Welcome to the [H] Router Recommendations sticky! Some time ago members of this forum and I decided that a sticky for one of the most popular questions in the Networking & Security sub-forum would be a good idea and thus the Router Recommendations thread was born. I am not an [H] employee or representative. There was a time when this thread contained categorized recommendations for consumer and pro-sumer grade hardware but after a long hiatus, the thread had become dated. People moved to answering questions and providing recommendations in the many pages that have followed since its inception and I think that's probably best. There are a lot of options out there as the market has been flooded with good hardware packaged in many different ways by many different people. To clarify terminology: Routing is a function one level or layer higher than base switching and provides the ability for one IP network to communicate to another IP network. For the purposes of this thread, a 'router' will refer to the hardware performing the function; which also often includes gateway (DHCP, DNS or DNS-relay, NAT, etc.) functionality. A consumer or pro-sumer router that you can purchase from the likes of Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, Cisco or any other of many brands out there. The vast majority of these models will also include a wireless access point (WAP) function; a 'wireless router' will refer to hardware that also contains this functionality. Here are some things to consider when looking for an off-the-shelf router: 1) Why am I looking to purchase a router? --- Is it because I am having a problem with coverage in my home? There are a lot of ways to look at this problem and not all can be solved by purchasing a new router. Any home will have obstructions (walls) that dampen, hinder or reflect signal and older homes or newer homes that use concrete construction materials, metal framing or mesh and plaster can be especially problematic. If you think about the field around your wireless router as an upside-down bowl, the higher the elevation of your device in your home, the wider the bowl becomes. Start there. Placing your wireless router on a higher floor in your home will often (but not always) improve coverage and reception. It may also be your device, not your wireless router. Different devices have different antenna designs, some of which are better than others. This is one of the reasons you can have two devices right next to each other and have different results. Are you near other homes? The Wi-Fi spectrum is comprised of radio channels or bands that operate at different frequencies and just like two radio stations trying to use the same frequency, they compete with one another for reception. Ever been driving and get to a point where the radio station in the next city over, that just happens to use the same (or close) frequency as your favorite station, begins to cut in and out? That's the same thing happening here. And as that other radio station becomes more powerful, the other fades until it is no longer able to compete. This overlap can occur, particularly in dense areas where homes are very close together (or apartments or condos). The air is actually quite congested. That cordless phone you have? If it's a 2.4GHz phone, it could very well interfere with your coverage as well. So what options do you have? There are apps for your smartphone that can help you determine what channels are congested in your area. In the 2.4GHz US band there are only three channels that do not overlap (1, 6 and 11), everything else overlaps channels around it. Many wireless routers will default to channel 1, so getting better reception in your home may be as simple as changing your existing router to use a less congested channel like 6 or 11. Try that and see if things improve before investing in a different solution. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels There's also the 5GHz band, which offers many more channel options to help minimize congestion in otherwise dense areas. If your devices support 5GHz, you could try that. Your wireless router may have the option to transmit and receive only using only 5GHz frequencies instead of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Only do this if you are sure all of your devices support 5GHz. If your devices support both bands, chances are good that your device will prefer 5GHz but that isn't always the case. The feature that makes a connection at 2.4GHz and then re-connects at 5GHz if it is available is often referred to as 'band steering' and is exactly how it sounds. If your home is made of particularly problematic material (metal mesh in the walls is a killer), you may need to have more than one device to provide coverage throughout your home. This is where the 'access point' or 'range extender' comes into play. A ranger extender is a repeater; meaning that it simply receives a signal and then re-transmits it. Range extenders should be place according first according to their manufacturer's recommendations, but generally close enough to have good contact with your existing router but far enough away that it's actually extending the coverage into a new space. For best results, your range extender should be positioned so that it has no-less-than half signal. An access point works on the same principal as your wireless router in that it provides a (new) signal to a different area in your home, yet it contains none of the higher-layer routing and gateway functions that your router does. It's essentially a wireless switch. A switch must have an uplink, usually a hard-wire cable link between it and the next or the base device. So an access point