2017 is upon us, and going rather smoothly to be fairly honest; needless to say, there is a lot of new technology that needs some proper exploration, and while we are trying are best to find out as many products as we possibly can, it has become somewhat of a norm to know that some product that a company releases may not be up to the mark.
The product in question today is the wireless router; wireless routers have been around for as long as possible, but considering how the use of internet is something that is constantly growing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the use for a wireless router is also something that is taking a pretty decent hike.
With that out of the way, for those who don’t know what a wireless router is, a wireless router is basically a device that is responsible for performing functions of a router, but in addition to that, it also doubles up as a wireless access point. Which means that apart from just being able to provide wired connectivity, a wireless router can also broadcast wireless signals that are used by compliant devices to connect to the internet.
A lot of people actually end up confusing wireless routers with modems, however, the main difference is that the modem is the device that will be connected to the internet source provided by your internet service provider in order to have internet access. As for the router, it needs to be connected to the modem in order to work properly.
While most people install routers to make sure that there is better connectivity all around the house, but having a router can actually help you with a lot of issues. For instance, you can get a lot better signal strength, and overall connection strength, and in addition to that, if you have an internet connection faster than what your modem can handle, having a powerful router can actually help you deal with that issue as well.
Now for most people, buying a router isn’t that big of an issue, as a matter of fact, you can even rent a router from your internet service provider, but if you want something better, and you don’t want to pay everything for it, you can simply go ahead and buy your own wireless router. This is the point where most people end up getting confused because they don’t really know what to look for.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of considering how wireless routers are a technical bit; today, in order to help you pick the best wireless router you can, we are going to talk about how to buy a wireless router. Now some may think that this article serves no purpose, but believe us, if you are someone who is having a hard time picking up a wireless router just because there are too many options available in the market, then this is the right guide for you.
In order to make the whole job a lot easier for the readers, we have decided to split this entire article in different sections and headings, this will allow you to easily navigate, and know what you should be looking at or you shouldn’t be looking at.
Table of Contents
- Do You Need a Wireless Router?
- Features You Should Look for in a Router.
2. Wireless Standards.
3. Security Features.
4. 3G/4G Support.
5. Number of Antennas.
- Understanding Network Standards.
- Truth Behind Wi-Fi Network Speeds.
- Securing Your Internet Connection.
- The Amount of Bands You Need.
- Is Quality of Service Really Important?
- Do You Need a USB Connection?
- How Much Should You Spend?
Do You Need a Wireless Router?
Okay, first things first, the most important thing you should be considering when you’re using the internet and wanting to make some changes is whether or not you need a wireless router. Now determining this is something very easy; if you are someone who’s been using modem, and have very few devices connected to the internet using the modem, then you may not need a wireless router.
This is because if the router is getting the job done for your wireless, as well as wired devices. However, it’s important to know that sometimes, the modems that are provided by our internet service providers are without wireless access points, which means that they can only provide you with wired connection through the Ethernet ports.
In situations like this, having a wireless router is important because while your laptop may still have an Ethernet port, it will simply kill the purpose of portability that a laptop offers. Not to forger, your mobile phones won’t be able to connect with the internet mainly because they lack the Ethernet port, and because they make use of the Wi-Fi technology.
From this point, it’s safe to say that you do need a wireless router just because you have a bunch of other devices that need the internet connection, and can’t really use the wired connection.
Features You Should Look for in a Router
Now that you have decided whether or not you are in need of a wireless router, we are going to take a look at some of the most important features that you should be looking at. This is important because it’s a very common thing for a wireless router to have features that you don’t even require, and in all honesty, having all the features that you are not going to use basically means that you are going to pay a lot of money for something not worth your use.
So, keeping that in mind, for anyone who happens to be a newcomer in the market and the wireless industry, there are some amount healthy amount of features that are available in the wireless routers, however, the only features that you need are the ones that we are going to talk about below. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at features you should look for in a wireless router.
1. Modem/Router Combo
Now this is something that may make some people raise their eyebrows, and the reason behind that is simple. Often times, having a modem/router combo is a smarter option because it saves you money, and it is also a smart idea because normally, the modems provided by the internet service provider aren’t that good, and are normally lacking wireless capabilities.
Sure, you may have to spend some extra bucks on a modem/router combo, but the good thing is that your overall experience will be a lot smoother. Last but not the least, more advantages on going for this combo basically means that you won’t have to spend additional money on separate hardware, and the combo de vice will take lesser space at the same time.
This whole experience makes the modem/router combo a smarter move because at least you will have the best of both worlds with you.
2. Wireless Standards
The 2nd important thing you should be looking at when buying a wireless router is basically the wireless standards, now in case you don’t know, we are going to discuss these standards in-depth, but for starters, it’s important for you to know that these wireless standard must be compatible with the devices you are using in order for the internet to actually work.
Now in case you are wondering, the latest wireless standard happens to be the 802.11ac, this is the standard that doesn’t have a lot of clients, meaning not a lot of devices can actually work with it. Make sure you by something that supports at least 802.11n, or 802.11g to have the maximum amount of compatibility, and to avoid any issues with the connectivity, or compatibility.
