All wireless Internet routers might appear very much alike at first glance. In fact, many different wireless router models exist each with its own unique set of attributes. Use the checklist below to help decide which brand of wireless network router could work best for you.
Wireless routers typically advertise their speed in megabits per second (Mbps). Older Wi-Fi models offered 11 Mbps, mid-range 802.11g routers 54 Mbps and the latest 802.11n routers claim up to 450 Mbps. You may be tempted to only look at those routers with the highest Mbps rating. However, consider that the actual performance you will achieve in practice typically averages much, much lower than the maximum rating shown on the package. Furthermore, even high speed routers cannot directly speed up your Internet connection. The extra speed boost from a faster router may not be worth the extra cost.
An old adage says: "There is safety in numbers." Odds are, if many people are buying a particular product, it's serving a useful need. Top selling network gear tends to be current generation technology but not cutting edge. If you tend to play it conservative and run with the pack, check sales rankings at online retailers to start building your wireless Internet router short list.
- Top 802.11ac Wireless Routers for Home Networks
- Top 802.11n Wireless Routers for Home Networks
- Top 802.11g Wireless Routers for Home Networks
Wireless Internet router manufacturers always provide a warranty package together with their equipment. The length and terms of these warranties vary widely. A better warranty may indicate a manufacturer more committed to support their products, while a lesser warranty could indicate a somewhat lesser standard of product quality or reliability. Always consider wireless router warranties when making your purchase decision.
Ignore (Most of) the Success and Horror Stories Told by Others
Countless consumers post opinions of their particular wireless Internet router to blogs, message boards, retailer Web sites and elsewhere online. For most brands of routers, a confusing mix of positive and negative anecdotes awaits you. Due to the complexity of home networking today, any given brand of wireless router that performs flawlessly in one person's home network could fail miserably in yours. Bottom line: Don't let someone else's experience, good or bad, sway your decision too much.
Brand Matching with Network Adapters
Consider purchasing a wireless Internet router of the same brand as at least one of your wireless network adapters. The benefit is a small one, but sometimes vendors will optimize communication protocols of their own equipment; you may see slightly higher performance. Vendors may also more thoroughly test compatibility with their own equipment. If you don't own any adapters (or newer laptops with built-in wireless), consider purchasing all of your WiFi gear together from the same manufacturer.
Size and Style
In many households, wireless Internet routers are installed in a visible central area of the residence. Purchasing a stylish router can make this an attractive addition to the decor that you will be proud to show family and friends. Routers vary in both size and shape. If you plan to install the router in a confined space, ensure you pick one with a suitable form factor. Small business owners and others interested in portability may likewise consider the class of "travel router" products.
Cost and Budget
Manufacturers sometimes offer rebates or other discounts from the full retail price of their wireless routers. Like an automobile, even if a router is last year's model, you may still find one with all the essential features you need. Shop around and you're more likely to land a good value for your money.
Take Our Interactive Wireless Router Quiz
Finally, if you are ready to explore specific models of wireless Internet routers, our interactive wireless router quiz will help you sort through the listing based on the preferences you enter. Give it a try.