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Wired or Wireless?

I debated whether to have this section earlier in the article, since this seems like this decision is a major fork in the decision tree. But with most of the energy in consumer router design going into wireless routers, chances are you might end up with a wireless router, even if you don't need one. If that's the case, use the controls that most routers now include to shut off the wireless section, since you don't want unwelcome visitors on your network.

The selection of which wireless technology is the right one for you is outside the scope of this article (but it is covered here). I'll just give you the following pointers to tide you over in the meantime:

  •  Don't rush to buy a draft 11n router, especially if you have an investment in 802.11b/g devices and adapters. Unless you're upgrading from a very old 802.11b router, you won't see a significant improvement in range from draft 11n.

  • Don't buy a draft 11n router and then run a mix of draft 11n and 802.11b/g clients. The current crop of Draft 2.0 routers provide reduced performance for both 802.11n and b/g clients when running a mixed network. See this article for more details.

  • Wireless routers fall into three performance groups: plain 802.11b/g; "108 Mbps" b/g; and Draft 802.11n. In other words, while there are differences in performance among products in each of these categories, you'll see the biggest jump in performance when moving between groups.

    The "108 Mbps" routers actually use Atheros "Super G" chipsets and carry various vendor-specific branding. But it seems like manufacturers include "108 Mbps" somewhere in the product name or description, so look for that.

  • Don't buy "faster" wireless to speed up Internet-based applications unless your Internet connection can handle it. A big wireless "pipe", connected to a little Internet "pipe" won't do you any good for Internet use. It should, however, help speed local (LAN/WLAN) traffic.

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