Wireless Routers 101

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JohnMD1022

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"My own personal recommendation would be to look for ... management through a smartphone app."

I do own, nor do I plan to get a smart phone. I have no need for one. There are many others like me.
 

dstarr3

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"My own personal recommendation would be to look for ... management through a smartphone app."

I do own, nor do I plan to get a smart phone. I have no need for one. There are many others like me.
Do they all post irrelevant comments on tech articles?
 

chalabam

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Most sites like this one award routers for his raw speed, but when you load them with a simple bittorrent client, they all crash and burn, losing the connections, or being unresponsive.
 

Kewlx25

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"My own personal recommendation would be to look for ... management through a smartphone app."

I do own, nor do I plan to get a smart phone. I have no need for one. There are many others like me.
Local cellphone companies are dropped non-smartphone support next year. Something about a Federal regulation that states you can't treat data and voice separately, so they're going top do everything over data, which means your phone needs to support VOIP and non-smartphpones can't do that.

Get a smart phone for $60/m or pay $40/month for a land-line. I can also use my phone as a 2-factor device for most of my online services.
 

zodiacfml

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Not a bad article compared to the previous LAN article. I need to clarify some things though. DMZ in home Wi-Fi routers are is not on a separate network but a feature that allows all traffic to be received by the DMZ'ed computer which is an easy and fast way to open a server to the internet.

MIMO piece needs to be overhauled. There is no concept of MIMO built for single user, it is just Wi-Fi is inherently a broadcast type of networking where each device in the system waits for its turn to transmit/broadcast a signal.

Beamforming piece should precede MU-MIMO as beamforming is the technology that enables MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO is useful for reusing the same frequency/channel up to four times as though as one client has it its own dedicated Wi-Fi access point/router. The number of antennas though doesn't tell the maximum, the optimal number MU-MIMO devices is three only on a four antenna MU-MIMO. It has to be added that MU-MIMO feature should also be supported by the client device though flagship smartphones in 2016 will have MU-MIMO. One small drawback is it is limited to download or from router to device only. Uploads will be limited to plain old Wi-Fi broadcast technology.

The device to get though should at least be an "AC" capable Wi-Fi router even if it has one spatial stream or one antenna as they are available and affordable. Two antennas might be beneficial to tablets and some laptops while three benefits a Macbook Pro or wireless bridging to another router.
 

Dsmith_Topgun

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who the hell is netis and why are we suggesting equipment with known vunerabilities http://blog.trendmicro.com/trendlabs-security-intelligence/netis-routers-leave-wide-open-backdoor/
 

reviewerx

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Personally, I think one of the best security features is the ability to only allow specific MAC addresses to connect. This limits your users to known devices only. Kind of surprised that it is not mentioned here.
 

BrushyBill

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"My own personal recommendation would be to look for ... management through a smartphone app."

I do own, nor do I plan to get a smart phone. I have no need for one. There are many others like me.
Local cellphone companies are dropped non-smartphone support next year. Something about a Federal regulation that states you can't treat data and voice separately, so they're going top do everything over data, which means your phone needs to support VOIP and non-smartphpones can't do that.

Get a smart phone for $60/m or pay $40/month for a land-line. I can also use my phone as a 2-factor device for most of my online services.

Landline for me. We don't get Cell service out here where I live. The beauty and pain from living way out in the wilderness. Extremely relaxing but we lose services like this.
 

shades_aus

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Most of us "Family" type people need a router that can offer Torrent blocking and other Family oriented products. I once saw one from DrayTek, a router company most over looked however, it's rare to see anything like this discussed on a Router comparison article aimed and the home user. I often wondered why.
 

jimmysmitty

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Good article.

I do feel there is more than just the pricing of a router though to determine how good it is.

For example, you mentioned the AC3200 as being a top end router, in a good AC router there is the actual performance which can be due to a lot of factors. Look at the Asus RT-AC68U. While the DLink AC3200 beats it on the 5GHz short range performance (by 80Mbps) the RT-AC68U beats the DLink ACF3200 by more than double in the long range tests (160.9Mbps vs 336Mbps) and the whole point of wireless is for long range connections.

