Networking Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

August 06, 2013

Networking Buying Guide

A WiFi network gives you the power to access the internet from anywhere in your home without connecting a single cable. It’s easy to set up, eliminates 'dead zones', and provides a stronger connection so you can enjoy the internet and media without interruption.

What is a Wireless Network?

A wireless or WiFi network is a way to share an internet connection with other devices in your home without the messy wiring. It enables you to connect computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, printers, network storage devices, home theatre systems, even surveillance cameras, without the hassle of cumbersome cables. It’s easy, convenient and can open up new possibilities in rooms that otherwise have weak or non-existent internet connections.

Think of the router as a hub that takes the signal from your modem and sends it out to your compatible WiFi-ready devices. This allows you to do things like surf the internet and print wirelessly from anywhere in your home, or share photos across multiple computer monitors, even televisions.

What You’ll Need for a Basic Network

To establish a basic network, you will need the following:

  • Modem or gateway
  • Wireless router
  • Computer with wireless adapter

A modem connects your home network to your internet service provider (ISP). You’ll need to contact your phone or cable provider for service.

A wireless router acts as a hub for computers and other WiFi-enabled mobile devices so they can communicate seamlessly with each other and share an internet connection. Make sure the router works with all your existing wireless devices, such as computers and gaming consoles, and is configured correctly in order to fend off hackers and any malicious threats.

A computer with a wireless network makes the set-up more straightforward. If your computer doesn’t have an integrated wireless card, you can purchase a separate one or USB network adapter compatible with your router’s technology.

Some models feature a high-speed wireless modem and router in one.

After you’ve set up the modem you receive from your service provider, you’ll need to plug an Ethernet cable from your router into the modem. Your router will likely come with a CD or offer a web browser set-up making it a cinch to configure. When everything has been properly connected, you’ll be ready to access your wireless network from your compatible devices.

Finding the Right Router

The size of your home and what you want to do online will determine the type of router you’ll need to create a fast, interference-free wireless network.

Single-Band vs. Dual-Band

Wireless communications operate in two bands:

  • Single-band
  • Dual-band

Single-band routers use a 2.4GHz frequency, which is the same used by most microwaves and cordless phones. If you have a number of devices sharing the same frequency, you might notice a disruption in your internet speed.

Dual-band routers give you the option to use either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency. This will minimize interference from other devices in your home and allow your internet to run smoothly. Some models can operate in both frequencies at the same time, so you can set it up and let it do all the work of choosing the right one.

Wireless AC, N or G

When shopping for a router, the first thing you might notice is the number 802.11. It refers to the standard for WiFi connectivity and the letters that follow – AC, N or G– define the wireless protocol.

802.11ac is the fastest protocol so far and is likely to reside within the 5GHz band, but will also offer dual-band capabilities. It offers increased transfer speeds over long distances and less interference with other wireless devices, making it ideal for gaming and HD video streaming. Keep in mind, however, that your wireless AC device cannot go any faster than your internet connection allows.

Why you should choose it: Wireless AC is the next “it” protocol. It’s great for transferring large data files for small business purposes, streaming media content from YouTube, Netflix and other online content providers, and gaming. Backwards compatible, wireless AC also allows you to connect with devices using earlier standards like wireless N and G.

802.11n is probably the most widely used protocol that has the capability of operating within either a 2.4GHz or 5GHz band, and can support transfer speeds up to 300 megabytes per second (Mbps). Just like wireless AC, wireless N speeds will be limited to the speed of your actual internet connection.

Why you should choose it: A great option for the budget conscious, wireless N can support all your basic tasks, such as web surfing and email, while providing faster technology for HD video streaming, online gaming and other bandwidth-hungry tasks. Most models are also dual-band for an interference-free experience and are designed to work seamlessly with your wireless G devices.

802.11g is an older protocol that is being replaced by wireless N, which can support much faster speeds. Wireless G operates within the 2.4GHz band and can support speeds up to 54 Mbps.

Why you should choose it: : For basic web surfing, emailing and sharing devices in your home, a wireless G router offers enough power to get you connected.

Defining the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is a technical standard for accessing information over a wireless network. Use the following table to determine the best WAP for your needs:

BENEFIT 802.11g 802.11n 802.11ac
Email, web browsing or word processing
Listening to music and watching DVDs
Multitasking between applications such as gaming, web browsing, downloading, burning discs and more  
High-definition entertainment    
Video editing and 3D gaming    

Note: Remember your wireless device is limited to the speed of your internet connection.


