Best Wireless Access Point for Home

One of the best  ways to improve your  Wi-Fi’s coverage, speed (throughput), and reliability, is to add a wireless access point (AP) to your home network.

What is a wireless access point anyway?

Simply put, a wireless access point is a device that connects to your wired network and makes your network available wirelessly. It consists of a network port and one or more Wi-Fi radios that are used to serve wireless devices.

Think of a wireless access point as having a second router in your home that can be used in order to extend the coverage of your wireless network. In fact, all wireless routers include an access point – it just happens to be built into the router, so it isn’t called an access point in that case.

A wireless router is like a swiss army knife – it performs several core functions within your network. Not only does it route traffic (thus the name “router”), it also acts as a firewall, a switch, an access point, a DHCP server, and sometimes a modem.

An access point only serves one purpose – to provide wireless connectivity to devices on your network. You can’t get online with just an access point – you need a router as well.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of using an access point versus a wireless router?

hands typing on keyboard

Benefits

Using wireless access point(s) gives you the ability to distribute one or more AP’s throughout your home, which serves to increase the range and signal quality of your wireless network. This in turn makes your wireless network run faster and more reliably.

Speaking of reliability – as with many things in life, devices that are designed to accomplish just one task generally perform that task better than a device that is designed to accomplish many different tasks. This principle also applies to wireless routers versus an access point – the old adage “Jack of all trades and master of none” definitely applies here.

Since access points are designed only to efficiently and reliably connect wireless devices to the wired network, they generally do the job of serving wireless clients better than a router does.

Another benefit of access points is that they can be placed strategically – such as ceiling mounted or installed inside of a network jack gang box.

Drawbacks

Wireless access points are enterprise-grade networking equipment and are not generally marketed toward consumers. Thus, they usually require a bit more technical ability and knowledge of computer networking than a consumer-grade wireless router would.

Access points also require additional wiring work. This is both a pro and a con. Since the AP is usually placed in a strategic area to provide the best coverage, it usually requires running an Ethernet cable from the desired placement location back to wherever your router is.

This can be a lot of work, depending on the construction and layout of your home, and the proximity of the AP to your router. The amount of work also depends on how accessible of a crawlspace or attic your home has, whether or not you own or rent (which means you can’t drill into walls, floors, and ceilings), and the degree to which you wish to hide the wiring versus simply running it in plain sight along the baseboard or ceiling.

Another drawback of using a wireless access point, is price. Since using an AP also requires a router, you must buy an AP and a router, plus additional cabling. In some cases, you also need to buy a switch or firewall as well, depending on your needs and the capabilities of your current router.

The time required to run wiring (or pay labor costs to have someone else do it) should also be considered.

What is the best wireless access point for home?

Some of the best wireless AP’s on the market right now, are the UniFi product line from Ubiquiti. They are extremely popular, and for good reason – they strike an excellent balance of performance, features, ease of use, and reliability – all at an excellent price point. We recommend the UniFi AC LR (Long Range) and Lite models:

About Ubiquiti

Ubiquiti Networks has been around since 2005. They are well known among wireless internet service providers for making quality gear that is easy to manage.

They were originally known for making outdoor, long range fixed wireless equipment that allowed for high speed connections between buildings over long distances. Over time, their product lines have expanded and they have moved into other technologies of computer networking such as switches, routers, and access points.

 

The UniFi Solution

The Ubiquiti UniFi wireless solution consists of several different pieces of technology that can be put together in a customized fashion to build a very robust and feature-rich network solution. We are only reviewing their access points here, but we wanted to make our readers aware that there are several other add-on’s to the UniFi solution that will add features and visibility into your network if you wish to explore that.

The main components in the UniFi solution are the access points, the security gateway, the switches, and the controller (Cloud Key). Most components are optional – you can piece things together however you’d like, using only a single component (like an AP) if you like, or using them all together.

Access Points

The access points serve to connect wireless devices to the wired network and are the main topic of this article.

UniFi Security Gateway

The UniFi Security Gateway (USG) serves as a router and firewall. This is not your typical wireless router that you purchase at Amazon – it only performs a subset of the duties that a typical consumer-grade router does, which is just routing and firewall duties.

It also generally does a much better job of handling these duties than a typical wireless router, which is expected to handle everything. Is it any wonder that most people have to reboot their wireless router regularly?

UniFi Switch

UniFi Switches are Ethernet switches that expand the port capacity of your network and allow you to plug all of your wired devices into your network reliably and at high speed. They also serve as the connection point for the AP’s.

UniFi Controller

The UniFi Controller brings everything together. It is used to configure everything initially or to make changes down the road. It also provides a ton of reporting and security features.

The Controller can be ran on a computer or server in your home, or you can opt for the Cloud Key, which runs the controller software on a self-contained micro device that you simply plug into your network.

What is ‘Prosumer’ gear? A disclaimer:

wireless network layout

By now you are probably saying “OK hold on, this sounds complicated”. You are right.

We wanted to stop here and issue a disclaimer for anyone considering purchasing the UniFi solution.

The UniFi solution is considered “Prosumer Equipment”: it is professional-level equipment that is also suitable for savvy consumers.

