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Choosing the Right Internet Router

Struggling with wireless coverage? Then perhaps it's time to switch to a new wireless router! We tackle some important questions so you can make the right choices when purchasing a new Internet router.

A wireless router is not only a wireless router. There are several different standards. And if you want to achieve the best performance, be sure that you buy a router that can support the highest speeds.

The latest standard called 802.11ac solves a great deal of wireless problems that many users have struggled with in recent years.

802.11ac is one of the main performance-related improvements in computer equipment for many years.

With transfer rates in excess of 200, and even 450 Mbps, it means we are now much less dependent on wired networks when large amounts of data has to be moved. HD video streaming can now be streamed without buffering problems, and it is no longer necessary to connect the laptop to the ethernet port when you have to backup your files.
What is the basic function of a router?
It allows PCs, mobiles, tablets and other devices on a local network (LAN) to talk to each other and to route traffic between devices on the local network and the Internet (WAN).
Dual Band Routers
One thing to be aware of is that 802.11ac operates at 5 GHz. All  AC-routers can operate with two frequency bands, such as 2.4GHz and 5GHz  simultaneously.

2.4GHz band is more commonly known as 802.11b/g/n.

Wireless routers with 2.4 and 5 GHz network are not new. So-called  dual-band routers have been around for a few years, and using the 5GHz  802.11n standard has been an eye-opening experience for many.

What we have seen with 802.11n is that it tends to go faster on the 5  GHz than 2.4 GHz. The downside is that 5 GHz networks have less signal  range. The 5 GHz signal is weaker as one moves away from the router.

Nevertheless, we have seen examples that 5 GHz gives better transfer  rates, despite the weaker signal strength than 2.4GHz some distance away  from the wireless router. This is also partly down to the drawbacks of  the 2.4 GHz network. It is a frequency band that everyone uses! Your  neighbors, nearby businesses, and also some other household appliances  such as baby monitors, cordless home phone, microwave ovens etc. This,  together with the channel characteristics of 2.4 GHz, makes this band  highly susceptible to interference.
So, how does one choose?
IEEE 802.11 is the basic standard for wireless communication,  and uses radio frequency bands 2.4 and 5 GHz. 802.11b was the first, and  theoretically allows up to 11Mbit speed, and 802.11g allows up to  54Mbps and both operate in the 2.4 Ghz band. 802.11n provides a  theoretical speed of up to 600Mbps and 802.11ac up to 1300Mbps (which  will eventually be increased to 1700Mbps). Note that these are  theoretical speeds, actual rate will usually be lower.
What features should the router have?
 
Buying a new router today without the support of AC standard is quite  rare, as prices are already relatively low. Choose a router with  support for AC1600 or higher. AC1600 means a theoretical maximum rate of  300Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band and 1300Mbps on 5GHz band.

In addition, make sure that the network connectors on the rear supports up to 1000Mbps (Gigabit LAN/WAN).
USB ports are also very welcome addition, and ideally at least one of  them should be a USB 3.0 port. You can connect external hard drives and  printers that you can easily share access to over your network, and  some routers even supports USB-based 3G/4G mobile adapters. With this  option, you can share your mobile broadband with the entire household!

Also check that the router has the ability to set up multiple  wireless networks, such as one for the family and one for guests. A  Guest network, for example is limited to accessing the Internet only,  and is excluded from the rest of your home network.

Parental control and a timer is also something many appreciate, and  QoS (Quality of Service), where you can set how much bandwidth is to be  used for different services, such as gaming and video. Fortunately, this  is in place on most new routers today.
Beamforming Technology
In our experience beamforming works very well and gives 802.11ac  clients a better 5GHz signal than we have been accustomed to on 802.11n.  We therefore recommend beamforming when buying a new router.
Should the router have internal or external antennas?
Many routers have both internal and external antennas. The latest  802.11 standards require at least three antennas (MIMO - Multiple In  Multiple Out) for full range and speed.
Where should I place the router in my home?
You could ask yourself where would you place a lamp? You would hardly  placed it in a corner where it would only illuminate a small portion of  your room. Think alike when placing your router. Placing it somewhere  central in your home up off the ground usually gives the best wireless  coverage. Obviously, you may be limited by the placement because of the  phone and electrical socket, which you need to connect the router to. If  that's the case then you can use a cable extension which you can run  under the carpets to your desired location.
Can I extend the reach of my wireless signal?
Yes, it is possible - and may be necessary if you can only place the  router next to the phone socket. The simplest method is to invest in a  repeater, which repeats the wireless signal and sends it to your device.  These devices plug into your normal electrical sockets and can be  placed anywhere where a socket is present.
Which routers do you recommend?
Asus, TP-Link, Netgear and Linksys score very high in independent  tests. They are also easy to set up and comes with settings for most UK  broadband providers.
How much money should I expect to pay for a new router?
If you want a router that supports the latest AC standard, you will find a lot of good ones from around the £100 mark.
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