The present increase in demand for Wi-Fi connectivity is unprecedented; however, it is to be expected. We now live in a world of smartphones, mobile devices, smart TVs, computers and a host of other gadgets upon which our daily activities depend – indeed, so much of what we do each day is online. This has resulted in the need to outfit our homes and businesses with a wireless router that is capable of handling the ever-increasing Wi-Fi connectivity demand. A wireless router is an electronic hardware device with which people can connect to their modems and gadgets (at home, the office, or outdoors) through wireless connections to the internet all at the same time. Basically, a wireless router works as a router (sending data from the internet cable to a device) and as a wireless access point (sharing data through radio signals rather than via a cable).
Having a stress-free online experience cannot be exaggerated and the benefits of a wireless router go beyond it enabling the users to connect many gadgets to the internet at once. Wireless routers can be used to make calls over the internet, and to access digital TV with products such as Google’s Chromecast, and Apple TV. To leverage on the bulk of routers benefits, users have to be acquainted with the basic information and additional features of the available wireless routers. All wireless routers are not created equal, and before buying a wireless router, there are several things that prospective users need to consider. Some of the most important factors include the available speeds, Wi-Fi standards, the range covered by the router, the support the router has for multiple bands, the USB functionality, and the support for internet protocols.
A new router makes a world of difference, and when consumers are informed about the features they want in a wireless router they are better positioned to making the right choice, and they don’t pay for a router with features they will likely never use. This knowledge helps you find the router that is best suited for your need.
The Range of Wireless Routers
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This range is the distance the signal covers from the router. And in most cases, the manufacturer’s specification of the range will be higher than what the real range will be upon setting up the wireless router at home or in the office. This discrepancy in range value arises due to obstructions (like walls) and interferences (from mobile phones, radio waves and so on) that are not present in the lab-type setting where the range was initially measured by the manufacturers. In an ideal household setting, the range of a good wireless router when indoor is about 4572cm (150ft) and the value is a little less when used outdoor.
Another key factor that influences the range of a wireless router is the nature of the antenna used to broadcast the signal from the router. Basically, there are two types of antenna for a router: internal antennas and external antennas. The internal antenna is enclosed in the router, and the external antenna isn’t. As is the general case, wireless routers with internal antennas are more appealing, aesthetic, and stylish, however, the fact remains that routers with external antennas are able to deliver signals that cover a wider range than their counterpart routers; And this should be taken into consideration prior to purchasing a wireless router, as a choice is to be made between aesthetics and performance.
The Band of Wireless Routers
The band of a wireless router is the specific frequency (in gigahertz) at which the router sends out a signal to the modems. Generally, wireless routers exist as Single Band, Dual-Band, or Tri-band routers; for a single band router, the frequency can either be 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz; a dual-band router has its frequency at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, while the tri-bands guarantees more signal by adding a 5 GHz extra frequency. Each of these bands has its pros and cons. Routers with the 2.4 GHz frequency band are usually the least expensive ones, but they have to compete with devices like the microwave ovens, wireless headphones, and Bluetooth devices that are on the same radio band while the dual-band and the tri-band routers provide more wireless internet connection options, the 2.4 GHz has a higher range value than the 5 GHz frequency.
The effect of this range differences becomes obvious depending on the location of router use; the dual-band and tri-band routers are not as effective in the outdoor space as they are in the indoor space as most gadgets are not within short range and the signals now run into more interferences. A wireless router with multiple frequencies is best suited for a place where there are many routers or limited space and lots of interferences.
The WI-FI Standards
There are five standard wireless signals namely 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. As the alphabet increases, so also does the strength of the wireless signal; consequently, 802.11a is the wireless signal with the least signal strength while 802.11ac is the one with the highest signal strength. You need to be aware of the device or gadgets you use and the ease with which they can connect to these wireless signals before buying a router. Also, you might need to adjust the router setting such that devices with lower signal strength will be able to connect to it.
