Since Wireless connections have become so popular these days and having a WiFi connection home seems like a necessity these days, there are certain factors that you should know about routers and modems as well. Henceforth, we will be providing you a detailed buying guide for routers so that you could know what kind of router you should buy for yourself depending on the work you do or what your basic requirements are.
Therefore, if you have negligible knowledge about such devices like WiFi routers, or even you know a little about it already. We still prefer you to go through this buying guide at least once; it will be a lot helpful for each reader since everything is explained in the most simple and easiest manner here. So, without any further waiting, let’s dig right into it.
Router vs Modem
Most people tend to confuse between a router and a modem, certainly because they look almost the same, and even their specs sheets carry somewhat similar data. However, everyone should be clarified about the fact that both these devices are entirely different from each other and serve totally different purposes.
However, for establishing a Wireless connection properly, you will require both the router and the modem. Only the common fact between these two devices is that both of these devices are used to connect to the internet. But, it is still a question to ask which one would be ideal for your usage. So, to get more clear about that, you will need to ask yourself how many devices you want to connect with the network and use the internet connection.
The modem is an abbreviation given to the name Modulator-Demodulator. So, when you subscribe to an internet plan, your ISP will most likely set up the connection at your place, either using a cable or via using an antenna that can receive signals from the ISPs end.
The signal you receive from the ISP’s end is a modulated signal which has been converted to electrical form, or radio waves in the case of wireless connection. Hence, a device is needed to demodulate the incoming signals and turn them into digital form and use the informative data out of it, which in this case, is our internet connection.
In this case, the modem works as a demodulator. But, as your computer also sends some request packets and other data back to the ISPs, the modem is responsible for the modulation so that you can also send some data back to the ISP’s end. So, in this sharing of modulated signals and demodulation happening on the receiver’s end establishes a proper communication channel by which you can have internet access at your home.
In a nutshell, a modem…
- Receives the incoming signals from the ISP and decodes them
- Allows you to connect to the internet directly
- Does not provide you with any WiFi facilities and is not responsible for creating a local network.
- Connects you directly to the ISP
- Offers high-speed wired connection
- All the incoming bandwidth is utilized by one connected device only.
- Can’t offer Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Can offer internet access to only one or two devices (PCs) only.
- The device must have an Ethernet port to connect with Modem.
Unlike the modems, routers are quite different and offer internet connectivity to multiple devices at the same time. Whereas in the case of modems, you are allowed to connect just one or two. However, you cannot use the router alone; you will still require a modem to receive the incoming signals from your ISP.
So, the connection establishes in such a way that the modem gets connected with the cable line over which the ISP sends the signals. And the router is then connected with the modem so that the internet signals can be routed over multiple channels to be used by various devices at the same time. In the early times, routers did not come with the WiFi functionality, but that era is gone now. These days, routers are more likely used to spread WiFi signals and create a local network up to a fixed range of coverage.
In a nutshell, a router…
- Routes the internet signals over multiple channels
- Allows multiple devices to be connected at the same time.
- Creates a local network and provides WiFi connectivity.
- Allows you to create a local area network (LAN).
- Multiple devices can have access to the internet at the same time.
- Can be also used to Host Wi-Fi connection.
- Protects the connection with Firewall and can also connect to a VPN.
- A modem is required to establish a proper communication channel with your ISP.
- Wireless Speeds are slower as compared to Wired connections.
Now, let’s take a quick look at the comparison table to get a better idea about which of these internet devices will be a good option for you.
|What is it used for||The modem communicates directly with the ISP and offers you an internet connection over a wired connection.||Routers are used to route the internet signals over various channels so that multiple devices can be connected at the same time.|
|Ideal for||Single device users, such as Desktop PCs.||Multiple device users are connected over a wired connection or wirelessly.|
|Connection Speed||Data transfer rates are high, as communication with the ISP is direct.||Wireless speeds are comparatively slower due to the interference and long communication channel.|
Routers usually come with multiple Ethernet Ports so that you can enjoy fast speed internet on multiple devices at the same time. Or maybe you can use them as spare ones if any of them stops working overtime or gets damaged.
However, in the latest and high-speced routers, brands have started to provide USB ports as well. Yes, these are the two basic kinds of ports that you most likely see on a router if you go out to purchase a new one these days. So, let’s discuss these essential connectivity ports and why you should consider them while buying.
The Ethernet Port on the routers most likely uses an RJ-45 pin connector, and you will most likely find a suitable Ethernet cable inside your new router box as well. As we have already discussed, the wired connections offer better data-transfer rates than a wireless connection since it does not have to deal with any network interference, and also the electrical signals travel faster than the radio signals.