This equipment is designed for professional use – it is intended to be used in enterprise environments, where the requirements for speed, security, and reliability are stricter than a residential environment. That’s what makes this equipment so desirable – it is professional grade.

There are, however, tons of people using UniFi gear in their homes. It works very well for home use… as long as you can manage installing it and getting everything up and running.

Anyone purchasing UniFi equipment should be somewhat savvy with computer networking. You should also be willing and prepared to Google for help, read forums, watch YouTube videos, and have some patience during the process. If this is you – we say go for it.

If this scares the daylights out of you – perhaps the UniFi solution isn’t for you. Or, perhaps you should consider hiring someone to install and configure it for you if it’s something you really want installed in your home.

It can, after all, be installed and configured very quickly by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Different types of AP’s

There are dozens of different UniFi AP’s SKU’s, however we are narrowing it down here to the UniFi AP AC line, which supports the newest 802.11AC wireless standard. We aren’t discussing any of the older Wireless B/G/N products here.

The four main types of UniFi AC access points are HD, Pro, LR, and Lite. You can explore more about these models here: https://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ac/

Since we are looking for the best wireless access point for home, I won’t discuss the HD and Pro models here. Those models are generally geared at larger and more dense deployments than anyone would need in their home, such as a large office, church, or stadium.

The two models that the team here at Infravio recommends are the LR and Lite version. Dare I say, these models are slightly aimed at home users, even though they are enterprise-grade.

UniFi AP AC LRUniFi AC LR AP antenna

The LR model contains most of the features common to any of the AP’s in the UniFi AC line, however is is designed to go longer distances.

It contains an antenna design that allows it to reach further into the corners of your home and yard, all from a single AP. This antenna allows it to not only transmit data further distances, but it also allows for receipt of data from a longer distance – something that a simple high-powered AP can’t accomplish alone.

Ubiquiti Unifi Ap-AC Long Range - Wireless Access Point - 802.11 B/A/G/n/AC (UAP-AC-LR-US),White
  • Ubiquit Unifi AP AC Long range
  • The installer needs networking knowledge to get it to work properly so for people that can’t get it to work.

UniFi AP AC Lite

The Lite model also contains most of the features of the other UniFi AP’s, however it is smaller and more compact than the other models. It is also generally the lowest-priced option of the line, making it an excellent option for home users.

Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AP AC Lite, Dual-Band 24V passive PoE, UAP-AC-LITE (24V passive PoE Indoor, 2.4GHz/5GHz, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 1x 10/100/1000)
  • UAP-AC-LITE UniFi AP AC LITE 802.11ac Gigabit Dual-Radio PoE
  • The UniFi AC Lite AP features the latest Wi-Fi 802.11ac technology in a refined industrial design and is ideal for cost-effective deployment of high‑performance wireless networks.
  • Dual-Radio performance, gigabit speeds, the UniFi AC Lite AP delivers 5x the performance of the first-generation UniFi AP while still maintaining Ubiquiti disruptive pricing strategy.
  • Sleek, Ultra-Compact Design, uniFi AC Lite AP features a cleaner design in a reduced footprinthalf the size compared to the standard UniFi AP.
  • Scalable Enterprise Wi-Fi Management, UniFi Controller v4 software is a powerful, enterprise wireless software engine ideal for high-density client deployments requiring low latency and high uptime performance. With its software-based capabilities, the UniFi virtual control plane allows for unlimited scalability under one centralized controller. Remotely access the UniFi Controller to upgrade deployed UniFi APs while in the field.

Pros and Cons

Note: These apply to both the LR and Lite models unless otherwise noted, as they are very similar.

Pros:

  • Excellent coverage from a single access point (especially the LR model)
  • Wireless connections are reliable
  • Great price point
  • Plays nice with other UniFi AP’s (even if they are not the same model)
  • Powered over Ethernet for simplicity – no need to run separate power, just a single Ethernet cable

Cons:

  • Requires controller software (or Cloud Key) to setup initially – needs to be running regularly if you want to see data/reports or any time you wish to make changes
  • AP only – still requires a router to get online
  • Advanced setup requires some networking knowledge and persistance
  • Older UniFi AP units don’t support standard POE – make sure you get a newer one or use the included AC power brick
  • Ceiling mount can be difficult to install
  • Many people report difficultly getting good support from Ubiquiti

Performance all around

Both the LR and Lite versions bring speed and stability to your Wi-Fi network – something that I think most users are looking for. Additionally, they both support advanced features such as band steering and airtime fairness, which help ensure an enjoyable experience.

Your choice

Most people will be happy with the LR or Lite. It’s up to you to choose which one you prefer. If you are needing to cover a greater area, perhaps the LR model is the best choice. If you are more price sensitive and wanting something with a smaller footprint, perhaps you should consider the Lite model.

If you are needing to cover a really large area, you should consider installing multiple AP’s. That is one of the benefits of using AP’s instead of a single wireless router – you can grow your network over time, adding AP’s as your need for a larger coverage area increases.

 

 

What is my IP address for my router?

Did you know that your router has two IP addresses? We’ll show you how to find out what they are.

Private vs Public IP Addressesprivate public road sign

Your home network (and most networks in general) consist of both private and public IP addresses. What’s the difference?

Public addresses can be used on the Internet, and private addresses can’t.