Security

All routers come equipped with some form of encryption technology, such as WEP and WPA, which scrambles messages over wireless networks so they can’t be read by anyone who might be looking. Most models also feature password-protected setup and guest network access for enhanced security.

FEATURE BENEFIT
WEP
(Wireless Encryption Protocol)
Provides basic security protection for wireless devices
WPA and WPA2
(WiFi Protected Access)
Offers stronger wireless data encryption than WEP for enhanced security
Password protection Helps prevent outsiders from accessing your network
Guest network access Limits use for guests by denying them access to shared devices that might contain sensitive information

Tips:

  • Setting up a password will help prevent outsiders from accessing your network. It’s designed to “lock” your wireless signal and deny those without the password access.
  • Guest network access lets you set up an additional network that can be accessed by those visiting your home. Using a separate password, users will have access to the internet, but will not be able to access shared devices that might contain sensitive information.

What Can I Do With My Network?

Web Browsing

Getting online is perhaps one of the most popular reasons for setting up a wireless home network. Every device that’s connected to your network will give those in your house the freedom to access a single internet connection to check email, browse websites, watch YouTube videos, and more without connecting cables.

Video Calls with Family and Friends

If your computer, tablet, or smartphone features an internal or external web camera and microphone, you’ll be able to make use of video calling services such as Skype thanks to your wireless network. In most cases, there are no fees associated with video calling.

Wireless Printing

When you set up your wireless printer as part of your network, every device that’s connected to the network will be able to access and use it. That means, anyone in the household can easily print documents from anywhere in the house.

Watch TV Shows Online Via Smart TV or Media Streamer

Connect wirelessly with your computer or just about any other device in which you’ve stored content, and stream it through your television and home theatre system. With an intuitive dashboard and apps such as Facebook or Netflix, a smart TV allows you to enjoy all the same online content that you’d see on your computer through your TV and home theatre system.

Stream Music and Videos throughout the House from the Computer

Stream music, videos, as well as pictures, to other computers and devices on your home network, and enjoy listening or viewing the content at different places in your house. You can broaden your wireless range by using an extender, which sends the internet signal from the modem to areas where WiFi is dead or very slow.

Gaming

Today’s gaming consoles offer a more interactive experience than ever before. Get online and battle it out with friends, or browse the web, watch Netflix movies, make Skype calls, and so much more.

Open Garage or House Doors Away from Home

Smart home automation is becoming the next big thing, so why not make use of your router for this purpose. It has the ability to connect all your wireless home automation products, from a garage door controller and Bluetooth deadbolt lock to WiFi lighting switches and wireless security cameras. While your router will make WiFi available, you’ll need to pair with a smartphone running specialized apps in order to control these automation technologies.

 

Other Features to Consider

Wired Networking

While wireless networking is quickly becoming the norm in most households, wired networks still offer a more solid and reliable connection to the internet. You can easily set up a network using a wired router in much the same way as setting up a wireless router, but you will need to connect all your devices to it in order to access the internet and other shared devices.

Range Extenders

If you’re having trouble with the wireless range in your home, you might want to consider a range extender. Simply plug one into an electrical outlet in your home and it will send your internet signal from the modem to your troubled area, such as a dead zone. These devices can be used with wired or wireless routers.

Powerline

Powerline works by creating a bridge between your Ethernet and the electricity grid in your home. Simply connect a Powerline device to an electrical outlet and a second component to your modem, and enjoy the internet in rooms that otherwise had a weak or nonexistent WiFi signal

MIMO Technology

Short for multiple input, multiple output MIMO technology offers faster speeds and better resistance to interference in routers than those without it. It uses multiple antennae to send out multiple signals for improved performance across greater distances in your home.

WiFi Adapters

If you own a WiFi-ready computer, laptop, Blu-ray player, or HDTV that does not come equipped with a wireless network card built in, a WiFi adapter is what you need. These plug right into a USB port so you can wirelessly connect to your network and access the internet.

Mobile Internet Stick

When you need high-speed internet access on the go, an internet stick will give it to you. You simply plug it into a USB port in your laptop or tablet, and it will let you browse the web, shop online, video chat, and more even if you’re unable to find an available wireless network. It does, of course, require a paid subscription from your service provider.

Best Buy

Take the Next Step

Best Buy carries a huge selection of wired and wireless routers, powerline devices, internet sticks, and networking accessories you need to create the ultimate setup for your home. And with brands such as
D Link, Linksys, NETGEAR, and Cisco to choose from, you’ll always find what you want.