How to choose the right Wi-Fi router

Wi-Fi router provides Internet access to a wide range of electronics. And since the Internet has long been a part of our lives, today routers are found everywhere - in apartments, offices, in production, and even in cars.

Although there are many wired models available in stores, there are enough reasons to opt for a wireless router. Firstly, you do not have to run a cable through the entire room. Secondly, a wireless router is a convenient way to access the network from a stand-alone device such as a smartphone or tablet. And if sometime in the future there is a need for a wired connection, you won’t have to buy another router, because the wireless one also has an input for physical contact with the cable.

If you still have doubts about which option to prefer, read our guide on choosing a router. In it, we tell you what factors you need to pay attention to in 2021.

What are Wi-Fi standards?

Similar to smartphone manufacturers, router companies regularly introduce new and improved wireless standards (IEEE protocols). That's where all these 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac came from - this is not just a set of random numbers, these are descriptions of the device's capabilities for transmitting data.

The latest and most advanced standard is 802.11ax, better known as Wi-Fi 6. Latest generation routers are compatible with it, and very soon it will reach mobile devices. This standard includes many updates and redesigned protocols aimed at improving the speed, reliability and security of communications. They also help save battery life. The feature set includes MU-MIMO (enhancing network performance for certain dedicated mobile devices).

When buying a new router, the right decision is to choose a model with Wi-Fi 6, even if you do not yet have devices that support this standard. Otherwise, the router will become morally obsolete long before its service life expires.

Wi-Fi speed on paper and in reality

Everything that manufacturers say about data transfer speed should be taken with a grain of salt. First of all, it concerns the maximum threshold. The figures indicated in the characteristics of the goods provide only theoretical information. If the box is indicated by a range of 350 Mbps to 3500 Mbps, then keep in mind that in reality the maximum will be impossible to achieve, since it will necessarily prevent obstacles in the form of walls, doors, household appliances, etc.

Wired connection always runs an order faster than wireless, but there are nuances here. All Wireless routers are equipped with an Ethernet connector for wired network connections, but in low-cost models there is a switch of only 100 Mbps. Thus, there is a real meaning to spend a little more money for the purchase of a model with a gigabit Ethernet switch (and this gives 1000 Mbps).

The frequency range is also important

Manufacturers for years sold two-band routers, but now many are switched to third-band supplies.

The two-band router is equipped with two radio modulus, one of which operates at 2.4 GHz frequencies, and the other at 5 GHz frequencies. Thus, on one router, you can configure two wireless networks at once and distribute the load between them. Such a solution can help if potential interference is present at frequencies of 2.4 GHz, for example, from a microwave or Bluetooth communication.

In addition to switching to channels with minimal distortions, it is important to note that the frequency of 2.4 GHz has a wider efficient range, despite the relatively low speed. The frequency of 5 GHz range is shorter, so the most stable connection with the router will keep closely located devices.

Do not ignore the information printed on the packaging in small font.

Some dual-band routers in fact have only one radio module, capable of working in 2.4, and 5 GHz, but not in both at the same time. Three-band routers offer an additional feature of connecting to 5 GHz. It will be useful if there are many stand-alone devices in the same network, and there is a need to distribute them to several networks for greater efficiency.

In fact, the three-frame routers are in demand. Their scope of application is usually limited to office buildings, hostels, etc., and at home their use is justified very rarely.

Remember the safety

The convenience of wireless networks is directly proportional to their unsuccession. If you do not take any steps to protect the connection, wait for troubles: Any username users will be able to connect to your network, access the Internet at your account, as well as study the contents of your disks.

The router must maintain at least the WPA2 protocol (second generation of Wi-Fi protection). But today there are devices with more reliable WPA3, so WPA2 can be considered an option for an extreme case.

The level of network reliability corresponds to the lowest level of protection that is on connected devices.

