Wireless Router Guide (If you’re planning to buy a new or upgrade the wireless router)

Hello again. I did an analysis on the router that currently available in the market that supports UniFi, Maxis and TIME. Let me give a detailed information in order to choose the best router for you so that you make a right choice for your home network. 

I’ve created a checklist of things that should be consider before investing into third party router (aftermarket router).

  1. ISP Package
  2. Fast or Gigabit Ethernet (WAN & LAN Port)
  3. Single Band or Dual Band or Tri-Band
  4. SU-MIMO vs MU-MIMO
  5. Firmware Updates (Important)
  6. Router’s Price

ISP’s in Malaysia

Before bump into this post, let us recall the ISP along with their respective page in Malaysia. The most dominating ISP in Malaysia is UniFi under the brand of Telekom Malaysia. I’ve compiled the ISP available in the Malaysia.

package in malaysia
The ISP’s currently in Malaysia

Okay. Let’s get into the train here, the reason why I provide with a detailed ISP package because, in order to fully utilize the bandwidth you subscribe, you need a good router and a router that suits your daily needs. Some of us might say, who needs a better router when our subscribed ISP package comes with a free router. Please note that, the router provided by your ISP will be a “crap” router. I don’t wish to publicize the router brand supplied by the ISP since the brands do make a good router. Let’s get deeper to our topic here. I will explain step by step on how to choose a good router that will fully utilize your internet bandwidth with charm.

Fast Ethernet vs Gigabit Ethernet

Fast Ethernet is a term to describe Ethernet in computer networking. A Fast Ethernet can carry the traffic up to 100Mbps. In general, the speed of Ethernet is 10Mbps back in the early ages. During the year of 1995, the Fast Ethernet was announced and it remains for 3 years before surpassed by Gigabit Ethernet. Fast Ethernet was upgraded by improving the speed and reducing the bit. During the introduction of Fast Ethernet, IEEE 802.3u was a standard which currently known as 100BASE-T. Fast Ethernet delivers more compatibility options with 10BASE-T systems, thus enables the plug-and-play upgrades from the 10BASE-T. For an extra knowledge, BASE stands for the baseband signalling that has a very narrow signal frequency.

Gigabit Ethernet is a term in computing network, it carries the data up to 1000Mbps or 1Gbps. Was introduced in 1999, 3 years after Fast Ethernet was introduced significantly gained popularity in the late of 2010. This marks the beginning of Gigabit Ethernet widely acceptable in the current world. In general, Gigabit Ethernet performs ten times faster than Fast Ethernet. However, the maximum network limit for Gigabit Ethernet is 70 km if a Single Mode Fiber were used as a medium. Gigabit Ethernet is suitable for a faster transfer rate compared with Fast Ethernet. At the present time, there are 11 types of Gigabit Ethernet, 1000BASE-CX, 1000BASE-KX, 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, 1000BASE-LX10, 1000BASE-EX, 1000BASE-ZX, 1000BASE-BX-10, 1000BASE-T and 1000BASE-TX – that utilizes the different medium for the specified distance. Currently, Gigabit Ethernet widely used network system that provides faster data rate transfer and evolved into physical and link layer protocols.

“Okay macha, I can’t get your point just get straight into the point.”. I can listen to your mind. Currently, most of our ISP packages offering up to 100Mbps and maybe in 2 – 3 years time, we can use 1Gbps bandwidth. Hence, I would strictly advise to opt for the routers that has WAN & LAN Gigabit Ethernet port.

Single Band vs Dual Band vs Tri – Band

A single band router can only provide with 2.4GHz band while a dual band router can provide both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz band. A tri-band router can provide a single 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. Let me get straight to the point. If you wish to get a new router, I would strongly recommend to get a dual band router. In general, the price of a single band router were cheaper compared to a dual band router. However, there is a reason why you should avoid a single band router. One of the reasons is, 2.4GHz band has only 3 non-overlapping transmission channel which makes it vulnerable to interference from nearby gadgets such as microwave, phones, Bluetooth and etc. The transfer rate of the data via 2.4GHz is slower if and only if the wireless channel congested. The advantage of using a dual band router is two separate Wi-Fi networks operating concurrently. In general terms, there are two waves, 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless signal. However, not all good things are perfect. 5GHz has its own disadvantage. One of the common problems with 5GHz is shorter range compared with 2.4GHz. The wireless coverage for 5GHz is very limited. 5 GHz signals cannot penetrate walls nearly as well as do 2.4 GHz signals. Most of the time, a dual band router costs more than a single band router. A tri-band router giving out a single 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. A tri-band router considered overkill for normal home use.

