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What's the latest in wireless router technology?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 21, 2011 5:11 AM PST

What's the latest in wireless router technology?

Hope your members can help me. My D-Link b/g wireless router of 7 years finally is heading south (randomly turns off) and it's time to shop for a new one. I haven't been keeping up with all the latest and greatest router technology and I'm not keen on the entire wireless set up as the previous one was set up by a co-worker. I believe when I got my router 'g' speed was the fastest. What letters are they up to now, are we at Z? LOL. I'm sure it's much faster now, and I hear of 'n' technology. Is this the standard now? Are there any draw back of going this route--pros and cons? Is signal strength better (I'm not getting a good signal with my current one.)? How much speed difference would I see going to 'n'? Are there new features built in? Is it more secure? More costly, or should I just go ahead and buy another 'g' router. Also if all my wireless connections are b/g compatible, will getting a 'n' wireless router be completely useless as I won't be using the full potential of the router speed. Sorry I have so many questions, I'm just completely out of the loop and a bit lost. Please help educate this 61 year old geezer. Much appreciated.

--Submitted by Ronald G.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Wireless networking --Submitted by waytron

For the home, 802.11n is the best for now --Submitted by Flatworm

Half of the answer is missing --Submitted by timhood

Wireless-n has been good to me *smile* --Submitted by Doh_1

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Ronald's, please click the click the "reply" link below to submit it. When submitting an answer please be as specific and detailed as possible. Thanks!
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New Wireless Router
by geomurray / January 21, 2011 9:47 AM PST

I have used many wireless routers in my day and believe me I've been around computers for 32 years and retired from Microsoft. In my home/office I use a Netgear N. I had it up and running in 10 minutes. G is old technology and soon N will be but the new ones are not quite ready yet. I've seen these routers as low as $49 and up to $79. Many places carry this brand. I've used Cisco but ended up called tech support because of driver issues. Good luck with your replacement.

George - MCSE (retired)

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I agree, but Disagree too.
by webserf / January 29, 2011 2:14 AM PST
In reply to: New Wireless Router

It's true that for about 50 dollars, you can buy a good wireless router. BUT, after using several routers over the past few years, I've found that the most important factor for me is ability to offer a good signal over distance.

Apple Products ARE expensive, but they WORK , and work well.
The Apple Airport, and Airport Extreme have proven the best in every way I use them, from speed, reliability, and configuration options.

The Airport can be set up (easily) as a repeater, which Is useful when needing extra distance from the main router for example. IN this example, I have a FIOS router in a main building and the Apple Airport in the secondary building OVER 700ft away! (there are no buildings, trees etc. in the way). It allows about 80% of the bandwidth even at that distance with the ability to stream video, and/or reliable downloading of files. I rarely get less than 12-13mbs on a 15mbs connection at that distance. .

This Reply sways a bit from the original question but in my experience, if you are willing to pay the $$, you cannot ~ and likely will not regret purchasing an Apple Airport Extreme.. which I use at my office building, and it easily covers a 4,000 multi-floor, and office configuration. I've had little to no luck using other routers, that give me the same reliability and quality of service.

Problem is, many people struggle with dropping $180 for the Airport Extreme, and then $100 for the Airport. To me though, they are well worth the extra price.

Others have mentioned that your modem may need replacement. Of course you need a reliable connection to start with, so it may be a good idea to check to make sure it is operating at peak promise/performance as well..

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by david_cee / January 30, 2011 6:37 AM PST

I agree about the Apple Airport & the Airport extreme 120%


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Apples are for eating.
by bigbear639 / January 31, 2011 7:21 AM PST

The only Apple worth buying is the kind you eat. Wired is the way to go. Even my Netbook and laptops are wired. At work we use wired Switches covering three floors and a Basement Emergency Comunications Center. Printers were also hooked up through the Switches. The only wireless were the EMS and Fire Vehicles. The Fire Houses were also wired for dispatch.

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No Bad Apples..
by webserf / January 31, 2011 11:34 PM PST
In reply to: Apples are for eating.

