Indeed, even the best wireless router can have trouble covering an entire house or office with a reliable WiFi signal. That’s why it’s essential to know how to get the most out of a WiFi router and have the right tools for the job.
All about Wi-Fi Router
WiFi routers are everywhere, and it’s hard to imagine the world without them. Despite their widespread use; however, most people have complained about the performance of their wireless router at one point or another.
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Before we start
Trusted by countless IT professionals and casual home users alike, NetSpot is one such tool. NetSpot’s forte are WiFi network analysis, site surveys, and network troubleshooting.
With NetSpot, you can make even a budget WiFi router perform just as well as routers way above its price range, just like you can use it to make a high-end router perform to its fullest potential.
NetSpot is simple, powerful, and available for free.
What is a WiFi Router?
Simply put, a WiFi router is an electronic device that sends data received from an Internet cable to other devices. It also acts as a wireless access point from which it shares data through the use of radio signals. The router converts the data stream delivered by your Internet connection into radio signals. These signals are received by WiFi-capable devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
Selecting the Best Wi-Fi Router
If you believe that all routers are the same, you’re wrong. There are many good reasons why you should consider leaving the router you got from your internet service provider behind and buying a new, better one instead.
It used to be that internet routers did almost nothing else besides connecting a single computer to the internet. Modern internet routers are different. They provide wireless internet access to smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and internet-connected home appliances. They are highly secure, feature USB ports for file sharing, and support all the latest wireless standards, such as 802.11ac, which offers about 3x the bandwidth of the older 802.11n standard.
Most modern WiFi routers already support the newest version of WiFi standards, which is 802.11ax a.k.a. WiFi-6, it is an upgrade over the previous standard, which is 802.11ac (WiFi-5).
These routers broadcast on two frequencies simultaneously. Such routers are called dual-band routers, and they support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Why’s that important? Because the 2.4 GHz band tends to be very cluttered. In some residential areas or apartment blocks, dozens of wireless routers may broadcast a wireless signal on the same channel, making it difficult for electronic devices to collect the right data packets amidst all the noise.
Routers also offer different ranges. You may have seen routers that look like scary cyber-spiders, with antennas protruding in all directions. You better believe that routers like this have a better range than much smaller routers with built-in antennas.
Older routers that support only the 802.11n standard can accommodate only 30 concurrent clients. Newer, 802.11ac routers support almost 100 simultaneous connections, making them much more suitable for crowded office spaces and public-facing businesses.
Software updates are vital when it comes to wireless routers. Cyber attackers release over 390,000 new malicious programs every day, and old, unpatched routers are one of their prime targets. Router manufacturers have to make the same kind of business decisions as all other companies, and they can’t afford to support old products indefinitely.
That router your internet service provider gave you 5 years ago could be vulnerable to a wide range of dangerous cyber attacks, many of which could cost you your privacy or a bank account. Why risk so much when you can purchase a new router and stay safe?
Before you purchase a new router, always make sure to check wireless router reviews to see what others have to say about it. There’s only so much you can learn about a product from specifications and product descriptions. Reliability and real-world performance take some time to evaluate.
Don’t Blame Your WiFi Router
Before you say “my WiFi router is no good,” consider what else could be affecting the quality of your WiFi signal and your internet speeds.
First of all, double-check that your wireless network is encrypted. Sometimes a router loses power for a long time and restores to factory defaults. This can happen without your knowledge, leaving your WiFi network accessible to anyone. It goes without saying that your internet speeds will be abysmal when the whole neighborhood is leeching off you.
These days, the WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) is recommended as a much safer alternative to the older and much less secure WEP.
Second, make sure that your internet service provider is delivering the advertised download and upload speeds. Just because your contract says that you should be getting 20 Mbps download speeds, it doesn’t mean that you actually are. NetSpot’s Active Scanning feature allows you to quickly and accurately test your network’s connection speeds.
To use the feature:
Start a new network survey project
Load a map of your area or create a new one
Scan your area
Look for a blue Active Scan indicator
Go through the available visualizations to see your upload speed, download speed, wireless transmit rate, and other useful metrics.