Thus, if there is a stationary device such as a Gaming PC, we suggest you connect it using an Ethernet cable for having the fastest internet speeds possible. Most routers come with at least 3 or usually 4 Ethernet ports, which allows you to have a similar high-speed internet connection on multiple devices at the same time.
On the other hand, most of you might be wondering why a router needs to have a USB port? If you are setting up a router in an office environment, you can take advantage of the USB port by connecting the external output devices like Printer, Scanner, etc. at your office. In this way, all the connected users can use the same centralized printer and send commands wirelessly. This is possible perfectly even with the older generation of USB ports, such as USB 2.0.
Apart from that, the other use of the USB port on the router can be sharing media over the network by connecting a personal hard drive. However, sharing data over a network is more preferable when the USB port is of the latest generation such as USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 due to their high data-transfer rates as compared to USB 2.0. But, one major thing to check is whether your router allows it or not. Some high-end routers will offer you both the functionalities, whereas some routers only offer either one only.
Gradually, we have seen a lot of changes in routers as there is a huge difference between today’s router and the old generation. Routers were essentially designed to route the incoming connection to several devices. But, the only prerequisite to use the router is that you need to purchase a modem separately.
Well, it is not true entirely as of today. Since there are even options available in the route’s segment that even come with a modem built inside of them. Thus, it can help you save a lot of desk space too since you will only need to deal with one device. Let’s discuss such devices in a little bit of detail.
1. Wired Router with Modem
Wired Router with Modem, as the name suggests, does not offer any wireless connectivity, so it is more like a modem itself. So why is it called a router even? Because these generally come with more ports and other functions that allow you to connect multiple devices to the same cable line at one instance in time.
These ones are basically ideal for offices where most of the work is done on stationary devices such as Desktop PCs. Thus, you do not need WiFi in such scenarios. However, these are not being used these days, as WiFi is quite a necessary feature that most people want.
2. Wireless Router with Modem
Wireless Routers with Modem are basically ideal for home use, where multiple devices need to connect to the internet. Hence, because these devices come with an inbuilt modem, you can connect them directly to the Telephone line (Broadband connection) and spread it across your home with the help of WiFi.
In this way, you can still use the router for the wired connection using Ethernet cables with Desktop PCs. On the other hand, the other mobile devices and laptops devices can enjoy the same internet connection over WiFi with the freedom to move around the house.
3. Wireless Router without Modems
In case you already have a modem, there is no need to buy a router that comes with a modem. You can just find a good quality router without a modem and use it with the existing one you already have. Not only will this save you money, but you can also choose to spend the saved money on buying a much expensive router with better speeds and other additional features.
Generally, these kinds of routers connect with the modem using an Ethernet cable. And, later on, with the help of Ethernet ports available on the router, you can simply connect multiple devices at the same time. Apart from that, the WiFi functionality is still there to help you in case you need that.
4. Portable Routers
Portable Routers are more like Hotspot devices, which you can carry along because of their smaller form-factor. In case you have a 3G, 4G, or LTE-enabled USB dongle, you can simply turn that into a WiFi hotspot using a Portable Router.
Generally, these devices are quite useful when you are out traveling and need to share the internet connection with your friends of the family. Since such routers mostly come with in-built batteries, you will also need to keep their batteries charged regularly.
5. Repeaters or Range Extenders
Range extenders are not basically routers but are something that can be used alongside routers. As the name suggests, a repeater is a device that connects to your currently active WiFi connection and repeats the signal so that the entire coverage area of the network can be increased.
In case your current router is not able to provide you good coverage or maybe just your room is farthest from where the router is placed. You can install a range extender somewhere in the middle so that signals can bounce over and reach to you with better signal strength.
By now, you must have a clear vision in mind about what kind of router will suit best according to your needs. Therefore, we are heading towards the major aspects that you essentially need to consider while buying to make a good purchase. Out of which, the very first aspect to check in a router is the speed.
But, one major thing to note here is that if you already have a modem, make sure to check its speed limits first and then proceed on to buy a router to work with that. Most people make this mistake of buying a high-end router which can handle amazing speeds, but use it with a modem that is only capable of offering speeds relatable to a basic router.
In that case, you will only be wasting your money since you are not using the right equipment, and the existing ones are limiting the potential of your new router.
