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Rating wi-fi (february)
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Wi-Fi Equipment: specifications, types
General device type. Nowadays, in addition to the routers familiar to many (both regular and gaming), you can find ADSL routers, access points(including directional ones), MESH systems, Wi-Fi adapters and Wi-Fi amplifiers on the market. Here is a detailed description of these types of equipment:
— Router. Devices known to many as the most popular means of wireless Internet access. However, the use of such electronics is not limited to this — it can also be used to create local networks and for some other, more specific purposes. On the technical side, a router is an access point to a wireless network that supports NAT mode; for more details about this mode, see "Functions and Capabilities", here we note that it is thanks to NAT that it is possible to access the Internet from several computers / gadgets at once, working through one provider account.
— Gaming router. A variation of the routers described above, optimized for use in online games. The features of such devices are support for the latest communication standards, high connection speed with a minimum of lags, as well as the availability of special tools and functions (game traffic priority, connection accelerators, integration wit...h gaming services or even certain online games, etc.). The specific functionality of a gaming router may be different, but if you strive for maximum speed and comfort in online games, it makes sense to choose a device from this category.
— ADSL modem/router. Wireless routers (see above) that provide Internet access through ADSL technology. The key benefit of this technology is that it allows the use of existing telephone networks without the hassle of running wires; at the same time, the Internet and telephone communication work independently and do not interfere with each other. On the other hand, such a connection is inferior to wired Ethernet in terms of speed and functionality (for more details, see "Data input (WAN-port)"); therefore, nowadays, ADSL is gradually “departing from the stage”, and there is not much equipment for this technology on the market.
— Access point. Devices intended mainly for use as a kind of "adapter" between wired networks and wireless devices, as well as for connecting individual network segments to each other via a wireless channel. The fundamental difference between such devices and routers (see above) is the absence of the NAT function (see "Functions and Capabilities") — thus, each wireless device connected to the access point transmits its own IP address to the network. A typical example of a network based on such equipment is a common router for connecting to the Internet, plus several access points located in key locations and connected to the router by wire.
— Directed access point. A variation of the access points described above, in which the coverage area has a clear direction. Simply put, the signal from such a device does not diverge uniformly in all directions, but in a certain direction, in the form of a beam or sector. Such equipment has two main areas of application. The first is situations when the access point needs to be installed not in the centre, but on the edge of the overlapped zone — for example, in the corner of the room. In this case, the directional design allows you to concentrate almost all the transmitter power in the working area, without wasting it on "unnecessary" directions. The second use case is wireless communication over long distances, for example, between networks in different buildings in bridge mode (see "Features"); in some directional access points, the communication range reaches 10 km. Of course, for such communication, the device on the other side of the wireless channel must also have the appropriate range, so the easiest way in such cases is to use two access points with the same characteristics.
— MESH system. Equipment for building wireless networks in MESH format. The idea of this format is to use numerous compact and relatively low-power wireless transceivers that can interact with each other in a coordinated manner. In this way, you can block a significant area (up to a small city), providing a reliable connection at any point in the coverage area. This happens as follows: a laptop, smartphone or other Wi-Fi gadget interacts with the nearest node of the MESH network, then the data is transmitted to the main router or access point wirelessly, along the chain between the nodes. In this case, the so-called dynamic routing is used: the network itself determines the optimal data transfer path and automatically changes this path when the user moves between individual nodes.
Actually, dynamic routing is the key difference between MESH devices and more traditional Wi-Fi amplifiers. At the same time, the work is carried out in a “seamless” format: when switching from one node to another, the connection is not lost and network functions that require a stable connection (downloads, watching videos, online games, authorization sessions) are not interrupted. In other words, the user does not notice switching between individual nodes at all. In addition, this format of operation allows you to maintain a stable connection speed (whereas the use of traditional amplifiers, especially in the form of chains, significantly reduces the speed). Thus, a MESH network can be an excellent solution for situations where a set of several Wi-Fi amplifiers is needed — from a private house on 2-3 floors to office and industrial complexes, and even urban areas. At the same time, equipment for such networks can be sold in sets of several units (up to 8); see "Included" for details.
— Wi-Fi adapter. Adapters for connecting to Wi-Fi networks designed for desktop PCs and other equipment that does not initially have built-in Wi-Fi modules. Such equipment can be both external and internal — see "Interfaces (for adapters)" for details. Also note here that buying a Wi-Fi adapter can be a good alternative to a wired connection — especially if the router is located far away and it would be inconvenient to pull the wire.
— Wi-Fi booster. Devices designed to amplify the Wi-Fi signal from an existing router or access point. They allow you to expand the coverage area, get rid of "dead zones", as well as improve the overall quality of communication and make the signal more stable. This type of device differs from MESH equipment (see above), which has a similar purpose, in the absence of dynamic routing (Wi-Fi amplifiers are designed to work directly with the router, in extreme cases, via a fixed chain), as well as the impossibility of seamless operation (the amplifier is visible as separate network — see "Features — Repeater Mode" for details). In addition, connecting through such a device can significantly reduce the speed. On the other hand, Wi-Fi amplifiers are much cheaper than nodes in MESH systems. So this particular type of equipment may be the best option for simple domestic use, when you only need to slightly expand the existing coverage and there is no need to build an extensive network with many equivalent connection points.
The number of individual devices supplied in the kit.
This parameter is relevant primarily for MESH equipment (see "Device type"): this technique was originally designed for branched wireless networks, where the number of individual nodes can be in the tens, while MESH nodes of the same model interact best with each other. Thus, it is more convenient (and often even more profitable) to buy such equipment not one at a time, but as a set ( 2 devices, 3 devices and more). However, other types of Wi-Fi equipment can also be sold several units in a kit — primarily routers and access points. Such sets, again, are designed for situations where you need to provide several wireless devices in the network — for example, install several access points connected by a wired network in an office building.
Data input (WAN-port)
Methods for connecting to the Internet (or other external network, such as in bridge mode) supported by the device.
The classic, most common version of such a connection nowadays is LAN (Ethernet), but this is not limited to this. A wired connection can also be made via ADSL or SFP fiber, and wirelessly via mobile networks (using a SIM card, SIM card 5G or an external modem for 3G or 4G), as well as via Wi-Fi. Here is a more detailed description of each option:
— Ethernet (RJ45). Classic wired connection via a network cable via an RJ-45 connector. Also known as "LAN", although this designation is not entirely correct. Nowadays, it is one of the most common methods of wired Internet connection, and is also widely used in local networks. This is due to the fact that the speed of Ethernet is actually limited only by the capabilities of network controllers; at the same time, even the simplest modules support up to 100 Mbps, and in advanced equipment this value can reach 10 Gbps.
— ADSL. A technology primarily used for wired Internet connections over existing landline telephone lines. This is its main advantage — you can use ready-made lines without fiddling with laying numerous addi...tional wires; at the same time, ADSL works independently of telephone calls and does not interfere with them. At the same time, the speed of such a connection is noticeably lower than via Ethernet — even in advanced equipment it does not exceed 24 Mbps. In addition, ADSL traffic is distributed asymmetrically: full speed is achieved only when working for reception, data transmission speed is much lower, which creates problems for video communication and some other tasks. So nowadays, ADSL is gradually being replaced by more advanced standards, although the complete disappearance of this technology is still far away.
— Wi-Fi. Connect to an external data source via Wi-Fi. By definition, this format of operation is used by Wi-Fi adapters (see "Device type"), as well as by most MESH equipment. (However, if the MESH system package includes both nodes and the main control device for them, then the WAN input can be specified for the control device, and often this is not Wi-Fi). Also, this type of data input can be provided in other types of equipment — in particular, routers and access points (for example, to work in bridge or repeater mode).
— 3G modem (USB). Internet connection via 3G mobile network using a separate external modem connected to the USB port. Most often, we are talking about UMTS networks (the development of GSM mobile communications), the most common in Europe and the post-Soviet space; however, it may also be possible to use modems for CDMA networks (EV-DO technology). These nuances, as well as compatibility with specific modem models, need to be clarified separately. However, anyway, 3G may be a good option for situations where a wired Internet connection is difficult or impossible, such as in the private sector. In addition, some Wi-Fi devices with this feature are equipped with autonomous power supplies and can even be used on the go. The data transfer speed of 3G is close to broadband wired connection (from 2 to 70 Mbps with a normal signal, depending on the specific technology); however, it is less than in 4G networks (see below), but 3G coverage is more extensive, and equipment for this standard is cheaper.
