While comparing routers to pick the best one for your home or workplace, you might come across some complex scientific features and jargon. And when you don’t know what these complex acronyms actually mean, you buy a less suitable one.
So, if you are also struggling with the WiFi Router comparison process, here I have discussed all the crucial features and factors you need to compare, along with their detailed explanation. After reading this guide, you can pick the best router, like a Pro.
How to Compare Routers?
So whenever you use a router comparison tool online, always compare these specifications first according to your space, requirements and number of members going to use the router, to pick the best one with suitable bandwidth and features.
|Router Type (Single band vs Multi band)||Determines the bandwidth and network coverage for number of connected devices||Higher the better (if you have large area and more devices to connect)|
|Speed||Responsible for the better connection and stability||Higher the better|
|WiFi Standards||Determines its range and speed||Higher the better|
|Connectivity Ports||Let you connect various devices with router for better connection and stability||Higher the better|
|Security Standards||Prevents unauthorized access and unwanted phishing, virus and malware attacks||Higher the better|
|MU-MIMO||Let router communicate with multiple devices simultaneously to offer better speed||Must-Have for multi device connections|
|Quality of Service||Prioritize several devices that requires more speed and bandwidth than others||Must-Have for multi device connections|
Range: Singe-band to Tri-Band
Various types of routers are available depending upon your coverage area and the number of devices you wish to connect. So, to compare routers side by side, first decide your type. There are two WiFi bands supported by any router, i.e. 2.4GHz band (which offers longer range but slow speed) and 5.0 GHz (which offers better speed and bandwidth but low range).
- Single Band: These routers operate on a single bandwidth of 2.4 GHz to offer up to 300 Mbps speed. Thus they are the most affordable ones but suitable only for small houses with fewer connected devices.
- Dual Band: Contrary to single-band routers, dual-band routers operate on dual bandwidths of 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz to offer better & faster speed. So, if you have a big coverage area with more devices to connect simultaneously for WiFi usage, Dual-band routers work better.
- Tri-Band: These routers are generally suitable for multi-story buildings or big places where you have many devices to connect with routers. Tri-band routers operate on three bandwidths: One 2.4 GHz band and two 5.0 GHz bands. These types of routers usually automatically sort devices among various bands based on their usage so that the heavy-usage ones can get better speeds than the low-usage ones. So, during the tri-band router comparison, carefully look for the bandwidth offered by each band.
- Mesh Network: A mesh network is suitable if you wish to extend your WiFI coverage range with a single router for a large area (somewhere between 2000-5000 sq. ft).
In such networks, there is one main router (single, dual or tri-band) along with several secondary nodes around the areas to extend the network range. They are generally the most expensive ones and while doing mesh router comparison, check the device compatibility first.
This is because some manufacturers allow their routers to link as a mesh network while some other routers only work as WiFi extenders.
Range: 100 Mbps – 11,000 Mbps
A wireless router’s speed comparison is crucial to deciding which router will work best for your data needs. Depending on how much internet speed your ISP provides you and how many devices it gets divided, you need to see which router is compatible.
For example, according to the FCC’s broadband speed guide, a device requires around 25 Mbps to stream a 4K video while 5-10 Mbps to stream an HD video. So, if you have multiple devices, all streaming content in 4K quality, you need a minimum of 200 Mbps plan.
Now, if your plan has a maximum limit of 200 Mbps, every device using that plan will be capped with this speed. So, you need a router with a combined maximum speed higher than this range (but not much higher).
Similarly, if you have basic work requirements and use an internet plan of up to 100 Mbps speed, don’t go for a high-range router because your speed limit will be capped to your internet plan, irrespective of your router’s high-speed compatibility.