However, that’s not to say that private addresses don’t have their place. One of the main reasons private addresses exist, is because there are a limited number of public addresses.

In the current version of the Internet Protocol (IPv4), there are only about 4.3 billion public IP addresses. That may sound like a lot, but consider the fact that that number of addresses must provide internet access to every device on planet Earth, and suddenly its’ not such a big number.

There is a new version of the Internet Protocol coming (IPv6), which will drastically increase the number of public IP addresses available. However, global adoption of the new version has been very, very slow. It appears that the world will continue to use IPv4 for the foreseeable future.

Due to the fact that there is a shortage of pubic addresses, most people only get one public address from their ISP for their entire household. This addresses then goes on your router, and everything inside your home (computers, tablets, phones, game consoles, smart TV’s, thermostats, etc) gets a private address from your router instead of getting its’ own public address.

ip address list

Your router also gets one of these private addresses so it can communicate with the devices in your home. It then performs a function called Network Address Translation (NAT) to translate traffic to/from devices on your network to/from the Internet using a combination of its’ private and public addresses.

Without NAT, you would only be able to use the internet on one device at a time because you only have one public IP address. How inconvenient!

With NAT, it’s like your router is bi-lingual and is translating a conversation between two people that don’t speak the same language. Your router must speak both languages to ensure that communication between the two parties is successful.

In this case, the two “languages” are the routers’ public IP address and private IP address.

So, your router is actually using two IP addresses at all times. It uses its’ public IP to communicate with devices on the Internet, and it uses its’ private IP to communicate with devices on your home network.

How do you tell the difference between public and private addresses?

Public and private addresses share the same format – four numbers (0 through 255) separated by three dots, such as 192.168.0.1.

Since they look the same, is there a way to tell if an address is public or private just by looking at it?

Turns out the answer is yes. There is a standard (RFC1918) that defines IP addresses that are reserved as private. They are:

  • 10.0.0.0/8
  • 172.16.0.0/12
  • 192.168.0.0/16

Pretty much everything outside of these reserved ranges is public.

So, if you see an IP address beginning with 10, 172, or 192, chances are good that it is a private address. If it begins with any other number, it is a public IP address.

Why do you need your routers’ IP address?

Here are just a few reasons why you would need to know your routers’ IP addresses:

Reasons to need your private address

  • router admin ip address

    If you need to change the settings on your router – perhaps you want to change the name of your Wi-Fi network, modify your firewall settings, or change your Wi-Fi password. You will need to know your router’s private address in all of these cases so that you can login to your router and make the necessary changes.

  • If you need to configure a device on your network with a static IP address – in this case the device won’t be configured automatically, so you’ll need to know your router’s private IP address – which will be entered into the ‘Default Gateway’ box in your computers’ IP address settings.

Reasons to need your public address

  • If you need to access your home network remotely over the Internet – Maybe you are wanting to set up remote desktop to access your home computer from the office. Or, perhaps you are wanting to monitor a security camera in your home while you are on vacation.
  • If you are hosting a server of some type – Perhaps you are running a file server or a game server – you will need to know your public IP address so that you can give it out to someone that would need to access your server remotely.

How to find your routers’ private IP:

router with admin ip

Note: The vast majority of consumer-grade routers will use either 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 as their private address. Unless your router has been set up with a custom configuration, it is highly likely that one of these IP addresses will be assigned to your router.

Windows XP/Windows 7/Windows 10

  1. Click on the Start Menu (or press the ‘Windows’ key on your keyboard)
  2. Type ‘cmd’ (abbreviation for “command prompt”)
  3. Press ‘Enter’start button command prompt
  4. A black command prompt box will appear. Type in the word ‘ipconfig’ and press enter.

ipconfig output

You will see a bunch of information scroll by and may have to scroll back up a bit to find what you are looking for – which is the Default Gateway IP address of your current network connection. In the example above, it is 192.168.1.1.

The default gateway is the address that your computer sends data to if it needs to go out to the Internet. This is the private IP address of your router.

MacOS

  1. Click on the ‘Apple’ menu in the top left corner of your screen
  2. Select ‘System Preferences’apple menu system preferences
  3. From the System Preferences menu, click on the ‘Network’ iconsystem preferences network icon
  4. Select your active network adapter on the left side

You will see IP address information appear on the right side. Look for the section that shows ‘Router:’.

network preferences

This is the address that your computer sends data to if it needs to go out to the Internet. This is the private IP address of your router.

How to find your routers’ public IP:

This one is pretty easy. From any device on your home network, you just need to check a website that will retrieve the public IP address your traffic is coming from and report it back to you.

There are countless free sites out there that provide this service. Here are a few:

IP Chicken

What is my IP

Google – Simply run a search with the words ‘What is my IP’ and Google will tell you.

ipchicken screenshot

Best Wireless Router for HughesNet Satellite Internet

What is HughesNet?

satellite with earth reflection

HughesNet Internet service is a type of broadband that uses a satellite network to deliver Internet service to its’ subscribers.

There are many pros and cons to this service, with the main ‘pro’ being that the service is available anywhere in the continental United States and Alaska (as long as you have unobstructed access to the southern sky).

