Last updated: October 15, 2021

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A router is a small device that connects to a network modem to provide wireless internet access without the need for cables. The advantage of a router is that it can take information from several networks and transmit it to several computers at the same time.

We will provide you with all the relevant information so that you can buy the best router for your needs and budget. We will show you from the technical details to the most important features of these devices. This way you will have all the information you need to buy your ideal router.




The Best Routers: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about routers

Since the Internet boom of the 1990s, we have witnessed how society has become a devourer of information. This has meant that over the years connection speeds have increased dramatically; and with it the need to move around untethered by wires.

Thanks to routers, any point in a home or office can be a hub for any device with a WiFi connection.
(Photo: Kittichai Boonpong/ 123rf.com)

What is a router and what are its advantages?

Routers are devices that allow computers, tablets, smartphones, and other equipment to connect to the Internet without the use of wires, but instead via a wireless connection. The purpose of the router is to take the information from the modem and send it to the computers that are connected to the network.

Another function that routers have is to act as network switches. This allows them to create a network for various computers to connect to each other. For example, several computers connected to a router can be configured to share printers and files with each other, creating an internal network.

Advantages
  • They are easy to set up
  • If they have a key, they prevent the presence of intruders on the network
  • They can cover long distances to connect computers to the network
  • They can select the best route between 2 or more options
  • They are not limited by topology
  • Can allow network configurations between multiple devices
Disadvantages
  • Internet connection is slower compared to a network cable
  • Can lose signal depending on the network infrastructure
  • More expensive than bridges
  • Must manage sub-addressing at the link level
  • Can lose their configuration due to power overloads

How do routers work?

Routers connect to a modem via a network cable to allow devices to communicate with the Internet. It is common to see a router have more than one Ethernet port; this is because they also provide the ability to connect wired equipment to the network.

Once the router is connected to the modem it can generate 2 types of IP addresses: The IP address assigned to the WAN connection which is public. The IP address assigned to the local network or LAN connection is private. Private IP addresses are most commonly used by devices to keep the connection private.

Routers and their types - what should you pay attention to?

In the router market there are 2 models of routers. They are the wired router and the mixed router also known as wireless router. The wired router has fallen into disuse over the years and is practically no longer sold today. The mixed routers, on the other hand, are divided into single-band, multi-band and 4G routers.

  • Single-band router: This equipment operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency, which is the most widely used because it provides a greater distance in coverage. This type of equipment can allow a maximum speed of 450 Mbps. Monoband routers are designed with one antenna.
  • Multiband Router: This model can work with 2.4 and 5.0 GHz frequencies, hence its name. It can reach transmission speeds of up to 1750 Mbps. However, its coverage range is more limited in the 5.0 band compared to the 2.4 band. The design of this router incorporates more than one antenna.
  • 4G router: This type of router does not work with an Internet connection via a modem, but provides the signal itself. 4G routers are recommended for use in places where there is no access to telephone lines. Its design is similar to a USB stick and is connected through this port.
Router Monoband Router Multiband Router 4G
Frequency They operate at a frequency of 2.4 Ghz, the most common and the most saturated Can operate on 2.4 and 5.4 GHz frequencies.0 Ghz They have the ability to provide Internet without a connection to a modem
Speed Theoretical speed reaches 450 Mb/s Reaches speeds of 1750 Mb/s They use 4G mobile signal to connect
Range Covers large areas of land Although it has a smaller coverage than the 2.4 Ghz band They are recommended for areas where there are no telephone lines
Design It has only one antenna They are devices that have more than one antenna They can have the shape of a USB memory

Routers and WiFi speed

Since the arrival of WiFi in our lives, it has evolved over the years without us realising it. Today we cannot compare the upload or download speed with what we had 20 years ago. The speed classification is defined by the number 802.11 followed by letters.

The 802.11a. Launched in 1999 and operated in the 5.0 GHz band. Its aim was to find as little interference as possible, as the 2.4 GHz band began to become saturated. It had a speed of 300 Mbps.

The 802.11b. Also launched in 1999 and worked with the 2.4 GHz band. This was the standard that was able to bring WiFi to its peak. It had a problem of interference with cordless phones, microwave ovens using the 2.4 GHz band Launched in 2003, 802.11g offered a data rate of up to 300 megabits per second through the use of the 2.4 GHz band. We can still find equipment with this classification, and it is no longer in use.

