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The speed of all wireless Internet routers is termed in Mbps, or megabits per second. The earlier Wi-Fi models offered 11 Mbps, mid-range 802.11g routers provide 54 Mbps and the latest Draft N routers claim up to 300 Mbps. While it may be tempting to just go for the model with the highest speed rating, bear in mind that the actual performance that you will achieve in your own home and with your computer will normally be an awful lot lower than the maximum speeds claimed by the manufacturer, as these can only be reached in ideal circumstances with the perfect selection of components and the router practically sitting next to your PC. And no matter how fast your router, it can't increase the Internet connection speed that's coming into your house.

The majority of mid-range wireless routers run on the 2.4 GHz bandwidth, which is absolutely fine for most homes, but if you live in an area swamped in wireless connections - in a large block of flats, for example - it might be worth going for a model that works on 5 GHz, so you get a bandwidth more or less to yourself. And don't forget to check that the machine you choose is compatible with your operating system, which can be particularly salient if you're using Windows Vista or Mac OSX, as some older routers will not support these OSs at all.

If possible, it's a good idea to get a wireless Internet router of the same brand as at least one of your wireless network adapters, as sometimes vendors will optimize communication protocols to their own equipment, resulting in slightly higher performance and better compatibility, which will make it all easier to set up. So, if you don't already own any adapters, or laptops with built-in wireless, then buy all your WiFi gear from the same manufacturer.

Finally, don't take too much notice of what other people say about a particular model. Two people using exactly the same machine in different types of home (say, one being a concrete flat and another being a wooden bungalow) will give you completely different opinions about the range and reliability of the unit. If you can, ask a friend who lives in a similar type of building about his or her experiences, and go for the models that seem to sell best - if a lot of people keep buying it, it's probably going to work OK in most situations.



Author R. Germain
date added Wed 05 08 2009

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