Buying a good router has become quite a daunting task given that there are many options on the market today. It’s even more difficult for buyers looking to buy their first router.
Take all the jargon you find in the box. What does all this mean? Are you wondering “What features of the wireless router do I really need?”
This buying guide will tell you what to look for in a Wi-Fi router, including its features and specifications.
By looking at the box, users can find terms like AC1200, AC1900, and AC3200. What do these combinations of letters and numbers mean?
These are networking standards. In short, they need to tell consumers how fast your connection can work. AC1200 means 1200Mbps; AC1900 gives 1900 Mbps; etc. The higher the number, the more bandwidth it can support.
So you think that going higher is better, right? Not certainly in that way.
First, real-world conditions will not bring you closer to the advertised bandwidth. Most of the plans are limited to 1 Gbps. Secondly, 1200 Mbps is more than enough to download a movie in 30 seconds.
Finally, the stated speed is mostly theoretical at the moment. This does not really refer to the actual speed, but to the maximum speed that can be achieved at each frequency (more on this later).
If you buy an AC1200 router or higher / newer, you will be fine.
There are three types of router wireless bands (AKA frequency bands): single-band, dual-band, and tri-band.
Here’s a quick answer: the more ranges, the better. But in reality, the reasonable answer is a little more nuanced. Why? Because a tri-band router is overkill in most cases.
Wi-Fi Frequency Range
Here’s a quick rundown of how internet routers work. The Wi-Fi signal spreads over the 2.4 GHz frequency. Most routers can transmit this frequency over a channel and are called single-band routers.
But modern routers can provide Internet on two frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Routers that can carry two frequencies are classified as dual-band.
Tri-band routers use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, but can transmit the latter on two frequencies.
Internet Frequency and Speed ??
Pressing more than one frequency increases the speed. Imagine that you live in an apartment where all residents use the same 2.4 GHz frequency. All of your Wi-Fi signals are bound to cross each other. This affects the speed at which your devices receive data.
But if you’re using a 5GHz connection, you’re eliminating the competition by moving from their frequency to something higher.
So why doesn’t everyone buy dual- or tri-band routers? Because not all devices can receive 5 GHz signals. For example, some phones cannot use the maximum 5 GHz frequency like the iPhone 3G or 3Gs.
What to choose?
This will depend on what you need. Here’s a quick comparison of the three options.
- Single-lane is the most affordable. It is compatible with most devices. But every minute it gets outdated. Most people operate on this frequency, so expect some interference.
- Dual Band is much more flexible than Single Band. Newer devices have connectivity up to 5 GHz. Provides you with more bandwidth, but they are much more expensive than single band routers.
- Tri-band – Choice of three frequencies. They are expensive, especially for home users. But if your family has a lot of power users and is consuming a lot of traffic, this might be for you.
A dual band router should be sufficient for the average user.
You need a router with a USB port. This is useful when connecting devices such as printers and hard drives to the network.
You should aim for a USB 3.0 router for faster transfer speeds.
Most modern routers have a companion app that lets you manage your router settings without connecting directly. Since each manufacturer has a different approach to apps, it’s best to research which ones you like best.
Just remember that most of these apps will only work if you are online. If you want to connect to the network remotely, you will need a router with built-in functionality.
So our advice is to look for a companion app with important features like changing WiFi name and password.