A Trial Run
To see how easy this process is, we tried out four wireless routers from Cisco, NetGear, Asus and EnGenius. Cisco's Valet Plus was hands down the easiest to set up. You just plug it in. There's no programming needed. Cisco provides you with a little thumb drive to set up and remember your security key. Then you can use that same thumb drive to get any other desktop or laptop on to your network. From the time we opened the box, until we were up and running, it took about 10 minutes.
All of the others required a little more work. Even though these are all wireless routers, each wanted you to connect your new router with an Ethernet cord directly to your computer to set up the security software. For many people, that's not really practical, since their cable or phone connection may be in the basement. The NetGear router came with its own suggested network name and security key. Alternatively all three will allow you to set a security key wirelessly, but it will require more work, usually going into the default Internet address for the router's security page. That means in the URL line of your Internet browser you'll have to enter something like: http://192.168.1.1 . Yours may be different, but the address should be in the included setup disk or manual. Again, this could take a little time and effort, and if you get stuck, don't be afraid to call the customer support number that came with your router. Or you can always make a new friend with the Geek Squad.
|Router Name/Model||Price||Installation Time with Security Key||Wirelessly Setting Security|
|Asus RT-N56U||$114-155||25 minutes||Needed to use installation CD|
|Cisco Valet Plus||$60-130||10 minutes||Uses thumdrive; no CD required|
|EnGenius ESR 98556 Gaming Router||$66-145||40 minutes||Short on documentation, but doable|
|Netgear N600 Premium Edition||$150-167||25 minutes||Needed to change from supplied encryption key to user selected key|
If you have a larger home that can't be covered by a normal router, both EnGenius and NetGear offer wireless range extenders that are like repeaters. Cisco's Valet Plus is designed to cover more square feet than the entry level Valet. .
If you do run into problems during setup, you can often solve them simply by powering off and on your cable or DSL modem, your router and your computer. This will give all your devices an opportunity to find one another. If your computer finds your new wireless router, say you call it Blue Rhino, but you can't connect to the Internet, then it's possible (but not likely) that your cable company or phone company equipment may be the issue. Bottom line is that the setup process for your router may be every bit as important as the device itself. If you buy one in the store, make sure it's going to meet your needs, and that you can follow the setup instructions without having to learn a foreign language – Geekspeak.