Then we get to the 2.4GHz band, a more common connection although 5GHz is picking up. The DLink AC3200 loses to most other decent routers out there, again to the RT-AC68U which is a much cheaper router.

Some of it could be firmware and how it handles specific traffic but it is important.

I think some people see more antennas and go "looks like that should be better". They need to look into a router before buying it making sure it has the features they want and can cover the range they need at the speeds they want:

http://www.cnet.com/products/d-link-ac3200-ultra-wi-fi-dir-890l-r-router/2/
 

razor512

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One important thing to look for in a router, is 3rd party firmware support. Most router makers stop releasing updates for their routers within a year, thus when exploits are discovered, you end up with a ton of routers still in use, but are not going to receive a security update. With DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato, etc, you can at least get new security updates.



PS, all of the router maker's smartphone apps suck. They all offer less functionality than the standard web UI (e.g., 192.168.1.1 page). For an app to be useful, it must offer every single function that the web UI offers.
 

heffeque

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Personally, I think one of the best security features is the ability to only allow specific MAC addresses to connect. This limits your users to known devices only. Kind of surprised that it is not mentioned here.
Are you serious? Are you from the past? MAC filtering is one of the easiest and fastest ways to breach a WiFi network.
The method is as simple as:
■Read MAC of your device (your device broadcasts it)
■Change MAC on my device
■Enter your network as if my device is your device
■Done

I'm surprised that someone that reads a tech-site like this one doesn't know about such a basic and easy way of NOT securing your network.

Right now: WAP2-AES is the way, be it PSK, be it Radius.
 

greyhelm

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The article is nicely written.. the only section I have issue with any in form is the 802.11n section and the overall speed section.

802.11n is not "paving the way for one device to operate on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands". In fact, 802.11n is simply a way to achieve a higher potential throughput out of 1 channel of 1 band. It allows you to potentially achieve 150Mbps on a single frequency or channel. Even then, it was theoretical at best. As far as I know, and I've been building Wireless networks for about 10yrs now, there is no device or software that allows you to send and receive simultaneously on 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. It is 2 different radios. It does not mean someone could not have developed a way to do it via software, but no hardware actually does it.

So when a device says, it is N150, that could be 150Mbps on 2.4Ghz *or* 150Mbps on 5Ghz. Additionally, when a device says N300 it can be misleading unless you look at what they are doing. Some call N300 because it does 150Mbps on 2.4Ghz AND 150Mbps on 5Ghz, but remember your client cannot be on both at the same time. It can switch back and forth, but unless your router has some serious processing behind it, it really slows you down to go switching back and forth. (NOTE: also most of the consumer routers also make you use separate SSIDs for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, which means you have to re-auth everytime.) What the vendor is really trying to say is that you can have 2 clients, one on each 2.4 and 5.. and each would have a potential for 150Mbps, but no single client has the full 300Mbps.

Some vendors call N300 because they use a technology commonly referred to as channel-bonding, in which they take 2 frequencies or channels and bond them together (2 x 150Mbps = 300Mbps) NOTE: a lot of folks call this "Spatial streams" it is really just another 20Mhz of frequency space used (look in your router it will say 20Mhz or 40Mhz as options). When you consider that 2.4Ghz only has 3 maybe 4 usable channels without interfering, you can see if you were to hit 600Mbps, you would literally be using the entire 2.4Ghz free space. Not exactly nice to your neighbors then. This is also why people complain about the interference with their neighbors, cause no one understands they are literally being rude when they use more then 20Mhz in 2.4Ghz.

You will actually find a lot of companies that will recommend never using more than 1 20Mhz channel (aka. 150Mbps) for 2.4Ghz. It is simply not worth doing more.

That is also why companies, like Cisco and Aruba, are pushing people to use 5Ghz, because it has more than 3-4 usable channels. (Btw. that is also how 802.11ac gets its speed, aside from a better set of algorithms, 802.11ac simply bonds multiple 5Ghz channels together.) As such, 802.11ac can bond upwards of 160Mhz of 5Ghz space or effectively chew up 8 non-interfering channels.
 

zodiacfml

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Quite the opposite. One has to look for a router that continues to release firmware updates. 3rd party firmware is only useful if one wants the more powerful features and settings.