This means that HughesNet (or other satellite-based Internet services) can reach subscribers located in areas where other broadband technologies are unavailable.

Since traditional wireline providers (fiber, cable, or DSL) incur a lot of expenses with the installation and management of a broadband network, ISP’s will generally only build out their network in semi-populated areas. Often times, this leaves people that live in rural areas lacking any options for high speed internet access.

Sometimes, there are other choices available, such as T-1, fixed wireless, cellular/mobile data, and even dial-up. However, these solutions are not always available and can sometimes be quite expensive. This is where Satellite Internet comes in.

Obtainable Speeds

tech installing satellite dishHughesNet’s current service tier, dubbed ‘Gen5’ and served by their epic new “EchoStar XIX Satellite”, boasts speeds up to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. While impressive compared to their previous offerings, Gen5 service just barely meets (not exceeds!) the FCC’s definition of Broadband.

When looking for a router to use with HughsNet, the requirements are a bit different compared to someone looking for a router to be used on a higher speed broadband service, such as cable or DSL. Given that HughsNet tops out at 25Mbps, the bandwidth requirements are fairly low.

Even Wireless-N and Wireless-G routers are capable of pushing 25Mbps of traffic sustained. Does this mean that you should dig out that old Wireless-G router from 2005 (WRT54G, anyone)? No!

Selecting a router to use with HughesNet Satellite Internet

New 802.11AC routers provide several benefits beyond increased speed. For HughesNet subscribers, the main benefit of choosing a newer AC router would be range. 802.11AC technologies such as beamforming and MIMO result in better coverage than routers built on previous Wi-Fi standards.

You may only have 25Mbps to work with, but with the right router, you can ensure that you get those speeds in all areas of your home, not just when you’re sitting right next to the router.

Our recommendation: Netgear R6700

NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
  • FAST WiFi PERFORMANCE: Get up to 1500 square feet wireless coverage with AC1750 speed (Dual band up to 450 plus 1300 Mbps)
  • RECOMMENDED FOR UP TO 25 DEVICES: Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices
  • WIRED ETHERNET PORTS: Plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 4 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • LOADED WITH ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Designed with a 1GHz dual core processor, 3 amplified antennas, Beamforming plus, Dynamic QoS, Smart Connect, and more
  • USB CONNECTIONS: Share a storage drive or printer with any connected device or create a personal cloud storage to access from anywhere, using the 1 x 3.0 USB port

We like the R6700 because it features the speed and range improvements of the 802.11AC wireless standard at an affordable price point. Given that Hughesnet service tops out at 25Mbps, this router can easily handle those meager bandwidth demands.

This Tri-band router provides excellent speeds, even at long range. It also supports Quality of Service, which if configured, can prioritize certain traffic types over other types. Have a large download running that you don’t want interfering your Netflix streaming? Quality of Service can handle that.

Designed to provide excellent range when used in small to medium sized homes, the R6700 also features parental controls to help you keep your kids safer online.

It is also a stable router – it doesn’t need to be rebooted frequently like lots of other consumer-grade routers. It also features four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, to keep your local network running at high speeds.

It includes a USB 3.0 port, which you can use to optionally connect a USB hard drive to the router. This allows you to easily share files with other devices on your network through the router.

router with lan cable

Any Router Will Work

Speaking Frankly, most any router will work with HughsNet Internet Service, but for the best experience, you should choose one with excellent range and reliability.

We chose to recommend an economical choice in this case, because high throughput is unnecessary, given the relatively low bitrate of the Hughesnet service. The R6700 should fit the bill for most any HughsNet subscriber.

Can you have two routers in one house?

You are decluttering the electronics bin and remember that old router that you forgot to recycle.  You begin to wonder…

Electronics resale value falls notoriously fast and it often makes more sense to repurpose or recycle equipment versus selling.

Does this old router have any use?  Is there any reason to have two routers on the same home network?

In this article, we detail the reasons two routers may improve your home network and provide some tips on making sure your two routers play nice.

What do routers do? laptop wired to router

Obviously, your router “routes” internet traffic.  What else?

Routers request and receive content from the Internet

When you use your internet browser to Google questions that led you to this article, your router sent a request out and received an answer back from the Internet, which the router then forwarded to your specific device (laptop, tablet, phone, etc).

This is the core functionality of any router and the reason for its’ name, however routers generally serve many other needs within a network that are less known and happen behind the scenes.

Routers can listen for requests and provide configuration information for your network

A router usually acts as a DHCP server. Since other devices on your network such as laptops, printers, tablets, Smart TV’s, etc don’t generally have a network configuration when they first boot up, they rely on the DHCP server for their configuration (IP address, Gateway, DNS, etc).

Routers can function as wireless access points

With the right security settings in place, your router can safely function as a wireless access point.  Relating to security, the real muscle of a firewall in today’s world is no longer handled by your operating system but by your router.  (But go ahead and keep updating your operating system!)

Routers can extend your network’s physical size

For wired devices, your routers can also “switch” it up and act as a four-port switch, thus extending the number of devices that can be physically plugged into your network.

Why might one network need two routers?

router with lan cableIn short, to improve network range (to include the man cave), bolster coverage (to fix those dead zones upstairs), ensure reliability (you never know when the router is going belly up), and increase size (more ports in the storm).

