It’s funny how much publicity 5G is getting nowadays. Sure, the technology is exciting. But wireless routers are the real workhorses of the online world. From social media to smart home devices and more, home networks have the power to keep everything working behind the scenes.
When it comes to speed and bandwidth, your internet service provider (ISP) is the most critical factor. But your router determines how well you can use that speed along with the number of devices that can connect any at time.
There are many router choices on the market. Instead of looking at specific models, let’s discuss what you should look for when purchasing one. It will help you take advantage of deals to find the best combination of quality and value for your home.
Step 1: Checking Your Internet Speed
If you don’t remember your home internet plan, then contact your ISP. Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). It will determine your router’s maximum capable speed. So, if you have a 50 Mbps internet plan, you want a router that can handle at least that speed.
What speed do I need?
It depends on what you are trying to do. Netflix advises a minimum of 5 Mbps to stream HD content and 25 Mbps to stream 4K. But if you connect to several devices at once, you’re going to need more than that.
It’s good to allot 20-25 Mbps per person in your household. If you have four people in your house, look for 100 Mbps plans. And, if some members are gamers or have other higher demands, you may need even more.
Finally, if your broadband company is offering a package with much higher speeds for only $10-20 more per month, then take it. It’s always helpful to have more than less bandwidth.
Step 2: Renting vs. Purchasing a Router
You may already have a combined wireless router and modem. Or you may just have a router. For modem/router packages, you usually have to pay a device rental fee of $10 per month. Although this saves you money upfront, these routers aren’t that good.
They can’t handle large amounts of network traffic and may not even connect at your maximum internet speeds. You’re better off purchasing your own router and returning your current one to the broadband company. You’ll get much better performance and functionality regardless of your internet plan.
Step 3: Understanding WiFi Standards
When looking at routers, you’ll see all these different standards like 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11bg, etc. It can get confusing quickly. The latest WiFi standard is 802.11ax or WiFi 6. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for you.
- WiFi 4 = 802.11n
- WiFi 5 = 802.11ac
- WiFi 6 = 802.11ax
The higher the WiFi standard, the quicker, more responsive, and secure it will be. But you need to make sure your devices are compatible with these standards.
WiFi 6 routers can also support WiFi 5 devices. But there’s no reason spending extra money if everything you own right now only supports WiFi 5 or earlier.
Check your devices and see what they can handle. Be aware the WiFi 6 is now the default standard, so it might be worth it to invest in the technology as it is here to stay for the time being.
Step 4: Understanding What Router Speeds and Ranges Mean
Router speeds are like the top speeds on your car. They rarely operate at the upper end of the range. You should factor in about a 30-40% actual reduction in any advertised speeds. What’s essential is how many devices the router can handle and at what speeds.
Likewise, the range is an important factor. You need to make sure the network can cover the full area of your house. Otherwise, you may need extenders or a mesh network system.
Step 5: Taking Security Features Into Account
WiFi networks face many different cybersecurity threats. Hackers target vulnerable networks to mine information, hack IoT devices, and cause many other problems. You need a router that supports the latest security standards.
For one, your router should support WPA3. It’s the third iteration of the WiFi alliance security certification program. Likewise, look for routers that support VPNs. When you set up a VPN on a router, all network connections are securely traveling through VPN servers. It enhances not only your privacy but also your cybersecurity (read more here). You can also use VPN for extra benefits like bypassing geo-blocks, censorship, and accessing more of the internet.
Wrapping Up: What are The Best Router Brands?
There are many fantastic routers on the market. You don’t need one from a top brand if it has all the features from above.
But to help you narrow down your list, these companies make some of the best routers on the market:
Now you have everything you need to choose the best wireless router for your home. Good luck!