Need a no BS, crash course on routers.

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nazedayo, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. nazedayo macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Hey there,

    My router's been acting funny (old Cisco/netgear router). I'm going to replace my router, but I want to do my homework before I put the cash down.

    Much to my surprise, there's too much marketing around something as a dull as a wireless router. I want to know what I need to know, among them:

    -What is 802.11N? what does that even mean?
    -What is "throughput"? If throughput is 300Mbps, what does that mean?
    -MIMO? what the heck is that about?
    -In reality, in a normal household, do I need dual-band? Let's say about 2~3 PCs, 2~3 smartphones.
    -Gigabit routers?
    -What's one thing not on here that I (and other future router buyers) should know?

    On Amazon, the following are ranked top:
    1.Securifi Almond-
    2. Medialink-
    3.Airport Extreme-
    4. ASUS N66U-

    I, for the life of me, can't figure out what's different from one another (aside from the first with an obvious touch screen). Any opinions?
  2. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    What specifically are you connecting to it?

    Ultimately it's about the throughput, both wired & wireless.

    If your PCs are all fairly recent and wired Ethernet then you'll want GigE wired.

    If your Wireless stuff support 5GHz then a simultaneous dual band WiFi would be nice albeit slightly shorter range than 2.4GHz.

    Wireless throughput i.e. 150 / 300 / 450 / 600 is done by binding multiple WiFi transceivers. Your laptop, whatever has to also have multiple WiFi transceivers + antennas to get those speeds.

    If you've got Apple gear you really can't go wrong with the AirPort Extreme.

    If you want to backup your gear the Time Capsule is pretty nice (basically an Extreme with a HDD).

    PS a router needs like touchscreen like a fish needs a bicycle.
  3. Mr Rogers, Oct 22, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012

    Mr Rogers macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2003
    Hong Kong
    I'm currently running a Linksys/Cisco EA4500 - recently upgraded from a Netgear NR3700, the Netgear was a duel band 300Mbs router, compared with the Linksys running at 450Mbs per channel.

    Given serious software issues with the top end Linskys EA4500 - keeps dropping connection and requires reboots at least once per day, I'd stick with the latest top end Netgear offerings if I were you.

    Not sure about other models, Asus, Buffalo etc.etc. - but experience teaches that presently Netgear tops Linksys.

    By the way, the top end Netgear offers out perform the latest Airport extreme - higher bandwidth and greater wifi coverage - this may change if Apple revises the Extreme, in which case if you utilise multiple Apple devices, best stick with Apple offerings for ease of use/compatability.

    Hope this helps.
  4. throAU, Oct 22, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012

    throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    I'm a network admin for a living:

    802.11n is the current wifi standard. It is available in 2.4 and 5ghz some (cheaper) devices only support 2.4ghz. 5ghz is faster (150 meg per antenna from memory) but doesn't go through walls as well. However seeing as less people have 5ghz, there is less interference (APs next door, etc), too.

    Throughput is how much data the device can handle on the wireless. This is BEST case and will depend on signal strength, interference, using 5ghz, etc.

    MIMO is multiple antennas. The more antennas the N device has, the faster it can run. You'll need multiple antennas in teh end devices as well to get full benefit of the improved speed though. Eg, with my MBP and Airport extreme (previous gen, dual band N) i can get up to 300 megabit. old PC only has a single antenna and doesn't do 5ghz though so it can only get about 120 megabit, even though the Airport can go faster.

    Dual band gives you 5ghz, which improves speed and can get around interference problems on 2.4ghz. If you can afford it, get it. Even though in theory it has shorter range and doesn't go through walls as well, in my house for example it has range as good as 2.4ghz due to less competing devices interfering with it.

    Gigabit is the wired side - most should be gigabit unless they're very cheap.

    What you should know:
    - the Airport extreme is ethernet only, and needs a modem to plug into its WAN port for DSL (not sure on cable). most routers these days have DSL built in.
    - Not all wireless N access points or routers are equal. Before buying one, google for the model you are considering and look for issues related to heat or signal drop outs.
  5. nazedayo, Oct 22, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2012

    nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Thanks guys. That was a wonderful summary. I should get this thread posted somewhere as a sticky for others' reference lol. I'm on a 2 mbp+ 2 iphones deal. Sounds like the top-tier netgear outdoes the airport extreme & securifi? I live in a small studio, so walls shouldnt be a problem..

    EDIT: So apparently the next gen after "n" is "ac"? I'm looking at this– Is this the faster router alive? If yes, should I get it (i.e. are there any "BUT"s?)
  6. edjs macrumors newbie

    Jun 15, 2012
    - the 802.11ac standard is still being finalized, so you'll be an early adopter and have to deal with potential bugs/interoperability issues and firmware updates.
    - existing Apple products do not support it, so they will be falling back to using n. However, Apple has been an early adopter of previous 802.11 standards, so they may start adding support very soon.
  7. AllieNeko macrumors 65816

    Sep 25, 2003
    1. 802.11n is a revision to the IEEE 802.11 wireless networking standard. It offers quite a few benefits over 802.11a/b/g.

    2. Throughput is speed. 300 Mbps means that in a 40MHz channel (normally you use 20MHz in the 2.4GHz band and 40MHz in the 5GHz band because it has more space) you can achieve a PHY layer speed of 300 Mbps. This corresponds to a "real" speed similar to 100 Mbps Ethernet.

    3. MIMO means multiple input multiple output. It allows the SAME channel to be used twice (or more) by using advanced mathematics and antenna isolation to separate "spatial streams." In theory a 40 MHz channel with 802.11n can achieve 150 Mbps (PHY speed) per spatial stream. So the 300 Mbps router supports two spatial streams (MIMO).

    4. Define normal. The 5 GHz band allows for practical use of wider channels and far less interference from neighbors, but the range is much lower than the 2.4 GHz band. Out in the country, no, no you don't need dual band. In the city - usually. In an apartment - absolutely essential to excellent performance.

    5. Gimmick for now.

    6. That very little of this matters. Get yourself a good dual-band MIMO router. Heck, a refurb Linksys E2500 for $35 should meet your needs just fine.
  8. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Really starting to understand now. In fact, I just looked at this:

    NAS (or printer) & iTunes gimmick aside, does that mean in reality all 3 Airport devices have the same wireless throughput capabilities? Or I'm guessing the Express doesn't because it doesn't say "gigabit", and that Extreme & Time capsule are identical in terms of throughput?
  9. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    You are right on target with your assessment there.

    Give this a read if you have the time. Nice overview of what to look for. This same site has pretty thorough router reviews.
  10. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Long review of Airport Extreme.


    "[The Airport Extreme is] really one of a small number of 802.11n dual-band APs I've tried that actually works without locking up, becoming unstable periodically, dropping the session from overheating when being pushed to 100% for hours, or requiring a daily reboot. There are just so many other consumer level 802.11n APs that either fall short or are incredibly frustrating and unreliable."

    It has Gigabit ethernet, which I use to transfer multi GB files quickly between my computers.
  11. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    Here's a site that's all about Home Networking. See : Excellent comparative source with knowledgeable forum members.
  12. anikgol macrumors member

    Aug 1, 2003
    ive asus 56nu or something which is the older asus youre refering to and its excellent! go for the asus if you can. beats my old lunksys and d-link by far large. asus makes excellent routers.

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