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How Do I Choose the Best Wireless Router?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the right wireless router can make the difference between a house or business where the Internet works and one where productivity is low and frustration is high because websites take minutes to load instead of seconds. While range and power are two large considerations when considering different wireless routers, there are other technical specifications to think about, as well. The router’s wavelength and security measures also are essential to measuring what router is best for your home or business.

A wireless router’s speed is one of the easiest considerations to measure, because most manufacturers proudly display this measurement on their product packaging or website. Speed on a wireless router is measured in megabytes per second (Mbps). The higher this number, the more information the router can process in a single second.

The next seemingly obvious measurement for the best router is range. This is only seemingly obvious, however, because one component of the router’s true range is the wavelength. On most packages or manufacturer’s website, an estimated effective range will be listed for the wireless router. Before purchasing a router, it is best to measure where the router will be placed and how far out the signal will go, to see if that range is adequate for your needs.

Security on a wireless router is more difficult to ensure than on a wired router. To alleviate this problem, getting a wireless router with enhanced security measures is often the best choice. If the router has continuous firmware upgrades, which will usually be posted on the manufacturer’s website, this will help keep the family or business safe from anyone trying to hack the router and, eventually, the computers connected to it.

Along with router updates, check to see if the router includes firewall protection. Firewalls ensure that access is limited to and from the router. Although they can get annoying sometimes, especially if you are trying to add a new computer to your network, firewalls help keep the network safe.

As of 2011, there are four wavelengths available for wireless router units: a, b, g and n. The wavelength is commonly marked on the product description as 802.11 followed by a letter, such as 802.11n. Each wavelength has a different speed and range rating.

The first two wavelengths, 802.11a and 802.11b, were created in 1999. The former has a better speed rating than 802.11b, but 802.11b has better range. The next wavelength invented, 802.11g, was released in 2003. This wavelength combines the range of 802.11b with the transfer speed of 802.11a. The newest one, released in 2009, is 802.11n, which has the best speed and range ratings out of all the available wavelengths.

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Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On Jun 01, 2014

You also need to consider if you want to stream media from a router or set up a network hard drive to which everyone on the network can connect. There are several routers out there with built in USB ports that are specifically designed to accommodate hard drives for streaming media and network storage.

By Markerrag — On Jun 01, 2014

@Logicfest -- that all depends on what you want to use the router for, doesn't it? Let's say you have four computers, two game consoles and a few wireless devices to hook up to the router. Yes, you'll want something a bit expensive for that (and buy expensive, I mean in the $60-$80 range) for that as you'll want to connect several devices to it and not have it bog down under them.

If you just have a couple of devices to attach, then you can get away with an inexpensive router.

By Logicfest — On May 31, 2014

A good rule of thumb is to remember the old maxim -- you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap wireless router is usually a bad idea because it simply won't be as reliable as one from a established manufacturer with a good reputation.

There are a lot of inexpensive ones out there, but spend a few extra bucks and get one that won't frustrate you.

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