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REVIEW ROUNDUP Routers and more

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Today we’re looking at Routers and more.

This article will focus on utility products that are usually overlooked. If you’re honest with yourself, you can probably say that the last router you purchased was one of two things. It was either the cheapest one at the big box store that week, or it’s built in to the modem that your internet service provider “gives” you. Today’s household connects more devices than ever. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, grapefruits – everything has Wi-Fi these days. Aside from a couple of the nicest routers on the market today, we’ll look at a way to extend your router’s wireless range, a portable router that fits in your pocket, and a network attached storage device that will make your entire media library available anytime, anywhere.

Wifi is fickle and routers make grand promises that are nearly always hypothetical. You’re actually doing well if you see half the advertised top speeds in practice with a router. There are so many variables in an individual user’s setup that a solution for some can be a nightmare for others. I’m going to give you some basic info and general impressions below, but be sure to do your own research on a specific model before purchase. Make sure you aren’t buying a router and receiving a headache free of charge. Read on...

DIR-868L Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router by D-Link

Manufacturer – $149.99

Amazon - $145.99

Google Pricing

802.11ac is the hip new emerging wireless standard that all the kids are talking about. All your devices might not be able to take advantage of it just yet, but if you’re purchasing today you’ll want an ac capable device like this newer model from D-Link. This is a dual band router, the more common (read crowded) 2.4 GHz band and the less common (read picky) 5 GHz band. You’ll only be able to utilize the newer ac standard on the 5 GHz band and then only if you have a newer device that can utilize the standard. The one drawback to the 1300 mbps “capable” 5 GHz band is a decrease in range. Aside from wireless, you’ll find 4 gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one WAN port. A very standard WPS push button allows for quick pairing, a guest network feature allows you to safely share what you want, and built in parental controls allow you as much control as you need to feel comfortable. Rounding out the useful extra features is IPv6 compatibility which will assure that your router works after your internet service provider makes that inevitable change in the near future. Dlink calls this an app-enabled cloud router and on paper those features seem nice. During use the effect isn’t as successful as one might hope. The two useful apps, myDlink and Shareport allow you to manage settings on the go and share media if you connect an external hard drive to the USB 3.0 port on the back of the router. That USB 3.0 port will also allow you to share a printer wirelessly.

Here’s a quick overview of the unit from Dlink.

Here are the apps for Android:

SharePort

MyDlink

R6300v2 Smart Wi-Fi Router AC1750 by Netgear

Manufacturer – $169.99

Amazon - $167.99

Google Pricing

This model from Netgear is near identical to the above in terms of technical specs. The only real difference in terms of offered features is the addition of a second USB port. One is 3.0 and one is 2.0. The Dlink model is cylindrical and black. It doesn’t look like a router and I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing? The Netgear model actually impressed me with the build and finish. It’s closer to a traditional shape but it comes with a detachable stand that allows it to sit vertically on a desk or shelf. I had an initial issue with setup of this unit and Netgear’s customer support was a real let down. I did prefer Netgear’s Genie interface (available on all major platforms including mobile) over the more dated offering from Dlink. I didn’t see a difference in range strength in my testing but that could just be a result of my home’s specific single story layout.

Link to Netgear’s Genie app on Android

NetShair Link Portable Wi-Fi Router and USB Media Hub by IOgear

Manufacturer – $59.95

Amazon - $26.94

Google Pricing

This is a category you might not have come across, travel routers. The fact that most hotels are starting to include free Wi-Fi is a breath of fresh air. Though “free” is usually just a gimmick and you are actually given the most inconsistent and deathly slow connection possible. What if you get that wireless connection though and you’re only traveling with your mobile device to save on the weight? A travel router will hook into an existing connection and allow you to insert an external hard drive or flash drive containing your favorite media. You’ll be streaming music, movies, etc. without having to clog your device’s internal memory. This is a niche product, but if you find yourself intrigued, the price of entry is pretty low here. Use the company’s Android or iOS app to control the device. The device itself has an Ethernet port as well as 2 USB ports with one capable of 2.1A charging for your iPad, tablet, or larger mobile phone. The device was consistent in my testing but many complain about hit and miss connectivity with the NetShair.

NetShair app on Google Play

Central by Seagate

Manufacturer – $219.99

Amazon - $400

Google Pricing

A new take on an old idea, network attached storage or NAS, the Central by Seagate is your external backup hard drive that connects to the cloud. The freedom to keep up to 4 terabytes of info ready at a moment’s notice is something that most consumers wouldn’t believe was possible for the everyday gadget lover. Seagate is marketing the Central as, “Your personal cloud”. Companies like Western Digital are making a huge push in this space and Seagate actually beat them to market. This isn’t a new idea, but it is a cleaner and more polished version than anything I’ve seen to date. Read/Write speeds were impressive as promised. The included software is available through the web or mobile apps and you really are able to curate a centralized media library that will stream to your game console, select smart TVs, and any DLNA or AirPlay certified device in your home. The app also works to organize files into easily searchable categories. The app was slow and a bit clunky in my testing on two android devices. Setup was more difficult than expected and after eventually getting the device configured, I was alarmed to notice a low “scream” of a beep that would bounce around my office sporadically. It was just noticeable enough to break my focus each time. It seems that I’d received a dud. Seagate could not have been more responsive. They immediately replaced the faulty unit and I haven’t had a single issue with the new unit. The Central is available in 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB. The central can also sync your Facebook photos and videos automatically through its included software.

Thank you again to the companies above for supplying their product for this review.

ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!

@ExaminerPhil

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