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Living with Technology / 'AC' Wi-Fi router gets an A+

Published 7:13 am, Thursday, December 26, 2013
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We're definitely at the point where homes need robust data networks.

It used to be that a "connected" computer was one that used a telephone line to dial-up something like America Online (AOL).

No longer.

It seems that almost every device we bring into our homes connects to the Internet.

Of course, computers are right up there. But when you think of all of the mobile phones that connect to a network, tablets, laptop computers, televisions, game consoles (e.g., Xbox and PlayStation), even refrigerators, it's clear that virtually every electronic device will soon be Internet enabled.

Perhaps your home has added some new items that require Internet connectivity this holiday season.

The biggest problem I've had with all of this is that my router (the box that connects my cable Internet service to the rest of the house) is in the basement.

Getting the signal from the router to the rest of the house can be done one of two ways: wired or wireless (WiFi).

My preference is for good old fashioned wire, but retrofitting a home with networking cable is difficult and expensive. WiFi is cheap and easy, but doesn't like to go through things like walls, floors and ceilings.

I've written about using a technology called "homewire" or "powerline" where the networking signals are transmitted through your home's electrical wires. It works reasonably well, but doesn't have the speed of dedicated wire or WiFi.

This year, Santa brought me a new router that includes what's called "AC" WiFi technology. Officially, it's known as IEEE 802.11ac. You may already be familiar with other variants of the 802.11, such as a, b, g and n.

With each successive iteration of WiFi, it gets faster and less subject to physical objects between the devices.

I must say that the Linksys router I purchased, the EA6900 works really well. Since all of your devices have to have the AC capabilities, I also purchased some of their Universal Media Connectors (mine are model WUMC710).

With these two Linksys boxes set up, I've found that the speed of communications are as fast as a physical cable. Wow!

With the router in the basement and the Universal Media Connecters around the house, I can plug my devices into the Universal Media Connectors and achieve speeds I only thought I'd have if I wired my home.

The only downside is that devices like my iPad, laptop and other devices don't have AC capabilities built in so they don't benefit from the AC technology. One can buy AC adapters, but the devices that really need the speed (TV, game console and my computer where I do video editing and upload large files to YouTube) typically have a cable that I can plug into the Universal Media Connectors.

Already many laptop computers are coming out with AC built-in and I'm pretty sure other devices such as tablets and phones will, too.

But for right now, I'm enjoying my speedy wireless network in my home and am glad I didn't take the time or spend the money to run all the wires.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org