If you aren’t using a Wi-Fi router, then you should get one ASAP —
even if you only have one connected device
! Today’s routers offer useful features that you need to be taking advantage of. They’re so useful, in fact, that if you
Why You Should Use a Router Even With Only One PC
Why You Should Use a Router Even With Only One PC Every household with internet access should be using a router, even if there's only one PC connected to the network. Here are a few compelling reasons why.
have one but it’s old, that qualifies as a major reason to consider upgrading your router
6 Reasons to Upgrade Your Wireless Router
6 Reasons to Upgrade Your Wireless Router Is your wireless router old and outdated? You may be missing out on several newer features that can improve your connection quality and make your life easier.
In this article, we’ll explore the essential features to look for in a Wi-Fi router, the unnecessary features you may or may not need, and three recommendations for all budgets.
Essential Router Features
For us, an
essential router feature is one that benefits everyone no matter who you are or what you use internet for. Not only are these standard features widely available, but you’ll sorely miss them if you buy a cheap or outdated router that lacks any of these.
Dual-band: A dual-band router can transmit data on two frequencies: 2.4GHz (older) and 5.0GHz (newer). The 2.4GHz band is compatible with older devices, has longer range, uses less power, but is slower and prone to wireless congestion. Not all devices support the 5.0GHz band, and it has shorter range but is faster and more reliable. Learn more about how dual-band routers can improve your internet
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.
802.11ac: This is the latest mainstream Wi-Fi standard (compared to 802.11n, 802.11g, and 802.11b), which brings faster Wi-Fi speed, longer Wi-Fi range, and backward compatibility. That means an 802.11ac router will work fine with older devices that don’t support 802.11ac! Learn more about wireless AC routers
Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers
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MU-MIMO: A router without MU-MIMO can get bottlenecked because it has to serve data to connected devices one at a time (like a dealer who deals cards to a table). With MU-MIMO, the router can serve connected devices simultaneously, which improves data transfer speeds. Learn more in our overview of wireless MU-MIMO
Why Your Next Wi-Fi Router Must Have MU-MIMO
Why Your Next Wi-Fi Router Must Have MU-MIMO Looking for a new router? Give your home network a boost with MU-MIMO, a new Wi-Fi technology. But what is MU-MIMO, and will it increase your wireless performance? Let's find out.
Quality of service: Sometimes called Bandwidth Control, quality of service is a feature that allows the router to prioritize certain devices (e.g. your PC) or certain kinds of traffic (e.g. Netflix streams) over other internet traffic. This comes in handy when someone on the network is hogging bandwidth. Learn more in our quick guide to quality of service on routers
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Guest networks: Don’t want to give out your Wi-Fi password to one-time guests? Modern routers can create a separate “guest” network with a separate name and password, and it won’t interfere with the router’s “main” network.
Gigabit Ethernet ports: For maximum performance, switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet
. But don’t settle for a router with Fast Ethernet ports, which caps out at 100Mbps. Opt for Gigabit Ethernet ports, which support speeds up to 1,000Mbps.
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External antennas: Generally speaking, external antennas provide a more reliable Wi-Fi connection than internal antennas, which means farther range and stronger signals.
With all of that said, we recommend sticking to a
select number of reputable router brands
when shopping for a Wi-Fi router.
Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router?
Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router? Not all wireless routers are made equal -- and the same is true for router brands. Here are some of the more reliable brands along with a few that aren't so much.
Unnecessary Router Features
Image Credit: Ksander via Shutterstock
For us, an
unnecessary router feature is one that’s either situationally useful, risky, or downright negligible. It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not you want these features in your router, but we think most people will do just fine without them.
Parental controls: While some routers allow you to set up time restrictions and web filters, you can do this for free on a per-device basis: Windows 10 parental controls
Check Out The New Windows 10 Parental Control Options
Check Out The New Windows 10 Parental Control Options Windows 10 parental control reports offer details of your child's online behaviour and activity. Some parents are horrified, whilst others welcome it. Let's look at how to use these settings to secure your computer.
Mac parental controls
5 Useful Ways to Utilize Your Mac's Parental Controls
5 Useful Ways to Utilize Your Mac's Parental Controls Even if you aren't a parent, the Parental Controls menu in your Mac holds several handy options. Here's how to use them and the best ones to try.
