An internet router is usually the most ignored digital device in our digital homes. The operator installs it to offer us its Internet services and we leave it picking up dust in a corner of the room without paying much attention, although later we complain that we suffer cuts in the WiFi and that we cannot take advantage of all the contracted data.
Is it time to change the model and enhance the one that our ISP has given. It depends on the quantity and quality of users in a particular home. That is, many of us will be browsing and accessing the Internet or local services at the same time and these services will be affected by the number of users at a particular time. Here we classify three types of users based on the use of the Internet and the local home network and recommend some interesting router models for each group.
Houses with little use
The group has the least problems when it comes to choosing a router. They use every less bandwidth to access the Internet occasionally to browse for a while, use email, chat, instant messaging and the most complex thing they do is watch some videos on YouTube.
In addition, there will be no more than one or two users accessing the local network or the Internet at the same time, either from mobile terminals or from computers. In general, these are homes in which there are ADSL connections with speeds of 10 or less Mbps. Although with the current trend of operators installing fiber, even at low speeds the user can use 30 or more Mbps.
Anyway, these bandwidths are usually more than enough to meet the needs of the home and the routers loaned by the operator on duty perfectly fulfil their role, although they only have WiFi and Ethernet ports of 10 / 100 Mbps, the local network is more than enough to cover the basic needs.
Therefore, in general, this type of users with little intensive use will not need to acquire a new router. Perhaps there are two cases in which, people within this first group can consider buying a better equipment: when the coverage of the wireless network is very poor (although we also have other options such as buying a repeater or a PLC) and when the stability of the router is very bad (that is, when the connection is hung or cut every few minutes).
In these cases, it is best to opt for a model that is compatible, with the type of connection we have (ADSL, VDSL, etc.), to completely replace our operator’s equipment, but by doing so we can find some problems of incompatibilities or complications in the configuration.
What all are the interesting models? Well, for example, we have Asus RT- N12 ($30) or Linksys EA3500,($40) a relatively cheap device, with WiFi N of up to 450 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band, 4100 Mbps Ethernet wired connections and another 100 Mbps WAN to connect the modem’s output to the operator.
Households with intermediate use
Going a little further up on the ladder, we have large households that need better Internet access speeds and local networks with greater bandwidth to support several services simultaneously. We are talking about those homes in which there will be users between 2 to 4 accessing the different networks simultaneously through multiple devices. It includes online video/music services, different connected household equipment, such as smart TVs, media players, AV receivers, etc.
In these cases, we need more powerful routers with wireless and wired interfaces that can support several information flows of high bandwidth at the same time. We no longer use the most basic WiFi G or N nor in general the models of a single frequency band.
We must look for a dual-band device that works in 2.4 and 5 GHz, with several high-gain antennas if possible, to better direct the power of the signal. It is also convenient that they have some Gigabit Ethernet port for the most demanding applications, although in general with 100 Mbps ports it could be enough to support video streaming at 720p and 1080p.
Households with intensive use
At the top of the pyramid of needs, there is households that use both the Internet and local networks intensively. These generally house with fiber optic connections or coaxial cable with speeds of more than 100 Mbps.
They use the Net not only to browse but also to download all kinds of content at high speed, listen to music, watch TV, movies in FullHD or even 4K. They may have subscribed to an online video club service like Netflix or similar, they may make video calls and regularly upload their own content to social networks and online video platforms.
These are usually houses in which we usually have more than 4 or 5 users constantly accesses the Internet or the local network to transmit streaming content. There can be no interruptions in any of the services (for example in a video call) when another user is downloading something or watching a video in high definition.
In this case we not only look for connectivity to all the devices in our digital home, but we also want this connectivity to be at the maximum possible speed, with minimum latency (especially for games and VoIP services) and with concurrent support from multiple users. Our router must therefore have internal hardware which is powerful enough to manage a multitude of connections without slowdowns or bottlenecks.
Therefore we should look for models with multi-core processors, and high RAM (128 or more MB) that allow them to handle our data packets without flinching. Of course, we have to check that they have wired gigabit ports and multiband wireless connections compatible with WiFi AC.
It is convenient that the router incorporates some advanced protocol for the management of work, management of type Quality of Service (QoS) etc. That allows to redirect traffic intelligently by the different frequency bands (for example one in 2.4 GHz with WiFi N and two in 5 GHz with WiFi AC) giving priority to the devices and applications that need more speed and less delay.
It is also convenient to have several USB high-speed ports to share streaming content directly with all the computers in the network simply by connecting a memory card or hard disk to the router, to make automated backup copies, and even to save BitTorrent downloads.
Any recommended model?
Well, many. You just have to go to the best of each brand and choose at will. For example, we have the Synology RT1900ac , which recently passed through our test bench . It has a ARM Cortex A9 dual core 1GHz CPU, 256 MB of RAM , three high gain antennas and can operate in dual band at 2.4 and 5GHz reaching maximum speeds of up to 1,900 Mbps .
It has 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, with USB 3.0 and Synology SRM management software and control from mobile terminals to facilitate the management of basic functions. Its price? Around $120, it is a cheap router with great power.
After the testing of this router, we had a pretty good impression. It can be placed at the top of the charts for the brands that has wireless connection up to three bands: one in the 2.4 GHz (type 802.11 b / g / n) with speeds of up to 600 Mbps and two others in the 5GHz band (type 802.11 a / n / ac) with speeds up to 2 × 1,300 Mbps, achieving a combined total speed of 3,200 Mbps .
It has five Gigabit Ethernet ports (four for the LAN and another to connect to the modem that outputs the Internet), a USB 3.0 port, another 2.0 and is governed by a dual-core processor at 1 GHz with 256 MB of RAM. Its price is around $230, but if you need power and have money to spend, then this router is a good option.
Finally, if these are not enough, we have the full list of best wireless routers reviewed and sorted according to specific needs and price.