For surfing at maximum speed, not only the Internet connection is important. The router is also important because it serves as an interface between the modem and end devices. For example, smartphones, laptops and tablets can access the Internet – either with a cable or via WLAN.
Anyone who wants to buy a router is usually faced with a hodgepodge of technical terms : WLAN 5 or WLAN 6, Mesh, LAN and WPA, to name just a few. This makes the choice difficult for lay people.
But don’t give up! In this article you will learn how to recognize a good router and which functions are particularly important. We will then introduce you to four of the most popular routers .
Buy Or Rent A Router – Which Is Better?
Anyone who concludes an Internet and landline contract can buy or rent the router from the same provider . The advantage: You get a guarantee that the router is compatible with your tariff. In addition, the provider makes the necessary settings, which is a relief for those who are not technically familiar. If problems arise with the router, you can count on the support of the provider.
However, there are also reasons to buy your own router:
- Compared to renting, you save money in the long term.
- You can continue to use the router even if your Internet tariff ends.
- The router you purchased may have functions that the provider’s rental device does not offer.
Router freedom has been in effect in Germany since August 1st, 2016 . This means that you are no longer dependent on the provider’s device, but can choose the router yourself.
So that the choice does not become a bad buy, you should pay attention to the following criteria:
What Makes A Good Router?
Compatibility With Your Connection
Internet is not always the same: Depending on the tariff, you surf via DSL, fiber optics, cable or LTE. So you need a router that is designed for the corresponding connection . At the same time, it is worth asking your provider whether the router can be used with your tariff.
Once these questions have been answered, it’s time to get down to the details:
Many older DSL routers only support VDSL with 100 Mbit/s . They are sufficient if you do not want to upgrade your connection in the near future. But keep in mind: In order to enable speeds of up to 250 Mbit/s , the router must be VDSL Super Vectoring- capable.
Cable Internet offers you astronomical transfer rates of up to 1 Gbit/s. You need a router that supports at least the DOCSIS 3.0 standard . In addition, providers such as Vodafone have already begun to implement the DOCSIS 3.1 standard . Anyone who buys a corresponding router can look forward to even faster Internet in the future.
If you have an LTE connection, you surf via the mobile network . Accordingly, you need a router with a SIM card slot . In this case, also make sure that the router supports 5G . Only then can you use the speed of this Internet standard at home.
The terms router and modem are often used synonymously in everyday life. In fact, however, the devices have different tasks : while the modem establishes a connection to the Internet, the router forms a network between the connected devices – such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Some routers are combination devices with an integrated modem. Since you do not have to buy this device separately, you can save money. Additional wiring is not necessary, and the power consumption is also lower than with two devices.
Things are different if your provider has already supplied a modem. In this case, a combo router would be a waste of money.
WiFi 5 Or WiFi 6?
Fewer and fewer users connect to their router via cable – no wonder, because WiFi offers significantly more convenience. Nevertheless, the question remains: Which WLAN standard should it be?
WLAN 6 was presented for the first time in 2018 and promises one thing above all: more speed . While WLAN 5 offers a maximum of 3.5 Gbit/s, this throughput increases to up to 9.6 Gbit/s with the successor standard. However, this speed is only achieved under ideal conditions – i.e. in the immediate vicinity of the router.
You also need the appropriate end devices to be able to use WLAN 6 . If the standard is not supported by your smartphone or laptop, for example, the device automatically dials into WLAN 5.
That means: WLAN 6 is not always automatically faster than its predecessor. Nevertheless, there are other reasons to choose this standard:
More Frequency Ranges
Routers can operate on different frequency ranges – and this affects their performance.
Older devices only use a single band with 2.4 GHz . This frequency is often overloaded, especially in large cities, which can lead to interference and reduced speeds.
On the other hand, there are WLAN 6 routers with dual band , which also transmit with 5 GHz in addition to 2.5 GHz : The latter frequency is characterized by a shorter range, but provides more stability and speed.
With tri-band , the router can even use two 5 Ghz frequency bands . The advantage: Devices that rely on particularly fast internet – for example to stream 4K videos – are slowed down less by slow devices.
If there were still WLAN 6E : This standard allows transmission at 6 Ghz for even faster transmission rates. However, there are currently not many end devices that are compatible with WLAN 6E.
WiFi 6 routers use MIMO-OFDM: a technology that distributes the WiFi signal more evenly to each device . This is particularly useful when there are many WLAN-enabled devices in the household. For this reason , anyone considering setting up a smart home system is well advised to use WLAN 6.
Target Wake Time
WiFi 6 helps your end devices’ batteries last longer – even if they don’t even support the standard. It is made possible by intelligent control of the data streams. This means that the devices have to transmit less often and can spend more time on standby.
As a homeowner, you may be familiar with the problem: You use your WLAN in one room without any problems. But then you go into another room and the reception gets weaker , so that your video stream falters, for example.
Routers that support Mesh WiFi promise a solution: Several Mesh Repeaters or Access Points form a wireless network that optimally covers the entire household . The mobile end devices then automatically dial into the strongest WLAN source.
Alternatively, the coverage can also be improved with classic repeaters . These are cheaper, but do not allow automatic connection. That means you have to dial into the repeater network manually with your device. Another disadvantage: If many end devices use the repeater, the speed suffers more than with Mesh WiFi.
Important: Before setting up the network, you should find out which access points are supported, because: Some routers are only compatible with products from the same manufacturer .
Number Of Antennas
If you compare the look of routers, you will quickly notice that some of the devices have 2 or even 4 external antennas . This allows them to send multiple streams of data at the same time, which, at least in theory, increases the transmission rate. In practice, however, the end devices also play a role: if a device only has 2 antennas, for example, more antennas on the router do not offer any increase in speed.
Nevertheless, there is another advantage: antennas mounted outside can be rotated and tilted to improve WiFi reception in certain areas of the home. This is of course not possible with internal antennas. In this case, you have to turn or tilt the whole router until you are satisfied with the result – difficult when the device is hanging on the wall.
Even though wireless networks are extremely popular today, there is nothing wrong with connecting devices using a LAN cable. Routers have LAN ports for this purpose . Of course, how many of these should be available depends on how many devices you want to connect. Transmission speed is also important: Many older devices are limited to 100 Mbit/s, while current LAN ports usually allow 1,000 Mbit/s or more.
Some routers allow devices to be connected via USB . For example, you can connect an external hard drive or a printer that all users in the network can access.
In addition to the number of connections, the standard used is also crucial: USB 3.0, for example, allows faster transfer rates than its predecessor, USB 2.0
Encryption is important to protect your router from unauthorized access. WPA 2 is currently the standard here, while WEP or WPA no longer offer the necessary security.
Some routers already support WPA 3: This standard has even better encryption methods. However, you should make sure that your end devices also support WPA 3. Only then is it worth making the switch.