General Question

jca's avatar

Is a cheap (like from Walmart) internet router as good as any other?

Asked by jca (29267 points ) March 24th, 2009

I need a router for my computer. does price matter as far as quality? or are they all the same?

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9 Answers

MrItty's avatar

The location you buy it from is irrelevant. What matters is the manufacturer.

A linksys router you buy at Wal*Mart is exactly the same as a linksys router you buy at Best Buy or from amazon.com

I would never go with a router that wasn’t either Linksys or Netgear. I guess maybe D-Link, if the price difference was really substantial. Anything else, I’d consider it too big a risk of being bad merchandise.

TenaciousDenny's avatar

I don’t know if this has any correlation, but I think I have a “cheap” internet router, and every once in a while my internet connection craps out, so I have to do the ol’ unplug, plug back in to get it working again. Since I’ve never had a “nice” router, I’m not sure if this is something all routers experience or just the cheap ones. Mine is a linksys router, though.

dynamicduo's avatar

@TenaciousDenny – I’ve had an expensive router and still had to unplug and replug. I think it’s just an inevitability.

As @MrItty says, you want to look at the brand, not the price. Go for a Linksys. They’re pretty solid. I highly do NOT recommend D-link based on personal experience.

StellarAirman's avatar

For years I would look at deal sites online or in the paper for a deal on the cheapest router I could find, usually a $30 – $50 Linksys/Netgear/D-Link. I’d constantly have dropped connections, sometimes even having it drop my internet when the cordless phone rang, or just having weird internet problems frequently. So I’d usually go buy another cheap router to replace the one I thought was broken. After doing that for years, I finally invested in an Airport Extreme from Apple, which is about $180 I think. But guess what, no more dropped connections, no more slow internet, no more trouble with interference, no more resetting the router (unless the internet actually does go out), plus better features like the ability to very easily share a printer or hard drive by plugging it into the router.

So, instead of spending $200 on 5 different routers over the years, I spent a little less than $200 on one good one and it’s been great so far. Your experience may vary of course, but for me it is worth it and I recommend getting a decent one rather than the cheapest you can find.

cwilbur's avatar

I’ve got an Airport Extreme and two Airport Expresses running my wireless network. They cost more altogether, but since I set them up, I haven’t had to fiddle with them at all. So yeah, I’d say that having to power-cycle the router is a sign that it’s a lesser quality router, but it’s your call to make as to whether the money you save is worth the hassle.

jca's avatar

Does it make a difference if it’s an “N” router or another kind? I just looked at Costco.com and Walmart.com just to see what they had. They had Linksys and Belkin and I think Netgear, but some had the letter next to the type. I am clueless!! Does it matter?

cwilbur's avatar

They’re different protocols with different maximum speeds. Some are not compatible with each other. The ones that have made it into production are 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n.

802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n are all somewhat compatible, in that any device capable of sending/receiving the later protocols can also send/receive the earlier protocols, but mixing devices on a network slows the overall network down to the speed of the slowest devices.

Most of the wireless access points you will find nowadays are likely to be 802.11g (introduced in 2003, according to Wikipedia), with 802.11n being the new thing. It does matter, because it influences how fast your network is, but it also influences how much it costs, so there’s a tradeoff.

StellarAirman's avatar

802.11n is the newest spec (actually not even fully ratified yet, the 802.11n products out now are based on the draft spec) and the fastest, with the longest range. 802.11g is the most popular currently, with 802.11b being mostly obsolete these days.

Some routers like the Airport Extreme and maybe one or two others broadcast both 802.11n on the 5ghz spectrum and 802.11b/g on the 2.4ghz spectrum at the same time, that way if you have a laptop connected with 802.11n it will get the full speed, and then if you connect a 802.11g device it will use the slower speed.

If you don’t have any devices that use 802.11n, then you could just get a 802.11g one.

Markyjean's avatar

stellar airman is right., you can follow him…

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