Do I Need A New Wifi Router

So Should You Upgrade Now

Do You Need A New Router or Cable Modem

The short answer is likely “yes” if your current router is more than three years old. Notebooks that support Wi-Fi 6 are becoming more common, including both higher-end models, like the Editors’ Choice-winning Dell XPS 15 OLED, as well as lower-priced units such as the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3. The same goes for newer tablets and smartphones, like the OnePlus 9 Pro and the Apple iPhone 13.

The Apple iPhone 13 is among the many new devices that support Wi-Fi 6.

Even if your devices are still operating on 802.11ac, it’s still worth the trouble to consider a Wi-Fi 6 router upgrade now. Prices are coming down on both standalone Wi-Fi 6 routers as well as Wi-Fi-6-compatible wireless mesh systems that provide wall-to-wall coverage for homes of all sizes. Among the latter, the TP-Link Deco X20 is an affordable three-piece Wi-Fi 6 mesh system designed for homes of up to 5,800 square feet. It’s around $200 less than many alternatives, which almost lets it qualify as a budget router. At the higher end of the spectrum is the Asus ZenWiFi AX , one of the best-performing mesh options we’ve tested.

Meanwhile, adding a Wi-Fi 6 range extender could be an alternative if you’re happy with your existing Wi-Fi 6 router but have a larger home or live in a dense neighborhood with lots of competing wireless signals.

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All this jargon is a lot to unpack, but rest assured that any device you get that supports the final Wi-Fi 6 standard will have all these features in place. On the other hand, there are some Wi-Fi 6 devices with enhanced capabilities that go beyond the basic features that the Wi-Fi Alliance certified. Called Wi-Fi 6E, these products support 6GHz wireless spectrum. Essentially, this means Wi-Fi 6E enables faster speeds and lower latencies than Wi-Fi 6 and earlier iterations.

Wi-Fi 6E devices will be backward compatible with Wi-Fi 6 and earlier Wi-Fi standards, but in order to use the new 6GHz channels, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6E router and a Wi-Fi 6E client device . That means even if you have a relatively new Wi-Fi 6 router, you’ll still need to upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6E model.

Storebought Routers Are More Secure And Stable

When you purchase a router directly from a manufacturer, they control the firmware and don’t have a specific affiliation toward a particular ISP. This means the company can keep your router secure via updates and should work on any ISP you choose.

This isn’t always true for an ISP’s router. For one, the ISP may not produce the router in the first place they may delegate that task to another company. If a flaw appears in your router’s security, the ISP must get in touch with the router’s manufacturer to fix it.

Similarly, the router is built to work with its ISP and isn’t guaranteed to work well outside its default settings. The Register reported on how Sky customers had their routers bricked after a firmware update. It only affected those that used a custom DNS server, which shows how users face problems if they stray off the ISP’s intended path.

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How To Tell When It’s Time To Replace Your Router

These are the signs that your router is no longer fit for duty

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    Before COVID-19 forced many of us to work and learn remotely, the difference between a so-so router and a great one wasn’t that important.

    As long as Netflix worked in the living room and the kids could play games online with their friends, why bother thinking about it?

    But now that wireless routers have become a more critical part in our lives, its time to pay closer attention to them. That includes recognizing when they should be replaced, either because they no longer perform well or aren’t receiving security updates.

    The security concern is a big one. We trust wireless routers to safely and reliably connect our laptops, smart TVs, and video game consoles to the internet. The last thing we want is to have data we send or receive become vulnerable to hackers.

    To be clear, we’re talking here about routers you buy and set up yourself, not the ones provided by internet service providers for a monthly fee. If you have questions about those routers, call your ISP.

    If you own your router, there is no clear-cut way to decide when to replace it. But there are a few signs that indicate its time to say goodbye.

    How To Tell When It’s Time To Upgrade Your Router

    How to buy the right Pocket sized Wi

    Experts recommend getting a new router every couple of years. Here’s how to get the most out of your next upgrade if the time has indeed come.

    Your router just might be one of the most essential gadgets you own — but in a lot of cases, we set the thing up and then hope to never think about it again. Heck, maybe you just went with whatever your internet provider installed when you signed up for service.

    It’s an understandable blind spot. Between the blinking lights, the ceaseless jargon and the oft-misleading speed claims, routers can be mystifying. But in our current age of doing everything at home — working, learning, socializing, you name it — having a good router running your network traffic is as essential as ever.

    In general, experts recommend upgrading your router at least every five years. Make that every two to three years if you use lots of smart home gadgets, or if you make a regular habit of buying the latest laptops, phones and other primary Wi-Fi devices. That means that there are probably lots and lots of us that would stand to benefit from upgrading to a new router in 2021. Here’s how to wrap your head around all of that, and make the right upgrade at the right time.

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    Modem Vs Router: Whats The Difference

    • Weve updated this post with our most recent modem and router picks and verified that all of the information is still accurate.

    Your modem is a box that connects your home network to the wider Internet. A router is a box that lets all of your wired and wireless devices use that Internet connection at once and also allows them to talk to one another without having to do so over the Internet. Often, your Internet service provider will give you one box that serves as both modem and router, but theyre still different technologies not all modems include routers and not all routers have modems. You need both, integrated or not, in order to provide an Internet connection for all the devices in your home.

    We recommend using a separate modem and router, if you can. Since modem technology changes slowly, you can usually use a modem for years, until it breaks, but you might need to replace a router because you want better coverage, because youve added more devices to your network and your old router isnt keeping up, or because you want to take advantage of the latest improvements in Wi-Fi technology. You can often save money on your monthly Internet bill if you buy your own modem and router instead of using the ones your ISP provides, though this is usually true only if you have cable Internet, not DSL or fiber, and the situation is more complicated if you get phone service from your ISP as well.

