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.
Does internet speed matter?
Within each Wi-Fi standard are further classifications that determine the actual performance you'll get. You might see a router advertised as AC1200 or AX6000, but that doesn't mean you're getting a top speed of 1,200Mbps or 6,000Mbps. This number is a combination of speeds from both bands. For example, an AC1200 router is going to have a 2.4GHz band with a top speed of 300Mbps and a 5GHz band with a top speed of 867Mbps (rounded up to the nearest hundred).
Even these speeds are theoretical, and in real-world testing, you likely won't get anywhere near that number. Likewise, if you see a Wi-Fi 5 router labeled with something like AC5000, it's not magically hitting 5,000Mbps. Instead, you're getting a single 600Mbps 2.4GHz band and two 2,166Mbps 5GHz bands. In the case of an AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 router, which can triple speeds on the radios, you're looking at theoretical speeds up to 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz radio and 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz radio.
So, stepping out and buying the biggest, baddest, most expensive router might be tempting, but paying for something you don't need will be more of a letdown. For example, if you're paying for a 50Mbps internet plan from your ISP and you live in a one-bedroom apartment, it doesn't make much sense to buy an AC5000 router with eight antennas. Your internet can only be as fast as the slowest point in the connection, which in this case, is likely what's provided by your ISP. You can compare to find the best Wi-Fi router that will appeal to the average user who needs hardware to fit their ISP plan.
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.
What are bands, and what's the difference between dual-band and tri-band?
Wireless communication happens over radios (also commonly called bands), which can be seen as roads that your data travel along. While routers up to and including 802.11g operated solely on the 2.4GHz band, support for 5GHz bands was added in 802.11n and carried over to 802.11ac and 802.11ax. Why? The 2.4GHz band was becoming crowded, leading to a rush-hour scenario where traffic was getting jammed up.
Devices that can use only the 2.4GHz radio are called single-band devices, while dual-band devices can use the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios. Whereas the lower-frequency radio has a lower speed limit and is more narrow, the 5GHz band is much wider and has a much higher speed limit.
There are drawbacks to the 5GHz band. Higher frequency means the signal loses more of its strength as it deals with walls, furniture, and other obstacles. However, modern routers have something called beamforming that will send a signal in the direction of a device, rather than just spraying a signal in a sphere around it. Still, the increased speed and wider road mean it's perfect for streaming high-def video and gaming.
Typically, your router will be dual-band or tri-band. Dual-band routers have both a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHz band. Tri-band routers add a second 5GHz band on top of that. More than one band frees up congestion from your devices and prioritizes them based on the band's distance from them.
What are the different types of Wi-Fi standards?
Wi-Fi is a global standard, and to ensure that devices can connect without issue, there are specifications that it must adhere to. That standard is known as 802.11, and the letters a, b, g, n, ac, and the new ax that follow it designate the version. The versions are compatible with each other, but connecting to an earlier version means your device will be capped at the slower speed.
With the release of 802.11ax, a new naming method has come into effect to help differentiate the older versions of Wi-Fi. They are now designated as follows:
- 802.11b is now Wi-Fi 1
- 802.11a is now Wi-Fi 2
- 802.11g is now Wi-Fi 3
- 802.11n is now Wi-Fi 4
- 802.11ac is now Wi-Fi 5
- 802.11ax is now Wi-Fi 6
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.
Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution also provides expert Managed IT Services, Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cloud Based Computing, Email Security Implementation and Training, Unified Communication Solutions, and Cybersecurity Risk Assessment.