When I need to know something about routers, my first stop is typically smallnetbuilder.com run by Tim Higgins. It's a site for techies rather than the general public and, at times, it's very techie.
But last week, Higgins took a step down, and published an introductory article called How To Buy a Wireless Router: The Short Version. Highly recommended.
Most of the article covers the differences between the four major types of routers: Single-band G, Single-band N, Dual-band-single-radio N and Dual-band-dual-radio N. He also warns readers away from a fifth category, N150 routers.
Some interesting observations from the article follow.
No doubt many people think that Wi-Fi N is better than G and they should always opt for N. But Higgins says:
"...if you already have a wireless LAN with all G devices and you're happy with its performance, there is no reason to change to "N". "Upgrading" to an N router won't increase your range or speed up your G devices. On the contrary, it could end up causing problems with very old gear."
It came as news to me that a new N router may be a problem for old G hardware.
Higgins offers another reason you might opt for a cheaper G router as opposed to a more expensive N model:
"...whenever there are G and N devices connected to the same N type router, they both will operate at slower speed, but only when both are active."
Just like the old days, when B clients slowed down a G router.
Finally, he warns that all Wi-Fi N adapters are not the same; some support the 5 GHz band and some don't. He cited Dell, specifically, for not providing this information anywhere in the specs for a particular Inspiron laptop. In this case, the N adapter did support the 5 GHz band, but you would have to check Intel's website to find out.
A very worthwhile read.
This story, "Buying a Wireless Router — Simplified" was originally published by Computerworld.