Wireless router performance varies between models. The most important aspects affecting your choice of router will be its connection speed and range.
A longer range means the wi-fi signal will travel over longer distances and through more obstructions, such as to the end of the garden, or to the top floor of a large house.
There’s a whole family of wireless standards, which have evolved with the technology, though all wireless devices adhere to a standard known as 802.11.
The main aim of this fixed standard is to ensure wireless products from different manufacturers will work together.
As wireless technology develops, the data per second you can transfer over a wireless network increases. This data is typically described in terms of megabits (8 megabits equal 1 megabyte). The rate of data transfer is therefore measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Older wireless devices use a standard known as 802.11b (or Wireless b), which claims to achieve a maximum data rate of 11Mbps.
More recent devices use 802.11g, a standard that superseded Wireless b in 2003 and is still the most prevalent standard. Products based on the Wireless g standard claim maximum data rates of 54Mbps, so you can transfer files in a shorter space of time.
Wireless g is likely to be suitable if you live in a flat, apartment or small house.
The newest and fastest wireless connections are Wireless n, which has a claimed maximum data rate of 248Mbps.
Wireless n devices should be capable of transferring larger media files such as music and video at a speed that’s acceptable to consumers.
Wireless n devices should also have a longer range than their predecessors, making them more efficient if you want to use your laptop at the bottom of the garden, say. Wireless n is better for larger houses, and also for heavy usage, multiple users and large file transfers.
Single or dual-band wireless routers?
Single-band routers communicate only using the 2.4GHz frequency spectrum, whereas dual-band routers can simultaneously broadcast on both 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies, which can give faster speeds and better performance over longer distances.
Dual-band routers can be useful if you’re experiencing interference with neighbouring wi-fi signals from other networks. To solve the problem, you can change the wireless channel used by your router. On the 5GHz spectrum there are more available channels to try than on the 2.4GHz frequencies.
Dual-band routers are generally more expensive than single-band routers. They'lll require each connected device to be able to communicate using both bands to take full advantage of dual-band functions.