Top WiFi Routers for Your Home

DIR-Router

Today’s households have more internet-connected devices than ever before – so as you can imagine having a robust home Wi-Fi network to connect your burgeoning family of devices has never been more important.

Choosing the right router for your home can be a bit of a minefield. It isn’t as simple as choosing the most expensive. For example: there’s no point going for a dual-band router if all your devices have old wireless receivers and therefore can’t take advantage of the extra power on offer via the new 802.11ac wireless standard.

Here are our some of our top pick for the some of the best Wireless routers available today.

D-Link DIR-810L – Price, £116.

D-Link has been synonymous with home networking for years, and has just released a new range of wireless routers promising increased performance and no more pesky dropouts. With their DIR-810L, you’ll enjoy the benefits of faster speeds and increased home coverage from the get-go. The DIR-810L has been specifically designed for homes where there’s a lot of HD streaming and large file transfers taking place. It’s an ideal solution for, say, a student house where there could conceivably be as many as 20 internet-connected devices running at anyone time.

The DIR-810L is so much faster than your average router because its part of the new 802.11ac family, which has now replaced 802.11n standard. We won’t bore you with the details but AC can achieve far higher speeds than a current N router, due to fact it operates on both 2.4GHz and the new 5GHz frequencies.

The great thing about this router is it is backwards compatible with all of your existing 802.11n wireless devices. And to make the transition to superfast speeds even easier you can add USB adapters to your existing desktop and laptop computers to bring them up the new AC standard.

myDLink-router

DIR-868L Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router- Price, £140

D-Link has also announced variant of the new 8 series for users who want more than just superfast wireless connectivity. The DIR-868L USB 3.0 is also a dual-band 802.11ac router but comes with a bevy extra ports including four Gigabit Ethernet ports to provide high-speed wired connections for up to four PCs or game consoles.

The router’s SharePort Mobile app allows you to also connect a USB 3.0 storage device so you can instantly share documents, movies, pictures, and music with mobile devices and other computers connected to the network. And there’s also cloud support via D-Link’s mydlink Lite app, which helps you access, manage and view your network remotely from anywhere in the world securely.

The router operates on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless bands at the same time and has six internal antennas for even greater wireless coverage.

TP-Link-Router

TP-Link TD-W8980 N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit ADSL2+ Modem – Price, £85

TP-LINK’s new TD-W8980 is an incredibly robust all-in-one dual-band device combining both 5GHz band and the traditional 2.4GHz band. With 2 multifunctional USB ports, users can share printers, files and media across the local network.

Handily the TD-W8980 does the work of several networking devices packed into one device. It acts as ADSL2+ Modem, NAT Router, 4-Port Switch and Wireless N Access Point, eliminating the need to purchase multiple devices to access and share a high-speed Internet.

With 300Mbps 802.11n wireless and 4-gigabit LAN ports, the TD-W8980 is the ideal choice for bandwidth heavy users that rely on speedy, reliable connections for bandwidth intensive work or entertainment such as video calls, HD video streaming and online gaming.

Using the TD-W8980’s two multi-functional USB 2.0 ports, users can share printers, files and media either throughout the network at home with several different computers or even away, using the device’s FTP server functions so that you never have to part with your files.

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Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit – Price, £109.99

If you live in a big house then you might have to face the fact the no matter what wireless router you use, it may not serve your entire house. So what other options do you have? Well, you can, of course, run Ethernet cables to every room, and on new build homes this is become more and more commonplace.

But there is another way: homeplugs. They’re the easiest way to create an integrated network using your existing power lines within your house.
To setup a pair of Belkin’s Powerline homeplugs it’s incredibly simple. First, you connect one adapter to your existing router and then plug it into an available plug socket. Then you plug the second adapter into an available wall socket where you want the Internet; and then you connect the other end to a device with an available Ethernet. And that’s about it.

