Are you planning to purchase a new personal router at home? Here are some pointers to help you buy a Wi-Fi router & get the best value for money:
* Number of Ports & Interface-
Home router should have at least one WAN (Wireless Access Network) port and four LAN (Local Area network) ports. Some routers refer to them as an Uplink (for the WAN port) and wired connections (for LAN ports). WAN port generally sits apart or is coloured differently from the other ports to make it easier to identify.
WAN Port or Uplink port (that connects to your service provider) can be of two types based on your ISP:
a. RJ45 Ethernet: For ISP who provide an Ethernet interface (ISPs like Tikona, Fiber Broadband or Cable Broadband)
b. RJ11 ADSL: For ISP who provide service over telephone lines
Some routers have both types of Interfaces. Select WAN port type based on your ISP requirement
* Choose single band or dual band -
Wi-Fi routers in India can operate in 2.4GHz and 5 GHz bands. All smartphones, tabs and laptops will support 2.4GHz and its coverage inside home will be better than 5 GHz. Thus, for simple home Wi-Fi, 2.4GHz device would suffice. You will not need a dual band router for home usage.
* Speed needed -
While buying a router, you will notice speed numbers like 300Mbps, 900Mbps, 1900Mbps and 1Gbps. All these numbers show the raw speeds that can be achieved under ‘lab conditions’. Fast router speeds don’t have anything to do with how fast your Internet connection is. That speed is set by your tariff plan subscription from your ISP.
I would recommend buying an 802.11n ’300 Mbps’ router.
This will give you best capacity, coverage and compatibility. 802.11n routers can run in ‘mixed mode’, so that 802.11g wireless devices can connect as well.
* Antenna diversity -
A Wi-Fi router with multiple antennas will improve coverage inside a home using ‘Antenna Diversity’, ‘MIMO’ or ‘Beam-Forming’, especially in presence of reflections from inner walls. However, more than 3 antennas will not give you any advantage (law of diminishing returns).
* Client support -
Most routers will experience performance degradation as number of devices increase. This is limited by hardware (CPU / memory) and in some models, this limit is arbitrarily set by the manufacturer in the firmware. Most times the limit is not mentioned neither in the manual nor in the technical specification. When more clients are connected than a router can support, your router may just hang or reboot, increase latency or trickle speed.
For typical home usage, you should consider buying a router which can support 20-30 devices / clients without perceptible performance degradation or hang / reboot.
Most established brands support enough clients for typical home usage, but for unknown brands, it is better to research online before buying.
Here is a good compilation of routers CPU RAM Flash specs .
* How to install and place the router?
While you can place your Wi-Fi router at any place in your home, here are few pointers to get the best coverage:
* How to estimate router coverage?
Think of your Wi-Fi router as a 100 W light bulb. Imagine if a light bulb is kept at the place in your home where you want to install your home Wi-Fi router. Your coverage would be similar to where the light can reach in an otherwise dark home. Light intensity would signify signal strength.
Typically, a home Wi-Fi router can cover 1000-1200 sq. ft. area.
For larger houses, you can use multiple Wi-Fi routers connected through LAN cables. Do not use wireless range extenders / repeaters. They reduce capacity and increase latency.
If you do not have LAN cables across rooms, you can use Home Plug AV2 with Wi-Fi, which uses your electricity wiring to connect multiple routers in home. Configure same SSID (Network Name) across the routers so you can roam inside your home. Keep LAN IP address range exclusive.
* How to configure a router?
It is fairly straightforward for typical home installation.
Also refer to our tips to secure your newly setup Wi-Fi network.
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