Cutting the Cord - Wireless Routers and Access Points

Routers

Wireless Routers & Access Points

It's safe to say that most, if not all, wireless routers or wireless access points currently sold by Micro Center will provide support for cutting the cord. Factors such as how many wireless devices you have, how large the area is that you need to cover, and how much obstruction or interference exists in your location can all directly impact your decision on which router or access point to buy. Some general points to consider are listed throughout this article.

Some factors to consider based on your individual circumstances include:

  • Quantity and type of devices you need to connect - If you only needed to connect one device to your WiFi in a small area such as a studio apartment, then even the most basic wireless router or access point would surely meet your needs. When considering WiFi, keep in mind to include all the devices that will be using it like laptops, smartphones, tablets, home automation devices, streaming devices, etc. It would not be unreasonable for a typical family of four to have need to require a WiFi connection capable of supporting 10-15 items.
  • How large of an area do you need to cover - a +3,000 square foot multi-level home wanting coverage on the front porch and back patio is going to require higher end wireless routers or access points than a 400 square foot one room studio apartment.
  • What obstacles or potential interference exists in the desired coverage area - using a wireless router or access point in an open room where you are is going to encounter very little to no interference, compared to a multi-level home where the router might be positioned in one extreme end or the other.

The answer to these and other scenarios often follow the same generic path - the more items you need to connect, the larger the area to be covered, or the more interference expected, all point toward a higher end wireless router or access point with more antennae and features. Key points to consider in making these decisions are noted at throughout this article.

Buffering – One challenge that you might encounter when streaming online video is known as buffering. Imagine this: the whole family sits down in front of the TV, bowls of popcorn in hand, and turns on Netflix to watch a movie together. The screen loads up, the introductory music plays, and the movie begins. A few minutes later, the screen seems to freeze up, except for a little arrow circling round and round in the middle of the screen.

Buffering is intended to work by downloading the content in advance of what you are watching so that there is no interruption to your stream. However, when you are able to watch the stream faster than it is able to load, you'll encounter buffering. While buffering might happen occasionally, the more it happens, the more frustrating it can become.

When this happens, it's not usually the fault of the streaming app or the streaming device or the TV. Excessive buffering is usually a problem related to your home network or the incoming network from your internet service provider. Here are some things that can be checked or done to reduce excessive buffering:

  • Have a good, reliable, high speed internet connection – many sources recommend that you have at least 4Mb to 5Mb of available bandwidth to dedicate to each streaming device on your home network. For example, if you are going to run three streaming devices on the same home network, then you need at least 12Mb to 15Mb of bandwidth just for streaming devices – in addition to whatever is needed for other connected items (remember to add to the equation possible bandwidth needed by smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, home automation devices, etc.) In a household with just four individuals, it could make sense to have a broadband connection that offers 25Mb, 50Mb, or even 100Mb of bandwidth. If your internet connection is not sufficient to meet your needs, contact your internet service provider to see if they have an upgrade available for you
  • To check your internet bandwidth you can visit a reliable third party website such as https://fast.com/
  • Have a good, reliable, modern, wireless router or wireless access point – while Ethernet connections are an option, most streaming is done over WiFi. The current generations of wireless routers and access points have specifications that are best for streaming. Look for the following best options:
    • Wireless AC (more current) or at least Wireless N (acceptable) WiFi specifications
    • Dual Channel (both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) and MIMO (multiple input and multiple output bands in the same hardware) will provide the most and best options
    • Wireless routers or access points that also have some built-in features to optimize your home network will give you the best ability to manage internal users and device priorities
    • Mesh Networking is a newer technology that allows for seamlessly managing multiple access points on the same home network, and is particularly handy for a larger home with multiple levels or other significant interference potentials. If you need a less expensive alternative, a wireless repeater or extender can sometimes do the trick.

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