Almost every device – except mobiles of course – has an Ethernet port and quite often a wired connection is a lot more robust than a wireless connection. Homeplugs are ideal for devices that don’t move around a lot, so if you need to connect your Sky box to your router a homeplug would be a the ideal solution. The only downside is you’re placement is obviously dictated by where you have an available wall socket. But in theory you could run an extension cable into the garden and still get full-speed wired Internet. The great thing about homeplugs is they work alongside a normal router, so they’re there to supplement the system rather than replace it. So if you have a room that’s a nightmare for wireless signal, a pair of well-positioned homeplugs could be the answer to all your wireless woes.

Belkin offers an affordable range with their Powerline AV+ starter kit. You get two plugs and you can easily add more pairs to more rooms as you see fit. What’s great about this particular set is each homeplug comes with 3 extra ethernet ports allowing you to plug in multiple devices into each home plug. So it would be an ideal solution for a lounge where you might have several devices that need to be connected to the Internet but don’t get moved around all that often.

TRENDnet AC1750 Dual-Band Wireless Router

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If you have broadband you probably didn’t buy your own router. It’s a rare ISP these days that doesn’t chuck in a router for free when you sign up to a new contract. The trouble is that these free routers are often pretty basic models. Now that we have PCs, games consoles, tablets, ebook readers and smartphones all competing for bandwidth and we’re streaming audio and video in ever greater amounts, having a low-spec router means you may not be exploiting your Wi-Fi to its full potential.

Step forward TRENDnet with an answer to this problem in the form of its TEW-812DRU AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (catchy name, guys!). The AC1750 in the title refers to the fact that this router works in the conventional 450Mbps Wireless-N band and the latest 1,300Mbps Wireless-AC standard. Add the two together and you get 1,750 – clever, huh? Wireless-AC is still very new and not many devices support it but is expected to be widespread by 2015 so you’re buying a bit of future proofing.

What all this means in practice is that the TEW-812DRU can handle two wireless networks at the same time. Thus offering high speed streaming for devices that can it and a more conventional connection for older kit – it’s backward compatible with G, B and A standards.

That’s not all though, it comes packed with other clever technology too. Amplified wireless signals give extended range so you’ll no longer suffer signal loss in the east wing of your mansion. It also has something called ‘beamforming’ which directs the strongest signal to connected devices rather than broadcasting it out evenly. There’s a USB port to which you can attach a hard drive to create shared network storage or a printer to share across the LAN.

The TEW-812DU has all of the on-board security you need. It’s encrypted straight out of the box, has one-touch WPS connection, a built-in firewall, parental controls to limit access to selected sites or content types and the ability to create a secure, isolated guest connection.

At a penny under £150 this isn’t a cheap piece of kit and if you’re on an ADSL connection you’ll need a separate modem – cable and fibre users will have one already. But if you want fast Wi-Fi across multiple devices then there aren’t many alternatives with a similarly comprehensive feature set.

The TEW-812DRU costs £149.99 and is available now from Amazon, ebuyer.com and other retailers. For more information visit TRENDnet.

New Buffalo wireless networking range

Buffalo Technology, the dons in manufacturing of wired and wireless networking and network, have recently announced that the AirStation 1750 Wireless 802.11n+11ac Gigabit Dual Band Router WZR-D1800H-EU and AirStation 1300 Wireless 802.11n+11ac Gigabit Dual Band Media Bridge WLI-H4-D1300-EU wireless media bridge are now available for purchase from a selection of lucky online retailers. There’s some serious new kit here, people.

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Based on Broadcom’s 5G WiFi chips (first unveiled on the show floor at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas… someone get me an invite next year, yeah?), WZR-D1800H-EU and WLI-H4-D1300-EU offer speeds up to three times faster than 802.11n and are fully backward compatible with 802.11a, 11b, 11g and 11n to ensure interoperability with legacy devices. Nice!

Operating in the 5 GHz spectrum, 802.11ac offers transfer speeds up to 1300 Mbps, ideal for uninterrupted HD video streaming and concurrent Internet access. We do love uninterrupted streaming here, don’t you know?

