While you can usually bring home the company laptop, other office equipment and the Wi-Fi is not as portable. Moreover, having 2 or more adults trying to WFH on the existing Wi-Fi (along with kids trying to do Home-Based Learning) can feel like trying to put out a fire with a soda straw.
One major misconception is that our Internet Service is slow or unreliable. Most people are already on a 500mbps plan which is already blazing fast for up to 5 users. However, they are still using the stock router given for free by their ISP (Internet Service Provider) when signing up for their broadband plan. These home routers are free for a reason. They tend to have poor Wi-Fi connectivity using their smaller internal antennae and they also struggle when more than one laptop is connected to it.
Things To Look Out For When Choosing A Wi-Fi Router
The two main reasons why your stock router tends to perform poorly, and your internet connection suffers are also the two key factors that you should look out for when choosing a good Wi-Fi Router.
ISP-provided routers ship with lower speed processors. The router’s job is to send and receive data packets from devices, some of which will be lost. A router with a slow processor will take longer to determine which packet was lost and re-transmit it. While this is happening, all other devices are basically queueing up and waiting while the router is performing this task.
When the whole family is home, multiple devices per person (one laptop/computer/Tablet/TV plus phone) would likely be connected. In addition, many homes now feature smart devices that are constantly connected to the internet. For a stock router with lower speed processors, this can lead to delays or lag.
Look for a router with at least a 1.0GHz dual-core processor. This will enable the whole family to fully utilise your internet connection across multiple devices.
A weak Wi-Fi signal not only means poor range/coverage, but it also means more lost packets, making the router processor work harder. The latest Wi-Fi 6(802.11AX) protocol is recommended because it is optimised for multiple devices. This will be useful for people who have smart home devices set up, or simply have larger families.
However, higher-end Wi-Fi 5 routers which have beefier processors can still serve your household well, and currently, the second-hand market is being flooded with cheap high-end Wi-Fi 5 routers since people are upgrading to Wi-Fi 6.
Where range and coverage is concerned, more and bigger antennae is better because more antennae means being able to send signals to more devices simultaneously, or being able to use beamforming to focus the Wi-Fi signals to your devices.
Look for a router with at least 4 antennae, at least a Wi-Fi 5 specification and preferably with beamforming support.
Now, armed with these two specifications in mind, here are some recommended routers for robust internet at home:
#1 ASUS RT-AC88U
Processor: 1.6GHz dual core processor
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) – 2.4GHz (up to 1000Mbps), 5GHz (up to 2167 Mbps). Beamforming supported.
The RT-AC88U was a top-end router from ASUS featuring a beefy 1.6GHZ dual core processor. While it is a Wi-Fi 5 device, it is capable of streaming multiple videos without having to stop for buffering.
For people living in houses with multiple floors, this device can be used as an ASUS-proprietary AiMesh node. It needs to be used with another ASUS router, but AiMesh allows ASUS routers to work in tandem connected wirelessly or by ethernet cable. The beauty of AiMesh is that only one SSID is broadcasted by all nodes. The system detects the nearest node and switches between nodes automatically, so you can walk around your house without having to manually reconnect to the router on a different level.
Overall, this router is a great buy considering that many are selling it secondhand for just $80-100 on Carousell, a big discount if you buy it firsthand on Lazada for $226.55.
#2 TP-Link Archer AX50
Processor: Intel AnyWAN GRX350
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) – 2.4GHz (up to 574Mbps), 5GHz (up to2402 Mbps). Beamforming supported.
Price: $169 from Hachi
The AX50 is a cost-effective solution for those who have smaller family sizes and less demanding internet usage. The processor on this unit is not as powerful but given that this router runs on the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, it is also less taxing on the processor.
This option would be preferable over the first router for those who wish to be on the Wi-Fi 6 protocol.
#3 TP-Link Archer AX73
Processor: 1.5GHz triple core processor
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) – 2.4GHz (up to 574Mbps), 5GHz (up to 4804 Mbps). Beamforming supported.
Price: $209.00 from Hachi
The AX73 is a more powerful version of the AX50, boasting more antennae and a more powerful processor. Wi-Fi coverage will also be better compared to the AX50.
Processor: 1.5GHz triple core processor
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) – 2.4GHz (up to 574Mbps), 5GHz (up to 2402 Mbps).
Price: $259 from Challenger
The ASUS AX3000’s specs are just a little shy of the AX73, having fewer antennae and thus a lower maximum theoretical 5GHz speed. Note that this maximum speed is only theoretical, reflecting only an oversimplistic addition of each antenna’s individual capabilities. In reality, due to interference and other data bottlenecks, only a fraction of this maximum speed can be reached, but more importantly, the highest speed internet plan in Singapore at the moment only maxes out at 1Gbps, which means even under ideal conditions, it is not possible to get anywhere near the theoretical maximum.
What sets the AX3000 apart, however, is the suite of ASUS router utilities, security functions, firewalls, VPN support and parental controls. ASUS’ main strength lies in these utilities, which are available across most of their mid-to-high end routers including the AX3000.
Perhaps the most standout feature of ASUS routers is the AiMesh utility, which allows you to pair your ASUS routers up to set up robust Wi-Fi coverage even for large homes
It’s Worth Investing In A Good Router Even If We Stop Working From Home By Default
Even if WFH/HBL eventually becomes a dark chapter in history, it’s still worthwhile to spend some money to upgrade your router for better internet connectivity, especially since it will continue paying off well into the future.
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