Buying a wireless router can be a complex process, especially if you aren’t familiar with the specifications and hardware involved.
Multiple Wi-Fi standards, port speed limitations, and features like Dynamic DNS make it even more difficult to decide on the correct type of router for your environment.
The type of router you purchase can have a drastic effect on your Internet experience, and is especially crucial for power users or gamers.
To help make this process easier, and find out what the most important questions to ask when buying a Wi-Fi router are, MyBroadband spoke to DrayTek South Africa.
DrayTek is a manufacturer of high-performance routers and access points, with support for a variety of specialised applications.
The five most important questions to ask when buying a new router are listed below.
What is the real-world speed of the WAN port and Wi-Fi?
DrayTek said there are generally two major bottlenecks which can constrict network speed – the Internet port and the wireless capability.
Users must ensure their WAN port can handle the speeds of their fibre connection.
“With fast fibre connections becoming more prevalent, support for maximum line speeds is no longer a given, as it was with DSL,” said DrayTek.
“Vendors also often advertise theoretical maximum speeds, but users should be more interested in what their real-world experience will be.”
Additionally, dual-band support and wireless standards should be carefully examined.
“While it’s tempting to assume that any mention of dual-band or 802.11ac will be fast enough to handle your line speed, advertised maximum Wi-Fi speeds are rarely seen outside of a laboratory.”
“The current fastest widely-available standard is 802.11ac Wave 2.”
How many simultaneous users/devices will be active in the local network?
This is an important consideration for businesses or smart homes, due to the increased number of devices constantly connected to the router.
“All routers are built with limited resources, and some are more limited than others,” said DrayTek.
“It may be tempting to use an off-the-shelf all-in-one router for any environment, though in cases where there are more than a handful of active users in a network – for example, in an office or in a large home with many IoT devices – a business-grade router will be the optimal choice.”
Does the router offer all of the features that you need?
Users must check the features offered by their prospective routers, especially those related to security and privacy.
Many routers also offer improved network prioritisation for gaming and other latency-sensitive tasks, and can be a great advantage for those who need these features.
“Security is top-of-mind for us all, so users should insist that their router includes robust protection and privacy features, such as DrayTek’s embedded firewall and VPN tunnels.”
“Other key features sometimes include Port Forwarding and Dynamic DNS, for users looking to remotely access their network.”
How comprehensive is the vendor’s support system?
DrayTek noted that vendor support can be crucial to properly setting up and maintaining a router.
This is apparent in the case of warranties, with some providers offering longer cover for their products.
“Some vendors limit their support to volunteer communities and user manual documents, while others offer tutorials, videos, guides, and more to help you maximise the value from your purchase of their router.”
“Warranty terms also vary significantly, with some vendors only feeling confident enough in their product to offer one year of cover, whereas premium vendors like DrayTek offer two years.”
What level of expertise is required to set it up?
The complexity of setting up a Wi-Fi router can be a major barrier to everyday users, even if they would benefit from the features of an advanced piece of hardware.
Resources provided by manufacturers along with an intuitive router interface greatly help in allowing customers to understand their routers.
“Some routers have easy-to-use graphical web interfaces, though others require knowledge of text-based commands, or use excessive jargon,” said DrayTek.
Users should pick a router with a user-friendly interface and a vendor which offers online demos or tutorials.