If you've been looking to upgrade your home router to take advantage of increased broadband speeds from providers including Google Fiber or AT&T U-Verse, you might find yourself in a confusing world of technobabble and specs for arcane features you may or may not need. What, for example, do those model numbers on a lot of routers, such as "AC1900," "AC2600" or "AC3200" mean?
Right now, the current generation of routers is "802.11ac," which offers more throughput and (theoretically) faster speeds than older standards we knew as 802.11n or 802.11g. The AC numbers, from AC600 all the way up to AC5300 and beyond, are supposed to signify the top speeds the router can transmit data on two different wireless spectrums, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In pure marketing speak, the higher the number, the faster the router should be, but there are lots of other factors that can affect wireless speeds. These include the layout of your living space, interference from devices in and out of your home, and the way the router itself is built, from the number of antennas it has to its capabilities in transmitting multiple streams back and forth to individual devices.
If this seems needlessly convoluted, even networking experts agree that high-speed features on many routers are largely lost on most home Internet users. Unless you already have the fastest Internet speeds available and most of the Wi-Fi devices in your home are pretty new, you likely won't see the benefits of next-gen features in routers that cost more than $250 for years to come.
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