Your Internet speed may be controlled by your line or ISP, but you can greatly improve your connection by upgrading your router.
While you may be content to use the router supplied by your service provider, you can benefit from purchasing a router which caters for your needs.
If you are in the market for a new router, there are a few key features you should look out for – depending on how you use your connection.
Single-Band vs Dual-Band vs Tri-Band
Routers can have single-band, dual-band, or tri-band capabilities. This refers to which frequency bands are used by the router.
Single-band routers are common and cheap, and function on the 2.4GHz frequency band. Using a single-band router, all the connected devices in your home will share one frequency band – increasing interference and congestion.
While single-band routers may be sufficient for those living in open areas with little interference and a few connected devices, dual-band routers will allow your data-intensive devices to function more efficiently.
Dual-band routers use 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, letting users connect to the less-congested 5GHz band if their device supports it.
The 5GHz band offers increased throughput and is a good option for those who live in densely-packed neighbourhoods.
This is especially useful for gaming and streaming media content, as it provides a more stable wireless connection to the router.
A tri-band router offers a single 2.4GHz frequency band and two 5GHz frequency bands.
These devices are useful for households or offices with many connected devices.
Ethernet and USB ports
Most routers include wireless capabilities in addition to Ethernet ports.
If you have a device requiring a high-speed wired connection to the router, consider purchasing a router with a number of Gigabit Ethernet ports.
These ports enable data transfer speeds of up to 1,000Mbps and will future-proof your network against not utilising increased broadband line speeds.
USB ports are not too important on a wireless router, as devices such as printers usually include Wi-Fi connectivity.
Purchasing a router with a USB port can be useful for connecting an external hard drive with media, though.
Security and Features
If you are interested in maintaining and securing your network, certain routers include a number of security features and added functionality to provide greater control over network traffic.
While routers with these features are relatively expensive, they can be used in a number of scenarios – from gaming to professional applications.
If you are wary of other devices connecting to your network and potentially accessing your files and devices, modern routers allow you to set up a guest SSID. This creates a secondary network with Internet access which is unable to access devices connected to the home network.
Other features such as quality of service settings allow users to prioritise certain devices and types of traffic, which is useful for latency or bandwidth-sensitive tasks such as gaming or video calling and streaming.
It is also important to note the level of network security offered by your chosen router and whether it supports IPv6, which will ensure it remains future-proof as the Internet Protocol evolves.
Standards and Performance
Wireless standards are steadily changing to provide greater transfer speeds and bandwidth.
Wireless routers use the 802.11 standard, which come in a number of varieties.
The latest widely-accepted version of the 802.11 standard is 802.11ac, although many devices still use the older 802.11n.
802.11ac offers greater transfer rates and is supported by most new devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and desktop PCs.
It is important to note which standard is used by your new router, especially if you are seeking optimal transfer rates and bandwidth speeds.
Routers are labelled according to their wireless standard and bandwidth.
For example, a dual-band 802.11ac wireless router with a maximum transfer speed of 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 900Mbps on the 5GHz band would be labelled as AC1200 (300Mbps + 900Mbps = 1,200).
Using this information will prevent you from overspending on a device you will never make full use of, or throttling your network transfer speeds by purchasing a “slow” router.