I wanted to get a wireless router for my HDB apartment (I was using a fixed LAN point) but I wasn’t sure which brand to get. So I asked my usual IT/ Mac gurus.
I’m happily blogging this while connected to the wireless router I’ve successfully set up a few minutes ago. I bought a Linksys product, if you must know. I’ve used their product before and have found it reliable. Their customer service was also pretty good.
There are plenty of product reviews out there, but nothing beats receiving affirmation and second opinions from trusted and knowledgeable friends.
Since the guys were generous in sharing what they know, I’ve decided to compile my own FAQs on buying a wireless router. NOTE: Any mistakes in this post are mine alone.
Q: Do different brands (of wireless routers) make a difference? For instance, I had the impression that Belkin is top of the range.
Apparently they do. The differences lie with the WIFI chipsets from the different manufacturers.
For instance, Linksys seems to have a good track record of compatibility with Apple products, while Belkin was a “maybe” and some feel Netgear was a “less than safe choice” if you have a Mac.
Getting a good router means a better Internet experience. Invest in a good one!
Q: Some routers end with “B”, “G” and “N” in their name. What’s the difference?
They refer to the wireless networking standards.
The 802.11b (B-series) is older. The 802.11g (G-series) standard comes next. Then there’s the newer, faster 802.11n (N-series) specification which has been drafted but not made standard by the IEEE yet.
The G-series is sufficient for most uses. It’ll be your broadband speed that’s your bottleneck, rather than the router. 802.11n is probably good if you move a lot of files wirelessly between computers on the same network.
Q: I saw product claims like “5x faster” etc. Does the router really improve download speeds?
The answer is ‘no’ if you’re just using the router without using the manufacturer’s propriety WIFI cards.
“5x faster” probably refers to the G-series when compared to the older B-series. You usually need to use additional WIFI cards with the router to enjoy the faster speeds. The packaging might say something like “For optimal performance, you will need to use the following [brand name] products…”
Q: For a 4 to 5-room HDB flat, would a wireless router with a 400ft range will suffice? Do I need to get a booster?
The range would usually suffice if you can place the wireless router in the middle of your home. If that’s not possible, try moving the router antenna (p.s. I found that just shifting the antenna towards the direction of a previously less-than-favourable-reception area improved the signal by 10 to 15%).
Q: I tested my connection speed via speedtest.net. Why is it that upload and download speeds differ?
It’s usual to have faster download speeds than uploads (most users will download stuff rather than upload, so it makes sense to ensure majority of users are happy). The ISPs don’t expect home users to run servers. But this is slowly changing, as more of us do VoIP, upload youtube videos, host game servers, do remote computing etc.
I have Mac. Should I then get the Airport or can I use the other routers?
The wireless routers work the same (Macs and PCs are able to use either brands). Your final decision may be the cost, your trust in the brand, and the design (i.e. coolness) factor. Cost-wise, Apple products can cost up to SGD$100 to SGD$150 more than another brand that might adequately serve your need (all I needed was just to surf the net, and my usage isn’t that heavy).
Comment: I hope the sales guy don’t give me that “how come you’re asking me such simple questions” look. Most times, I end up feeling stupid when I try to buy IT stuff. It’s like these people expect customers to know the products already.
If they want your business, they are supposed to be answering “stupid” questions! And you will find out that lots of questions turn out not to be “stupid”.