— 4G (LTE) modem (USB). Internet connection via 4G mobile network (LTE) using a separate external modem connected to the USB port. The main features are similar to the 3G connection described above, adjusted for the fact that in this case more advanced fourth-generation networks are used. The data transfer rate in such networks reaches about 150 Mbps; they are not as widespread as 3G-connection, but soon we can expect a change in the situation. In addition, it should be noted that in Europe and the post-Soviet space, LTE networks are usually deployed on the basis of 3G UMTS and GSM networks; so in the absence of full-fledged 4G coverage, modems for such networks can work according to the 3G and even GSM standard.
— SIM card. Connecting to the Internet via a mobile network using a mobile operator's SIM card installed directly in the device. The specific type of supported networks depends both on the capabilities of the router and on the conditions of a particular mobile operator; however, all such equipment is compatible with at least 3G networks, and often 4G as well. The features of these networks are described in detail above (you can also read about the advantages of a mobile Internet connection there). This option is convenient because it allows you to do without a separate USB modem — you just need to purchase a SIM card, the cost of which is negligible. In addition, the use of "sim cards" has a positive effect on compactness and ease of carrying. On the other hand, the built-in mobile communication module significantly affects the overall cost — and you will have to pay for it anyway (whereas a model with support for external modems does not have to be bought immediately with a modem, such devices usually allow wired connection). Therefore, you should pay attention to this option if you initially plan to connect to the Internet through mobile networks.
- SIM card (5G). The ability to operate Wi-Fi equipment in high-speed 5G mobile networks with a peak bandwidth of up to 20 Gbps for reception and up to 10 Gbps for data transmission. Implemented via a SIM card with appropriate 5G support. This standard reduces power consumption compared to previous versions, and it also uses a number of complex solutions aimed at improving the reliability and overall quality of communication - in particular, multi-element antenna arrays (Massive MIMO) and beamforming technologies (Beamforming).
— SFP (optics). Connection via fiber optic cable of the SFP standard. Such a connection can be carried out at high speeds (measured in gigabytes per second), and the fiber, unlike the Ethernet cable, is practically insensitive to external interference. On the other hand, the support of this standard is not cheap, and its capabilities are unnecessary for domestic use. Therefore, SFP is found mainly in professional-level Wi-Fi devices.
4G speed (LTE)
The 4G (LTE) mobile connection speed supported by the device.
All modern LTE equipment is assigned one or another category (Cat.3, Cat.4, Cat.6, Cat.7, Cat.9, Cat.12, Cat.13, Cat.15, Cat.16, Cat.18, Cat.19, Cat.20), on which the data transfer rate directly depends. This paragraph specifies both this category and specific speed indicators, moreover, in two parameters — for reception and for transmission. The transmission speed is always much lower, but given the specifics of mobile Internet access, this moment is usually not critical.
Note that equipment with different speed categories will be quite compatible with each other, however, the throughput will be limited by the capabilities of the slower device. It is also worth saying that this paragraph indicates the theoretical maximum; practical indicators can be noticeably lower (depending on the quality of the coverage, the congestion of the air, the features of specific electronics). However, a modem with a higher speed category will perform faster in fact.
Wi-Fi standards supported by the equipment. Nowadays, in addition to modern standards Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)(its variation Wi-Fi 6E) and WiGig (802.11ad), you can meet also support for earlier versions — Wi-Fi 3 (802.11g) and even Wi-Fi 1 (802.11b). Here is a more detailed description of each of these versions:
— Wi-Fi 3 (802.11g). An outdated standard, like Wi-Fi 1 (802.11b), which has sunk into oblivion. It was widely used before the advent of Wi-Fi 4, nowadays it is used mainly as an addition to newer versions — in particular, in order to ensure compatibility with outdated and low-cost equipment. Operates at a frequency of 2.4 GHz, the maximum data transfer rate is 54 Mbps.
— Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n). The first of the common standards that supports the frequency of 5 GHz; can operate in this range or in the classic 2.4 GHz. It is worth emphasizing that some models of Wi-Fi equipment for this standard use only 5 GHz, which is why they are incompatible with earlier versions of Wi-Fi. The maximum speed for Wi-Fi 4 is 600 Mbps; in modern wireless devices, this standard is very popular, only recently it began to be squeezed into this position by Wi-Fi 5.
— Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). The successor to Wi-Fi 4, which finally mo...ved to the 5 GHz band, which had a positive effect on the reliability of the connection and data transfer rate: it is up to 1.69 Gbps per antenna and up to 6.77 Gbps in general. In addition, this is the first version to fully implement Beamforming technology (for more details, see "Functions and Capabilities").
— Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax). The development of Wi-Fi 5, which introduced both an increase in speed to 10 Gbps, and a number of important improvements in the format of work. One of the most important innovations is the use of an extensive frequency range — from 1 to 7 GHz; this, in particular, allows you to automatically select the least loaded frequency band, which has a positive effect on the speed and reliability of the connection. At the same time, Wi-Fi 6 devices are capable of operating at classic frequencies of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and a modification of the Wi-Fi 6E standard is capable of operating at frequencies from 5.9 to 7 GHz, it is generally accepted that devices with Wi-Fi 6E support operate on frequency of 6 GHz, while there is full compatibility with earlier standards. In addition, some improvements were introduced in this version regarding the simultaneous operation of several devices on one channel, in particular, we are talking about OFDMA technology. Thanks to this, Wi-Fi 6 gives the smallest of modern standards a drop in speed when the air is loaded, and the modification of Wi-Fi 6E operating at a frequency of 6 GHz has the least amount of interference.
— Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax). An enhanced branch of the Wi-Fi 6 standard with data rates up to 10 Gbps. The Wi-Fi 6E standard is technically called 802.11ax. But unlike basic Wi-Fi 6 (see the relevant paragraph for more details), which is similarly named, it provides for operation in the unloaded 6 GHz band. In general, the standard uses 14 different frequency bands, offering high throughput in the most crowded places with many active connections.
WiGig (802.11ad). Wi-Fi standard using an operating frequency of 60 GHz; data transfer rates can be up to 10 Gbps (depending on the specific version of WiGig). The 60 GHz channel is much less loaded than the more popular 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, which has a positive effect on the reliability of data transmission and reduces latency; the latter is especially important in games and some other special tasks. On the other hand, the increase in frequency has significantly reduced the connection range (for more details, see "Frequency range"), so that in fact this standard is only suitable for communication within the same room.
Note that in fact, the data transfer rate is usually much lower than the theoretical maximum — especially when several Wi-Fi devices operate on the same channel. Also note that different standards are backwards compatible with each other (with a speed limit according to the slower one) provided that the frequencies match: for example, 802.11ac can work with 802.11n, but not with 802.11g.
Standard Wi-Fi frequency bands supported by the device.
This parameter is directly related to the Wi-Fi standards (see above) that the equipment complies with. At the same time, there are standards that cover several bands at once (such as Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 6), and not every device compatible with them supports all these bands at once; so in such cases this point should be clarified separately. In addition, the frequencies commonly used nowadays have common features, here they are:
— 2.4 GHz. Classic range: used in the earliest Wi-Fi standards, and supported by many modern versions. Therefore, quite a lot of Wi-Fi equipment still works only at 2.4 GHz(although exceptions are increasingly common). The main advantages of such equipment are simplicity, low cost, and compatibility even with frankly outdated wireless devices. On the other hand, the 2.4 GHz band is extremely busy: in addition to numerous Wi-Fi devices, it is also used by Bluetooth modules and some other types of electronics. This may degrade the quality and speed of the connection.
— 5 GHz. A band introduced to overcome the shortcomings of 2.4 GHz — in particular, to offload communication channels and separate Wi-Fi from other wireless technologies. In addition, increasing the frequency allowed to increase the communication speed. 5 GHz is used as one of the operating frequencies in the Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 6 standards (see above) and as the only one...in Wi-Fi 5. So you can find devices on the market that operate only at 5 GHz, but more widespread received equipment with multiple bands, where this frequency is only one of the supported.
— 6 GHz. An unloaded frequency introduced into use since the Wi-Fi 6E generation. The new range provides the ability to simultaneously operate numerous client devices at high speed with a minimum amount of interference and delays in signal transmission. At the moment, this is the freest, widest and fastest Wi-Fi range. However, in some regions, the 6 GHz frequency remains unavailable due to the occupancy of the band by means of military, fixed or radio relay wireless communications.