Ideally, you should go for 300 Mbps routers for 50 Mbps internet plan, 750 Mbps routers for 100 Mbps plan and 1200-1350 Mbps routers for 150-200 Mbps plan.
|Download Activity||File Size||15 Mbps||50 Mbps||75 Mbps||150 Mbps||300 Mbps|
|Short-video clip||2.5 MB||1.3 Sec||0.4 Sec||0.3 Sec||0.1 Sec||0.07 Sec|
|10 Songs||50 MB||26.7 Sec||8 Sec||5.3 Sec||2.7 Sec||1.4 Sec|
|20 Hi-Res Photos||100 MB||53.4 Sec||16 Sec||10.6 Sec||5.4 Sec||2.8 Sec|
|20 min SD videos||250 MB||2.2 min||40 Sec||26.7 Sec||13.3 Sec||6.7 Sec|
|1 Hour SD Video||750 MB||6.7 min||2 min||1.4 min||40 Sec||20 Sec|
|2 Hour SD videos||1.5 GB||13.3 min||4 min||2.7 min||1.3 min||40 Sec|
|2 Hour HD videos||5 GB||44.4 min||13.3 min||8.9 min||4.4 min||2.2 min|
Range: WiFi 4 – WiFi 6/6E
While using a router comparison tool, you must have seen various WiFi standards starting with IEEE 802.11 and ending with an alphabet a/b/g/n. So, what are these WiFi standards and how to understand them?
So, there are different WiFi protocols/standards provided by IEEE that decides its range and speed. The number 802 represents the computer networks, while 11 represents the WiFi or WLAN networks.
The letters “ac” represents WiFi-5, while “n” represents WiFi 4 and “ax” represents WiFi 6.
- 802.11ac or AC series (WiFi 5): These are the most common ones and support both dual-band and triple-band configurations. As they are compatible with MU-MIMO technology to allow multiple users to use it simultaneously, the router automatically distributes the bandwidth among the connected devices for better speed.
- 802.11n or N series (WiFi 4): More affordable and only supports dual-band configuration.
- 802.11ax or AX series (WiFi 6/6E): It is the latest one with dual MU-MIMO technology support to offer faster speed, low latency and better bandwidth. Thus it is suitable for 4K video streaming or gaming experiences. During WiFi 6 router comparison, you might come across WiFi 6E supported by several routers. WiFi 6E is an upgraded generation (E stands for extender with 6GHz band) of WiFi 6 for better speed.
The four key benefits of WiFi 6 or 6E over WiFi 4 and 5 are:
- Offer faster transfer speeds from and to devices
- Better capacity for connected devices
- Drains less battery
- Offer better performance for connected devices
For router range comparison, it is crucial to check that the router offers additional functionalities to be used in different modes. Many routers can be used as extenders, repeaters or access points so that you can use them to extend the range of the primary router. If you have heavy connection requirements, these functionalities are crucial in your router.
Range: 2 – 6 ports
Ensure that the router you choose must have enough ethernet and USB ports to offer connectivity to various devices.
- Ethernet Ports: They are crucial to connect ethernet cables with stationary devices like PCs, gaming consoles, TVs, etc., for a more stable connection. Ethernet cables generally offer better and faster speeds. Thus, most routers have at least two ethernet ports, while some only offer one port on the main router and no on connected nodes. So while during wireless router comparison, check how many Ethernet ports you require and what you are getting. If you require additional ethernet ports, you can also opt for the connector switches that come really cheap to offer you more ethernet ports to connect with your router.
- USB Ports: Apart from Ethernet ports, your router requires USB ports to plug in external storage or drive. You can download and store movies, shows, etc., on your hard drive, connect it with your router and play them on your smart TV. So make sure your router has at least two or more USB ports on it.
While with traditional routers, you have to access the basic settings by entering the IP address in the browser to log in, the modern ones support app-based management. These apps are available on Android and Apple app stores to download and manage via your phone only to make things easy for you.
You can find various options in these apps to check connected devices, manage user profiles, add or delete devices and adjust the priority of devices. It is easier to manage all these settings via apps than log in via browser. So during home or business router comparison, check whether the app-based management is there or not.
Security Standards & Features
To prevent your home or office networks from unauthorized access and virus attacks, it is crucial to have standard security features in your router. If you wish to control everything through your router, it must have an in-built firewall with advanced firmware. Look for WPA3 (WiFi Protected Access) as a security standard in your router. WPA3 has several advantages over the outdated WPA2, like:
- Offers a separate decryption key for each device connected to the router so no one can decrypt the data even through sniffing.
