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I went to speedtest.net and found out that my internet connection (that my ISP Comcast provides) is about 12 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload.

Is there any reason why anyone would possibly need a Cisco Linksys E4200 Router which boasts 450mbps?

Thanks! Just trying to get an idea for what a high-speed router like that would actually be used for.

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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are three speeds you need to take into account with wireless routers:

  • Wireless LAN speed: This is the max speed you will get between the router and all computers connected to the wireless router cumulatively. The speed may be lower if there is interference from other sources, or even just from heavy traffic from your own wireless devices.

  • Wired LAN speed: This is the max speed you will get between the router and each computer connected via ethernet. Good wireless N routers will give you speeds up to 1 Gbps on the LAN.

  • Wired WAN (internet) speed: This is the max speed the router can connect to the internet/outside world with, shared cumulatively to all devices on your network whether wired or wireless. You want to make sure the router supports at least the speed your ISP is selling you, but anything more will not be used, as you're capped by the ISP. Rarely does an ISP provide faster internet than the router can connect at.

The LAN speed is important if you have multiple computers on your network and you transfer data between them. Let's say you have a home server connected via ethernet to your router and a laptop connected via WiFi, and you want to backup your laptop to the server over the network. The faster your WiFi speeds are, the faster that backup will run. Same goes for playing networked video games, transferring media files, streaming music, etc.

Devices on your network need to have the appropriate hardware to connect at these speeds as well. If your laptop's wireless card only goes up to 300 Mbps (which most decent-quality 802.11n cards do), then a 450 Mbps WLAN doesn't do you any more good than a 300 Mbps WLAN. Likewise, if you have a low-quality Wireless-N card or a Wireless-G card (which can only operate at 54 Mbps), then it doesn't matter what speed your router can connect at, because you will be limited by the slowest piece in your connection chain.

When deciding on what network equipment to use, take into consideration what your uses will be. If you do very little local area network transfers, then there is little or no advantage to having a Wireless-N router if your internet connection isn't faster than 54 Mbps. On the other hand, if you do transfer a lot of files locally, then a fast router may be a good idea, even if you have a very slow internet connection.

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No, I used it right. Networking devices measure speeds in Mega bits per second, or Mbps. –  nhinkle Jan 20 '11 at 22:05
    
Oops, my bad, yes you did! –  ubiquibacon Jan 20 '11 at 22:36
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Just because your ISP doesn't offer fast speeds doesn't mean they aren't available - or won't be soon. Cablevision in New York/New Jersey/Connecticut areas offers download speeds of 101 Mbit/sec. FiOS offers 150 MBit download speeds with some plans. And things are getting faster, so if you had one of those routers, you won't necessarily have to replace it next year if you have a service that gets even faster and you want to take advantage of that speed.

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If you have more than one computer on the network and want to transfer data between them, then high-throughput routers are great. If you're only running one machine on your network, then that 450mb/s local speed doesn't make sense to pay for, and you'd be better off getting something cheaper.

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Ahh.. thank you. I didn't think I needed that much power! –  kalaracey Jan 20 '11 at 19:27
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You're thinking in terms of connection to the internet. Remember, that a router is also responsible for connections to a local network as well. So, if you had a couple of machines on the same network and transferred files between them, then you may want such speeds.

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