With COVID-19 still keeping so many people working from home, your Wi-Fi router is doing a lot more than helping you stream movies and play games. Home Wi-Fi routers keep millions of people working and they’re also connecting an ever-growing range of smart home devices. That means picking one that does the best job for both you and your wallet is trickier than ever, especially now that we’re seeing more Wi-Fi 6 devices becoming available.
When you’re shopping for a new router, it’s best to start by considering the size of your coverage area and the number of clients you need to support as well as the types of devices that you’ll be connecting. Not everybody needs the kind of performance that you get with the latest and greatest models, and there’s no reason to pay for features that you will likely never use; so if you’re looking for a lower price rather than a big bag of bleeding edge features, check out this list of budget routers. But if you have several family members vying for bandwidth for things like streaming Netflix video and playing PC games online, a new router with modern management capabilities can make a world of difference and help keep the peace. Below we guide you through choosing a router that will handle your current and future wireless networking needs, and offer our top picks to get you started.
Understanding Wi-Fi Bands
Nowadays, any router worth its salt will offer at least two radio bands, a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHz band. The 2.4GHz band operates at a lower frequency than the 5GHz band and offers better range because it is more adept at penetrating walls and other structures. However, is doesn’t offer the fat pipe and high speed access that you get with the 5GHz band.
Additionally, the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band has to compete with other devices in the home that use the same frequency, such as microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, and wireless phones. That said, it is perfectly adequate for tasks like Web surfing and connecting to social media services like Facebook and Twitter. If one or more of your devices will be streaming video from a service such as Netflix, or connecting to an online gaming service such as Xbox Live, the less crowded 5GHz band offers…