A Wi-Fi router allows you to connect to the internet anywhere at home. And if you have several computers you can network them and share the same internet access, printer and external drives.
Wi-Fi is not synonymous to Wireless Fidelity despite the similarity to HiFi. It simply indicates that the product implements a set of compatibility standards for wireless local area networks known as WLAN, based on the IEEE 802.11 specifications.
Presently there are Wi-Fi 802.11b, Wi-Fi 802.11g, Wi-Fi 802.11a and very soon Wi-Fi 802.11n.
Differences Between Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi 802.11b was the first to come out. It has a data transfer speed of up to 11 mbps (megabits per second). Wi-Fi 802.11g came next with a transfer speed of up to 54 mbps and is compatible to the first generation as they use the same radio frequency. Wi-Fi 802.11a has the same transfer speed as the g version but uses a different wavelength and is therefore not compatible with the two previous versions. However most Wi-Fi 802.11a routers on the market are also equipped with Wi-Fi 802.11g capability. The only advantage with Wi-Fi 802.11a is that the radio frequency it operates is less likely to be interfered by signals from cordless phones, microwave ovens and other Wi-Fi users.
Wi-Fi 802.11n will be twice as fast as versions g and a. However its standard has not yet been established and it might be wiser to wait until this is finalized to avoid compatibity issues.
Which Wi-Fi Routers To Choose?
The maximum transfer speed for a router is rarely achieved. Most of the time it will be about 50% of that speed. So for a Wi-Fi 802.11b router the operating speed would be about 6 mbps. This is much more than the DSL and Cable transfer speeds, which are between 3 to 5 mbps. No matter which version you choose you will probably not notice any difference. We however recommend going for a Wi-Fi 802.11g router as the chances of it becoming outdated with faster broadband connection are fairly remote.