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New WiFi Routers Will Keep You Connected

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The days of weak wireless signals at home may be a thing of the past.

Nothing is more frustrating than having a weak, inconsistent and troublesome Wi-Fi network at home, because today's households (working moms and dads, active kids, involved young adults) rely more on their smart devices and laptops than they do on their microwave ovens.

Dropped Connection

And since most of the population are not technical wizards, they rely on the routers they buy to simply do the job that's promised on the box. Unfortunately, that's not always what they get. Because usually the typical Wi-Fi routers people buy usually aren't able to send a strong wireless signal throughout the entire house. That's frustrating.

Is there anything you can do?

Yes. You can look into the newest routers—and actually entirely new router solutions—that will give you a stronger and more consistent signal throughout your home, condo and apartment.

As mentioned in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the promise of a better signal isn't coming from a bigger router, or a single new-and-improved one.

The new thinking.

The typical household has a single router plugged into their modem. That router is tasked with sending a good signal throughout a home or small office, where the layout could include several rooms, and an upstairs and downstairs. As most people find out, coverage can be spotty depending on what room you're in or if there are walls and appliances between you and the router.

But now there's a new way to get the wireless support you want and need.

It's a Wi-Fi system that employs a network of routers that produces a router "mesh." Think of it as a wireless signal net that offers total coverage, no matter what room you're in.

Pass it on.

The concept is simple: Instead of a single router in one room in the house, you have a router team (sold in a package) at work; a series of Wi-Fi access units that work together to generate a signal that spreads throughout your entire home.

Each access unit, as each mini-router is called, is able to broadcast a strong signal wherever it's placed. One access unit could be upstairs, one downstairs, and a few in out-of-the-way-rooms where, typically, the wireless signal was weakest before. And as you move around your house, the access unit you're closest to can keep you connected.

The cost of normal routers today ranges from $150-$200. These new router solutions and products could cost $350 to $500 dollars.

Yes. You'll pay more, but most certainly you'll also get more—in this case, a wireless signal that is strong in every room. Doesn't that seem worth it?

Best of all, this approach can help you overcome the obstacles to a reliable Wi-Fi signal faced by homeowners and apartment/condo dwellers:

  • Strange building layouts (three-level homes with basement)
  • Too many walls and hallways
  • Appliances in bad places that block signals
  • Limited spots to place or relocate your modem and router

Mesh-system brands.

Here are the brand names of some next-generation Wi-Fi systems on the market right now:

Other companies that are working on similar new router designs include D-Link, Almond (Securifi) and Plume.

Tested and true.

According to the WSJ article, a test of a typical, reliable $200 router against a variety of mesh-network systems, proved the new access-unit system performs better. They reported the following: "All four mesh systems filled out coverage area within (the) test homes where the (standard-type router) barely eked out a connection. The new systems made big performance-differences in the former dead zones."

Before you run out to buy a new system.

Before you invest in a new system, be sure you really need it. It's possible you could improve your signal on your own:

  • Sometimes just relocating your modem might help the signal travel better; or, your Internet Service provider may need to give you a longer cable (or new modem) to reposition it.
  • It might not be the router; it could be your Internet service. Talk to your neighbors and see if the connection speed you're getting from your Internet Service Provider is the actual problem.

A few things to consider when picking a system.

Because there are a handful of systems available, by various manufacturers, not all mesh systems are alike. When you talk to a salesperson in person or shop online, keep in mind what's important to you and your family.

  • Price: Expect to pay $350 to $500 or more. That's a few hundred more than a new standard modem.
  • Package: Find out how many access units come per package and how are they priced? Most manufacturers supply three at a fixed cost; some make additional access units available for a cost.
  • Parental controls: With great connectivity comes great responsibility. If your children can now access the Internet at their 2nd-floor room behind closed doors, you'll want a way to control what your child can access.
  • Be wary. Many of these systems connect to the cloud or to third-party servers and networks. In some instances, security steps have lagged behind the new technology.
  • It ain't pretty. Unless you have a Wi-Fi network custom designed and integrated in your home, you would need to add more (and more visible) hardware to your home. The access units come in various shapes and sizes—flat, rectangular, square—and they almost all have to be plugged into wall outlets, not extension cords.
  • Genius need apply. Very few of these wireless mesh systems are "plug and play" (although the Luma brand got high marks). The Linksys Seamless Roaming Systems was so tough to set up, the WSJ article advised that "Engineers Need Only Reply."

A product review in the Wall Street Journal (Personal Technology, July 16, 2016), was a resource for this article.

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