The best broadband router is the phone that best suits your own particular needs. Of course, everyone wants the most reliable, most powerful, and easiest device to use and connect to they can possibly have; but the reality is that most bog-standard routers will do the job. A router is a pretty simple piece of equipment and the main thing to worry about is that it is up to date and capable of supporting the latest connection speeds and standards.
Internet service providers (ISPs) will give you a router to go with your service when you take out your contract. This will always be a device that is suited to the job – but it certainly won’t be the very best router you can buy though. Some may offer you the option to upgrade to a more powerful or capable device, but there is also nothing to stop you from going out and buying your own broadband router that has all the features and facilities you want.
There is plenty of choice available. Scores of companies deign and manufacturer broadband routers – you may not know their names though because your ISP will almost certainly take a product from one of these big makers and rebrand it with their own name and logo.
Every now and then your ISP may offer to upgrade your router. If they do, you should accept the opportunity. The technology – and in particular, things like WiFi – is always moving on and if you have had your current router for more than a couple of years, it will have almost certainly been superseded by a newer model in that time – it is worth contacting your ISP to see if you are due for – and entitled to – an upgrade.Back to top
What is a broadband router?
A router sends data on from one place to another. It’s a receiver and transmitter all in one. It picks up the broadband signal the copper of fibre wire that comes into the connection socket in your office or home and send it on, through devices that are connected through an Ethernet cable, or via WiFi. All routers today come with WiFi capability as that has become an essential element of the way we connect to the Internet.
Indeed, it is in this respect that you will often find the most differences between routers. Wireless networking standards and techniques tend to move ahead quite fast and any router that is perhaps two or three years old, won’t have the very latest technology. This means that users with quite new mobile devices – laptops, smartphones, or tablets – won’t get the best performance they could.Back to top
The different types of broadband router
There are really only two kinds of router as far as the broadband side of the connection is concerned – for copper or for fibre connections, although many now come with support for both. Fibre is becoming more commonplace and available, so it needs to be supported as a standard feature.
It is worth remembering that if you upgrade your broadband connection, and you have had your present router for some time, you will almost certainly need to upgrade your router as well – that’s certainly going to be the case if you move to an FTTP service.
On the wireless side the main things to look for are whether or not the router has support for WiFi 6 – or 802.11ax as the official industry standard is known – and whether it us dual band or not. Not many mobile devices or routers that shipped before 2020 will support WiFi 6; but from 2021 onwards, there will be more of an expectation to support this technology.
Dual-band capability means that the router can support WiFi on both the designated frequencies – 2.4GHz and 5Ghz. This will mean you can get better performance for more users and less chance of interference, as there are two channels that can be used to connect devices wirelessly.Back to top
Broadband router reviews
This is brief summary of the routers provided with some UK’s most popular ISPs – BT, Plusnet and TalkTalk.Back to top
With BT business packages and home packages for superfast (FTTC) or ultrafast (FTTP) services you will usually be provided with a BT Smart Hub 2. For ‘standard’ ADSL broadband connections, it will be the BT Home Hub 4 router. The former is a very capable device that supports the 802.11ac WiFi standard – or WiFi 5 as it is sometimes called. This is not the very latest standard, but BT was expected to announce a new Smart Hub 3 in the summer of 2021, which will support WiFi 6 (802.11ax)Back to top
The standard issue from Plusnet is the Plusnet Hub One router. Just like Plusnet’s services overall, this is a simple, effective device. It supports 802.11ac WiFi, it’s dual band too, so it will give you god WiFi performance and decent Ethernet speeds as well.Back to top
The TalkTalk SuperRouter is provided with the company’s broadband deals and frankly, it’s similar in specification to the one provided by Plusnet. It supports 802.11ac and is dual-band, so wireless speed is good, and it has four Ethernet ports if you want to connect anything else, such as a printer or a storage device – but these days, almost everything can connect via WiFi and as long as its not too far away, performance should be fine.Back to top
Going your own way
If you have more specific needs – if you need to provide connections for a very high density of users from time to time, for example, as you might in a theatre, sports arena, or conference centre, or you need to create a bridge connection to another building – you might need to buy a router that meets your specific needs. If you do need something a little out of the ordinary, you are probably best seeking the advice of a trusted and expert third party. Most established reseller businesses will have good experience in recommending and setting up appropriate devices to suit differing needs.Back to top