This conversation deals with Stand-a-Lone Routers and not Mesh Networks which involve a Main Node and one or more satellites positioned throughout your home. Mesh Networks are becoming increasingly popular; but require additional setup steps versus a stand-alone router. That said...let’s begin…
Routers are becoming more sophisticated year over year and promising faster speeds and more features. In terms of connectivity over Wi-Fi you have 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and now ax which promises speeds approaching 10GB over Wi-Fi. Wow...that’s fast!!
Dual Band routers with a single 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band are the most common. Tri-Band routers are increasing in popularity having a single 2.4Ghz band and two 5Ghz bands. Other features that are being touted and listed in no particular order are:
- Guest Networking
- Parental Controls
- WPA2 and now WPA3 (Security protocols)
- Wireless on/off button
- WPS (Wi-fi Protected Setup for client devices that support it)
- Detachable Antennae (some routers look like insects)
- Gigabit Ethernet (every router has this feature)
- Traffic Meters (do you really need to see who and what is using band width)
- USB Ports (for network connected storage)
- IPv6 Internet Support
- Beam Forming
- MU-MIMO (processing of multi-streams simultaneously rather than 1 x1)
- Smart Connect (router will decide which band to connect clients)
- Load Balance (enhanced feature of Smart Connect)
- WTFast (Gaming routers)
- Adaptive QoS (Quality of Service). More on this later.
The list goes on (and I probably missed a lot). So what is a good router for Sonos?
- No one needs 802.11ax speeds at the moment as there are only a few clients (laptops etc.) that can connect to 802.11ax; so save your money.
- While just about every router on the market offers 10/100/1000 Gigabit wired connection there’s really no concern about price difference there. 802.11ac is now a standard for most routers as well. WPA2, WPS, wireless on/off and IPv6 are pretty much standard fare also; as is Guest Networking
- Features such as Beam Forming, MU-MIMO, Load Balance, Traffic Meters, Smart Connect, USB Ports are all great if you need them; or have deep pockets. More importantly you need to understand how to use them to your advantage.
- The only feature that I would add as a nice to have is Adpative QoS. It allows you to specify which traffic should be given priority band width (in a particular order) such as audio and video streaming, gaming, file transfers or web surfing.
So, IMO a good router for general use and for use with Sonos will have Dual Bands (Sonos requires 2.4Ghz band overall and 5Ghz band in home theater setups) and the features mentioned in Number 2 and possibly Number 4 above.
If you were to obtain a router with Smart Connect it may be necessary to disable the feature temporarily during initial setup to allow Sonos to pick the 2.4Ghz band. After Sonos is set you may re-enable the Smart Connect feature.
Know that if your ISP provides 1-Gigabit wired speed your router will fall short of that throughput over Wi-Fi. Sonos today operates at 10/100 wired Ethernet speed; so the 10/100/1000 wired Ethernet speed provided by a router is a moot point. Obviously, the performance of Sonos is not affected by that limitation.
I hope this helps to de-mystify some of the features, bells and whistles associated with routers today. Enjoy your Sonos!