One important thing to look for in a router, is 3rd party firmware support. Most router makers stop releasing updates for their routers within a year, thus when exploits are discovered, you end up with a ton of routers still in use, but are not going to receive a security update. With DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato, etc, you can at least get new security updates.



PS, all of the router maker's smartphone apps suck. They all offer less functionality than the standard web UI (e.g., 192.168.1.1 page). For an app to be useful, it must offer every single function that the web UI offers.
One important thing to look for in a router, is 3rd party firmware support. Most router makers stop releasing updates for their routers within a year, thus when exploits are discovered, you end up with a ton of routers still in use, but are not going to receive a security update. With DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato, etc, you can at least get new security updates.



PS, all of the router maker's smartphone apps suck. They all offer less functionality than the standard web UI (e.g., 192.168.1.1 page). For an app to be useful, it must offer every single function that the web UI offers.
 

zodiacfml

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He's quite correct since the first implementation of 5GHz is with the Wi-Fi "a" standard which is only quite present in the enterprise. With the "n" standard, it is has become available in consumer Wi-Fi routers. He never mentioned simultaneous usage of the two frequencies from a single device.

The headline speeds of routers are quite fair though not helpful. It is the theoretical speed where there is usage on both 2.4 and 5GHz bands including the spatial streams for each band.
The article is only using the standard theoretical speed specification and not quoting them as possible client speeds.

You are confusing spatial streams versus channel bonding/wider channels. One could use wider channels for each spatial stream. My Nexus 5 is only capable of one spatial stream but the theoretical speed is 433Mbps which is 80Mhz wide. If it were capable of two spatial streams, it would be 866 or 867 Mbps. That "ac" speeds table could have been worse if he included the four spatial stream capable routers.


The article is nicely written.. the only section I have issue with any in form is the 802.11n section and the overall speed section.

802.11n is not "paving the way for one device to operate on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands". In fact, 802.11n is simply a way to achieve a higher potential throughput out of 1 channel of 1 band. It allows you to potentially achieve 150Mbps on a single frequency or channel. Even then, it was theoretical at best. As far as I know, and I've been building Wireless networks for about 10yrs now, there is no device or software that allows you to send and receive simultaneously on 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. It is 2 different radios. It does not mean someone could not have developed a way to do it via software, but no hardware actually does it.

So when a device says, it is N150, that could be 150Mbps on 2.4Ghz *or* 150Mbps on 5Ghz. Additionally, when a device says N300 it can be misleading unless you look at what they are doing. Some call N300 because it does 150Mbps on 2.4Ghz AND 150Mbps on 5Ghz, but remember your client cannot be on both at the same time. It can switch back and forth, but unless your router has some serious processing behind it, it really slows you down to go switching back and forth. (NOTE: also most of the consumer routers also make you use separate SSIDs for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, which means you have to re-auth everytime.) What the vendor is really trying to say is that you can have 2 clients, one on each 2.4 and 5.. and each would have a potential for 150Mbps, but no single client has the full 300Mbps.

Some vendors call N300 because they use a technology commonly referred to as channel-bonding, in which they take 2 frequencies or channels and bond them together (2 x 150Mbps = 300Mbps) NOTE: a lot of folks call this "Spatial streams" it is really just another 20Mhz of frequency space used (look in your router it will say 20Mhz or 40Mhz as options). When you consider that 2.4Ghz only has 3 maybe 4 usable channels without interfering, you can see if you were to hit 600Mbps, you would literally be using the entire 2.4Ghz free space. Not exactly nice to your neighbors then. This is also why people complain about the interference with their neighbors, cause no one understands they are literally being rude when they use more then 20Mhz in 2.4Ghz.

You will actually find a lot of companies that will recommend never using more than 1 20Mhz channel (aka. 150Mbps) for 2.4Ghz. It is simply not worth doing more.

That is also why companies, like Cisco and Aruba, are pushing people to use 5Ghz, because it has more than 3-4 usable channels. (Btw. that is also how 802.11ac gets its speed, aside from a better set of algorithms, 802.11ac simply bonds multiple 5Ghz channels together.) As such, 802.11ac can bond upwards of 160Mhz of 5Ghz space or effectively chew up 8 non-interfering channels.
 
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