Along with gigabit speeds, Buffalo’s 802.11ac products with improved radios feature improved reliability and produce better in-home coverage than at any other time for ultra-portable devices such as tablets and smart phones (for real!) along with traditional Windows/Mac clients. What’s more, as 5G WiFi reproduces into phones and tablets, the WZR-D1800H-EU will enable even better coverage as well as really fast download times, improving the battery life of all clients. Nifty.

“Buffalo is again the forerunner of wireless networking, delivering the world’s first WiFi router leveraging 802.11ac technology in a cost-effective, high performance package,” said Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo Technology. “Along with Broadcom, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to innovate by providing a no-compromise, future proof wireless infrastructure for consumers’ digital worlds.”

Perhaps the coolest thing about these models is their dependable nature; it’s all about the high quality signal for syncing between mobile devices, data-heavy streaming of HD movies from online services and everything in between. AirStation WZR-D1800H-EU boasts credible speeds of up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band, and it integrates a class leading 2.4 GHz 3×3 802.11n radio providing backward compatibility and offering speeds up to 450 Mbps. With a total aggregate wireless throughput up to 1750 Mbps across the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands, AirStation WZR-D1800H-EU allows customers an extra bit of breathing space away from the conventional networking restrictions of wired Ethernet cables and other radio activity, providing the ultimate in wireless performance.

Oh! Oh! And customers can now connect up to four network-enabled wired devices, such as media players and gaming consoles to their 802.11ac network; can’t forget that, now can we?! Equipped with two wireless radios, WLI-H4-D1300-EU supports 802.11ac and 802.11n, operating in the 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz spectrum. With four gigabit Ethernet ports and backward compatibility with 11a, 11b, 11g and 11n, WLI-H4-D1300-EU offers very good performance for high speed data streaming. We can dig that.

To learn more about 5G WiFi, please visit www.5GWiFi.org. For more information visit the Buffalo Technology website: http://www.buffalo-technology.com/en/

Cisco Cloud Connect and Smart WiFi: Routing for the little guy

I’m a self-confessed tech nerd (a real built-my-own-computer nerd not just a guy in thick glasses) but not even I can get excited about routers. I love everything to do with Internet but the mechanics of how it gets into my house don’t generally excite me. So when Cisco invited me to spend half an afternoon being wowed by the latest and greatest in routing technology I was worried that I might fall into an involuntary nap, never to recover.

How wrong I was. Cisco pooled their engineering might and did the unthinkable – made routers exciting.

 

Cisco-Universal-Media-Connector

Wifi is everywhere. Cisco expects that in 2016 there will be 19 billion connected devices globally and that 1.2 million minutes of video will be viewed online every second. I’ve spent the past few days setting up wifi scales, wireless speakers, TVs and more. Now granted I’m a tech journalist but these things will be worming their way into your living rooms soon. I’ve seen a wifi fridge with a touchscreen panel attached. The future is clearly on its way. But setting up wifi devices is a pain. It’s easy to get a laptop online but a speaker with zero buttons is much more fiddly. And with more and more strain being put on your one wifi you don’t want your bathroom scales slowing down your Netflix streaming.

Cisco have made all of this easier. The new Linksys Universal Media Connector makes it a doddle to connect wired devices such as Smart TVs and game consoles to Wi-Fi networks to enjoy the magic of streaming. The connector operates in the 5Ghz band and has four gigabit ports.

Cisco-Smart-Router

The new Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 has blazing fast AC technology but is backwards compatible with prior wireless networks and devices using 802.11a/b/g/n. The router contains six internal 3D antennae that are designed to insure the same performance whether placed on a desktop or mounted against the wall (apparently this was a popular configuration for people). And it still looks pretty slick.

Cisco showed off a SimpleTap function, enabling you to connect devices by swiping an NFC-enabled smart phone over an NFC tag to connect to the network (great if you want to hook people up to a guest network), and they are working to jam this into as much consumer tech as possible.

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This man is such a dull conversationalist, she’d rather tweak her home network settings.
Thanks to Cisco Connect Cloud … she can!

