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Best Internet Routers for Network Connections

Updated on August 26, 2013

Having trouble with the router in your house dropping connections to your wireless devices? How about problems with the range being “just a bit short”; not reaching the room furthest away from where you’ve set the router up?

Well, understanding just a little bit about what goes into network connections – the various protocols and what they mean – might help you finally find the best router for your home, and minimize those annoying mid-stream stoppages in downloads and dropped internet connections.

With a router, it’s all about the ability it has to accept and then transfer information, as well as your laptops’ – or other devices – ability to do the same.

Router Data Transfer Rates

  • Bandwidth and latency are the two most important factors for determining a computers capacity for accepting information; bandwidth is the data rate supported by a network connection or interface. The greater the capacity, the better the connection. Fast Ethernet has a maximum bandwidth of 100 Mbps (Bandwidth is expressed as bits per second, or bps).

    How does bandwidth affect you and the things you do on the internet? Well consider VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol). Voice obviously requires more bandwidth than text, because it carries a lot more information. The higher the rate of data transfer supported by your connection speed – in this particular scenario of VoIP – then the clearer the voice. Ever marveled at the crystal clarity of some voices on certain networks? Well be assured that their modems aren’t clocking along at the standard V.90 modem data rate of 56Kbps. It’s probably 512 Kbps, which is what most providers of VoIP give today.

  • 802.11 – data rate of 2 Mbps. Might as well have dial-up. Remember WebTV? Yeah; that’s the kind of connection we’re talking about…not very good at all.

  • 802.11b – data rate of up to 11 Mbps. This is very much like Ethernet – not the pimped-out Ethernet connection that a dedicated Mass Effect gamer might have, though; more like the Ethernet of every-day people. A good one, but don’t keep it near a cordless house-phone if it has a 2.4 GHz frequency because there could be some interference. In fact, if you’re experiencing dropped connections frequently, try moving your phone away from the router. Or, if you wanna argue about it, try moving your router away from your phone ;-) They work on the same frequency. 802.11b does have long-range capacity, however.

  • 802.11a – data rate at a whopping 56 Mbps (take that, 56K modem of yesteryear). Generally more expensive than the residence-friendly 802.11b; network connections supporting this bandwidth are favored by businesses and corporations for in-office network connections. Short range.

  • 802.11g wireless connections have a maximum speed of 56 Mbps; however, if the connection between devices isn’t strong enough, then this speed will drop in order to maintain the connection. In fact, important info exchange always occurs at a speed less than 56 Mbps – 36, 24 or lower.


Before You Change Routers...

  • Before you think it’s a no-brainer to dump your 802.11a network and opt instead for a 802.11b bandwidth, first consider this: the higher the frequency over which a network transmits its signal, the more difficulty the signal has in penetrating walls and other blockages. 802.11b might have a slower rate of data transfer at 11 Mbps, but its operating frequency of 2.4 GHz cleaves its way through walls pretty close to effortlessly. 802.11a might have that witheringly-fast bandwidth of up to 56 Mbps, but it operates at 5 GHz; thus, while it won’t be affected by proximity to microwaves and cordless home phones, it hates the resistance given by obstructions. Additionally, 802.11a has a shorter range than 802.11b. Something to think about.

The one and only Superman Man of Steel
The one and only Superman Man of Steel | Source

Network Connection Types Continued

  • 802.11g – 56 Mbps. This network connection speed is like a supercharged 802.11b. It works on the same frequency of 2.4 Ghz – so it has that problem of interference – but it comes with a serious upgrade in max speed, from 11 to 56 Mbps.
  • 802.11n – 100 -300 Mbps! Even higher theoretically (450 Mbps has been reached). This one is Superman; the others are the rest of the Justice League. Routers and other interfaces employing this one have easily the fastest data transmission rates as well as best range. 802.11n isn’t affected very much by nearby signals, if at all.

    If you’re looking for its Kryptonite; it might be the cost – this bandwidth ain’t light on the pocket. However, if you’ve experienced the frustration of intermittently dropping connections while trying to surf or work, the much greater reliability offered by 802.11g might very well be worth it. How much more reliable, and how much faster, you ask? Try performance rated 5 times better than 802.11g and speed as a fraction of a tick under 4 times as fast. Like I said – Superman.

Decisions; decisions...

An additional note: to avoid the hassle of whether you should choose a router with 5GHz or 2.4GHz connection speed; you can just grab one that is dual-band.

