In today’s high-tech world of instant communication, finding the right wireless router to keep you connected at work or home can be a confusing (and even intimidating) experience. Manufacturers will always tell you that their product is the best on the market and hit you with so much unfamiliar jargon that the chances of making an informed decision can seem quite slim, at best. The smartest way to begin is to first know exactly what a router is and what it’s supposed to do, in terms of its most basic functions. Once you establish this basic understanding, you can begin to compare what’s out there with the features you’re really looking for.
What is a Wireless Router?
A basic router is a device used to connect multiple computers to the internet at the same time. It reads the information in the various data packets and “routes” it to wherever it needs to go. Home network routers can be either wired or wireless, with the wireless variety gradually taking over the market. In the simplest sense, Internet data is received by the router through a single phone line and relayed in wireless radio signals to the appropriate network device. Part of the reason they’re becoming more popular is that many homes now have multiple devices like tablets, laptop computers and gaming consoles that might all require Internet access, at the same time. In addition, some routers will also provide a USB port, to which other devices like printers and external drives can be attached and shared across the network. Others may include a built-in firewall that can protect the entire network from potentially harmful threats and additional features, such as parental controls and limited Internet access for guests that have their own devices.
Here’s a list of the top five:
1.) Netgear N750 ($140-$150 USD)
The N750 is a dual-band router with a very simple setup and advanced features, that is said to be capable of a throughput of 450 Mbps at 5 GHz. This is a very high rate claim for any wireless router, but most tests do routinely place it’s maximum throughput at over 280 Mbps at 5 GHz. Its performance at the 2.4 GHz band is more than adequate for simple web-surfing and other light tasks. For bigger tasks like streaming and very large file transfers, the N750 is pretty hard to beat, as well.
The unit itself comes with a stand that allows it to be positioned either vertically or horizontally. It comes with four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one WAN port and a USB port (2.0). Unlike some wireless routers on the market, this one actually does come with a power button, in case the need arises for a hard reset. In terms of memory, the N750 comes with 64 MB of RAM and 16 MB of flash memory and other features include parental controls, guest networking and various extensive USB functions.
2.) Trendnet AC1750 ($140-$150 USD)
Another dual-band router, the AC1750 is a rather fat one, at almost 2 inches thick. It comes with a WAN port, four Gigabit LAN ports, a USB port (2.0), a WPS button and four LEDs that line the front panel. You should know that this unit does NOT come with a stand, despite its size, so you need to be pretty careful about how and where you choose to position it. However, aside from that, it’s quite simple to set up and comes with a DVD, user guide and quick-install guide.
Concerning performance, some tests have placed the AC1750’s throughput at the 5 GHz band at over 300 Mbps. In the 2.4 GHz mode, a throughput of around 100 Mbps is possible. This type of performance makes it quite suitable for streaming of high-definition video and other demanding tasks.
Features include support for WDS (Wireless Distribution System), WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), WWM QOS, DMZ, virtual servers and access control.
3.) ZyXel MWR102 Travel Router ($20-$30)
This tiny, travel router is the perfect solution for business travelers who can either set up their own WLAN through a wired connection or use it to bridge to another network. It’s a single-band router that can deliver up to 150 Mbps, under the right conditions and especially with a good service, like that provided by Clear Internet service provider. It comes with an adapter, but can also be powered by a USB cable, which is also provided with the unit.
The MWR102 comes with quick-install instructions to get you started in the router mode, but you will need to check out the online user guide, if you want to figure out how to set it up as an access point or wireless client bridge.
Features include a firewall, access control and support for WEP, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK and 64/128-bit WPA/WPA2.
4.) Asus RT-AC66U ($180-$190 USD)
This router utilized external antennas, offering excellent range on top of its strong throughput. The top edge features 9 small LEDs to display the connection status for the various ports, wireless bands and USB-connected devices. In the rear, there are four Gigabit LAN ports, two USB ports and a WAN port that can support everything from external drives to printers and mobile broadband devices. It mounts upright on a stand and will support 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and around 450 Mbps on 2.4 GHz.
Setup is traditional and the best way to proceed with it is by viewing the Quick Start Guide first, then proceeding with the accompanying CD and utilities.
5.) Cisco Linksys EA3500 ($100-$130)
This last one is really easy to set up and is designed to work with various types of cloud management software, some of which are still under development. It’s a dual-band router that can deliver up to 300 Mbps, under the right conditions. At 5 GHz, you can expect around 450 Mbps. The EA3500 has six internal antennas and a USB (2.0) port, as well as four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a WPS button.
Setup involves a CD shipped with the product and the software demonstrates how to properly connect the router to virtually any broadband modem.
Features include parental controls, an option to receive automatic updates, and a speed test to check your bandwidth. The EA3500 should be more than sufficient to handle video streaming and most common tasks expected of a home network router.
As you can see, shopping around for a wireless router need not be as difficult as it might seem, at first. Once you understand what a particular device is supposed to do, finding the right one usually isn’t as intimidating. These are five of the most common and sought-after routers on today’s market and depending on your needs, there’s probably one in the bunch that fits what you’re looking for.
Kristin Williams works at a store where she sells the latest tech items. She frequently shares her best tips on computer related blogs. To know more, check Clear Internet service provider.
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