1. Wired Speed
As you already know, you can connect your computer devices with routers using the Ethernet cables. But, the major part that offers you that quality of speed mainly depends on the type of Ethernet port you have on your router. Basically, there are two types of Ethernet ports that we generally see, the standard ones and the Gigabit Ethernet port.
While the standard ports offer you output speed ranging from 10Mbps to 100Mbps only. It is an ideal speed for any office-related tasks and also quite affordable too. On the other hand, a Gigabit Ethernet port can offer speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 1Gbps, which is good for tech enthusiasts or people who play online games or love to stream Ultra HD or 4K content online.
2. Wireless Speed
Wireless speeds, on the other hand, are slightly lesser as compared to the wired connections since radio signals travel a little slower than electrical signals. For instance, if you are using a 10Mbps connection with a 10Mbps router, the wireless speed from that router will come out to be around 6Mbps only.
Because not only the routers offer similar 10Mbps from their end, but also some of the bandwidth gets distorted while traveling via radio waves. Thus, you will only be receiving 6Mbps, even after having a 10Mbps connection and supporting router.
You can correct that by using a router that has more supporting speed than your connection. For instance, if you have a 10Mbps connection and a router that supports 20Mbps wireless speed, you can easily receive 10Mbps speed wirelessly as well. Because you are not pushing the router up to its limits and the speeds associated with the routers are actually theoretical while the real-life resulting speeds are slightly lesser than that is mentioned.
3. WiFi Technologies
Now, as you know, how the speed can be managed, there are certain wireless standards or WiFi technologies that also affect the connection speed. There have been various wireless standards that IEEE has introduced so far. You must have seen some terms like 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, etc. These all are the wireless standards introduced by IEEE.
However, this is just a naming scheme, and these letters do not signify any major role as such. The major difference is between the performance of these wireless standards. The very first wireless standard used was 802.11, which offered around 1-2Mbps speeds only. And, as of today, we have reached the levels where we can enjoy wireless speeds in Gigabits as well.
While the wireless standard A and B are not being used these days very widely because of their speed limitations, the other standards such as G, N, AC are much widespread. They offer amazing wireless speeds according to today’s generation’s requirements. So, here’s a quick comparison table that will tell you briefly about the perks of these Wireless Standards.
|Wireless Standard||Frequency Band||Max Speed||Range|
|Wireless G||2.4 GHz||Up to 150 Mbps||Up to 500 sq.ft.|
|Wireless N||2.4GHz and 5GHz||Up to 600 Mbps||Up to 1000 sq.ft.|
|Wireless AC||2.4GHz and 5GHz||Up to 3200Mbps||Up to 2000 sq.ft.|
Coverage of the router is a crucial factor to check while buying a router as no one would like to have a WiFi connection, which does not even reach you. So, various factors can offer you good coverage. Basically, the coverage factor depends on the Wireless standards, and the rest of the factors, such as Antennas and other technologies, help to transfer those signals to your connected devices.
As you can also look in the table mentioned above, the Wireless Standard AC has one of the best ranges as well as fast internet speeds too. So, make sure the wireless standard on your router is essentially the latest one if you need better coverage from your router.
1. Antenna Count
|Speed||Ideal for (users)||What tasks can be done easily|
|Single Antenna||Up to 150Mbps||Home||Web Browsing|
|Dual-Antenna||Up to 750Mbps||Home/ Small office||HD Media Streaming and Gaming|
|Triple Antennas||Up to 1700Mbps||Home or office||Multi-device HD streaming and Gaming|
|Quad Antennas||Up to 2300Mbps||Large premises||4K content streaming and multiplayer Gaming|
|Six Antennas||Up to 3200Mbps||Large home or Office||4K streaming, online gaming on multiple devices, real-time monitoring|
2. Mesh Technology
The newer generation routers allow you to set up mesh networks as well in which you can simply set up a WiFi network using several router units across your home to cover the entire area. This is ideal for fairly large homes or offices where a single router cannot provide good signal strength throughout the area.
In a mesh system, one of the router units works as the main hub, while the other router units work as the satellites or nodes that receive the signals from the parent router and bounce it to increase the coverage. You can also consider the other satellite or node router to be working as a range extender or repeater in this case.
As we have already discussed that WiFi signals are basically radio waves that travel via air and reach our devices. These radio waves have frequencies, and as the frequency gets increased, you can expect better speeds from it as well.
There are generally two frequency bands most commonly used, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Although the 6GHz band is soon to arrive, and you will most likely see it around in the next few years.
