What To Look For When Buying A Router – If you’re looking to upgrade your home network, these are the things you need to know before buying a new router.
Taylor Martin has been covering technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves to create things on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and fears free time.
What To Look For When Buying A Router
Whether you’re setting up a new home network or upgrading an existing one, a wireless router is at the heart of the entire setup. It can be the difference between a nearly flawless network and one that continues to plague you.
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When you sign up with a new Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the US, you’ll be offered a device lease for about $5 to $7 a month. In other countries, ISPs usually bundle equipment into your internet package.
In most cases, the device they send you is a modem/router combination that will be more or less useful. However, if you are located in the US and plan to keep the same network equipment for more than a year, it is usually more cost-effective to purchase your own equipment. Your ISP probably provides a list of compatible equipment that you can find online for around $50 and up. Note that you need a combined device or a separate router with a modem.
Even if you have a free router, you may want to purchase your own to get more speed and performance.
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Buying your own doesn’t always guarantee better performance, but it can save you some money in the long run and give you better control and options that your regular router doesn’t include. For example, network storage.
Wireless technology standards have changed quite a bit over the past decade. For example, most newer laptops, smartphones, and tablets use the newer 802.11ac standard. This means they can achieve faster speeds over Wi-Fi. If your Internet package promises speeds higher than 100 Mbps, and you still use a wireless N router, the limitations of the router’s wireless capabilities can become a bottleneck for your network.
That said, if you don’t have any devices in your home that support wireless AC, then the router isn’t as much of an issue as the individual client devices. Chances are, however, that the next time you upgrade your computer or mobile devices, they will have 802.11ac support.
If your ISP offers faster speeds, it might be worth upgrading to an AC router for future reference. Otherwise, keep in mind that you may also need a new router if you upgrade to a faster internet package.
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Keep in mind that network hardware doesn’t last forever. Not only do standards change frequently, but network hardware faces a lot of stress every day. Your Wi-Fi connection is extended to your computer, game console, smartphone, tablet and streaming devices. And with multiple devices like smart lights or thermostats, this load only increases and can degrade router performance over time.
If you’ve had the same router for several years and can’t find another explanation for your network’s declining reliability, it may be time to consider replacing your router. (That, or maybe it’s time to clean your router.)
Routers range in price from $15 (£16 or around $30) to $400 (£390 or $699). Your needs and your budget will ultimately determine where you fall on this spectrum.
It’s hard to recommend a super high-end router to the average consumer for at least two reasons. First, the pace of technology development is very fast. So while a high-end router can set you up very well for the future for years to come, it’s almost as prone to obsolescence as one that costs half the price. Second, network hardware moves faster than ISPs, which means mid-range routers are usually more than enough for the average user and even some power users.
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So unless you absolutely need a high-end router with the best possible performance, a router in the $100 or $200 range will do. And if you just need something to give you wireless access, and your internet speed at home is only 20 Mbps or 30 Mbps, you can save a lot of money by choosing a cheaper router.
Fiber is becoming more common in the country, but it is still far from common. Gigabit speeds (1000 Mbps) are even rarer. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a router that can reach gigabit. Most mid-range models these days come with Gigabit Ethernet capabilities, but even a router like the TP-LINK Archer C7 can achieve a theoretical speed of 1300Mbps over its 5GHz wireless channel.
In other words, get a gigabit router for future needs. You may need it for the next upgrade.
Wireless routers operate in two different frequency bands – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band is used by many devices in your home and is more susceptible to interference and congestion. The newer 5 GHz band is usually less crowded and provides a faster connection. A dual-band router offers both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, often with both bands at the same time.
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Choosing between a single-band and dual-band router is quite simple. If you live in a busy neighborhood or densely populated area, it is better to use a dual-band router. If you don’t need faster wireless speeds and you don’t have neighbors nearby whose wireless network could interfere with you, a single-band router will do the trick.
The location of the router is extremely important. It should be in a central location, away from other aids or obstacles, and ideally high on a shelf.
Still, even with a great location, you’re likely to run into dead spots in your home, places where the wireless signal just won’t reach. Using heat mapping software can help you maximize your wireless coverage, and buying a more expensive router can give you better range, but that still doesn’t mean the signal will reach the farthest corner or your basement.
In most cases, buying a more affordable router (or two) and a few power adapters will work better than nothing. Powerline adapters use existing electrical wiring in walls to extend your network. They are relatively affordable and work wonders when it comes to extending your network to hard-to-reach places in your home. Also be aware of the speed limitations of power adapters, as not all are created equal.
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Speaking of expanding your network, just because it might be time to upgrade your old router doesn’t mean it’s time to retire your old router. If it’s still functional, you can turn it into a wireless bridge (to extend your network with about half the original bandwidth) or an access point with the above power adapters.
Before printers with built-in wireless capabilities became commonplace, a USB port on the router was necessary to connect the printer to the network. Routers with USB ports are now more commonly used for cheap network storage. You can connect a hard drive or flash drive to the back of the router and share this data with any device on the network. You can also use it to create a network media center for streaming movies, music or TV shows that you have locally.
Unless you need a network printer that doesn’t have wireless capabilities or need network storage, USB support on your router isn’t something you need to worry about.
Routers aren’t just faster or more powerful, they’re also smarter. Google’s OnHub routers or Linksys smart Wi-Fi routers make it much easier to set up and control your home network. They let you prioritize bandwidth for things like streaming movies and video games from a companion smartphone app, with updates happening automatically.
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OnHub routers come with improved smart home support with IFTTT integration. This means you can, for example, create a recipe that unlocks August’s Smart Lock when your phone connects to the OnHub router’s network. The possibilities are practically endless. Wireless routers are the backbone of the home network and play an increasingly important role in setting up business networks. When connected to a modem, Wi-Fi routers connect to the home network and provide Internet connectivity to tablets, smartphones, computers, and smart home devices. Buying a wireless router can seem difficult at first glance. In this wireless router buying guide, we’ll walk you through the terms and concepts you need to understand to buy the right wireless router for your needs.
Modems and routers work together to provide Internet connectivity to devices on a home network. Each of them offers different functions. Here’s a quick primer on home networking:
A modem or gateway connects your home network to the Internet and all the other computers and servers facing the World Wide Web. The modem is connected to T3
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