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Top 5 Best Wireless Routers of 2012

By Sandra Parker

wireless routerWith all the wireless capable devices available, you simply have no option but to go wireless by adding a router to your home network. The wireless router is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment you will ever buy when it comes to your network, as it is what interconnects all of your devices, as well as keeps you connected to the Internet. Picking the wrong device can compromise the security of your personal information or subject you to an extremely slow Internet connection.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of great wireless routers available – and most are available for $200 or less.

The Basics of Wireless

While a dual band router (one that can capture both a 5GHz and 2.4GHz signal) will give you greater flexibility as to which devices you can connect to your network, they are often more expensive than a single band router. At 2.4GHz, a single band router is often adequate, especially if you don’t reside in a Wi-Fi signal-heavy area.

Another consideration is whether to go with a G or an N device. G devices work well if you are simply looking to browse the Internet, send emails, and play a few Facebook games. However, you should definitely stick with an N router if you plan on doing much else, such as stream HD video or play more complex online games. N routers offer better coverage and speed.

And then, of course, there are mobile wireless “hotspots.” A hotspot is a Wi-Fi signal that allows you to access the Internet wirelessly, usually via the conversion of a cellular signal. You won’t need to concern yourself about it being an N or a G, but rather the cellular service speed and data allowances.

Best Wireless Routers

1. Clear Spot Voyager

4G (fourth generation) cellular mobile communications, is all the rage when it comes to cellular Internet connectivity. The faster speeds make downloading files, accessing websites, and even playing games almost instantaneous. 4G hotspots create a Wi-Fi access point wherever you are by converting a cellular signal into a Wi-Fi-enabled network. The Clear Spot Voyager creates a Wi-Fi connection point for up to eight devices wherever there is a cellular signal.

Price: $125

Pros:

  • Portable Signal. This device is designed to be portable. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to connect to any Internet-capable device.
  • 4G Accessibility. You can access all the benefits of 4G technology if you are in a 4G-enabled area.
  • Long Battery Life. The battery life is extra lengthy, so it’s great to take camping or to the beach.
  • Cheap Unlimited Data Plans. You don’t have to use the data plan that comes with your mobile phone service. You can get an affordable unlimited data plan ($35 per month) directly from Clear.
  • Laptop Modem Capability. If, for some reason, your laptop computer doesn’t have an Internet Wi-Fi receiver, the device will actually take on this function and become an Internet modem by simply connecting it to an open USB port - all the while still providing support for up to seven more devices.
  • No Contract. You can pay as you go and drop the service with no penalty if you decide that you either don’t want it or can’t afford it.

Cons:

  • No 3G Support. This device does not support 3G or Wireless N technology, nor does it have text messaging capabilities. This means that if you are not in a 4G coverage area, this device is useless to you. This is why I haven’t purchased it yet. However, if you don’t have 4G where you are, be patient. You will soon.
  • Poor Battery Life Gauge. I wish that Clear had added a better battery life gauge. The battery lasts about seven hours, but it’s hard to remember how much time you’ve used if you use the device over a span of a few days.
  • No Automatic Sleep Mode. Unless you turn the device off, the battery will just slowly drain, regardless of whether or not you are actually using it.

This is a great little device if you are in a 4G coverage area. The price for both the device and the monthly unlimited data plan are far better than most other devices out there.

clear spot voyager

2. Amped Wireless High Power Wireless N Router

Amped Wireless made some pretty broad claims with this particular router, claiming that it could cover roughly 10,000 square feet of space, or about 10 times the size of an average apartment. But believe it or not, the Amped Wireless High Power Wireless N Router actually delivers on this tall promise, and provides a number of other perks.

Price: $140

Pros:

  • Strong Signal Strength. Signal strength is the main claim to fame for this device. It is able to produce a usable Wi-Fi signal across one of the largest areas I’ve seen out of any router. This alone makes it the preferred choice for office buildings or other large spaces.
  • Flexible Mounting Options. The Amped Wireless router can be placed on a tabletop or mounted on a wall.
  • Easy Set Up. The device comes preprogrammed with a wireless network and encryption, so basically all you need to do to set up this device is plug it in and follow the prompts on your screen. This is great for people looking to go wireless for the first time.

Cons:

  • Single Band Router. This is a single band router, so devices that are hard programmed to only receive a 5Ghz signal will not recognize this router’s signal. This can mean trouble for a couple of your devices, but for the most part shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Overheating Issues. The router also seems to have some trouble with running hot. This can make placement a little tougher since you have to make sure that it gets plenty of air circulation. Plus, there is a possibility that it could overheat at some point, causing damage to vital internal parts.