Since the different wireless devices in your home might each respond to different frequencies, a dual band router will have them all covered.

We talked about range earlier; you might like some specifics. Happy to oblige you:

802.11b – 45.7 meters (that’s about 0.5 football fields)
802.11g – 45.7 meters
802.11a – 15.2 meters
802.11n – 53.3 meters

It’s important to realize that the “best” router may not be the best for you. Many times, you will be paying for extra performance that’s so far above what you need; or, are even capable of using, that it’s wasted money.

How? Well because your internet connection is separate from your router, and if you have the kind of internet connection optimized for email and not for heavy web-surfing, then a Superman router is utterly pointless.

A router can only allow whatever connection you have to perform to its fullest inherent capacity; it won’t enhance it beyond that no matter how good it is. Basically, then, it takes two to tango: your computer must have a speedy network adapter to make the best use of a capable router.

Thus; before you upgrade your router, try and get all the info on your computer’s network wireless card so you can change/upgrade it to match that new-age router you’re aiming for. Match your router to your client for best results.

Lastly, when choosing a router, if you’re concerned about the details of upload and download speeds, then check the number of antennas – if there are any visible at all. The antennas are either transmission antennas (uploading) or receiving antennas (downloading). The more there are, then the faster and more reliable the respective speeds.

Selection of Routers

Now for the routers on the market available for your needs: First of all, the LinkSystem E-series routers are excellent across-the-board, and have something for everyone.

With advanced technology, they are able to minimize – if not eliminate – dead-spots in the home, depending on the size of your home; which is why there are different versions.

Highly regarded for their ease-of-setup (an always welcome attribute for most of us!), they are 802.11n capable, with rates of transfer that range from 300 Mbps for the E900 to a whopping 900 Mbps total (in a dual band 450+450 configuration) for the EA4500.

So to clarify; the EA4500 isn’t going to reach 900 Mbps data transfer speeds (although some say it can; this is irrelevant – your home computer can’t match that capability yet. Maybe in 2014.); it can reach 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz frequency, and 450 Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency band.

Furthermore, they all have the advanced IPv6 Internet Protocol tech enabled for greater network reliability and protection. Personally, the EA3500 option is the most amazing; but only because the 4500 is almost too good it’s unnecessary for the things I do. Unless you live in a mansion, you’ll probably find this to be true as well (I’m not talking to you, Shaq; with your 64,000 square foot digs, btw).

For those on more of a budget – aren’t we all – there’s the 802.11n (backwards-compatible with 802.11b as well as 802.11g wireless devices) MediaLink Router operating at 2.4 GHz. It has data speeds of 150 Mbps, which should be plenty for anyone not testing the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

If you check you wireless connectivity right now, you’ll probably see 56 Mbps as the max rate of data transfer; well in line with the best that MediaLink could do for you.

Frankly; although there are plenty of routers out there that maybe deserve to make a best routers list, deserves got nothing to do with it. Cisco Linksystem’s selections could cover anyone’s needs; and the MediaLink takes price more into consideration, without sacrificing effectiveness. Just in case you want a wider selection, however, I’ve included resources for other best router versions. Enjoy!!

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    • seigfried23 profile image

      seigfried23 5 years ago

      I couldn't agree more - you get what you pay for when it comes to routers.

      Even the more expensive ones are worth it when you think what they do and how you won't need another for quite some time.

    • seigfried23 profile image

      seigfried23 5 years ago

      I couldn't agree more Jakob. I was frustrated with my internet connection dropping constantly between devices; but never between the home computer and the modem. Figured it was the router, and I needed a better understanding of what routers do - so I made a hub about it. Why not?!

      You could probably get rid of your old router on ebay to some novelty collector . These things advance pretty quickly but you could likely sell it for half what you paid at best. good luck.

    • forlanda profile image

      Juancho Forlanda 5 years ago from US of A

      Good info about wireless routers. Thanks.

      The one thing I have learned about routers is don't go cheap. I bought a very inexpensive D-Link brand router once and I had to restart it daily. I later got a Netgear N300 model (I think), and it just runs very reliably.

    • Jakob Barry profile image

      Jakob Barry 5 years ago

      Nice hub. It's a good idea to know what your equipment does, especially when it comes to network connections which are such a part of our lives today. I actually have an old LinkSystem from a bunch of years ago I've been trying to sell but things change so fast no one wants it...just about ready to give it away.