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Buying a new wireless router can be overwhelming — there are hundreds of options, and new ones are released all the time. Sorting through all of the information can take days. But if you know the right questions to ask, the process will be much easier and you’ll be happy with your purchase.

Here are eight questions you should ask when buying a new wireless router.

What will you use it for?

Knowing the answer to this question will influence the answers to all of the other questions you’ll need to ask. Do you just use the Internet for sending email and checking stock prices The 10 Best Ways to Check Stock Prices Online The 10 Best Ways to Check Stock Prices Online You always need to keep a close eye on how your stocks are doing. Here are some of the best websites, tools, and tickers that'll keep you up to speed. Read More ? If so, a basic wireless router will suffice.

If you watch TV or movies through a streaming service, you might want something a little more powerful. If you play demanding online games or spend a lot of time working online from home, it might be worth going all out to maximize the speed of your router 10 Ways To Improve The Speed of Your Current Router 10 Ways To Improve The Speed of Your Current Router Here are a few simple router tweaks that could make a world of difference on your home Wi-Fi network. Read More .

home-router

Keep this in mind as you look at wireless routers, and try to be honest with yourself. You don’t always need the latest and greatest, as much fun as it is. Buying something that meets your needs without breaking your budget is the most important goal you should have in buying a router.

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How much should you spend?

This question almost always comes up, and it’s a difficult one to answer. The amount that you spend will be determined by your answers to the questions that follow. I use the $125 TRENDnet AC1900 TEW-818DRU, a dual-band wireless router with a mid-range set of features, and it’s fantastic.

TRENDnet TEW-818DRU AC1900 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router, 2.4GHz 600Mbps+5Ghz 1300Mbps, One-Touch Network connection with WPS button, 1 USB 2.0 Port & 1 USB 3.0 Port, DD-WRT Compatible, IPv6, Guest Network, Parental controls TRENDnet TEW-818DRU AC1900 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router, 2.4GHz 600Mbps+5Ghz 1300Mbps, One-Touch Network connection with WPS button, 1 USB 2.0 Port & 1 USB 3.0 Port, DD-WRT Compatible, IPv6, Guest Network, Parental controls Get up and running in minutes with the intuitive guided setup Buy Now At Amazon $70.00

The Securifi Almond has a touch screen and a lot of very positive reviews, and it’s only $70. On the other end of the spectrum, the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Tri-Band costs almost $300.

router-prices

Don’t get too caught up on the price. Find the right specs, check out a few different models, and you’ll have an idea of what you’ll need to pay to get the performance you’re looking for.

D-Link AC3200 Ultra Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router With 6 High Performance Beamforming Antennas (DIR-890L/R) D-Link AC3200 Ultra Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router With 6 High Performance Beamforming Antennas (DIR-890L/R) Ultimate Wi-Fi performance with AC3200 Tri-Band speeds (1 x 600 Mbps in 2.4GHz + 2 x 1300 Mbps in 5GHz) to support more connected Wi-Fi devices to your high speed home network Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

How many bands?

One of the first things that you’ll notice about routers is that there are single-, dual-, and tri-band routers. To put it simply, what this means is that you’ll have one, two, or three different wireless networks available in your house.

A single-band router will likely give you a single 2.4GHz network, while a dual-band router How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes Using a router that supports the dual-band standard can significantly boost your Wi-Fi speeds in many circumstances. Read More will offer a 2.4GHz network and a 5GHz network. The difference between these primarily lies in speed; the 5GHz band will transmit data much at a much faster rate. Of course, there are also drawbacks, as the higher frequency signal has more trouble penetrating through walls and other obstacles.

d-link-dual-band

Tri-band routers will generally provide a 2.4GHz and two 5GHz networks. Why would you want this? To separate higher- and lower-speed devices onto two networks so that the slower devices don’t slow down the fast ones. This article on tri-band routers Are Tri-Band Wireless-AC Routers Actually Faster? Are Tri-Band Wireless-AC Routers Actually Faster? When it comes to home networking questions, what we're really looking for are two things: faster speeds and better reliability. Read More  explains it all very clearly.