— 60 GHz. Range implemented in the WiGig standard; today it is used only in it, and as the only one. A significant increase in frequency compared to the more common 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz options has a positive effect on the quality of communication. So, with the same theoretical maximum as that of Wi-Fi 6 (10 Gbps), the WiGig standard gives a higher actual data exchange rate, as well as fewer delays and lags; this is especially important in games and some specific tasks. The downside of these advantages is a small communication range: even when using Beamforming (see "Functions and Capabilities"), it does not exceed 10 m in open space, and an obstacle like a wall can become insurmountable for a 60 GHz channel. Therefore, in Wi-Fi equipment, this frequency is found mainly among rather specific devices — access points (including directional ones), which are designed to connect individual network segments in bridge mode (see ibid.). It is this mode of use that is one of the most optimal, given the properties of this range. However, 60 GHz support is also increasingly found in consumer gadgets (smartphones, laptops), so routers are also being released for this frequency.
— Natural frequency. In rare cases, the operation of Wi-Fi equipment is possible at natural frequencies that do not fall under the standard generally accepted values. Such devices are mainly used to build point-to-point and point-to-multipoint radio bridges. Their advantages include low frequency noise from standard Wi-Fi networks, and, as a result, increased communication range. It is worth noting that it is impossible to connect directly to such devices from a laptop or smartphone. It is also necessary to take into account the legislative aspect, since in each country the use of frequencies is regulated differently.
The number of wireless bands and channels supported by the router. Specified only for models that work with more than one range.
— Dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). Devices that simultaneously support two popular communication bands — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz — in the "one communication channel per band" format. This ensures compatibility with most Wi-Fi standards (see above), and in some cases also has a positive effect on the quality of communication. For example, a Wi-Fi adapter (see "Device Type") with this feature may provide the ability to evaluate the load on both bands and automatically select the less loaded one.
— Three-channel (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz in 2 channels). An improved version of the dual-band operation format: in the 5 GHz band, communication is carried out on two channels. This allows, for example, to “raise” three wireless connection channels on one router at once (three visible networks in the list of wireless networks) and achieve even higher throughput. The advantages of this format are especially noticeable when the router works simultaneously with several wireless devices.
— Tri-band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 60 GHz). The most "omnivorous" type of modern Wi-Fi equipment, compatible with all popular standards — from the outdated 802.11 b / g to the relatively new 802.11 ad. Also, the abundance of ranges contributes to an increase in spee...d, especially when working with multi-range devices.
Wireless speed 2.4 GHz
The maximum speed provided by the device when communicating wirelessly in the 2.4 GHz band.
This range is used in most modern Wi-Fi standards (see above) - as one of the available or even the only one. The theoretical maximum for it is 600 Mbit. In reality, Wi-Fi at a frequency of 2.4 GHz is used by a large number of client devices, from which congestion of data transmission channels emerges. Also, the number of antennas affects the speed performance of the equipment. It is possible to achieve the speed declared in the specification only in an ideal situation. In practice, it can be noticeably smaller (often by several times), especially with an abundance of wireless technology simultaneously connected to the equipment. The maximum speed at 2.4 GHz is specified in the characteristics of specific models to understand the real capabilities of Wi-Fi equipment. As for the numbers, according to the capabilities in the 2.4 GHz band, modern equipment is conditionally divided into models with speeds up to 500 Mbit inclusive and over 500 Mbit.
Wireless speed 5 GHz
The maximum speed supported by the device when communicating wirelessly in the 5 GHz band.
This range is used in Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E as one of the available bands, in Wi-Fi 5 as the only one (see "Wi-Fi Standards"). The maximum speed is specified in the specifications in order to indicate the real capabilities of specific equipment - they can be noticeably more modest than the general capabilities of the standard. Also, in fact, it all depends on the generation of Wi-Fi. For example, devices with Wi-Fi 5 support can theoretically deliver up to 6928 Mbit (using eight antennas), with Wi-Fi 6 support up to 9607 Mbit (using the same eight spatial streams). The maximum possible communication speed is achieved under certain conditions, and not every model of Wi-Fi equipment fully satisfies them. Specific figures are conditionally divided into several groups: the value up to 500 Mbit is rather modest, many devices support speeds in the range of 500 - 1000 Mbit, indicators of 1 - 2 Gbps can be attributed to the average, and the most advanced models in class provide a data exchange rate of over 2 Gbps.
Wireless speed 6 GHz
The maximum speed supported by the device when communicating wirelessly in the 6 GHz band.
Wireless speed 60 GHz
The maximum speed supported by the device when communicating wirelessly in the 60 GHz band.
This range is currently used only in the WiGig standard (see "Wi-Fi Standards"). And the maximum speed is specified in the specifications because the capabilities of specific equipment can be noticeably more modest than the general capabilities of the standard. This is due to the fact that the maximum possible communication speed is achieved under certain conditions (in particular, when using several antennas), and not every model fully satisfies these conditions. In addition, WiGig has several versions that differ in capabilities.
It is also worth noting that this paragraph indicates the value of the speed for an perfect situation. In fact, it can be noticeably smaller (often by several times), especially with an abundance of wireless technology simultaneously connected to the equipment.
Max. speed (own frequency)
The maximum speed that the device can provide when communicating wirelessly in its own frequency range.
Bandwidth 160 MHz
The presence of a bandwidth of 160 MHz increases the throughput for data transmission and allows it to approach the maximum theoretical speed.
Interfaces (for adapters)
The method of connection to a PC (or other electronics) provided in the adapter (see "Device type").
Note that modern adapters can be conditionally divided into external and internal. The first variety uses a classic USB port — usually according to the USB 2.0 or USB 3.2 gen1 standard ; such adapters are useful when Wi-Fi is needed only occasionally, or when installing an internal adapter is difficult or impossible (for example, if the PC case is still under warranty and you do not want to disassemble it). Internal models, in turn, are connected mainly via PCI-E, less often via PCI or M.2. However, in all cases, the internal adapter is a board that is attached to the expansion slot on the PC motherboard; this option is especially handy if you want to add a permanent Wi-Fi connection to a traditional desktop computer.
And here is a more detailed description of each specific option:
— USB 2.0. A version of USB that is considered obsolete: in particular, the data transfer rate in it does not exceed 480 Mbps, and the power supply is low. Nevertheless, this is quite enough for Wi-Fi equipment, such devices are inexpensive, and you can connect them to the ports of a newer version — USB 3.2 gen1 or gen2 (except that adapters are required for USB-C type hardware connectors). Therefor...e, many external adapters are still produced with this particular version of USB.
— USB 3.2 gen 1. The successor to USB 2.0, formerly known as USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 gen1. Delivers faster speeds — up to 4.8Gbps — and more power. However, in Wi-Fi equipment, such features are not often required, so this type of connection is provided mainly in fairly advanced adapters, where a simpler USB 2.0 no longer allows you to realize all the capabilities of the device.
— PCI-E. One of the most common interfaces for connecting internal peripherals. It is widely used in modern motherboards (even small "motherboards" most often have several of these slots), which is why it is also popular among Wi-Fi adapters. At the same time, wireless adapters are most often connected via PCI-E 1x, which allows you to install them in any free slot (both PCI-E 1x and 4x and even 16x). Note that such a connection allows you to use external antennas — a plate with antennas or with inputs for connecting them can be placed on the back panel of the PC case (similar to how, for example, graphics card outputs are placed). The connection speed via PCI-E depends on the version, but nowadays it is usually at least 1 Gbps — this is quite enough for most cases.
— PCI. An interface for connecting expansion cards, which is the predecessor of the PCI-E described above. Nowadays, it is considered obsolete, but it is still found in "motherboards" — based on the installation of components that do not require high speeds and powerful power. Wi-Fi adapters are quite suitable for these criteria, so you can still find models with this type of connection on the market. One of the advantages of such adapters is that they do not take up PCI-E slots that other, more demanding cards might need.
— M.2. Comparatively new interface used primarily for miniature internal components; Wi-Fi adapters with such a connection are also basically miniature modules with an internal antenna. When buying such an adapter, it is worth remembering that the M.2 standard mainly describes the physical type of connector, and the connection can be made using PCI-E or SATA technology. At the same time, Wi-Fi modules use PCI-E, but the M.2 connectors on the motherboard can only support SATA. Therefore, before buying, it's ok to clarify the availability and specific location of M.2 PCI-E ports on the motherboard. Regarding the capabilities of M.2, it is worth noting that it allows you to achieve even higher speeds than the more traditional PCI-E, with a small size of the connector itself.
