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Wi-Fi Gear Buying Guide

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January 5, 2012, 4:09 IST

Jayesh Shinde

Wi-Fi Gear Buying Guide

Whether it’s wireless routers or speakers, when it comes to choosing the right wireless gear for your PC, here are the things that you should keep in mind.

Routers

Wireless routers are a special category of devices whose performance differs from place to place, scenario to scenario. It’s because a router is highly sensitive to radio interference caused by other electronic devices in its vicinity e.g. phones, microwaves, television sets, etc., and stuff like thickness of surrounding walls, material used, etc., can also have a bearing on a wi-fi router’s performance. That’s why you see conflicting reviews of a router on a shopping site, because the people using it have unique radio frequency environments.

While buying a wireless router, consider your usage: are you buying the wireless router for simply connectiving various devices in your house or are you buying it for streaming HD video, transferring lots of data to and from devices? In the first usage scenario, just any single band router will suffice your need, while in the second scenario we recommend a dual-band router which is slightly more costlier but offers better transfer speeds. However, 5GHz band has shorter range compared to the more common 2.4GHz band.

Since most routers available in the market today are 802.11n compatible, make sure they also support B and G standards to connect older wi-fi devices. Also a lot of routers today are sporting internal 3x3 antennas for faster throughput -- older routers have 2x2 antennas. But before opting for a 3x3 router, check if your laptop’s wi-fi adapter supports the feature.

3G dongles

USB-connected 3G wireless dongles can give you great download speeds on the go, but make sure you get what you want. The throughput of various 3G broadband dongles really depends on the wireless telecom infrastructure from one region to another. Also if you have multiple wireless devices but only one 3G USB dongle to make do with, you can buy a 3G router that connects over USB to create a personal WAN around you. These mini routers are very compact, often as small and light as a classic iPod.

Speakers & headphones

Wireless speakers are a great travel companion with a laptop on the road. Most wireless speakers connect over Bluetooth and have an operating range of about 10 to 15 ft without any lag. Always remember that compact bluetooth speakers can never compete with a good pair of wired speakers, so don’t expect stellar audio quality -- sound from external speakers almost always is better than a laptop’s onboard speakers. Most 2.0 bluetooth speakers also have a dedicated wired connection to connect to a laptop’s 3.5 mm jack, if necessary. It’s a similar story with wi-fi headphones.

Keyboard & mouse

A wireless keyboard and mouse connects to a PC via a Bluetooth USB dongle. If you’re building a new rig or purchasing a brand new pair of keyboard and mouse, we recommend purchasing it from a brand that allows multiple wireless devices to pair through a single USB dongle, so it doesn’t clutter up your USB ports on the back. Purchasing a wireless mouse for gaming isn’t always the best idea, because they can experience lag and not perform optimally. A lot of solar powered wireless keyboard are entering the market these days, they’re are a great investment -- costly in the beginning but no batteries required at all -- so definitely consider them.


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