Today Wifi Routers are packed with tons of features and this really confuses the user. User is always lured towards the costliest product thinking its the best. But the thing is he doesn’t understand his requirement. So let’s fix that.
To buy a good Wifi Router we will first understand about the Frequency Bands.
- Frequency Band is the frequency at which the Wifi Router operates.
- The Frequency Band of Wifi Routers is 2.4GHz or 5GHz or Both. When the Wifi Router supports both the Frequency Bands then it is known as Dual Band Wifi Router.
- 2.4GHz and 5GHz are unlicensed bands i.e. we don’t have to pay a single penny for this. It’s completely FREE.
- The question is what’s the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Well the major difference is that 2.4GHz provides much better network coverage than 5GHz. Second difference makes it more understandable why we have the 5GHz band. Well most of the electronic devices at our home operate on the 2.4GHz band because of which there may be lot of interference in the 2.4GHz band which eventually leads to drops, slower speeds and poor browsing experience. Hence 5GHz is the cleaner band with less interference which we can use in such areas.
Let’s dig in further and get some basic information about the Wireless LAN Protocols as these protocols will be one of the key factors in deciding the Wifi Router.
Wireless LAN Protocols
|Launch Date||Sep 1999||Sep 1999||Jun 2003||Oct 2009||Development Start 2011||Announced 2013|
|Point of Comparison||802.11a||802.11b||802.11g||802.11n||802.11ac||802.11ad|
|Frequency Band||5GHz||2.4GHz||2.4GHz||2.4Ghz & 5Ghz||5GHz||2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz|
|Bandwidth (MHz)||20||22||20||20, 40||20, 40, 80, 160 & 80+80||Wider Bandwidth|
|Maximum Transmit Rate||54Mbps||11Mbps||54Mbps||450Mbps||1.3Gbps||7Gbps|
- 802.11a/b/g are old protocols and are rarely used now days. The most common protocol is 802.11n.
- 802.11ac is the latest one which is available. 802.11ad has just been announced and is being developed. We may not see any device with 802.11ad protocol support until next year.
- The striking difference between 802.11n/ac/ad is the transmit rates (throughput). With the 802.11n protocol we get a maximum transmit rate of 450Mbps while with 802.11ac first generation we get 1.3Gbps and with 802.11ad we get 7Gbps.
- Higher transmit rates help in streaming of Multimedia content. 802.11ac and 802.11ad are capable of Ultra High Definition streaming as UHD content has high video and audio bit rates. Streaming UHD content will be much more smooth on the 802.11ad protocol than on 802.11ac and thats simply because of the transmit rate.
- Higher transmit rates also make LAN Gaming smooth. 802.11n, 802.11ac and 802.11ad is capable of streaming HD content. 802.11n protocol is available with transmit rates of 150Mbps, 300Mbps and 450Mbps but HD streaming on 802.11n will work flawlessly only on 450Mbps and 300Mbps. And I mean on multiple devices. With N150 you will be able to stream HD content on a single device without any lags.
- 802.11ac supports large amount of bandwidth but still it is not that great in network coverage as the 802.11n and that’s simply because 802.11ac operates on 5GHz Frequency Band.
- A good thing about 802.11ac is that it is backward compatible with 802.11n and since it operates on 5GHz it will be available on only Dual Band Routers, hence you can always switch to 802.11n on 2.4GHz if the network coverage on 802.11ac is weak.
- Budget will play the most important role in deciding the Wifi Router. So keep budgets starting from ₹2,500/$50 to ₹20,000/$300.
- Budgets as low as ₹2,500/$50 will provide a decent Wifi Router with ADSL support and 802.11n protocol support (150Mbps).
- Budgets between ₹15,000/$250 to ₹20,000/$300 will provide the top end Dual Band Wifi Routers with 802.11n (450Mbps) and 802.11ac support.
- Budgets between ₹2,500/$50 and ₹15,000/$250 will provide intermediate Routers.
Difference Between Cheap & Costly Wifi Routers
- Network Coverage – is better on high end routers than on low end routers and thats simply because of the extra antennas provided in the high end routers.
- Internal Storage – Many high end Wifi Routers provide internal storage for backing up you personal computer.
- Parental Controls – A feature available in mid range and high end Wifi Routers.
- Additional RAM – Wifi Routers have very small amount of RAM. But high end Routers have 256MB or 512MB of RAM which helps in faster data processing.
- NAT – Network Address Translation is a very very important feature available only on mid range and high end routers. Buy a router with this support only if you need it. Most of us don’t need this.
- QOS – Quality of Service prioritizes the way voice, video and data are transmitted on the network. Every company provides their own QOS in their high end routers but this feature tends to mess up Torrents. This is a feature which I would never suggest to look at while buying a router as it does not make a difference.
- USB – USB ports are available in high end routers to connect printers or pen drives with data and share it over the wireless network.
- DLNA or UPnP – Allows streaming of content to DLNA or UPnP compatible devices.
- Gigabit Ethernet Ports – High end routers have Gigabit Ethernet ports which support ethernet cables with capacity of 1Gbps.
- First keep a budget in mind, look the features and decide the Router. But buy a Router with 802.11n support and minimum transmit rate of 150Mbps.
- Should I Buy 802.11ac? – Well if you have money, go for it. If you don’t have money then don’t buy. But if you have been using 802.11n for a while and want to buy a good Wifi Router which will last long and will have latest technology for next 3 to 4 years then go for 802.11ac