Last but not least, make sure the computer you’re using for the testing is in a good working order. The cause of your slow internet speeds could be a malware infestation or some background processes. A simple restart often does the trick, but many serious issues can only be solved by a complete reinstall of your operating system.
Tips for Setting Up a WiFi Router
Here are some tips that can help you set up a wireless router. Based on the area you are intending to cover with your WiFi signal, you may only need one router to do the job. Properly setting up the router is essential in obtaining maximum performance from the equipment.
Properly locate your router — Placing your router in a location that is free from physical obstructions is key to getting the best signal from your router. Place it as high as you can and keep it away from other sources that may produce wireless interference such as microwaves and cordless phones.
Secure your network — Make sure you access your router’s administration panel and change the device’s default password. Set your router to the highest degree of security with WPA2 as a minimum to protect your network and users.
Keep your firmware up to date — To ensure your device is operating optimally you should take advantage of firmware upgrades offered by your router’s manufacturer. We recommend you configure the router to automatically install any available firmware upgrades.
Minimize the distance between the router and connected devices — If you find that your wireless devices are experiencing issues with the WiFi signal you may have to move them closer to the router in order to achieve the performance you desire. If this becomes a major problem, you may be a candidate for a mesh network installation.
What Is Mesh Networking?
We’ve come to expect internet access to be available everywhere, and we have the same expectation even for WiFi networks. However, the average WiFi router can seldom cover more than a single room with a strong and stable signal, which is where mesh networking comes in.
From the outside, a mesh WiFi network works just like any traditional single-router WiFi network does: the network identifies itself to clients with a single SSID (service set identifier), and it may request clients to enter a password.
But there’s one major difference: the strength of a mesh WiFi network in a house or large office space doesn’t vary too much from room to room. That’s because a mesh WiFi network actually consists of multiple mesh WiFi routers, typically called nodes, organized in a mesh topology.
While it’s still more expensive to set up a mesh WiFi network compared with the cost of a single-router WiFi network, the benefits make it worth every penny — at least when configured correctly. Learn more about mesh WiFi networks and their configuration.
Tips for Setting Up a Mesh Network
Setting up a mesh network comes with its own set of challenges that must be addressed. Here are some tips for setting up a mesh network.
Plan your mesh network — A survey of your coverage area is in order to plan the location of the nodes that provide access points into the network. Based on their locations you might opt for a mesh network that offers either a wired or wireless means of connecting the nodes.
Consider wired connections to certain devices — Entertainment components like televisions and gaming consoles can benefit from being directly wired into a node on the mesh network.
Best WiFi Router Optimization Strategy
The most effective way how to optimize the performance of your router is to find out the ideal spot where to place it. NetSpot’s Survey Mode allows you to create a visual map of the wireless strength in your area and see where the signal is the strongest and weakest. Use this information to decide whether it wouldn’t be best to place the router elsewhere.
With NetSpot, you can quickly verify the result and adjust your course of action. Even though NetSpot is loaded with useful wireless troubleshooting features, it doesn’t take long even for someone with limited computer experience to learn how to use it. Download NetSpot right now to optimize your router and increase your internet speeds.
The Best WiFi Routers
We do not propose that this is an exhaustive list of the WiFi routers that are available. That is beyond the scope of this article and would encompass hundreds of devices. The list we provide is designed to point you in the direction of some of the best routers on the market today from which to begin your search for the best router for your individual situation.
Here is a high-performance router whose compact size belies its power. It is a tri-band router providing 802.11n (2.4GHz, 5GHz) and 802.11ac (5GHz) support.
The device features four Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as a USB 2 and a USB 3 port. It is powerful enough to provide coverage through walls and ceilings and comes with installed anti-virus protection. It is a great choice for a home WiFi network.
This Linksys router offers tri-band support for the 802.11n (2.4GHz, 5GHz), 802.11ac (5GHz) standards and features flexibility that allows customization of your device to optimize performance.
The software allows you to use your desktop browser or the dedicated phone application to perform many functions such as monitoring network usage, prioritizing data allotment, and balancing data transmission across the three wireless bands. It includes 4 Ethernet ports and a USB 3 interface.
