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How to Buy a Router

Tech Talker gives you the 5 best tips on buying your next router t improve the strength and stability of your wireless signal.

By
Eric Escobar,
April 11, 2013
Episode #072

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How to Buy a Router

A few episodes back I covered some of the best ways to improve your wireless internet connection throughout your house. I also talked about some of the best (and cheap) ways to boost signal and reduce obstacles. As a result, a lot of Tech Talker readers and listeners emailed me asking if they should get a new router and what brands and types of routers I would suggest. Well in this week’s episode I’ll be covering 5 features to keep an eye out for when shopping for your new router.

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External Antenna

The first feature you should look for in a router is a detachable external antenna. Routers that have this type of attachment allow you to keep your router in one place while adjusting the antenna, which will help to boost your WiFi signal. Another reason why antennas are so important is because if you decide you want to do a minor upgrade to your router, all you have to do is upgrade your antenna, instead of the entire router. Now, this may not be something you’ll ever want to do, but it’s always nice to have options.

There are a lot of great routers on the market that don’t have external antennae. However, in my experience, these do not have quite as much range or flexibility compared to routers that have antennas.

Gigabit Ports

Stepping away from the wireless world, another great feature to have on your router is gigabit ports. These are for any computers, such as your desktop, that have a wired connection. If you were to measure internet speeds pretty much anywhere in the United States, you’ll find that they are significantly lower than one gigabit. Why then would you want gigabit ports? Well there are a few reasons.

If you do any type of sharing of your content across your home network, such as sharing videos from one computer to another, having a gigabit port will give you more than enough speed to stream music and movies from game consoles and PCs connected with a wired connection to your router.

These high-speed ports are also really handy if you are backing up your computer over your network!

USB Enabled

I wasn’t even aware of this next feature until I went out router shopping myself. Having a USB enabled router can also expand the abilities of your router in ways that up until a year ago seemed impossible. If your router has a USB port, you may have the option to attach a hard drive to your router. This is awesome if you have a bunch of laptops in your house that you need to backup locally.

You can hook up an external hard drive to the USB port on your router and voila, now you have wireless network storage! How neat is that? With this capability, you can save any files you want to your network and make them accessible to anyone else on your network without having to sync those files over the internet with a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. This is a really cool feature that I think will be much more common in the future of routers.

Dual Band

As I discussed in Part 1 of my series on How to Boost Your WiFi Signal, routers communicate with devices using radio frequencies. These frequencies can be really congested if you use your device in areas that have a lot of wireless networks. One good way to combat this is to get a router that has a Dual Band option. This allows your router to communicate with devices on both the 2.4Ghz frequency and 5Ghz frequency. This can increase both range and speed.

The only caveat with this though is that if your device is not compatible with the 5Ghz frequency then it will be no better than a single band router. You can check this easily by doing a quick Google search with the name of your device and the keywords “dual band compatible.”

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