New Wi-Fi standard fast but costly
Home networks used to be the realm of hardcore techies. Now most homes have smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, streaming video boxes and video game consoles. That makes a home network practically mandatory.
Wireless networks improve with every generation of Wi-Fi. The latest 802.11ac standard is no exception. Manufacturers boast speeds more than three times faster than previous Wi-Fi generations.
To get that speed, you'll need to buy a new router, of course. So the big question is whether it's worth the cost.
For those not up on the jumble of letters and numbers that relate to wireless standards, let me explain. The designation 802.11 is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers standard for Wi-Fi. The letter following 802.11 indicates the version of the standard.
Until this point, consumer routers have mainly used 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n. These are usually listed as ‘b,' ‘g' and ‘n' on product packaging. You'll also see 802.11a support on some routers, but don't confuse that with 802.11ac.
So, back to whether you should buy. Let's take a look at the pros and cons.
On the pro side, 802.11ac is blazing fast. At an advertised 1.75 gigabits per second, it's faster than a high-end wired home network. Right now, wired home networks top out at 1 gigabit.
In fact, 802.11ac can stream high-definition video to several gadgets at once. In a media-heavy home, that is a definite plus.
As far as range goes, solid figures are hard to come by. It really depends on your home, router placement and other factors. Still, you should see a more solid connection than what's offered by older standards.
Unfortunately, that's about it for the pro side. The cons are going to take a bit longer.
The major drawback is compatibility. To take advantage of 802.11ac features, you need gadgets that support 802.11ac. While it's been out for a year, very few gadgets support it.
I've seen some laptops with it, and a few smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S4. But it will take a while before every new gadget has it.
Just supporting 802.11ac isn't enough either. To get the full benefit, a gadget has to support the correct sub frequencies or have multiple antennas. Lower-cost models probably won't for a while.
So, you might get anywhere from 450 megabits per second to 1.75 gigabits per second performance depending on your gadget. True, 450Mbps is still very fast, but it's not the connection you paid for.
Routers with 802.11ac also support all the old Wi-Fi standards. Your existing gadgets will still work. They just won't be any faster than they already are.
Routers with 802.11ac aren't cheap. They start at $160 online and go up from there. So it's not a small investment.
On the plus side, these are high-end routers, so you get all the latest goodies. Think high-end encryption, parental control extras, multiple networks, multimedia packet shaping and so on. Plus they have a gigabit wired connection. Once you buy, you shouldn't have to upgrade for quite a few years.
Email Kim Komando at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Spence’s future uncertain after reinjuring knee
- Kentucky firefighters recovering from ice stunt shocks
- Underclassmen must step up as Penn State continues to rebuild
- Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival welcomes crowds to medieval re-creation
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy
- Keisel always hoped to return to Steelers
- Woman shot dead, mother wounded in Hill District shooting
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Homework: Bird feeders that are totally tubular
- Local libations: Map links Pittsburgh craft-alcohol producers
- Records: Steelers RB Bell admitted smoking pot before traffic stop but denied being high