twos, these have three radios, just as the name suggests. One of the radios in this router operates at a 2.4GHz frequency and the other two operate at the 5GHz frequency. These types of routers are efficient in places where multiple devices work at the same time and thus go through busy network traffic because of lots of downloading, streaming of videos, transferring files, online gaming etc. These are ideal for offices, university campuses and larger scale networks.

Companies have focused manufacturing on dual-band routers but now many are starting to bring out more tri-band routers because of its increased demand and popularity.  With the massive development in the tech field, there would be more upgraded versions surely.

Wi-Fi security

Wi-Fi networks are very convenient but they can be more vulnerable than a normal wired network if you aren’t careful.  If you do nothing at all to protect and secure your wireless network, anyone within range and the right tools can cause all sorts of problems. For example, they can spy on your online activities, steal your internet data, and worse they can get admittance to any of the files stored your hard disk, even infect your systems with viruses.  Below we will look at the different security settings you should be sure to consider when purchasing a new router.

 WPA /WPA2

Be sure to check that the router you are buying at the very least supports WPA2. Moreover, every device you connect to your Wi-Fi should also support WPA2 for this security system to operate properly.  If all your devices are not secure enough, troublemakers can get access to your network through that device. There are also some routers with extra security facilities. These are ideal mainly for business companies. These routers come with many additional configurations, like creating a guest network, adding encryption, blocking unwanted devices from the Wi-Fi system etc. With these ones you even see who are using your internet.

Furthermore, be sure to check if your router has parental controls system. This system will allow you to limit network access and usage duration for certain. Moreover, parents can keep tabs on their children’s online activities, if they wish to.

In a nutshell, security is one of the important features. You  simply cannot ignore this issue. Some of us even deal with thousands of financial transactions online and a tiny, little glitch may make you bankrupt. Nobody wants this to happen!

Quality of Service (QoS)

The quality of Service (QoS) is a set of machinery within the router device which retains specific resources for various usages.

For example, if you use a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service, for telephone service, QoS will allow you to configure the router to assure that data flow is high for that service. So that in case someone is downloading or sharing large files using your router, while you’re using the telephone service, it will not affect the quality of your call.

QoS can also enhance your network’s performance in case of movie streaming, online gaming etc. it will not necessarily increase your network’s bandwidth or the speed of your internet connection, however, it can make the best use of what you actually have.

Ethernet ports

An ethernet port is a plug in the back of the router where you can plug in a wired device with a LAN cable (CAT5).  Make sure that your router has no less than 4 Ethernet ports.

USB support 

There are USB ports on most routers. You need to know the use of each port. For some routers, the USB ports are there only to transmit setup information, such as ID and password, from the router to the user through a USB memory key.  With some of the quality routers, you can use network-attached USB storage devices. The system allows you to plug a USB storage device into your router and then all devices connected your network will have access to that storage device.  This can be a pretty handy feature.  In addition, you can connect printers via this port. Many routers use a combination of both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, while some only have one of these. If you need only one USB port make sure that it is USB 3.0 to make the best use of this system.

Generally, devices with USB 3.0 work at the port of USB 2.0 as well, however, that is not something recommended for all of the gadgets. Therefore, you will have to make sure that your options of using different devices are wide open.

Warranty

Warranty is a very important thing to consider while buying a wireless router.  You must make sure the device is guaranteed properly and the seller offers a return policy if you’re not happy at all with your device.  Most importantly, be aware of fake wire routers. Check for all the important seals and monograms.  Take some code reading devices and scan the barcode or QR code if it makes you feel better. After all you are going to be paying quite a hefty amount of money for your wireless router; you do not want to be cheated in this case. So, it is better to pay more to ensure warranty. At least you will have something to claim, if anything goes wrong.

Brand Suggestions

Many companies have been manufacturing some of the best routers till now.  You can go to the websites of these companies and look into the features and reviews to know which will be the most perfect router for you. You can also talk to some other users from your neighbourhood just to gain little idea. This type of discussion always helps.

Do some study on wireless routers and you will be good to go. If you can’t do that then, take someone who understands technologies with you. Enjoy the internet!