This is an expensive and extremely powerful router that is perfect for the hard-core gamer who demands peak performance at all times. It is also a tri-band router that offers the user a choice between the 802.11n (2.4GHz, 5GHz) and 802.11ac (5GHz) standards. Gamers will love the dedicated pair of Ethernet ports that ensure your gaming console gets the bandwidth that it needs. The router is easily configured and managed through the ROG Gaming Center web console.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover every WiFi router that deserves mention. Check the list of the best WiFi routers available in 2022 here.
Best Mesh WiFi Routers
This is a list of some of the best mesh WiFi alternatives on the market today.
This highly acclaimed system is considered one of the most manageable and easy-to-set-up mesh networks available. Its ease of use is complemented by its high performance and advanced design. The Google WiFi mesh system is comprised of three components which can each serve as the core of the system, streamlining the installation of the network.
You control your system with the intuitive Google WiFi app which includes the ability to monitor your network and the health of your connection points. The app includes an Internet speed test and allows you to prioritize traffic to the devices that you choose.
Here is a Netgear router perfect for users who wish to implement a mesh network in their home. The kit comes with one router and two satellites to extend the WiFi signal throughout your home. The components feature a sleek and modern design that will not clash with your home’s decor. The Orbi offers great performance and is easy to set up. It is rather high-priced, but will definitely solve your issues with the lack of WiFi coverage in your home.
Google and Netgear Orbi aren’t without competition as many other large companies have also released compelling mesh WiFi solutions, including Comcast, which is trying to revamp its Xfinity home internet services under the xFi brand. The xFi Pods, as Comcast calls its mesh WiFi extender devices, can be paired with an xFi Gateway to create a mesh WiFi network and eliminate areas where WiFi coverage drops or is weak.
Here you can find out the best mesh WiFi routers for 2022.
Whether you decide that a single WiFi router solution will work for your needs or opt for a mesh network, you should make use of a quality WiFi analyzer such as Netspot to plan, maintain, and optimize your network. It can be instrumental in your ability to obtain the best performance out of your network no matter what type of hardware you choose to employ.
Netspot is a comprehensive WiFi analysis application that runs on both Windows and macOS. You can download and test the app for free to see how it can help you plan and tune your WiFi network. It is a powerful tool that looks good in any network administrator’s software toolbox, yet is intuitive enough for the general computer user to make use of to get the maximum performance from your WiFi router.
WiFi analyzer app runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10/11) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless network adapter.
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Modern Internet routers can handle a lot of tasks — they provide computers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and even your car with wireless access to the Internet. High-quality routers of new generations have USB ports for secure file sharing and support the latest and fastest wireless standards. Dual-band routers offer even more versatility by broadcasting on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands simultaneously.
Modern 802.11ac routers can handle almost 100 simultaneous connections offering fast Internet connection to anyone who joins the network. On the market for a new router? Think how many people are going to use it and where. Read the reviews and specifications to find the most suitable option.
Is your network encrypted? Checking this from time to time is a good habit, because if for some reason your wireless router settings were restored to factory defaults it might just let anyone in to piggyback on your wireless network. Also make sure you are using at least the WPA2 security standard on your equipment.
You might want to test your Internet speed to make sure your service provider delivers what they advertised.
Lastly, make sure your computer is operating normally — if it is overloaded with background processes or got infected with malware it might also affect the Internet speed. And not just the Internet — you might want to reinstall your operating system to protect your data.
Use NetSpot’s Active Scan feature to test your network’s connection speeds accurately.
This quick test is quite easy:
- In NetSpot start a new survey project;
- Load a plan of your area or draw a new one;
- Scan your area while moving through it and taking measurements;
- Look for a blue Active Scan indicator;
- Use the heatmap visualizations to analyze your upload speed, download speed, wireless transmit rate, etc.
The best way to enhance the performance of your wireless router is to find the most optimal placement for it. Use the NetSpot app — its Survey Mode will visualize the wireless strength of your home or office network signal so you can clearly see where it is the strongest and where — the weakest. Repeat the survey with NetSpot for your router’s new location to verify the proper placement.
If you want to get more information about Wi-Fi, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi routers, the best apps for wireless networking, WiFi signal, etc.