The WAN port characterizes the ability of the device to receive a wired signal. There may be models with both one port and two WAN ports, and in rare cases, more connected providers. Such an expanded number of WAN connectors affects the cost and, accordingly, is found in more part among professional-level routers.
In terms of speed, when choosing a device, the priority is the speed of the output LAN port or Wi-Fi. However, faster WAN ports ( 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps) allow you to divide the load on several outputs at once without reducing speed performance, as may be the case with WAN port 100 Mbps.
In this case, LAN means standard network connectors (known as RJ-45) designed for wired connection of LAN devices — PCs, servers, additional access points, etc. The number of ports corresponds to the number of devices that can be directly connected to wired equipment. way.
In terms of speed, 100 Mbps (Fast Ethernet) and 1 Gbps (Gigabit Ethernet) are the most popular options today. At the same time, thanks to the development of technology, more and more gigabit devices are being produced, although in fact this speed is critical only when transferring large amounts of information. At the same time, some models, in addition to the standard speed of the main LAN ports, may have a 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps and even 10 Gbps LAN port with increased bandwidth.
Reassignable WAN / LAN
Reassignable WAN / LAN port in the design of the device, which can work both with an external WAN network and with a local LAN. This solution allows you to reduce the total number of connection ports and at the same time expand the functionality of the equipment for flexible adaptation to user needs.
Port for remote control of equipment from a console server - a specialized network computer with the ability to configure network devices via an Ethernet connection.
The number of USB 2.0 ports provided in the design of the device.
USB in this case plays the role of a universal interface for connecting peripheral devices to the router. The specific USB devices supported and how they are used may vary. Examples include working with a flash drive that plays the role of a drive for working in FTP or file server mode (see "Functions / Capabilities"), connecting to a printer in print server mode(see ibid), connecting a 3G modem (See "Data input (WAN-port)"), etc.
Specifically, USB 2.0 allows you to transfer data at speeds up to 480 Mbps. This is noticeably less than that of more advanced standards (starting with USB 3.2 gen1 described below), and the power supply of such connectors is low. However, even such characteristics are often quite enough, taking into account the specifics of the use of Wi-Fi devices. In addition, peripherals for newer versions can also be connected to the USB 2.0 port — the main thing is that the power supply is enough. Therefore, although this standard is considered obsolete, it is still widely used in modern wireless equipment. There are even models that provide 2 or even more USB 2.0 ports; this allows you to simultaneously use several external devices at once — for example, a 3G modem and a USB flash drive.
USB 3.2 gen1
The number of USB 3.2 gen1 ports provided in the design of the device.
USB in this case plays the role of a universal interface for connecting peripheral devices to the router. The specific USB devices supported and how they are used may vary. Examples include working with a flash drive that plays the role of a drive for working in FTP or file server mode (see "Functions / Capabilities"), connecting to a printer in print server mode (see ibid), connecting a 3G modem (See "Data input (WAN-port)"), etc.
Specifically, the version of USB 3.2 gen1 (formerly known as USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 gen1) is the direct successor to USB 2.0, which, in particular, has increased by 10 times (up to 4.8 Gbps) the maximum data transfer rate and increased power supply. However despite the general popularity, this standard is still relatively rare in Wi-Fi devices — USB 2.0 is enough for many tasks. However, the situation is gradually changing; and among advanced hardware such as gaming routers, you can find solutions with 2 or more USB 3.2 gen1 ports.
Number of antennas
The total number of antennas (of all types — see below) provided in the design of the device.
In modern Wi-Fi equipment, this indicator can be different: in addition to the simplest devices with 1 antenna, there are models where this number is 2, 3, 4 and even more. The point of using multiple antennas is twofold. Firstly, if there are several external devices per antenna, they have to share the bandwidth among themselves, and the actual communication speed for each subscriber drops accordingly. Secondly, such a design may also be required when communicating with one external device — to work with MU-MIMO technology (see below), which allows you to fully realize the capabilities of modern Wi-Fi standards.
Anyway, more antennas, usually, means a more advanced and functional device. On the other hand, this parameter significantly affects the cost; so specifically looking for equipment with numerous antennas makes sense mainly when the speed and stability of communication are critical.
Note that antennas intended for mobile communications may also be considered in this clause. So when choosing a model with support for mobile networks, it's ok to clarify this point.
— External. Outdoor antennas tend to be larger than indoor antennas, and they usually have swivel mounts that allow the rod to be placed in the optimal position, regardless of the position of the device itself. All this has a positive effect on signal strength. In addition, there are removable external antennas — if desired, they can be replaced with more powerful ones. The main disadvantage of this option can be called bulkiness.
— Internal. Antennas located inside the case are considered less advanced than external ones. In most cases, they are smaller, and the performance depends on the position of the device (although many manufacturers use technologies to compensate for this effect). At the same time, equipment with internal antennas has a neat appearance without unnecessary protruding parts.
— External / internal. The presence in the device at once of both types of antennas described above (in this case, there may be more than one of those and others). The presence of several antennas improves the quality of communication, but if they are all external, the device may turn out to be too bulky. Therefore, in some models of routers, a compromise is used: part of the antennas is hidden in the case, which has a positive effect on compactness and appearance.
Device support for MU-MIMO technology - multi-user multi-threaded I / O.
Communication in multiple streams is implemented through the use of multiple antennas on both the transmitting and receiving device. This allows you to increase the bandwidth of the channel, as well as improve the overall quality and stability of the connection. And the term "multi-user" usually means that Wi-Fi equipment is able to simultaneously work with several external devices that support multi-streaming (MIMO). The only exceptions are Wi-Fi adapters (see "Device type") - they are more about the ability to interact with the router / access point as efficiently as possible, which also uses MU-MIMO.
The presence of a removable antenna(or several antennas) in the design of the device.
Only external antennas can be made removable (see "Type of antennas"). This design is especially convenient for storage and transportation: it allows you to remove external equipment, making the device less bulky. In addition, many devices with this feature allow replacement of standard antennas with others (for example, more powerful ones or with a more optimal radiation pattern). Some of these models are even initially sold without antennas — in the expectation that the user will choose them himself, at his discretion; such equipment is not needed for domestic use, but it can be very convenient when selecting high-quality professional equipment. On the other hand, the detachable design reduces the reliability of the antenna mounting, increases the possibility of failures at the connection point, and increases the cost of the device. Therefore, most modern Wi-Fi equipment is still equipped with fixed antennas.
Gain provided by each device antenna; if the design provides for antennas with different characteristics (a typical example is both external and internal antennas), then the information, usually, is indicated by the highest value.
Amplification of the signal in this case is provided by narrowing the radiation pattern — just as in flashlights with adjustable beam width, reducing this width increases the illumination range. The simplest omnidirectional antennas narrow the signal mainly in the vertical plane, "flattening" the coverage area so that it looks like a horizontal disk. In turn, directional antennas (mainly in specialized access points, see "Device type") create a narrow beam that covers a very small area, but provides a very solid gain.
Specifically, the gain describes how powerful the signal is in the main direction of the antenna compared to an perfect antenna that spreads the signal evenly in all directions. Together with the power of the transmitter (see below), this determines the total power of the equipment and, accordingly, the efficiency and range of communication. Actually, to determine the total power, it is enough to add the gain in dBi to the transmitter power in dBm; dBi and dBm in this case can be considered as the same units (decibels).
In general, such data is rarely required by the average user, but it can be useful in some specific situations that specialists have to deal with. Detailed calculation methods for suc...h situations can be found in special sources; here we emphasize that it does not always make sense to pursue a high antenna gain. First, as discussed above, this comes at the cost of narrowing the scope, which can be inconvenient; secondly, too strong a signal is also often undesirable, for more details see "Transmitter power".
2.4 GHz antennas
The total number of antennas in the router that are responsible for communication in the 2.4 GHz band. For details about the number of antennas, see "Total antennas", about the range — "Frequency range".
5 GHz antennas
The total number of antennas in the router that are responsible for communication in the 5 GHz band. For details about the number of antennas, see "Total antennas", about the range — "Frequency range".
2.4 / 5 GHz antennas
The total number of antennas in the router that can operate on both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies. For details about the number of antennas, see "Total antennas", about the range — "Frequency range".
6 GHz antennas
The total number of antennas in the router that are responsible for communication in the 6 GHz band. For details about the number of antennas, see "Total antennas", about the range — "Frequency range".
60 GHz antennas
The total number of antennas in the router that are responsible for communication in the 60 GHz band. For details about the number of antennas, see "Total antennas", about the range — "Frequency range".
