Many people buy new connected devices, or give them as a gift, without thinking about Wi-Fi. It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, we pretty much take Wi-Fi for granted and only really think about it when it’s not living up to expectations. Trust me, if your Wi-Fi isn’t up to snuff you will know it when that new device is fired up. That’s why I recommend having a quick look at your router, and if it’s seen its “best before”date, replace it first.
Everything wants an update
I evaluate a lot of consumer electronics. Wireless speakers, headphones, laptops, smartphones, e-readers, video streamers, security cameras—you name it. And virtually every device I’ve tested in the past month has required either a system update or a firmware update the moment it was unboxed.
The wireless earbuds I just finished reviewing? Before playing a note they had to download a firmware update. The Windows laptop? There have been so many Windows 10 updates and security patches released since that machine was packaged, that a dozen critical updates had to be downloaded and installed before it could be used for anything. Even the new smart lights I’ve been working with needed to download a firmware update.
The firmware update for a pair of wireless earbuds may not be much, but get a bunch of Windows updates downloading on an older router and you could be waiting for hours. Not cool if you’re itching to use that cool new laptop …
Game consoles and streamers are Wi-Fi hogs
The worst offenders when it comes to quickly exposing the terribleness of your Wi-Fi are undoubtedly game consoles and streamers.
Game consoles inevitably require a system update before they can be used. And those games that are included as part of a bundle? Chances are those are digital downloads. And one AA game for the Xbox One or PS4 can easily be 40GB or 50GB. Once the game is downloaded, there is DLC. And then once everything is finally downloaded, many of the games are online, so if your Wi-Fi is behind the times that means game lag.
That’s all annoying enough at the best of times, but if the game console is a Christmas gift and the thrilled recipient has to sit through hours of updates and downloads?
Streamers also quickly expose outdated Wi-Fi, especially video streamers. There’s nothing more frustrating than bringing home a new 4K-capable video streamer, finding a great 4K HDR movie, then seeing a buffering screen and watching the TV screen break out into pixelated garbage.
Solution: update the Wi-Fi first
There’s an easy, pre-emptive solution to these do potential disasters: update your old router ahead of time. The latest Wi-Fi 6 routers are now available, and there are still great 802.11 ac (or Wi-Fi 5 if you use the new naming) routers, including some fantastic whole home mesh Wi-Fi systems. No-one even has to know you did it, so it won’t spoil any surprises. But you’ll be glad you did when those inevitable updates and downloads fly by and 4K streaming video fires right up without buffering or reduced quality.
Note: Make sure your ISP internet plan is also able to meet any new needs or that fast new router won’t do you much good.