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Why should I invest in more than the cheapest router at Walmart?

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May 9, 2013 8:58:05 AM

Just set up internet in my new place and the cable guy recommended I go grab the cheapest router at Walmart. I was going to follow his advice but when I got to the router section and saw all the options I couldn't make up my mind. Some advertised "support for both desktops and laptops" (don't they all do that...?), others offered MIMO, and every $20 price increase promised higher GHz, more Mbps, and more bells and whistles. My goal is lagless high speed wireless internet for gaming on a laptop one floor above the chosen router. I will usually be sharing this wireless with my sister's desktop, also one floor above the router, which made MIMO sound potentially appealing.

My setup is a cable modem plugging into the router on the first floor, with a direct ethernet connection to a desktop. Wireless is required for second floor access with one laptop, one desktop, and occasionally a few handheld devices. I was looking at various Belkin routers at Walmart but the internet has recommended I avoid Belkin like the plague. Does Tom's recommend another brand?
May 9, 2013 9:03:41 AM

"Supports Laptops and Desktops" is just that crappy lamens marketing. Surprised it doesnt also say "HD web speeds"

Things you have to consider are the bands it operates on g/b/n, broadcast strength (does it have external antennas) etc
a b 4 Gaming
May 9, 2013 9:10:04 AM

Only thing is some have G/B/N so N is fastest, G is next then B. If you have a G network adapter then you don't need N, but it is backward compatible so I would get the N.
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May 9, 2013 9:10:46 AM

AntaresX said:
Just set up internet in my new place and the cable guy recommended I go grab the cheapest router at Walmart. I was going to follow his advice but when I got to the router section and saw all the options I couldn't make up my mind. Some advertised "support for both desktops and laptops" (don't they all do that...?), others offered MIMO, and every $20 price increase promised higher GHz, more Mbps, and more bells and whistles. My goal is lagless high speed wireless internet for gaming on a laptop one floor above the chosen router. I will usually be sharing this wireless with my sister's desktop, also one floor above the router, which made MIMO sound potentially appealing.

When you start adding 'floors' to the equation then often the cheapest routers don't have enough transmit power to get a reliable and fast signal through the floors and walls. MIMO is good, and long range is also good.
My setup is a cable modem plugging into the router on the first floor, with a direct ethernet connection to a desktop. Wireless is required for second floor access with one laptop, one desktop, and occasionally a few handheld devices. I was looking at various Belkin routers at Walmart but the internet has recommended I avoid Belkin like the plague. Does Tom's recommend another brand?


May 9, 2013 9:13:11 AM

...and a good router shouldn't introduce much (if any) latency to your network. It however wont be any better than directly connecting to your modem
May 9, 2013 9:15:12 AM

Even the slowest router should have more bandwidth than your internet connection, so the speed doesn't really matter. The only thing the pricier setups get you is longer range (from the MIMO and such). When you say one floor above, do you mean directly above, or above and a distance off to the side.
a b 4 Gaming
May 9, 2013 9:17:31 AM

cctmsp13 said:
Even the slowest router should have more bandwidth than your internet connection, so the speed doesn't really matter. The only thing the pricier setups get you is longer range (from the MIMO and such). When you say one floor above, do you mean directly above, or above and a distance off to the side.


Not really true. I have a Docsis 3 connection at 60up/2down and my old router couldn't handle the traffic and needed to be reset 20 times a day. CPU was too slow to handle it. Had to get a mid range router to handle the speed.
May 9, 2013 9:20:57 AM

60up and 2 down, thats crappy lol
May 9, 2013 9:22:14 AM

getochkn said:
cctmsp13 said:
Even the slowest router should have more bandwidth than your internet connection, so the speed doesn't really matter. The only thing the pricier setups get you is longer range (from the MIMO and such). When you say one floor above, do you mean directly above, or above and a distance off to the side.


Not really true. I have a Docsis 3 connection at 60up/2down and my old router couldn't handle the traffic and needed to be reset 20 times a day. CPU was too slow to handle it. Had to get a mid range router to handle the speed.


Where I live, 3Mbps DSL is common, and even cable doesn't go over ~15. Walmart has gone all n for routers, so thats 150 Mbps, but I guess you may need a faster router if you have a unusually fast cable connection

May 9, 2013 9:24:33 AM

spat55 said:
Only thing is some have G/B/N so N is fastest, G is next then B. If you have a G network adapter then you don't need N, but it is backward compatible so I would get the N.


At least one of my network adapters is N, so I will see if I can find an affordable N router. Is this going to provide faster wireless speeds though, or just faster LAN? I don't intend to use the LAN for much of anything.
May 9, 2013 9:27:45 AM

Bands do nothing for LAN speeds
May 9, 2013 9:28:21 AM

cctmsp13 said:
Even the slowest router should have more bandwidth than your internet connection, so the speed doesn't really matter. The only thing the pricier setups get you is longer range (from the MIMO and such). When you say one floor above, do you mean directly above, or above and a distance off to the side.


Both the laptop and desktop on the second floor will be above and about 10 feet off to the side in two different directions.

So far I've gathered that I should be looking for an N router with external antennae and MIMO. Are all brands equal? The options I remember off the top of my head were Belkin, Linksys, Netgear, probably something else too.

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a b F Wireless
May 9, 2013 10:32:06 AM
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Cheap router are just that cheap. When you buy an el Cheapo router remember that the next time someone is watching Netflix in the room next door while you are gaming. Ever hear about bufferbloat? An el cheapo will keep you pounding your head against the wall.........As to MFG's? I've installed literally thousands and been on the hook to replace them if they went down, top of the list to crap out was hands down Belkin, then DLink, Netgear and finally LinkSys.
LinkSys was the most sensitive to unstable power but at least they were recoverable!!! I managed an office building's IT infrastructure and clients. I kept records on what failed. If a tenant had the router plugged directly into the wall bad things would happen and I would reset the LinkSys router and have a 99.8% chance of recovery. Beklin was near 21% of being recoverable.

In order of favorable routers were:

1) LinkSys (Cisco)
2) Netgear( I actually like their functionality better than LinkSyS but walking a customer through it was harder)
3) Dlink- ( Make great AP's but routers...not so much)
4) Belkin- Cheap low

I've set up higher end products but I was only including what is sold at local retail shops in the area
a b 4 Gaming
a c 87 F Wireless
May 9, 2013 12:58:23 PM

Not sure you will see a huge difference between the brands. When you look them up on the FCC site almost every router either has a atheros or broadcom chips in them. Many times the exact same chip. Even within a vendor line they have garbage and good stuff.

Don't get real hung up on antenna and mimo and such. You can't use feature like mimo unless you nic in your machine also supports it. That said 802.11n routers that can do 150m are very cheap so I would set that as you minimum. If you want the mimo that is normally called 300m on the box.

Belkin does seem to have more complaints than others mostly about total failures. They may not have as good quality control on their hardware. Speed and performance I suspect will be similar to other brands in the same class....again because the radio chips are the same in many routers. Still if it was only $5 or $10 more to get a different brand than belkin I would.

May 9, 2013 6:26:38 PM

Thank you everyone for your help. I ended up picking the Netgear N300. It's working perfectly with a very strong signal.
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