This particular model is a good at-home router or small business router where its long range can be utilized. Its low cost and easy set-up make it ideal for first-time users.

amped wireless high power wireless-n router

3. D-Link Amplifi HD Media Router 2000 DIR-827

The D-Link Amplifi HD Media Router 2000 DIR-827 made its debut at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and was well-received. What makes it a standout performer among its peers is something called HDFuel, which makes this router the ideal router for streaming HD media from the Internet onto a host of Wi-Fi enabled devices. But that’s not all it can do.

Price: $140

Pros:

  • True Dual Band Router. This is a true dual band wireless router, so you should have no problems connecting any of your devices.
  • Smart Traffic Routing. It has feature add-ons, which enable it to prioritize Internet traffic so that HD streaming, VoIP, or Internet telephone service and online gaming gets the bandwidth it needs to function flawlessly.
  • Guest Network Capability and Parental Control Functionality. This router includes a few other extra functions. You have the ability to set up a guest network, which ensures that your network password remains secure, and you can use OpenDNS parental controls, which allows you to control accessible content.

Cons:

  • Firmware Bugs. Because this is a new device, you should expect some bugs in the firmware (the operating system) on the router. These will likely be resolved over time, so keeping your firmware updated will ensure that you get the fixes as soon as they are released.
  • Poorer 2.4GHz Performance. Its performance on the 2.4GHz side is a little shaky. You may have some trouble getting a 2.4GHz device to connect or remain connected to the Internet, though this could just be a firmware bug, and may be resolved with subsequent updates.

This is a really nice, true dual band router that has some neat features, like Internet traffic prioritization, that will enhance your online experience. It is priced extremely competitively, so if you are in the market for a new router, this might be the one you are looking for, especially if you like HD streaming or have Internet phone service like Vonage.

d-link amplifi hd media router 2000 dir-827

4. Cisco Linksys E4200 v2 Maximum Performance Dual Band N900 Router

This is the second generation router in the Cisco Linksys E4200 lineup. Though it looks much like its predecessor, the v2 has some important upgrades that make it a better choice, such as up to 450 Mbps (megabits per second) on both bands, and the ability to host up to 50 guest devices at a time.

Price: $200

Pros:

  • True Dual Band Router. As with the D-Link above, this is a true dual band router, so device connection shouldn’t be an issue at all.
  • Fast Download Speeds. The router provides very fast download speeds thanks to the 450 Mbps capable processor and the ability to get up to 1,000 Mbps using the Gigabit Ethernet wired connection.
  • External Hard Drive Connectivity. You can connect an external hard drive to the USB port for fast data transfers.
  • Easy-to-Use Software. This device includes a great software package that will assist even the most technologically challenged users in setting up a secure home or office network.

Cons:

  • Software Configuration Issues. Setup is a little more complicated that I would have expected it to be. The included software couldn’t handle configuring all of the settings on the router, and furthermore, you need a live Internet connection in order to complete the setup process.

This is a great upgrade to any first generation router, and even makes a good first-time router for just about any home or small office application. This router has an easy-to-use desktop application that allows you to configure it easily and quickly.

cisco linksys e4200 v2 maximum performance dual band n900 router

5. Asus RT N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless N Router

Asus is making its way to the top of a lot of “best of” lists when it comes to consumer electronics, and wireless routers are no exception. The Asus RT N56U offers fast speeds, great coverage, and easy set-up, all at a great price.

Price: $125

Pros:

  • Small Design. It makes sense to mention that this router is on the smaller side, so it fits well in just about any nook or cranny, which is a step up from last year’s bulky model.
  • Good Performance. This model includes stellar 5GHz performance in terms of both speed and connectivity.
  • Strong Signal Strength and Easy Set Up. It has a strong, far-reaching signal, making it a great choice for larger spaces, and is easily set up and configured from an intuitive web-based portal.

Cons:

  • Web Portal Issues. The only thing I don’t like about the web portal is the amount of time it takes to save any changes to the configuration.
  • Slower Download Speeds. You cannot download files at 450 Mbps.

This is a nice dual band router that can be easily incorporated into just about any home or office setting. It doesn’t give you 450 Mbps speed of other models, but it’s extremely cheap – you have to decide which is most important: price or speed?

asus rt n56u dual-band gigabit wireless n router

Final Word

It is relatively easy and inexpensive to set up a wireless network in your home. Buying a quality router will ensure that you have the connectivity you need for all of your devices, not just your laptop or desktop computers.

What wireless routers do you prefer?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

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