How can you ensure your two routers will improve your network?

Multiple routers can make a network “two” crowded.  Basically, you still need to think of one router as the “one in charge” and any functionality that leads to and from the outside world must go through just that router.

Choosing one of the routers to be the liaison to the outside world provides a starting point for the ways your routers should be configured the same and how they need to be different.

What functionality do you want to make sure not to duplicate?

You need to look out for WAN (wide area network) versus LAN (local area network) port connections (how the routers access the outside world), DHCP configuration (making sure both routers aren’t handing out conflicting information to devices on your network), and the routers’ channels (ensuring your routers do not talk over one another on your own network).

Most importantly, do not connect the second router via the WAN porttwo router diagram

The WAN port (sometimes called the “Internet” port) is reserved to access the outside world.  If you connect your second router on the WAN port, duplicate routing occurs because your network is now divided by a firewall and each device that connects to your new network is NAT’d twice (once by each router).

Instead, you should connect the routers together via any of the LAN ports (numbering does not matter).  Remember, only one of your routers accesses the outside world. Refer to the diagram above.

DHCP configuration

Your home network is a bit like The Highlander – there can be only one!  With two routers, you want to disable DHCP server abilities on the second router to avoid IP address conflicts.

Otherwise, devices on your network may acquire their IP address from the router that does not have access to the outside world or the device may not be known by the primary router. This would lead to that device being disconnected from the Internet.

Make sure your routers do not use the same channel

This is especially important if your two routers are in close proximity (within fifty feet or so).  Channel duplication will cause interference and degrade the Wi-Fi performance of devices.

If your routers use 2.4 GHz, use a non-overlapping channel – see this article for help with choosing the best Wi-Fi channel.

Remember that frequencies matter

Consider whether the routers use 5 GHz versus 2.4 GHz wireless frequencies.  This impacts the range and bandwidth of routers.  A 5GHz router will provide faster data rates at a shorter distance while 2.4 GHz routers may improve coverage for farther distances at slower speeds

How should your routers be configured the same?

 

router status lights

Under most circumstances, you will want your routers to have the same SSID (bonus points if it makes your neighbors laugh), the same security and encryption (WPA2) protocols, and the same key/password.

These configurations will ensure that your Wi-Fi devices can automatically connect to your network and will roam to your second router when you go out of the range of your primary Wi-Fi network.

Should you ever have different SSIDs on the same network?

You can use different SSIDs and keys/passwords for each router if you like.  This creates a second wireless network with a different name.

This configuration does not enhance security, unless your router allows you to map each SSID to a different network connection using VLAN tagging.  When a device connects to an SSID, traffic is passed to the associated VLAN which has its own security settings.

This is an advanced topic, but can be simple to set up if your router supports “guest network” functionality. Using this feature, guest traffic can be isolated from the rest of the network or limited in the services (and speeds) it has access to.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, there are several reasons having two routers on your home network may be an improvement.

Remember one router is in charge and does all the talking to the outside world, but as far as your network’s name, the routers should usually be in agreement.  Plus, you can tell all your friends that you have a new tech upcycling hobby!

Best Router for Charter Spectrum

What is the Best Router for Charter Spectrum?

Have Charter Spectrum Internet service at your home or business and looking to pair it with the best router? Have no fear – we are going to break down the best routers available so you can make an informed decision and get the best “bang for your buck”.

Our Pick - Extreme Performance and Highly Reliable
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U),Black
Runner Up - Excellent Performance at a good price
NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
Linksys EA7500 Dual-Band Wifi Router for Home (Max-Stream AC1900 MU-Mimo Fast Wireless Router)
D-Link WiFi Router, AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual Band Gigabit 4K Streaming and Gaming with USB Ports, 4x4 Wireless Internet for Home (DIR-882-US)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
8
4
4
4
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
1GHz Dual Core
1.4GHz Dual Core
880MHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
3 (external)
3 (external)
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC3100
AC1750
AC1900
AC2600
Our Pick - Extreme Performance and Highly Reliable
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U),Black
Router
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
8
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC3100
Runner Up - Excellent Performance at a good price
NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
Router
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
1GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
3 (external)
Speed Rating
AC1750
Linksys EA7500 Dual-Band Wifi Router for Home (Max-Stream AC1900 MU-Mimo Fast Wireless Router)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
3 (external)
Speed Rating
AC1900
D-Link WiFi Router, AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual Band Gigabit 4K Streaming and Gaming with USB Ports, 4x4 Wireless Internet for Home (DIR-882-US)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
880MHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC2600

About Charter Spectrum

Charter Spectrum logo

Spectrum from Charter Communications is a brand of broadband Internet services offered to business and consumer customers to roughly 25 million people across 48 states.

Spectrum service is primary delivered across a coaxial cable system, using infrastructure originally designed to bring cable TV to homes. Charter also delivers service in some areas via fiber optic cabling.

They have invested heavily in the infrastructure of their network and are running the latest DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1 standards in many areas, enabling them to offer Gigabit speeds (and beyond) to their subscribers.

