How to Choose a Router in 2021 – The Definitive Buying Guide!

Choosing a new router or VPN router may be difficult since there are so many different brands and types to select from. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve put together a list of things to think about before choosing a router. We looked at these specs when making router recommendations, starting with compatibility and ensuring sure the router supports internet speeds.
Here is the list of things you should keep in mind when choosing a router for your home or office to get the best one.


1. Consider how much you want to spend on a router

How to Choose a Router

Routers can cost anywhere from less than $100 to more than $300. The amount you should spend on a router is mostly determined by your budget. But you’ll also want to be sure you’re receiving the features you need to get the most out of your internet connection.

You’ll almost certainly pay extra for a router with higher speeds and capabilities like MU-MIMO and beamforming. Tri-band routers, as well as ones that enable telephone service, will be more expensive.

So, when considering how much you want to spend on a router, also consider what features you need to have.


2. Check to see if your new router is compatible with your ISP

How to Choose a Router

Although most routers should work with any internet service provider (ISP), it’s always a good idea to check if your new router is compatible with your ISP. Especially if you’re thinking of getting a modem-router combination.

Modems employ technology that is specific to the sort of internet connection your provider offers, and if you’re utilizing a cable modem with DSL internet, you’re in luck. Your internet just will not function. As a result, ensuring compatibility is crucial.

Most ISPs make lists of suitable modems and routers available and advice on what to look for. Here are some links to listings of compatible equipment for some of the country’s most popular internet providers:

  • Comcast Xfinity
  • Cox
  • Mediacom (PDF)
  • RCN
  • Sparklight (formerly Cable One)
  • Spectrum

3. Make sure your router supports the internet speed you pay for

Make sure your router supports the internet speed

You’ll want a router that provides greater speed than your internet subscription promises. This increases your chances of receiving the quickest Wi-Fi speeds possible, even if you’re connecting numerous devices and people at the same time. It also guarantees that the speed you pay for isn’t squandered.

However, hold in thoughts that maximum routers provide speeds on each of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Because maximum gadgets do not use each Wi-Fi frequencies at an identical time, this general velocity is probably deceptive. Check the most velocity that your router’s 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands can handle.

Remember that wireless rates slow down due to the fact that they must go through the air or, worse, solid things such as walls, floors, and furniture. So, if you require the fastest speeds from your router for your CS:GO gaming session, use an Ethernet connection to connect to it.

4. Look for a newer wireless protocol

Look for a newer wireless protocol

When looking at routers, you’ll notice the numbers 802.11 plus a letter or a mix of letters. The wireless protocol, often known as the Wi-Fi standard, indicates how good the router’s throughput and range are. However, you don’t need to be a techie to comprehend these Wi-Fi standards. Simply seek a router that supports one of the most up-to-date wireless protocols, such as:
  • 11ax (Wi-Fi 6): The latest standard is intended to offer rates of up to 10 Gbps, although many gadgets and internet connections aren’t capable of doing so. As a result, you might not need to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 right now.
  • 11ac (Wi-Fi 5): This standard is likely to be found on most routers, and it’s more than capable of keeping you connected at rates of up to 3.5 Gbps.
  • 11n (Wi-Fi 4): This standard was the first to offer speeds of up to 600 Mbps while operating on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

5. Use mesh Wi-Fi or extenders to spread Wi-Fi through your house

Use mesh Wi-Fi or extenders to spread Wi-Fi through your house

This is virtually self-evident: you’ll need a router with a range that covers the entirety or the majority of your home. Although some routers are more precise than others, they should all give you an estimate of how much square footage they can cover.
The TP-Link Archer A20 and XFi Pods, for example, are both recommended, but both provide an estimated range dependent on the number of bedrooms in your home.
But don’t be concerned. If your router doesn’t beam a Wi-Fi signal to the farthest reaches of your house after you set it up, you may use a Wi-Fi extender or a mesh Wi-Fi system to expand the range of your Wi-Fi signal.

6. Your router should have a multi-core processor and at least 128MB of RAM

The processor and RAM size in your router are extremely important considerations. In addition to streaming video and downloading files, Wi-Fi is used for data backups, online gaming, and other activities that necessitate a lot of data transfer. As a result, wireless routers now require significantly more processing power than in the past..

Selecting a router requires knowledge of the processor type (single, dual, or quad-core), as well as the operating frequency. Stop buying routers with single-core processors if you want a fast network that can handle several network clients at once.

A dual-core processor, rather than a single-core processor, is recommended for your next router. While a 900 MHz processor is less powerful than a 1.2 GHz counterpart, the more cores a router has, the better it performs. In other words, the same rules apply as they do when using a computer, smartphone, or other forms of computing.

A router’s RAM should be at least 128MB. The ideal amount of RAM would be at least 256 MB. This is to make sure that everything is processed as quickly as possible by the device itself. Consider getting a 1 GB RAM wireless router if money isn’t an issue.