- Makes it difficult for hackers to crack passwords through offline dictionary attacks.
Routers with WiFi 5 or 6 usually have WPA3 as a security standard, however, some also come with a hybrid model of supporting both WPA2/WPA3 to tackle device transition issues to the new standard.
|Encryption Method||RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4)||Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) with RC4||CCMP and Advanced Encryption Standard||Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)|
|Session Key Size||40-bit||128-bit||128-bit||128-bit (WPA3 Personal)
192-bit (WPA3 Enterprise)
|Data Integrity||CRC-32||Message Integrity Code||CBC-MAC||Secure Hash Algorithm|
|Key Management||NA||4-way handshaking mechanism||4-way handshaking mechanism||Simultaneous Authentication of Equal Sharks|
WPE - Shared
|Pre-Shared Key (PSK) & 802.1x with EAP variant||Pre-Shared Key (PSK) & 802.1x with EAP variant||Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) & 802.1x with EAP variant|
Some routers also offer you with “Security Score” to pinpoint how you can make networks more secure. Also, ensure the router offers security updates from time to time to implement advanced protection. Apart from this, the two most important security features a router must have are:
- Parental Control: If you have kids in your house, having parental control features in your router becomes a necessity to block various content websites that kids should not access. Not only this, but parents can also set schedules and timers for specific devices & users to decide how much time kids can use the internet and at what time.
In some routers, these features come free of cost, while others charge an additional subscription fee. So, check whether you are getting these features for free or at an additional cost while comparing routers.
- Temporary Guest Access Login: The guest network in a router allows you to provide access to your internet connection to guests without sharing a primary WiFi password for temporary logins.
Stands for Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output, MU-MIMO is the latest technology offered by modern routers to deliver equal data chunks among the connected devices without rotation. It means that instead of providing more data bandwidth to a single device at a time, the router communicates with multiple devices simultaneously to offer equal speed for streaming and browsing.
So, if you have multiple devices to connect with a router and all require good speed simultaneously, MU-MIMO technology is crucial. The technology comes in various configurations, depending upon the number of data streams a router can configure.
For example, WiFi 4 comes with 2×2 MU-MIMO while WiFi 5 supports 4×4 and WiFi 6 comes with 6×6. So, depending upon your network requirements, you can choose which one would be enough for you.
Quality of Service (QoS)
QoS is a crucial feature to look for in routers while comparing, especially if too many devices are connected to your router. With this feature, you can prioritize primary devices that require more bandwidth. You can even set some activities like watching videos, conference calls, etc., that require better speed and connection than other activities.
The feature is not the same in all routers. Some offer Wi-Fi multimedia toggle or video prioritization over others while some let you set maximum bandwidth limits for specific devices. So, depending upon your requirements, you can check what kind of QoS you require.
Price & Warranty
Range: $50 – $250
Last but not least, you need to compare the features and warranty period offered by various router brands to pick the best. If you have fewer work requirements, there is no need to go for high-end routers.
An entry-level or mid-range router costing between $40-$80 would be enough for you. However, if you need it for office space with better security features and large coverage, you need to look for tri-band or mesh networks that come at an expensive cost ($100-$200).
Also, it is better to go for reputable brands like D-Link, Netgear, Cisco, Asus, etc., that offer better warranty periods and after-sales support. Some brands offer you 1 year of warranty on internal and external damage, while some come with 2 to 3 years of extended warranty.
Every brand has different warranty terms for various routers so, compare them carefully to get the best returns on your money.
So, these are some crucial specifications and factors you must check first to compare WiFi routers. For router speed comparison, you can use various online tools. Also, there are router benchmark sites to offer benchmark scores for various routers by testing their efficiency, performance, features, etc.
Based on these scores, you can shortlist which routers work best for your requirements. Once you have shortlisted some best options, compare their users’ reviews and ratings before making a final purchase decision, so you can get the best for your space. For further queries or suggestions, connect with us in the comments.