Wireless routers cut the Ethernet cord. A quality wireless unit still provides reasonably high connection speeds while dramatically increasing your work and entertainment flexibility. Choosing the right wireless router for your home or office network are functions of range, reliability, security options and parental access controls. Take your time in selecting the right router, since the wrong choice can hamper your connectivity options.
1Select a dual-band router for the greatest combination of speed and coverage. A dual-band router can use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The wireless bands offer different levels of coverage and speed. Find one that supports both modes simultaneously, taking advantage of higher speeds closer to the router and the superior overall coverage of the 2.4 GHz wireless "N" protocol.
2Choose an 802.11n router that supports older computers if you plan on keeping those in use for the foreseeable future. Most computers and laptops built prior to 2007 probably have a built-in wireless "G" card installed. However, some 802.11n routers offer backward compatibility with 802.11g and 802.11b protocols, known as "mixed mode." This allows older laptops and handheld devices limited to the "N" band to continue to function as expected. Do not choose 802.11n "draft" models, which is an older system.
3Determine how many devices you want to connect via Ethernet. In nearly all cases, a wired connection is faster and more secure. Electronics demanding higher speeds such as gaming systems and media servers benefit from wired connections. Count up those devices and make sure your new wireless router has at least that many ports.
4Select a unit with parental controls if you have children routinely using the wireless network. These units typically tend to offer higher levels of wireless security, such as WPA and WPA2. Although WEP is often the default standard, this protocol is also more susceptible to intruders and wireless hijackers.
5Find a router that supports IPv6. Internet service providers and hardware manufacturers are moving towards this protocol from IPv4. IPv6 includes a new addressing system to counter the problem of running out of IPv4-based Internet Web addresses. IPv6 uses a more complex addressing system than IPv4, requiring a router that can handle this new standard.
- Many routers offer summed bandwidth ratings. For example, your new router may tout "900 gigabit per second" performance but that is spread over dual 450/450 wireless 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
- Although not a hard-and-fast rule, higher-end routers often have a simpler setup.
- Remember that older hardware may not support WPA2 security. If you're in an urban environment with neighbors and traffic close by, you may want to consider a hardware upgrade to ensure maximum wireless security.