Android parental controls
5 Best Parental Control Apps for Android
5 Best Parental Control Apps for Android If you want to control what your children are able to do on their Android phone or tablet, you need one of these apps.
iOS parental controls
Lock Down Your Child's iPhone Access & Hide Apps With iOS Restrictions
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USB ports: A router with USB ports lets you plug in a flash drive or external drive and access that data from any device connected to the network. This is useful, of course, but you can always use free cloud storage
Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You?
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7 Reasons to Use a NAS for Data Storage & Backups
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Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS): WPS lets you connect devices to a router without having to enter a password. Turning on WPS on both the router and smart device establishes a Wi-Fi connection. But WPS is terribly insecure
, so you should never really use it.
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Universal Plug and Play (UPnP): UPnP allows connected devices on the same router to find each other for network-related purposes. For example, two computers can share files or a computer can print to a wireless printer. Though this sounds convenient, UPnP is a security vulnerability
and should not be used.
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Mesh network: Mesh routers
are useful for huge homes that are too big for a single router’s coverage, but they’re expensive. If you live in an apartment or a relatively small home, you may just need a better router. Going to get one anyway? See our
5 Reasons to Buy a Mesh Wi-Fi Router Kit (And 3 Reasons Not To)
5 Reasons to Buy a Mesh Wi-Fi Router Kit (And 3 Reasons Not To) Is your router tucked away, battling thick walls and providing spotty coverage? A mesh Wi-Fi system wants to put an end to that horror, boosting your wireless coverage throughout the house.
comparison of Google Wi-Fi vs. Eero vs. Orbi
Google Wifi vs. Eero vs. Orbi: Which Is Best?
Google Wifi vs. Eero vs. Orbi: Which Is Best? In this article, you’ll learn more about the new type of Wi-Fi system for the home and hear more about three of the most talked about Wi-Fi mesh products on the market, Eero, Google Wifi,...
To help you decide, be sure to check out these
key questions to ask before buying a Wi-Fi router
. We also recommend ignoring the
8 Key Questions You Must Ask When Buying A New Wireless Router
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so-called “gaming router” label
as they tend to be unnecessarily marked up in price. A non-gaming router works at least as good for gaming online.
What Do Gaming Routers Do And Does It Really Matter
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Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA7500)
Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA7500) Works with Amazon Alexa
Buy Now At Amazon $125.00
Linksys AC1900 is a solid router for any home. It comes with MU-MIMO support so it provides unimpeded performance for multi-device households, supports dual-band Wi-Fi (up to 1,300Mbps on the 5.0GHz band), and comes equipped with four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port.
Other notable features include bandwidth control and prioritization, a separate guest network, and parental controls. Its three external antennas give it enough range for medium-sized homes. Plus, it’s robust and reliable. You can’t beat it for the price.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S AC4000 Tri-band Gigabit WiFi Router with MU-MIMO, Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa (R8000P)
NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S AC4000 Tri-band Gigabit WiFi Router with MU-MIMO, Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa (R8000P) Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa/Google Assistant - Control your home network using voice commands
Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display
The Netgear Nighthawk series consists of top-shelf consumer routers on the market. The
Nighthawk X6S isn’t the most expensive, but it is the highest you’ll want to go because the value-per-dollar plummets if you spend any more than this.
Notable features include MU-MIMO for performance, tri-band support (which means one 2.4GHz band and two 5.0GHz bands), a blazingly fast 1.8GHz CPU so traffic processing never becomes a bottleneck, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, six external antennas, and voice commands with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
If you can’t stomach spending more than $100 on a router, consider the
TP-Link Archer C7. You get plenty for your money: dual-band support, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports, three external antennas, bandwidth control and prioritization, support for a guest network, and parental controls.
MU-MIMO. That’s a downer for households with lots of internet-connected devices, but that’s the cost you pay for such an affordable option. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a quality router in this price range that also offers MU-MIMO. Having Trouble With Your Wi-Fi Router?
After buying and
setting up your new router
, you need to configure it. Because sometimes routers don’t work properly at first.
10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router
10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router Whether you just bought your first ever router or upgraded your old one to a new one, there are several crucial first steps that you should take right away to set up properly.
We recommend checking out our tips on
why your Wi-Fi is slow
and ways to
4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them)
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boost router speed
. And while performance is important, don’t forget about security! It takes less than 10 minutes to
10 Ways To Improve The Speed of Your Current Router
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secure your router and prevent disaster
7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes
7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps.
What are your favorite router features? Which router are you using right now? Share with us down in the comments below!