In general, a dual-band router that provides one network at each frequency is going to be the most versatile. It provides the highest speed, but also accounts for older devices that can’t connect to the faster network. If you’re very concerned about your wireless speed, operate multiple (perhaps 10 or more) wireless devices in your home or business, a tri-band router might be worth the increased expense.

Which wireless standard?

There are a number of wireless standards — 802.11a, 802.11b/g/n, and 802.11ac. If you’ve bought a computer in the past few years, you’ll almost certainly be able to connect to an 802.11n network, which has been the primary wireless standard for the past six years or so. It has the potential to allow connections to 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks, depending on your computer.

The newer 802.11ac standard Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers While wireless standards lack a logical progression in terms of letters, the technology under the hood is notable, and with each new release we get one step closer to painless connectivity. Read More is significantly faster than any of the other standards, but because it’s still new and evolving, many computers aren’t equipped to handle it. However, if you’re also planning on upgrading your computer to support wireless-AC, then a 802.11ac router is probably your best bet, because it’s also backward-compatible with older wireless devices.

supported-wireless-standards

If you’re not sure which wireless standards your computer can use, you’ll need to run some sort of system report. On my Mac, I went to to the Apple menu > About this Mac > System Report > Wi-Fi, and you can see above that it works with any of the standards listed above.

What speed?

Router specifications often include a number of transmission speeds listed in megabits per second (Mbps). Because it’s listed in the same units as your promised Internet speed, it can be a bit confusing — this has nothing to do with how fast your Internet connection is. It’s only how fast your router can transmit data. So if you have a 300 Mbps Internet connection, a 900 Mbps router won’t make it any faster.

internet-connection-speed

For this reason, routers with extremely high speeds are rarely taken full advantage of. To find the speed of your Internet connection, run a speed test The Internet Speed Test & 7 Ways To Improve Bad Results The Internet Speed Test & 7 Ways To Improve Bad Results Read More to see what sort of upload and download speeds you get when you’re connected via an ethernet cable Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Read More — you won’t need a router any faster than that, unless you’re planning on upgrading your connection in the near future.

However, if you often stream files between devices in your home — like sending music from a wireless hard drive to your stereo, or using a Raspberry Pi media center The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex Read More to watch movies, having a high-speed router will help. Because this isn’t limited by your Internet connection speed, you’ll see benefits from owning a faster router.

What kind of security?

You’re likely to send all sorts of sensitive information over your home network, so getting a router with strong security settings Why Your Router Is A Security Risk & How To Fix It Why Your Router Is A Security Risk & How To Fix It Read More is a must. The latest security standard WPA2, WEP, And Friends: What's The Best Way To Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? WPA2, WEP, And Friends: What's The Best Way To Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? When setting up wireless encryption on your router, you'll come across a variety of confusing terms -- WPA2, WPA, WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. Read More is WPA2, so make sure your router supports it. The vast majority of new routers will, but if you’re considering buying a used router, make sure it has this level of security (WEP, formerly a common wireless security standard, isn’t good enough).

Will you be using accessories?

router-attachments

You can plug all sorts of things into your router to give them access to your network, like printers, hard drives, TVs, and smart home devices. If you plan on connecting a number of devices to your router, make sure it has enough USB or ethernet ports to support all of those devices.

Which brand of Wi-Fi router is best?

It used to be that Linksys was the biggest name in routers, but the product space has become much larger over the past ten years or so. Linksys is still big, but Netgear, TP-LINK, ASUS, Securifi, TRENDnet, and others have released high-quality routers that are worth your money. Even Google has released a router Google Announces New OnHub Multi-Protocol Wireless Router Google Announces New OnHub Multi-Protocol Wireless Router Google unveiled its answer to the Smart Home market in the form of a Smart Home hub called OnHub, a standard wireless router also capable of the most popular smart home network protocols. Read More .

