Just a few years down the memory lane, we had a small router through which via LAN cable we use to get connected to the internet on our PC. Now we have routers which can connect 4 desktop’s via LAN cable (sometimes more) and many more devices wirelessly at the same time.
Wireless routers of today comes with a set of different high-end features from different manufacturers, making it harder for end consumer to choose from plethora of options. There are many features technically difficult to understand just based on names, and it confuses us even more.
So rather than you digging for information at different places about these features, following are the 7 must-have features you don’t want to buy your next wireless router without.
Don’t Buy Any Wireless Router Without These 7 Features.
1. Get More Number of Antennas
As these antenna’s are mounted at a very small distance on a wireless router, you may think that 1 antenna is enough and that having more antenna’s is practically useless. Well, as far as the wireless range is concerned, you won’t be too wrong but it does make a significant change to the signal strength.
The Signal strength increases significantly when you have 2 or more antenna’s connected to your router. Also, you can increase your range by pointing antenna’s in respective directions, so if you have 4 antenna’s on your wireless router then you can point them in 4 different directions and although you get same range, but it is in different directions, so it actually does improve your reach.
Higher number of antennas were expensive before, but you can get some great wireless routers from manufacturers like Tenda or TP-Link with 3 or 4 antennas at budget pricing.
2. “Buy a 5 GHz Router, Period”.
Most of the wireless routers out there work on 2.4 GHz frequency, which is the frequency on which radio and other devices including your neighbor’s who have a wireless router works. It gets even worse when you live in an apartment, and you see 10 other wireless networks sharing the same frequency. This increases interference, causes frequent disconnections, and in simple words, makes it a high traffic zone that will reduce the network performance and speed.
As you move up in the price segment, you will come across routers which work on 5 GHz frequency. At this frequency, there is absolutely no interference with your network, unless everyone around you buy’s the 5GHZ routers. ( This is rare as 5GHz routers are generally more expensive.)
5GHz frequency technology reduces clutter and provides much more seamless network and internet experience. Some of the wireless routers also come with the capability of working on both frequencies. So you can assign the lower 2.4 GHz frequency for guest users and keep the higher 5 GHz frequency for yourself.
3. USB Port
For Wireless Printing, Accessing External Storage And More..
Check if your wireless router comes with at least 1 USB port. Many users sacrifice this feature in the budget segment, but if you spend that extra 4-10 dollars, your wireless routers can save you 10 times more money on buying Wireless Printers, or Wireless Storages. By connecting your old USB printer, or existing USB hard drive, your router can make them instantly available wirelessly.
You can print from smartphone, desktop, laptop anywhere from your home or small office, and similarly you can stream the media from your storage drive. It’s even helpful if you have a small office with only 1 printer, that needs to run the LAN cable across all the computers. Well, not anymore!
With multiple USB ports on the back of your wireless routers, you can add either more hard drives or one printer and hard drive together. For this to work also make sure your router has print and share technology, which is an obvious feature when you have USB port on your router.
It saves huge time and money, and if you don’t own any printer or external hard drive, I will suggest do not buy your next wireless router without this feature.
4. DD-WRT Firmware Compatibility
This is the most useful technology in wireless routers. If you want to add advanced features to your basic router. DD-WRT is a Linux based firmware that replaced the one provided by the router manufacturer. It offers far better control over devices connecting to the router, and offers many enterprise grade features in your budget router. e.g QoS ( Quality of Service) is available in most router firmware, but with DD-WRT you get each device-level control, that lets you set network or internet restrictions on them.
And this is just a simple feature, there are too many features of DD-WRT firmware that can enrich your routing experience and provide you regular feature and security updates that many manufacturer firmware fails to provide.
Check out if your wireless is DD-WRT compatible here. Another great firmware alternative is OpenWRT. BTW you also might want to check out this informative guide on how to set up OpenVPN on DD-WRT for your wireless router.
5. WPS, Wi-Fi Keys
WPS means Wi-Fi Protected Setup. It is a small button on your wireless router that enables you to add devices on your network without using any passwords. This comes in handy when you are tired of setting and remembering passwords and telling those who want to connect to your network. So instead of setting up a password for your wireless network, simply push and hold this button and then connect your device and when a device is successfully connected, simply release it.
Wi-Fi key simply switches ON or off its wireless network, LAN network stays active. When you want all the bandwidth available for your PC or laptop then connect it to your router via LAN cable and simply turn off your Wi-Fi network. So no device can use this network to access the internet and you will have all available bandwidth for your PC/Laptop.
Digital Living Network Alliance i.e. DLNA is a technology designed to act as a bridge between all of your devices in your home. So if your wireless router has this feature, you can interact with all of your devices simultaneously via your router. You can play media on your TV or stereo from your smartphone or transfer files from one device to another.
You can also browse through internet on your TV using your smartphone or laptop etc. There are so many things possible using this technology, that provides a communication platform between devices from different manufacturers, provided these devices are DLNA enabled.
7. Parental Control
This is a feature you must have, in order to control the sites your kids can access, in order to restrict their access only to safe content. You can identify the devices used by children and take direct control of what they can read or watch. With parental control feature on your wireless routers, you can keep your children away from objectionable or offensive content.
A Handy Tip –
Routers these days are easier to setup as they automatically identify your broadband connection and do the internet setup painless, so you can start using your broadband right away. But most of these advanced wireless router features mentioned above are set to default and need to be activated by the user. So spend some time setting up these features and use them to your advantage.
Remember, these features are of no use if you don’t use them. And remember not to buy any wireless router, if it doesn’t have these 7 must-have features! Do let us know your opinions or suggestion about this topic, in following comments section.