Choosing the Right Wireless Router

As more people use broadband Internet and wireless devices becoming ever more pervasive, it makes sense for almost everyone to own a wireless router. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to choose the best router because every home and network is different. Even so, learning a few basic points will help in choosing the right wireless router for your home.

Understanding your needs

Start by planning how you will use the router. The first consideration is physical location. Larger areas with more walls will require a router with more transmitting power. The second consideration is traffic on the router. For an average Internet user -- or even family of users -- the least-expensive router should be able to handle the traffic. Even if you move a lot of large files between computers, you're likely to see only a slowdown in transmission speeds.

It is also important to consider your current network. If you're replacing a wired router, make certain the wireless router has enough wired connections to serve your needs and connect seamlessly with your devices. Most of the time there should be no problems, but if you're using old devices there can be rare questions of backwards compatibility.

Speed

Router speed is one of the key measurements. Speed is generally rated in Mbps, or megabytes per second. This is the maximum amount of data that can pass through the router. The higher this is the better, but unless you're moving data between computers on the same network, there is no value in the speed rating being faster than your Internet connection, because the Internet connection would then be the bottleneck. So don't pay a lot extra for capacity you won't use.

Signal band

When looking at Wi-Fi signal strength, you'll have to consider the question of band. Band is important because of two factors: range and signal competition. There are two bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHZ. Of the two bands, 2.4 GHz is generally going to reach farther, but is also used on more devices, meaning it is more likely to have interference than the 5 GHz unit. If you're not certain, dual band routers can use both, but they do cost a bit more.

Professional reviews

One danger when buying a wireless router is giving too much weight to customer reviews. The difficulty is that the placement of a wireless router and Internet connection has a huge effect on how the router works. Instead, you should visit professional review sites that test routers under controlled circumstances. These reviews will also make clear what special features the router may have.

For the average consumer, nearly any wireless router should work. Nearly all new routers support older devices. They are also generally easy to set up and cost about $60. But while for most people the choosing the right wireless router means picking up the least-expensive model and putting it in a good central location, those with a lot of space or heavy network traffic may need to look more carefully at a better router or a network extender.

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