Of course wired is the best way to go. Who here is arguing this fact?
But, wire is not always convenient, when you have mobile sales or work force, or if you use a laptop, both at home or at work. Yes, one could "plug in" at home too, using a switch.
It's NOT cost effective to wire an old building, for some businesses.

The level of security a business needs is also a factor, and this could sway the kind of equipment someone would buy, but for the typical business and home, the products I mentioned are excellent and provide great service.

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My D-Link b/g wireless router of 7 years(randomly turns off)
by wallywright / January 21, 2011 10:03 AM PST

Hello Ronald G,
It may not be the router. If you are on Roadrunner it is possibly their Modem. Upgrade your router too if you like, but, you may want to also try this.

I had a similar month long problem with my Belkin Router. I had the Belkin technicians full assistance to no avail. I finally connected my last retired Gigafast router (yes, I kept it) and I confirmed that the problem persisted.

I told Time Warner (My Internet provider) what was happening and they knew immediately that I needed a modem upgrade. A bandwidth issue as I recollect. I took my modem to them, exchanged it, connected the new one and the problem was solved.

Hope this helps you (or anyone else with the Modem problem)!

Wally Wright

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Wireless-n has been good to me *smile*
by Doh_1 / January 21, 2011 10:03 AM PST

The latest is wireless-n. It offers considerably higher throughput than wireless-g. Also, the wireless-n router that I have (Netgear WNDR3700) has much better range than the Linksys WRT54GS that preceded it. For example, we have a computer in a bedroom that isn't wired, so it's connected via wireless-n to the router. That wireless-n connection, while not as fast as a hard-wired connection, is quite fast and solid ("Excellent" strength). The higher speed is most useful when moving large files between computers that have 1GB. network interfaces, but it is really nice to have the speed without needing wires. Right now the wireless-n adapter software on the bedroom computer says that it is running at 216Mb/s, which doesn't mean that is the actual speed, you know how that goes. On the face of it, though, that's 4 times the 54Mb/s max that wireless-g runs at.

On the other side of the coin, if you have more than one wireless device that uses your router on a particular band, and at least one of them is wireless-g, then when the wireless-g devices are using the router, everything on that band goes at wireless-g speeds. The average speed will still be above that of wireless-g, since it only goes down to wireless-g speeds for a wireless-n device when a wireless-g and the wireless-n device collide in actual use of the connection.

There's also the 5GHz. band for wireless-n only, which is better for video streaming assuming that the video device is within range of the router. There's less interference on the 5GHz. band, so it is really good for streaming. However, the range on 5GHz. is less that on 2.4GHz., as you would expect.

That's about it, not as short as I hoped, but I'm very happy with wireless-n. It's much faster and more solid than wireless-g was for me. And we get really good performance with mixed wireless-g and wireless-n devices on 2.4GHz, as well. I haven't used the 5GHz. band yet, but I'll be trying it when I get a Roku box soon.

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Dual band.
by david_cee / January 28, 2011 11:41 AM PST

No one has mentioned the apple extreme base station. IIRC they have dual band g/n that transmits/receives on bath bands so having a "g" device does not slow down "n" devices. Also they are extremely easy to setup.

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by djrobsd / February 1, 2011 5:28 AM PST
In reply to: Dual band.

You are posting incorrect/misleading information. The Airport Extreme is a dual band device, but when you operate in dual band mode you ARE SLOWING DOWN the network. The only way to get full speed is to switch to Wireless-N 5GHZ only, or you need to buy a true "simultaneous dual band" router that operates separate antennas for each spectrum.

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by quickbeeare / February 2, 2011 7:23 AM PST
In reply to: Incorrect

Plus, pretty much all residential routers do about the same job, they are all good for a couple years at best and start failing. D-Link or Cisco, period. Apple's dual-band? Yeah, pass...

Brandon McCowan

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I'm Well Into My Router's FOURTH Year
by Flatworm / February 2, 2011 11:09 PM PST
In reply to: Yup...

My D-Link DIR-655 has served me with absolute, 100% reliability for well over three years (and three different ISPs) now, but for the entire time it has had the benefit of having its electrical power buffered through an APC UPS. I HIGHLY recommend powering all of your computer and home entertainment devices through good UPSes -- it will lengthen their lifespans.

