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Is it time to break up with your underperforming router?

Posted February 6, 2018 2:38 p.m. EST

AUSTIN, Texas -- A reader, David, asks: "We use Spectrum for our internet service only and have been having problems with slow connectivity over the past few months, ranging between 1.1 and 28.7 Mbps when I run a speed test. We have had Spectrum come out four times but they have not been able to fix the problem, even after checking all of the cables and connections and using one of their own modems.

"The service man yesterday told me that it might be our router, a Netgear N600. I checked online for software updates, but there aren't any. We are supposed to be able to get up to 200 Mbps with our current plan according to Spectrum, but have never gotten better than 50 Mbps (router is set for up to 300).

"I was wondering if you have heard about others having this problem? Should we consider getting a new router and, if so, could you recommend any?"

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and hours of troubleshooting, a piece of hardware just doesn't live up to expectations. That could be an isolated case of a bad component, incompatibility with your current setup, or a bad setting that's messing up your speeds.

In a lot of cases with routers, a wired connection might provide much higher speeds than Wi-Fi, especially if the router is badly placed in your home or other devices are creating interference. But if you had a technician over, I'm sure the first thing they checked was whether an Ethernet cable would give you faster speeds.

In the case of the N600 router, I was able to find a few threads online reporting slow speeds on the device. In one of those cases a Netgear rep suggested simply getting a new router, and that's what I'm going to suggest to you instead of investing more time and effort into a frustrating piece of gear.

In my home, we're using a TP-Link AC-5400 tri-band router and it's been working great for the last year and a half and is priced at about $200. You can find several comparable gigabit-compatible routers in the $100-$200 price range. The Wirecutter has several other recommendations at various price ranges, although it's understandable if you're leery of some of their top picks, two out of three of which are from Netgear. Good luck!

Omar L. Gallaga writes for the Austin American-Statesman. Email: ogallaga(at)statesman.com.

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

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