The past few years have seen a deluge of Wi-Fi router innovation, but the Portal wifi router includes a key feature that’s basically unheard of in consumer technology.
But let’s step back for a second.
The problem with Wi-Fi is that everyone has it. Almost all 5GHz Wi-Fi routers connect to your devices over the same narrow set of channels, meaning all of the web traffic in your apartment building is competing for the same spectrum. When your Netflix won’t stop buffering, there’s a decent chance that this interference, rather than a lack of range or signal-blocking obstacles, is to blame.
Here’s the secret though: There are a ton of extra channels that are normally reserved for weather radar and military use that aren’t beset with overcrowding, and Portal is one of the only routers that lets you use them. The “catch” is that it has to shift your devices to a different channel whenever it detects active radar in the area, but in practice, you don’t even notice this happening.
I bought Portal recently to replace my aging Apple AirPort Extreme, and I’ve been blown away. Before I upgraded, my iPad would struggle to stream live events in the kitchen, and videos on my bedroom Apple TV would frequently degrade to a pixelated mess, if they played at all. That’s all in the past now, and according to SpeedTests, it doubled or even tripled my download speeds in almost all areas of my house. Plus, it was dead-simple to set up, and easy to manage using a free smartphone app.
Of course, the new hotness in routers these days is mesh networking, and Portal has the ability to pull a similar trick if you buy two. Most reviewers say that the setup process is far less intuitive than, say, Eero’s, but once you’re up and running, it should work just as seamlessly. Really though, this thing has 9 internal antennas and crazy-good range, so I’d start with one and see where it gets you.