Buying a WiFi router can seem complicated. There's lots of jargon and numbers involved, and pretty soon you don't know what you're looking at. Looking at wireless router reviews is a good way to get more information before you buy, but first you need to know more about what you're looking for. So if you're in the market for a new router, here's a brief buying guide to help you know what you're looking for.
Do I Need a WiFi Router?
A WiFi router basically connects your Internet service provider to a home network of computers. That home network might be several computers or a computer, iPad, smart phone and gaming console, for example. If you have only one Internet connected device in your house (such as a computer) there's no need for you to buy a router at all. Routers are only necessary when you have several devices all using the same internet connection.
What Kind of User are You?
Different kinds of Internet users need different kinds of routers, in the same way that people with different driving habits need different cars. If you're just a regular Internet use, a basic single band router is fine for you. If you like online gaming or lots of video streaming or downloading, then you're going to need more bandwidth, so you should look for more expensive dual band routers.
What's This About Bandwidth?
Bandwidth for data is like lanes on a road for cars. Data travels along certain frequencies. There are two main frequencies for wireless communications, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band is pretty crowded already (lots of users use it, plus it's a common frequency for other devices in your house, such as baby monitors), and whilst it's fine for everyday use it's not great for large data tasks such as streaming movies or online gaming. The 5 GHz band is less crowded, which makes it better for intensive data tasks. However, the 5 GHz band has the disadvantage of not carrying a strong signal for long distances. If you need your devices to be a long way from the router, then the 5 GHz band may be a problem for you. Routers come in single band (using just one of the above frequencies) or dual band (using both of the frequencies) models.
What's With the Numbers?
Routers are marked with a three digit number, usually 300, 450 or 900. This refers to the speed of the router. The speed is how fast it can transfer data under ideal conditions. The faster the speed of your router, the faster you'll be able to accomplish internet tasks such as downloading. However, it's important to remember that these are ideal speeds, and are not what you will really see. In reality, your data transfer speed will be lower than the ideal speed as your signal will not be pure. Other devices and even walls and glass will interfere with your data transfer speed.