Home Wireless Router Rant

What do you look for in a home wireless router?

I was at Fry’s Electronics the other day, in the home wireless router section, trying to pick up an Access Point to extend a network.  While I was there, a man walked into the aisle and asked for help.  The employee responded, “Are you looking for range, speed, or price?”  Fair question–those are the three main things that people look for when choosing a wireless router.  But I realized that while I wanted all of those things, the feature I wanted most was stability.

Home routers are so inexpensive these days, because the margins are thin and the competition is high.  So they are often tempted to cut corners here and there, and the resulting products are prone to rebooting, or disconnecting in various ways that leave users frustrated.

Stability is a metric that you can’t write on a box, and who would believe the marketing anyway?  There is no quantifiable way to measure stability that the industry would agree on.  And at this point, they would like to pretend a problem doesn’t exist.  But it does.

To see how pervasive the problem is, ask yourself, how often do I have to reboot my router?  At work, we have industry standard Cisco routers.  They cost hundreds of dollars apiece, but you never have to reboot them.  They just work.  Here’s a sample of uptime from one of our longer running access points: uptime is 1 year, 36 weeks, 2 days, 13 hours, 54 minutes.

And yet, we get used to these cheap pieces of junk that have to be rebooted every week or so just to keep us connected.  Maybe not everyone has experienced the problems.  They certainly don’t happen for every wireless router, but they happen enough that I would love to have some place where people’s experiences with good routers can be documented.  Therefore, this blog page is dedicated to routers that work, that are stable, and that provide the performance necessary to do the job of keeping you connected to the internet.  Since 802.11N routers are available, we can limit the discussion to them–although I think it is harder to find good routers now than it used to be.

So, I’ll start off the list:

Netgear WNR2000 (N300) – I installed this router in two places now, and am very happy with it.  It runs at my church and I haven’t had to reboot it yet.

Cisco 1100 and 1242 – These are actually G, and they are only Access Points so you need a separate firewall router, but they are SOLID.  So I just have to recommend them.

Anyone care to add their good experiences to the list?  If you want to also chime in with routers to avoid, feel free, but I think we can easily fill pages with those.

One Reply to “Home Wireless Router Rant”

  1. The Apple Airport Extreme was fairly stable when it first came out. After a few FW updates, it seems to be rock solid. Just sits there heating its little corner of the room.

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