Choosing a Wireless Router

A wireless router is the most important component of your home network. It allows you to connect your home network to an Internet source. It also enables the devices connected to the home network to communicate wirelessly with one another, making it easier to exchange files and print documents.

As wireless technology continues to make headway, there are more and more options and features found in a wireless router than ever before. As a result, it has become more complicated to find a networking device that is suitable for your needs and budget.

Here are some tips for choosing a wireless router for your home networking needs:

Do You Need a Router?

While wireless routers are extremely useful devices, they aren’t meant for everyone. If your only requirement is to connect a single wired device, such as laptop or computer to the Internet, you don’t need a wireless router. On the other hand, if there are more devices that need to be connected or perhaps devices that can only be connected wirelessly, such as mobile phones and tablets, then investing in a wireless router makes sense.

Determine Your Needs

If you’re certain that you need a wireless router, you must find out how high-end you’re willing to go with the networking device. If your only requirement is to create a wireless network, you can easily get away with an economical device priced lower than $100 on the market. On the other hand, if you seek additional features, such as parental controls, network security, USB support and data sharing capability, you have to consider some of the premium routers that are more high-priced.

What Level of Network User are You?

For basic users who only want to browse the Web on a wireless network, a single-band router is a good performer. It also offers the additional benefit of being the only touchscreen router on the market that can be configured and connected to the Internet from the router without the need to connect to a computer.

On the other hand, a heavy-duty gamer, a small home business or a multimedia enthusiast may require more powerful capabilities, such as Netgear’s Nighthawk, Asus Dual-band AC1750 or Buffalo’s AirStation Extreme AC1750.

Single Band or Dual Band?

Bands are an important term in the world of routers. Bands are the frequencies in which the wireless communications operate.

802.11 B and G devices only support 2.4GHz band whereas the 802.11N supports both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz band. The 802.11ac only features the 5GHz band.

While a single band, 2.4GHz router is suitable for simple wireless networking, dual-band routers operate on both frequencies and offer greater support.

A benefit of having the 5GHz band support is its less crowded environment compared to the 2.4GHz band, making the former better suited for home networking tasks, such as file sharing and gaming. The only downside is that very few wireless clients (smartphones, laptops etc.) support the 5GHz band.

When choosing a single band or dual band router, you must also note that some clients only support a particular band. It helps to review the band(s) supported by the clients you will be connecting to your wireless network.

Bandwidth

These three or four digit numbers are commonly listed on the router box. They indicate the maximum speed that a router is capable of delivering. However, the actual speed that the router delivers is lower than these speeds owing to interference and channel overlap. Some of the high-end routers are capable of delivering up to 1750Mbps and 1900Mbps speeds. However, this does not make your Internet connection any faster. A fast router speed only enhances the network performance, file streaming, and other capabilities that are executed by the router.

Security Features

WPA2 is the highest level of security offered in wireless routers. Look for a router that gives this kind of support.

If you have children, you may consider a router with parental control features. Several routers from Asus, Nighthawk and other leading manufacturers offer these capabilities.

Gigabit or not?

The wired ports of a router are either Gigabit Ethernet ports or regular Ethernet ports. A gigabit port is up to 10 times faster than a standard port.

USB Ports

Modern routers generally come with USB support. In some routers, there are even two USB ports. USB3.0 has also been incorporated into modern wireless routers. These are helpful for sharing your USB printer with devices on the network, allowing multiple computers to print wirelessly from the printer. With two USB ports, you can connect the router to a printer as well as an external hard disk. The latter allows you to share data.