When you get a broadband connection, your ISP normally provides you a router to go with it. You normally have to pay a monthly fee for it and the router is usually good enough to meet basic home needs however, a lot of people prefer to use their own router. For one, it adds a bit of extra security but if you have a good router, you can get better, more stable internet speed and better coverage in your home or apartment. Here’s what you need to consider when you choose a router for your home network needs.
Router speed is one of the main things advertised on the box of whatever router it is you buy. Since this is advertising, it’s a mix of truths and half-truths. As a user, you may be tempted to buy whichever router advertises the fastest speed but not only will it be expensive, it may be more than what you need.
There are two things you need to know about a router’s speed; one, the speed that’s advertised is not real. It’s a theorized speed that may be the sum of speeds that the router can deliver across the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands.
Your router can’t give your faster internet if your ISP doesn’t offer it. This means that if your router promises 1Gb speed, but your ISP only provides 20Mbps, then the router isn’t going to make much difference.
To determine what speed you can actually expect from a router, look for labels that read AC1200, AC1750, AC3200, etc. Google what speeds routers on this standard normally offer before you buy a router. For home use, get a dual-band router that supports 802.11ac.
Not all routers have antennas and if you plan on covering a large area, you should look into one that does have an antenna or two. With routers, you want a powerful antenna. A router may come with an internal antenna which cannot be replaced or it may come with one, two, or four antennas that you can replace with more powerful ones. If you don’t plan on using WiFi extenders in your home, make sure your router has a good, powerful antenna.
Beamforming is a router feature that can concentrate, or focus the signal from the router towards a specific device. If the layout of your home is such that the signal cannot distribute evenly, you might want to buy a router that offers Beamforming. This is a feature you mostly find on more high-end routers so try and optimize the location for your router if you can or you might have to pay more for a more capable device.
USB ports can be used to connect devices like network enabled printers to your WiFi network. This isn’t a feature that everyone needs however if you have devices that can only connect to the internet via a USB port on a router, make sure you buy the right one. Routers generally have a few LAN ports but not all of them have USB ports.
If you have a lot of IoT devices, you should look into getting a router that supports WPS. WPS i.e., Wireless Protected Setup allows devices that have no screen and no input panel to connect to the router.
You can manage your router’s settings by accessing it from a desktop browser. This means you cannot manage it from a tablet or smartphone. If you often have to change your router’s settings, or would like to be able to do it form a mobile device, check to see if your router has an app for your smartphone.
Check your router’s range and match it with the area you want to cover. If you’re looking to cover a particularly large area, one router alone may not be enough. That said, it’s still a good idea to know what a router’s range is and whether or not you may need extenders. This may not seem like a big deal but it’s either this or having no coverage in certain areas which is never fun.
The WiFi router brand does matter but if you’re torn between a Linksys router or a Netgear router, you’d have to dig deep into its features to figure out which is better. For home use, either one is good. You can also get Google’s branded routers though they’re not available everywhere. The point is, for home use, you don’t need to go splurging but that doesn’t mean you buy from any old brand. Make sure the brand is reliable, offers some support online, and has a warranty and refund policy.