will typically require a cable connected to either the back of your existing wireless router or to a switch that connects back to it. Access points will also require power of some kind: some can get this power through the same cable through which data is being sent (called Power Over Ethernet or POE) and some require a place to plug in. A POE wireless access point will typically have what is referred to as an 'injector', which is a device that plugs into the wall somewhere easy to access and then has two network cable ports on it; one input and the other output. The output carries both data and power to the device. Some switches have POE capabilities built-in but almost all wireless routers will not. IF your switch has POE built in that you wish to use, make sure it is compatible with the access point you have in mind. Some access points will also acquire their own IP address on your network and many will use software to discover and configure them. There are a lot of options but one of the access point brands I use regularly and have had great luck with is Ubiquiti. ( https://www.ubnt.com/ ) --- Is it because I am not able to achieve the speeds I am paying for and hope that a new router will fix that? This may not be a problem with your existing router. Some older hardware in particular may be limited when you exceed 25Mbps WAN, but unless your existing router is many years old your problem may lie further upstream. Buy from a place that has easy returns, just-in-case. If it doesn't solve your problem you may have to take it up with your service provider. If you suspect you are having issues with speed though, the first thing I will always recommend is to plug in via an ethernet cable and re-test. There may be other factors involved, such as the aforementioned congestion. --- Is it because I suspect the router I was provided by my internet service is either insufficient or problematic? Be careful. Some service providers require you use their router for one function or another and there may be some truth behind their requirement. An example is Verizon FiOS, which uses their router to bridge into coax (a technology called MoCA) and provide network time and access to PPV/OnDemand to their DVR and set top boxes. You should always consult with your provider before replacing their device, though generally speaking you should be OK. In the case of Verizon FiOS (and only speaking from my personal experience), you have to have their device plugged in but it doesn't have to be first in-line. You can disable the wireless and plug your router in first then plug the Verizon router's WAN port into one of your LAN or switch ports on the new wireless router. Your mileage may vary. 2) Stick to standards. This isn't so much of an issue now that Wireless-N has been ratified as a standard but for a while there, it was like the wild west; everyone had their own solution and some didn't work well (or at-all) with others. That said, there is a new kid on the block: AC. I think the industry learned its lesson though and I haven't heard of problems with AC or at-least nothing like with N. 3) If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Don't buy into promises. Should be self-explanatory. 4) Just because it looks crazy cool doesn't mean it is going to perform. A lot of manufacturers now are trying to differentiate themselves by packaging their wireless routers in unique cases and antenna designs. A lot of this is nothing more than flash and you'll often pay for it. ------------------------------- So where are the router comparisons? While I am always hesitant to post links to content outside of [H], as [H] does not currently offer wireless router reviews and comparisons I don't believe it to be an issue. I don't work for either site, but I can say that one site I go to time and time again to check reviews, comparisons and look at specs is SmallNetBuilder. What I will say is that when you get ready to buy, please consider supporting [H] by coming back here and using one of the links to Amazon or Newegg (and others) that give [H] credit for the referral. Every little bit helps! http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/ ------------------------------- Where do I get cables, ends, connectors, adapters, punch down blocks, etc? www.monoprice.com - Monoprice - inexpensive but excellent quality cables and accessories of all sorts. www.graybar.com - Graybar www.anixter.com - Anixter www.gocsc.com - CSC ------------------------------- Build-Your-Own Router? For those more technically inclined who want the most performance possible without going to a full commercial/business product, you may want to look into the many freely available Linux and BSD based firewall solutions out there. Some of the well known ones include: Smoothwall, Untangle, Endian, IPCop, pfSense and m0n0wall. A full list of the available router and UTM (Unified Thread Management) distributions can be had here: http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1517454 Building your own router using one of the aforementioned solutions requires an older PC, a few spare network cards, some time and a bit of elbow grease. They all have different things to offer so be sure to read up on them all before making a decision. Smoothwall, Endian and IPCop are probably the most well known and thus (generally) offer the best community support for bugs and such. Your mileage may vary. Please note that most of these "build your own" solutions will require a separate wireless access point if you want wireless capabilities. ------------------------------- So I hope that this has helped and if you have any questions, please feel free to post here in the thread.