Home Wireless Networking Buying Guide
Purchasing Home Networking Equipment
Consider the following when shopping for home networking equipment:
- A home network is only ever as strong as its weakest link. For this reason, it is important to shop for networking products that match the capabilities of your existing devices and the speed of your Internet. It is also advisable to upgrade your router every 2-3 years.
- Shop for networking products that suit your usage. If, for example, you stream 4K video or enjoy online gaming, you are likely to need a high-performance, wireless-AC router.
- If your router or modem router was supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), it is unlikely to contain the latest technology. If you have noticed that your network is straining under your current usage, consider upgrading.
- The more devices you connect to your network, the more bands (frequencies across which data is transferred) you are likely to need. Increasing the number of bands can help eliminate lagging caused by blockages.
Understanding Wireless Speeds and Standards
There are three principal wireless standards and each offers different speeds and functionality. Before you jump in at the deep end, be aware that devices purchased 2-3 years ago are unlikely to be compatible with the latest wireless technology.
- Wireless G: this technology offers speeds of up to 54Mbps via a single band. As such, it is really only suitable for web browsing and small downloads.
- Wireless N: this technology offers a maximum bandwidth of 600Mbps via single or dual-band frequencies. It is suitable for streaming services and medium downloads such as photos.
- Wireless-AC: this technology offers speeds of up to 1Gbps and is available with as many as three band frequencies. It will suit online gamers and anyone streaming high-quality video.
Types of Home Wireless Networking
A modem router is the bridge between the Internet and your home network. Sometimes referred to as gateways, modem routers offer everything you need to create a wireless Internet connection in your home (modem, router and access point).
- If your ISP is charging you a rental fee for your modem, you could save money by buying your own modem router. Upgrading to the latest hardware (such as dual core processors, powerful amplifiers and Beamforming technology) is also likely to improve performance.
- If your network is often used by several devices at once, consider opting for a modem router with multiple bands. Dual and tri-band routers allow your devices to communicate with the router on different frequencies so you can avoid data blockages during peak use.
- Modem routers are often used for ADSL and VDSL connections. However, premium modem routers can also support a cable modem or NBN Fibre connection so you have even greater flexibility in your set up.
The router is the wireless component of your home network as it enables you to send content from your modem to your devices without a physical connection. Note, routers need to be connected to a modem via an Ethernet cable for Internet use.
- Shop for a router that suits how you use the Internet. If you like to game online, for example, you may benefit from a premium model with AC1600 technology or higher and the latest hardware such as high-performance antennas.
- Third party routers tend to offer faster speeds, increased range and more connectivity than standard equipment provided by ISPs. A standalone router is also likely to give you greater control over your Internet settings.
- If you have a cable or NBN Fibre connection in your home, then a router is the perfect way to wirelessly share that connection with your devices. Note that routers can be used to share content between devices on the same network.
Whole Home Networking
With Whole Home Networking devices you can easily connect all your WiFi-enabled technology to the same network no matter where you are at home.
- With a system of Whole Home Networking devices set up you can enjoy extended range and full-strength WiFi all around your home.
- Built with the latest technology, many Whole Home Networking devices can connect to a smartphone app so you can easily and conveniently change settings and view the network status as needed.
- Easy to set up and use, Whole Home Networking is the future of Home Wireless technology.
Wireless adapters and Ethernet powerline adapters can connect a host of devices throughout your home to your wireless network — even if they don’t feature wireless capabilities.
- Wireless adapters connect devices that lack the necessary hardware for wireless networking to your home network. Simply insert one into the USB port, follow the instructions and go.
- Powerline adapters enable you to access your network through the electrical wires in your house. Simply connect one to your router, then plug additional adapters into the mains supply of the rooms that are outside the wireless range for whole home coverage.
- Powerline adapters offer an easy and affordable way to expand the reach of your home network. They may also be the best option if you live in an area that is prone to wireless interference.
Ethernet switches are less common in home networking but they can still be of use as they allow you to create a wired network connection that is fast, robust and secure — perfect if your WiFi fails.
- Ethernet switches are an uncomplicated, reliable and affordable way to add multiple Ethernet ports to your router so you can connect even more devices.
- When shopping for an Ethernet switch, it is important to establish in advance how many ports you expect to use as the number of ports on these devices varies.
- It is also highly advisable to match the speed of the Ethernet switch to the speed of the router and your devices. There is no point in paying for a Gigabit switch if your existing equipment cannot support it.
WiFi extenders can help you eliminate wireless black spots in your home and enjoy a better connection in areas where there is interference. They are easy-to-use and discrete enough to go unnoticed so they won’t detract from your home decor.
- While almost every extender is compatible with any brand of router, it is still important to match the WiFi extender to the capabilities of your router. If your router has wireless AC speeds, for example, be sure that the extender you buy can keep up.
- Pay close attention to the range of an extender as they don’t all offer the same performance. This is of particular importance in larger residences and when you want to extend the network into the outdoor areas of your home.
- Consider the connectivity levels of an extender when making a purchase. Gigabyte Ethernet or USB ports, for example, will increase versatility and functionality.
Home Wireless Networking Features
Most networking products come with security features that can help you keep your devices and your personal information safe from online threats.
- Practically all routers will allow you to set passwords. Some will also allow you to grant guests Internet access but keep the rest of the network off-limits.
- Parental controls are essential for any young family. Most routers will enable you to restrict access to sites with adult content but it is advisable to check for this functionality in advance.
- MAC filtering means you can prepare a list of devices that you allow to access the network. Every device has a MAC address; any MAC address not on the list will be blocked.
Other Features to Look Out For
Advanced networking equipment features technology that can help you get even more from your devices. Look out for the following:
- MU-MIMO (multi-user, multi-input/multi-output) technology ensures multiple devices can enjoy high-bandwidth by communicating with them all at the same time. This is unlike the commonplace single user alternative, SU-MIMO which communicates with multiple devices by switching between them.
- Purchasing a wireless router with USB ports will allow you to connect wired devices such as portable hard drives and printers and send data to/ receive data from them wirelessly.
- Beamforming technology creates a stronger, more focused connection with your devices. Unlike conventional routers, which send a wide signal, beamforming locks on to a device with a narrow signal and follows it around.
Home Wireless Networking Essentials
Connecting a wireless printer to your router allows you to set it up in such a way that multiple users can access it anywhere on your network without the need for any cables.
Connecting a portable hard drive, USB flash drive or any other storage device to your router allows you to create a centralised, NAS (network assisted storage).
Ensure your devices are connected correctly with quality cables. Select cables that provides the most optimum connection and cable length between devices.