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Choosing the Right Router for You

Internet Service Providers Discuss How Hardware Gives You the Most out of Your Connection

When the World Wide Web first appeared in the early nineties, it made the internet accessible to so many more people than it had ever been before. Along with the proliferation of personal computers into many households, it was a major driving force in bringing the world together online. But it was anchored to a singular point—you could only use it from a computer connected to a telephone line. Eventually internet service providers introduced DSL and cable connections, and not long after, wires were done away with altogether. Wi-Fi allows all of your devices—your computer, phone, tablet, game console, TV, and even your fridge—to connect to the internet wirelessly through radio signals. But not all wireless routers are made equal. Not by a long shot.

In a lot of ways, choosing a quality wireless router is a lot like choosing a good internet service provider. You need to think about how you intend to use your connection, how many people will be connected to it, and how many devices each one is using at any given moment. Things like excessive Netflix-ing and online multiplayer games will put more demand on your home network than simply looking up recipes on Pinterest and catching up with your friends and family on social media. There are also more unique concerns you have to take into account, such as the size and shape of your home, its layout, and even—if you can believe it—what the walls are made of!

Each router you look at will have a speed listed on it. This isn’t the speed of the internet service you’ll get using it—at least, not quite! Rather, this is the maximum speed at which it can transfer information wirelessly from the modem to your device. As such, you should make sure that the router is as fast as or faster than your actual connection, or else the router will become a “choke point” in your speed. It may also list a number of maximum connections—while 30 devices may sound excessive, the devices add up more quickly than you realize, especially during social gatherings.

A wireless router may also advertise itself as being designed for large homes. If you’re living in an apartment, this won’t be necessary, but in a two-storey (or bigger) house, this can become a major asset. After all, many people using lackluster routers have found that while the connection is great in the living room, they get a lot of interference in their bedrooms, or otherwise in different areas of their home. If this is still an issue even with a powerful router, look into setting up relays. These small devices can be bought at many tech stores, and help increase the signal range—perfect if your old, thick walls are dampening your signal.

Budget is always a concern for any major purchase—this is inescapable. But if you have the cash flow to handle it, it’s never a bad idea to buy something cutting-edge, even if it’s a little advanced for your current gadgets (e.g. buying an AC router despite all your current devices running on N connections). This is called future-proofing, and it means making an investment in technology that will last longer so that you won’t need to replace it later—especially when your internet service provider starts offering higher speeds for less!

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