In supposition, mark your checklist to buy a dual band router if you have the budget.

SU – MIMO vs MU – MIMO

This is the most frequent questions asked by the people’s out there. “Do I really need a MU-MIMO router?”.

HNyxUdv
A simple diagram that summarizes the difference between SU-MIMO & MU-MIMO

Acronym:

  • MIMO stands for Multi Input Multi Output.
  • SU – MIMO stands for Single User – Multi Input Multi Output
  • MU – MIMO stands for Multi User – Multi Input Multi Output

To understand SU-MIMO technology, let me explain from basic. SU-MIMO come along with 802.11n wireless standard in 2007. It enables multiple streams of the data between the devices where constant data transmitted simultaneously (send or received) between the devices. The disadvantages of SU-MIMO is, only a single device gets full bandwidth while other devices have to wait for their turn at one time. As an example, a SU-MIMO requires both transmitting and receiving Wi-Fi radios to support the MIMO technology by having more antennas. The more antennas present on the router, the processed signal of the MIMO signals requires more resources.

Next, MU-MIMO released in the second wave of the 802.11ac wireless standard. It enhances the MIMO technology by enabling Wi-Fi to simultaneously transmit those multiple streams to different Wi-Fi devices. In simple terms, all the devices using the network get equal bandwidth simultaneously. Let’s look into the positive side of MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO increase the speed and throughput of the entire network. The router comes with MU-MIMO function compatible with non – MU – MIMO standard.

We’ve seen the good side of MU-MIMO. Now let’s look to the negative side of MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO only works on the downlink connection of the Wi – Fi currently. MU – MIMO only works on the 5GHz band. This newer MIMO technology only works for connections utilizing the actual 802.11ac standard.

Another thing to consider is, beamforming. Beamforming defined as the Wi-Fi signals directed towards the intended recipient rather than exposing to all areas. In simple term, it’s like clay. The more you pull to another side, the clay forms towards the way it’s being pulled. Most of the routers using the MU – MIMO costly. However, the cheaper routers have beamforming technology, so it is an advantage.

beamforming
An example of beamforming technology. Image courtesy: TP-LINK

Firmware Updates (VERY IMPORTANT)

Almost every router manufacturer in this world or even the universe MUST provide updates for their routers. Here, I vote ASUS as my favorite router brand because they’re always giving out firmware updates even for their discontinued products. Brands such as Linksys (best if flashed to DDWRT), Mikrotik, Netgear and Asus roll out their router’s firmware updates twice or thrice in a year. I don’t like to bash other brands as well since they come up with a new hardware revision (router version) and improves their firmware by giving an update.

firmware
An example of firmware updates for Asus RT-AC1200G+

A firmware update is important to ensure that your router is protected against the internet threats such as the recently WPA2 KRACK .

Some of the router brand does support DDWRT. The famous brand that allows third party firmware to be installed in their product is Asus (Asus – merlin & Padavan), D-Link (DDWRT, OPENWRT, Tomato), TP – LINK (DDWRT, OPENWRT & Tomato), Linksys (DDWRT & OPENWRT).

Be sure to mark your checklist as an important security feature for the router you going to buy.

The Wireless Routers Available in Malaysia along with their retail price

I’ve arrange the routers available in the market as per order. In order to ease the users, I’ve make a research for the third party firmware that supports the router. Most of the high-end router for Asus brand listed as the official Asus’s third party firmware, Asus – merlin.

ASUS

Capture
Asus Wireless Router pricing as per 2017.

 

TP – LINK

4
TP – LINK Wireless Router pricing as per 2017

 

D – Link

3
D – Link Wireless Router pricing as per 2017

 

Tenda

2
Tenda Wireless Router pricing as per 2017

 

Linksys

6
Linksys Wireless Router pricing as per 2017

 

Mikrotik

5
Mikrotik Wireless Router pricing as per 2017

 

The conclusion from this post is, to buy a good router, there are few things to be considered so that your home network is protected and you can fully utilize your internet bandwidth.

Personally, I’ve just book a Mikrotik’s RB750Gr3 router. I will give a review on this router once I receive the router.


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