Even better was Cisco Connect Cloud, a cloud platform that has been designed to provide convenient anytime, anywhere access to the home network and its connected devices – from a web browser or mobile device. This means it’s easier than ever before for normal people to control their Internet service. Most routers have powerful QoS etc technology built in that are never used as it’s way too complicated. Cisco have “changed the game” in terms of opening up functionality to “civilians”. It’s easier for parents to hop in from their smartphone (Android or IOS) and block certain websites. You can also see various Internet services and throttle them or block them at certain times (“No Facebook till you finish your homework”) or make sure that your downloads in one room don’t get in the way if you suddenly want to stream a movie on Netflix.

The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 is targeted for availability in September at major retailers, as well as the Linksys online store. The Linksys Universal Media Connector is expected in October at the same outlets.

Create your own Hot Spot with the TL-MR3020 Portable 3G Wireless N Router

So imagine the scene, you’re hosting a stand at an exhibition, or you want to conduct a group seminar in the countryside, or better still, you’re on holiday and the whole family needs internet access. We’ve all been there, scrabbling around for a decent wifi connection or having to put up with sharing someone else’s notebook or iPhone.

TP-Link-3G

Now you can create your very own wi fi hot spot with TP-Link’s TL-MR3020 Portable 3G Wireless N Router. This highly compact router will share its internet connection at speeds up to 150 Mps once it’s connected to a 3G dongle modem, so no more searching around for a wi fi signal, create your own. The router has its own mini USB 2.0 slot for use as a power supply if needed and the router is fully  compatible with iPads, iTouche, Android Phones, Kindles and other portable Wi-Fi enabled devices.

Of course security is another issue to take care of and with the TL-MR3020’s One Button security setup, you simply press the WPS button and a WPA2 secure connection will be automatically established.

In a multi user environment you can also control how much band width is being used by each connected device, so little Johnny’s World of Warcraft session might just be sacrificed for the live footy.

All this internet connectivity for just £39.99 (excluding 3G dongle)

www.tp-link.com

Drobo & Pogoplug Collaboration: A Seamless Solution?

There is no escaping the fact that as our reliance on gadgets to execute work duties, be entertained and stay connected with people grows, so do our files and data, and whilst I have so far managed to avoid buying a ‘cloud data solution’, with so many files and data stored in my computers that I am actually causing them to run at probably a tenth of their potential efficiency, perhaps it is about time I transferred my data into a remote file access. Being on the lookout for such a device, I was therefore keen to write a piece on Drobo and Pogoplug’s solution to personal cloud storage with instant access to files anytime, anywhere.

Drobo-PogoPlug

In combining the knowledge of the award-winning data storage products for businesses and professionals, Drobo, with the experience of Pogoplug, another award-winning outfit for its creation of streaming and lining devices, one would expect Drobo and Pogoplug’s Personal Cloud solution to deliver the goods.

In using Pogoplug Cloud, users can transform their Drobo into a multi-terabyte private cloud. ‘Pogoplug, private cloud, multi-terabyte’, what does all this jargon actually all mean, we all cry?! Basically, the new co-created ‘Personal Cloud’ device provides secure and remote access for an entire digital library of documents, photos, music, games and movies. On top of providing a safe home for our precious digital data, the Personal Cloud also provides users with 10GB of free public cloud storage, meaning it is ideal for synching crucial files between Drobo and ‘the cloud’.

Shedding some much needed further light on, what we are assured is a ‘sophisticated yet easy-to-use and affordable solution for professionals and businesses,’ is Tom Buiocchi, CEO of Drobo, who said of his company’s latest storage creation:

“Small businesses, professionals, and consumers already store large collections of files on their Drobo. Adding remote access, media streaming and other cloud capabilities turns the Drobo into the ultimate personal cloud – combining the simple, reliable storage Drobo users have come to expect with the flexibility and freedom of the cloud.”

While I feel inclined to shop around a bit for my data storage solution, if the Drobo/Pogoplug partnership has convinced you, you’ll find more information about this ‘seamless hybrid cloud solution’ at: www.drobo.co.uk/pogoplug

Nokia and Spectrum Interactive now provide free wifi for London

Telecomms powerhouse Nokia, and Spectrum Interactive, the UK’s leading independent provider of Wi-Fi services, recently announced the first large scale trial of free Wi-Fi access in some of the busiest areas of the capital. Yep, that’ll be you then Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, Bayswater, Knightsbridge, Westminster, Sloane Square, Victoria, Marylebone, Mayfair and Lancaster Gate… phew. This is (believe it or not) the first ever public Wi-Fi scheme in the UK that’s specifically aiming to make it easier for people on the move to access online services for free.

