WiFi Routers can be a real pain!

wireless_routerIn my house, we have 4 computers that are constantly connected to the Internet via a Comcast cable modem connection. One computer is a direct connect to the WiFi Router, while the other 3 computers are wireless connected. I’ve been using a D-Link “Hi-Speed” (g-protocol) wireless router for the last 4 years or so, and lately I’ve been having trouble maintaining a connection with a new Dell laptop that I received from work. Since this router is signifcantly aged (by computer hardware standards) and has a max speed of 54 Mbps, I decided to upgrade to a new, faster n-protocol router.

As I did my research, I uncovered several different types of routers to choose from. Dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) routers, routers with a USB port for file storage, routers with a separate ssid connection for guests, etc. Lots to choose from. I did my usual scanning of web site and user’s reviews, and found my head spinning from all the information. It seems that for any router available, there’s always someone complaining about slowness or that the router is junk, defective, etc. I came to the conclusion that picking a router is a crap-shoot, so I needed to pick one and try it out myself in my own home network.

So to start, I drove down to my local Fry’s Electronics store and was convinced by the store sales rep to buy a Netgear Rangemax Dual Band Wireless-N Router (WNDR3300) for $99 US. The sales rep noted that this particular router has two different frequencies (2.4 and 5 GHz) which can be used simultaneously, so I could have the faster n-protocol computers on the 5 GHz channel and the slower g-protocol computers on the 2.4 GHz channel. So I tried this router out and discovered that I could not maintain a constant wireless connection with any of my home computers. The router would drop the Internet connection about every 3 minutes, and all the computers would have to constantly reconnect. Not good. So, I returned the router to Fry’s and did some more researching.

From what I read online, it seems that the dual-band routers aren’t the best performers for speed and signal strength. In fact, most dual-band routers require you to select ONE of the channels, as you can’t have both channels active at the same time. I now wonder if the Netgear router that I was testing had an issue keeping both channels active? Since my home is a  “mixed-mode” scenario (mixture of n and g-protocol wireless adapter computers), it was recommended on one web site to use a single-band router for maximum speed and efficiency.

Instead of driving 35 miles round trip to Fry’s again, I decided to visit my local Costco store which was much closer. Also, since Costco has such a great no-hassle return policy I could easily return or exchange a defective router if necessary. The only bad thing about buying electronics from Costco is the selection, and as such, they only had one router to choose from: The Belkin Wireless N+ Router.  Since the online reviews seemed favorable towards this router, I went ahead and made my purchase. I normally buy D-Link wireless products, so buying a Belkin brand was a new venture on my part.

Setting up the Belkin Router wasn’t too bad, as the install CD did all the hard work. What was nice, is that the setup program allowed me to select my ISP (Comcast) and it determined that the router needed to “clone” the MAC address of the cable modem to work properly. So, everything was setup in good order and I was up and running very quickly.

With such a new router, I was able to use the newer WP2/AES protection and encryption scheme. Also, the max speed of this router is 300 Mbps for a wireless connection, so that was a big improvement over the 54 Mbps of my old D-Link router. Wireless connections by both my Desktop PC and Laptop (which are located one floor above the router location) were rated as “Excellent” by the respective wireless adapters, so everything seemed to be working better than before. So for now, it seems that the range and connection speed for this Belkin Router exceeds my previous D-Link router.

Of course, I’ll need to give this setup a thorough testing before making a final judgment, but I know that I can easily return or exchange this router since I bought it from Costco. I’ve also placed an online order through Costco for a Belkin Wireless N+ USB Adapter (to replace the old D-Link USB adapter in my Desktop PC), which I can also return to my local Costco if it doesn’t work out.

So my parting comment is this: Don’t be so hung up on all the reviews you read online for a particular product. Most people write reviews to complain and not praise a product, so the percentages of what you read are a bit biased. If you get a router, make sure you have an easy path to returning it for an exchange or new purchase, since it seems that a lot of routers out there can be defective.

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2 Responses to WiFi Routers can be a real pain!

  1. Robert Davis says:

    Doesn’t Comcast have a combo Modem/Router. I have Verizon & have their combo. It all works seamlessly in one packgae. One less piece of hardware to screw up.

  2. zunetips says:

    My father-in-law had a combo DSL Modem/Wireless Router when he was hooked up to QWest DSL, so I know what you mean. I’m not sure if Comcast here has such combo devices in the field (they probably do). To save on monthly rental cost, I actually bought a Motorola cable modem from Circuit City last year which we’re using. One good thing about having separate modem/routers is that I can replace either one more easily and have more choices with models and features.

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