OK, getting the wrong type of person a router for a gift could be a one-way ticket to holiday hell. But if you're buying for someone who's expressed a desire for one, or you want to take advantage of holiday deals to upgrade your own network, there are plenty of worthy products that are great for staying connected. Here are four solid ones to consider.
Linksys WRT110 RangePlus Wireless Router Though the spec hasn't been officially ratified yet, 802.11n is far enough along that you should go that route for a brand-new networks, but if it's still too pricey, the WRT110 RangePlus Wireless Router can provide some of the N benefits with a cheaper 802.11g router. If you happen to have an 802.11n adapter, this Linksys uses RangePlus technology to provide throughout and range superior to other G hardware; even if you just have a 802.11g network, the WRT110 delivers outstanding range. The sleek design, which does away with external antennae, is another plus.
802.11n Router (Single Band)
Belkin N+ Wireless Router This Belkin router taps into the full power of 802.11n, delivering unsurpassed range and awesome throughput, at a price that isn't much more than the cheapest N routers available. It isn't the sexiest router out there, and it only works on the 2.4GHz band that most other Wi-Fi networks (and other devices like cordless phones) use, but that may not matter to you if you just want a fast network that can cover as much ground as possible.
802.11n Router (Dual Band)
Linksys WRT610N Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router Unlike the Belkin N+, the WRT610N can send a wireless signal over either the 2.4GHz or the less-crowded 5GHz spectrum. In fact, as its lengthy name suggests, it can transmit over both bands at the same time. The 5GHz promises better performance if you have a compatible adapter, while you can use the 2.4GHz band for legacy Wi-Fi equipment. Better still, it delivers NAS functionality when you attach an external drive to its USB port. And as with the Linksys WRT110, the WRT610N comes in a slick black housing that stores its antennae internally.
Synet Windy31 USB Wireless Router Travelers will appreciate the Windy31, which, when plugged into your laptop, can serve as a standard 802.11b/g wireless adapter or as a miniature router that can share a Wi-Fi signal with up to 31 different devices. That means you can connect to a hotel's high-speed Internet service using the Windy31, then sit on your bed with your iPhone or Nintendo DS and make use of its Wi-Fi features. The Windy31 doesn't come with extensive bells and whistles (no VPN capabilities or built-in firewall), but it offers the usual encryption options and, of course, the convenience of a mobile hub whenever you need to share a wireless connection on the go.