The best Wi-Fi routers provide you with seamless internet connectivity so you can connect to work, attend online classes or get your daily dose of entertainment. However, the number of devices connected to your Wi-Fi network has also increased over the last few years, making it essential for you to get a reliable and fast Wi-Fi router to ensure seamless connectivity.
There are various factors like network coverage, speed, and compatibility with your internet service provider to consider. Apart from this, price is also an important factor.
You may already know how a Wi-Fi router works. Now it’s time to explore the different types of wireless routers so you can choose the best router for your needs:
Wi-Fi Communication Standards
Speed is the primary differentiator between routers. Wireless routers have different communication standards, or wireless protocols: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. This last standard is the most widely used, and, until the recent addition of 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), was considered the fastest. The label of the router can be the quickest way to figure out which protocol it uses and how fast it might be. Once you choose a standard, you can then narrow down other essential features of the best Wi-Fi router for you, such as band type (single-band, dual-band, or tri-band) or security considerations.
The majority of routers will offer at least two Wi-Fi brand frequencies (hence the term dual-band routers), but it can be helpful to know the difference between bands when you’re configuring your wireless setup.
The 2.4 GHz band operates at a lower frequency. It’s generally slower, but also offers a greater connection range because it’s better at penetrating walls, floors, or other “blockers.” Most smart home devices also operate at the same frequency so you might end up competing for bandwidth.
The 5GHz band is much faster and tends to be less crowded by other devices. It’s the optimum speed for gaming or streaming video. Those working from home might want to lay claim to the 5GHz frequencies and leave the 2.4GHz band free for apps and devices that don’t need lots of bandwidth.
Sipper vs Gulper routers
The layout of your home or business can have a major impact on the quality of the Wi-Fi signal throughout your space. Factors like where your router is positioned to connected devices, walls in the way of a signal and more can influence the type of router you will need. Sip and gulp are terms used to describe the performance and range of routers:
- Sip routers provide optimal performance at close range. These devices are best suited for when you will be using connected devices close to the router. These are great solutions for small apartments and home offices.
- Gulp routers provide optimal performance at medium and long ranges. These devices are best suited for large buildings or buildings with walls that may be interrupting the signal.
Key features of wireless routers
What defines a good wireless router varies according to the needs of the user. For example, if speed is your main pain point with your current network, remember that a wireless router can only perform at the speed your internet connection allows. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) needs to grant the bandwidth to let the wireless router run at maximum speeds for you to see the real benefits of a fast-performing router such as a top-of-the-line “n” series.
Here are some standard features across most router models and how they might affect your choice of Wi-Fi router:
- Broadcast Standard: As outlined above, routers communicate in one of these standards. First-generation Wi-Fi routers use “b,” later models use “g,” and newer models use “n” and “ac.” The latest and greatest is Wi-Fi 6, or “ax.”
- Band Type: Wi-Fi communicates in two bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Single-band models are designed to operate at either band, one at a time. Dual-band models contain two types of wireless radios that support connections on both bands as needed, often increasing network efficiency. Tri-band models offer three 5 GHz band connections for maximum speeds among multiple devices. The best dual-band and tri-band routers offer automated band steering for different connections.
- Security: Most router models support standard WEP securities as well as the more secure WPA and WPA2 configurations. Routers with access control features allow you to customize access for both times of usage and users on your network.
- Speed: “B” routers deliver the slowest speeds, topping out at around 11Mbps on average. “G” routers have an average maximum speed of 54Mbps. “N” routers top out at around 300Mbps. “AC” routers average 1Gbps. Various wireless devices operate on the 2.4 GHz band. To avoid congestion on your network, the 5 GHz band may deliver better performance due to less interference. Within the bands are also different Wi-Fi channels that help mitigate device overlap.
- WAN Type: Most routers have Ethernet ports or LAN ports for connecting wired devices such as printers or other peripherals so they can share information at higher transmission speeds. Routers with Gigabit Ethernet ports deliver lightning-fast transmission rates. If an Ethernet switch or hub is part of your network plan, consider a router with multiple ports.
- Connectivity: All routers have at least one WAN port, or no one could use them to connect to the internet. If the port goes out, so does your wireless connectivity. Dual WAN is a second link to the internet and is especially beneficial for businesses that cannot afford downtime.
- Switches: Ethernet switches determines the number of devices that can be connected to the business network. Router models often provide between two and 13 Ethernet ports to connect to a switch.
- Bluetooth Capabilities: Some router models can connect to devices via Bluetooth, which can be a bonus if you want to employ Bluetooth devices like speakers for audio presentations.
An excellent way to narrow down on the right wireless router choice for your needs is to make a list of the features you want most while considering your bandwidth limits. While an “ac” band router may have the capability of providing speeds of 1Gbps, you will never enjoy those speeds if your internet is not that fast.
If your network has users that stream videos or use a lot of bandwidth with other network activities, a router that runs on the 5 GHz bands like Excitel tends to see less network congestion. If you have any questions or are not sure of the best wireless router for your network, talk to one of our experts. We are happy to assist you in finding the best solution for your ideal Wi-Fi network.