What separates business routers from consumer routers?

Small-business owners shopping for a new router should avoid the flashy new 802.11ac models. Here's why.

By Michael Brown, PC World |  Networking, routers

The industry refers to this class of router as "N600," but the term is misleading because it implies that routers in this class can stream data at 600 mbps. They can't. The N600 claim comes from summing the speeds of the two concurrent but independent 300-mbps networks. You'll never be able to connect a client to either network and expect it to stream data at 600 mbps, nor can you connect a single client to both networks simultaneously.

Move up the consumer market to the $200 price range, and you'll see more-advanced dual-band routers from the same manufacturers. These devices come outfitted with 3x3 antenna arrays and promise a theoretical throughput of 450 mbps on each band. Routers in this class are often described as "N900" models; here again, however, it's not because they can deliver throughput to a single client at 900 mbps. Typically these routers are also outfitted with a four-port ethernet switch, but they support wired connections at gigabit speeds, versus the 100-mbps switches on less-expensive routers.

The IEEE 802.11ac wireless networking standard isn't likely to be ratified before early 2013, but that hasn't stopped router manufacturers from introducing routers based on the latest draft definition. We saw a similar pattern of events when the 802.11n standard was being finalized.

Only two such routers are on the market right now: The Buffalo WZR-D1800H arrived first, followed by the Netgear R6300. Both manufacturers are aiming their products squarely at consumers, emphasizing the devices' ability to stream media. Thanks to a much-improved modulation scheme, 802.11ac routers can pack more data into each spatial stream: 450 mbps, versus 150 mbps for 802.11n. An 802.11ac router with a 3x3 antenna array can deliver a theoretical throughput up to 1300 mbps (1.3 gigabits per second). Buffalo, for one, is marketing its product as an "AC1300" router.

Since there's an outside chance that these products will be incompatible with equipment based on the final standard, we don't recommend buying such devices for your business.

Next Page: Common Features in Consumer Routers

Consumer-Router Features

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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