What Are the Most Important Wi-Fi Features?

By Joseph Moran

May 05, 2011

With 802.11n well established in the consumer marketplace, networking vendors are competing on features again. From detachable antennas to next-generation Internet support, here are the features you should be looking for.

Now that 802.11n is well established in the consumer marketplace, Wi-Fi router manufacturers are beginning to compete on features again. Compared to the earliest consumer models, Wi-Fi routers today have an astounding array of features that provide greater security, better performance, future-proofing technologies, and tools that make your networking experience more hassle-free.

In this Practically Networked overview of 10 Must-Have Features for Your Next Wi-Fi Router, Joe Moran catalogs some of the possibilities. According to Moran, dual-band wireless tops the list, providing access to clearer airspace that might help you with neighboring networks that harm your own network's performance with interference.

Other items on Moran's list include detachable antennas, which can improve your coverage or allow you to pinpoint areas with directional antennas; USB ports for do-it-yourself network storage or shared printers, IPv6 support, traffic meters to monitor how close you're getting to your ISP's bandwidth cap, and more.

Here are the first two items on the list. Make sure to read the rest at Practically Networked:


1. Dual-band Wi-Fi

These days, the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi airspace is more crowded than a Denny's on Free Breakfast Day. Wi-Fi's 2.4 GHz band only offers three non-overlapping wireless channels, so unless you live in the middle of a corn field, there's a good chance your Wi-Fi network is using the same frequencies as the other wireless networks closest to you, often resulting in interference and performance problems.

That's why having a router that does both 2.4 and 5 GHz 802.11n can be a real boon. Use of the 5 GHz band is less commonplace, and the band itself is provides much more elbow room -- its 8 available wireless channels are enough for adjacent networks to operate without stepping on each other. The only catch: You'll need wireless devices (or adapters) that also support the 5 GHz band. Also, a few routers are capable of 2.4 or 5 GHz operation; make sure you choose one that can handle both simultaneously.

2. Guest wireless network

If you frequently let visitors use your wireless Internet connection, having a router that offers a guest network lets you do more conveniently and securely. Your visitors will get their own SSID to connect to, and you can isolate it from your main network, ensuring that outsiders won't have access to local network resources such as PCs and printers. You can even configure independent security settings on a guest network (e.g. WPA for your guests, WPA2 for you) or leave it off entirely -- though we don't recommend that.

Read "10 Must-Have Features for Your Next Wi-Fi Router" at Practically Networked



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