Wireless routers are in abundance in today's market and they come in many varying types and prices.
So, what is the best one to buy and why would you buy expensive one when you can get a cheaper unit that says it will do the job?
Unfortunately, like most of my other endeavours research the hard way. After buying at least half a dozen different units including D-link, Belkin, Cisco, Tp-link and NetGear, I have finally found a strong and stable (best performing so far) router - the NetGear Nighthawk R7000
Things to you should consider when purchasing wireless routers
- What distance do you need to cover?
- What points of interference do you have?
- How many devices will be connecting to the router? (this is a very important component that gets overlooked).
What distance do you need to cover.
Obviously, if you are living in a small apartment e.g. about 50m2, most basic routers will suffice. But when you are in a large home approximately 100 - 350m2, a much stronger signal is required to cover the area, or the use of wireless repeaters or extenders will be needed.
What Points of interference do you have?
If you have a lot of walls, remember that the signal needs to be strong enough to penetrate (or permeate through) these walls. A 5GHz signal penetrates better, while a 2.4 GHz router is better at reflecting the signal and bouncing it off the walls, think of making ripples in water, the signal works in a similar manner, the radio wave hits a wall then bounces around till it loses it's strength.
For a graphical overview, a Physicist named Jason Cole, has gone through the trouble of showing how the placement of a wireless router can determine signal strength in various sections of a building or apartment.
Image above shows how moving the wireless router can affect signal strength in different areas.
Though the best placement in his case was the middle of the room (which is not always possible), it helps to know that moving the router around can help improve signals.
Bear in mind though that his calculations hold many assumptions, one of which is that all other things remaining constant, so miscellaneous items such as microwaves and portable phones that work on the same frequency, which will interfere with the signal, have not been taken into consideration. So when you are doing this for your own place, do take these items into consideration.
How many devices will be connecting to the router?
Many people overlook the fact that they may have multiple devices hooking onto the wireless signal e.g. smartphone, tablet, laptop, TIVO etc. The reason I eventually worked this out... 4 family members, each with their own mobile phone, each with their own tablet and each with at least one laptop and PC. This makes it approximately
My Home scenario
3 people x 3 devices = 9 devices
+ 1 crazy person (me) = 5 mobile phones, 2 tablets, 3 laptops, 1 PC = 11 devices
Plus household items e.g. TIVO, PS3/PS4, xBox, monitoring system, VOIP phones etc. 5 devices
Total of about 25 devices, all vying for wireless signal and internet service. The router you choose must be able to 'juggle' the needs of each individual item and share the service well and fast enough when these items are in use. If it isn't fast enough, you will get lag, dropouts and pauses (if you are watching streaming media), or the router may just crash and reset the connection.
Fortunately, there is enough beef in the NetGear Nighthawk R7000 to take care of all the requirements. The unit sports an atom processor similar to today's high end tablets that had sufficient power to handle the sharing. Admittedly, I did have an issue with distance, which I fixed by changing the antenna's on board to 8Dbi antenna's from TPLink to boost the signal.