Spectrum’s speed offerings differ a bit depending on the service area, but in general they offer three tiers

  • a base tier that runs approximately 60-100Mbps downstream and 5-10Mbps upstream
  • a middle tier that runs approximately 300-400Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream
  • a top tier that runs at 1000Mbps (Gigabit) downstream and 35Mbps upstream.

If you’re saying to yourself “Wow, that is not a lot of upstream bandwidth compared to the downstream amount you get”, you’d be right.

Fortunately, most users down’t need a large amount of upstream capacity. Power users may notice a pinch though, which is why fiber-based services that are usually available as a symmetrical service are preferred or cable-based providers such as Charter.

What to look for in a router for your Charter Spectrum Internet service

man using a tablet

There are a ton of routers out there and most of them are very similar in the standards they support and the features they offer. For the most part, various features don’t make much of a difference.

There are, however a few things you should definitely make sure your new router for Charter Spectrum supports, and those are:

  • The newest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11AC (aka, Wi-Fi 5) offers a host of improvements over previous standards. Don’t buy a Wireless-N router, and certainly don’t buy a Wireless B/G router (if you can even find someone selling them still)
  • Gigabit Ethernet ports – Since your Spectrum service will likely be running at a minimum of 100Mbps and possibly as high as 1Gbps, make sure your router has Gigabit Ethernet ports. Many older routers have 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports, meaning the router can pass a maximum of 100Mbps. You don’t want to be paying for 100+Mbps speeds and not be able to use it because your older router can’t hack it.
  • A proven track record of reliability – Make sure your new router is stable and doesn’t need to be rebooted constantly in order to perform. Some routers do!
  • Sufficient number of antennas providing decent signal coverage – some router’s just don’t have powerful or well designed enough radios and thus are unable to provide decent coverage, which ensures that Wi-Fi users will have a strong, reliable signal that provides decent speeds at various ranges.

Best Router for Charter Spectrum – ASUS RT-AC88U

You will be happy with any of the four routers highlighted above – but of course there can only be one winner. In this roundup, we chose the ASUS RT-AC88U.

You’re probably not surprised to see that it’s not the cheapest router available either. Well, unfortunately, quality, performance, and reliability come at a cost.

ASUS RT-AC88U
  • 1024 Qam technology 80 percent faster 5 GigaHertz at up to 2100 Mbps, 66 percent faster 2. 4 GigaHertz at up to 1000 Mbps; utilities: firmware restoration
  • 33 percent greater 2. 4 GigaHertz coverage with a 4 transmit, 4 receive (4T4R) antenna design, able to reach our widest ever coverage up to 5000 square feet
  • Expansive connectivity options: with exclusively has 8 x Gigabit LAN ports for up to eight Ethernet compatible devices to connect simultaneously
  • Powerful 1. 4 GigaHertz dual core processor, faster USB data transfers enjoy up to over 100 MB/s Speed and the router download/UPLOAD speed (WAN LAN throughput) up to 1. 8 Gaps
  • Smart Connect automatically chooses the best band available for you, Dimensions: 11. 8 x 7. 4 x 3. 3 inch (WDHP).

What we like about the RT-AC88U

Excellent Range – Thanks to the four external omni-directional antennas and a plethora of improvements built in to the 802.11AC standard, this router provides some of the longest range and most reliable connections among consumer-grade Wi-Fi routers.

If your house is huge, you may be better off installing multiple wireless access points instead of trying to get one powerful router. Many people don’t understand that wireless communication is a two-way street. Your phone, tablet, laptop, etc must not only receive data from your router, but it must also transmit it back. So even if your router transmits at a high strength, there is no guarantee that your device will be able to also transmit at a high enough signal strength to ensure a reliable connection. Having multiple access points in your home, where your device can associate with the closest one, is a better option for people needing to cover really large areas.

A plethora of Ethernet ports – This router has a whopping eight LAN ports. Most routers only have four LAN ports.

Many people have too many devices to plug in and need to add an Ethernet Switch such as this one to give them more Ethernet ports. This router can eliminate that need, since eight ports is probably enough for most people.

Good Management Options – ranging from an Intuitive WebUI to a handy mobile app. Advanced users really like AsusWRT-Merlin, a robust (and completely optional) firmware that supports many advanced features.

Good QoS controls – The Quality of Service controls are straight forward and actually work, allowing you to prioritize some traffic types over others (such as prioritizing Voice over IP traffic over BitTorrent traffic).

Guest Wi-Fi capability – This router features the ability to easily create a Guest Wi-Fi network – a separate network for guests with a different name, different password, and no ability to access resources on your private network (only ability to go out to the Internet).

What we don’t like about the RT-AC88U

Pricey – This router definitely carries a bit of a premium price tag.

Physical size – The AC88U is larger than most routers and many users report that it can generate a lot of heat.

Not novice friendly – While we really like the long list of advanced features that this router supports (especially if you flash the Merlin firmware), this router is not as friendly for novices as many routers on the market.

Potential for radio failure – Some users have reported individual bands (either 2.4GHz or 5GHz) failing or stopping working intermittently and requiring the router to be RMA’d. While these seem to be isolated cases (not a manufacturing defect), the failure rate seems to be abnormally high based on user reviews.

laptop and plant on tabletop

Runner Up – Netgear R6700

The R6700 from Netgear is one of my favorite routers and I recommend it to our readers frequently. Its performance and reliability relative to its affordable price point makes it the obvious choice for runner-up in this round up.

NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
  • FAST WiFi PERFORMANCE: Get up to 1500 square feet wireless coverage with AC1750 speed (Dual band up to 450 plus 1300 Mbps)
  • RECOMMENDED FOR UP TO 25 DEVICES: Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices
  • WIRED ETHERNET PORTS: Plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 4 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • LOADED WITH ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Designed with a 1GHz dual core processor, 3 amplified antennas, Beamforming plus, Dynamic QoS, Smart Connect, and more
  • USB CONNECTIONS: Share a storage drive or printer with any connected device or create a personal cloud storage to access from anywhere, using the 1 x 3.0 USB port

This router may not have all of the features or as many LAN ports as more expensive routers, but it can handle a Gigabit Internet connection from Charter Spectrum without any problems.

What we like about the R6700

Gigabit Ethernet ports – The Ethernet ports on this router are all Gigabit, meaning you won’t be limited to 100Mbps like some routers.

Current Generation (Wi-Fi 5) support – This router supports the current 802.11AC specification so you get all of the benefits of the current standard and aren’t stuck on the previous Wi-Fi 4 standard, 802.11N.

Excellent Coverage – The Wi-Fi coverage from this router is excellent, providing a strong and reliable signal in the far reaches of your medium to large sized home (assuming the router is placed in a central location).

Reliability / Stability – Sampling a large number of reviews online, most users report that this router is quite reliable: not frequently experiencing drop-outs in service or requiring reboots.

Advanced Features – Make no mistake about it, this router supports its own suite of advanced features. Most notably, the Quality of Service (QOS) and Parental Control features generally work quite well.

What we don’t like about the R6700

Netgear Warranty Support – If you do run into an issue and need support, many people have reported that Netgear’s tech support is not the greatest. Some people have even said they had to pay money to Netgear for a support contract before they could start an RMA on a router that was still under warranty. Not Cool!

Advanced Firmware Incompatibility – Some versions of the R6700 are not compatible with advanced firmware, such as DD-WRT. As of this writing, v1 and v3 are compatible, but v2 is not.

Wrapping Up

Regardless of which WiFi router you buy to go along with your Charter Spectrum Internet, as long as you follow our guidelines listed at the top of this post, you should be okay.

Our Pick - Extreme Performance and Highly Reliable
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U),Black
Runner Up - Excellent Performance at a good price
NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
Linksys EA7500 Dual-Band Wifi Router for Home (Max-Stream AC1900 MU-Mimo Fast Wireless Router)
D-Link WiFi Router, AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual Band Gigabit 4K Streaming and Gaming with USB Ports, 4x4 Wireless Internet for Home (DIR-882-US)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
8
4
4
4
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
1GHz Dual Core
1.4GHz Dual Core
880MHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
3 (external)
3 (external)
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC3100
AC1750
AC1900
AC2600
Our Pick - Extreme Performance and Highly Reliable
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U),Black
Router
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
8
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC3100
Runner Up - Excellent Performance at a good price
NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
Router
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
1GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
3 (external)
Speed Rating
AC1750
Linksys EA7500 Dual-Band Wifi Router for Home (Max-Stream AC1900 MU-Mimo Fast Wireless Router)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
1.4GHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
3 (external)
Speed Rating
AC1900
D-Link WiFi Router, AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual Band Gigabit 4K Streaming and Gaming with USB Ports, 4x4 Wireless Internet for Home (DIR-882-US)
Gigabit Capability (for connections over 100M to Charter Spectrum)
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Dual Band
Number of Ethernet ports
4
CPU
880MHz Dual Core
Number and Type of Antennas
4 (external)
Speed Rating
AC2600

How to get WiFi at home without a router

Are you looking to have Wi-Fi in your home, but you don’t have a router? This may sound strange, but it is possible using the mobile hotspot feature on your computer. Many of the newer and more popular computer operating systems support this feature (for free).

wifi logo

Not the mobile hotspot that you’re used to

This method of sharing an internet connection is frequently referred to as ‘mobile hotspot’, however this setup differs from most people’s definition of mobile hotspot – which is the process of enabling a feature on their smartphone so that they can tether a computer to the phone for internet access through the phone’s mobile data connection.

Using a smartphone’s hotspot permanently will get expensive very quickly – since you will likely blow through your mobile data allotment in short order. This type of hotspot also requires that the phone has adequate mobile data reception – if your signal is too weak, you won’t be able to even turn on the mobile hotspot functionality on your phone.

The solution we are discussing here uses a computer to act as a router in order to share an internet connection. The internet connection you are sharing could be a Cable or DSL service of your own, or perhaps a neighbor’s Wi-Fi that they are granting you access to.

Why no router?

There are multiple reasons why someone would want to go without a router.

The most common reason is that someone has recently moved and doesn’t yet have a router because they either didn’t buy one yet or because their old router is packed away somewhere and they can’t find it.

Or, perhaps they were leasing their last router from their ISP – in this case, they would have had to return it when they disconnected service at their last house/apartment.

Also, people that are traveling frequently can benefit from hotspot functionality on their laptop. Frequently, while traveling, you will run into internet access services that only allow one device online at a time.

