It's been a little over four years since our first Hardware Router Need to Know and while a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. On the change side, prices have come down to the point where there's no excuse for not having a router if you have a broadband connection. You can even find some products in "blister-pack" form hanging near checkout lanes to encourage impulse buying. And while some vendors like UMax and Nexland have left the business, there have been plenty of new entrants such as Trendnet, Zonet, CNet (is there a trend here?) to take their places.
On the "stay the same" side, router buyers are still plauged by routers that frequently drop connection, reboot mysteriously, overheat and generally make owners regret their purchase. Official vendor support is still a hit-or-miss proposition, with many users taking their problems to fellow users in online forums, rather than endure hour-long waits to end up speaking with someone who is barely understandable.
In spite of these hassles, there is still no better way to share a broadband (or even dialup) Internet connection than by using a hardware router. Today's consumer-grade routers continue to provide a lot of bang for the buck, and both enable more than one computer to use a single Internet connection, while protecting those computers from some of the dangers of a full-time direct Internet connection.
This article will help you understand the features of these beasties, untangle some of the confusing terminology that some manufacturers use, and figure out what the "must-have" features are for your situation.
Let's get started!
Tip: If you already know the ins and outs of hardware routers, then hop over to our Hardware Router Chart to see how products compare with multiple benchmark tests.