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How To Buy A Wireless Router - 2017 Edition

Discussion in 'Wireless Article Discussions' started by thiggins, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    [​IMG]
    Our 2017 guide to choosing a wireless router reflects the changing Wi-Fi landscape.

    Read on SmallNetBuilder
     
    aarodfer, BrewWizard, hervon and 6 others like this.
  2. insomniac

    insomniac New Around Here

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    Thanks for your great article. I've been implementing a lot of eero's lately does Orbi have same coverage? Seems like from article it's backhaul is faster.
     
  3. TheManFromUncle

    TheManFromUncle Regular Contributor

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    Great article. Thank you.
     
  4. Gascogne

    Gascogne Occasional Visitor

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    Well written article, thank you.
     
  5. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    I did not check the range limits of any of the mesh products tested.

    Yes, Orbi's backhaul is faster. And the test results show it delivers higher throughput to clients as a result.

    If you've been working with eero, you really should check out Orbi. It can do with router and one satellite what eero, et al. can't do with three nodes.
     
  6. RMerlin

    RMerlin Super Moderator

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    Nice summary of the recent wifi buzzwords.

    One typo on the second page:

    I assume that should be "4x4 AC2600 class routers".
     
  7. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    Yep. Thanks for the catch. Fixed now
     
  8. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Something worth mentioning perhaps is the Regulatory improvements seen with the 2016 products - While many are perhaps still a bit upset at the FCC about firmware, they also opened up additional channels and relaxed some power constraints which can have a definite impact on utility of the 5GHz band...

    Great write up!
     
  9. RMerlin

    RMerlin Super Moderator

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    The issues are still muddy for Europe. Some manufacturers will go with the lowest common denominator, despite the fact that some countries might allow for higher power output or for additional channels than the global EU regulations.

    It's not always clear as to which regulation each manufacturer follows, what region they encode in the bootloader, etc... I assume that if someone in Europe were to do the same kind of testing Tim does, we might be seeing more variation between manufacturers than he can observe with US models (since North America pretty much runs all on that same region).
     
  10. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    Do you mean something other than DFS?
     
  11. hedly

    hedly Occasional Visitor

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    This was a great article as usual with Mr. Higgins. The best part was the end where it tries to provide some assistance in wading through the wireless quagmire. Just before I read this article I was pondering some questions about this very subject. This forum related to this article is, I believe, the perfect opportunity to post them.

    For instance, near the end of the article it says,
    and
    But there's no numerical value to quantify what are 'a lot' or 'few' devices and what is a large /small area. I understand that the area could vary due to walls and wall consturcion, but what could one expect? I also realize that the number may not be as important as how much each device is doing on the network. But maybe with some thought I'm sure there's a way to generalize (i.e. house of 4 people, small business with 8, coverage through 'n' interior walls, coverage through 'x' stucco walls with wire mesh, single story, two story, etc.).

    Also, not covered in this article and kind of hard to find on the internet is helping folks figure out how fast they need. I.e. streaming music and sharing multi-megabit files on a home server, vs streaming medium-definition movies, vs streaming Blu-rays, vs streaming Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/Vudu/and the like.

    Also, recently I was reading several posts here about some of these high performance wired routers (didn't even know these existed). There was one post in there that said that home routers are probably sufficient for the general populace. But when should one consider implementing one of these (like a ER-x, hEx or MicroTik)?

    So maybe someone could start a sticky (or several in their respective sub-forums) and help those of us who have some savviness but aren't dealing with it daily to figure out where to begin when it's time to get a replacement or when we perceive there is a slow down (or even when we read an article on the next shiny wireless/networking hardware and don't know if it will benefit our network and by how much if at all).

    Maybe this would help to limit some of the 'which router' and/or 'which wifi router/AP' questions that inundate the forum (which is typicle of all forums, I know, and I'm likely part of the problem). It may help the newb ask the right question or even get the question answered before posting. It could possibly be added to the 'Read This before Posting' post in the top of many of the sub-forums.

    r/hEdly
     
  12. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    In the same ruling back in 2014, FCC opened up access in the TDRW window within the UNII-2 band - it's taken a few years since the product cycle in silicon being what it is, but in 2016, between the TDWR clearing, the new DFS, and harmonized power, it is a compelling reason to look at retrofit with 2016 product.