3. Security Features
Having an unprotected wireless connection is never a good idea because in case you’re not aware, it allows the anyone to connect to your internet, and while you may feel generous because what harm is there in it, it’s not really good.
The simplest reason behind this is basically because if someone gets a hold of your wireless connection, they can use that connection to create a gateway of sorts in which they have unadulterated access to your internet connection, and your bandwidth.
However, things don’t even get worse here; another bigger issue with having insecure wireless connection is that anyone with the right amount of tricks can gain access to your devices just by being connected to your internet.
That’s why it is always important to make sure that your internet connection is secured with a password, and to make things even securer, you can opt for a wireless router that has better encryption, and multiple layers of security, all of this to keep your important data safe.
4. 3G/4G Support
Another important feature that you should be looking at is the 3G/4G support in wireless routers, this is particularly important feature for people who are actively using USB based 3G/4G devices. Basically, having a router with a USB port that support these devices will further enhance your capability of efficiently using your internet.
In addition to that, these USB ports also double up for printers, as well as external hard drives; enhancing your overall experience with the computer, making sure that you have the best of both worlds. Whenever you’re choosing a wireless router, make sure that there’s at least one USB port present on the router because that will help you make the most of your router as well as your money.
5. Number of Antennas
The last thing you should look for in a wireless router is number of antennas, and the reason this is important is because if you are buying a router especially because the modem isn’t good enough with range, then you’re going to have to make sure that the router you are buying has enough antennas to actually provide you with the range that you need.
Now, most modern routers come with at least 4 long range antennas, however, some of them are even equipped with 8 routers. One thing you should keep in mind is that instead of focusing on the amount of antennas, you should focus more on the fact that the antennas on the router you’re looking at can be removed.
Now believe it or not, having the ability to remove the antennas is good because it allows you to add in 3rd party antennas. Now in case you are not aware, 3rd party antennas are really helpful because they are, most of the times, better than the antennas you get with your router. So, it’s always better to have that ability to change the antennas if you need.
Understanding Network Standards
The next thing that you need to understand is the network standards, now this is something that a lot of people get confused about, and in all honesty, you do need to understand these standards. In case you don’t know why, it’s because if you end up buying a wireless router of a standard that is higher than the standard your internet actually needs, you’ll end up paying more money for a standard that you won’t be using.
In order to enlighten you some more, some of the most common Wi-Fi standards are 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. With the ac being the most powerful, as well as the latest in the market. However, the thing about this standard is that not a lot of devices actually support it, for instance, a majority of smartphones in the modern day only support the 802.11n. So, having an ac router won’t really work with your smartphones.
Before you’re about to buy a wireless router, you have to make sure that the devices that you wish to connect to the internet support the standards that are being offered by the router. If you’re not able to figure that out, you can either start digging up the specifications of your devices on the internet in order to find out what wireless standard do they actually support.
Truth Behind Wi-Fi Network Speeds
In case you are wondering that the speed on the box of the router you’re looking at is true, it’s not. Well, at least not completely. You see, the speeds that are rated by the manufacturers are the speeds that the routers are capable of achieving, however, one thing that they don’t put on there is the how the router will behave in a realistic situation.
In case you haven’t guessed already, we are talking about how the router will work in an environment where there are several electrical appliances, as well as walls, and other similar commodities that can hinder the experience.
However, while all of this doesn’t sound good, the good thing here is that most modern routers are actually fast enough to properly give you the performance that you need. Sure, if you are a basic home user, you’ll do fine with a basic router, but if you are a streamer or an online gamer, then you’re going to need a router that is faster than what the standard router has to offer.
With that said, when you’re in the market looking to buy a wireless router, you should know that the router’s speed won’t increase your internet’s speed. The speed is just what the router actually supports, however, if your internet connection is being bottlenecked by your previous router/modem combo, then the chances of having a properly updated speed is something that you should keep in mind.
Still, don’t forget that the router/modem combo that is provided by most of the internet service providers are capable of providing you with the speed that your internet connection is offering, so it’s highly unlikely that you are having a bottleneck hinder your overall experience.
Securing Your Internet Connection
A lot of people don’t know this but as convenient and easy to use wireless connections are, they also happen to be insecure. While you may be wondering why that is the case, it’s mainly because wireless signals are broadcasted to everyone, however, if you are not using a password on your wireless connection, anyone can actually get in and do all sorts of malicious activities.
In case you are wondering the type of malicious activities that an outsider can perform while being connected to your wireless network, then think about losing control to your PC, and having someone else tinker with your files, and other similar things. Yes, certainly not a pretty sight.
Thankfully, almost all the modern wireless routers come with their own form of security, and even if you have a simple password on your wireless network, you’re more than secured. Just make sure that the password isn’t the default one, and isn’t as easy to guess.
