Why do you need a new router, even with a slow internet connection

A very old Wi-Fi router sitting on a table.
Hannah Striker / How-To Geek

Older Wi-Fi routers are vulnerable to security exploits and lack the quality of life upgrades found in modern routers. Even if you don’t need the bandwidth optimization, the upgrade is beneficial.

If your home internet is very slow, you might think it doesn’t matter if you have an old, dusty router without the latest bells and whistles. This is the reason why you should seriously consider upgrading.

First, let’s define old and slow

Talking about an old or new router, or that your internet connection is slow or fast requires us to define how we use these terms in the context of this article.

Most routers usually have at least a Generation of Wi-Fi technology outdated after about five years or so from its release date. If you bought your router five years ago, and it was already an older model at the time of purchase, you’re a long way from today’s Wi-Fi technology. New, in the context of routers, refers to router models released in the last few years – in three years it’s even better.

And as far as “fast” and “slow” internet goes, that’s entirely subjective in terms of opinions on broadband adoption and personal preference. However, we view speed and slowness here as a relationship between Internet distributor hardware and internet connection speed.

People asked us, does it matter if I have an old router if I have slow internet? And this is a completely valid question. What does it matter if you have an 802.11n router from the early 2000s with a 50Mbps or 100Mbps broadband connection that will never fully saturate the router? It’s more important than you think because the Wi-Fi experience is more than just speed test results but a whole host of router features. Let’s take a look at why.

Older Wi-Fi routers don’t get security updates

Talking about security is not sexy, but security is important. Even if you don’t feel like any of the speed or quality of life improvements we’ll talk about in a moment matter to you, the security of your home network should matter.

The days of turning on the family computer every now and then to send an occasional email or play an offline game are over for most of us. Our homes are online all the time at some capacity, our televisions are online, and people use our home’s internet connection and the devices on it for things like banking, securely logging medical records, and other important things.

With that in mind, it’s not ideal to have a very old router that isn’t receiving security updates anymore. Whatever vulnerabilities were discovered after the last round of updates your router received, you’re stuck. You will not be able to use files The most advanced Wi-Fi encryption with your devices.

You don’t need a brand new high-end router Make sure you have security updates, but you want a newer model that still gets updates (and will last for at least a few more years). Router security updates is a topic that we feel strongly enough about We recommend that you get rid of your router when he no longer receives it.

Older Wi-Fi routers have weaker hardware

You may not think much about how much processing power your Wi-Fi router has or what kind of hardware is inside it, so before we talk about routers specifically, let’s talk about the problem by comparing it to computers.

Almost everyone has had the experience of upgrading their computer and then been blown away by how nice the computer experience will be after the upgrade. We’re not even talking about players enjoying improved performance in AAA titles or other demanding activities. We are talking about basic, everyday things like opening files, browsing the web, and so on.

It’s not about typing emails or watching a YouTube video on a 2013-era vs. 2023-era laptop. laptop is a fundamentally different activity. It’s a decade of hardware improvements and improvements that make doing this easier and more fun.

Your old router likely has a much weaker CPU. It also has less powerful radios that use older Wi-Fi technology. Even the physical ports on older routers can be anemic. Gigabit Ethernet is now standard, but as of the mid-2010s, many budget routers still had 10/100-core Ethernet ports. Pair this type of router with faster broadband, and you’ll have yourself right out of the gate.

Sure, you can connect your new iPhone to a ten-year-old router just fine, but that old router won’t be optimized for Wi-Fi technology improvements that didn’t even exist when it was built.

When you hop from an old router to a new one, you’ll be surprised to see things you didn’t realize were related to the router — like how quickly a webpage loads after you send the request or how dramatically your social media posts are optimized on your phone. It turns out that you don’t need a new Smart TV, you need a Wi-Fi router that can create a more reliable connection with it.

Older Wi-Fi routers weren’t made for high-density environments

When I installed my first Wi-Fi router back in the 802.11b/g days, I had quite a few Wi-Fi devices in my house—most of them weren’t working simultaneously, let alone doing the tricky stuff in tandem.

However, I now have about 100 devices connected to my Wi-Fi at any one time. While many of these devices are things like smart plugs, a few are much-needed items like smart TVs, phones, and other devices that require reliable high-bandwidth connections.

The network landscape of the home has changed, and[“>newer routers are designed with that landscape in mind. Whether you have a basic 100 Mbps connection through your local cable company or a 2 Gbps fiber connection, your router’s ability to juggle dozens and dozens of connections on the Wi-Fi network is crucial.

It’s not just about supplying any given device with the maximum amount of bandwidth possible it’s about stability and connection management. Take streaming video bandwidth demands, for instance. You only need about 5 Mbps of speed for HD video and about 15 Mbps for 4K video.

It’s more important to have a reliable router that can reach the location of your smart TV or phone with a stable signal than anything else—and newer hardware is better suited for delivering that stability to multiple devices simultaneously.

Old Wi-Fi Routers Lack Quality of Life Improvements

We like to encourage people to think about their router purchases like they are shopping for a car. When you’re shopping for a car, you rarely shop for the fastest possible car you can buy. Outside of buying a performance car for racing purposes, the maximum speed a car can go is almost entirely irrelevant, and most people never drive their car as fast as it can possibly go.

What matters is comfort and ease of use. Most of us don’t want a car than can go 200 MPH. We want a car with comfortable seats, lane-assist semi-autonomous driving, room for the stuff we want to haul around, and so on.

In that regard, most people don’t need to buy a bleeding-edge performance router with a theoretical throughput capacity 20 times higher than their broadband connection. But they should buy a newer router that includes all the quality-of-life improvements we’ve seen in Wi-Fi and router technology over the years.

Newer routers include automatic security updates, so you’ll never have to worry about manually downloading and applying a firmware fix again. Speaking of automation, many older Wi-Fi routers don’t even have Quality of Service (QoS) rules. Or, if they do, you have to configure them manually. Newer Wi-Fi routers include automatic QoS adjusts that can intelligently identify and adapt network allocation based on activities without you even knowing what a QoS rule even is.

Wi-Fi optimizations in newer Wi-Fi generations benefit not just the newer devices that can take advantage of specific features like fast roaming but also older devices on the same network.

If you want to upgrade and you’re not sure where to start, you can consider buying a budget Wi-Fi router. But we also recommend buying a single mesh router. You get a perfectly good modern Wi-Fi router all by itself (with great automated features) for around the same price as a stand-alone budget router. And if you need more coverage extending your network with mesh nodes is dead simple.

However you approach the problem, though, it’s worth replacing that old router with an awesome router with modern features and current security updates.

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