Tech

This is what to consider if you're thinking of buying a router

Most Internet service providers supply a router as part of the package, but if you decide to purchase one of your own, there are a few things to bear in mind.

A router is a device that sets up a DSL or WiFi Internet connection and then distributes data between different devices.

Before you buy one, you should ask yourself a few questions. For example, how far does the WiFi have to reach? Will several family members be streaming films at the same time? And how important is it to have a telephone connection?

The device should, of course, support wi-fi, as well as certain frequency standards, says Thorsten Neuhetzki, from the German technology website teltarif.de. “It’s better if the router supports dual-band WiFi, so 2.4 and 5 gigahertz (GHz), as well as wireless AC,” he says.

The two frequency ranges have different advantages – one has a wider range, the other is faster. Dual-band combines both.

Additional functions include the ability to connect USB sticks or network hard drives. Some routers can even be used to control smart home heating thermostats.

There are also additional telephone features available, says Robert Spanheimer from German IT federation Bitkom: “Some devices offer an answering machine or support cordless phones.” These extra features will generally cost more.

Neuhetzki advises customers to inspect the generally no-frills routers that come with an Internet service provider deal, paying particular attention to whether they support wi-fi.

However, Bitkom says that these basic routers are generally adequate for average users. “It depends on what the router is needed for,” Spanheimer says.

In a test of routers, German consumer goods tester Stiftung Warentest found that for surfing the internet, a basic router is adequate.

If you’re looking for more than a bread-and-butter device, you’re better off buying your own rather than using what the service provider supplies. On the other hand, if the service provider’s router breaks down, the replacement will be covered.

Second-hand routers are an option if you want to save money, but caution is advised. “Used cable routers can be a problem if the MAC address is still stored for the old customer by the vendor,” says Neuhetzki. The device may also not be up to date in terms of standards and settings.

However, it can be worthwhile to buy a cheap or second-hand router to serve as a temporary backup in case your primary router breaks down. — dpa