Having your wireless connection secured is perhaps the smartest thing you can do. Last but not the least, you should keep in mind that some of the higher end routers come with advanced level of security, like extra level of encryption and even device monitoring that helps you tell what devices are being used. There are also some routers that can block access to certain users, something that can come really handy.
Last but not the least, there are several apps that are available allowing you to monitor the activity that’s going on your network connection, making the job of monitoring a whole lot easier.
The Amount of Bands You Need
When buying a wireless router, you need to educate yourself about the amount of bands that you get. In case you are wondering, the most common amount of band is 2, however, most modern routers are coming with 3 bands. For those who don’t know, this should explain the “dual” or “tri-band” feature that you see on some of the router boxes.
Now in case you are not aware of what having multiple bands mean, it basically means that the router has more than 1 radio operating in it. For the dual band routers, there are 2 radios actively working; one is a 2.4 gigahertz radio, and the other one is at 5.0 gigahertz.
The main difference between both these bands is speed and range, while the 2.4 gigahertz band has a longer range, the speed is comparatively slower, as for the 5.0 gigahertz band, the speed is higher, but the range is lower. Having a dual band router lets you set up 2 entirely different wireless networks, this allows a better traffic management in a place where there are many devices connect to the internet, because that way, you can simply make sure that some users can be transferred over to the other band.
In addition to that, you should also know that most dual band routers are only equipped with 1 radio that can switch between frequencies, these are comparatively cheaper because both bands can’t work at the same time. Now, in case you’re wondering about the more expensive tri-band routers, then those are the ones with 3 radios; one of them is the 2.4 gigahertz radio, the remaining two are the 5.0 gigahertz radios.
Now the tri-band routers are commonly available, however, there use case isn’t as common. For instance, they are only used in extremely crowded places, or in areas where there are a lot of devices that are connected to the internet at the same time.
For anyone who’s looking for a router for home used, a dual band router would be more than enough, and if you don’t have a lot of devices that constantly need internet connection, even a single band router will work just fine.
Is Quality of Service Really Important?
A lot of people have asked us the question about Quality of Service, this is something that is labeled on the boxes of most routers, and in addition to that, you can even find this in the router control panel. While it may seem like it has something to do with just how good your internet’s quality is, it’s not.
As a matter of fact, Quality of Service (QoS) is basically a set of mechanisms within the firmware of router that are responsible for reserving certain resources that are then used for different purposes. For instance, if you are someone who relies on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) a lot, by using QoS, you can prioritize the apps that use VoIP. This technically means that all the data flow that is being used by VoIP will be a priority.
While this makes no sense to the common user, but if someone decides to download something while you’re on call with someone, the speed won’t shift towards the downloading, and will remain consistent towards the call.
Similarly, QoS can also be used to optimize the internet connection for several different tasks, gamers can divert all the traffic to the game they are playing, this way even if there are other users on the network, the QoS will make sure that the game is getting all the necessary traffic it needs.
Needless to say, Quality of Service is slowly becoming one of the most important features that are available on the wireless routers.
Do You Need a USB Connection?
It’s safe to say that almost everyone is aware of the fact that the wireless routers come with USB ports on the back, and while some USB ports are for providing wirelessly printing capabilities, other USB ports actually allow the user to connect their external hard drive and actually turn the router into an NAS.
When buying a wireless router, you need to make sure whether or not you really need a USB port. Most routers come with a single USB 2.0 port, and then there are routers that come with a USB 3.0 port. However, there are also some routers that come with both USB 3.0 port as well as a USB 2.0 port.
Do keep in mind that wanting these ports in the router will basically increase the overall price tag of the router, so before you actually go ahead and buy a router with these ports, make sure you actually need them, otherwise you’re just wasting your money.
How Much Should You Spend?
In the last section, we are going to take a look at the amount of money you should actually spend in buying a wireless router. This is important to look at, and important to consider because a lot of routers that are available in the market are simply overkill for the network they are supposed to actually pair with.
That’s why we have prepared a list of some of the best routers that you can buy at the moment, the list will help you determine the actual worth of the router, and in addition to that, it will also help you knowing that the router you’re looking at is fully compatible with your network, and isn’t something that’ll just go to waste.
The reason this is important is because routers are priced very differently, you can find a router that costs just $50, and at the same time, there is a router that costs over $200. The large amount of prices can be really, really confusing for some of the people who are in the market looking for a good wireless router, and this is something that you should actually consider beforehand.
So, there you have it, folks! Buying a wireless router isn’t easy, especially if it is your first time buying one. However, if you’re smarty enough to go through the buying guide and our extensive list of the best wireless routers that are available in the market at the moment, you’re going to have a lot easier time than you may want to believe.
Simply make sure that the money you’re spending is on the features that you need, not the features that are being sold to you by the company. Making sure of this will only result in you having the best possible wireless router there is with all the necessary features there are.
You should also make sure that you do not compromise on the amount of security features, because security is something that’s never enough in wireless routers. This is all the important information that you need when buying a wireless router, we hope that the guide helps you pick out the best wireless router you want in the market.
In case we missed any out, feel free to let us know, and we will surely get back to you.