    Speed Ratings Are Basically Bull

    I’ve , but it bears repeating: The speed ratings you’ll see on the packaging and as you scroll through router listings while shopping online are close to meaningless.

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    “Combined speeds” is a meaningless, misleading term. For instance, this router makes it seem like it can hit speeds of 2.2Gbps , but in reality, its fastest band has a top speed of 867Mbps — and that’s only in a controlled lab environment.

    I’m talking about figures like “AC1200” and “AX6000.” The letters there tell you what version of Wi-Fi the router supports — “AC” for Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac and “AX” for Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax. The numbers give you a rough sense of the combined speeds of each of the router’s bands — typically 2.4 and 5GHz, and perhaps a second 5GHz band if we’re talking about a triband router.

    The problem is that you can only connect to one of those bands at a time. When you add their top speeds together, the result is a highly inflated figure that doesn’t represent the speeds you’ll actually experience. If it’s a triband mesh router that uses that third band as a dedicated connection between the router and its extenders, then that band’s speeds don’t directly apply to your device connections at all.

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    How Important Are Security Features

    If you need to be in full control of everything that goes through your router, go for one with advanced firmware that includes a decent firewall and offers any additional features you may require, or supports the installation of third-party advanced firmware like DD-WRT that can offer those features.

    If you are concerned about your children being exposed to inappropriate information on the internet, choosing a router with built-in parental controls can be useful. Some routers even let you allow and restrict internet access for your children based on time slots and offer guest access for your visitors so that you won’t need to provide them with your primary Wi-Fi password.

    How To Choose A Wifi Router

    How to Set Up a Wireless Router

    The internet has changed dramatically over the last two decades, and so did WiFi routers. The first generation of WiFi routers followed the introduction of WiFi technology in 1998 and offered speeds of only up to 2 Mbps. To put that number into perspective, consider that the average video bitrate of a Full HD YouTube video playing at 25 frames per second is 8 Mbps.

    As you can see, it would be impossible to enjoy the internet the way we do today with an old WiFi router. Fortunately, WiFi routers have improved significantly since 1998.

    Most modern WiFi routers support the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard, which uses the 5 GHz band exclusively and is capable of multi-station throughput of at least 1 Gbps, and a single-station throughput of at least 500 Mbps, which is theoretically enough for over 60 YouTube videos playing simultaneously.

    Besides being a lot faster, modern wireless routers are also a lot smarter. They support technologies such as beamforming to focus your WiFi signal where its needed the most, and they come with a host of security- and privacy-oriented features to keep you safe online. Of course, some features are reserved for the best WiFi routers and those who are willing to pay for them.

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    Router Naming Conventions Should Not Be Taken Into Account When Making Your Buying Decision

    Wireless routers brag about their total theoretical maximum bandwidth in their model name. You have AC1200, AC1900, or even AC5400 routers. New generation routers with support for Wi-Fi 6 have AX in their name followed by even larger numbers, like this ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000. The problem is that when you ask “What kind of router do I need?”, these naming conventions are meaningless.

    That’s because they don’t tell you the speed that you are going to get. In real life, there are cases when an AC1900 wireless router can outmatch an AC2500 router, because of differences in hardware configuration, when it was manufactured, by whom, Wi-Fi technologies, firmware updates, and the space where you use it. We explain why naming conventions don’t help much in this article: What does AC1200, AC1750, AC1900 or more, mean and what’s the difference?

    Don’t buy an AC1750 wireless router instead of an AC1200 router just because of its naming convention. Other factors are more important, and you should do some research. However, no matter what you choose, DO NOT BUY A ROUTER BELOW AC1200. If you see a router with AC750, AC900 or anything lower than AC1200, it means that you are dealing with an old router, with dated technology. Such a router is not a good pick for a modern home where you need speed, stability, and security for an increasing number of connected devices.

    Will A Wireless Router Work Without The Internet

    A router can work without the internet to create a LAN that allows devices within the network to communicate with each other, wirelessly or via cable. For example, in an office setup devices such as printers, computers, and scanners can connect to the network to make sharing of documents across departments easier and faster.

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    Internet Problems Without A Router

    Sharing an Internet connection with several Wi-Fi connected devices over a network that doesn’t have a router will usually end with only one of the devices being able to connect to the Internet at a time. Internet service providers usually only assign accounts a single IP address — without paying extra — that’s used to identify all incoming and outgoing traffic on the Internet connection. Routers work around this limitation by claiming the IP address and acting as traffic control to direct data to the correct devices on the network.

    References

    When To Replace Your Router Due To Missing Features

    How To Choose The Best Firmware To Supercharge Your Wi

    The last way to tell that it’s time to replace your router is missing features and standards.

    This is a bit of a messy indicator because some people prefer to be on the cutting edge of new technology, while others want to get the most use possible out of their hardware. With that in mind, you’ll want to look at specific features and standards to see whether or not you need them.

    The most important indicator of whether a router is ready to be replaced is its wireless standard. These are the three most commonly used standards:

    • Wi-Fi 6: This is also referred to as 802.11ax, and it’s backward compatible with older versions. This standard provides the fastest speeds and allows you to connect the most devices. Whether or not you have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices depends on your purchasing habits.
    • Wi-Fi 5: This is also referred to as 802.11ac, and it’s also backward compatible. It’s been the most common standard in routers since 2013, so you should really consider upgrading if your router is older than that.
    • Wi-Fi 4: This is also referred to as 802.11n, and it was largely replaced starting in 2013. If you still have a Wi-Fi 4 router, you’ll probably notice improved performance if you upgrade.

    The general rule of thumb is that if you’re still working with a Wi-Fi 4 router, it’s probably old enough that it could stop working at any time, and it likely doesn’t work as well as it did originally due to general wear and tear.

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