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So what’s the big deal, then? If you’re in one of the above areas (the “special” ones focused on for the launch which took place on November 1) users do not need to register to use the service; they simply log-on to the network, accept the terms and conditions and browsing can begin immediately. How very nice?

The Wi-Fi network supports access speeds of up to 20Mbps via equipment installed in street-side phone boxes owned by Spectrum Interactive. Lovely. Net access is initially available for a trial period at 26 street hotspots from now until the end of 2011 and will test how consumers interact with the free Wi-Fi service. Following a successful trial, plans are in place for a large-scale roll-out across London from early 2012. Nifty.

Simon Alberga, Executive Chairman at Spectrum Interactive, commented: “While 4G mobile access is firmly on the horizon, Wi-Fi coverage currently fills a much needed niche between 3G mobile internet and home broadband. Tablets and mobile phones are capable of incredibly high-end browsing experiences now, but Wi-Fi access is often a requirement to support the tasks many of us want to be able to do on the move, such as uploading multimedia to Facebook or watching YouTube. It’s great to be able to implement a service that so many people will quickly come to regard as indispensable.”

The two-month trial (accessible right now, don’t forget) is intended to assess both the demand for free Wi-Fi access and the browsing behaviour of consumers using the service across the city. The findings will be used to determine the best locations for future hotspots and the necessary bandwidth to meet robust consumer demand.

Chris Bull, Founder of Selective Media continued: “Bringing together all the different parties involved in this rollout has been a fantastic experience. This is a service that Londoners need and want and Nokia and Spectrum Interactive make a great team. We look forward to working with Nokia moving forward on similar projects.”

For more information visit the Spectrum Interactive website: http://www.spectruminteractive.co.uk

AirTies: Hands on

Let’s face it: streaming video technology tends to be a bit crap. The problem is, manufacturers make bold claims such as a line-of-sight range of 50 metres. And then when you bring it home, you get two metres and a kick in the face (metaphorical).  We met the nice people at AirTies, who then promised us a streaming video range of 50m LOS. Uh-oh.

AirTies

And everything turned out okay. The range held up in our real-world conditions, and we were streaming. Proving the device isn’t useless, let’s talk about the features.

The wireless inside the system works in either 2.4 or 5 GHz – 802.1 1b/g/n. The company seemed particularly excited by the 5 GHz band. It allows high-speed 300 Mbps transfers, which means the three HD streams can travel across the device without losing any quality.

It also means that the already crowded 2.4 GHz network will not interfere with your streaming operations. It also means that you’re not at risk from microwave interference.

And even if you do choose to operate on a slower speed, AirTies has a unique software that detects interfering channels and cycles through alternatives until it finds the least crowded network. Due to 2ms buffer on video content, the routers can do this without interrupting the streaming content. From our tests, that’s entirely true.

Setup is simple. The Air 4420 routers (of which you get two in the Wireless Kit) have a one-touch network set-up. Plug one into your existing route, the other into your DLNA-compatible device, and push a button on each. That’s it. The routers will then talk to each other and create a secure WPA connection. There’s a web-interface to access this later, but you’ll probably never need to.

If you have trouble with the device’s range, and always buying more and create a mesh network, extending the range by another 50m LOS.

There’s even a USB port for plugging in a USB stick or external hard drive. Any files on the USB device can then be accessed remotely over network. Every AirTies box can have a different USB device, and it does the same for USB printers, too.  A DLNA streamer with a built-in Media Server? Sweet.

All-in-all, it’s a great offering. For £89.99, you can get your DLNA TV connected, hook up your console to the internet at speeds of 300Mbps and create your own media server (or two). Oh, and we got it working through 10M and two quite thick walls.