Wireless (WiFi) routers are popular with home or small business users, being an affordable solution that provides an access point and switch allowing multiple Wi-Fi devices (such as printers, tablets and gaming consoles) to be networked, including three / four wired devices via Ethernet cable ports.
The router itself forwards and receives Internet traffic via a cable or Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connection. All-in-one routers containing an ADSL 2/ 2+ modem, NAT router, switch and wireless access point are a popular choice, eliminating the need to purchase multiple devices to access and share a high-speed Internet connection (see also our range of Wireless Routers with integrated object-based Firewalls).
As an ever-increasing number of home products rely upon Wi-Fi connectivity (including smart TVs and streaming services such as Apple TV / Amazon Fire TV), it's important to outfit your home or business with a wireless router that’s up to the job.
Most important is the coverage area to consider within your home or business. Today, dual-band 802.11n devices are standard, meaning that the router is equipped with two radios; one connecting to the 2.4GHz band frequency and the other to the 5GHz band. Typically, the 5GHz band is less crowded than 2.4Ghz (which competes with Bluetooth devices and wireless phones, for example) making it better suited to video streaming – such as Netflix – or online gaming duty via services such as Xbox Live.
Most flexible of all are tri-band routers. Equipped with three radios (two operating at 5Ghz and one at 2.4GHz) such models are a good fit for households or small businesses where heavy network traffic is the norm - rather than exception.
Increasingly, routers with the latest wireless networking standard of 802.11.ac. are appearing on the market. With throughput up to and exceeding 1Gbps, devices supporting this standard benefit from the wider channel bandwidth available (up to 160Hz compared with 40Hz) whilst also supporting legacy hardware using 802.11n, a, b and g standards. This makes them ideal for delivering full HDTV quality with 1080p and higher video resolution.
As Wireless b standard routers are no longer manufactured, the choice comes down to g, n, or the latest ac standard.
Wireless g is acceptable where just a couple of devices normally use the network and in cases where old gaming systems – such as PlayStation 3 do not natively support the Wireless n standard.
Wireless n is more suited to locations with heavy network traffic, including multiple devices streaming content from You Tube / Netflix; use of gaming services against other players online, or the frequent downloading of large files. The range of a wireless n router is also improved compared to a wireless g device.
The lack of security typically associated with wireless networks is an important concern for companies and users in general nowadays. Before you buy any router you should secure your router and your devices at least with a password using WPA2 (the second implementation of the Wi-Fi Protected Access protocol). Some routers come with many extra features, including the ability add extra levels of encryption, monitor devices, restrict access to certain users from the network, and even monitor what people are browsing.
Top brands on the market are constantly implementing more powerful wireless standards (IEEE standards, specifically) as technology becomes more advanced.
While some of the more advanced features in a wireless router are dictated by price, looking for a unit with at least four 10/100/1000 (gigabit) Ethernet ports will allow for the additional connection of network-attached storage (NAS) drives and home-automation hubs.
Additionally, choosing a product which features removable antennas is useful in situations where a router’s wireless range needs to be extended. Using third-party high-gain antennas may prove a more cost-efficient solution than a range extender solution (which, under certain conditions, can also be frustrating to set-up).
In terms of security, we recommend enabling your chosen router with WPA2-PSK (AES) or WPA/WPA2-PSK (TKIP/AES) access protection, which requires entering a network password for each device.
For larger corporate or government Wi-Fi networks, WPA-Enterprise - which uses a RADIUS server to hand out unique keys – is the preferred option in such environments.
Alternatively, a wired router – known as LAN routers - provides connectivity for multiple computers on a local area network, also giving access to a wide area network (WAN) such as the Internet.
Wired router solutions are often geared towards larger organisations. Combined with access points, they offer a modular solution that allows network expansion to coincide with business growth.
Typically, Ethernet cables are employed with wired router solutions, supporting 10/100 Mbps connections. For higher data speeds, a Gigabit Ethernet network can be established, allowing devices equipped with Gigabit-compatible network adapters to be connected through a Gigabit-compatible LAN switch.
As wired routers have different numbers of ports for setting up a network, it’s wise to calculate how many devices will be connected on your LAN before making a purchase. In additional, the compatibility of firewalls and configuration of network controls can also vary between products.
Misco stock a wide-range of wired and wireless routers, including top-of-the-range options with the most effective networking features, along with value for money options (each backed by comprehensive manufacturer warranties to protect your hardware after purchase). Start by choosing from our selection of products from top brands such as Cisco, DrayTek, D-Link, Netgear and TP-Link.
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