Useful Tips on Buying a Wireless Router

by Aeyne Schriber on May 10, 2011 in Router

If you are seeking to eliminate the number of wires in your home office and want to provide yourself with more mobility and the freedom to access the Internet anywhere you like, then a wireless router is a necessity for building your home wireless network.  A wireless router basically acts as the central hub to a wireless network and allows multiple devices with wireless capability to connect to the Internet simultaneously.  Here are a few things you should look for when buying a wireless router:

The IEEE Standard

The first thing you should be aware of when buying a wireless router is the IEEE standard.  This is a standard that is set forth by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers which identifies the official standard in which manufacturers must comply.  The reason this is significant is because there are different standards which determine the speed of data transfer which is essentially the speed at which your Internet connection will work.

The official standard is 802.11 however the letter that follows this number will determine the Internet speed that your router is capable of delivering.  802.11g is slower than the most recent wireless standard of 802.11n so if your intended purpose is to use a lot of streaming video or VoIP (Voice over IP) applications then you will benefit more from purchasing a wireless router that can handle 802.11n.  On the other hand, if you use the Internet just to check your email and do some light browsing then you will be okay with using 802.11g.

What’s the difference?  Well, since 802.11n is up to five times faster than 802.11g wireless routers that are equipped with this new technology are capable of handling 200Mbps (megabits per second) or more which means the router is capable of handling some of the newer applications such as Internet TV and other applications that require high speed Internet to function properly.

It is also important to note that your wireless router should not go beyond the speed that is provided by your Internet Service Provider and your modem.  If your wireless router has a modem built into the unit then this should not present a problem, otherwise you must connect the router to an Ethernet cable and the connection quality will have an effect on the maximum speed of your Internet connection.

802.11g vs. 802.11n

If you are riding on the fence between 802.11g or 802.11n here are a few more details that will help you to make an informed decision.

In addition to wireless-n (802.11n) being faster than wireless-g (802.11g), a wireless router that is designed for 802.11n connectivity also has a significantly longer range which means you can still have a high rate of data transfer when you are trying to connect from a longer distance within your household.  This is mostly due to the MIMO capability of the router which means multiple input and multiple output.

MIMO capability utilizes more than one antenna and offers updated technology that helps to improve the speed of your Internet connection and the range of the signal access including improving the signal through barriers such as the walls of your house and doorways.  This makes accessing WiFi in your home more convenient especially if you are using it for multimedia applications, gaming, or Internet TV.

802.11n technology is also capable of adapting to devices that are designed to accept 802.11g however, it is important to note that if you combine the two technologies this may slow down the speed of your Internet connection instead of enhancing it.  It is also not a good idea to use 802.11n with old devices in an effort to improve the speed of your home network.

Finally, 802.11n connectivity in wireless routers is more expensive however if it provides services you would otherwise not receive with 802.11g and you are in need of faster connectivity then in the long run 802.11n is a better bet.  It is also important to mention that the less expensive wireless routers that sell for under $50 are known for dropping the connection so when you purchase a wireless router with 802.11n you will get what you pay for.

Considerations for Selection

When purchasing a wireless router here is a quick checklist of personal needs you should consider before you commit to a selection.

  • Existing Equipment: If you plan to hold on to your existing network equipment that is reliable and in good working order then you will need to consider a wireless router that is compatible with your current configuration
  • Internet Access Needs: If you are an avid gamer or you use other multimedia applications on a frequent basis 802.11n will suit your needs better than 802.11g. Especially if your home is designed in a way that there are multiple rooms that are separated by a significant distance.
  • Exaggerated Claims by Manufacturers: Many of the major reviewers of wireless routers will tell you that the manufacturer’s tend to inflate their claims, some of which can be as much as a 50 percent inflation of router effectiveness.  The idea behind these claims is that you will purchase the extra equipment from the manufacturer that will extend the range of the wireless signal in your home.
  • Devices Connected to the Network: If you have a household of multiple users then you should also consider the needs of each device that connects to the network.  All devices in your household require having the necessary components to achieve wireless connectivity such as a wireless Internet card installed either externally or internally so these devices can receive the signal from the wireless router.

Hopefully this information will help you to feel more confident about buying a wireless router that can accommodate your needs.  The more you know about wireless connectivity the better informed decision you can make that will meet your needs and get you the most for your dollar when you decide to purchase a wireless router.

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