First of all, routers are physical devices with size around 200mm x 120mm x 40mm (8in x 5in x 1.6in).
They come in different shapes and colors but here are some pictures that will give you an idea.
What does a router do?
I won’t dive into deep explanations and technical terms. In our homes we use routers to connect more than one computer to the Internet at the same time. Or more than once device in general – computers, notebooks, tablets, phones, etc.
In more details
One of the things a router does is to split your connection in parts. Every time a new device joins the network the router gives this device an access to the Internet.
The second and more important thing that routers do is to manage the data all of the devices are sending to and requesting from the Internet. So a router makes sure that the information received from the Internet goes to the device that requested it.
that might dawn some light on what I am talking about:
Imagine you are sitting at home watching a YouTube video on your PC. At the same time someone else from your family is browsing a website from his/hers notebook. Yet someone else is checking their Twitter profile form his/hers iPhone.
So those three devices are requesting data from the Internet. Your router sorts all of the requests and sends them. When the requested data comes back – your router knows who requested the video, who requested the website and who wanted to check what’s happening on Twitter. So it sends the right data on the path to the right device (and person).
Do I need a wired or a wireless router?
Well, if you only have desktop computer/s and you are certain you won’t be buying a notebook, tablet, smartphone etc. you should probably get a wired router.
In any other case you need a wireless router. Sure, you can connect a notebook to a wired router, but tripping over long cables and reduced mobility are not my personal favorites.
Wireless routers have a certain range they can cover, so keep that in mind when you choose one. Walls can hinder the wireless signal so get a router with a bit bigger range than the one you need covered.
Router prices have been fairly stable over the years – starting at $30 to $100 and more.
For your small home network you don’t need an expensive router. However, I wouldn’t go for something much cheaper than $40-$50. After all, a router is something you buy once and use for a long time, so better buy a device that is a bit more expensive but won’t cause you any headaches.