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Beginner Router Buying Guide

Routers are an essential part of any home, but many don't realize that they should be replaced every 4 to 5 years for a variety of factors. Read on to learn why you should replace your router, as well as the most popular types of routers.
Router Buying Guide for Beginners Video
Router Buying Guide for Beginners
Router Buying Guide for Beginners Video Router Buying Guide for Beginners Video
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Getting Started

Routers play a vital role in most households, but they're one of those products that don't get a lot of attention until they stop working, leaving you scrambling to find a new one. This can be stressful if someone in your home has a work or school assignment due shortly, which is why it's important to consider replacing your router every four to five years. This guide will show you why you need to replace your router, as well as explain the different types of routers so you can determine which is best for you.

Reason to Replace Your Router: Speed

One of the biggest reasons to replace your router before it breaks is that you may not be getting the internet speed that you’re paying for. Routers have a limit on how much data they can allow through so if you increase your internet speed through your provider and have a router that can’t support it, you’re paying for speeds you can’t really enjoy. This is particularly important if you live in a home with multiple people who use the internet, as multiple users can affect network speeds. That being said, if your internet is feeling sluggish, sometimes it can be solved by simply rebooting your existing router. But if that doesn’t work, it's time to look for a new one.

Reason to Replace Your Router: Security

The next reason to consider is the security aspect. Each year cyber criminals get smarter, requiring security to get better to compensate. As of 2018, the latest security standard is WPA-3; if your current router was purchased before 2018, it's probably time for a new one with more robust security. Routers still using WPA-2 encryption simply don't provide sufficient protection anymore. A new router will offer better security to keep your data safe, which is an invaluable asset.

Reason to Replace Your Router: Multiple Users

Another reason you may want to consider a replacement router is if your home network gets bogged down by multiple people using devices simultaneously. This can be especially frustrating if you’re on a video chat for work or school and someone decides they want to do some online gaming at the same time. If you have friends over or are hosting a party, your existing network will be easily overwhelmed. A new router can help by broadcasting higher speeds to more connected devices. Be sure to consider how many users live in your home when looking at speeds for a new router.
A black router sits on a white table. A person sits at the table, holding a white smartphone in their left hand and controlling a laptop mouse with their right hand

Types of Routers

Modem/Router Combination

If you've determined that it's time for a new router, you need to know which type is best for you. There are a few options available. The first is a modem/router combination. This is a great all-in-one solution as it incorporates both required devices into one. A router needs a modem to work and some people don’t want, or don’t have the space for, two devices in their home. Modem/router combos work best in homes up to about 2,000 square feet, but that will vary based on your home’s construction and how open the rooms are. Before purchasing one of these, be sure to verify that it is compatible with your particular internet service provider.

Standalone Router

The next type is the standalone router. Since these don’t have a modem built in, they need to be hooked up to one to broadcast the WiFi signal. These come in a variety of styles, some are good for general use like surfing the internet or streaming video on your TV, phone, or computer. Others are designed with gaming in mind. Amongst other benefits specific to gaming, these allow you to set internet speed priorities so that your gaming speeds won’t be disrupted by other connected devices. In some cases they even broadcast a stronger signal which can work well in homes even larger than 2,000 square feet.

Network Extenders

If you use either of the previous types of routers, you may find there are still dead spots in your home. If this is the case, you may want to add an additional device to strengthen your signal. One such device is a network extender. These are small devices that work along with an existing router. They plug into a power outlet and help broadcast a WiFi signal into dead zones within your home. However, they don’t offer a full strength connection and often create their own small networks which can cause issues when you move from room to room. These work best for areas you don’t occupy frequently, but still want to have a usable signal.

Mesh Network Systems

Finally, we have mesh network systems. These devices are extremely popular as they work great in large homes and homes with lots of rooms. They typically come with a main router that plugs into your modem, and a secondary point that can rebroadcast the signal at almost full strength. They’re simple to set up with an app on your smartphone; if you find you need more coverage, you can simply add another point to expand the system further. Some popular mesh network systems include the Google Nest and the eero 6 system. They don’t offer as much customization as a gaming router, but in homes where gaming isn’t a priority, these are a great option. They tend to be a larger investment than a typical router, but are worth the expense for a faster, stronger signal.

Find Your New Router at Abt

Upgrading your wireless router will instantly upgrade your quality of life, whether you're relying on a strong signal to stream your favorite Netflix show or to hop on a video call with coworkers. Each home is unique, so certain products may work better in your home than others. If you still have questions or want a product recommendation, call our specialists at 800-860-3577 or use our online chat feature.