Is your ‘net running a bit slow? Running out of ports on your router? Maybe it’s time to upgrade. If you want to buy a new wi-fi router, here are the five key questions you need to ask.
Do you want a modem/router, or just a router for an existing modem? If you’ve got an existing standalone modem for your internet, you can save a fair amount by not upgrading to a combined modem router unit and by re-using the existing modem. Wi-Fi routers are also easier to upgrade in the future than modem routers, giving you a clearer update path if you’re willing to put in the leg work of the initial setup.
Are you on ADSL, cable or the NBN (and which NBN tech)? If you’re on ADSL or a VDSL connection like the NBN’s fibre to the node, you’ll want a modem router that supports these technologies. If you’re on cable, you need a cable modem. If you’re on NBN fibre to the premises, a simple router will be all you need — the NBN connection box on your wall does the modem part for you already.
Do you need any wired network ports, or wireless only? If you don’t intend to use any of the wired Ethernet ports on your router, this is a moot point. But if you do intend to, you might want to find yourself a modem that has enough wired LAN ports for whatever your requirements are. Some routers go further than the standard four, though: Linksys’ EA9500, for example, has eight.
How big is your house? If you’re living in a massive multi-level mansion, you’ll need a more powerful — and likely more expensive — wireless router than if you’re in a single-storey apartment. Remember that you can also stretch a Wi-Fi network out with network repeaters in the future, though, so buying a hugely gutsy wi-fi router isn’t necessarily the only thing you should aim for.
How much do you want to spend? This is the kicker. If you want to spend $100, your choices for a modem router will be extremely limited. If you can stretch your budget to $300, better modem routers with features like 802.11ac Wi-Fi and faster dual-band networks start to become available. If you can double that budget again to $600, you can buy a massively powerful top of the line Wi-Fi router or a multi-room mesh network system.
Have anything else to add? Let us know in the comments!