4 essential features that can make or break the speed of your wireless router

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We all know that one of the main pain points when it comes to your home Wi-Fi router satisfaction is speed. But, did you know that there are certain things which can determine – or, in some cases increase – your wireless router speed? And these are things you should definitely consider when buying a new router.

Here is the breakdown, and each point, step by step with some examples:

Flash memory

Every router contains flash memory to store some information like drivers, web-based interfaces and or other programs that the router uses to operate. It mostly stores this in some kind of binary form which is then loaded into memory.
The choice of flash chip defines how fast the device can load this information into its RAM and therefore how fast the device will be able to operate. There are roughly two sorts of NAND flash, single level cell and multi-level cell.

Multi-level cell memory uses multiple levels per cell to allow more bits to be stored using the same number of transistors.  In single level cell flash, each cell can exist in one of the two states storing one bit of information per cell. A bit in this case means 1 or 0; 8 bits form a byte for example, the letter L. To store the letter L in a MLC NAND flash we would need fewer cells than in an SLC flash where we need 8 cells, in which the states will be 01001100. In an MLC flash this could be, for example, 4 cells.

Where MLC flash is cheaper, SLC flash has a faster write speed and higher endurance.

RAM memory

Ram memory is used to store non-permanent information that a CPU needs very quickly.  Imagine we are going to watch a picture which is stored on our flash memory. The CPU takes the picture, bit by bit, from the flash and stores what it collected to the RAM memory.  We cannot transfer it directly to our monitor because the monitor doesn’t understand our instructions. They need to be translated first in a way that the monitor will understand, so it can show the picture. The CPU will take the information that is previously stored from the RAM memory, translate it and send it to the monitor so we can view the picture. Therefore, the RAM is basically our waiting room.

The speed of the connection of the RAM with the CPU is thus very important. For example, a DDR3-1066 module can do 8.533 GB/ps while a DDR2-200 module can only do 1.600 GB/ps. While he DDR3 module can transfer data to the CPU 5 time faster than the DDR2 module.

Radios

In the 2.4 GHz band it is somewhat busy — that is to say, there is a lot of traffic that goes between 2.4 and 2.5 GHz. You can compare this a bit with a highway. Imagine a highway with four lanes and each lane is full of cars. What will you get?  Yes, a traffic jam:  you will move but you will move very slowly.

With Wi-Fi, it is the same:  instead of four lanes we have 14 lanes (channels) and each lane is getting more and more crowded.  Some people are using software to check which lane is the least full and try connecting with that lane. Next to Wi-Fi, there is also zigbee and Bluetooth which operate in the 2.4 GHz ism band.

The 802.11n and AC standard can operate at a different, less populated band as well, the 5 GHz band. There, it is less busy and there is more bandwidth. Therefore, higher data rates can be reached on this band.

CPU: Heart of the Router

CPU or Central Processing Unit is the heart of your router.  It directs all activity to the necessary peripherals and it enables the router to perform its tasks. The faster the CPU and the more cores, the better.

Imagine that you have an ice cream factory where one person is making ice, packaging it and puts it in the truck — In total all this handling will take him 1 hour per box. The director of the factory finds this too slow, and he decides to hire a packaging professional and a logistics professional to improve efficiency. He furthermore decides to let the person who makes the ice take a course in ice making. Now the box takes the team, in total, 5 minutes instead of 33 minutes as would have typically been expected.

A multi-core CPU with dedicated tasks works in the same way:  while one core is busy with calculating keys, the other CPU handles network traffic.

Adding it All Up

Again, we are hoping with this information on the four points at which your Wi-Fi router can fail or speed up, you will better understand (a) the reasons these speed fails are occurring, and (b) when it might be time to get yourself a new router!  Speed issues are not always due to your housemates’ use of the Wi-Fi at the same time, or that your router is outdated and may not include the technology to reach the speeds and consistency you need. All of these four points come into play when you are using your Wi-Fi router at home – like it or not. At least now you’ll understand why.

When it’s all said and done and you still have a need to fix your failing Wi-Fi or improve upon it, look for us: We developed an enterprise grade router to help solve your Wi-Fi woes – including security and privacy – our new Chime mesh Wi-Fi router.

Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and not those of AVG or Innovation Labs.

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