Antennas (mobile internet)
3G/LTE antennas improve the quality and reliability of signal reception from cell towers, which is especially useful far from base stations. There are such antennas on board models with support for SIM-cards. Antennas for 3G / LTE are internal and external, there are also pieces of equipment that do not have antennas in the delivery set, but with specially provided antenna connectors.
- Internal. Wi-Fi devices equipped with internal 3G/LTE antennas only. The location inside the case protects the antennas from breakage and damage, while the equipment itself has a neat appearance. On the other hand, the user does not have the opportunity to choose the required antenna for efficiency.
- External. The device has its own external antennas to improve the quality of 3G/LTE reception. Most often, such antennas are a removable part of the structure with connection through the appropriate connectors; however, some models may be equipped with non-removable external antennas, which are foldable for easy transport and storage.
— Connectors for antennas. Separate connectors in the design of the modem for connecting 3G / LTE antennas. Appropriate connectors make it possible to use rather large devices with equipment, which significantly exceed the capabilities of "native" antennas (both internal and external). In addition, the...user has the right to choose an antenna for such a connector at his discretion.
HPBW / hor.
The effective angle spanned by the access point's antenna in the horizontal plane.
Any antenna that is not omnidirectional radiates a signal in the form of a "beam", and unevenly: the power is highest in the middle of this beam and weakens as it moves towards the edges. The boundaries of HBPW are two opposite lines, on which the signal power is attenuated to half of the maximum. In other words, HBPW is a sector (in this case, horizontally) within which the signal from the antenna will not weaken by more than half and it will maintain acceptable performance.
Other things being equal, a more widely directional antenna will be more convenient in aiming at a target, and also more effective in difficult signal propagation conditions (for example, in dense buildings where it can come from different directions). A narrower focus, in turn, has a positive effect on the gain and, accordingly, the “range”.
HPBW / vert.
The effective angle of coverage of the antenna in the vertical plane, technically — the angle within which the signal power will be at least 50% of the maximum.
For details about the meaning of this parameter, see "HPBW / hor." higher. Here we note that if the antenna is not tilted, then the middle of the covered sector (that is, the line where the signal is most powerful) runs horizontally. Therefore, if another device to be contacted is above or below the antenna, the latter will have to be tilted for maximum communication efficiency. However, absolutely accurate guidance may be required only when receiving a very weak signal on a narrowly directed antenna — in other cases, hitting the HPBW itself is quite enough.
The range of the device's Wi-Fi module when used indoors, including through walls.
This indicator is, by definition, less than the range in open space (see below), but it is closer to reality: Wi-Fi equipment is most often used in rooms where the signal has to deal with various obstacles. However note that the figures stated in the characteristics are rather arbitrary: in fact, the communication range will directly depend on the number and type of obstacles, the congestion of the air with signals from third-party electronics, as well as the capabilities of Wi-Fi modules in devices “on the other side of the channel”. However, the difference in claimed range usually corresponds to the difference in the actual range, so it is quite possible to compare different devices by this characteristic.
Also, this information allows you to evaluate the range in open areas (if it is not claimed in the characteristics): usually, this radius is at least twice the claimed range indoors.
The range of the Wi-Fi connection when the device is operating outdoors is in an open area where the signal does not need to overcome obstacles in the form of walls and other foreign objects. In other words, we are talking about the communication range within the line of sight. This parameter can be useful not only when installed outdoors, but also, for example, in a large office space. However, do not forget that the practical range may be somewhat less, because. it also depends on the capabilities of the connected devices and the level of interference.
Also note that according to these data, it is possible to estimate the range of action in the room, if for some reason this information is not indicated in the characteristics. On average, this radius is 2-4 times less than the outdoor range, and for maximum guarantee it is worth taking a factor of 4: for example, for a reliable connection at a distance of 10 m, it is desirable to have a device with a range in open areas of at least 40 m.
Rated power of the Wi-Fi transmitter used in the device. If multiple bands are supported (see “Ranges of operation”) the power for different frequencies may be different, for such cases the maximum value is indicated here.
The total transmitting power provided by the device directly depends on this parameter. This power can be calculated by adding the transmitter power and the antenna gain (see above): for example, a 20 dBm transmitter coupled with a 5 dBi antenna results in a total power of 25 dBm (in the main antenna coverage area). For simple domestic use (for example, buying a router in a small apartment), such details are not required, but in the professional field it often becomes necessary to use wireless devices of a strictly defined power. Detailed recommendations on this matter for different situations can be found in special sources, but here we note that the total value of 26 dBm or more allows the device to be classified as equipment with a powerful transmitter. At the same time, such capabilities are not always required in fact: excessive power can create a lot of interference both for surrounding devices and for the transmitter itself (especially in urban and other similar conditions), as well as degrade the quality of the connection with low-power electronics. And for effective communication over a long distance, both the equipment itself and external devices must have the appropriate power (which is far from alway...s achievable). So, when choosing, you should not chase the maximum number of decibels, but take into account the recommendations for a particular case; in addition, a Wi-Fi amplifier or MESH system often turns out to be a good alternative to a powerful transmitter.
Signal strength 2.4 GHz
The power of the transmitter installed in the equipment when operating in the 2.4 GHz band (see "Frequency Band").
This parameter directly affects the overall power and, accordingly, the communication efficiency. For more on this, see p. "Transmitter power" above, but here we separately emphasize that high power is not always required, and in some cases it is frankly harmful.
Signal strength 5 GHz
The power of the transmitter installed in the equipment when operating in the 5 GHz band (see "Frequency Band").
This parameter directly affects the overall power and, accordingly, the communication efficiency. For more on this, see p. "Transmitter power" above, but here we separately emphasize that high power is not always required, and in some cases it is frankly harmful.
Signal strength 6 GHz
The power of the transmitter installed in the equipment when operating in the 6 GHz band (see "Frequency Band").
This parameter directly affects the overall power and, accordingly, the communication efficiency. For more on this, see p. "Transmitter power" above, but here we separately emphasize that high power is not always required, and in some cases it is frankly harmful.
Signal strength 60 GHz
The power of the transmitter installed in the equipment when operating in the 60 GHz band (see "Frequency Band").
This parameter directly affects the overall power and, accordingly, the communication efficiency. For more on this, see p. "Transmitter power" above, but here we separately emphasize that high power is not always required, and in some cases it is frankly harmful.
The model of the processor installed in the device. The processor is responsible for processing network traffic and running software. Knowing its name, you can get more detailed data on the speed capabilities of the equipment and understand how much such a powerful or, on the contrary, mediocre element is needed on board. In new models of Wi-Fi equipment, coprocessors or so-called NPU modules are often installed, which relieve the load from the main processor.
Most often, Wi-Fi equipment is equipped with processors from Broadcom, MediaTek, Realtek and Qualcomm.
The number of cores in the processor installed in the device. The core in this case refers to the part of the processor that executes one thread of instructions. Accordingly, the presence of multiple cores allows you to work with multiple threads simultaneously, which has a positive effect on performance.
The number of cycles per second that the processor produces in its normal operating mode. A clock is a single electrical impulse used to process data and synchronize the processor with the rest of the computer system. Different operations may require fractions of a clock or several clocks, but anyway, the clock frequency is one of the main parameters characterizing the performance and speed of the processor — all other things being equal, a processor with a higher clock frequency will work faster and better cope with significant loads.
The amount of random access memory (RAM) provided in the device. The amount of "RAM" is one of the indicators of the power of the device: the larger it is, the higher the speed and the better the device will cope with "heavy" tasks.
The amount of memory allocated for the operation of the operating system on board the router. It stores the OS and the control programme. Note that Flash memory is not available for use by the end user.
The main functions and capabilities implemented in the device.
This category mainly includes the most key functions — namely load balancing (Dual WAN), channel reservation, Link Aggregation, Bluetooth(various versions, including Bluetooth v 5), voice assistant, NAT, MESH modes, bridge, repeater, Beamforming function , firewall (Firewall) and CLI (Telnet). Here is a more detailed description of each of these items:
— Dual WAN. Possibility of simultaneous connection to two external networks. Most often used for simultaneous work with two Internet connections (although other options are possible); at the same time, there are two main modes of operation with such connections — redundancy (Failover / Failback) and balancing (Load Balance). So, in backup mode, the device constantly uses the main channel to connect to the Internet, and in case of failures on this channel, it automatically switches to a fallback option. In balancing mode, both channels are used simultaneously, while the load between them is distributed either automatically (depending on the traff...ic consumption of a particular device) or manually (clearly specified in the settings for specific devices). This allows, for example, to separate the channel for online games from the rest of the connection, minimizing lags and increasing efficiency.
