Wi-Fi Router - Buying Guide

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - updated February 10th, 2021
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There is massive range of networking options for home and business available today, with top brands such as Netgear, Ubiquiti, TP-Link, Asus, Synology, D-Link all striving to create products to meet the demands. To help you make a choice on which model would be best suited to your needs, this guide offers some quick advice on information and key features to search for when looking at buying a Wi-Fi router.

A router is the hub of your network. A Wi-Fi router is what connects devices to each other and the internet. Like many other tech products, there are many options to choose from, all with different features and advantages.

What's the difference between a modem and a router

First of all, it's important to understand that a modem and router provide different functions. A modem creates and maintains the connection with the Internet provider's service and converts the signals from and to the router. The router forwards traffic destined for the Internet to the modem, while preventing internal traffic from leaving the network. Using assigned numbers, the router keeps track of which computer made a request to the Internet in order to send responses back to that computer only. It is now commonplace for many Wi-Fi routers to also include built-in modems.

Features to look for in a router

Wired routers are still available for purchase, however there is a need for an Ethernet cable, which is to be plugged into your devices, which can be inconvenient. Wi-Fi (wireless) router models are a much more flexible way of connecting devices in today's developing wireless world.

Bandwidth

When shopping for a router you’ll likely notice some numbers that follow the term N, AC, AX and so on, with titles looking like AC900, AC1200 and AX3000 - but what’s the difference between them?

These numbers refer to the max theoretical bandwidth the router can provide over all its wireless channels. This bandwidth is commonly referred to as Mbps, which means megabits per second - translating this further, 8 megabits per second = 1 megabyte per second. So a router with AC3200 can hypothetically transfer a total of 400 megabytes per second. Looking at this from a real world, end user situation, it’s unlikely (at the moment) that a connected device could handle all this data at once, and that’s OK - because this number is a perfect world maximum (one with no walls or interference) and this total split through the various wireless networks the router is providing.

Looking specifically at the very popular AC3200 Tri-Band Routers we can see how this bandwidth is split between the wireless networks it provides.

    • 2.4GHz @ 600Mbps (75 megabytes per second)
    • 5GHz @ 1300Mbps (162.5 megabytes per second)
    • + another 5GHz @ 1300Mbps
    • For a total of 3200, 400 megabytes per second.

Having this much potential bandwidth available allows for a better experience when you’re connecting multiple devices your wireless network, D-Link summed it up pretty well with "when there’s traffic on the motorway and you’re crawling along at 10km/h, increasing the speed limit won’t help anyone get anywhere sooner. If you were to add another lane, traffic would clear faster and congestion would be less of a problem" and we love that, splitting the traffic is a great way to ensure all WiFi users in your home or office have an enjoyable experience - have that new TV streaming videos on one wireless network while the kids are happily gaming away on another!

Picture showing how to shop WiFi Routers by the number of devices in your house

This information can also be used in a simplified way by using the bandwidth to help find the right router based on how many devices you expect to connect, with the chart below providing a general guide as to what you should look for.

These bandwidth numbers, like AC1200 and AX11000, can be used directly in the PB Tech search bar to narrow down the range.

It's important to remember that your bandwidth will be shared between all the connected wireless clients, so having too many clients connected to a band will inevitably lead to slower internet access for everyone!

Think about where you need the WiFi

Take a moment and think about how many devices are going to be connected at once?, it’s normally more than we think - a smart TV, laptop, desktop, tablet and smartphone to quickly name five! Also worth thinking about is where you want your WiFi signal to reach - are you planning on using a tablet in the garden hammock perhaps?

There are two main features that will need to be considered when shopping for wireless routers, these being wireless range and wireless speed.

Wireless Range

Wi-Fi range can be dependent on many factors. Some include the number of radios and antennas, what frequencies it can broadcast on, interference and more. It's important to know that wireless AX routers provide the strongest connectivity and farthest range. If you're looking for reliable and fast Wi-Fi to have throughout your home, go with AC or AX as opposed to wireless N.

Using the PB Tech Website, in the Networking Category you can use our handy "filter" menu on the left to show just the options you are looking for, you can even select multiple options, for example to show just "AD" and "AX" options.

