It might be challenging for many non-IT and non-technical people to understand the technicalities of choosing the right router for their needs.
And unfortunately, it gets even more complicated to justify the price you pay when you have little or no idea about the quality of your router.
Table of Contents
- Importance of a Good Quality Router And Internet
- Simplifying the Router Jargon
- What Do the Frequency Bands Mean?
- Which Band to Go For?
- What Are the Different Types of Routers Available?
- Wired or Wireless Routers: Which One Should You Go For?
- What Are The Important Aspects of Choosing a Wireless Router?
- Top Routers to Buy and Where to Get Them
Importance of a Good Quality Router And Internet
A high-quality router is essential for your modern-day computing and internet needs that are dependable and quick to access.
There has been a major surge in remote employment, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. So, excellent internet connectivity is a crucial aspect of nearly every industry.
As per a 2021 report by Statista, more than 90% of people in the United States heavily rely on the Internet for daily communication and business. Therefore, a first-rate router and a reliable internet connection are not optional.
We have compiled the tips to guide you through buying a good router. The article also lists the top places to buy a new router. So, we have consolidated all the information for you in this write-up.
Let us dive right into the details!
Simplifying the Router Jargon
Your router is a piece of hardware that converts a non-wireless internet connection from a modem into a wireless one. Any wi-fi-enabled device close to your router can utilize this wireless connection to connect to the Internet.
The dedicated set of transmission parameters supports many different Wi-Fi protocols. Multiple Wi-Fi versions, such as Wi-Fi version 4, Wi-Fi version 5, Wi-Fi version 6 or 6E, and so on, are available.
It is advisable to have at least the Wi-Fi version 5 for seamless modern-day networking. But remember that all your working devices must be compatible with your router standard.
Therefore, the more advanced your Wi-Fi version, the better for superior performance, compatibility, and efficiency.
What Do the Frequency Bands Mean?
Wi-Fi bands such as 2.4GHz and 5 GHz correspond to different radio wavelengths.
These radio wavelengths determine your router’s internet connection speed and range. If your Wi-Fi router operates at 5 GHz, it covers a shorter range than 2.4 GHz but has faster data transfer rates.
So, if you want a decent internet connection covering a larger area and are open to compromise on the speed, you can opt for the 2.4GHz operating frequency band.
However, if you are struggling with congested networks and looking to set up a super high-speed internet connection at home or any small indoor space, investing in a wireless transmission at 5 GHz would make much more sense.
Your router will ideally come with the dual-band option to help you choose and set one of the above bandwidth alternatives. The 5GHz broadcast band offers internet speeds of up to 1300 Mbps, and the 2.5 GHz band supports 300 Mbps at the max.
Which Band to Go For?
The best part about present-day routers is that you can switch between dual-band or tri-band broadcasting according to your requirements. It means you reap the advantages of multiple Wi-Fi networks from a single router.
The selectable dual-band lets you pick one operating frequency at a time, which is either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
However, in the case of a simultaneous dual-band router, you can utilize two separate Wi-Fi networks at the same time. It’s slightly more pricey compared to the selectable dual-band router.
Suppose your work involves heavy usage of high-speed Internet and several wireless devices. In that case, using a tri-band router for three separate and simultaneously functioning networks is best.
It consists of one 2.4 GHz signal and two 5 GHz signals to cut down on network congestion, eliminate dropped connections and provide you with top-quality Internet usually needed for high-resolution online video gaming.
Please note that even though your ISP-supplied router is the most convenient option. But it likely needs more performance and reliability than a modern router with much higher functionality.
What Are the Different Types of Routers Available?
There are primarily two major types of routers – wired and wireless.
A small-duty router typically caters to internet connectivity for small businesses and compact households. The wireless router relies on antennas to establish wireless LANs for data transfer. Their wired counterparts do so via cables.
