Is this router actually better?
August 3, 2017 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I bought a new router, which theoretically should be an improvement over my old one. How can I determine if it's actually better (worth the money)? Some details below, but I don't have model info on hand.

Older router is from netgear, a couple of years old. Worked ok but I have various areas in my home that have bad wifi signal. Replacement is also netgear, ~$120, well reviewed, and claims to have better reach and signal. Internet is DSL, the DSL company's modem is not set up for wifi (though it could be turned on, I assume).

I installed new router, followed instructions and looked into some advanced settings. Qualitatively the smart tv Netflix seems to have a better picture resolution, but the iPad Netflix keeps hanging and losing signal (even in same room; previously iPad worked fine).

Netgear genie app has a "signal strength" metric for each connected device. Almost all of them went down in percentage with the new router (including tv, which "looks better").

Is there a better way to figure out if this new router is worth the upgrade?

My major concern motivating this whole endeavor is an outdoor wifi security camera that has pretty poor resolution with my old router. New router seems a bit better (but still blurry). Complicating factors include: old (small) house, plaster walls, lots of smarthome devices. We stream a lot of music, watch some streaming tv, and rely on internet for parts of security system. We don't do online games or file sharing.

Other solutions or specific router suggestions are welcome. I know there a lot of variables when it comes to wifi signal, so I'm primarily looking for a good way to test whether the "solution" is an improvement. Thanks!!
posted by chemicalsyntheticist to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a laptop that supports all the same wifi standards and frequency bands as your router, you could copy the arstechnica method they used for this article and use the netspot app to make heat maps showing relative signal strength in your house. It's not exactly a throughput test, but it's also not useless.
posted by mattamatic at 6:44 PM on August 3, 2017

Have you experimented with moving the router to different locations? The best way to do that is with some kind of wired link back to the DSL modem. Ethernet is best, but if you don't want to figure out how to get the necessary cables through the walls, powerline networking will work too.

Then you also have the option of using both your new and old routers, say at different ends of the house. If you set them just to act as bridges (on most routers I think this just means digging through the menus to find checkboxes that let you turn off "NAT" and "DHCP"), and give them the same network name and password then your devices should be able to switch to the closest one as necessary.
posted by floppyroofing at 8:02 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite] will tell you if your speed has improved.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:29 PM on August 3, 2017

Another thing to try is to switch wifi bands. The 5 GHz wifi band, if your client devices support it (most newer devices do), might be better for you then the 2.4 GHz band.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:14 AM on August 4, 2017

Don't buy consumer grade wireless equipment. Connect to a 5ghz band by default. Use a/c if your devices support it.

Buy a Microtik router and a Ubiquiti UniFi wireless access point. Do a heat map of your house
posted by GiveUpNed at 9:16 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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