If you decide to buy a new router — pre-flashed, VPN-enabled, or otherwise — it’s important you understand exactly what each model has to offer. If you’ve already got a VPN router and need to choose a VPN, you can skip straight to How to Choose a VPN for Your Router.
Just like laptops and smartphones, every router model comes with different capabilities that will affect its performance. Consider the following specifications:
The ‘WiFi standard’ of every router will appear as a code on the device beginning with 802.11 and followed by a letter. These standards refer to a set of protocols that decide how your WiFi network will act, and are updated every few years.
What really matters here is the letter that comes after the ‘802.11’. Older routers will have a ‘b’ or ‘g’: these should be avoided as their age means they won’t be capable of the latest speeds.
Newer models have an ‘n’, which means that they support a top speed of 300Mbps. What you really want, though, is a device that supports 802.11ac. This is the latest consumer standard, allowing for transfer speeds of 1.3Gbps.
Even if your internet provider doesn’t offer speeds this great, a higher top speed on your router means that all of your devices will deliver downloads that are as fast as your connection allows.
Most routers will offer a wireless frequency band of either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. This number represents the speed at which data is sent and received by the devices connected to your network.
The main difference between these two frequencies will be the connection range and speed that each band provides. Put simply, 2.4GHz offers slower speeds over greater distances, while 5GHz offers faster speeds over shorter distances.
You’ll still be limited by your overall broadband speed regardless of which band you’re using. That said, 5GHz will probably deliver that broadband faster than 2.4GHz.
It’s worth noting that the 2.4GHz frequency can also suffer from interference if there are lots of devices on the network. This is because there are fewer devices out there capable of using 5GHz, which causes overcrowding on the 2.4GHz band. You can learn more about wireless frequencies in this article.
The WiFi standard and frequency aren’t the only factors that will determine a router’s speed.
More often than not a router will state its maximum speed outright. Nothing technical to take in here – look for the highest number possible within your price range. If you’d like to learn more about wireless router speeds, read this useful guide.
Number of Ports
Just because your router is wireless doesn’t mean that you can’t still get online the old-fashioned way.
Most VPN routers will come with ethernet ports for wired connections. This is the easiest way to guarantee speed and reliability — if not always the most convenient one.
They’ll also usually have a USB port or two. You can use these to turn an otherwise wired printer into a WiFi one, or connect an external storage device to create a shared network drive.
How Much Does a VPN Router Cost?
Like any gadget, the price of VPN routers can vary depending on your needs. There’s always options for advanced users and professionals, but we would recommend going for an option that matches the size and demands of your network.
Bear in mind that, as inherently advanced pieces of equipment when compared to standard WiFi routers, VPN routers are more expensive from the get-go. The cheapest options will cost around $130, while high-end models can cost upwards of $500.
Once you’ve bought a VPN router, the price of a monthly VPN subscription is very reasonable, even when using a leading provider like NordVPN or Private Internet Access. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.