Which Router Should You Buy, and How Much Speed Do You Need?
As time goes on, our professional and personal lives are becoming more and more dependent on fast, reliable Internet. Whether you’re working from home, sitting back to vaguely pay attention to the show you’re streaming while you play with your phone, or getting ready for raid night with your friends, a speedy, dependable internet connection is how it all gets done. But what kind of connection is right for you? What hardware do you need, and how fast should your service be?
Hardware Made Easy
Your Internet service provider (ISP) will usually loan you a modem and router when you subscribe to the service. The modem is what receives the internet service from your provider, and the router is what spreads it around your space, allowing your devices to connect. Some providers will give you an all-in-one modem and router combination, some will give you a separate modem and router, and some providers add a small charge to your bill every month for the hardware they’re loaning you.
Often, ISPs will let you use your own compatible hardware so long as it’s on the provider’s approved list. Maybe you want to save a few bucks from the hardware loan charge, or maybe your provider’s hardware doesn’t quite fit your needs. Here are the important specs to consider when shopping for your own modem and router:
- LAN (local area network) ports: If you need your connection to be as fast and reliable as possible (reaching the ceiling of your plan), you’ll likely want a hardwired connection for the devices on which you want that speed and reliability. If, for example, you’re playing online games or regularly transferring files, you’ll want your router to have enough LAN ports to accommodate the devices on which you play games and transfer files. You may also want to hardwire older devices to your router’s LAN ports – like a printer you might’ve been using for years -- as they sometimes don’t have reliable wireless capabilities.
- USB ports: Another way to connect devices, often used to set printers up on a network so various devices can access them. You can also connect compatible storage devices to transfer files throughout the network, which includes setting up a media server to stream media to your devices.
- Multi-band WiFi settings: There are typically two-band settings, one at 2.4GHz (gigahertz) and one at 5Ghz (not to be confused with 5G cellular networks). 2.4Ghz is a little slower but provides a larger coverage area, while 5Ghz is faster but doesn’t reach as far. Some older devices can only connect to 2.4GHz, while newer devices can often access both. There are also newer tri-band routers that have one 2.4GHz band along with two 5GHz bands.
If you’re shopping for your own hardware, some reliable brands to check out are Netgear and Linksys, who basically built their reputation with modems and routers, or you can go with offerings from some of the more household names, like Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google, and Asus. Optimum provides their own modem/router combination for your Internet service!
Wondering when to upgrade to WiFi 6?
WiFi 6’s major strength lies in being able to efficiently handle multiple simultaneous connections. If your digital life revolves around WiFi 6-compatible devices and they’re feeling sluggish sometimes, then upgrading to a WiFi 6 router could be worth it. If your digital life is running smoothly, then it might be best to upgrade to WiFi 6 naturally, for example, the next time you get the newest compatible phones or add more compatible devices on your network.
If you’re specifically looking for WiFi 6 routers, all major router manufacturers – like Netgear, Linksys, Asus, and D-Link, to name a few – make routers that support WiFi 6.
How Much Speed Do You Need?
Back in 2015, the FCC updated its definition of broadband to be connections rated of at least 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. While these speeds are a noticeable increase from the FCC’s previous definition of 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads, they won’t necessarily be enough for modern-day needs. From streaming 4K media to playing online games, many people prefer – or even need – a faster connection, but what speed is right for you? Find out what your Internet speed is by checking out Optimum's Internet speed test page.
Let’s Talk About Latency
The time it takes for data to transmit from your device to a server and back is called latency, and the data’s round trip is referred to as a ping. Press the jump button in an online game, and depending on the type of connection the game is using, that jump signal will be sent either to a central server for everyone in the game to see or directly to the peer you’re playing with for them to see. The speed of a ping will be representative of how fast your input makes it into the game. Generally, a great ping is 10 milliseconds (or less!), whereas a ping of over 100 milliseconds will create lag, causing your inputs to take longer to register in game, as well as causing other players’ inputs to take longer to reach you. We wrote an article that takes a deeper dive into Latency here.
Go at Your Own Speed
Nowadays, a single user with modern needs – streaming HD content, playing games, or working from home – will be able to meet those needs with a speed of around 100 Mbps. Once you start adding multiple users, or simply multiple devices simultaneously using the internet, you’d likely want a higher broadband connection, usually 200 Mbps or more. If you’re getting into some heavy usage – lots of users and devices, frequent large file transfers, streaming on game-streaming platforms, and so on – you might want to upgrade to even faster speeds.
Whether you’re streaming online games, hosting video calls for work, or simply binge watching and streaming your favorite TV shows, Optimum now offers WiFi 6 to make sure you get the internet service you need at competitive prices.