Wireless Routers with 802.11a signal strength broadcasts wireless signal at 5 GHz with a data transfer rate of 54 Mbps (megabytes per second); wireless Routers with 802.11b signal strength broadcasts wireless signals at a frequency of 2.4 GHz with a maximum data transfer rate of 11 Mbps; wireless Routers with 802.11g signal strength have a signal broadcast frequency of 2.4 GHz, but a maximum data transfer rate of 54 Mbps; wireless Routers with 802.11n are different from the previously listed wireless network standards, these routers use Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology to boost its signal strength. These routers transfer data at a maximum of 600 Mbps. Wireless Routers with 802.11ac are upgrades of 802.11b – they are termed the fifth generation Wi-Fi and employ a Multi-User MIMO. They broadcast signals at 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz and have the largest data transfer rate placed at a maximum of 867 Mbps. Also, such routers support beamforming – a technology that transmits Wi-Fi signals directly to a client as opposed to broadcasting the signal in all directions.
Internet Protocol Support
Being up-to-date with the latest technological evolution reduces stress and frustration, and the fast evolution of the internet technology world is no exception. With so many IPv4 (internet protocol version 4) addresses no longer available, it will be very apt to only settle for those wireless routers that support IPv6 and save yourself the stress and frustrations that come with worrying over your internet protocol address. There is also the choice of internet security protocol that can inform the client decision of wireless router to settle for. Generally, all wireless routers come with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) Security.
In WEP, the radio waves connection is encrypted via a point-to-point transmission; this security ensures the confidentiality in using such a wireless connection as a pre-shared key (or pass code) is required to establish a connection between the wireless router and any gadget. The WPA is a more secure security protocol than the WEP, it uses the same point-to-point transmission to encrypt the radio waves connection, but the pre-shared key is more difficult to decrypt or decode. This feature is achieved by means of a Temporal Key Integration Protocol (TKIP) which makes use of a per-packet key. The TKIP generates a new 128-bit key for the individual packets consequently reducing the susceptibility to attacks that the WEP is prone to. The WPA2 is the most secure of the three protocols, and it has a less permeable encryption system that is founded in the AES (Advanced Encryption Standards). Should the security of your wireless connection require more intricate measures that aren’t catered for by the trio security protocols detailed above, you would need to make an informed decision and select a router that best meets your need.
In some instances, the need may arise to directly connect and use the wireless network through the USB cable and at such time USB port(s) could come in handy, however, not all wireless routers come with USB port(s). The USB feature, if inclusive in the router, enables files to be shared between devices through a wireless connection via the NAS (Network Attached Storage), this functionality is especially useful in wireless connections to printers. A large number of wireless routers come with a wired port that aids wired internet connection to a PC in close proximity. This feature is particularly useful as it comes with the advantage that no interference exists between the PC and the router as the connection is made through the cable, similarly, more data transfer speed is experience, and the signal strength is more reliable.
The 8 best Wireless Routers have been discussed in details below to help you in choosing the ideal one that is most suited to your need.
TP-Link Talon AD7200
This is the first 802.11ad router in the market, it is a bit expensive but it is worth every penny. It comes with many cutting-edge features that guarantee its performance and make the price worth it. Presently, the TP-Link Talon AD7200 is among the biggest wireless router available in the market with dimensions of 9.0 x 9.0 x 1.7 inches. The design of the router is such that the nine smart antennas are foldable downwards and this provides for a flat top surface.
Setting up the TP-Link Talon AD7200 router is easy. The steps for installing the TP-Link Talon AD7200 are as detailed below:
- Plug the internet line to the router.
- Connect the Local Area Network (LAN) cable to the PC LAN port.
- Access the router webpage (www.tplinklogin.net) and commence installation.
The TP-Link Talon AD7200 router when tested in the 5 GHz close-proximity (same-room) gave around 450 Mbps and almost 250 Mbps at a maximum range of 30 feet. When this performance is compared with the price of the router, the Talon AD7200 outshines its competitors; while when the router was tested in the 2.4 GHz close-proximity it gives speed of around 100 Mbps and 80 Mbps when at a range of 30 feet. In the 60 GHz AD frequency band, the Talon AD7200 dwarfs the competition, it performs at an average score of 950 Mbps when tested in a in close-proximity, however, being that the 60 GHz frequency cannot penetrate walls, once the router is out of sight the network coverage plummets to zero.
