Wireless Router Reviews – Advice on Choosing Your Next Wireless Router

Wireless router just packed up? Tired of endless wireless router reviews? Maybe you just got faster Internet access and want a beefier device for all those must have movies, new tracks and everything else. Relax – in this article I’m going to give you some pointers on looking for the right piece of kit at the right price.Did you know the best wireless router is not necessarily the cheapest? I’ll show you the quickest and most economical way to achieve those lightning quick movie streaming and faster iPod downloads without any hassle.So where do we start? What is a wireless router and why do I need it? It’s not rocket science – a wireless router allows you to access the Internet via your broadband Internet connection and your (yours, your partners, your family / flat-mates etc), laptop, PC, Mac, iPod, PS3, Wii, iPad or whatever you want to connect.Making that happen quickly, hassle-free and reliably is our goal however I’m sure you won’t want just anyone able to grab your connection, maybe impersonate you, nab your credit card details, personal details or whatever you hold most dear on your computer so we need to ensure that up-to-date security is a must have. Questions I won’t be answering in this article are those from a technical perspective such as “how do I configure routers?” – there are plenty of articles on that if you really want it.So what is the first step? Well good quality reviews from the coal-face are a must as well as some pointers to the best products and where to get them. It’s hard to imagine a world without wireless routers and networking now but not so long ago it was the stuff of science fiction and the technology continues to develop quickly – it doesn’t means its easy to pick the right one.There are many different types of router on the market for different needs – we’ll concentrate for now on the home / small office market. As with most things in life there is a range of prices depending on requirements – everything from “get going quickly” to models that will back up your data and probably wash your car… for a price.In order to stay above the wave of hype we can start by looking at your usage. Are you just wanting to surf in the living room or on the deck? Do you want easy set up or are you prepared to wade in? Are you a gamer or run a business? Features such as traffic prioritisation, virtual servers or VPN support will appeal more but may have a higher price tag (not always though!).A basic yardstick though is that the more features a router has the more expensive it will be to buy. At the bottom end if you have older laptops with maybe 802.11b or g wireless cards (more than 3 years old likely) you are likely to probably only need a basic router. E.g. Tenda Wireless-N150 could be a quick option with just b or g connectivity turned on.A slight bit of technical knowledge – don’t worry its painless and may save you a few pennies! Older 802.11b and 802.11g devices use the 2.4GHz wireless bandwidth while newer 802.11n can use 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands – the latter band is better for throughput-intensive networking such as gaming or movie streaming. End of technical bit.Your basic laptop will not benefit from a flashy new router but can get away with a single band 2.43Ghz N router – it is backwards compatible – I’ll show you a quick way to set it all up in a later article – something like the Cisco E1000 may fill this niche. However if you have a new laptops then looking at one that handles both bands is a better bet (don’t worry the DLink DIR-825 can do all this for you!).If you have a Mac, iPad etc though looking at an Apple router may be a good bet.SecurityNext I’ll be looking at security and a few other features you need and some you don’t! As we saw previously it is not too hard to get up and running with a wireless router but what about the bad guys out to hack our credit cards and infect our PCs? How do we stop them? Do I really want to let my neighbour leech all my bandwidth? What if my credit card details go missing? How do I stop it before it happens?Well it certainly can happen – I secured the wireless network for a friend – not long afterward his neighbour said “looks like we’d better get our own broadband connection now…”. A little can take you a long way – security need not be a hassle by following these simple tips: –
Ensure you set a password for your wireless network – the router setup on your device should prompt you for a password – ensure you enter something only you would know and always follow good security password advice – Google “good passwords” for more information.
Don’t connect your router to the Internet until you have set the password!
If you wish to set access control for your children ensure you buy a router with access controls – for example DLink DIR-825. Access controls could restrict what sites certain users can look at as well as what times of day they can use the Internet (stopping bleary eyed teens staying up for an all-nighter on Call of Duty!)
Guest access is a great feature for home and small business users – you can give access to the Internet (but not your files ) to visitors.All this can be undone if you fail to follow basic guidelines on connected wireless devices, e.g. regular anti-virus updates, keeping up to date with security patches (e.g. for Windows machines using Windows Update) and never writing down your password on a post-it on the laptop!So to summarise in those immortal words – “Don’t Panic” but don’t close your eyes and you should be fine.RangeWant to surf in your garden? Get iTunes in the kitchen? Watch films in the bath? Well maybe you do want to stream movies in the bath?What should you look at when selecting a router to meet this criteria? Routers can only work as far as they can project their wireless signals – this is major issue if you choose the a router with poor performance in this area (unless you live in a small flat of course!). If access in your favourite location for surging (garden, potting shed etc) is out because you scrimped on features then it could be money down the drain.Look at range as a key feature if you have thick walls or a couple of floors between you and your favoured surf spot – key to range is the router aerials (antennas to US readers) these are either external (sticks poking out of the back of the trouter) or internal – external usually is much better but internal looks better and is improving all the time. For example, Sitecom WL-341 has no external aerials whereas the DLink DIR-655 has 4.Since you won’t – probably – be displaying the router on your mantelpiece choose the router with the best performance rather than on looks. What use a photo frame if you can’t get reliable access? If you have a small residence with plasterboard walls then an internal antenna may well be sufficient – key is to make sure of your vendors return policy if trouble develops – sites such as Amazon and JohnLewis.com excel in this score. Is it really worth saving a little if they won’t give a refund or exchange?Whilst external aerials mounted on a wall can be used they will be expensive compared to your router – a better option may be to look at wireless devices using your home electric network (or powerline networking) e.g. Netgear WGXB102 (many other similar brands available) – just hook a cable from your router into this and plug it into the wall – plug another device into your desired area and – voila – you have wireless access.FeaturesLook at any wireless router review and you will see new features touted as if they will make you better looking and re-grow hair – if only you just spend that extra 30 ($50)! You tell yourself that feature X or widget Y will really make things easier – but how often is that really the case?As I mentioned earlier you will see many features listed – the key is knowing when to spend and when to say “that gizmo looks really cool but I’ll use it once”
Do you really need a digital photo frame built into your router? The one sitting behind the printer or behind the sofa? Well if like getting a crick in your neck looking at images of little Johhny then maybe…
What about fallback connectivity if your DSL or cable goes down? Would a 3G slot for your USB 3G card help?
Ask yourself what do I really do on a regular basis – for example avid gamers may well benefit from features such as port forwarding to allow online gaming without that annoying delay,
a built in BitTorrent file-sharing client could be a great feature to schedule those video downloads and avoid leaving your laptop on all night
Access control and VPN features could allow your employees to securely work from customer locations, on the move or even allow you upload holiday shots from Orlando back to home when the memory card nears capacity e.g. Billion BiPAC 7402GX.
Newer features such as the ability to connect external storage to your router may well be a great idea if you can’t to keep all your music or those downloaded movies in a central location fro replay from to your PS3 in the living room, laptop in the garden or just in the bath.At the end of the day it’s not feature creep if you value it and use it – just be in control. For more information use wireless router reviews as a search in Google. Final word – “Don’t Panic!”