Just about any brand of wireless router will serve its purpose. If you find the right specs at a reasonable price, it’s probably from a reputable company. If you find one from a brand you’ve never heard of, it might be a good idea to do some research — check reviews on Amazon and look at other products they make.

Find the Best Router for You

If you have a good idea of what you need, finding the best router for your home or business isn’t too difficult. Spend some time figuring out exactly what you’ll require of your router with these eight questions, and then do some price comparisons 5 Reliable Online Shopping Alternatives to Amazon 5 Reliable Online Shopping Alternatives to Amazon Amazon is the biggest player in the game of online retailers, but that doesn't mean you have to use them. Read More . And don’t forget to properly configure your router How to Configure Your Router to Make Your Home Network Really Secure How to Configure Your Router to Make Your Home Network Really Secure Default router settings put your network at risk, allowing freeloading strangers to squeeze nadwidth and potentially commit crimes. Use our summary to configure your standard router settings to prevent unauthorized access to your network. Read More  once you get it home!

What other questions do you have about buying a new wireless router? We’re here to help! Share your questions and comments below.

Image credits: ljansempoi via Shutterstock.com, D-Link, Tomislav Pinter via Shutterstock.com, Piotr Adamowicz via Shutterstock.com

  1. masis
    August 30, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Can a dual band AC network adapter connected through USB to my laptop enable it to support higher 5 GHz speed and the new AC standard ,so I can use dual band AC modem/routers with the laptop?

    • Dann Albright
      August 31, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      As far as I understand, yes, that's what a network adapter will do. I've never used one or looked into it very far, but I'm pretty sure that's what it's supposed to do.

  2. masis
    August 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

    My laptop only supports 802.11b/g/n wifi standards.Will a 802.11ac modem/router improve my wifi performance? and how much?

    • Dann Albright
      August 21, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      If your computer doesn't support the AC standard, an AC router won't help; you'll still be on the N band, so you could expect the same performance.

  3. Kenneth Boos
    September 19, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Strange that in the wide world of Internet I'd get just one answer, but thanks.

    • Dann Albright
      September 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Give it a few days, someone else will probably add their opinion. :-)

  4. Adrian Gell
    September 15, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Another feature I've found invaluable is a VPN server right on the router. Some streaming video options, for example, will only function if the connection appears to be coming from a home Internet connection and VPN is a great way to use them on the go. Or the more practical benefit might just be the ability to encrypt when using typical public wifi from a smartphone by just flipping the VPN on. I've been holding on to an old Buffalo router that shipped with DDWRT for just that use, but this article has reminded me I aught to shop for an upgrade that keeps that feature.

    • Dann Albright
      September 19, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      That sounds like a really great feature! Definitely something to keep in mind when you're looking for an upgrade.

  5. Kenneth Boos
    September 12, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Just saw Routers long explnt. and it is out of my understanding (Old) I've bought two routers one has an an antenna and is lacking in power, the other has two antennas (linksys). I'd like to know if ther's a way to link them and get a stronger signal. Thanks

    Something else, do Routers burn out?

    • Dann Albright
      September 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      I'm not aware of any way to connect two routers, but hopefully someone else with more extensive experience with router hardware can comment. As far as I know, routers don't burn out—I mean, they might after a long time, like any piece of equipment, but I don't think it's generally something to be worried about. Like I said, hopefully someone with more hardware experience can comment.

  6. likefun butnot
    September 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Take a look at Ubiquiti Unifi Access points.

    The extreme range quoted is only available to a client with either a high gain antenna or high transmit power of its own, but I can access my UAP-LR from more than 100m away on some devices.

    • Dann Albright
      September 11, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for answering this question—the Ubiquiti Unifi sounds like a good option. Any router with an extra-powerful antenna will give added range, but if you can get on your network from more than 100m away, that sounds like a really good way to go.

  7. Sandeep Diwani
    September 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Which is the best option for high range routers..??

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