I have some older routers now that I've used for nearly a decade.

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UPSyes but...
by willivon4 / February 9, 2011 12:55 AM PST

Better for a home owner is a whole house power quality device. Since purchasing and installing a Sine Control whole house "Powerclamp" I've had no electronic device failures. Let's face it your computer and router aren't the only vulnerable electronics these days. Also & even more critical to electronics' survival is the quality of the grounding of your electrical system. Who'd try flushing a toilet through a 1/4" drain pipe? I had a new ground line run to water line entry for my new electrical system "toilet" (the Powerclamp). See

On the router, I recently recommended a Linksys (Cisco)E 2000 then on sale at Best Buy for my son who had just switched from ATT to Comcast for internet and TV. There were problems with automatic installation which required manual process not well supported. Since they include no hard manual I couldn't help him much over the phone. I've only done manual install of the several routers I've gone through before getting the Sine Control Powerclamp. He got it running but I haven't found out how yet. I had text-ed him the IP address to access it's web-server via hard connect for manual installation access. I'd have to guess the IP address is universal being the same as with my Trendnet & former Netgear wireless G routers which, incidentally, the former I've changed to a $15 5db antenna on. I recommended the E-2000 due to it being on sale for less than an E-1000 and because of it's dual band N capacity and the fact he's a gamer. I was guessing his fairly new gaming systems would operate in either. If it's only for 1 or 2 laptops, Netgear, linksys, Trendnet etc basic N routers should suffice and be available at under $40 frequently on sale.

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no mention to the ISP provider giving your home connection
by mswhip / February 25, 2011 7:45 PM PST

I do own a SMC norm "n" router(they call it gateway). The maximum speed to be expected is 300 Mb/s. Having said that, how many cable companies do you know in North America that feed the home owners with that kind of speed? I phoned mine and they readily amitted that currently they would never reach even 100 MB/s.
So what is the practical purpose of buying n routers if the weakest link is the feed from the ISP provider company?

Am i missing something in here? How many ISP own fiber-optics networks to reach their Internet customer homes? How many are even considering upgrading their installations to fiber-optics in the next couple years to come?
I own an 'n" router only cause I got a deal from them for free intenet for a year in exchange for a brand new n router gateway (and I stopped paying rent for the old 'g" one)

Care to comment on this angle of the whole equation?

Thank you

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You're Missing the Point
by Flatworm / February 25, 2011 11:00 PM PST

Of course the data fed through your cable hookup will (in most cases today, but not for long) not match the speed of your wireless router right now. It will soon; South Korea is already installing a 1 Gbps nationwide system, and we will eventually follow. Verizon already offers 150 Mbps now, which matches the speed of most 802.11n equipment. Google is talking about installing 1 Gbps systems in some cities. Others will follow.

But that 300 Mbps speed works between computers on your own network as long as they have basically uninterrupted signals and are close to the device. This is very useful when you are transferring files between computers at home, or streaming video or doing similar data-intensive activities.

But the key thing is that the less ideal your laptop's (or whatever) location vis-a-vis the router, the slower the wireless throughput will be. Ideal location is hard to come by, and you get a much wider range of usability with a 300 Mbps baseline than you do with slower connections.

Of course, when you use the physical ports to wire desktop or laptop machines to your router with CAT5 or CAT6 cable, they act as Gigabit switches, which actually make it usable when you mount drives from one computer to another.

So yes, you are missing something here.

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Router recommendation
by brucerobin / January 21, 2011 10:38 AM PST

As another has mentioned, start with a modem upgrade from your cable company. Just bring it in and tell them you were told to exchange it. That may solve your problem. If it's time to replace the router, which after 7 years would be reasonable, I recommend the Buffalo WHR-HP-G300N (about $55 from Amazon). I replaced my Netgear with one and it is far superior. Netgear used to be great but they have declined in recent years. On the budget side, I found that a $15 Trendnet works great at my mother's home. I like the Buffalo as it runs the popular dd-wrt firmware which gives you a LOT of options. If you prefer a more simple solution, the Buffalo firmware is included as well.

