How to choose the best WiFi router

Mesh, WiFi 6 and smart functions that will improve your internet 

Text:
Daniel Haaf

Do you still use the router that your internet provider offered when you got your internet connection? It might be a good idea to change it for a newer and more modern WiFi router. 

Here we’ll guide you through five things you should know before you choose your new router. Regardless of whether you’ve got a big or a small home, and big or small needs, our quick guide makes it easier to find the right one among the hundreds of routers on the market today.

4 good WiFi routers

Mesh-router

Routers that support ’mesh’ technology can connect one or more so –called nodes that improve the WiFi signal. You won’t lose any speed and your gadgets change automatically between the router and the nodes in order to always pick up the strongest WiFi signal. 

Mesh and wifi extenders work in a similar way by extending your wifi coverage over a larger area. The important difference is that with mesh, you avoid many of the disadvantages and get the same stability when you connect to the WiFi router as to your nodes. In addition, the nodes often have Ethernet ports for your wired gadgets.

Mesh nodes are usually wirelessly connected to the router, but in many cases you can use a network cable for better stability and maximum speed.

Support for WiFi 6 makes the router future-proof

When you upgrade your home network with a new router check for the WiFi 6 marking standard. With WiFi 6 you’ll get a future-proof WiFi router that can handle really high speed networks even with the latest mobile phones and computers.

In order for your wireless gadgets to be able to connect with WiFi 6, it’s required that both the wifi router and the things that are connected support this standard. If one of them lacks the right support, the connection falls back to the older WiFi 5 standard instead, automatically, without you having to do anything.

Here are some advantages of WiFi 6 compared to WiFi 5:

  • The WiFi 6 signal reaches further and is less disturbed by other routers
  • WiFi 6 has higher maximum bandwidth for all gadgets to share 
  • WiFi 6 has new features that reduce the energy consumption of connected gadgets

Do you already have a working, fast and stable WiFi network at home today? Then maybe you want to skip WiFi 6 and wait for WiFi 6e instead. WiFi 6e is a further development that increases the bandwidth significantly thanks to the use of the 6GHz band. WiFi 6 and older standards today operate at 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Fast WAN/LAN-ports make your WiFi routers future-proof. Photo: Stephen Phillips, Unsplash

The LAN/WAN speed

The speed of your home network is limited to how fast the WAN and LAN ports you have on your router are. You connect the WAN port to your modem, while the LAN ports are the so-called network ports that you connect with a network cable to, for example, the TV, computer or NAS.

Today, it’s common to have WAN and LAN ports that can handle up to gigabyte speed, ie 1,000 megabyte or 1 Gbps. It's fast enough for most people, but if you know that you have extra high requirements, for example if you have equipment that can handle higher speeds than that, then you should look at routers that can handle 2.5GbE. 

The higher the speed that the WAN / LAN ports can handle, the better it is for your home network in the long run because you secure your gadgets for the future.

Mobile app for Android and iOS

It’s practical to be able to control the router and its functions from your mobile phone. With a so-called companion app for Android or iOS you can see all the gadgets that have been connected to your home network, control which ones use the internet and when, and much more.

Depending on how the companion app is set up, you can also get warnings when gadgets don’t perform optimally, get recommendations on settings, and manage guest networks if you want. 

Most WiFi routers also have a web interface that allows you to control everything via the web browser in the computer, mobile phone or tablet. In some cases, you won’t get a companion app, instead you’ll have to rely on the web interface. One tip is to bookmark the address in the web browser so you won’t forget where it is. 

Here are links to some manufacturer’s mobile apps:

Google Nest Wifi has built-in speakers and supports voice control. Photo: Andres Urena, Unsplash

Smart functions such as voice control and speakers 

Some more advanced routers support smart functions such as voice control. Either directly built-in to the router and nodes (similar to Google Nest WiFi) or via third-party services as IFTTT.

Voice control is useful if you frequently change certain settings, such as activating or deactivating the guest network, turning off the WiFi network at the end of the day, or when you want to prioritise certain types of home network traffic.

A tip: If you use guest networks, you can more easily let visitors connect to it by using QR codes. Create a QR code here by filling in the guest network's SSID, encryption level and connection key. You can then print out the QR code and put it up on the front door, for example, so that visitors easily can scan it with a camera app in their mobile phone.

Common terms that are good to know 

Mu-mimo: Mu-mimo is a technology that allows data to be sent in parallel to several simultaneous devices in the network. This allows more information to be transported more smoothly, and the waiting times when you have many simultaneous gadgets connected to the WiFi network are reduced. Mu-mimo is definitely a technology you want in your next router for best stability and speed. 

Wi-gig: With Wi-gig you get super-fast transfer speed with a 60GHz band. Normally routers work with 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This WiFi standard is unusual in consumer products and works best at very short distances, up to ten meters.

Dual-band / Tri-band: Older dual-band routers have two WiFi networks at the frequencies 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Newer variants with tri-band have three WiFi networks where the third is an extra 5GHz. Tri-band increases the total bandwidth and reduces congestion in the network. If you want a fast and future-proof router, tri-band is the best choice.

QoS: Quality of service is a function for identifying different types of traffic in the network and prioritising what’s most important. This is useful if, for example, you often have video meetings or play with others on the internet. Older routers could only prioritise specific gadgets over others, newer ones have advanced QoS that checks the data being sent instead. 

Disney Circle: Disney Circle is a parental control built into the router. With the function you can set how long certain gadgets may use the internet and what times of the day. You can also pause the internet, block various services and view detailed history. Disney Circle is built into a small number of routers on the market today and can also be purchased as a separate product for those routers that don’t have built-in parental control.

Guest network: Being able to create a guest network that is separate from the regular home network is practical if you get frequent visits. Your visitors can use a limited network where all your usual gadgets, such as printers and NAS, are not visible. You can also limit the speed of guest networks if you want and only have it active at certain times of the day.

This article is written by Prisjakt's editorial staff. No one else has influenced the content of it. There are no paid links or other types of advertising collaborations. Daniel Haaf can be reached at [email protected]