Before You Buy a Home Broadband Router

pregnant woman using laptop
Marc Romanelli/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Broadband routers are the central feature of many home networks. These routers support sharing of most kinds of Internet connections. They also include various network security features like firewall capability. They may look like commodities, but don't blindly grab the first one you see; the hottest selling routers aren't necessarily the best products or the right ones for you. Here are a few points to consider before making your purchase.

Wired or Wireless

All major broadband router manufacturers offer both wired and wireless Ethernet products. Price differences between the two have shrunk considerably in the past year. However, to go wireless, each home computer requires special network adapters that are not cheap. If you do go wireless, keep in mind the popular 802.11b wireless Ethernet standard is being phased out in favor of 802.11g.

Port Configuration

Entry-level wired broadband routers feature four ports for connecting four home computers. Four ports may not be adequate to support larger families or neighborhood get-togethers like "LAN parties." Five-port models add an extra "uplink" port that allows you to expand your network later, and to support a mix wired and wireless computers. Eight-port routers are best if you need the extra capacity now.

"Killer" Brands of Broadband Routers

The many brands of broadband routers vary greatly in their pricing, reputation for quality manufacturing, warranty terms, technical support, and aesthetic "look and feel." There is no one "killer brand" for home broadband routers. When choosing a product, factor in the opinions of friends and coworkers who already own a broadband router. Beware of false claims from strangers on the Internet.