    Most of the Wave 1 stuff at the launch did not have this capability - so many didn't implement until the Wave 2 round of products

    TDWR - channels 120, 124, and 128 - now if we can get them to open up 68-96 and add 165-177

    tdwr-550x161.png

    Good stuff...

    http://www.revolutionwifi.net/revolutionwifi/2014/04/impact-of-fcc-5-ghz-u-nii-report-order.html
     
  13. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    It is getting better though - devil will be in the details within the regulatory sphere, but many regions do recognize the benefit of harmonizing the rules, even if WiFI is a secondary user of some of the 5GHz band - and with 3.6GHz (11y) and 900MHz (11ah) coming on line - 11y has actually been out there for some time, but recent deals between FCC and DOD have made use of the 3.6GHz band possible - and this might be the ideal spot actually for LTE Unlicensed usage (LTE-U, Multifire, etc).

    But that's news for next year perhaps...

    It's been a good year for innovation in the WiFi arena - both on the RF side, as well as the Router/GW side - not all has been positive, but even then, within the constraints, there's been innovation on how to keep things open where they can...
     
  14. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    Wi-Fi doesn't lend itself to hard and fast rules. There are too many variables. But I'll try.
    Few is >1 and < 6
    Lot is > 6

    Coverage area is the squishiest number due to construction material and RF environment.

    Bandwidth requirements vary. I took a shot at this way back for video.
    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/smarthome/smarthome-articles/27523-videostreamingneedtoknowpart1
    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/smar...hd-streaming-smackdown-draft-11n-vs-powerline

    Video is hard to pin down because formats now use variable bit rate encoding.

    Uncompressed Blu-ray can peak in the 40 Mbps range. Average rate is say, half that.

    Internet streaming (Netflix, YouTube) is usually below 10 Mbps for HD, typically 3-4 Mbps. I don't know what 4K Netflix needs.

    Music bitrates are in the 100's of Kbps. Negligible.
     
  15. System Error Message

    System Error Message Part of the Furniture

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    plex gives a good idea on stream bandwidth. 720p takes 2-4Mb/s, 1080p-8-12Mb/s. 4K needs 20Mb/s at least.

    Music bitrates depend on the format. Always assume its a quality source so you wont need to put more than 2Mb/s for an mp4 recording.
     
  16. RMerlin

    RMerlin Super Moderator

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    Typical good quality stereo audio is around 256-320 Kbps at most. One of the Shoutcast radio I frequently stream is 160 Kbps.
     
  17. SilentForever

    SilentForever New Around Here

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    Hey there Tim, I was wondering you said that future proofing is risky business so if I were to buy a router now, would it be better to go for 1900 or 2600?
     
  18. netwrks

    netwrks Senior Member

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    Netflix 4K video is 25 Mbps, which is what I see (monitoring the stream) when streaming 4K video, from Netflix.
     
  19. L&LD

    L&LD Part of the Furniture

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    When was the last time you upgraded your router? A few months ago, or was it years?

    Personally, I would not buy a 3 year old product today (when the current one is so much better) and expect it to last another half decade or so. ;)

    The RT-AC3100 is the 'current' router I recommend to all my customers (and most of them do see the value of spending a little more than the RT-AC68U/RT-AC1900P) when the expectation is to start thinking of replacing anything they buy today in 2020 or so.
     
  20. ct1615

    ct1615 Occasional Visitor

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    I think I have a basic understand of Mesh systems in the article but I have a quick question. Wouldn't using your current router and purchasing an extender like the Tp-Link RE350 or RE450 give you same performance as a Mesh system but for less money? Also wouldn't an AP connected through Ethernet or powerline adapters outperform the mesh system?

    Also the statement below

    "AC1900 class continues to be our go-to router for best combination of price and performance."

    What would be the big difference3 for the average consumer between an AC1750 or AC1900 router? How many current clients would see a performance difference between two models of the same brand?