Routers are a standard household appliance. In fact, we’d guess that more routers
are sold each year than toasters.
The modern network router is a complex device that needs to take an inbound network connection – usually from a cable or ADSL modem – and distribute it to many different devices on the network.
In the old days, most homes might have had a computer or two but today our TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, Apple TVs and a several computers are likely to need access to that Internet connection. And it has to happen in a way that ensures that all the devices can use the outbound connection without interfering with the others.
Over the last year, since we last looked at this product category three things have changed.
The 802.11n wireless standard is now ratified so the old ‘draft’ sticker is no longer on the boxes of wireless products. Increasingly, we’re also seeing dual-band capability becoming more common. This means that one router can run two wireless networks concurrently. One uses the increasingly congested 2.4GHz frequency band with the other operating at 5GHz.
Gigabit Ethernet is starting to become more common. You’ll need to check carefully when you’re buying a router as packaging often buries this important detail in fine print. However, if you plan to move files around within your
Outstanding network the speed boost offered by Gigabit over 10/100Mbps is very important.
There’s also a lot more competition in the dual-connection modem market. This allows you to have a router than can take both an ADSL or cable connection via Ethernet as well as a USB 3G modem. This makes it possible to have a redundant connection for those times when your main ISP lets you down.
When you’re shopping around for your router there are a few things you need to take into account. Is this to be the only router in your home or office or will you need to run multiple routers in order to ensure that the entire site is covered? Where will the router be placed? What budget do you have?
If you need more than one network device so that your whole office is catered for then make sure that it’s easy to put the second router into access point mode. For your network to operate reliably, only one device should be giving out IP addresses – these are the individual network addresses allocated to each device that’s on your network. Although these settings can be altered manually, our experience is that it’s very tricky to get everything set correctly on a second router.
Also, make sure you buy a router that will fit comfortably into the spot you’ve chosen and that the cables you need to connect can plug in easily. Home and small-office routers are usually short and wide or tall and skinny.
With wireless, make sure you buy a wireless N device. There are still many 802.11g routers around but there is a significant performance boost when using 802.11n.
Also, if your budget can stretch, look for a router that supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. That allow you to run two wireless networks. We do this in our home with one network for computers and the other for the Apple TV. In an office, you can use one for your staff and the other for guests so you can provide internet access to visitors without exposing your business network.