Since the 2.4Ghz frequency is lesser than the 5GHz, it also offers lesser speeds, too, as compared to the 5GHz bands. But, it is still being used. Why? Because the 5GHz bands carry much information or speeds, but cannot travel large distances. On the other hand, the 2.4 GHz band may have lesser speeds, but the coverage is absolutely fantastic.
So, with the latest wireless standards such as the Wireless N and Wireless AC, engineers have found their way to use both the frequency bands and combine the good aspects of both the bands together. This is the reason most AC routers offer amazing coverage as well as Gigabit internet speeds.
Basic routers that have single bands to work with only mainly operate on the Wireless G standards and have coverage of about 500-600 sq.ft. only. Apart from that, since there is just a single band of 2.4GHz, such routers can only offer you Wireless speeds up to 300 Mbps max. Hence, these router options are best in case there will be quite fewer numbers of devices to be connected as the speeds around 300Mbps are good enough for single or two users.
Dual-band routers are the most common ones that you can easily find for an amazing price. Generally, dual-band routers make use of both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band and are even available with Wireless AC standards. Thus, finding a good router with fantastic wireless speeds up to 1.7Gbps is not a challenging task at all.
On the other hand, those who work in an environment where multiple devices need to be connected to the same internet connection. A tri-band router will work really well as it comes with a single 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands with combined speeds up to 3.2Gbps. Hence, with the extra 5GHz band, the overall coverage and the combined speeds of the routers almost doubles, and you can simply use such a router for any kind of heavy internet usage tasks.
Despite offering the raw features, modern-day routers come with plenty of advanced features that help to improve the quality of the WiFi connection. Most brands love to introduce the same feature with similar names, but you can always find them with these names, as mentioned below. So, we will be describing these advanced features that you must look for in a router if you are going to purchase it these days.
The most effective and the most needed technology that can improve the quality of your internet WiFi connection drastically is MU-MIMO. It stands for Multiple users, Multiple Input and Multiple Output.
Earlier routers worked on the phenomenon of SU-MIMO in which the majority part of the bandwidth was allotted to the device, which got connected first or had heavy demands. Due to that, the other devices connected over the network had to starve for bandwidth, and it was not practical to use.
However, MU-MIMO technology helps to analyze the bandwidth demands of each connected device and provide them with the amount of bandwidth that they need. In this way, even if multiple devices get connected at the same time, each device will get its share from the total bandwidth, and things will be much more balanced.
Thus, if you know you will be using multiple devices over the same network, always look for the router that comes with MU-MIMO technology-enabled.
2. Beamforming Technology
Beamforming technology is solely associated with the antennas of the router. As you know, antennas do the main job of sending the radio signals to all the connected devices.
As the name suggests, with Beamforming technology, a beam of signals is formed and directed towards the connected devices focussing all the signals in one direction. As a result, the signal strength of the WiFi improves, and you get a better quality of WiFi. This is the case where multiple antennas come into play as it allows you to use multiple devices at the same time with fantastic beam signals.
3. Advanced QoS
Let us suppose you have multiple devices at your home that require high bandwidth, and you don’t want them to lose the signals because of any other connected devices. For instance, you are watching a 4K movie on your SmartTV that is connected to the WiFi.
So, with Advanced QoS technologies, you can simply prioritize the device so that it does not face any network interference because of the other connected devices on the network. In this way, you can seamlessly stream your 4K movie without worrying about losing the bandwidth even if there are multiple devices connected at that moment.
4. App Control
Various Router brands like Linksys, Netgear, and even some affordable ones like TP-Link, Xiaomi, etc. have their own mobile applications that can pair up with your router. Such mobile applications make the experience much more convenient for the users as it kills the requirement of setting up a laptop or computer to make any changes to the router settings.
Moreover, these router applications also come with various hefty features such as VPN, Firewall settings, Parental Control, etc. So, if you want to have a more convenient experience and eventually more control over your router, choosing the one that has App support is a great deal to grab.
Securing your WiFi connection is absolutely an important task to do as you would not like anybody else to use your connection without your permission. Most WiFi routers use WPA2 or WPA3 security protocols these days, which allow you to set up a strong password to protect your WiFi connection.
Apart from that, you will also find features like Firewall in your router settings, which can effectively save you from online attacks. Besides, NAT is also a good feature to use for safety. It stands for Network Address Translation, which translates the IP addresses of all the connected devices in some other coding scheme so that no external user can attack your devices directly. In case someone tries to do so, the attack will get aborted at the router only, and no harm will be caused to any of the connected devices.
Moreover, if you want to keep your kids away from some malicious and adult websites, you can block some websites manually as well from the Parent Control section.