 7. The router that you choose should be dual-band or more

Routers with a single band are a relic of the past. At the very least, your new router should be dual-band capable. In other words, what do you make of this? To put it another way, it means that the router broadcasts the wireless signal on two or more frequencies (if it is tri-band or more). Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) routers use the 2.4 GHz band, which is compatible with both older wireless standards like Wi-Fi 4 and newer ones like Wi-Fi 6.

Due to its compatibility with older networking devices and wide coverage area, the 2.4 GHz band is an attractive option. Congestion can be a problem in apartment complexes and office buildings where everyone has Wi-Fi operating in the 2.4 GHz band.

The 5GHz frequency is also used by dual-band and tri-band routers. It’s a lot faster than 2.4 GHz, and it takes advantage of the latest Wi-Fi standards like 802.11ac and Wi-Fi 6 to maximize performance (802.11ax). Less congestion is experienced because the 5 GHz band is less frequently used and has a smaller coverage area. Get a dual-band or tri-band wireless router if you want a modern smart home with a fast wireless network for streaming Full HD or 4K content.

Another advantage is that you can connect to Wi-Fi with different network names and passwords using two or more standards.


8. VPN, antivirus, firewall, and other advanced features

In order to protect your Wi-Fi network from malware and outside attacks, many routers come equipped with useful advanced features like VPN servers, antivirus software, and other security features. The issue is that routers with shoddy hardware can’t take advantage of these advanced features.

Do not purchase an affordable AC1200 wireless router with low-end hardware if you want advanced features like the VPN server to work well. Choose a more expensive router with better hardware and more RAM so that it can run advanced services as well as standard Wi-Fi broadcasting. This will save you money in the long run.

A dual-core processor and 256 MB of RAM, at the very least, are required for advanced features in your router, and even more, is preferable.


9. The router should have a USB port, preferably USB 3.0

A USB port is an absolute necessity in today’s home. External hard drives, printers, USB modems, and many other USB devices must be connected to our wireless router. It is recommended that your new router has at least one USB 3.0 port. With the TP-Link Archer AX6000, which costs more, modern mobile devices can be connected via a USB-Type C port.


10. You should determine how much area you need to cover

If you have a large house, serving Wi-Fi to all of your devices can be a challenge, especially if you’re using the 5GHz band. One router with good antennas will do the trick for smaller apartments or houses, and it’s never a bad idea to test things out first before spending a lot of money. Finding out a router’s range is easy when you read reviews.

There are mesh Wi-Fi kits available if you need to cover a large area but don’t want to invest in a single large router. In order to cover a large indoor space, these systems work together to deliver Wi-Fi. Because of how simple they are to setup, they’re becoming a popular option even for smaller spaces like apartments.


11. How many devices will be connected to your router?

The router shouldn’t be taxed too much if you’re single and only use a handful of devices at once, like a console, phone, or laptop, as well as a TV streaming device. The more devices you connect at once, the slower your speed will be. This is true even if you’re providing internet for an entire block.

If you have ten devices connected to a 2.4GHz router with a theoretical maximum speed of 300Mbps, each of those devices will only get about 30Mbps on average. A high-end dual-band router is your best bet if you have many devices connected at the same time in a crowded home. Consider a tri-band router with two 5GHz bands for your family who just can’t get enough Netflix.

To that end, keep an eye out for the router’s number of Ethernet ports. Do you need a wired connection for a large number of devices? Start keeping a tally. Consider whether or not your home network has USB ports if you want to connect an external hard drive or other devices to it.


12. Don’t forget optional features

How to Choose a Router

Router manufacturers are always introducing new technologies, and some of the most current updates might improve your online experience. When looking for a new router, there are a few features you should look for:

Quality of Service (QoS)

You may instruct your router on certain devices and internet connections to prioritize over others using Quality of Service. If you’re a gamer who needs to ensure that your internet connection remains reliable even if your partner or children turn on Netflix, you can instruct your router to prioritize your Xbox’s internet connection above your smart TV.

Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO)

Your router can more efficiently support numerous wired and wireless connections using MU-MIMO. Your router can only transfer bandwidth to one device at a time without MU-MIMO, even if they’re both connected at the same time. On the other hand, MU-MIMO allows your router to divide your bandwidth and support all of your connected devices at once.

Beamforming

Beamforming is a technique used by modern routers to guide a Wi-Fi signal to a device. Routers are used to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal in all directions before beamforming. Beamforming may be thought of as a more efficient, laser-targeted Wi-Fi signal with a stronger connection.


FAQ

How long will a router last?

Four to five years is the typical lifespan of a high-quality router. However, if your internet is running slowly despite your efforts and you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to upgrade your router.

What’s the best router brand?

Routers from NETGEAR, TP-Link, ASUS, and Linksys are some of our favorites. Google, D-Link, and Synology are also viable options. However, before making a purchase, you should check to see if a router meets your requirements and has positive reviews, regardless of the brand especially if you’re looking for a router for your business.