Once no more than a novelty for home offices and small businesses, wireless routers are now closer to being a necessity. Unless you do all your work and play in one room on a single computer, and you don’t mind hard-wiring your machine to a single nearby printer, a wireless router is an almost indispensable tool.
So which wireless router best fits your specific needs? There are dozens of good options on the market today. You should do some serious research and ask some important questions before deciding which make and model is best for you.
Know Your Network
Consider several factors that are specific to your situation before you start shopping for a wireless router.
- What does your network look like? How many computers, printers and other devices need to talk with one another? Do you have any older equipment that can’t communicate through Wi-Fi and therefore will need to be hard-wired? Do you want to be able to access your Wi-Fi from anywhere in your house?
- Are speed and range important? Say, for example, you are a graphic designer or an architect, and you need to transfer large files within your network or to clients or co-workers outside your network. Or maybe you spend a lot of time playing online games. Either way, you might consider a simultaneous dual-band router, which works on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands at the same time and enhances performance.
- Do you need the latest and greatest? 802.11ac technology provides more speed and better range than the older wireless-N. However, you won’t notice these advantages unless you’re communicating with people who also are using 802.11ac technology.
- Will there be an issue with household electronics? Microwaves, cordless phones, cellphones and other electronic devices can interfere with wireless networks. In some cases, you can avoid interference by moving the router to another location in your house.
Options To Consider
There are certain features you should look for in a wireless router.
- Is it easy to set up?
- Can you connect with non-wireless devices? If you want to hook up a remote drive, you might need a USB port on your router, while Ethernet ports might be useful as well if you must connect with devices that aren’t wireless, such as an older printer.
- Does the router come with the latest security? Your best option would be a router with WPA2 security encryption. This will deter hackers who are seeking to steal your personal information and people who are simply looking to hook up to a free Wi-Fi network.
- Will it take care of your communication needs? Wireless routers are judged by three main factors: speed, range, and how well they maintain a connection.
You Get What You Pay For
Now that you know what to look for in a wireless router, it’s time to shop around and find the one that suits your needs. Several manufacturers offer routers with a wide range of options and a wide range of price tags, as well. Since most of them are available at retail outlets and at various online sites, you should shop around once you determine which make and model you like the best. Here are a few possibilities.
- Asus RT-AC68U dual-band wireless-AC1900 gigabit router – At around $219.99, this router is expensive, but, for professionals, it’s probably worth it.
- Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 smart Wi-Fi router – At $199.99, it’s a bit pricey, but, if you need blazing speed and lots of features, it’s a good deal.
- Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac dual-band wireless-AC1750 router – You’ll pay almost $200 for this one, but it is among the better options if you want a router that supports 802.11ac technology.
- D-Link DIR-868 wireless AC1750 dual-band gigabit cloud router – This router is a little less expensive, at $165.99, and it also features 802.11ac technology.
- Netgear R6300 WiFi router – The R6300 doesn’t look like much, but it’s a powerful router. It will cost you around $179.99.
- Apple AirPort Extreme base station – Some users will buy this router just because it’s an Apple. It looks great and performs well but lacks the features of some of the other models. Its price tag is close to $200.
- Trendnet TEW-812DRU AC1750 dual-band wireless router – At under $150, this is one of the most affordable 802.11ac-enabled routers available.
- Cisco Linksys E3000 – If you really want to spend a lot of money, you can buy this router for $499.99. You’ll have to decide for yourself if its performance is worth the price.
Several low-budget wireless routers are available, made by Belkin, D-Link and Linksys and costing anywhere from $24.99 to $122. Keep in mind, however, that you generally get what you pay for.
If you do the proper research, you should be able to find a wireless router that fits your needs and your budget.