Routers Buying Guide

By now, most consumers understand what modems and routers do. If not, it can be summed up in a few terms - they work together to create a network. The modem communicates with the Internet and the router allows an array of devices to use the signal broadcast by the router. Clearly, this means that most people will understand the term "WiFi Network", and this is something that many people create in their homes - no matter how large or small.

What a lot of people may not know about is the term ADSL, or asymmetric digital subscriber line. This is a variety of DSL broadband technology that can send more data over the telephone lines than the more common modem lines allow. However, anyone using ADSL modems and routers will have to have the appropriate subscription and will have to have the proper micro filter to use the signals received.

If you are fortunate enough to have ADSL modem capability in your home, it means you can have a supremely fast WiFi network when you use ADSL modems and routers to establish the system.

Why Go WiFi?

If it takes so much technology to create a WiFi network in the home, why do it at all? Consider that you will have only a small number of cables heading into the home. These will connect to the modem or directly to the router, and then all of the signals available will be open to your various mobile and wireless devices. If you have WiFi capable computers, mobile phones, laptops, and printers, you can get them to all interact without any wires thanks to the use of the ADSL gear.

Obviously, this means knowing how to choose the right devices for your home networking needs. This is actually quite simple and begins with a look at your computer. Is it WiFi ready? If not, you need only use a USB adaptor to connect it directly to the router. The reason it can plug into the router is because almost all routers have their modems built into them.

Choosing the Devices

To choose the appropriate router is simple and starts with you knowing the "standards" that you desire. The standards describe the rate at which data is transferred and the frequency that the device will operate on. Be careful about choosing standards because these are what determine the ultimate range and speed of a network.

Currently, the best standard is 802.11n, though you will find that many routers are available at 802.11g or less. You will also find many that are described as different types or numbers. For example, there are some that use a frequency band as their standard, such as a 5 GHz model. There are some that can even switch between cable, ADSL, and other technologies.

Knowing what you need in terms of speed or data transfer rate is easy when you just answer a few simple questions:

  • What will I use this device to do? Will it be for Internet surfing and emailing, or will you have a few household members using it to game online, stream music, and surf the web?

  • What sort of equipment do I already have? This is going to tell you if you need options for network cable connections, a wireless network adapter, a wireless access point (if your home is very large or you want service outdoors), and whether you want a very secure device.

Once you have answered those basic questions it will tell you which sorts of modems and routers to consider. There are a few major brands, and some secondary markets developing, and among the most frequently used are Belkin, Cisco, Netgear, NetComm, and DrayTek. Each of these brands tends to make a diversity of models available, and most have units that can meet many different needs.

Pricing Per Unit

Naturally, the more features or options ADSL modems and routers have, the higher their price. Those that can use a range of encryption algorithms, rely on a lot of unique data link protocols, and which feature easy switching between connection options will run at the highest end of the price range. However, don't overlook the benefits of even the simplest devices because these too are often packed with a lot of excellent features, though their range may be less powerful than their competitors.

The important features to pay for are firewall options, easy setup and controls, and system requirements that will work with all modern operating systems.