How to Buy That New Router You’ve Been Putting Off
We all know routers are essential, but understanding how to buy a new router isn’t common knowledge. With countless options available, buying a new router can often feel overwhelming.
While many people opt to buy their own router, it’s worth considering the benefits of using the router provided by your ISP. Renting it can simplify the process and give you easy access to tech support and troubleshooting. ISPs handle updates and maintenance for their router, but not for ones you purchased. This can save you a lot of time and effort were things to go wrong.
However, if you still think buying a router is the best choice, fear not! We’re here to help you navigate the world of routers and find the perfect one for your needs. We’ll cover essential features to consider when buying a WiFi router, so you can make an informed decision. Let’s dive in!
7 Key Features to Consider When Buying a WiFi Router
Here are the features you need to consider when buying your next new router:
Dual-Band or Tri-Band Capability
The primary WiFi bands are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Today, most routers offer the option to use either band. However, some newer routers come with tri-band compatibility, providing an additional 5 GHz band for even better performance.
What’s the difference between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands?
The 2.4 GHz band is more susceptible to interference from other appliances, such as microwaves and cordless phones, which can negatively affect your WiFi signal. On the other hand, the 5 GHz band provides faster speeds and is less prone to interference. However, it has a shorter range compared to the 2.4 GHz band.
By choosing a dual-band or tri-band router, you can enjoy the benefits of both frequency bands, allowing you to switch between them as needed to ensure a constant WiFi connection throughout your home.
Coverage & Range
The strength of your router’s WiFi signal is crucial. The stronger the signal the further your WiFi can travel. Aim for a router that allows the furthest distance while maintaining a strong connection. This ensures that all areas of your home have adequate coverage.
As explained above, the 2.4 GHz band has better range, while the 5 GHz band delivers faster speeds.
Quality of Service (QoS)
Quality of Service lets you prioritize bandwidth for specific activities or devices, such as gaming or streaming. It’s particularly helpful when your router supports multiple devices. A wireless router with a central processing unit (CPU) will provide better QoS configurations.
A router with a fast CPU can provide better QoS configurations because it processes data more efficiently. For example, if you’re working from home and need a stable video conferencing connection for Zoom meetings, a fast CPU in your router allows you to prioritize bandwidth for video conferencing. This ensures that your Zoom calls remain smooth and lag-free, even if other household members are streaming videos or gaming at the same time.
Many ISPs, including Race Communications, offer QoS through network management apps. Our company has a dedicated app called Race CommandIQ, which allows you to easily manage your QoS settings.
Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO)
MU-MIMO is a handy feature found in many routers that makes your WiFi work more efficiently. Think of your router as a busy cashier at a grocery store, and all the devices in your home are customers waiting in line. Without MU-MIMO, there’s just one line, and the cashier can only help one customer at a time making for a slow checkout.
However, with MU-MIMO, your router splits its attention, creating multiple shorter lines for your devices. Your devices get served faster, making your WiFi better overall. In practical terms, a router with MU-MIMO technology can better accommodate the needs of connected households where multiple people are streaming, gaming, or working from home
To check if a router you want to buy has MU-MIMO, start by searching for the router’s model number or name online. You can visit the manufacturer’s website and look for the product page, which should provide detailed specifications. If you can’t find the information on the manufacturer’s website, look for online reviews or assistance at the physical store.
Security (WPA2 & WPA3)
Security is vital when choosing the best internet router. Ensure the router you select uses at least WPA2 encryption to protect your data and devices.
You can check if your new router supports WPA2 encryption by looking at the product specifications on the manufacturer’s website or the packaging itself. Most routers released in the last decade have WPA2 encryption as a standard feature, as it has been the industry norm for some time.
An even better and more secure encryption standard is WPA3, which has started to replace WPA2 on newer routers. WPA3 offers enhanced security features, such as brute force attacks that can gain unauthorized access to your network. So, if you’re looking for the most secure option, consider choosing a router with WPA3 support.
Support for Your Internet Plan’s Speed
Whenever possible, choose a router that offers more speed than what’s advertised with your internet plan. This way, you get the fastest WiFi speeds possible, even with multiple devices and users connecting simultaneously.
Routers often advertise their speeds as a combination of both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. However, most devices don’t use both frequencies simultaneously. So, the combined speed might not accurately represent the actual speed you’ll experience on each frequency.
To avoid confusion, check the maximum speed supported by the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz frequency separately. This will give you a clearer understanding of the actual speeds you can expect from each frequency band, helping you make a more informed decision when choosing a router.
How to Buy a New Router: 4 Additional Tips
While the above features are essential, don’t forget these additional tips when buying a new router:
- Look for customer reviews: Reviews from other users can provide valuable insights into a router’s performance, reliability, and setup process.
- Check for compatibility with your Internet Service Provider: Make sure your chosen router is compatible with your ISP. Some ISPs provide a list of approved routers, while others allow you to use any router that meets specific criteria.
- Future-proof your purchase: Opt for a router that supports the latest WiFi standards, such as WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E. Instead of replacing it after a year or two, your router will remain compatible with new devices and technologies.
- Rent a router from your ISP: If you prefer to avoid guesswork, consider using a router provided by your ISP, as some providers, like Race Communications, include them within their monthly service cost. ISPs often offer tech support and supply pre-configured routers for their networks, making setup a breeze. Additionally, this option allows your ISP to troubleshoot issues remotely and replace the router for free if technical problems arise (excluding user-caused damage).
Buying a New Router: Final Thoughts
We know how challenging it can be to choose the perfect router for your needs, but by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making a wise decision. If you ever have questions about your router, don’t hesitate to contact your ISP’s customer support. They’re there to help you get the most out of your online experience.
If you’re considering becoming a Race Communications customer, we have great news! When you sign up with us, we provide a router capable of handling gigabit speeds, ensuring you get the best performance possible. Our routers are designed to work straight out of the box, so setup is a breeze. Additionally, we offer tech support and can remotely troubleshoot your router without sending a technician to your home.
To enjoy these benefits and more, consider joining the Race family today. We’re here to help you have a seamless and enjoyable internet experience. Happy browsing!