Some of the benefits of the Talon AD7200 are that it is easy to install and manage, it also has a commendable performance on all WIFI bands and is very affordable for the features it provides when compared to other routers out in the market. The drawbacks to this router are its enormous footprint and limited support for the AD frequency by devices and gadgets as well as the AD signal being unable to penetrate obstacles.
This wireless router has a great aesthetic design with its stylish and sleek black look and red accents along the antennas. The RT-AC88U router is fitted with 8 Gigabit LAN ports that are capable of delivering high-speed internet without compromising on the performance of the router and this dual-band router can also act as a NAS.
The amazing web interface of the RT-AC88U makes for a very easy installation process for the wireless router.
1. Connect the router to the PC and the internet and allow the Asus Web Interface to launch automatically.
2. Configure the router (continue with the Web Interface Wizard or set it up manually).
3. Set a name for each SSID
4. Create a network encryption key for each band.
The Asus RT-AC88U performs extremely fast on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands with file reading and writing functionality, it also provides multi-client MU-MIMO data streaming. Users are sure to get good value for their money when they make this purchase.
Some of the benefits of this router is that it’s Wi-Fi performance is among the most commendable of this age, the router is also fitted with 8 Gigabit LAN ports that enables it to handle very fast internet speeds and connectivity, also the web interface that Asus’ provides is one of the best wireless interfaces which is very easy very intuitive and user friendly. The most notable drawback of the RT-AC88U can be seen in the placement of its USB 3.0 port.
This router is particularly of great aesthetic build and is suited to any environment especially modern homes; being very pleasing to look at. Three units make up this Wifi system and each of these units are identical and have the dimensions that are relatively smaller when compared to traditional routers – each unit is 4.1 in diameter and has a height of 2.7 inches. An unobtrusive LED light adds to the elegance of the router design as it divides the white body of the router. This router’s 710 MHz quad-core processor in conjunction with a 512 MB RAM helps guarantee seamless network performance, the router also comes with simultaneous dual-band Wifi (2.4 GHZ/5 GHz) which supports the 802.11a/b/g//n/ac wireless network standards. In addition to this, the router is fitted with two high-speed Ethernet ports, two ports on the primary unit with LAN and WAN functionality, and two ports on the secondary units which can both serve as LAN ports.
The Google Wi-Fi is simple and elegant setup process. The setup steps are as detailed below:
1. Download the free iOS or Android App
2. Scan the QR code on the unit connected to your modem and power
3. Secure your network with a name and password upon completing the scanning process.
4. Pair the units
5. Label the units in the app for reference.
The Google Wi-Fi router when tested in the 5 GHz close-proximity frequency band gave speed in excess of 450 Mbps and speeds of 200 Mbps in the long-range test for a single unit of the Wifi system. In the 2.4 GHz frequency band testing, speeds of 100 Mbps and 70 Mbps were recorded for the close-proximity test and the long range test respectively. The 5 GHz speed performance of the Google Wifi router is particularly commendable when compared to the Talon AD7200 which provides a very similar rating not minding that it is bigger in size.
Some of the benefits of the Google Wifi system include its compact and aesthetic design, its impressive performance on all Wi-Fi bands, the ease of management and network setup that is provided by means of the Google App, and finally, its competitive price. A major drawback to using this WiFi system is that the user must stay logged into a Google account when using this Wi-Fi system.
Netgear Nighthawk R7000
The Netgear Nighthawk R7000 is an AC1900 Dual Band Router that provides data transfer speed of 600 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. The R7000 is more affordable and easier to install than the R8000 version. The Nighthawk has support for DD-WRT (this provides the functionality of running 3rd party Linux based firmware) and OpenVPN. In addition to these features, there is also an inbuilt parental control package effected by the OpenDNS; and Quality of Service (QoS) which permits the smart management of the upstream and downstreaming of the users internet connection. When the performance is compared with price, the Nighthawk is one of the most cost effective routers out in the market.
The R7000 has an all black design that comes with three antennas that are detachable. The size of this router is very large as is its weight consequently, some space must be provided for the router to be placed and it is best if the router is not moved often.
The performance of this router on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands is commendable, and it is among the fastest routers of this age. This router gives a better performance than the standard Ethernet connection and the router is capable of performing at very long ranges.
