5 Features You Need To Consider When Buying Your Router in 2015 - 2016



It's hard to imagine but just 15 years ago, if we wanted an Internet connection, only wired connections were available. This meant we couldn't stray too far from the telephone socket or cable point, unless you had a really long wire of course! All this changed with the introduction of the router allowing devices to use radio communication.


Routers are literally the hub of your home network, directing traffic and ensuring all your connected devices like your PC, laptops, smartphones and nowadays even your TV (if its a SmartTV) can communicate with each other as well as the Internet. As you can see from the table below, we've come a long way from 1999.




Cable companies usually charge a rental fee for their modems but throw in a router rental for "free". From our own experience and people we've helped, the quality and specs of these routers leave a lot to be desired. Oftentimes, the administrator panel of these rented routers have been locked by the ISP, preventing you from doing your own configuration.

For faster Internet speeds and also the option to configure your own home network, we strongly recommend buying your own router instead of renting one. With that said, there are many features you need to consider before buying your router and this guide will help you choose the best router for your needs.  

Most Important Considerations

While there are many considerations to make when purchasing your router, the two most important are the router's wireless speed and it's wireless range.

Wireless Speed

Wireless-AC, the current cutting edge WiFi standard is around 5 times faster than the previous standard, Wireless-N. If you're streaming HD movies or doing some hardcore gaming then a Wireless-AC router would be right for you. 

Do note that while Wireless-AC is capable of these speeds, you will be limited by the plan you have subscribed from your Internet Service Provider. 

Wireless Range

The different wireless standards have different maximum ranges. Wireless G had a range of 170 feet with a throughput of 54 Mbps. Wireless-N then extended the range to 230 feet, with a throughput of 600 Mbps. Wireless-AC has the same range as Wireless-N, but with 5x the throughput at up to 3,200 Mbps.

Wireless  Standard
Distance
Wireless B
150 feet
Wireless G
170 feet
Wireless N
230 feet
Wireless AC
230 feet

Take note that these are theoretical maximums and the range in actual use is impacted by interference from other radio signals and obstructions like walls.

Other Features To Look Out For:

While the wireless speed and wireless range are the two most important features to consider when buying your router, there are a couple of other features that you should take note of, including Gigabit Ethernet ports, dual-band connectivity and Beamforming.

Gigabit Ethernet Ports

One of the things you'll see on every router description page is it's Ethernet port speed. A router that is capable of 10/100/1000 means that each Ethernet port supports transmission speeds of either 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps or 1000 Mbps and will automatically switch to the appropriate speed when a device is plugged in. The 10/100/1000 Ethernet port is also known as a Gigabit Ethernet port.

Source: Diffen.com

So why are Ethernet port speeds important? Simply put, the Ethernet port speed is the maximum rate of data transmission between your modem and router as shown in the diagram above. Let's say you have a 300 Mbps plan from your Internet Service Provider and a DOCSIS 3.0 modem capable of 320 Mbps but a router that only has 10/100 Ethernet ports. In this case, your Internet speeds will be close to 100 Mbps because the bottleneck is the data transmission between your modem and router.

You would think that with speed capabilities faster than 100 Mbps, all Wireless AC routers would come with Gigabit Ethernet ports but that's not the case so do make sure to check. 
  

Dual band connectivity

Most of the routers available today are either single-band or dual-band. Single-band routers operate only on the 2.4 GHz frequency while dual-band while dual-band routers can operate on both the 2.4 GHz frequency as well as the 5 GHz frequency. With many devices broadcasting on the 2.4 GHz frequency, it can get congested if you want to use bandwidth heavy applications like HD streaming and gaming. 


On a dual-band router, the 2.4 GHz frequency is reserved for less data intensive applications like email and Internet browsing, while HD streaming and gaming is done on the 5 GHz frequency. This ensures that neither frequency is overloaded. 

Be sure to check that the router you intend to purchase is able to concurrently transmit in both bands. Some "dual-band" routers are actually just single-band routers that allow you to switch between the two frequencies. This is just silly - how many people have only 5 GHz devices?   

Beamforming

Source: Netgear

Beamforming is an exciting technology that is included with many (but not all) of the newer Wireless AC routers. Routers that don't have beamforming would broadcast their signal in every direction evenly, hoping to reach any device in the area. A beamforming capable router however, aims and concentrates it's signal on a beamforming capable device. 

This helps to reduce bandwidth wastage and improve the quality of data-intensive programs like VoIP, streaming and gaming. Important to note that you would need a beamforming capable laptop, PC or smartphone in order to take advantage.

Conclusion

Wireless AC is fast becoming the standard for routers, replacing previous outdated standards like the Wireless G and even the newer Wireless N. As Internet speeds become faster, you need a router that can take advantage of the improved speeds. We hope this guide will be a good reference when you're purchasing your new router!

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What Is The Difference Between A Modem And A Router?

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