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old router fix
by berninghausen / January 21, 2011 11:07 AM PST

Had a similar problem with my old Linksys router. I went to Cisco/Linksys, downloaded the most recent firmware, installed it (they provide step-by-step help), and no more problem. That'll work for a while; I call it the cheapskate fix.

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Wireless Speed Liimits
by smelton / January 21, 2011 11:17 AM PST

Remember, too, that the maximum speed you can get is the speed of your internet connection. No matter what the rating of your router, it can never be faster than what it is fed.

It is possible that a new wireless-n router wouldn't show much improvement over what you have now, depending on the speed of your DSL or cable connection.

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Wireless problems.....solved!
by ghstexrn / January 21, 2011 12:36 PM PST
In reply to: Wireless Speed Liimits

I had great difficulty with Linksys. Used a G till it went south then bought an N and it went south in less than a year. Went to Netgear N and had good success since I have turbo internet but still had a problem with wireless throughout the house. Signal was very weak in the back part of the house. Bought a Hawking range extender and that helped a lot but was told by a techy friend about Netgear Powerline AV. Bought what I needed (a Kit and extra adapter) and now have internet via ethernet connection anywhere in the house. I just plug in the adapter and presto...internet! So I am using Netgear N router with a Hawkings extender for wireless and for the areas of the house that the signal is weak, I use the Netgear Powerline. (our house is 2500 sq. ft.) I just wish I had known about the Powerline before I bought the range extender!!!!!!
Hope this helps some!

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router technology
by yonderin' / January 21, 2011 12:18 PM PST

Hey Ronald,

I'm a 67 year-old geezer myself and often lost lately in this tech world. Having said that, I'll tell you my "recent" experience with wireless routers.

2 years ago I needed a new router, so I shopped around a bit and settled on a Linksys "n". Took it home and tried it out, but coverage was spotty between floors (very old 1893 vinatge home, brick and plaster).

I went back to the retailer and the "kid" that waited on me told me that "n" technology is faster but sometimes has more trouble penetrating plaster and lathe. He sold me a "g" router that works great for our 4 computers (2 XP, 1 Vista and now 1 W7).

Good luck with whatever you get.


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Wireless Router
by tds381771 / January 21, 2011 12:24 PM PST

The current draft, 802.11n, is backwards compatible, so it will work with prior ones. The modem problems mentioned do come up, but you didn't say wether you were using an USB adabter or nic card for the computer. These can also go bad. All things being equal, you shud see an improvement with the "n" routers. I am using a D-Link DIR-615 in both my homes and they work great. Set up with most today is a snap..pop in the disc and let the wizard walk you thru it. Literally, a 15 minute job..You shud have no problem. The DIR-615 is a mid-range model and is usually on sale somewhere for $34-$39.

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802.11n is now a FINAL specification
by Flatworm / January 31, 2011 10:14 PM PST
In reply to: Wireless Router

802.11n is no longer a draft specification, although routers have been available that were compliant with various preliminary drafts dating back to late 2005. 802.11n was released as a final standard in September, 2009.

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One of the better wireless
by bill2665 / January 21, 2011 12:44 PM PST
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Netgear N600
by jpvieau / January 21, 2011 12:52 PM PST

After having been dissapointed the past few years with wireless routers, I thought I would give it another try. Instead of cheap...I went with the Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR3700. VERY EASY TO INSTALL..... Took me 5 minutes...REALLY !!!! Have up to 6 computers, 5 Android phones, 1 Wireless HP 3050 printer....and hooked up 3 non wireless computers.... Love it, Love it, Love it.....I think it was $129 or so at Best Buy...

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Netgear N600
by KieronCTA / January 30, 2011 8:42 PM PST
In reply to: Netgear N600

Just bought and installed the N600. Have several laptops, netbooks and a wireless blu-ray and printer connected. Also can instant play from NetFlex wirelessly from PC to TV. Easy install, I am 61 and not a techie! Only $79.99 from Amazon. Love it, love it.

