7 features to look out for when buying a WiFi router

Wireless routers have become a thing. They are very common around offices, café, restaurants and homes. In most cases, people who purchase Wi-Fi routers in their homes and offices get it from their ISP provides. This is because it is convenient since you don’t need to do any set up and it saves them money.

But when you have many devices connected to it, the network is slow, or doesn’t reach most parts of your house. This is why in this article, we have discussed important features to look out for when buying a router.

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Router’s Wi-Fi standard

Just as technology continues to advance, Wi-Fi router manufacturers are constantly implementing new and more powerful wireless standards. When considering the Wi-Fi router to buy, the first thing to check is the Wi-Fi standard it supports. Though, regular Wi-Fi routers you’ll find around will likely support the 802.11 ‘b’ or ‘g, the newer versions support ‘n’. The regular Wi-Fi router that supports the 802.11n, in theory, lets you transfer data at 600mbps (even though the speed is a lot more reduced in practical scenarios).

The latest Wi-Fi standard, the 802.11ac, allows a transfer speed of 1.3Gbps. Thanks to this transfer speed, better multi antenna and better multi input multi output (MIMO), users can connect more devices with high data transfer speed.

So, which should you go for? The 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi router is still very expensive – much more expensive than the 802.11n router and only a handful of phones and computers support it. For now, I’ll advice you choose the ‘n’ standard. It is likely to support your devices and it is less expensive.

Router’s wireless frequency – Single or dual-band?

All wireless router work with two different frequencies – 2.5GHz and 5GHz. The main difference between these two frequencies is of interference and range. The 5GHz band is typically less cluttered, it provides a faster connection, and there is less disturbance for each connected device – this lets them attain maximum gain from the bandwidth. The 5GHz is a better option for you if you will be connecting a lot of devices or there is overlapping networks in the area.

The 2GHz on the other hand can also be used by many devices at the same time but it is susceptible to interference and congestion.

So, unless interference and congestion are a real issue for you, I’ll advice you go for the 2GHz frequency because it’s a lot more affordable. Also, if you are in a densely populated neighborhood, the dual-band router is your best bet. A dual- band router is equipped with two radios, one operates on the 2.4GHz frequency, and the other runs on the 5GHz frequency. A dual band is designed to set up two separate wireless networks to improve speeds in a crowded wireless network. It does this by bumping some devices over to the alternate frequency.

Router’s antenna range

For smooth connection to a router, it is important that the router is placed in a central location in your home or office away from physical obstructions and other gadgets and interference. But even from an open location, depending on the type of router, you might still experience connection lose in some areas in your home.

The range of a router can not be measured directly, it is dependent on a wide variety of factors. The only way around this is to look at the dBi ratings of the antenna of the router, which are most times included in the specifications.

If you need a Wi-Fi router for a small apartment, the 2-4dBi will definitely do the job. For wide offices or wide apartments with multiple floors and other physical obstacles (concrete wall, microwaves), you will need to purchase a router with higher dBi ratings.

MU-MIMO antennas

The MIMO technology makes your router very fast by sending data through multiple antennas. With this technology, the router is able to target multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, computers) at specific places at the same time. This is done via another technique called MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output). You should also note that only newer routers that support 802.11ac are compatible with MU-MIMO.

To confirm if your preferred router supports MU-MIMO, check the product package or specs sheet. Vendors usually indicate whether their router supports MU-MIMO.

Here’s a detailed explanation about Wi-Fi Beamforming, Beam steering, MU-MIMO and how It improves on your router’s signal

Router security

Wireless networks are so insecure that just about any body within connection range can spy on your online activities, hijack your Internet connection, gain access to files on your devices, and infect your device system with viruses.

Although new model routers come with many extra security features, which includes the ability add extra encryption, monitor other devices, and block unwanted users from the network, regular ones are still vulnerable.

When buying a Wi-Fi router, make sure you get one that support at least WPA2 (The Wi-Fi Protected Access protocol’s second implementation). Also, you want to make sure every device you add to your network supports WPA2. This is important because, your network as secure as the least-secure device that’s connected to it.

Router ports

Most router come with USB ports. But what these USB ports can be used for is what should be of importance to you. for some routers, the USB port is merely used for transferring setup information from the router to a client.

Latest Wi-Fi router USB ports allows you connect a large hard drive to it and every device connected to the network will have access to resources on that storage.

Next, you should consider the generation of the USB ports – USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. The USB 3.0 is a better option because it lets you connect any accessory type. Also, some routers come with a combination of both the USN 2.0 and USB 3.0.

Price

A Wi-Fi routers cost is largely determined by their antenna, ports, and other features. The best router with full features available on Jumia costs as much as ₦80,000 ($225).  Although, if you’re on a tight budget, you can get a decent one for as low as ₦7,000 ($20) available on Jumia, but I can guaranty that most budget routers will deliver a sub-par performance and won’t offer all the latest and greatest features.