— Link Aggregation. A function that allows you to combine several parallel physical communication channels into one logical one — to increase the speed and reliability of the connection. Simply put, with Link Aggregation, a device can be connected to another device not with one cable, but with two or even more at once. The increase in speed in this case occurs due to the summation of the throughput of all physical channels; however, the total speed may be less than the sum of the speeds — on the other hand, combining several relatively slow connectors is often cheaper than using equipment with a more advanced single interface. And the increase in reliability is carried out, firstly, by distributing the total load over individual physical channels, and secondly, by means of "hot" redundancy: the failure of one port or cable can reduce the speed, but does not lead to a complete disconnection, and when the channel is restored, the channel is switched on automatically.
— Bluetooth. The device supports Bluetooth wireless technology. The meaning of this function will depend on the format of the equipment operation (see "Device type"). For example, adapters with this capability allow you to supplement your PC not only with Wi-Fi, but also with Bluetooth support — thanks to this, you can get by with one adapter instead of two. And in routers and access points, this feature allows external devices to access the Internet (or local area network) over a Bluetooth connection instead of Wi-Fi. This format of work allows you to unload the Wi-Fi channel and reduce the power consumption of connected devices; this is especially important for smart home components and other IoT devices, some routers/access points expressly state that Bluetooth is intended mainly for such electronics. Other ways of using this technology, more specific, may be envisaged; however, this is rare.
— Voice assistant. Device support for a particular voice assistant. The most common options are (individually or together):
— NAT (Network Address Translation). A function that allows Wi-Fi equipment, when working with an external network (for example, the Internet), to replace the IP addresses of all computers and other devices connected to this equipment with one common IP address. In other words, a network with such a router is seen "from the outside" as one device, with one common IP. The most popular use of NAT is to connect several subscribers to the Internet (for example, all computers and gadgets within a home or office) through one provider account. At the same time, the number of such subscribers within the network is limited only by the capabilities of the router and can be freely changed; this will not affect access to the World Wide Web (whereas without using NAT, one would have to organize a separate account for each device). NAT support is a mandatory feature for routers (see "Device type").
— Bridge mode. Possibility of operation of the equipment in the bridge mode. This mode allows you to wirelessly connect individual network segments to each other — for example, to combine two floors if it is difficult to lay a cable between them. However, communication over longer distances is also possible — in some directional access points (see "Device type"), created mainly for just such an application, the range can exceed 20 km. Actually, this mode supports most access points (both directional and conventional), but it is also popular in other types of equipment, in particular, routers.
Note that to work in bridge mode, it is best to use the same type of device — this guarantees high-quality communication in both directions. It is also worth mentioning that in addition to the two-way point-to-point mode, there is also equipment with support for multi-way bridges (“point-to-multipoint”); the availability of such a possibility should be clarified separately.
— Repeater mode. An operating mode in which the equipment only repeats the Wi-Fi signal from another device, playing the role of a repeater. The main purpose of this function is to expand Wi-Fi networks, providing access where the main device (for example, a router) does not reach. A classic example of repeaters is Wi-Fi amplifiers (see "Device type"), they have this mode by definition; however, it is also found in other types of Wi-Fi equipment. The exception is MESH systems that have similar specifics, but differ in the format of work. See below for more information about this format, but here we note that networks with repeaters are in many ways inferior to MESH in terms of practical capabilities. Firstly, the signals from the main equipment and from the repeater are seen as separate Wi-Fi networks, and when moving between them, subscriber devices must reconnect; this can happen automatically, but disconnections and network changes still cause inconvenience. Secondly, working through a repeater significantly reduces the speed of Wi-Fi. Thirdly, the repeater operates according to a strictly fixed, pre-established routing scheme. On the other hand, access points with a repeater function are much cheaper than MESH nodes, and the mentioned drawbacks are far from always critical.
— MESH mode. Ability to operate the device as a MESH network node. By definition, all MESH systems have this feature, but it can be provided in other types of equipment. A detailed description of networks of this type is given in the paragraph “Device type — MESH system”. Here we will briefly describe their features and the difference between this mode and the repeater mode (see above), which has a largely similar purpose.
MESH technology allows you to create a single wireless network using many separate nodes (access points) connected to each other via Wi-Fi. In this case, the so-called seamless mode of operation is implemented: the entire network is seen as a single whole, switching between access points, if necessary, occurs automatically, in such cases the connection is not broken and the user does not notice the transition to another network node at all. This is one of the key differences from using repeaters. Another difference is dynamic routing: MESH network nodes automatically determine the optimal signal traversal mode. Due to this, as well as due to some other features of this technology, the presence of "intermediaries" on the signal path practically does not affect the communication speed (unlike the same repeaters). The main disadvantage of equipment with this function can be called a relatively high cost.
— Beamforming. A technology that allows you to amplify the Wi-Fi signal in the direction where the receiving device is located (instead of broadcasting this signal in all directions or in a wide sector, as is the case in normal mode). Narrowing the radiation pattern allows you to send more power towards the receiver, thus increasing the range and communication efficiency; while the position of the receiving device is determined automatically, the user does not need to deal with additional settings. And many models of Wi-Fi equipment are capable of amplifying the signal in several directions at once (usually, several antennas are provided for this). At the same time, subscriber devices do not have to support Beamforming — communication improvement is noticeable even with the one-way use of this technology (although not as obvious as with the two-way one).
Also note that the unified Beamforming standards were officially implemented as part of the Wi-Fi 5 specification. However “beamforming” was also used in earlier versions of Wi-Fi, however, different manufacturers used different methods for implementing Beamforming, incompatible with each other. So these days, this feature is almost never found outside of Wi-Fi 5 compatible equipment.
— Firewall. A feature that allows a Wi-Fi device to control traffic passing through it. In fact, the Firewall is a set of software filters: these filters compare data packets with the specified parameters and decide whether or not to pass traffic. In this case, the processing can be carried out according to two rules: “everything that is not expressly prohibited is allowed”, or vice versa, “everything that is not expressly permitted is prohibited”. The main purpose of a firewall is to protect the network (or individual network segments) from unauthorized access and various attacks. In addition, this function can be used to control user activity — for example, prohibitions on access to certain Internet sites. Note that a firewall can also be implemented at the level of individual devices, but using it on a router allows you to secure the entire network at once.
CLI (Telnet). Ability to control the device via Telnet protocol. This is one of the protocols used today to remotely control network equipment; while Telnet, unlike another popular HTTP standard, does not have a graphical interface and uses only the command line. Such access is used mainly for service purposes — for debugging and changing settings in other text-based protocols (HTTP on web pages, SMTP and POP3 on mail servers, etc.); Telnet requires specialized knowledge.
Additional features (mostly software) supported by the device. These may include DHCP server, FTP server, Web server, file server, media server (DLNA), print server, torrent client, VPN support, DDNS support, and DMZ support, among others. Here is a more detailed description of these functions:
— DHCP server. A function that simplifies the distribution of IP addresses connected to the router (or other network equipment) to subscriber devices. Assigning an IP address is necessary for correct operation in TCP / IP networks (and this is the entire Internet and the vast majority of modern “locals”). In the presence of DHCP, this process can be carried out completely automatically, which greatly simplifies the life of both users and administrators. However, the administrator can also set additional DHCP options — for example, specify a range of available IP addresses (to prevent errors) or limit the time of using one address. If necessary, you can even manually enter a specific address for each device on the network, without automatically adding new devices — DHCP also simplifies this procedure, as it allows you to carry out all operations o...n the router without delving into the settings of each subscriber device.
— FTP server. A feature that allows you to use a Wi-Fi device to store files and access them via FTP. This protocol is widely used to transfer individual files both in local networks and over the Internet. Actually, one of the main differences between this function and the file server (see below) is, first of all, the ability to work via the Internet without much difficulty. In addition, FTP is a common standard protocol and is supported by almost any PC, while a file server can use specialized standards. So if you plan to organize file storage with the simplest and most convenient access, you should choose a device with this function. At the same time, we note that “simple” does not mean “uncontrolled”: FTP allows you to set a login and password for accessing files, as well as encrypt transmitted data. The files themselves can be stored both on the built-in storage of a network device, and on a drive connected to it, such as a USB flash drive or external HDD.
