Browse around electronics retail stores, and chances are you’ll find 802.11n routers proudly on display touting wireless data speeds as high as 600Mbps. In reality, however, throughput numbers are often far from ideal due to wireless interference or ineffectual network settings. Here are some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your network router.

Reuters Placement

Theoretically, a MIMO 802.11n router with four spatial streams is able to reach an effective indoor range of up to 70 meters. However, real-world range is typically shorter due to RF interference and other mitigating factors. If your current setup permits, position your router as centrally as you can within your household to optimize its Wi-Fi reach. Also, place your router on higher ground, and keep it away from wireless devices such as cordless phones.

Flip Your Wireless Channel

Your router might be a 2.4GHz device by default, but do you know that it can also broadcast on different wireless channels? With the exception of North America, you should be able to select up to 13 effective channels. Try out different selections and see if your Wi-Fi signal strength improves. Alternatively some models also offer an “Auto” mode, which automatically selects a channel with the least interference.

Channel Bonding

Under IEEE’s 802.11 context, channel bonding refers to the wireless transmission of data by means of two adjacent 20MHz bands to increase a router’s throughput levels. For N-routers, you can enable this feature by selecting “20/40MHZ” instead of “20MHz”. This option is often named as “Channel Width” by most makers, and is typically located under the router’s basic wireless settings.

Quality Of Service

Simply put, QoS (Quality of Service} is a means of prioritizing applications on a packet-switched network to achieve optimal performance and reduce latency. Of course, QoS is moot if you utilize your home network exclusively for web surfing and nothing else, but can make a visible difference if you depend on other applications like Skype, for example, or engage in heavy online gaming. While some routers offer basic QoS interfaces, others also offer deeper customizations.

Port Forwarding

Port Forwarding is recommended if you host online games often. Reason being, your router might regard incoming traffic from your gaming peers as a security risk and block access to your network. To work around this, you can open up a port on the router for the packets to pass through. In most cases, this feature is usually found under the router’s advanced settings. Key in the relevant application name, port range, network protocol (TCP, UDP or both), your system’s IP address, and you are good to go. If the application requires only a single port, then punch in the same number for the Start and End fields.

Special Rules

Special Rules (sometimes called Application Rules) generally refers to the opening of ports on a router when it detects outgoing data on a trigger port. This is important since applications requiring multiple connections such as VoIP or online gaming might encounter issues with the router’s NAT (network address translation) function. You can utilize the Special Rules feature if you know the application’s trigger port and protocol. Some routers also come with pre-configured settings, such as the Battle.net example shown in the screenshot.

Source it Up

Those feeling more adventurous might want to try their hand at DD-WRT, a Linux-based firmware designed for a wide variety of existing wireless routers. Apart from in-depth customizations offered, this open source application may also improve Wi-Fi range and performance. Get DD-WRT at www.dd-wrt.com.

For Mobile Warriors

If you work on a laptop at home and suffer from a poor 802.11n connection, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your notebook’s Wi-Fi hardware. Recent chipsets such as Intel’s Advanced-N 6230 and Atheros’ AR6004 were designed for much better performance with their dual-stream MIMO capabilities and dual-band support. If you are planning on upgrading to a new N-router, it’s best if you lave comparable hardware on your end to match.