Wireless Internet Routers
I'm a little confused about routers. Can you explain to me about wireless routers, internet routers and exactly what you can do with them?
What is a Wireless Router?
Let's start by defining a few terms. A router is a device that connects a number of devices together in a network, and routes data traffic between them. The only real difference between a wireless router and a standard network router (sometimes called an internet router) is that the wireless router has a radio antenna that can broadcast the same data that would otherwise travel over a network cable. A wireless router connects devices without wires, using radio signals transmitted between devices and the router.
Most routers, especially the ones installed in homes and small businesses for high-speed Internet access, have the wireless feature. In fact, you might find it hard to purchase a network router that isn't also a wireless router.
Even the earliest wireless routers supported broadband speeds of 1 Mbps or higher, so all WiFi routers are also wireless broadband routers. The latest and fastest standard is "Wireless N" (known also by it's technical name 802.11n) which supports speeds up to 600 Mbps. The Internet Service Provider controls the speed at which the local network can communicate with the Internet. That's much slower than 600 Mbps in virtually every home - typically somewhere between 1.5 and 30 Mbps.
You'll also find Wireless G (802.11g) and perhaps even older 802.11b routers on the market. See my article on Wireless N Routers for help deciding which one is best for your needs.
A wireless adapter is a small radio receiver/transmitter that connects to a laptop or other device and communicates with wireless routers. Virtually every laptop, and most desktop computers, have a wireless networking adapter built into them these days. If not, you can buy a USB-compatible adapter. When you go shopping, ask for a "WiFi" adapter. (For all practical purposes, the terms "wireless" and "wifi" are interchangeable.)
What Can You Do With a Wireless Router?
Networking with wireless routers is very popular for several reasons. Home wireless Internet access is a snap, compared to the old-fashioned technique of running cables all over the house. In addition to getting your computers online, you can share files between computers, even share printers and other devices. Guests can bring their laptops and enjoy the Internet without carrying and plugging in cables. And of course, your home might be considered downright inhospitable without a wireless signal for all those iPhones, iPods, iPads and other smartphones that wander in.
Wireless printers can be placed anywhere, unrestricted by the length of a cable. Wireless game consoles, keyboards, joysticks, etc., make wireless gaming as effortless as couch-surfing. WiFi routers can connect any WiFi devices that come within their radio signals' range.
Wireless internet routers enable public WiFi "hot spots," areas in which you can connect to the Internet with a laptop or other wifi device. Coffee shops, book stores, and other locations may provide WiFi hot spots. WiFi for mobile devices is built into many phones, and other gadgets like the iPod Touch and iPad. This is handy for devices that cannot make a 3G cellular connection, or in places where the cell signal is weak. The downside is that you have to stay near a wifi hot spot or lose the Internet connection.
Wireless Routers on the Market
Vendors of WiFi routers have jazzed up the basic functions of a wireless router in many ways. The Belkin Surf, Share, Play, Max family of WiFi routers, for example, includes basic WiFi networking; software that makes photo sharing easier; default settings optimized for gaming; and maximum-speed configuration for Wireless N, to the extent your local devices and Internet connection can keep up.
Netgear's Wireless-N 300 WiFi router is a popular workhorse; inexpensive, reliable, and easily set up. It includes wireless parental controls, and a broadband usage meter for those unfortunate enough to pay for Internet access like it was water or electricity. The meter alerts you when your bill is getting too large.
Cisco Systems is widely considered the Cadillac of networking equipment. Their Valet and Valet Plus wireless routers are designed to be intuitively obvious to set up. The Plus model has a second radio antenna and a Gigabit Ethernet hardwire connector; both enable faster Wireless N speeds.
Do you have something to say about wireless routers? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 26 May 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Wireless Internet Routers (Posted: 26 May 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved