Router Guide

Your best route to a great Wi-Fi connection

There are a few popular choices on the market when seeking out a quality router. In case you're unfamiliar with the task your router performs, it essentially takes the information fed through your telephone line and transmits it, through the air, to your network card. Don't ask us how's it done (this isn't physics 101). Just know you need one.

D-Link Air Plus Xtreme G

Although its name sounds like a futuristic jet plane, the Xtreme G is a popular option from D-Link, one of the foremost producers of routers. Here are some of the basic stats for the device:

  • 2.4 GHz
  • 802.11g
  • Advertiser Links for Routers
  • Firewall security features
  • Four 10/100 Mbps ports: For wired connections, if so chosen
  • Embedded DHCP server: Immediately and seamlessly assigns IP addresses to nearby wireless users allowed on the network
  • About $50-60
  • **Caption: D-Link brags that the Xtreme G is THE option for Xbox Live gamers

    Most of the above options are rather standard for today's routers, although the general consensus is that this is indeed the fastest router available to consumers at the moment.

    Dynamic Mode

    That's especially true if one combines this router with D-Link's PC wireless card. Together, the Xtreme G can reach speeds of 108Mbps, which is extremely fast. The entire process is called "Dynamic Mode", and it also features a default search by the router to find the very fastest speeds available.

    How? Well, if you've got the D-Link card to match, the pair can actually identify and recognize other Xtreme G wares and link them at the highest performance possible. That's about 108Mbps, which we'll assure you is pretty damn fast.

    Prices for the D-Link Xtreme G vary, especially when considering retailer instant rebates and the annoying mail-in ones offered by the manufacturer. Generally, the best deals for all hardware devices of this kind pop up around September and back-to-school. Yours truly recently picked up this router for just $50, which is a very reasonable price for a very fast product.

    Verdict: Despite its request that you also buy the accompanying Xtreme G CardBus Adapter [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=Xtreme+G+CardBus+router] the D-Link router is a quick and cheap choice with easy setup.

    Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router

    It seems the popular manufacturers of routers and network cards are also in the business of creating the longest and most complicated product titles, ever. For the sake of our fingertips and your memory banks, we'll simply refer to their router as the Wireless-G.

  • 2.4 GHz
  • 802.11g
  • Firewall security features
  • Four 10/100 Mbps ports: For wired connections, if so chosen
  • Antennas unscrew
  • DMZ LED light: For gaming purposes
  • SpeedBooster
  • About $60-70
  • **Caption: Linksys enters the ring with its very popular Wireless-G

    Although the Linksys router appears to have more options than the competition from D-Link, it isn't necessarily a better router. The ability to unscrew antennae for other uses and LED light display serve specialized functions, but the real meat of the story, speed, is not quite as impressive. Most tests clock the Wireless-G at a slower speed than the D-Link we've already discussed above.

    SpeedBooster

    This option acts much like D-Link's "Dynamic Mode", in that wireless speed is increased substantially when all of the necessary devices are playing on the same level. It won't make the router quite as fast as the D-Link when Dynamic Mode is clipping along, although both SpeedBooster and DM are basically marketing ploys to get consumers to buy more than one of the manufacturer's products.

    Verdict: Slower than the competition from both D-Link and Netgear, the main draw to the Linksys [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=Linksys+WRT54GS+Wireless-G+Broadband+Router+&x=34&y=8]is its compatibility and gimmicky options.

    Netgear WGT624 108 Mbps Wireless Firewall Router

    Another gargantuan title, the Netgear WGT624 is a generally solid product from a company not quite as widely known as its competition from Linksys and D-Link. That might lead to some techies overlooking this router, although by looking at its performance and features, perhaps that's quite a mistake.

    Here are some of the Netgear router's features:

  • 2.4 GHz
  • 802.11g
  • Firewall security features, including advanced SPI firewall, Dynamic DNS
  • Four 10/100 Mbps ports
  • Very high speed
  • About $50-60
  • **Caption: Although not as popular as Linksys, Netgear offers a great router

    The primary bragging right of the Netgear device is its native speed, which is 108Mbps. This throughput does not depend on the network card the router is connected to, making it less gimmicky and greedy than the competition from Linksys and D-Link. There's also a fairly easy to use LED light display on the router's front, which is all part of a smooth hardware installation. Finally, the WGT624 includes a strong firewall feature, including network address translation (NAT), hiding your IP addresses, and stateful packet inspection (SPI), which individually checks data packets for legitimate connection. It makes outside threats few and far between.

    Although the hardware setup is fairly simply, the primary knock against the Netgear router is its somewhat ridiculous network installation. Netgear actually requests that the user manually configure network settings for each connected computer, forcing you online to follow these relatively complicated steps.

    Verdict: A difficult online setup can leave many users frustrated with the device, and although hardware critics praise the Netgear [http://www.gizmocafe.com/shop/?ysq=Netgear+WGT624+108+Mbps+Wireless+Firewall+Router&x=39&y=9]for its power, the average network consumer have reported less-than-stellar opinions.