Ditch the problem router and move to Wireless-N

I’d been noticing a problem cropping up on my home network.

Websites would generate a “cannot connect” error in the browser and a suggestion to reset the connection, although refreshing the page would produce it correctly. Sometimes a website would appear in a long list of text and graphics, and refreshing would correct the problem. I had no luck in finding a solution, as it appeared in multiple browsers at random times. I also found my Wi-Fi access slowing down occasionally, and if someone started transferring a file across the wireless network, every other user slowed to a crawl.

I had no idea whether these problems were related, but I did realise that I now had three phones, two Windows Surfaces, and four desktops connected wirelessly. As Christmas approached, I decided to give the household a present, and upgrade our wireless network.

If you have had Wi-Fi in your home and workplace for some time, then the odds are that you are using a Wireless-G modem/router with a speed of around 54Mbps. The Wireless-N standard has been out for some time, and promises a maximum of 300Mbps, but the real speed is usually lower than this.

After a quick look at eBay, I purchased an Asus DSL-N12U-B1 Wi-Fi Wireless-N 300Mbps LAN Switch ADSL ADSL2+ Modem Router for around AU$90. I didn’t really need the modem part, as I have a Telstra cable connection, but if I ever go to ADSL, it will be useful.

(Credit: Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

I replaced my old Netgear Wireless G router, and, after some browser-based set-up on the new router, the Wi-Fi network was up. However, while our phones and Surface tablets supported Wireless-N, most of the other devices were Wireless-G, so I had also purchased some USB Wireless-N dongles for around AU$10 each. I’m used to some sort of external antenna on my Wi-Fi adapters, and these seemed remarkably small, but the price certainly suited. Although obviously rebadged, Windows identified the adapter as a Realtek RTL8191SU Wireless LAN 802.11n USB 2.0 Network Adapter.

Once I installed the USB Wi-Fi adapters, I tried out web access and found pages appearing quickly and with no problems. My wireless speed was now 144.5Mbps, nearly triple my previous speed, although nowhere near 300Mbps. Signal strength was also better than my previous Wireless-G adapters, so it appears that external antenna are no longer needed, or my new router has better coverage — probably a combination of both.

(Credit: Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

I connected my lounge-room media PC to the router by Ethernet cable, and tested my download speed — 30Mbps, which had previously only been showing 12Mbps on my old router. It appeared that my old router was either malfunctioning or had been stuck on 10Mbps Ethernet rather than 100. My result from Speedtest.Net from a Wi-Fi-connected PC was the same as the Ethernet connection, so I’m beginning to think that my old router just couldn’t keep up.

File transfers over the network are much slower than the maximum connection speed, and I was unable to get more than around 60Mbps on large file transfers between some of my older PCs, but this was still much faster than my previous wireless network.

I’ve been using the system for around two weeks now, and have had none of my previous problems. Web access has noticeably improved. If you’ve been having problems with your Wireless-G Wi-Fi, it might be time to consider an inexpensive upgrade to Wireless-N.