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How to shop for networking gear

If you want to stream content and get the most out of the internet, you’ll need a strong, stable home network. To narrow down your choices, answer a couple key questions.

  • How big is your home?
  • Do you want the freedom of Wi-Fi, or would you prefer a more stable and secure wired network?

Below, you’ll find tips on how to choose. To learn more, check out our wireless router buying guide.


Modems take the input from your internet provider and let you distribute it throughout your home. Some modems double as routers.


Routers connect to your modem via Ethernet cable and provide wireless and often wired connections to your home network.

Wireless range

Wireless routers are not one size fits all. You’ll see your router’s square footage coverage given in its specs. The wireless signal from routers can be amplified with a range extender or expanded with nodes in a mesh system.


A mesh router system offers seamless coverage throughout a larger home by using multiple nodes that work together. The mesh network uses a single Wi-Fi name (SSID) so you’ll get seamless connectivity in every part of your home.


Some Wi-Fi routers have two or more high-performance antennas that broadcast signal from your modem into the air. You can aim them toward areas of need to create a directional signal using technology known as beamforming.

Wi-Fi standard                                         

Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E protocols provide good, better, and best performance respectively. Wi-Fi 6E operates at 6GHz, an as-yet unlicensed swath of bandwidth, providing the smoothest wireless transmission available at this time. Don’t worry about older versions leaving you in the lurch – the new versions are backwards compatible.


MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) improves Wi-Fi performance in households with multiple users – which is most of them.

LAN ports

LAN ports on your modem/router let you make a wired connection to your network using an Ethernet cable.

USB ports

Some modems/routers have USB ports for connecting a flash drive or other external storage device so you can store and share files within your network – that includes music, movies, photos and more.

Data security

Modems/routers usually offer customizable in-app control for keeping your personal data secure and the bots at bay. From firewall protection to add-blockers and separate guest accounts, look at the security features of any router you’re considering.

Parental controls

Many routers offer in-app parental controls that tag and block sites you choose or that contain violent, illegal, or adult content. You can also customize the rules for different devices/users, including setting time restrictions on internet access.

App and voice control

Mesh routers and some other routers offer app control, which makes it convenient to set up and manage your wireless network. Some even support voice control.

Hardware connections

Choose modems/routers that have all the coaxial, DSL, Ethernet, USB, and other connections you’ll need to receive incoming internet, route it through your home, and even access attached drives.

Range extenders

Range extenders amplify your modem’s wireless signal so you can reach parts of your home that have a weaker signal.

Ethernet cables

Ethernet cables come in a variety of lengths with pre-attached RJ45 connectors. Or, if you’re handy with electronics, you can buy bulk CAT-6 cable, cut it to length, and attach the connectors yourself.

Ethernet switches

Ethernet switches are helpful when you want to add wired connections to your home network. They take a single incoming Ethernet signal and gives you multiple Ethernet outputs.