Picture of how to filter types of Wireless at PB Tech

Wireless speed

In terms of speed, wireless AC routers are up to 3x faster than wireless N. Wireless N routers are up to 14x faster than wireless G. What we're getting at here is that if you use real-time apps, for example, gaming or streaming content, your best bet is to go with wireless AC as this will give you a superior speed experience in comparison to any other options.

AD WiFi is for those who need extremely high speeds over a very short range - almost exclusively used for wireless virtual reality headsets.

AX WiFi is the newer, faster version of AC (AC @ 866Mbps VS AX @ 1.2Gbps on a single stream) and it's backwards compatible so you can upgrade your router right away. New smartphones and laptops will start to include AX as standard going forward but you can get the AX Wireless adaptor for your PC right now to take advantage of all this new speed.

WiFi 6 is another keyword for intel based 802.11AX wireless products, it's a shortened term based on the "6th generation of WiFi". Designed with increased efficiency and reduced congestion in heavy bandwidth usage scenarios it's perfect for a home or business.

Dual-band connectivity

You will find routers which are both single and dual-band models. 2.4GHz is the only one wireless frequency band which single-band routers operate on. With this single band, surfing the net can be done, however, the frequency easily gets congested, making it difficult for high-bandwidth applications such as streaming video. Dual-band routers transmit over the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz band. This is less prone to interference from other devices, which is an advantage. The dual-band router gives you the ability to browse the internet on the 2.4 GHz band as well as streaming videos on HD on the 5GHz, without needing to worry about overloading or congestion. All wireless AC routers and select wireless N routers offer the dual-band function. As a quick summary, dual-band means less interference and faster speeds.

Tri-band connectivity

Tri-Band routers are a fairly recent concept and simply just add an extra 5 GHz band. The main advantage of multi-band routers is that they decrease the amount of congestion even when more and more devices are added. If you have multiple Wi-Fi users in your home, which all use multiple devices, the more bands that your router has, the faster and better Wi-Fi connection you will receive.

WiFi connections are a two way street of course, the wireless connection can only be as fast as the slowest connected device!

Special router features

MIMO, wireless signals and beamforming technology

Multiple antennas and multiple inputs, multiple-output (MIMO) is a technology which many wireless routers use to broadcast. MIMO specifically refers to a technique for sending and receiving more than one data signal on the same radio channel by simultaneously using multiple antennas.

Beamforming technology is added to more advanced routers. This provides devices with improved performance and coverage. These beamforming routers identify and track devices on your network and direct Wi-Fi signals straight to the devices. As a result, this technology provides a more powerful signal, which is very favourable when using mobile devices.

Virtual Private Network 

A VPN creates an encrypted and secure connection between the device it's installed on and the internet. Once you've set up a router VPN, every device connected to that router will have its traffic sent through the encrypted tunnel so you don't need to install and run special software on each PC.

Cloud services

Routers with cloud services enable you to access and control your home network from any location. You may want to take into account an Asus AICloud router if achieving remote access is something you require. View and block devices which are connected to your network as well as view web browsing history from your smartphone or tablet with the easy to use, free mobile app.

4G LTE

These are great for when your regular cable internet isn't available. The 4G LTE Router lets you connect to your 3G/4G mobile connection giving you the speed you need for fast, responsive Internet access. Surf the web with ease and stream music and video over the Internet to your PCs and mobile devices.

MESH WiFi

This is a term giving to multiple WiFi routers that are spread out to cover an area, and all with the same Wifi name. So you can wander about and you'll stay connected as it automatically switches you seamlessly between access points. Mesh is a great large home estate or business solution. 

Looking for a home wireless upgrade, check out the full range of Wi-Fi Routers today!


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Staff Writer

For the words, not the glory!

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52 comments

BennC

Can you give a recommendation on what modem to pair with Netgear Nighthawk AX5 5-Stream AX4200 WiFi Router?