Want to get online with both your laptop and your tablet? In this case, you may have to pay again to get the second device online as well. This type of service is not uncommon and is typically found in airports, cruise ships, and some hotels.

A Mobile hotspot on your computer can alleviate the need for these additional charges and allow you to only pay one access fee for all of your devices.

Pros and Cons to going router-less

Pros

  • Saves money up front – No router to purchase
  • Slightly lower power consumption due to the lack of a router (this only applies in cases where you leave your computer running all the time anyway)
  • It’s an easy fix when you’re in a bind and don’t have a router
  • Excellent for travelers

Cons

  • More complex – Traffic is going to be double NAT’ed in some cases, which can also impact performance
  • Worse performance – Depending on the speed of your computer and the other tasks that are running, your computer may not be able to route packets as quickly as a regular router can
  • Worse coverage – Most computers lack an external wireless antenna, and the ones that do have one are quite small. A router can easily cover a larger area than a computer can
  • Must keep the computer on all the time – That’s right, if you shutdown or reboot your computer, other people in the house that are using your Wi-Fi network will be disconnected
  • Difficult to expand wireless coverage – adding additional access points to your network to increase the range won’t work in some cases because the wired Ethernet adapter on your computer is likely already being used to connect to your Cable/DSL modem
  • Limited to 8 devices (Windows 10) – Windows caps the amount of devices that you can share with at 8 total

It’s only temporary (usually)

There’s no reason why you couldn’t rely on this set up permanently, however, most people will only use it temporarily – such as when they are on travel or if they just moved in to a new place.

A router isn’t THAT expensive and the benefits of using a traditional setup versus a mobile hotspot are many.

Getting Started

Difficulty: Medium
Time Required: 10 Minutes

Prerequisites

  • A computer with an Operating System that supports mobile hotspot functionality (Windows 10, MacOS)
  • The computer must have a wireless adapter (any modern laptop will have a wireless adapter built in, and some desktops have them too)
  • An internet connection to share – either your own Cable/DSL type service, or a nearby Wi-Fi network that you have access to (Windows 10 only – MacOS can’t be connected to WiFi and share via WiFi at the same time like Windows 10 can)

Optional

If you are wishing to share your own Cable/DSL service, your computer will also need to have a wired network adapter for connection to your Cable/DSL modem. If you are sharing a nearby Wi-Fi network, a wired adapter is unnecessary.

Windows or Mac?

See the mobile hotspot procedure for Windows 10 below, or jump ahead to the instructions for MacOS.

Windows 10 Procedure

  • Click on the ‘Start’ Button and click on the ‘Settings’ icon:

start menu settings button

  • Click on ‘Network and Internet’:network and internet settings
  • On the menu on the left, click on ‘Mobile hotspot’

network settings mobile hotspot

You will see a drop down box that says ‘Share my Internet connection from’. If you have multiple connections to the internet, such as a Wi-Fi connection to someone else’s network plus a wired connection to your Cable/DSL modem, you will see them listed here.

  • Choose the connection that you want to share.
  • If desired, you can change the network name and password by clicking the ‘Edit’ button. Your password needs to be at least eight characters long.

Alternatively, you can keep the randomly generated name and password that is already shown on the settings screen.

mobile hotspot settings

  • Lastly, move the slider at the top of the screen that says ‘Share my Internet connection with other devices’ to ‘On’. Your computer is now acting as a router.

You should now see your shared wireless network available on other devices in your home and you should be able to connect to that network using the password shown on the mobile hotspot configuration screen.

You will also see a count of the number of devices that are connected to your shared wireless network:

mobile hotspot devices connected

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.

MacOS Procedure

Note: With MacOS, you can create a mobile hotspot just like in Windows 10, except you can typically only share a wired Ethernet connection. This is due to the fact that Windows 10 allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network and then share that same network on the same wireless adapter.

MacOS does not support this functionality, so you are generally limited to sharing an internet connection that comes in through the computer’s wired Ethernet port, unless you happen to have two wireless adapters. However, many people want to share their Cable/DSL service through their computer, so this functionality on the Mac is still definitely worth mentioning.

  • Click on the ‘Apple’ menu and then click on ‘System Preferences’:

mac apple menu

  • Locate the ‘Sharing’ option and click on it:

mac system preferences

  • Select ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left side:

mac sharing

  • On the ‘Share your connection from’ drop-down, choose ‘Ethernet’
  • In the ‘To computers using’ box, chose your Wi-Fi adapter (the screenshot doesn’t show a wireless adapter since my Mac doesn’t have one, but your computer should)
  • Click the ‘Wi-Fi Options’ button at the bottom to configure your hotspot. You can chose a name for your network as well as select a channel:

mac wifi settings

We recommend selecting ‘WPA2 Personal’ from the ‘Security’ box and then pick a secure password. If you don’t set a security mode, the network will be created as an open network, which will allow anyone to connect to it. Bad idea.

  • Lastly, check the checkbox next to ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left to enable the hotspot. ‘Internet Sharing’ will show as ‘ON’ and have a green dot next to it once it has successfully been enabled.

You should now be able to see the Wi-Fi network on other devices and connect to it to access the internet.

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.