These could be wired or wireless and are considered one of the most high-performance routers. They only forward data packets inside a single network. But these routers can be brilliant at fulfilling your bulk data transmission requirements.
Core routers are perfect for large enterprises as they can provide maximum bandwidth and connect to more routers or switches in the hierarchy.
Edge routers are situated at the furthest reaches of data networks. These routers are designed to forward packets of data between multiple networks. So, they work to establish connections with external networks frequently.
Edge routers ensure that your network remains compatible with all other surrounding networks.
You could install an edge router in your company or organization to connect an internal network to the cloud or the Internet.
A mesh router is an alternative to the standard router that uses numerous devices to distribute internet access across a major central point for connecting wired and wireless networks. And also for controlling data transmission/reception through Wi-Fi.
In some cases, a mesh system can be dependable, as it can provide superior speeds and wireless connectivity across a decently sized area. The overall system is easy to modify, so scalability is not an issue. And it may also cost less than a traditional router.
Virtual routers are software programs that transform servers and PCs to function like routers. These routers score a solid 10 on 10 for being super adaptable because of their high scalability.
Virtual routers can help you quickly integrate individual remote branch offices of your organization into the main network.
Trivia: Do You Know This?
Some technical terms in networking can be confusing. Have you heard of Sip and Gulp routers, also known as Sipper and Gulper routers?
When referring to a router’s speed and range, the words “sip” and “gulp” are often used.
Gulp routers should be used if you are looking for a medium to long-range in huge architectural structures where your signal is bound to get obstructed due to too many walls or physical barriers.
Proximity is ideal for using a VOIP or a Sip router. This router is perfect for private setups and compact dwellings.
Wired or Wireless Routers: Which One Should You Go For?
A wired router is more conventionally used, but wireless routers are also becoming popular due to their performance, ease of use, and installation.
A wired router connects to a modem via a DSL or Ethernet port to access an ISP (Internet Service Provider). The line is hardwired to a single machine, but it can be shared easily among all networked devices, thanks to the router.
On the other hand, a wireless router relies on wireless communication between the ISP and the router and any wireless device that connects to it for internet connectivity. It facilitates simple access to the network for multiple users with the use of a password.
But the question to be addressed now is which router you should select. Consider a few parameters before finalizing your router type.
It’s extremely important to protect all your online communications. Wireless communication could be hacked or intercepted. That makes the wired router option relatively safer.
However, what matters, even more is the firewall. Therefore, a well-configured firewall is advisable to protect your online communications.
When weighing the pros and cons of wireless versus wired routers, it is crucial to consider installation and configuration.
A wireless network card or WLAN with a centrally placed access point is recommended for wireless routers to ensure that all of your wireless devices are seamlessly connected.
However, in the case of the installation of a wired router, an Ethernet cable must be used. It may result in a maze of wires squeezed up in a small space, causing comparatively more hassle during installation.
Wire-based or cable routers usually outperform their wireless counterparts in stability, reliability, and speed.
There is more stability because all the different components are physically connected. On the other hand, wireless connections are prone to signal weakening as the signal’s strength depends on the distance from the main access point.
The farther your device is from the access point, the more your signal attenuates, affecting your connectivity.
Your choice of a router eventually boils down to the network quality provided by your ISP. Wired routers work for enterprises that require constant online access. You can use a wireless router if your home network is basic.
The transfer rate, the bandwidth you need, and your nature of work are additional things to consider before you zero in on your go-to router type.
If you ever decide to opt for a wireless router, remember the following points that will help you pick the right Wi-Fi router.
What Are The Important Aspects of Choosing a Wireless Router?
As mentioned, a wireless router will only be as fast as your internet connection. So, be sure to contact your ISP first in case of speed-related issues.
From the point of view of functionality, here are some commonly vetted features to consider:
Most modern wireless routers support WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryptions protocols. WPA and WPA2 are the latest ones and ensure higher security. To include an extra-added layer of protection, you can also choose a wireless router that lets you set different limits for different users at different times.
