Breaking Down Wi-Fi Routers

Chances are good that you use the internet on a daily basis in some way, shape, or form. So of course your heart probably skips a beat or two every time the Wi-Fi goes out. While it might be time to call Hello Computer Services for router tech support, or it may well be time for a new router, understanding whether your router is working as designed, or knowing what features to look for in a new purchase, can be a little harder than it looks.

Industry-related terms like Mbps, dual band, and 802.11ac can leave your head spinning and multiple external antennas can make routers look more like alien spaceships than a household item.

So when it comes to router performance, what features really matter? Do you really need half a dozen antennas? Does it matter what “band” you choose? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know when it comes to routers for your home.

How Many Antennas Does My Router Really Need?

The software that drives the antennas is what really matters, so additional antennas are not necessarily. Multiple antennas provide your devices more bandwidth by creating several streams for sharing data over radio channels but when purchasing a router, think more about added functionality such as specs like MU-MIMO and MIMO that increase a router’s capacity to transmit and receive data, making your network faster.

Whether you’re able to see them or not, all Wi-Fi routers have both a transmit and a receive antenna, which are used to communicate with your wireless devices — from your smartphones, tablets, and smartphones to your new smart refrigerator.

The Dynamic Dual

Whether your internet activity is limited to scrolling through Twitter and Facebook and checking a few emails, or you’re a full-time Netflix binge watcher, a dual band router is your best bet. Dual band routers support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, with the 5GHz band being capable of transmitting more data at higher speeds but currently has issues routing through walls and around furniture and doesn’t travel as far as 2.4GHz.

Single band routers operate solely at the lower 2.4GHz band frequency , which has fewer channels and is therefore more crowded. Tri-band routers support a third band on the 5GHz channel, 5.8GHz, and while they may seem tempting, due to the aforementioned limitations of the 5GHz band, you’ll only see minimal improvement in device performance at this point in time. By using both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, dual band routers provide better coverage and speed, which is what you need for good Wi-Fi coverage everywhere in the home.

Understanding 802.11

The terms associated with internet compatibility are some of the most confusing variables on a router. There’s 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac with 802.11ac and 802.11n being the standards that you’ll generally find on most current routers as the “a,” “b,” and, “g” protocols are considered out of date.

Even though some households can successfully operate their home Wi-Fi on 802.11n, most should utilize the newest 802.11ac standard as it is faster and transmits more data because it uses both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. However, to prevent the router from automatically defaulting back to utilizing only the 2.4GHz band, you need to be close to the router in order to use both channels.

To get a strong, steady, and reliable Wi-Fi signal in every room, not just in the same room as the router or very close to it, you should consider setting up a “mesh network” by setting up multiple 802.11ac access points throughout your home.

The One Time Speed Doesn’t Kill

Routers advertise speeds from 8Mbps (megabits per second) to 1900Mbps and in theory, the higher that number is then the faster your internet speed will be. However, you shouldn’t get too caught up with those numbers on the package. The speeds advertised are theoretical maximums and your actual speeds will depend on a variety of factors, such as; your modem, the layout and materials of your home, your ISP connection and much more.

Router labels will list AC1200, AC1750, AC3200, etc, and the AC is in reference to the wireless standard and the number is in reference to the speed. E.G. – routers with rates of 450Mbps on the lower 2.4GHz band and 1,300Mbps on the higher 5GHz band, would be considered a AC1750 router (450+1,300=1750). However, no individual device, such as your Xbox One, uses all of that bandwidth at the same time, and each device can only utilize one band or the other. AC1200 routers are usually sufficient for the average internet user.

Always Keep Security in Mind When It Comes To Your Router

When it comes to keeping the information on your network safe, your router security is key. The key terms to know when purchasing a new router are WEP, WPA, and WPA2. These are three different Wi-Fi protected access protocols that encrypt your network and require outside devices to have a “key” in order to gain access. WEP is considered outdated and these days is easy work for even those most basically-trained hacker. WPA is more secure but most experts recommend WPA2 security and these days most routers are equipped with this protocol, but you should always ensure that this is the case whenever making a router purchase.

Before You Purchase a New Router

Any piece of technology these days can be a costly purchase so if your router meets the recommended specs above but just isn’t working as it should, give Hello Computer Services a call toll-free at 1800-810-8012. We provide a free diagnostic, a resolution guarantee, a service warranty, and even a customer satisfaction guarantee. You have nothing to lose — except the stress of that misbehaving router.

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