Some of the benefits of the Netgear Nighthawk R7000 are its aesthetics, stylish look, and design quality as well as its unmatched performance on the 5 GHz band. In addition to these benefits, one other perk of purchasing this router is that for an affordable router is does come equipped with a good number of features. The major drawbacks of this router are that it is weighty and this property might not appeal to all prospective users, besides this, the 2.4 gigahertz band is not up to par with the competition.
D-Link DIR 890L
The AC3200 Ultra DIR 890L is one of D-Link’s best performance wireless routers. It is one of the most stylish looking tri-band routers from this company with the look of a race car with an overall red build and black accent; it is a high speed router that is both easy to use and setup. This router has the added advantage of being able to serve as a NAS when an external hard drive is attached to it. The D-Link DIR 890L is fitted with six antennas that are not detachable and is particularly useful when there is a lot of Wi-Fi devices to be connected to the internet. The number of LAN ports on the DIR-890 is very limited (the DIR 890L comes with 4 LAN ports as opposed to 8 LAN ports) and it might not be the most suitable router for users that require a lot of LAN ports.
Some of the benefits of this router includes it reliable and quality build as well as its impeccable aesthetics, also worthy of mention is the fact that the router is easy to set up and use, and is incredibly fast, less prone to developing problems and covers a wide range, a major shortcoming of this router is that the router’s antenna cannot be detached.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X10
This router is best suited for those users that are looking to have the best 4K video streaming and VR gaming experience. That being said, it should be noted that the router offers a lot of features for every penny spent; the Nighthawk X10 supports three Wi-Fi bands (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 60 GHz, has a 10 Gigabit SPF and LAN port, 7 Gigabit Ethernet ports (6 LAN, 1 WAN), Multi-User Multiple Input and Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) data streaming, and 160 MHz Wi-Fi technology that helps increase the speed of the connection to mobile gadgets. The dimensions of the Nighthawk x10 are 8.81 x 6.61 x 2.91 inches, and the external antennas feature a pattern of blue LEDs on its sides.
This router supports a combined Wi-Fi speed of 7.2 Gbps which is divided into three bands at varying frequencies (Band 1 at 2.4 GHz is 800Mbps, Band 2 at 5 GHz is 1733 Mbps, and Band 3 at 60 GHz is 4600 Mbps), is fitted with a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor and a 802.11ac Quad-Stream Wave 2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO that helps to deliver great speed to multiple devices at the same time.
The steps to installing the Nighthawk x10 are as detailed below:
- Connect the router to the PC an internet service
- Access the Setup Wizard to guide through the installation process by visiting www.routerlogin.net
- Configure the router by following the prompt.
The Nighthawk x10 when tested in the 5 GHz close proximity test, gave speed of more than 550 Mbps for data transfer, the test showed that in the same 5 GHz band and at a distance of 30 feet the data transfer rate was almost 400 Mbps. A similar testing in the 2.4 GHz band frequency showed that at close proximity, the router had a data transfer speed of 100 Mbps and a transfer speed of 75 Mbps when at a distance of 30 feet. The distinctive performance of the Nighthawk x10 router is observed in the 60 GHz AD frequency band where a proximity testing produces data transfer speed of averagely 955 Mbps, however, the major shortcoming of the 60 GHz AD frequency band is that the signals are incapable of penetrating walls.
Some of the benefits of purchasing the Nighthawk x10 are its impressive performance on the variety of Wi-Fi bands available, the ease and seamlessness of installation made possible by the proprietary applications that have been provided by the mother company NETGEAR. The most troubling shortcomings of this router remain that only a limited number of devices and gadgets support the 60 GHz AD frequency, the signal is unable to penetrate walls and it’s a very expensive router, these shortcomings do not still subtract from the fact that the Nighthawk x10 is the router of the future!
Simeon LA Froid
Simeon is a passionate entrepreneur who holds a Bachelor’s of Technology Degree in Food Engineering and pursued entrepreneurship after completion of his Degree. His most favourite project is BestViva – an online review site that gives authentic unbiased product reviews. Through his expertise and stuffs he has learned through the years , he aims to providing highly engaging and trustworthy product reviews to his audience.