— Web server. The ability to use the router as a web server — storage that hosts ("hosts") a website. Note that this can be both an Internet site and an internal resource of the local network, strictly for personal or official use. Placing the site on your own equipment allows you to do without the services of hosting providers and maintain maximum control over the data on the site and its technical base. On the other hand, this feature significantly affects the cost of equipment, and in terms of memory and processing power, Wi-Fi devices are often inferior to dedicated servers, even based on conventional PCs and laptops (although in some models the memory can be expanded with an external drive). So in this case, the web server mode should be considered mainly as an additional option for relatively simple tasks that are not associated with high loads.
— File server. The ability to use a Wi-Fi device as a server for storing files. This function differs from the FTP server described above in the data transfer protocols used; in other words, a "file server" in this case is a network file storage based on any protocols other than FTP. A specific set of such protocols and, accordingly, the functionality of a Wi-Fi device should be specified separately; we only note that most often we are talking about accessing files over a local network (FTP is traditionally used for Internet access), and the files themselves can be stored both in the router’s own memory, and on a flash drive or external hard drive.
— Media server (DLNA). The ability to create a media library using an external USB drive and transfer content from it to other devices on your home network via cable or Wi-Fi. The function is most in demand for broadcasting video, audio files and images to smart TVs and set-top boxes. In general, the technology was conceived in order to be able to combine different devices into a single network and easily share content within this network, regardless of the model and manufacturer of individual devices. Many modern smartphones and tablets, smart home ecosystem devices, etc. have DLNA support.
— Print server. The ability of the device to work as a print server — a computer that controls the printer. This feature allows you to turn a regular printer into a network printer: all network users will be able to send print jobs through a print server, while such a server will also provide a number of additional features. So, sent jobs will be stored on it until they are executed or canceled, regardless of whether the computer from which they were sent is turned on; remote control of the print queue, etc. may be provided. And the use of a router (or other similar device) in this role is convenient because the router is usually turned on and available all the time.
— Torrent client. The presence in the device of its own BitTorrent client. This function is typical mainly for routers (see "Device type"). It makes it possible to exchange files in BitTorrent networks using the router itself, without using a computer (more precisely, using it only to remotely control the operation of the torrent client); downloaded and distributed files are stored on the router's own drive or on a flash drive / external HDD. Recall that the BitTorrent protocol does not provide dedicated servers with files — the data is shared among themselves by the users themselves. And using a torrent client on a router is convenient in two ways. Firstly, it allows you to offload the main computers of users — an important advantage, given that the torrent client can consume a lot of resources, especially with an abundance of simultaneous downloads / distributions. Secondly, the router, usually, remains on all the time, which allows downloads and distributions to continue even when user PCs and laptops are turned off.
— VPN (Virtual Private Network) support. Initially, VPN is a function that allows you to combine devices that are physically located in different networks into a single virtual network. The connection is via the Internet, but the data is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access to it. However, routers, access points and MESH equipment (see "Device Type") more often use a slightly different format of work: connecting to the Internet through a separate VPN server, so that all external traffic from the network served by the router goes through this server. Such a connection has a number of advantages. Firstly, additional traffic encryption increases the security of work. Secondly, “outside” in such cases, it is not the real IP address of the user that is visible, but the address of the VPN server, and in the settings you can set the address related to almost any country in the world. This also has a positive effect on security, and also makes it possible to bypass regional restrictions on visiting individual sites and accessing services.
Note that the VPN can also be “raised” on individual devices on the network (for example, through tools in some Internet browsers); however, a VPN router allows all network devices to work in this format, regardless of whether they support VPN or not. This is particularly useful on smart TVs (to access certain video services like Netflix) and on PS and Xbox (to bypass region restrictions on certain games). On the other hand, note that setting up such a connection on a router can be quite difficult, the connection speed can noticeably drop when working through a VPN, and enabling and disabling this feature on a router is usually more difficult than on user devices.
— DDNS. The device supports the DDNS function — assigning a permanent domain name to a device with a changing (dynamic) IP address. For network electronics, the IP address is of key importance, it is he who allows the equipment to send data packets to the right device. However, such addresses are sequences of numbers that are poorly remembered by a person. Therefore, domain names appeared — on the Internet these are web addresses (for example, ek.ua or e-katalog.ru), on the local network — the names of individual devices (for example, "Work laptop" or "Sergey's Computer"). Both on the Internet and in local networks, the connection between a domain name and an IP address is responsible for the so-called DNS servers: for each domain in the database of such a server, its own IP is registered. However, for technical reasons, situations often arise when the router has to use a dynamic (changeable) IP; accordingly, in order for information to be constantly available on the same domain name, it is necessary to update the data on the DNS server with each IP change. It is this update that the DDNS function provides.
— DMZ. Initially, DMZ is a function that allows you to create a segment on the local network with free access from the outside. From the rest of the network, this segment (it is called the DMZ — “demilitarized zone”) is separated by a firewall that allows only specially permitted external traffic to pass through. This provides additional protection against external attacks: in such cases, the DMZ suffers first of all, and access to other network resources is much more difficult for an attacker. One of the most popular ways to use this feature is to provide access to Internet services, the servers of which are physically located in the company's public local area network. However, it is worth noting that in some inexpensive routers, DMZ may mean the DMZ-host mode, which does not provide any additional protection and is used for completely different purposes (mainly to translate all ports to another network device). So the specific format of DMZ operation needs to be specified separately, especially if you are purchasing a low-cost category device.
— WPA. An encryption protocol created as a temporary solution to the most critical vulnerabilities of the WEP described below. It uses a more advanced encryption algorithm, as well as the transmission of passwords in encrypted form. However, the reliability of this standard also turned out to be insufficient, so an improved version, WPA2, was developed.
— WEP. Historically, the first encryption protocol used in wireless networks. It uses encryption from 64-bit to 256-bit, the latter option is considered strong in itself, however, the standard's own vulnerabilities allow a specialist to hack such a communication channel without much difficulty. As a result, WEP is completely obsolete, its support is provided mainly for compatibility with the simplest equipment (especially since it is technically easy to provide this support).
— WPA2. The most popular security standard in modern Wi-Fi equipment. At one time, it became an important update to the original WPA: in particular, the AES CCMP algorithm was introduced into WPA2, which is extremely difficult to crack. Over time, however, some vulnerabilities were identified in this protocol, which led to the development of a more advanced WPA3; however, WPA3 is just beginning to be massively implemented, and in most Wi-Fi devices, WPA2 remains the most advanced standard.
It is worth noting two nuances. First, WPA2 is available in two versions — personal and corporate; in this case, we are talking about pers...onal, corporate options are placed in paragraph "802.1x". Secondly, support for this standard is guaranteed to also be compatible with WEP and original WPA.
— WPA3. A fundamental improvement to WPA2, introduced in 2018, addressing weaknesses identified in WPA2 in the 14 years since it went live. This standard introduced four key innovations:
— 802.1x. In this case, it implies support for corporate security standards — most often the corresponding versions of the WPA2 protocols, in new devices also WPA3. For example, if the specifications indicate "802.1x" in addition to "WPA3", then this means that this model supports both personal and corporate versions of WPA3. As for the differences between similar versions, one of them is the support for a separate authentication server in corporate protocols. In other words, when using this function, data on accounts and access rights are stored separately from Wi-Fi equipment, on a special secure server, and it is this server that in each case checks the data of the connected equipment and decides whether to allow or deny access.
The volume of the built-in storage installed in the Wi-Fi device
In this case, a drive means a certain amount of built-in memory that is not occupied by firmware files and is available to the average user. Such memory is not needed for the main purpose of using the device, but it can be useful for some additional functions. For example, the built-in storage may store the contents of an FTP or web server, files received through a torrent client (see "Features"), and other data; and some adapters with such equipment (see "Device type") can even be used as flash drives.
On the other hand, the presence of a drive (especially a capacious one) significantly affects the cost of equipment; however, in many cases, a good alternative to the built-in storage is an external medium such as a flash drive or hard drive with a USB connection. Therefore, although the capacity of built-in memory in modern Wi-Fi devices can reach several terabytes, however, models with built-in memory are extremely rare in themselves — usually these are devices with specific functionality related to the professional level.
A stylish design element for gaming and design models of Wi-Fi equipment in the form of decorative LED lighting. It can be either single colour or iridescent with colour control (RGB).
