These days we find ourselves with more connected Internet devices around the house than we can count. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop, streaming video device, gaming console or Blu-ray player, everything is competing for a fast connection to your wireless router. So choosing the right router is important. But not always easy. We’ll help decode the technical jargon and look at some new features that are worth considering if you’re in the market for a new wireless router that’s both speedy and affordable.
What do all of these letters mean?
One of the most basic differences among wireless routers is the wireless protocol that it supports. If what you want is a fast Wi-Fi connection, there are two types of wireless protocols you should consider:
- Wireless-AC (also known as 802.11 ac): Ideal for gamers to enjoy 4K video content or future-proofing your router for several years.
- Wireless-N (also known as 802.11 n): Minimum speed for a family with multiple Internet users.
You might find some routers that support both faster protocols like N or AC as well as older, slower ones like G or even B. The main issue with Wireless-G (and B) is that it operates at the 2.4GHz range. That range is used by more than just wireless routers and, as a result, it suffer from interference issues. All of which means slower Wi-Fi speeds for you.
Dual-bands are better than one
Remember how we just talked about the 2.4 GHz range being overused and slowing down your Wi-Fi? Dual band routers, which operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz can help solve that issue. So if you want to ensure a quick and reliable Wi-Fi connection, you absolutely want to check dual-band off your list.
Antenna advancements & beamforming
In addition to using a second band, you can also improve the reliability of your wireless network by choosing a router with more than one antenna. Antennas are responsible for actually sending the signal out from your router, so more antennas can mean greater coverage. This multi-antenna approach began with Wireless-N and has very much carried over into Wireless-AC. Some routers sport upwards of a dozen antennas.
Antennas work along with another recent advancement called beamforming. Older routers were designed to broadcast a signal equally in all directions. But Wireless-AC routers use beamforming to target the signal at devices that are accessing the network. The results are greater range and speeds. If you have devices spread out all over your house, a Wireless-AC router is going to do the best job of keeping them all running quickly.
Google OnHub router shapes a new way
One interesting new player in the wireless router space is Google. Just recently it released the OnHub Router, which checks all the boxes we’ve already looked at, along with a few others. It offers dual-band Wireless-AC, has 13 antennas in an innovative circular array, features easy to use software and performs security updates automatically. One of the other benefits of the OnHub is that it looks good enough that you won’t feel the need to hide it in a closet or out of sight, which means better a better signal throughout the home.
Low on cost, high on features
If you’re looking for some great high-end features, without the OnHub price tag, check out the range of Wireless-AC options that come in well under $80. Or drop down to Wireless-N to find routers available for less than $50. But give that step up to Wireless-AC some serious consideration; it offers many advantages today and as you upgrade other devices around the house, it will only get better.
There are wireless routers of all shapes, sizes and prices available. If you start by figuring out your Wi-Fi connectivity needs, you’ll be in a good position to choose a wireless router that delivers the speed and reliability you need at the price you want.