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Friday | December 9, 2016
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Network Guide Draft 2 (Content, not layout)

As more and more of us go online in our homes, often with multiple devices, the demands on our networking equipment are increasing. So if you constantly hear from your children that their Minecraft is “laggy” or you are often seeing playback issues on videos you watch online it could be time to upgrade your older (or internet provider supplied) network devices… and it’s more simple than you think!

What is a router?

hub

Anyone with a broadband internet connection will have a router in their house. It’s that box with flashing LEDs that your internet service provider (ISP) sent an engineer out to install. That box takes the connection from your ISP and sends it around your house using wires, or wireless (Wi-Fi) technology.

As with any technology provided at a low cost, or for free, to a mass group of consumers these routers are designed to offer base level features and cost effective performance which suits your ISP, rather than your specific needs. In addition to this, they are not upgraded regularly meaning that the router you received 2-3 years ago may not be allowing your new smartphone, tablet, PC or console to perform at its maximum potential.

The good news is that most devices provided by ISPs such as Virgin Media can pass the internet connection to another router, one which we choose to suit our needs, and all with just one single cable.

What are my options for a new router?

There are a wide range of options available for new routers, all with different specifications. Below we have highlighted a couple of key features options along with the potential reasons to consider them.

Best Performance and Features: Wireless-AC 1900

Ideal Scenarios: Larger buildings, access on several floors (e.g. loft/attic space), a large number of devices connected at the same time (phones, PCs, tablets, consoles, etc).

wrt1900ac

Standard Wireless-AC router features:

  • Has the ability to use two Wi-Fi signals so that there is less chance of your network receiving interference from a neighbours Wi-Fi.
  • Offers the latest Wi-Fi standard (Wireless-ac) and multiple antenna to maximise signal power, transmission distance and minimise problems with thick walls.
  • Provides maximum bandwidth when connecting a large number of devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, consoles and Smart TV’s.
  • Has built in parental control software which allows you to limit access to specific internet sites, even down to limiting the time of day they can be accessed.
  • Offers a step by step setup where on-screen instructions help you connect to the internet and secure your network.

Setting up wireless-ac could not be easier, and some manufacturers even offer a high quality mobile app. The documentation provided shows us where to plug the cable from our ISP router and it automatically configures access to the internet. We can then choose to connect our devices through one of the multiple wired connections, or Wi-Fi.

That Wi-Fi process is also simple. Just use your device’s Wi-Fi panel to search for networks, connect to the new routers network and press the connect button on the router. The two devices then securely connect, no need to manually enter the passwords and the setup assistant walks us through the basic options to tailor the network to our needs. Advanced models also allow remote management so we can install one of their routers for a family member and then manage any issues from our own home!

*Link to Amazon Routers Page*

Great value and good performance: Wireless AC 1750

Ideal Scenarios: Smaller homes, five or so devices connected at the same time.

archerc7

A 1750 speed router offers a more accessible price point than the 1900 while still retaining many of the features.

What don’t we get? Quite simply a lower available speed on the Wi-Fi connection. Our connection from the internet provider is unaffected, however when multiple devices are used in our home they have less speed available to share than the 1900 routers.

Key features:

  • Has the ability to use two Wi-Fi signals so that there is less chance of your network receiving interference from a neighbours Wi-Fi.
  • Many brands offer setup software including colour coded diagrams to ensure we can connect wiring easily.
  • Often feature dual USB ports for printer and file sharing between devices.
  • A common inclusion is four, full speed ports for wired connections.
  • Will happily stream multiple HD video streams at the same time.

*Link to Amazon Routers Page*

You’ve now got strong network foundations but what next?

As we noted earlier in this guide, everyone has different networking needs and while the above routers offer the latest technology and strong signals there will be scenarios where we need a little boost. For example, if our internet connection is in one room, but a gaming/media room or home office is elsewhere. Those sort of uses often require high speed access, for example maximising quality of video calls/presentation sharing or connecting multiple consoles to the internet and keeping response times low so we can compete on a level playing field with other online gamers.

This is where an extender helps us.

What is a Network Extender?

The easy way to think of an extender is that it is a mini router. It has strong antenna which suck in our Wi-Fi connection, boost it and then share the enhanced signal instantly via Wi-Fi or wired connection. Choose the right extender and it doesn’t even need extra passwords, it will connect to our existing network and use the same security.

ex6200

Here are the key features of many extenders:

  • Extend our existing network in 2 simple button presses.
  • Dual band Wi-Fi signals to minimise the chance of interference.
  • Support the latest Wi-Fi standards.
  • Offer four high speed wired connections.
  • Support for HD video streaming

EX6100

Need something more compact and easy to hide away? Then extenders are available in plug style solutions which sit in an available wall socket and offers a single wired connection as well as boosting Wi-Fi. Peak speed isnt quite as high desktop models though.

*Link to Amazon Extenders Page*

Wi-Fi isn’t the only option…Powerline Networking is one of our favourite new technologies!

Did you know that your home electrical wiring is currently a very capable internet sharing device? It just needs enabled. Whether it is a new build or a Victorian conversion, a powerline network could be the answer to maximising internet speed in rooms furthest away from your router, even an attic. And the amazing thing is that it’s easier to set up than Wi-Fi.

How does Powerline Networking work?

Powerline network devices are generally sold in pairs that plug into our wall sockets. Both transmit and receive data from our devices and router, passing the signal through our mains wiring at speeds just as fast as the best Wi-Fi.

The latest tech, maximum speed with no extras: Powerline 1200

pl1200

Often available in packs of two 1200 speed offers the latest Powerline Networking technology and fastest connectors. Setup is simple. Plug in the devices to a wall socket, one by the router and the other in the room we are extending to. Use the bundled cable to connect the router to the plug next to it. Use the second bundled cable to connect our device (game console, PC, TV, etc) to the internet. No passwords, no software. Just plug in and turn on to get speeds capable of highly responsive online gaming and 4k video.

For those who want to extend to multiple rooms, just buy a second kit, plug it in and hold down the Sync button. Done!

*Link to Amazon Powerline Page*

What extra features can Powerline offer?

av1200

Plug passthrough is a great addition to some products, allowing us to insert plugs into the device and not loose a socket. Some models also offer multiple network ports so we can connect several devices in the room and some others offer Wi-Fi transmitter (an extender essentially) so that we can have a strong signal in far away rooms.

Finally, don’t forget about your PC or Laptop!

All of the above components will provide you with a great network experience but there is one other thing to consider, your PC (or laptop) could well benefit from a boost to fully take advantage of the new speed available. It is possible to upgrade the internal components of both types of system, but USB is a quick and easy way to avoid all the complications.

Wireless AC via USB:

Ideal Use: Maximise connection speed and strength between PC and router.

wusb6300

USB 3.0 Wireless AC adapters offer the latest Wi-Fi technology, high speed connectivity, stylish design and are super stable. Everything we need from a Wi-Fi adapter.

*Link to Amazon USB Adapter Page*

For reviews of the above hardware and much more, visit Hardwareheaven.com

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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