Buyer's Guide - Routers

This document is intended to help you pick the perfect router based on your needs.

Buyer's Guide - Routers

A router is the best way to share your cable or DSL connection with multiple devices.  There are a few key features that you should be aware of when selecting a router.

Wired Ports
Most routers come with several wired ports.  This is often a great option to use if your computer has a wired ethernet port and is located near the router.  If you wish to use several computers on wired connections, make sure the router you choose has enough ports for all of them.  If you want to connect your computer with a wired connection but there isn't one on your computer, you can add a USB Ethernet adapter.

There are two main frequencies used by different wireless specifications - 2.4GHz, which is slower but has longer range and 5GHz, which can provide greater speed but at shorter distances.  Here is a breakdown of what bands are used by each specification:

 Specification  Used by
 Frequencies Used
 Max Speed*
Backwards Compatibility
 802.11b  Older devices
 2.4GHz  11MbpsNone
 802.11a  Older devices
 5GHz  25MbpsNone
 Older devices
 2.4GHz 54Mbps802.11b
 Most current devices
 2.4GHz, 5GHz
 600Mbps802.11g, often 802.11a
 Newer devices
 2.4GHz, 5GHz
 1733Mbps802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11a

*: These are theoretical max speeds and are rarely achieved in real-world settings.  Max speed depends on building construction, number and kind of devices on the network and ultimately cannot exceed the speed of your cable or DSL connection.

Not all 802.11n routers are the same!  There are different ratings of routers based on the theoretical max speed that the router's antennas can receive.  For 802.11n routers, you might see N150, N300 and N600 on the box.  Drop the N and that is the maximum rated Mbps that the router can handle in ideal conditions.

Number Of Users
The number of users and devices that might simultaneously connect to the router is of utmost importance in picking a router.  Generally, the higher end the router, the more people it can support comfortably.  Here are DoIT's recommendation for routers:

 Capacity  # of users/devices
 802.11n N150  1-2
 802.11n N300  2-3
 802.11n N600  3-5
 802.11ac (1733)

USB devices
Some routers offer the option to add an external USB device to be shared on the connection, such as a USB printer or external hard drive.  Apple's Time Capsule has a built-in hard drive that is used for backups.

Building Construction
As mentioned above, the construction of your building can greatly impact your wireless signal.  A good way to estimate how much it will impact your network is to check your cell phone signal in different areas of your home or apartment.

Keywords:Apple Airport wireless 802.11 router Linksys adapter Time Capsule Extreme 500GB 1TB Buffalo powerline buyers buyer's   Doc ID:3098
Owner:Nick R.Group:DoIT Tech Store
Created:2004-07-29 18:00 CSTUpdated:2019-07-11 10:11 CST
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, DoIT Tech Store
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