Wireless Network / WiFi Router Buying Guide
Wireless routers enable you to log on to your home or office broadband network without being directly connected to an Ethernet port. Whether it's a PC, laptop, games console or a multitude of other devices, a Wi-Fi router can ensure everyone is able to access the internet whenever and wherever they are.
1. What does a Wi-Fi router do?
A wireless router is the hub of your home or office network. It allows you to share your broadband Internet with multiple devices such as PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers and more. Some devices can connect via "hard wired" Ethernet connections directly into the router and others will be able to connect using wireless or "Wi-Fi" that will enable you to move freely throughout your home or office, whilst maintaining a connection to your internet and network.
2. Wireless Standards
Wireless network routers come in various standards and speeds. The most current wireless standard is called 802.11ac or more simply Wireless AC. This standard is now replacing the older 802.11n (Wireless N) standard that has been used in most routers and devices for the past 5+ years.
Wireless AC is capable of much faster speeds and can provide better Wi-Fi range around your home or office whilst allowing you to connect multiple devices and enjoy a fast and stable internet connection.
It is advised to look for a wireless router that is using the latest Wireless AC technology in order to support the needs of any modern home or office environment.
3. Wi-Fi Bands and Speeds
In order to connect to your wireless enabled devices, Wi-Fi routers transmit information through a radio frequency or "band". Basic routers, N300 for example, use only a single band that is transmitted using the 2.4GHz radio frequency. Most modern routers will be either "Dual Band" or "Tri Band" meaning that they have either one or two extra bands that also transmit on the 5GHz frequency simultaneously. Having multiple simultaneous bands available on your Wi-Fi network allows more devices to connect at once and also allows for much greater data transmission speeds.
For example, you could use the 2.4GHz band on your router for general web surfing on your laptop or tablet whilst using your 5GHz band to connect your media player to enjoy a movie from an internet streaming service on your main TV.
The extra bands on a router also relate to the Wi-Fi transmission speeds of data around your network. For example, an AC1200 wireless router is capable of transmitting up to 300 Mbps (Megabits per second) on the 2.4GHz band and up to 900 Mbps on the 5GHz band. As these two bands are operating simultaneously the router is theoretically capable of transmitting data at 1200 Mbps total.
This speed capability is important to consider based on your needs, certain activities such as media streaming, gaming, video calls etc. can place a large demand on your network and it is important you have the right product to handle all of these things without suffering from lag, drop outs or buffering.
4. Security Features
It is important to ensure that your network is secured sufficiently so that no one other than authorised users can access your internet connection and/or any computers that may be connected.
All modern wireless routers will come with pre-configured wireless security using the very latest WPA2 encryption standards. During the setup procedure you will be given the option to either use default security settings and a pre-defined Wi-Fi password or change this to something that is easier to remember.
It is important that you choose a Wi-Fi password that is not too simple and easy to guess. Many routers also have extra security features such as guest networks that allow you to give someone a separate password to connect to your internet without being able to access your network as a whole.
There are also website filtering and basic parental controls available on some routers.
5. Router setup and installation
Most routers are designed to be set-up quickly and easily, with detailed manufacturers' instructions outlining a step-by-step process. There will be certain factors to keep in mind though, such as the best location for the router and which device you want to connect directly to the router through the Ethernet port. If you encounter any problems, most devices will have a troubleshooting guide that can help you and/or technical support available via phone or support website. Always check with the manufacturers support services as this will usually be the quickest and easiest way to resolve any problem.