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1 month ago Reply Report

PennyP24

Hi, we have a two storey house and have spark fibre which was installed in a corner room on the upper level. We have 4-7 person household and majority of the 15+ devices are connected via wifi. The spark modem isn't the best and we have a few dead zones especially the following areas - downstairs living room, garage and backyard. Could you please recommend the best router or option that would be suitable for our situation. Cheers and thanks for your help

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1 month ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Penny, I have asked the Networking PM and they have recommended one of these mesh systems for your home - https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETHUA1300/Huawei-Q2-Pro-Hybrid-Mesh-Wi-Fi-System---3-Pack-3 or https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETTPL6553/TP-Link-Deco-X55-Wi-Fi-6-Whole-Home-Mesh-System They are amazing at removing dead zones from your home!

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1 month ago Reply Report

BrendonB8

We live rurally and currently have VDSL with a Draytek Vigor 130. Now I would like to convert our POTS connection to SIP but there is no built-in ATA on the Draytek (the output of the Draytek currently goes to a 24 port switch). I need a decent VDSL router with built-in ATA and no wireless (I have existing APs). What do you recommend please?

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2 months ago Reply Report

ArohaD9

Hi we have a house that has fiber and we currently have a trustpower router/modem. We have two rooms that the wifi signal drops in and out all the time that are about about 8m and 10m away from where the router is situated. Need something that can cater for 3x pc gaming wired cat 6, 2 x laptops, 3 x tvs wired, 3+ tablets, and phones. What are my options cheers

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2 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Aroha, since it sounds like your two rooms are close together you probably don't require a mesh system. A powerful Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router will easily be able to provide speedy connections to all your devices. A popular one we sell is https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETNGR605400/NETGEAR-NightHawk-Pro-Gaming-XR1000-Wi-Fi-6-Gaming or https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETAS6000/ASUS-RT-AX88U-Wi-Fi-6-Gigabit-Gaming-Router-Dual-B Thanks!

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2 months ago Reply Report

ArohaD9

Thanks Jared I'm liking the look of the Asus router, does it have any parental controls capabilities and or guest login capabilities. Cheers

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2 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Yes, it has both of these :) Thanks

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2 months ago Reply Report

DavidM516

Hi! I have a house with difficult access for laying cable so would like advice, please, on the equipment to purchase. 1. I am told that there is no likelihood of fibre in the foreseeable future, however a number of providers claim to be able to provide VDSL. I understand that VDSL performance is compromised as distance from the local cabinet or exchange approaches 1000m, but don't know where the nearest such point is. Let's figure that we'll get VDSL, but design for fibre-ready. 2. Internet capability required in the home will be 2x TVs streaming and potentially up to 6 or 7 other devices. I expect devices in the home will generally be WiFi capable, but wonder if I should provision for wired connection. 3. Cat 6 has been laid but not yet connected from the comms post at the street to the garage - 20 metres distance. 4. From the garage I want to provide WiFi internet connection to the house another 25 metres away up the hill where most of the device load will be. I figure 802.11ax multiband is probably the way to go, and figure that I should buy a better modem than the telco will provide. Would appreciate your guidance on what equipment I need to set this up. Thanks in advance!

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2 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi David, thanks for reaching out. For the best advice, can you please email us at [email protected] and our team will be able to help. Thanks

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2 months ago Reply Report

DavidM516

Done, thanks

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2 months ago Reply Report

DavidM516

Hi Jared, its been a month and no reply. Also tried to get info in store on the weekend but store not set up for anything but basic sales across the table at the door. Please give this a nudge. Thanks.

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1 month ago Reply Report

DavidM516

(I have re-sent the enquiry to websales)

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1 month ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi David, sorry to hear about the delay. Can you please let me know your email address and I can follow this up with our websales team. You can email us at [email protected] with these details if you like. Thanks

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1 month ago Reply Report

TristanH89

Hi there I need some advice on updating our router/modem? We have Fibre from Trustpower, there are 4 people in the house and at least 20 devices some LAN connected but mostly WiFi at present we use the standard Trustpower router and it seems to be struggling, we run Google home products and I believe that multiple routers can be a problem with that? We run Vodafone TV, gaming consoles and with lock down we are working and schooling from home so there is allot of demand. What would you recommend?

