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What is a Wireless Router?

What is a Wireless Router?

Wireless routers are rapidly becoming a network standard, due to their multiple advantages. For more information on what wireless routers are, read on.
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Nowadays, everything is wireless. And the Internet is no exception. Forget cables and wires and plugs and extensions, connect to your network, by just turning on your router. But a wireless connection is possible by using only a wireless router. With so many different terms and standards, it's confusing to choose a wireless router. Tech newbies will ask, what is a wireless router?, in the first place. So read on, for a simple explanation on wireless routers, understanding the speed and range standards and the top models for home and gaming use.

What is a Router?
A router is a networking device, which is used to direct traffic flow between various devices connected in a network. To understand the role of a router in a network, think of a traffic controller at a busy junction. Routers work in the same manner, and they are a single point of control for a network. Do not confuse a modem with a router. A modem is responsible for allowing an Internet connection but only one device can be connected to the modem at a time. If you have a network of 4 computers, you need a device to distribute the Internet connection, and here's where a router comes into the picture. Connect your modem and the 4 computers to the router and the router divides the Internet connection. Routers can be accessed for other network tasks, like assigning IP addresses, firewall and network settings.

What is a Wireless Router?
Routers connect computers in two ways, wired and wireless. When Ethernet cables are used, it is a wired network. When radio waves are used to connect devices to a network, the router responsible is called a wireless router. The network that you connect to, at an airport or Starbucks, is due to a wireless router. Such routers allow for easy and inexpensive network setting up and management. They can connect a multitude of devices like cell phones, gaming consoles etc. (provided said devices allow Internet connections) easily, without the need to find wires and connect them physically. They help in increasing the area of a network and allow quick and easy access. To connect to a wireless network, all you need is the network name and password. Older router models are only wired. Wireless routers allow both a wireless and wired connection, with up to 6 Ethernet ports, to plug wires into.

Choosing a Wireless Router
To choose a good wireless router, here are some characteristics to look for:

Speed and Standards
Data transmission rates are based on certain standards, set by the IEEE and are known as the 802.11 standards. The 3 current ones used are 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11 n. Their difference lies in signal strength and speed. 802.11b is the most popular and oldest. It has a maximum raw data rate of 11 Mbps, equivalent to an Ethernet connection. It is the standard followed by most networking equipment due to its low cost and good signal strength. 802.11g has a rate of 54 Mbps and is backwards compatible with 802.11b. So an 802.11g access point will work with 802.11b hardware. 802.11n is the latest IEEE standard. Most wireless networks are migrating to this standard. The data rate is at least 100Mbps, with a good signal range. 802.11n is less susceptible to interference and is backward compatible with 802.11g gear. But be prepared to pay more for this standard.

Assume a margin of error, with any device and be prepared for defects, weaknesses or mistakes, with a good warranty. Wireless routers are bundled with warranty packages, which mention a coverage period and support offered. Pay attention to the terms and conditions. Check the duration of coverage, what conditions apply and is the support free or not.

Device Compatibility
Computers have network adapters installed in them, to allow for wireless Internet connection. Make sure the router and the adapters are compatible with each other. For e.g. If your PC has a 802.11b adapter, don't buy a 802.11n wireless router, as they will not work together. Checking these sort of technical details, ensures less money spent in buying compatible parts. And try to buy accessories like bridges, adapters, preferably of the same brand.

Check the wireless security system used. Firewalls, filtering, encryption, these are security mechanisms, which are used in wireless networks and should be a part of your wireless router. Go in for good and reputed brands. Check sales rankings and forums. Dig a little into the company's other products, to see what is the range of their expertise. Linksys, D-Link, Netgear and Belkin are a few good brands.

Top Wireless Routers for Home Use
For home use, keep in mind what and how many devices are going to connect to it, speed and cost. Here are some recent and top rated wireless models for household use:
  • Cisco Valet Plus
  • D-Link DIR-615 Wireless N Router
  • Netgear Wireless-N Router WNR2000
  • Belkin N+ Wireless Router
  • Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station
  • Linksys WRT150N Wireless N Home Router
Best Wireless Router for Gaming
For gamers, speed, signal strength and compatibility with consoles (Xbox 360, Wii) are important factors. Some good wireless routers for gaming are:
  • Linksys WRT610n
  • Netgear WNDR3700 RangeMax Dual Band
  • D-Link DGL-4500 GamerLounge
  • Apple Airport Extreme Wireless Gateway
  • D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router
  • Linksys E3000 Wireless-N Router
  • Belkin Max Play Wireless Router
Wireless routers redefine the meaning of portability and easy connectivity. After installing a wireless router and using it to connect, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it! So, if anyone asks you "what is a wireless router?" You are now fit to wax lyrical about the subject.