802.11n. It appeared in 2009 and is considered the fastest WiFi speeds today. They can reach 800 Mbps and their main feature is that they are multiband and can operate at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

802.11ac. It emerged in 2013 and can reach speeds of 1,300 Mbps at 5.0 GHZ and up to 450 Mbps at 2.4 GHz. It uses dual band technology and connects to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Many smartphones now use this technology to connect.

802.11ax. This is the most recent WiFi technology available. It is designed to be used in crowded public environments where a large number of people pass through. This WiFi can reach 6000 Mbps and will become the new WiFi standard.

802.11abg 802.11n 802.11ac 802.11ax
Speed up to 300 Mbps Speed up to 800 Mbps Speed up to 1300 Mbps Speed up to 6000 Mbps
Already discontinued Known as WiFi 4 Known as WiFi 5 Known as WiFi 6
Consumes less power than WiFi 4 Improved MU-MIMOand OFDA technologies
Has wider bandwidth channels Released during 2018 and is the newest standard.
Supports simultaneous signals with MU-MIMO and beamforming

Buying criteria

When buying a router, you should pay attention to certain factors that are important for the user to enjoy a fast Internet connection. Consider how long you will be using the Internet, whether from a computer, mobile device or other equipment and what type of content you are viewing through it.

The number of bandwidths you want to work with

When choosing a router, you will find that these devices can work with one, two or even three bands. This means that the device can operate to the number of wireless networks available. If you select one band, the device will most likely only work on the 2.4 Ghz frequency. A 2-band router has the possibility to work with the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.

Finally, a 3-band router is similar to a 2-band router, but incorporates a second 5.0 GHz band. If you have only a few devices to which the router will be connected and you do not spend a lot of time surfing, it is best to buy a 1-band model.

However, for demanding users who are going to have more devices connected to the router simultaneously, the best option is to buy a 2-band or 3-band model depending on the number of devices to be connected.

Routers provide the ability to connect to the Internet without the need to be attached to a network cable.
(Photo: Kittichai Boonpong/ 123rf.com)

Ports

It is important that the router you choose has ports such as Ethernet, LAN and USB 3.0. This ensures that in case we need to use a wired network connection we have the possibility to do so.

The ports ensure that files can be transferred quickly and effectively within a private network such as an office network. It is most common for new routers to have 1 Gbps Ethernet ports, although we may find models with speeds of 100 Mbps that are obsolete and should be discarded.

In general, routers have 4 LAN ports and 1 WAN port that allows the router to connect to the modem that provides the Internet. It is important to consider if in addition to these ports, you want to have more connectivity with USB ports to connect peripherals such as printers to a network.

There may even be equipment that has an SD card reader or M2 ports for SSD disks.

WiFi speed

This is undoubtedly the most important point when buying a router. But first you should check with your Internet provider to find out what your plan is and what speeds they offer for both upload and download data. Once you have this information you can buy a router that suits what you are paying for the service.

As mentioned earlier, routers specify which type of WiFi standard they support. The 802.11abg has become obsolete due to the speeds it handles, so the best option is equipment that works with the 802.11ac or 802.11ax standard (the latter will depend on when the technology arrives in the country).

Security

Another factor to take into account when buying a router. It is important to know if the equipment you are going to buy has the ability to be configured to block access to strangers who want to enter your internet signal. Modern routers allow WPA2 security, which is very secure when working with passwords.

Now if you see that the equipment you are thinking of buying does not have this security factor but works with the WEP system, it is best not to buy it as this type of security is very easy to violate nowadays and would leave us exposed to any computer attack.

There are also devices that offer other systems in addition to WPA2 security, such as VPNs that allow the IP address through which you connect to be unknown, or AVG systems that allow you to block any attack coming from the network.

The brand

It may seem obvious, but knowing which brand you are buying is very important when buying a good router. There are a multitude of brands on the market today; some generic and unknown brands can have poor performance and durability.

If we opt for well-known brands such as TP-Link, Asus, Linksys, Google, D-Link, among others, we can be sure that the performance and durability of the router you choose will be more than satisfactory for your needs.

(Featured Image Source: Nito500/ 123rf.com)

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