Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best netgear routers

When it comes to an internet connection at home, as long as it’s working, most people are happy. However, you may be missing out on some capabilities of your internet hardware if you’re just content that it’s working properly.

When you’re looking for a router to push your internet connectivity performance over the top, NETGEAR is one of the most trusted brand names for this type of hardware. The best NETGEAR routers offer a host of cool features that will help you have the best possible Internet experience.

We’ve compiled this NETGEAR routers shopping guide to help you make the smartest choice when purchasing a new router.

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Most NETGEAR routers have LED lights that will help you determine the hardware’s status. Every router at least should have a power, internet, and WiFi light.

NETGEAR router vs. supplied router

A router is a piece of hardware that manages the internet connection for your home or business. It passes data from the internet to the different devices in your home, and provides security against unauthorized users.

You may be a bit confused when thinking about Netgear routers. You might wonder if you actually need a router, especially if your internet connection is working already. And while it’s true that you don’t need to buy a Netgear router if your internet connection is up and running already, a router can provide you with greater speed and features.

"Always change the default passwords for your router and WiFi network. Quite often, the default passwords are the same for every router of the same model. "

Let’s break down the hardware used to access an internet connection:

  • Modem: When you sign up for internet access, your internet service provider (or ISP) will give, rent, or sell you a modem. This piece of hardware translates the signals coming from and being sent to the ISP’s hardware, allowing your devices to use the data. Essentially, the modem is the gateway for data coming into and leaving your home.

  • Separate router: If your ISP provides you with modem-only product, you need a separate router. The modem handles the connection to the internet, while the router allows your devices to gain access to data by managing the connection to the modem. If the modem provided by the ISP is only a modem, the ISP may have also rented or provided you with a router.

  • Modem/router combination: In other cases, the modem from your ISP is a modem/router combination. People with basic needs in an internet connection will be able to survive just fine with this kind of setup.

Rather than relying on the gear your ISP provides, you may want more features in your router, such as a greater wireless range and faster data transmissions. NETGEAR routers often provide far superior features than the lower-end models that are standard fare for ISPs.

Getting to know the NETGEAR router

Though models vary, your NETGEAR router will have many parts in common with most other routers. The router itself is generally a lightweight, plastic box, usually about the size of a paperback book. Here are some of the different parts of the router:

  • Antennas: A wireless NETGEAR router will have two to several antennas. These are thick, plastic pieces, a few inches in length. By aiming these antennas in different directions, you can control the range and positioning of the WiFi signal.

  • Ethernet ports: Though wireless connectivity is increasingly the norm today, most routers still have a few Ethernet ports. The modem is usually connected directly to the router through an Ethernet cable, and other nearby devices can take advantage of the fast speed of Ethernet by being hardwired.

  • LED lights: Your NETGEAR router will have multiple LED lights on the front. These indicate the status of power, internet connection, Ethernet connections, and WiFi activity.

  • Power cord: Each router ships with a power cord that plugs into a regular wall outlet.

  • WPS button: A WPS button allows you to make a connection to the router without having to enter a password. Some smart home devices that don’t have a display screen connect to the network with the WPS button.

  • Other parts: Depending on the model of NETGEAR router you’re using, you may have some other parts available. These may include things like a USB port, other data ports, or a reset button.

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Did you know?
You can connect devices to a NETGEAR router through WiFi, or directly through an Ethernet cable.

Terms to know with WiFi routers

Routers can send data either wirelessly, using a WiFi network, or over a wired connection, using an Ethernet cable. Most routers can use both types of connections simultaneously.

The type of router you’re using determines the data transmission speeds and the type of devices that can connect to it. We’ve listed some things you should understand as you compare different NETGEAR routers.

  • Dual vs. single bands: A dual band router is able to send a wireless signal on either or both of two wireless frequencies at the same time, 2.4 GHz and 5G Hz. Dual band routers are more expensive, but the signal to any given device is generally more reliable. The router automatically switches traffic between bands, keeping performance on each band at optimum levels. Advanced users can also force devices to use particular bands, so bandwidth can be reserved for particular uses. Single-band routers only use one band, usually 2.4 GHz.