The typical “AC” router provides speeds up to 1 Gbps. The “B” routers provide the slowest speed, with average speeds of roughly 10 to 11 Mbps, which is too low.
The “N” routers have a maximum throughput of about 300 Mbps, and the standard “G” version routers top out at around 50 to 54 Mbps.
Please note that these letters denote the generations of the different routers. The newest one goes by “ax,” also called Wi-Fi 6.
So, evaluate your speed requirements and make the right choice.
Wi-Fi uses two major frequencies for its communications – 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz
Single-band versions can only function on one frequency band at a time. On the other hand, dual-band routers include two different kinds of wireless radios to allow for connections on either band as required.
The tri-band variant provides two separate 5 GHz and one 2.4 GHz band connection for the highest possible throughput across many devices. And the most advanced tri-band or dual-band router models let you automatically switch between bands for optimal performance.
The Ethernet switches in use set the number of computers that may be linked to a company network. The Ethernet ports your router has to connect to a switch should also be considered when choosing your go-to wireless router.
Your router must have at least one WAN port to access the Internet. Your router should have LAN or Ethernet ports to ensure faster data transfer and sharing between connected devices.
It would help if you also considered getting a router with several ports to use an Ethernet switch or hub.
Lastly, if you plan on using Bluetooth devices in conjunction with your wireless network, check if your router model has Bluetooth connectivity.
Top Routers to Buy and Where to Get Them
These are the top 5 Wi-Fi routers you can invest in, in the long run:
- NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System
- Asus RT-AX88U router
- Google Nest Wi-Fi router
- NETGEAR Nighthawk AXE11000 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E router
- Eero 6 AX1800 Dual-band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
Walmart, Amazon, BestBuy, and Netgear are some of the best places to shop for these routers.
Walmart is the best and has many popular router brands to cater to your internet access needs.
TP-LINK, D-Link, NETGEAR, TRENDnet, and many more brands are easily available, along with valuable input from previous customers.
They also clearly categorize routers based on speed, coverage, and other important parameters to help you make the right decision. What is great is that you can even save on Walmart by purchasing through the site.
You can also pick your router based on pick-up, delivery, and quick shipping options provided by Walmart.
It’s another amazing e-commerce giant to help you with buying a router.
Amazon also offers a wide selection of top brands of routers with multiple discounts, delivery options, and 30-day returns. You can easily compare routers of different brands based on the site’s reviews and brief product descriptions.
If you want your router shopping to be much more streamlined, you can trust Amazon.
BestBuy is a great platform showcasing all the top-rated routers in the US. You get the option to either buy online for home delivery or in-store pick-up.
The website offers good deals, fair price matches, and a transparent, hassle-free return policy to ensure you are satisfied with your purchases. It provides industry-standard security for online transactions, just like Amazon and Walmart.
However, a good rule of thumb when shopping routers online is to verify the retailers. It is always recommended to buy from the popular ones. A good starting point would be to assess the kind of reviews the listing receives.
Additionally, you also have the option to shop from individual company websites such as NETGEAR, Dell, Linksys, Asus, and TP-Link.
Finally, here are things to consider to simplify the buying process:
- Finalize your router needs to freeze your budget – higher bandwidth will demand a higher budget
- Check your router’s compatibility with your ISP
- Always buy a router that supports the most recent wireless protocol for premium quality range and adequate throughput
- Check if your router supports beamforming and MU-MIMO for superior connectivity
- Leave room for investment in Wi-Fi extenders or a mesh Wi-Fi system to up your internet connection game
I have provided an extensive guide on routers and the top places to buy them in this article. The information will help you finalize the router you have wanted to buy all this while.
Let us know what you think about these tips in the comments section.
Chris loves technology, specifically smart home technology! With both hands-on and executive leadership experience in his corporate career, Chris stays abreast of emerging technology and solutions and immerses himself in BCCA when not in the office.