laptop security

Best Broadband Routers for Laptops

Confused about selecting the best broadband routers for laptops? Well the first thing we would note is that routers aren't replaced because they wear out. They're replaced because technology moves on and everyone wants their wireless connection to be faster and reach further. Other features enter the mix, but these two factors are usually the most important drivers.

In choosing a router today the first decision is between products that conform to either IEEE 802.11g or IEEE 80211n standards. Theoretically the "n" specification is 10X faster and can broadcast 2X the distance. Once outside the laboratory actual speeds of data transfer are unlikely to reach the promised 100 Mbs. A realistic expectation is that "n" will deliver a 2X increase in data transfer and maybe a bit more on a good day.

The challenge today is that 802.11n is still a draft specification and it may not be finalized until 2008 or later. That hasn't stopped manufacturers including: Linksys, Netgear, Belkin and Apple from releasing products that conform to a draft specification.

In the quest to identify the best broadband routers what are the risks in selecting a draft 802.11n product?

  1. Draft 802.11n products may not be upgradeable to the ratified standard.

  2. Draft 802.11n routers may not work with ratified 802.11n adapters.

  3. Draft 802.11n products from different manufacturers may not be compatible with one another.

  4. Paying too much for the opportunity of being an early adopter.

On the other side of the coin, who wants to invest in the slower and superseded "g" technology at this stage of the game. It's fortunate that routers aren't that expensive.

Hopefully, firmware upgrades will be made available once the final standard is locked down and ratified, but we have yet to see a written commitment from any manufacturers to doing that.

All "n" units also support the "g" standard as well, which really removes "g" only options from contention. The best broadband routers for laptops today are those that support the draft 802.11n standard. They will work with legacy "g" equipment and deliver at least double "g" performance when combined with draft "n" adapters. Finally, they may even be firmware upgradeable in due course to support the ratified "n" specification.

Once the big decision is made between "g" and "n" the differences between brands is not obvious from reading the specifications. To reduce the field to find the best broadband routers for laptops we went looking for some minimum qualifying features.

  • 4 ports
  • WPA-PSK encryption
  • Firewall
  • MIMO (multiple input / multiple output) ariel technology.

Every brand of draft "n" router we found included these features.

There are then the optional features that will vary in importance depending upon individual circumstances.

  • Parental control filtering.
  • VOIP enabled (PSTN backup line)
  • USB ports

Our final short list in the hunt for the best broadband routers for laptops is as follows:

  • Belkin N1
  • Linksys Wireless N WRT350N
  • D-LINK Systems Extreme N Wireless Router

Disclosure: Our first preference was for the Belkin mainly because of its documentation and ease of set up. We bought the Linksys because it was substantially discounted and we are familiar with setting up routers. The Linksys performs well and we will in due course buy "n" adapter cards when the cost makes commercial sense.

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