If you’re looking to upgrade your home network, these are the things you should know before buying a new router.
Should you use the router provided by your ISP?
When you sign up with a new internet service provider (ISP) in the US, you’ll be offered an equipment rental for around $5 to $7 per month. In other countries, ISPs typically bundle the equipment into your internet package.
In most cases, the device they send you is a modem/router combination that you’ll find more or less serviceable. However, if you’re in the US and plan on keeping the same network equipment for over a year, it’s typically more cost-effective to buy your own equipment. Your ISP likely provides a list of compatible equipment that you can find online for around $50 and up. Keep in mind, you’ll either need a combination device or a separate router with a modem.
Even if you’ve been given a free router, you may still want to buy your own for better speed and performance.
Changing wireless standards
That said, if you don’t have any devices at home that support Wireless AC, then the router isn’t so much the problem as the individual client devices are.
If your ISP offers faster speeds, it may be worth upgrading to an AC router for future-proofing purposes. Otherwise, keep in mind that when you do upgrade to a faster internet package, you may also need a new router.
The life span of a router
Keep in mind that networking hardware doesn’t last forever. Not only do the standards change fairly often, but networking hardware is put through a lot of stress on a daily basis. Your Wi-Fi connection is stretched across your computer, gaming console, smartphone, tablet and streaming devices. And with more devices being added to the mix, such as smart lights or thermostats, that load is only getting larger, and over time, a router’s performance can degrade.
The positioning of your router is extremely important. It should be in a central location, away from other gadgets or obstructions and, ideally, high up on a shelf.
Still, even with great positioning, you’re likely to run into dead spots inside your home, places where the wireless signal just can’t reach. Using heat map software can help you maximize your wireless coverage, and buying a more expensive router might give you better range, but it still doesn’t mean the signal will reach the far corner or your basement.
Don’t throw out your old router
Speaking of extending your network, just because it may be time to upgrade your old router doesn’t mean it’s time for the old router to be retired. If it’s still in working condition, you can turn it into a wireless bridge (to extend your network with about half the original throughput) or an access point using the aforementioned power-line adapters.