Ten questions you need to answer before you buy a Wi-Fi Router..

Posted: September 20, 2009 in All Categories
Tags: , , , , , ,

In my last week post I explained how to secure your wireless router, to reply to that post there were indeed some questions on how to choose a good Wi-Fi router, so here I am with this post dedicated to the top ten tips which will help you to buy a Wi-Fi router:

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1) Should I buy a portable router?

If you need to take your Wi-Fi on the road, a new breed of router making its mark is the portable. It can travel with you because it uses a 3G signal from a cellular carrier for back to the Internet. This means it won’t be as fast as hooking it up to your cable modem, but what you lose in throughput you gain in movement. Because they’re not as fast, most of them only support 802.11g instead of the faster 802.11n, which also keeps the cost down.

2) Are dual-band routers better than single-band routers?

802.11n routers come in two flavors—single-band and dual-band. Single-band routers use the 2.4-GHz band, the same frequency used by G routers. Dual-band N routers support 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. Even at 2.4 GHz, 802.11n routers are faster than G routers because they make better use of the frequency range in the band, and they’re better at bouncing signals off surrounding surfaces such as furniture and walls. Average throughput for single-band N routers is usually five times as fast as G routers. Some routers can achieve as much as 100 Mbps more by switching up. The answer is, therefore, an overwhelming yes: Dual-band band routers, though generally more expensive, outperform single-band (2.4-GHz) routers. Simultaneous dual-band routers are also more efficient in their throughput.

3) Do I need two, three, or four antennas, or hidden ones?

Because the speed in N routers depends heavily on signal bouncing and multiple transmitters and receiver antennas, the ideal antenna configuration is 4-by-4. This means the router has four antennas, each of which has a transmitter and a receiver. Generally, however, most high-end N routers come with a 3-by-2 or 3-by-3 antenna configuration. While antennas come in all shapes and sizes, most are visible, tubular antennas. The crucial point to consider is the number of transmitters and receivers built into the router. More is better.

4) Is 802.11n really that much better than 802.11g ?

Very true, 802.11g Wi-Fi router, which uses a technology that has been around for seven years, is still popular. (802.11 is the IEEE’s technical name for wireless networks; the brand name used for products is Wi-Fi which encompasses many different types of 802.11 technology.) Small businesses buy G routers because they are cheaper and perform adequately. Some 802.11g routers include specialized functions that are essential in business, such as powerful policy-based firewalls and threat-management features. In the home, however, speed is far more important, and there the 802.11n Wi-Fi router is king.

5) What is the choice of simultaneous dual-band router?

Some routers with the dual-band features transmit N signals simultaneously in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. By using both frequencies, the routers achieve longer range and better signal strength, and, as you might expect, they don’t require manual switching between bands. It’s like having two concurrent wireless networks, but that’s only useful if you have clients that use 5GHz, which are few are far between unless you purchase after-market 802.11a/n cards that use it. These routers are generally more expensive than regular dual-band routers, but are worth the money.

6) What about guest access??

An very recommended feature, Guest access is one of the most useful, and most underrated, features of a wireless router. Routers with guest access, can separate one Wi-Fi network into two. This allows friends to use your broadband access without knowing the password for your main network, so they can’t get to your files. You can achieve a similar configuration with routers that support virtual LANs (VLANs), but the steps in setting up multiple VLANs are more difficult.

7) Tightening access to your router with MAC access control

If you are still not convinced that your wireless network is secure after encrypting your Wi-Fi router with Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) —and you better be using WPA2—don’t worry because this step ensures that only your computers can access your Wi-Fi network. MAC filtering allows or prevents computers with certain MAC addresses to access your network. Like a fingerprint, no two network adapters can have the same MAC address, so snooping neighbors are out of luck when you enable that MAC filter. Your router will only accept handshakes from your computers and other Wi-Fi network devices, filtering everything else. Conversely, you can deny access to specific devices by enabling the deny option instead. MAC addresses can be spoofed, so this isn’t foolproof, but neither are doors;

8) What is Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)?

Wi-Fi Protected Setup is a standard for securing your laptop with a Wi-Fi router. The technology simplifies the encryption process that users otherwise have to go through to secure a Wi-Fi network. Is the technology simpler to use than the schemes that preceded it? That depends on the laptop and operating system you use. Vista’s Windows Connect Now (WCN), for instance, is compliant with WPS. When WPS does work, it’s a simple process for setting up WPA2 without thinking about it. Getting the configuration to work on laptops that don’t support it (in both software and hardware), however, is quite an ordeal. Should you then look for this feature in a router? No. WPS isn’t essential, and, all too often, some part of your setup won’t be compatible. Still, many newer routers offer it, and, when it does work, it’s worthwhile.

9) Turning your router into a gaming powerhouse ?

A good tip if you are a core gamer, No one wants their Internet games to interfere with YouTube videos, Skype calls and Web surfing, or vice versa. The answer lies in the QoS (quality of service) feature in your router. A router with QoS can separate network packets and prioritize your network traffic, allowing your most important applications to get the largest bandwidth chunk. Luckily, games don’t take up a lot of bandwidth, but they can slow your network down when you are sharing the connection.

10) Is a router with a strong firewall important?

most routers include a firewall, and many use the SPI (stateful packet inspection) firewall, which is better than the older NAT firewall alone. A few routers provide a range of manual settings on a firewall. Are these routers better? Not really. Typically, manual firewall settings are designed for specific usage needs and not for enhancing the overall capability of a firewall. As long as a Wi-Fi router has a SPI firewall, that’s enough for most us.

So here few important things you may need to consider before choosing a good Wi-Fi router, but the market is already flooded with Wi-Fi routers, so finding a good one could be simpler than you might think, if you know what you’re looking for 🙂

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