By itself, PoE (Power over Ethernet) technology makes it possible to transfer not only data over an Ethernet network cable, but also energy to power network devices. And the presence of a PoE input allows Wi-Fi equipment to receive power in a similar way. Usually, the function of such an input is performed by the Uplink input (or one / several of these inputs, if there is more than one); accordingly, the power source when using PoE is usually higher-level network equipment. Also note that there are special devices — the so-called PoE injectors — that allow you to add power to a regular network signal (that is, add PoE support to equipment that does not initially have such a function).
As for the PoE standards, they determine both the power supply and the main possibilities for coordinating the power source with the consumer — both must support the same standard, otherwise normal operation will be impossible. At the same time, formats that are marked like “802.3*” are called active; their common feature is that when a load is connected, the power supply first “interrogates” it, checking whether the powered device complies with the requirements of the corresponding standard, and if so, what kind of power should be supplied to it. There is no such feature in the passive standard. And here is a more detailed description of specific options:
— 802.3at. A standard originally released back in 2009 and known as PoE +, or PoE ty...pe 2. The standard power received at such an input is 25.5 W, with a voltage of 42.5 to 57 V and a current in a pair of up to 600 mA.
— 802.3af/at. This marking means that the PoE input supports both the 802.3at standard described above and the earlier 802.3af (PoE type 1). The second format is noticeably more modest in terms of capabilities: it provides power at the power input up to 13 W, input voltage 37 – 57 V and current in a pair of power wires up to 350 mA. Despite their "venerable age", many devices with 802.3af outputs are still in use today; so for the power input, compatibility with this standard may be useful. We only note that 802.3af covers as many as four so-called power classes (from 0 to 3), which differ in the specific number of watts at the output and input. So when connecting power from a device with this PoE standard, it's ok to further clarify compatibility by power class.
— Passive. The most simple and inexpensive standard, designed to be used mainly in entry-level equipment (since the implementation of active PoE standards is generally expensive). As mentioned above, the key difference from the formats described above is that the power supply supplies energy "as is" — with a strictly fixed voltage and power, without checking the characteristics of the load and without adjusting to it. This is what ensures low price and availability. On the other hand, when using a passive PoE input, care must be taken to ensure that the voltage and power of the power supply match the characteristics of the connected device; and such coordination can be quite difficult in light of the fact that the passive standard does not have strictly defined standards even for voltage, not to mention power. At the same time, the inconsistency leads to the fact that in the best case (if the output voltage / power is lower than those required for the load), the power simply will not work, and in the worst case (with excess voltage / power), there is a high probability of overloads, overheating, and even breakdowns with fires — moreover such troubles may not occur immediately, but after a fairly considerable time. So you should pay attention to this option first of all in cases where simplicity and accessibility are more important than advanced nutrition standards. At the same time, we note that some switches, which, in addition to the passive input, also have a passive PoE output, allow “cascade” connection — in the form of a serial chain of several devices powered by one external source (the main thing is that this source has enough power).
Separately, we emphasize that you should not try to connect an active power source to a passive input, and even more so vice versa.
By itself, PoE (Power over Ethernet) technology allows you to transfer not only data over an Ethernet network cable, but also energy to power network devices. And the presence of a PoE output (outputs) makes it possible to power such devices from the network connectors of a router or access point. This eliminates the need to lay additional wires or use stand-alone power supplies. And when using the so-called splitters — devices that divide the PoE cable signal into purely network data and power current — using such outputs, you can also power equipment that does not initially support PoE (the main thing is that their power characteristics correspond to the capabilities of the switch).
As for PoE standards, they determine not just the overall power supply, but also compatibility with specific devices: the consumer must support the same standard, otherwise normal operation will be impossible. Nowadays, including in the connectors of "switches", you can find two types of such standards — active and passive. The main difference between these varieties is that active PoE provides matching the power source and load in terms of voltage and current, while passive PoE does not have such functions, and energy is supplied “as is”, without adjustments. And here is a more detailed description of specific standards:
— 802.3af. The oldest active PoE power format in use today. It provides power at the power output up to 15 W (at the i...nput of the consumer — up to 13 W), output voltage 44 – 57 V (at the input — 37 – 57 V) and current in a pair of supply wires up to 350 mA. Despite the "venerable age", it still continues to be widely used. However, it is worth considering that this standard immediately covers 4 so-called power classes (from 0 to 3), which differ in the maximum number of watts at the output and input. So when using 802.3af, it doesn't hurt to make sure that the output power will be sufficient for the selected load.
— 802.3af/at. A combination of two standards at once — the 802.3af described above and the newer 802.3at. The latter allows you to supply power up to 30 W (up to 25.5 W at the input of the powered device), uses a voltage of 50 – 57 V (42.5 – 57 V at the input), while the current in a pair of wires does not exceed 600 mA. Such a combination is relatively inexpensive, while it makes it possible to power a wide variety of external devices.
— 802.3af/at, bt. Combination of 802.3af/at above with 802.3bt (PoE++, PoE type 3 or type 4). 802.3bt is the newest PoE power format; unlike earlier ones, it uses not 2, but 4 power wires, which allows you to supply very solid power to external devices — up to 71 V (at 90 W at the power output). Such features are indispensable in the power supply of equipment with increased consumption. On the other hand, support for the 802.3bt standard significantly affects the cost, and such a connection puts forward special requirements for the quality of cables. In addition, you need to keep in mind that this standard also includes the UPoE format created by Cisco and used in its equipment; and this standard (it is known as PoE type 3) has a more modest power — up to 60 W at the output (up to 51 W at the consumer's input). Yes, and the general standard 802.3bt includes two power classes — class 8, at which maximum performance is achieved, and class 7, where 75 watts are supplied to the output, and about 62 watts reach the consumer. So if you plan to use 802.3bt equipment, when choosing a device from this category, you must make sure that the power supply is enough for the normal operation of other connected devices.
— Passive. As already mentioned, the key difference between passive PoE and the active standards described above is that in this case the power output produces a strictly fixed power, without any automatic adjustments and adjustments for a specific device. The main advantage of this standard is its low cost: its implementation is much cheaper than active PoE, so such ports can be found in entry-level devices. On the other hand, the aforementioned lack of auto-tuning makes it much more difficult to coordinate the equipment with each other — especially in light of the fact that different devices can differ markedly in the output / consumption of voltage and current (power). Because of this, when using passive PoE, you need to pay special attention to the compatibility of the source and the load in these parameters. If there is no match, then in the best case (if the voltage / power at the output is lower than required), the power simply will not work, and in the worst case (with excess voltage / power), there is a high probability of overloads, overheating, and even breakdowns with fires — and such troubles may not occur immediately, but after a fairly long time. And it is definitely impossible to connect devices with active inputs to passive PoE outputs — for the same reasons.
Power consumed by network equipment during operation. Knowing the indicator of energy consumption, you can, for example, calculate the battery life of equipment from an uninterruptible power supply or choose a suitable “uninterruptible power supply”. Also, with the support of PoE technology, it is worth considering the power consumption when choosing a PoE switch or PoE adapter.
The possibility of outdoor installation is indicated if the Wi-Fi equipment has a reinforced case that can protect the sensitive hardware from dust, moisture, temperature changes, etc. Without such a case, the device will quickly fail; therefore, only equipment for which such a possibility is expressly claimed can be installed outdoors. At the same time, it is worth remembering that even “street” models have a limited temperature range: for example, not all of them are able to tolerate frost normally.
Installation in a socket
Devices with the ability to mount in a standard electrical box or, more simply, in a "socket". This method of installation allows you to place the equipment as discreetly as possible, without violating the overall design concept of the room and without taking up additional space on the shelf. Of the advantages of mounting in a socket, it should be noted that there are no wires from the outside. However, the cable for connecting the access point must be laid at the stage of wiring and brought directly to the socket. A characteristic feature of such devices is that they are powered exclusively via PoE, so they must be connected to a device that is capable of supplying power of the appropriate standard over an Ethernet cable.
Ambient air temperature at which the device is guaranteed to remain operational.
All modern Wi-Fi equipment can easily endure the conditions typical for use in apartments, offices, etc. So it makes sense to pay attention to this parameter mainly when choosing a model for outdoor installation (see above) or indoors , where the conditions are not very different from those outside. At the same time, the upper temperature limit is usually quite high, and even in the heat there are usually no problems with operation (of course, if the device is not installed in direct sunlight — which is not recommended anyway). But the lower temperature threshold can be different, not all "street" equipment is designed for frost. However, among frost-resistant models there are solutions where the minimum operating temperature is -10 °C and below, and sometimes even -40 °C and below.
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