Thursday, August 7, 2014

Router Recommendations

I was going to call today's blog post a "Tech Advice Thursday" but I don't know if I'll be able to do these every Thursday. Law school starts in less than two weeks. So I guess today can be an unofficial Tech Advice Thursday.

For a long time, I was fine with sending people to an electronics store to pick up what I recommended for them. With the way most salesmen act inside big box electronics stores now, I'm not so sure that's a good idea anymore. I won't go into the specifics, but since I left Best Buy and the Geek Squad, it's become pretty clear that the quality of their salesforce isn't what it used to be. They'll try to talk you out of what would be best so they can make more money or just to prove that they "know more" than the former Geek Squad guy who gave you some ideas (even though most of them couldn't tell you the difference between an N300 router and an N600 dual-band router.)

Routers die. You'll end up having to replace your router at some point. It might be after a couple of years if you got a lemon, maybe five years, maybe ten. Eventually you'll have to replace it. I've set up hundreds (possibly even thousands) of wireless networks. I've done them in homes, small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and even in a 10+ story hotel. I won't claim that I know more about them than anyone else (because that would be a stupid thing to say), but I do know a lot about what works and what doesn't when it comes to wireless.

I'm a big Netgear fan. Over the years, I think I've set up more Netgear routers than any other brand and they generally didn't have any issues. I think they're good quality at a good price. I'm also generally fine with Linksys routers. The absolute best routers, in my opinion, are made by Apple (I used Apple Airport Extremes mixed with Airport Expresses when I set up the wireless network for the hotel.) They're also way more expensive, so I wouldn't recommend them for every scenario. So let's look at three routers from a good, better, best viewpoint. I'll also link you to an Amazon product page where you can look into a good example of what I'm talking about.

1. N300 Router

The image above is linked to the Netgear N300 router that is currently in my parent's house. They have a large house and this covers the entire area. I like this router for a basic N300 router but I like a couple of the extra features as well. The ethernet ports are all gigabit ethernet ports which means they will transfer information better and faster through ethernet connections. It's important if you're running this router to a desktop or if you run it to an ethernet switch (if you get an ethernet switch, make sure it supports gigabit ethernet as well, like this one) to run CAT5 to your entire house. This is all the wireless speed most people are going to need.

2. N750 Dual-Band Router

If you're going to go with a dual-band router, I would personally skip the N600 since it's basically just two N300 networks on two separate bands. I would jump to an N750 dual-band router which has an N450 and an N300 band. The images above are linked to two N750 dual-band routers (Linksys on the left and Netgear on the right.) I've set up many N750 routers from both Linksys and Netgear without any problems. Both of them also support gigabit ethernet. Some advice though when dealing with dual-band networks, don't name both bands / networks the same thing. That will cause some problems for you eventually.

3. AC Dual-Band Router
Welcome to overkill mode. The router pictured above is a 6th generation Apple Airport Extreme. They're crazy expensive compared to most other routers. Wireless AC is 3x faster (theoretically) than Wireless N but keep in mind that in order to use Wireless AC, your device must support Wireless AC as well (I discussed this in a blog post called The Weakest Link: A General Technology Rule. If you haven't read it, I would recommend that you check it out.) With an Apple Airport Extreme, you're getting the fastest wireless network with the best wireless range but Apple networks are also incredibly easy to extend (which is why I used Apple routers in the hotel.) If you ever need to extend an Apple network, you can purchase an Apple Airport Express to extend it. It won't create some new network name and rebroadcast the signal, it'll rebroadcast the network you set up. You will lose some speed, but it's the easiest kind of network I've found to extend.

Please keep in mind that these are just general recommendations. I don't know your specific circumstances so I wouldn't say any of these three would necessarily be your perfect fit. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps a few people out who feel trapped by today's technology. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

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