Upgrade to AC class routers!

07th September 2015
Upgrade to AC class  routers!

Tech Trend special: IT's time to shift to the newer, zippier WiFi standard codenamed 'ac' --  but make sure your connectors are USB 3.0
 Bangalore,  September 7 2015: Indians  love a hearty eater. In another  age,  we queued to applaud the late S.V. Ranga Rao,   who playing the role of Ghatotkacha in the 1957 Telugu-Tamil classic , Maya  Bazar,   demolished the Kaurava's   Vivaha Bhojanambu   or wedding feast.  Today we are all  gigabyte-gobbling  Gatotkachas    as we browse the Web, chat on WhatsApp,  playing  sudoku online,  stream a YouTube  movie -- and make a video Skype call.  If we have linked our broadband connection to a home WiFi router,  chances are multiple  users in the family are doing all this simultaneously. And there's the rub.
The  router  provided by the cable or wireless data provider  is usually the cheapest of its kind -- great  for   achieving the rated  data speed  when the technician  does a Speed Test, but a washout, once a PC, a laptop and a couple of smart phones used by various family members, all  latch on wirelessly to the same router.  The promised download speed crashes to a tenth of what we paid for.  Modern apartments --boxes of steel and concrete  --are about the worst environment  for data communication  and the signal often fails to reach from  front room to bed room. 
When we pay anything from Rs 500 to  Rs 2000 per month for a broadband connection it is sensible to just discard the  'free' router and spend some money on a device that  makes our connection paisa vasool  and reaches every room in our home.
Chances are your data cable guy has given you what is known as an N router -- one that measures up to the standard known as 802.11n  ( the fourth generation after  a, bc and g). It is almost  2 years since the 5th generation of the standard known as 802.11ac  was established  and   AC routers as they are called,  are easily  available today.  It is time to go for one.  The  peak data speed through an AC router is  almost three times faster -- 1300 MBPS compared to 450 MBPS of the N router.  Granted  peak speeds are meaningless and  real download speeds  are around 100 MBPS with an AC router today, but this is still twice as fast as the best N router.
Of course,  it is no use having the zippiest router if the  data package you are subscribing  does not measure up  -- I would suggest going for a 50 - 100 MBPS for the home depending on your budget -- no more.  About  6 months ago I decided to throw  away the basic N router that was provided by my broadband subscription and go for an AC router.  My Cable guy also advised me to go for one that operated in  both the bands currently used 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz --  which is easily recognizable:  there are two antenna sticking out of the router.  After a lot of comparison shopping, I settled on the  D-Link AC 750 dual band router  paying around Rs 4000, not because  it was significantly different  from the others, but   because  this was the best deal at my neighbourhood  Croma that week.
I could see a palpable  difference in  the reach and strength  of my broadband connection  but then our flat is quite small. If your home is an upstairs-n-downstairs  duplex,  and if your family members are serious downloaders, you have may look to look for an even better router.  For a week I have been trying out  a jumbo   item in D-Link's catalogue -- the  AC 3200 Ultra WiFi router model   DIR-890L,  seemingly a crossover product from large home to small office.  This  is --literally -- a heavyweight  router --  weighing  1 kg and standing 10 cms tall , like a spaceship with  6 antennae.  It offers  one 2.4 GHz   N band   and 2  5 GHz   AC WiFi bands,    which means it can comfortably feed  multiple  PCs, laptops, tablets and phones.  They call it a Cloud router because  D-Link  helps you set up a personal cloud to  manage and monitor all devices using the router.  I could smoothly  stream a 4K  YouTube movie clip  from  my phone to a 36 inch TV  through a smart TV stick.  When linking a PC   do make sure that the Wireless Network Adapter you use to stablish the WiFi is also an AC device and not an 'N'... otherwise you will slow down the data  transfer.
The DIR 890L  costs Rs 18,500  which is about 5 times  more than the cheapest  dual band AC router. But for serious  guzzlers it may be an essential  culinary perquisite for a broadband bhojanam.

USB 3,  is the key 
The D-Link router described alongside is one of  a new generation  which sports both  Universal Serial Bus  or  USB  2.0 and USB 3.0 ports.  But to get the full benefit of USB 3, it is important to use a USB 3.0   cable  and link to a USB 3.0 port on your device . Sadly, most PCs except the very latest  still come with a USB 2.0 port. This defeats the purpose of investing in a high speed AC router  with USB 3 port  because when coupled with a  USB 2  device,   the speed degrades.  Theoretically  USB 3 is 10 times faster than USB 2  ( 4.8 GBPS versus 480 MBPS tops).  Realizable speeds of data transfer are far   slower but the ratio remains.  Sadly we are stuck with whatever  USB slot  is provided on our PC, laptop or tablet --  if you do upgrade, remember to  go for a model with USB 3.0. 
If it works, it's obsolete, said media guru Marshall McLuhan.  Already,  USB 3.0 is being superseded by Superspeed USB 3.1 which is twice as fast as USB  3.0!   -  Anand Parthasarathy