How to Choose the Best Wireless Router
No matter how good the rest of your wireless equipment is if you don’t have the best possible wireless router you’ll give yourself a bottleneck. Every device will connect through the same router which means this isn’t the time to slack. There’s a lot of wireless routers to choose from and a lot of the reviews out there are pretty outdated. Instead of rattle a bunch of names of which would eventually be outdated I thought I’d focus on helping you choose the right router to suit your needs.
Do You Need One?
Now I love having a WiFi network and I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when I didn’t have one so I don’t mean do you need a wireless network. What I mean is do you really need to get yourself a wireless router?
A lot of ISPs give a free modem and wireless router which should suit most residential needs. You might want to check if you can get one for free and try it out for suitability before investing in a new one.
If you’re having a range problem with an existing wireless router than you might want to consider if using a wireless repeater would solve your problem. Yes, some routers get a better range and signal strength but after a certain point you need to look at using a repeater instead.
The Old and Popular
There’s a lot of older routers which were very popular (such as the Linksys WRT54g) which were great but we all know how fast technology moves. If you renew your mobile phone you don’t get a five year old handset do you? You look for the latest model. Do the same when choosing a router.
What to Look For
With so much choice to choose from it can be hard to choose between even the best out there. So here’s a few suggestions on how to thin down the ‘maybe’ list.
- Price (don’t always go with the cheapest but keep within what you can afford).
- Transfer Speed (Faster is better but consider your needs. It’s easy to keep the wireless speed above your internet connection speed which means the WiFi router will not be your bottleneck. But if you plan to transfer files around the network frequently you’ll want a fast transfer rate).
- Range. There’s nothing more frustrating in a wireless network than having a constantly weak or failing connection. Getting an 802.11n device can help with the signal strength and something with external antennas (preferably replaceable) is generally a good idea. The importance of range will depend on how much space you’re dealing with and can be aided with wireless range extenders.
- The setup. I know some people don’t have as much fun playing with new technology as others and some routers certainly have a more user friendly setup than others. If you have someone to do the setup for you then you can ignore this – otherwise look for something with good support and an easy setup process.
- Supports your operating system. This is probably less of an issue for most people but make sure the router will be compatible with your operating system.
- Supports your network adapters. Ideally you want a wireless router to be compatible with as many adapters as possible so something backwards compatible with 802.11b/g Devices would be good.
- Security. You want to be able to secure your network as best as possible which (currently) is WPA2. You also need to make sure your wireless card will support the same encryption.
Where to Get a Wireless Router
If your ISP won’t give you one for free then you’re going to have to shop for one. Ideally you want the best selection at the lowest price which is why the internet is the best place to go. Personally I suggest Amazon because they’re cheap, reliable and probably have the widest range around.
The Best Wireless Router
At the moment I think the ASUS RT-N66U N900 Gigabit router is one of the best routers around at the moment. It’s not the cheapest but it has the value to back it up and has the features to back it up. It was recently reviewed as one of the best routers by CNET as well.
If that’s a bit much for you then consider the Medialink Wireless N Router. It doesn’t have all the features I’d usually want but for the price it’s certainly worth the value and has a great history and reviews behind it.