MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology uses multiple antennas to send and receive multiple signals simultaneously.
Setting up a wireless network in your home or office is practically a necessity when your PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet, printer, and TV all offer the ability to connect to the Web. Having everything networked together makes Web content readily available to each device, with the added benefit of simple file- and printer-sharing, audio/video streaming, and more. In this article we’ll provide some buying advice for those who are new to wireless networking or just looking to replace their old wireless routers.
802.11 Alphabet Soup
Every wireless router typically supports a handful of wireless standards, the earliest of which was 802.11a/b, for ranges and speeds up to 115 feet and 54/11Mbps (megabits per second), respectively. Today’s routers also support 802.11g and 802.11n. The latest standard, 802.11ac Draft (expected to be finalized in late 2012), supports the fastest speeds yet for consumer and business wireless routers, up to 866.7Mbps. Ranges on 802.11ac devices will likely be less than 802.11n-based routers, but many of these routers will have the ability to switch to a 2.4GHzbased 802.11g frequency to maintain a connection to devices outside of the 5GHz frequency band’s optimum range.
If you’ve ever bought a wireless router and found the actual range and the range listed on the box to be at odds, there’s a reason for that. The ranges listed on the box are often based on best-case scenarios, assuming few if any obstructions and zero interference. Your home or office is composed of various materials, some of which yield to wireless signals more easily than others. Other devices that use the same frequency can also cause interference, which cuts down on the effective range, as well. The best advice is simply to buy a router that has significantly more range than you think you need.
Don’t Sweat The Old Stuff
One of the things Wi-Fi does quite well is allow for backward compatibility. For instance, routers that support 802.11g also let you connect aging 802.11b devices. If you do connect an older device however, the drawback is that everything else connected to the router drops back to 802.11b’s maximum data rate of 11Mbps, regardless of each device’s native Wi-Fi protocol. So when you’re shopping, use the most common Wi-Fi protocol your devices support as a minimum requirement.
MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) is a technology commonly found on wireless routers that uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive multiple data streams simultaneously. For this reason, you may find routers that are capable of higher data rates than are possible on a router capable of communicating only with a single stream. 802.11n routers are capable of supporting up to four MIMO data streams. 802.11ac Draft routers can support up to eight. If data rate is important to you, look for a wireless router with MIMO technology.
Securing your wireless network should be one of the first things you do when you set up the wireless network. Thankfully, most routers for sale today make it easy to encrypt your network using WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security.
Many routers also support WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), which is a multi-mode technology that makes connecting devices to your secured wireless network very simple. PIN Mode lets you input the PIN located on a sticker on the router to connect a WPS-capable device. Pushbutton Mode works lets you press a button on both the router and the device to set up the connection. NFC Mode requires that you bring the connecting device within close range of the router. USB mode lets you use a USB flash drive to transfer settings. Each technology ensures that you don’t have to memorize a pass key, which makes connecting devices easy even for novice users.
Buy Better Wi-Fi
Buying a wireless router is like buying any other piece of technology: Make sure it has the power to handle what you do now, and a little extra to handle what you’ll be doing a year or two from now.