The latest wireless-speed standard, 802.11ac, was introduced in December 2012, and it delivers a minimum speed of 433 megabits per second (Mbps). That’s much quicker than the speed of the previous standard, 802.11n, which is 150 Mbps. The change means that you’ll see faster Web-page loading and smoother video streaming. Another improvement is that 802.11ac operates on the 5-gigahertz (GHz) radio band, which is less crowded and thus more reliable than is the 2.4-GHz band that’s used by 802.11g and most 802.11n routers.
Unfortunately, at press time, the least expensive 802.11ac router cost $80, compared with $20 for the least expensive 802.11n model. Additional features, such as parental controls and network-storage support, push up the price of a typical 802.11ac router well above $100.
However, this is only a temporary problem. Bob O’Donnell of International Data Corp., which is a market-research company, tells us that 802.11ac routers will cost $50 by the end of 2014. Also, you should know that wireless standards are backward-compatible, which means that any 802.11ac router or computer will work with an 802.11n-compatible or 802.11g-compatible computer or router but without the 802.11ac speed. O’Donnell tells us that the majority of notebook computers will include 802.11ac compatibility by the end of 2014, with no increase in price as a result.