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3 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Tristan, I have asked our product manager to recommend something and they have said the Huawei Q2 Pro Hybrid Mesh Router is a very popular option. With a 3 pack your whole home will be blanketed in Wi-Fi :) Hope this helps, thanks!

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2 months ago Reply Report

PirateKid

With 20 wifi devices in the house you should consider the Tri-Band AX11000 https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETNGR611000/NETGEAR-NightHawk-RAX200-AX1212-Stream-Wi-Fi-Route

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3 months ago Reply Report

AndrewC819

Hi there. Our internet keeps dropping out. I have a Google Wifi Mesh. Do you have any recommendations on what modem / router would be good as a replacement for the ISP provided modem? Home use is mainly streaming and device use. No gaming. Thanks.

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4 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Andrew, can you please let us know what type of internet connection you have - ADSL, VDSL or Fibre? And then we can recommend you the right product :) Thanks

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4 months ago Reply Report

alfijohansen

Hey! Our WiFi has been terrible lately with dead zones in some rooms. I'm looking for a router/mesh solution. We're with 2degrees and we have their supplied modem/router. Both the ONT and modem sit inside the electrical box and that might have something to do with the bad signal we're getting. Just looking for some tips or recommendations on what to get and how to improve our WiFi throughout our house. Cheers!

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4 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Alf, I have asked our product manager to recommend something and they have said the Huawei Q2 Pro Hybrid Mesh Router is a very popular option. With a 3 pack your whole home will be blanketed in Wi-Fi, plus this router is on special right now at a great price :) Hope this helps, thanks!

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4 months ago Reply Report

alfijohansen

Hey Jared, thanks for the quick reply! As our house is 2 storeys and about 100sqm, I was actually wondering if a singe wireless router would do the job? The only places I would put the Huawei bases is downstairs and upstairs. Not sure if the third one would be necessary. Just another question I had. If I were to get either a mesh system or router, would it replace our existing 2degrees modem?

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4 months ago Reply Report

Jared G (Head Office)

Hi Alf, ahhh right, then yes a single router should work well in your home as well :) And yes it would replace any existing modem router you are using. Thanks!

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4 months ago Reply Report

LydiaR69

Hi, I'm looking for a router for a 1 person house, mainly streaming, only 2 devices (phone and laptop). I'd like something reasonably inexpensive, but still reliable. Also, is it normal for a router to only last 2-3 years? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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5 months ago Reply Report

Ben B (Head Office)

Hi Lydia, this one is great https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETAS461800/ASUS-RT-AX55-Wi-Fi-6-Gigabit-Wireless-Router-Dual + regarding expected life of the product, in my experience routers do not break often, I see them out-live their usefulness as our maximum internet speeds increase past what they can support.

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5 months ago Reply Report

SimonW21

we are running spark fibre through an HG630b. The house is wired with 2 or more cat 5 sockets in every room. Every stationary device is connected via cat5.(3 smart tvs, skybox, appletv, ps4, xbox, 3pcs, 2 desks with docking stations and a nas) through 2 8-port gigbit switches plugged into the HG630b The ONT is in a wiring cupboard along with the router and the switches. Wifi from the HG630b in this location is bad so its turned off. The main electrical switchboard is in this cupboard as well, so I axxume that it will never be suitable for Wi-Fi. Ever . Wi-Fi is provided by a TP-Link TL-WA901ND located near enough to the centre of the house. Its connected via Ethernet back to the HG360b. This supports wifi used by phones and tablets, and occasionally laptops for hyperconnected luvvies whose attention spans are degrading by the hour. I am bombarded by complaints about Wi-Fi. The usual answer is to reboot the Wi-Fi, but that's not really a solution. its a kludge. I am not a Wi-Fi user so these complaints whistle as they rapidly fly by, but otherwise have no permanent impact on me. I suspect that more tangible threats will come my way. Any suggestions?

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5 months ago Reply Report

Ben B (Head Office)

Hi Simon, thanks for waiting on me while I got advice, suggestion is adding 1-3 (depending on size of house) https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NAPTPL0265/TP-Link-Omada-EAP265-HD-MU-MIMO-Dual-Band-AC1750-4

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5 months ago Reply Report