How to Buy a Wireless Router
Hookup to High-Speed Internet at Home
Routers allow computer and Game console to share internet
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• How to buy a wireless router
Routers - How to Buy
How to Buy a Wireless Router
A wireless router lets your computer connect to the internet. If you want to do this without Ethernet cables, a wireless router is a must. All wireless routers offer some degree of wired connectivity.
A single home user who just wants to Web surf doesn't need the same kind of router as a small business. A single-band router like the Cisco Valet Plus is a basic, decent performer that would suit the needs of anyone looking for simple Wi-Fi connectivity. By contrast, the D-Link Xtreme N Duo Media Router has power-user features such as Traffic Prioritizing; Virtual Servers and UPnP support.
Radio Frequencies - Communications without wires
The 2.4- and 5- GHz bands are the frequencies in which wireless communications operate. 802.11 B and G standard devices use the 2.4 GHz band, while 802.11N can use either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. A single-band, 2.4-GHz router, like the Asus RT-N11 EZ Wireless-N Router is geared toward simple wireless networks. On the other hand, a dual-band router like the Cisco Linksys E2000 Advanced Wireless-N supports both 2.4- and 5-GHz frequencies. The 5-GHz band is better equipped for throughput-intensive work within your home network such as gaming and file streaming.
Wireless routers adhere to a set of standards so devices will work somewhat together. These standards are upgraded as technology advances. For an explanation, see Wireless router standards.
Knowing which standard the majority of devices on a network support is important in deciding which router is best for your setup. For example, if you want to connect two slightly dated laptops which house 802.11b/g wireless cards to the Internet, and you have no need or plans to upgrade your client devices anytime soon, you could get away with a cheaper, single-band 2.4 GHz 802.11N router. Why? You can run the router in "Mixed Mode" setting, which will let the router connect to B and G clients. Secondly, only N routers can connect at the 5 GHz band, so you only need a 2.4 GHz router for B and G clients. A decent option would be a router like the Cisco Linksys E1000 Wireless-N Router, which is available for under $60.
If you have a mix of B, G and N devices, your best bet is to go with a simultaneous dual-band router like the D-Link DIR-825 Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit. This model excels at automatically connecting devices to the appropriate band, without user intervention. There are other dual-band routers that are good choices as well, like the Linksys by Cisco Dual Band Wireless N Gigabit Router. This model requires user to be savvy enough to know how to configure settings so that all devices (be they B, G or N) can connect to the correct 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz band.
Routers should theoretically work across the board for Windows, Apple and Linux clients. If you have an all-Apple or predominately Apple environment, save yourself any potential hassle and go with a router from Apple.
Router antennas can either be external or internal, with the former seemingly delivering stronger signals. One of the fastest Wi-Fi routers is the D-Link DIR-825 Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit, which has two external antennas. In some cases, it's possible to purchase signal amplifiers or upgrade the antenna to one that's more high-powered. The one drawback with external antennas is that they can be more problematic to discretely situate in a home than a router with internal antennas such as the Linksys Ultra RangePlus Wireless-N Router, which is built with Linksys/Cisco's familiar sleek design. Also, it's true that anything that sticks out can be broken off.
Accordingly, don't discredit routers with internal antennas. For most home purposes, routers like the Cisco Linksys's E3000 High Performance Wireless N Router have an almost unheard of 6 internal antennas with 2x3 transmit/receive.
The average range for wireless coverage is 180 feet max indoors and 1,500 feet max in an open space—that's devoid of concrete walls or any other interference!
Most wireless routers have some basic functionality; port forwarding, DHCP, firewall and NAT are a few of the features inherent in just about every router. There are routers with lots of extra features for advanced users, like the $129 Belkin Wireless PlayMax Router. The PlayMax has features like Guest Access, Channel Bonding (to boost wireless signal), Access Control and a Bit Torrent client. While we can't recommend the Play Max at this time, (further testing on it is to follow) because of underwhelming performance, the features set is truly impressive and is one that should appeal to avid gamers, torrent users, or even small businesses. Some routers have USB ports for connecting a printer or storage device, the D-Link Xtreme N Storage Router. Not only does it have USB ports, but it has a slot for 2.5-inch SATA drive and doubled as a digital photo frame. This may not be a router option for anyone, but if you have additional networking needs and may be low on space on ports to connect extra devices, a fancy router like the Xtreme N Storage may be a good bet. Prepare to shell out some cash as this router listed for $300.00 at shipping.
Most routers currently support standard WEP security as well as the more secure WPA and WPA2. If you want to control what users can access when they are connected to the router, you are doing to want one that offers decent Access Controls. Cisco's Valet Plus has very effective Access Control settings plus Parental Controls that allow limiting internet use based on time of day. Guess Access and an ability to create multiple SSIDs are also important security measures if you are using the router for a small business. Together, these two features let you, for example, segment your network into seperate areas for guests and trusted users.
Most wireless routers have Ethernet ports for hard-wiring devices to can take advantage of the greater transmission speeds that wired Ethernet has over a wireless connection. For faster transmission rates, invest in a router that has Gigabit Ethernet ports like the Netgear RangeMax Wireless-N Gigiabit Router. Use the Gigibit Ethernet ports to wire gaming consoles, NAS drives, or any other type of multimedia server that have Gigabit Ethernet adapters to take advantage of the faster performance.
After Your Purchase
Buying a router, you've still got to set it up and manage it.
• How to setup a Router