There are advanced routers developed taking into account the requirements for corporate or extended family security. They have a lot of specific functions: additional encryption, tracking of device activity, blocking unwanted users, viewing downloadable data, etc. All this can either come in handy or not come in handy in each case. Explore the capabilities of the model and relate them to their needs.

Smart Network Management: Without this, nowhere

The main problem in the operation of the wireless communication is interference. The router is useless if it is not able to provide an acceptable signal level on the desired area. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with several ways to solve this problem.

We are talking about smart functions that are identified in the network of the device and control the stability of the signal in complex zones. Such skill has, for example, D-Link AC3200 ULTRA Wi-Fi DIR-890L with SmartBeam technology.

A different approach to solving the same problem is offered a mesh system, for example, the LUMA project. It includes several routers that work in a bundle and create a tight Wi-Fi coating without dead zones on an extensive area.

Mesh-system Google Wi-Fi is an even more advanced solution than Luma. All functionality Wi-Fi routers is controlled by a mobile application. In the same direction, competitive brands are moving, but in many areas of Google technologies while holding leadership.

In addition, many modern routers receive support for voice control based on Alexa, Google Assistant and other popular assistants. At the moment, this functionality has a limited volume. By voice commands, you can switch the modes, install the connection, open access to guest devices. In families with children, such features can be revealed from an unexpectedly convenient side: one-only phrase "OK Google, turn off the Misha smartphone from Wi-Fi" ensures that someone will have to sit down in the near future.

But the more the smart tool router, the slower it works. Such devices simply need multi-core processors to maintain control over all tasks, while maintaining an acceptable speed. Therefore, in pursuit of the newest smart solutions, it is necessary to take into account the possibilities of iron to which these decisions are imposed.

Learn more about Mesh-networks

Mesh-network consists of several routers intended for collaboration. Their radios of action overlap each other, thus indoors create a single seamless network. The popularity of Mesh networks has increased significantly in recent years, which can be traced on the example of projects such as Google Wi-Fi.

As a rule, Mesh networks perform the same functions as conventional routers, although their speed is usually somewhat lower. Especially well their practicality is manifested in two cases. First, the owners of compact apartments and studios just purchase only one mesh router and use it as traditional. This will be enough to ensure every corner of the dwelling with a stable compound, saving a significant amount. Secondly, the Mesh-network will reach the most remote corners, and the quality of such a connection will be higher than when using one traditional router.

Through what router it is better to play?

The optimal connection for network games has always been and there will be an Ethernet cable: only it is able to provide maximum speed and stability during data transmission. But on the other hand, it is not always convenient to use the cable, because the console is sometimes too far from the wire, and many gamers are preferred by mobile games.

However, the wireless router does not encourage you for painful delays associated with wireless connection. Some routers have game features that give priority to data packages and connections with game servers. If network games are an important part of your life, look for models in stores with focus on game requirements, for example, ASUS ROG RAPTURE GT-AX11000.

Why buy a router when you can rent it?

Concluding the contract with the provider, you can use the router rental service. It is available in many little minus major communication providers. Of course, for ownership of the device will have to make an additional fee, but it is nothing compared to the main tariff plan on the Internet. For example, Rostelecom gives its customers for the use of two-band Wi-Fi routers for only 10 rubles per month.

Such a solution has positive and negative sides. But in general, the convenience is that you do not have to independently understand the characteristics of an unfamiliar device, and the configuration will be engaged in the company.

Price against Performance

Router prices are highly different depending on the set of functions, the number of radio modulus, antennas, ports and many other things. As a rule, the cost of available routers is at the level of 4-5 thousand rubles. Naturally, in the most budget models you will not find the best and newest functions. At the same time, the premium class is designed for corporate and industrial use, and not at home.

A cheap router with a price below average is unlikely to become a successful purchase. In any case, product reviews will help you learn about the advantages and disadvantages of any model. In addition, each room is a unique environment where even a medium router can show yourself from a good side. Therefore, before making the purchase, do not forget to clarify the seller, for what time you can exchange the product or return the money if it does not suit you for some reason.