  • Mbps: This acronym stands for megabits per second, and refers to the data transmission speed of the router. This speed also is known as the bandwidth for the router. Higher bandwidth numbers yield faster data transmission. Understand that if you have several people connected to the same router, they share the data transmission speed. The router will split the signal among all of the connected devices. Think of it like a garden hose — the more branches in the hose, the weaker the water pressure at any given branch.

  • Range: The range of the network refers to the distance over which the signal will be sent. If the signal is passing through walls or floors, your range will be reduced. Signal strength (and hence, range) is one of the most important features to look for in a router. If you have a large house, or a lot of structural interference between the router and devices, you’ll need a router with greater range.

  • Standards: Every router transmits data using one or more “standards,” designated by an 802.11 code. At the time of this writing, the newest standard is 802.11n. You can also find routers using 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.11a, and 802.11ac. Most new routers can handle multiple standards. If you’re unsure whether a router meets your needs, compare its standards to the standards listed on your devices.

  • WPA and WEP: These acronyms refer to the type of security used to protect your data being sent wirelessly. When you have either of these security protocols enabled, the network encrypts your data as it’s being sent, ensuring unauthorized users cannot access the data.

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Did you know?
Routers use very little electrical power, whether they’re actively working or idle. You don’t need to turn off the router when you’re not using it.

NETGEAR router prices

Even though routers all perform the same basic function of connecting you to the ISP’s modem, they do offer quite a few different features. Feature sets and signal strength are generally the differentiators in router pricing.

  • Less than $100: The most basic type of wireless router will have the lowest data transfer speeds. If you only use the internet for e-mail and basic web browsing, and your house isn’t full of connected devices, you may not have problems using an inexpensive router. Most inexpensive routers will be single-band routers.

  • $100 to $250: A mid-range router will offer good data transfer speeds that work well for cloud applications. It won’t be quite as fast as the most expensive routers, but these speeds are adequate for many people. Most mid-range routers can accept several connections simultaneously. Many routers in this class are dual-band.

  • More than $250: A high-priced wireless router will feature high-speed data transfer rates. This makes these routers an excellent choice for those who want to run video streaming, or play games over a WiFi connection. Expensive routers also usually offer compatibility with the largest number of wireless standards, and allow the highest number of simultaneous connections.

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If you have Ethernet cables connected to the router, make sure they are fully inserted into the ports, or they won’t work. The cable should click audibly when it’s fully inserted.


Q. What do I need to connect my router?
The router needs to connect to a modem first. The modem is the device that brings the internet service into your home. The router then makes that signal available to multiple devices in the home. To connect the router to the modem, you’ll most likely use an Ethernet cable. Most NETGEAR routers ship with a cable inside the box.

Q. What does it mean to log into my NETGEAR router?
When you want to make changes to the settings on the router, you must log into the hardware. The router itself doesn’t have a display screen or control buttons, so you must log into the router from a computer or mobile device. You’ll enter an HTTP address into a web browser to access the router’s settings window, then enter a username and a password. The router’s configuration screen is displayed, allowing you to make changes. Check with the router’s user guide for detailed instructions.

"Some people like to give their WiFi networks a funny name. You can do this by logging into your router and changing the Name/SSID text box. "

Q. Why does my router network seem to be yielding slow data uploads and downloads?
Routers can accept connections from multiple devices simultaneously. However, the more devices that are connected and actively working, the slower each device will run. This occurs because the router must allocate resources to all devices, spreading the total bandwidth available. Additionally, data transfers with the router will go faster when you’re connected to the router with a cable, rather than running over WiFi. Finally, your router could appear to be running slowly when the problem actually exists with your internet provider.

Q. Should I change my router password?
Changing the password on the router after installation is always a good idea. The router ships with a generic, simple password that some people may be able to guess, or even look up on the internet. If someone gains access to your router, he or she could cause problems for your internet access capabilities by changing the settings on the router. Follow the instructions with your Netgear router to figure out how to change the password.

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