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New Router + Wireless N
by bubzz / January 21, 2011 6:53 PM PST

I use an aging Netgear DG834N router but am planning to swap it for a newer one with gigabit ethernet ports. However, for my wifi network I feed the output of the router into an Apple Airport Extreme which uses Wireless N technology (it is no longer draft by the way, and was released into the wild about a year ago). The beauty of the Apple Airport Extreme is that it transmits both the 2.4Ghz signal and the 5Ghz signal simultaneously, thus boosting the wifi coverage throughout the home considerably.

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D-Link DIR-655
by terryh2113 / January 21, 2011 7:16 PM PST

In my opinion this is one of the finest routers you can buy at a reasonable price. However If All Your Computers Are B/G compatible Only; then you'll have to set it in B/G mode; & forget About "N". "G" speed will be the fastest you'll get. But at least you'll be able to use WPA2-PSK Set In AES Only, which is way more secure than you have now. The web configuration is very easy to use; if you read the downloadable .pdf user's manual. Cheers!!

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Half of the answer is missing
by timhood / January 21, 2011 7:18 PM PST

I'm shocked that so far nobody has mentioned a few key points. First, as you suspected, getting an 'n' router won't speed up your connection unless your adapter in your computer is also 'n' speed rated. So, if your adapter isn't 'n' speed rated, you'll need to upgrade it. That can be a bit tricky if you are using a computer with built-in wireless (such as a laptop), so if that is the case and you want to upgrade, you may want to get help from a tech-savvy friend or relative.

Also, as was mentioned but not fully explained, upgrading the speed of your wireless connection will not likely speed up your internet connection because the bottleneck is in the limited bandwidth your internet service provider is giving you. Even if you have a fast cable internet connection, you are likely only getting maybe 7 megabits' bandwidth. Even a 'g' router is rated at 54 megabits. Allowing for loss of bandwidth due to reduced signal strength traveling through several walls, you still would have more than enough bandwidth. Whether the faster 'n' speed may come in handy is if you have or plan to have multiple devices using the wireless network, such as streaming videos from your computer to a TV appliance (like a Roku or AppleTV, for example). Or, if you have multiple computers on your home network and copy or move large files from one to the other.

Another important consideration is that your seven year-old router likely has outdated security protocols. Your router probably supports WEP security, but may not support WPA (and certainly doesn't support WPA2). WEP security is easily hacked by modern computers, so the privacy of your internet connection (and possibly your data if you have file sharing enabled) is at risk. If your router only supports WEP, you should upgrade to a new router even if your problem could be fixed without upgrading. You should verify your current wireless adapter in your computer can support WPA2. If not, seriously consider upgrading to an adapter that will support WPA2.

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Best Reply
by starman1695 / January 28, 2011 11:37 AM PST

Hi - I just read your reply to Lee Koo and I found your response to be the best. It was clear and concise and want-to-be nerds like me appreciate the fact that you don't "geek speak". Thank you.

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USB Wireless Adapters
by uvbogden / January 28, 2011 11:56 AM PST

I just wanted to add to the excellent advice given above that Wireless-N USB adapters are available, and are fairly inexpensive. Some newer model routers have these that you can purchase as an accessory to the router.

Another thing to remember is that wireless will always be slower than wired. The advantages and freedoms of wireless are tempered by a sacrifice in speed.

Once you have considered everything and purchased your router, be sure to periodically check with the maker for software and firmware updates, which are usually downloaded from the maker's support website. These updates/upgrades can prolong the useful life and improve the performance of your router.

When you are updating software or upgrading firmware, be sure to strictly follow the accompanying instructions. For example, do not attempt to a firmware upgrade over the wireless connection as installing the firware disrupts the wireless connection part way through the installation-this can terminally corrupt your router. Always do the firware upgrade via wire for secure installation.

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Good Answer
by miwi98 / January 29, 2011 7:28 AM PST

Most of us know that broadband is not used in the way it was originally intended. Thanks to Verizon (DSL) and Fios and Comcast that still put everything on one bandwidth the same way a the old dial-up. I thought with broadband more info could be carry on the sub bands like phone, TV and INTERNET. Sometimes, depending on the time of day or night my INTERNET's speed is slower as it was on dial-up (still fast but I can tell the difference). As for the routers I agree with u all the way.

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