Before You Buy a Wireless Internet Router

From Bradley Mitchell,

All wireless Internet routers might appear very much alike at first glance. In fact, many different wireless router models exist each with its own unique set of attributes. Use the checklist below to help decide which brand of wireless network router could work best for you.

Uncover Discounts and Generally Low Prices
All other things being equal, many consumers will choose the product that costs the least. Manufacturers will often offer rebates or other discounts from the full retail price of their wireless routers. You may be getting an older product instead of the latest and greatest, but with network gear, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Shop around and you're likely to land a good value for your money.

Research the Popular Models
An old adage says: "There is safety in numbers." Odds are, if many people are buying a particular product, it's serving a useful need. Top selling network gear tends to be current generation technology but not cutting edge. If you tend to play it conservative and run with the pack, check sales rankings at online retailers to start building your wireless Internet router short list.

Consider Terms of Warranty
Wireless Internet router manufacturers always provide a warranty package together with their equipment. The length and terms of these warranties vary widely. A better warranty may indicate a manufacturer more committed to support their products, while a lesser warranty could indicate a somewhat lesser standard of product quality or reliability. Always consider wireless router warranties when making your purchase decision.

Ignore (Most of) the Success and Horror Stories Told by Others
Countless consumers post opinions of their particular wireless Internet router to blogs, message boards, retailer Web sites and elsewhere online. For most brands of routers, a confusing mix of positive and negative anecdotes awaits you. Due to the complexity of home networking today, any given brand of wireless router that performs flawlessly in one person's home network could fail miserably in yours. Bottom line: Don't let someone else's experience, good or bad, sway your decision too much.

Try Brand Matching Your Network Adapters
Consider purchasing a wireless Internet router of the same brand as at least one of your wireless network adapters. The benefit is a small one, but sometimes vendors will optimize communication protocols of their own equipment; you may see slightly higher performance. Vendors may also more thoroughly test compatibility with their own equipment. If you don't own any adapters (or newer laptops with built-in wireless), consider purchasing all of your WiFi gear together from the same manufacturer.

Find a Good Fit in Size and Style
In many households, wireless Internet routers are installed in a visible central area of the residence. Purchasing a stylish router can make this an attractive addition to the decor that you will be proud to show family and friends. Routers vary in both size and shape. If you plan to install the router in a confined space, ensure you pick one with a suitable form factor. Small business owners and others interested in portability may likewise consider the class of "travel router" products.

Satisfy Your Need for Speed
You may be tempted to ignore all else and simply snap up the wireless Internet router with the highest speed rating (in Mbps). In fact, these speed ratings may be the least important of all factors listed here. Consider that the actual performance you will achieve in practice typically averages much, much lower than the maximum rating shown on the package. Furthermore, high-speed routers cannot directly speed up your Internet connection, that is usually the real bottleneck on a home network.
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