If you're in the market for a Wi-Fi router, then you've probably asked yourself, "What do I need a new router for?" or "What features should I look for in a router?" In this blog post, we'll help you answer those questions and others you may have when it comes to choosing the right Wi-Fi router for your needs.
On the box of every single router, you will see numbers like 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz. These numbers indicate the wireless radios on the router.
The 2.4 Ghz radio is suitable for activities that don’t require much network bandwidth like web browsing and replying to emails. Its band is of a lower frequency; while its range can exceed 5 Ghz, it can easily be blocked by concrete walls.
On the other hand, the 5 Ghz band has greater power, but it also has a shorter broadcast range. This option is preferable for video conferencing and other activities that require heavy media upload/download.
A dual- or tri-band router will have both the 2.4Ghz and 5 Ghz radios so that the connection workload can be split between them.
By looking at any router, you will see that there are a number of different network types available. Also referred to as wireless protocols, the four most common types are 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. These designations indicate how fast the router can transfer wireless data, with 802.11ac being the fastest.
Newer routers utilize the latest Wi-Fi protocol dubbed 802.11ax. Also known as Wi-Fi 6 or High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW), this new protocol improves upon 802.11ac technology in the following ways:
- Greater throughput speeds (up to 9.6 Gbps)
- Reduced network congestion and expanded client capacity, thanks to Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)
- Improved range performance
- Reduced power consumption by network-connected devices, courtesy of Target Wake Time (TWT)
OFDMA enhances network performance by splitting up Wi-Fi channels into sub-channels. Doing this permits up to 30 users to simultaneously use the same channel.
Meanwhile, TWT reduces the power consumption of connected devices by allowing them to determine when and how often they will wake up to begin sending and receiving data. This extends the battery life of smartphones and battery-powered Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart thermostats and security cameras.
In communication networks, throughput is the rate at which messages are successfully delivered via a communications channel. A router’s throughput is the speed at which the router is supposed to transmit data to users. To spot the router’s throughput, look for Mbps (or Gbps for cable Ethernet connections). This is usually one of the first things listed on router boxes and specifications.
Keep in mind that if you have a 100 Mbps internet connection but your router can only deliver up to 80 Mbps, then the total speed of your network will be the lower figure. This is why it would be best to get a router with a higher throughput if your internet service provider delivers faster connections.
Beamforming is a feature that’s now standard in mid- to high-end routers. This form of signal technology allows for better throughput in areas with poor or dead signals. Beamforming can help improve the connection quality with devices behind solid walls or in rooms with large amounts of signal interference.
By utilizing this technology, routers can determine weak connections and automatically improve them. While beamforming is available in routers with many network types, it is really only useful with routers running 802.11ac or higher. Those who don’t mind paying a higher price point for an increase in network performance should consider this feature.
Multiple input, multiple output (MIMO)
MIMO is the use of multiple antennas to increase performance and overall throughput. MIMO-enabled routers ensure that more devices can connect to one router with less interference.
When it comes to real-world tests, there is often a slight improvement if the antennas are configured and aimed properly. However, getting a high-end router with six or more antennas may be an unnecessary cost for small businesses.
Quality of service (QoS)
QoS allows the router administrator to limit certain types of traffic. For example, you can use this feature of a router to completely block all torrent traffic or limit it so that other users can have equal bandwidth. Not every router has this ability, but it is a highly beneficial feature for office routers.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to picking an office router but the process doesn’t have to be complicated. Contact us today so we can evaluate your networking needs and help you find the best setup for your business.