UPDATED February 10, 2022 This piece has been updated to reflect the emergence of new technology
Christian Mathews Security Writer
With the dawn of the internet in the 1990s, our lifestyle has become increasingly dependent on it. The Internet is no longer just a source of entertainment or a mere convenience but has become a necessity. Nowadays, Wi-Fi connections and routers have become an essential part of our homes. We want to ensure you find the best router for smart home.
We all know what routers do. However, if you’re not from a technical background, you probably have very little idea about router specifications. That is why people often end up buying a below-par router and one that doesn’t meet their internet consumption needs.
To avoid going down the same route (no pun intended), it’s best to educate yourself about all the important router specifications. That’s what we are here to help you with.
In this guide, we will cover different specs of a router to know about before buying one for your smart home.
Specifications to Look Out for When Buying Routers
Before you purchase the best home router, these are the specifications you must know about.
Routers have built-in processors that come in single or multiple cores. The benefit of multiple cores, such as dual or quad-core, is that it has faster and better processing capabilities. More cores correspond to faster information and data processing.
The band of a wireless router determines how quickly it can transmit data wirelessly. Single-band routers have a frequency of 2.4 GHz. Dual-band routers use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, making them more efficient in transferring data. Tri-band routers are the most efficient ones as they use two 5 GHz bands along with a 2.4 GHz band.
Actual Speed Vs. Advertised Speed
Routers have their speed specifications mentioned, such as AC1200 or AC1750. But keep in mind that the speed specified on the router isn’t the actual speed you get. It’s just the measure of the highest speed that a router can achieve.
The speed you experience when using it will be lower than what’s mentioned. Still, routers with higher speed specifications do offer greater speed than lower ones. Just don’t expect a 1200 Mbps router to actually give you that much speed.
MIMO, is an acronym for multiple inputs, multiple outputs. It refers to the use of antennas on a router that permits the transmission of multiple streams of data efficiently. Most routers these days have an advanced version of MIMO, which is called MU-MIMO (multiple users – multiple inputs, multiple outputs). It’s designed to let multiple users connect to the same wireless network with the equally fast performance for each user.
Many routers also have USB ports built-in. These ports allow a user to connect devices such as printers or external hard disks directly to the router. This is done so that all devices and computers connected to the router can use such devices.
QoS (Quality of Service) is a feature of Wi-Fi hubs for smart homes. It checks and optimizes the flow of traffic through the wireless network. It even prioritizes the traffic, meaning it allows high priority traffic to flow before less important ones.
QoS is mostly manual as you can set which traffic to consider which is high or low priority. A dynamic QoS is basically an automated version on QoS. The router itself checks and optimizes the traffic without any role on your part.
Mesh Wi-Fi Router
For larger homes, the range of a single traditional router may not be enough to cover all areas. Mesh Wi-Fi routers are an ideal option for such cases. They operate in a system with one central router and many smaller connected devices called ‘satellites’ and spread throughout the house that serves as access points.
Additional Security Features
If online privacy and security is a major concern, you can find routers with built-in VPN and Firewall. A router with its own firewall will be an additional layer of protection on your computer’s firewall. The in-built VPN masks your IP address allowing you to browse anonymously.
Smartphone Controlled Routers
If you want a router for your smart home, then you want the router to be ‘smart’ as well. Invest in a touchscreen router. Many routers support remote control through a smartphone so that you can turn them on and off. Additionally, you can control their configurations from your phone itself.
What Should I Look for in the Best Router for Smart Home?
Now you may have gotten familiar with the important specifications and terms associated with routers. But what specs should you go for? There’s no one-size-fits-all kind of answer and it mainly depends on factors. These include how big your home is, how many devices will be connected to the router, what do you mostly use the internet for and your average data consumption.
For the processor, it’s always best to avoid single-core models. A dual-core is sufficient for most smart homes. However, if you have multiple devices and users that will be connecting to the network, then it’s better to go for a quad-core processor. Similarly, single bands are no longer able to keep up with modern-day internet demands, so don’t opt for those. Dual bands are the most common choice for average use. Tri-bands are mainly suitable if there are a lot of users and high data consumption.
Ensure that the router has MU-MIMO so that when connection many devices at once, each device can equally enjoy high speed and performance. Dynamic QoS is also a standard feature for routers nowadays. This is because the average internet users don’t really know how to configure the QoS themselves. With a dynamic QoS, the router itself does the job of monitoring the flow of traffic.
Features such as a built-in firewall or VPNs are pretty much optional and a matter of preference. Opt for USB ports if you have printers or other devices at home that you want to connect to the router. Smartphone control is also an optional feature but we do recommend it due to the convenience it provides.
Some Extra Options to Expand the Range of your Wi-Fi Router
Even the best router for smart home has limitations when it comes to the range of their network. So in bigger residences, a single router isn’t sufficient, and you’ll end up with limited coverage in your home. Want to cover every nook and corner of your house with smooth Wi-Fi signal? Here are some options to increase the range of routers:
As the name suggests, Wi-Fi extenders receive the signal from your router and amplify it. Then they transmit the signal further, so the range is increased. For maximum efficiency, it’s best to place the extenders in the farthest range of your router.
Wi-Fi Mesh Devices
Wi-Fi mesh devices work similarly to extenders. They include different nodes all connect to a single router and placed in various areas of the house. The main signal from the router is amplified by the mesh devices and by increasing the number of nodes, you can even increase the range to multiple floors of a building.
So whether you’re looking for a general internet set up, wanting to install an Apple Homekit door lock, looking for a thermostat controlled by your phone or starting to set up your smart home system, making sure you have the best router is the first step in achieving that.