BEST WIRELESS ROUTERS | NOVEMBER 2017
Whether you're a casual Internet user or you live in a fully connected smart home, there's a wireless router on the market that fits your needs. And to help narrow down your options, our team performed in-depth research on a range of wireless routers that meet a variety of specific use cases and price points – from basic budget models to high-performance options that are great for gaming, Ultra HD streaming, multiple devices and large homes. And if you're not sure how much router you need, be sure to look at out handy buying guide, which covers topics like number of bands, speeds and more. Read more about our methodology.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 is built for speeds of up to 1900 Mbps on a dual-band set up. This router is the best to handle home networks with a variety of needs ranging from web surfing to heavy gaming. It’s even compatible with Amazon Alexa and Echo.Read full review.
If you want a dual-band router on a budget, look no farther than the TP-Link AC1350. It can handle speeds of up to 1317 Mbps and boasts an impressively easy set up. It also makes network management simple with an easy-to-use mobile app.Read full review.
Wireless Routers BUYING GUIDE
Single-band, Dual-band, or Tri-band
All routers emit a signal, which your wireless devices use to connect to the Internet. Depending on the type of router you purchase, the amount of bands (or signals) available to you will vary. You can purchase routers that are single-, dual-, or tri-band. The dual- and tri-band routers emit more than one signal with varying speeds for your devices. If you’re a gamer or a streamer, consider purchasing a router with at least dual-band capability.
Speed is the next big consideration when it comes to purchasing a wireless router, but remember that speed is a combination of two things: the speed you pay for through your Internet provider and the speed your wireless router can handle. You can have a top-of-the-line wireless router, but a low-end Internet package, and you will get slow Internet speeds. And the opposite is true, as well. If you’re paying for high internet speeds, be sure to purchase a router that can handle those speeds and give you the best browsing, gaming, or streaming experience.
Wireless signals are easily obstructed, especially in large homes with lots of walls and other obstacles. Wireless routers with long ranges perform better for such situations, but also consider a router that has beamforming capabilities, which distribute the signal evenly throughout the home.
Extra features in wireless routers can range from network management options to built-in gaming accelerators. These features are often tailored to a specific audience. We list some of the most niche-specific features in our picks below, but consider exactly what you want from a wireless router and see if those features are available before purchasing.
For less than $100, you can get a budget wireless router. Budget wireless routers typically offer lower speeds and fewer features. Many are also only single-band routers. This means you’ll only have one dedicated signal for all of your devices. Nonetheless, a budget model may be perfectly suited for casual Internet use, such as checking email and browsing the Web. The wireless routers you can purchase in the $100-$200 range will satisfy the needs of most consumers and offer higher speeds, more extra features, and dual-band capabilities. These wireless routers will perform well even with multiple devices connected. The higher-end models, above $250, are best for gamers, large homes with lots of devices, and consumers who stream a lot of 4K content.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
With dual-band capabilities, speeds of up to 1900 Mbps, and beamforming, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 makes a great fit for most consumers. It performs well for the average web surfer, without sacrificing too much for the average gamer and streamer.
Why We Recommend It
- High Speed. With dual-band capabilities, you’ll have two dedicated networks available for your devices: one on the 2.4 GHz band and one on the 5 GHz band. Depending on your Internet speeds, you can expect up to 1900 Mbps from this wireless router. This, combined with a 1GHz dual-core processor, ensures a Wi-Fi experience that’s free from lag and other speed issues.
- Impressive USB Performance. If you use your wireless router for network drives and storage, you can rest assured that the Nighthawk AC1900 will be able to handle your needs. With a lightning-fast USB 3.0 port, and an additional USB 2.0 port, you’ll be able to set up your network drives with ease. You also have access to NETGEAR’s ReadySHARE Vault software, a backup software that automatically backs up your home computers.
- Good range and throughput. This wireless router’s range (the distance the signal can travel) and throughput (how well the signal penetrates through walls) are both high enough to provide a strong signal for the average home without losing speed or connectivity.
- Advanced streaming and gaming features. The NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 offers extra features that help you game and stream content better. Features such as dynamic Quality of Service and beamforming create a lag- and buffer-free gaming and streaming experience.
- Web interface. While the Nighthawk AC1900 performs well once it’s up and running, it’s a little harder to get set up. It’s a bulkier router, which makes it hard to place. You may also find it harder to manage your network through the clunky web interface.
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Best Wireless Router for Gaming
The best gaming experience comes with speed and reliability. When you’re in the middle of an intense gaming session, the last thing you want is to be disconnected or experience lag. Gaming wireless routers should have high speeds and features specific to making your gaming experience the best it can be.
With 8 antennas and a sleek, angular design, the Asus Wireless RT-AC5300 looks like something pulled straight from a science fiction movie. And the router's functionality it offers makes it seem even more futuristic. This tri-band wireless router boats lightning-fast speeds and built-in gaming acceleration to make even the most hardcore gamer drool.
Why We Recommend It
- Incredible Speeds. The Asus Wireless RT-AC5300 is arguably one of the fastest wireless routers on the market. It offers tri-band capability, with one 2.4 GHz band and two 5 GHz bands, allowing you to dedicate two high-speed bands solely for gaming. With a combined speed of up to 5,300 Mbps and a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, you can be sure to experience consistently high speeds whenever you game.
- Built-in Gaming Acceleration. When gaming, consistent high speed is essential, and sometimes the path your gaming packets take on lower-end routers can cause lag and interruptions. The Asus Wireless RT-AC5300 has a built-in game accelerator, called the WTFast client, that accesses the GPN, which is a private network dedicated for gaming optimization. This ensures low ping and high speeds for every minute of your gaming session.
- Advanced Smart Features. With three separate bands to connect to, you might worry that lower-priority devices will receive more bandwidth. With Tri-band Smart Connect, this worry is eliminated. This function automatically manages all the traffic in your home to move devices from one band to the other, depending on how much bandwidth they need. This ensures that all devices are connected to the best band for the bandwidth they need.
- Impressive MU-MIMO Performance. MU-MIMO (Multiple User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) is a feature that allows multiple devices to be connected to your wireless router at any given time without giving one device priority over the other. With MU-MIMO enabled, the Asus Wireless RT-AC5300 allows you to have plenty of devices connected without losing speed
- Large Wireless Router. The Asus Wireless RT-AC5300 is one of the biggest wireless routers around, which means you’ll have to dedicate more space to it than you would for other wireless routers.
- USB Features Lacking. With such an impressive router design, you would think there would be more USB options. Unfortunately, there is only one USB 3.0 port, and USB transfer speeds seem to be lacking as well.
Best Wireless Router for Streaming
With each passing day, more and more 4K (Ultra HD) content is becoming available through streaming services. However, with a higher quality of content, you’ll need a higher quality wireless router to keep up. Streaming 4K content requires a lot of bandwidth, so if you’re streaming it, you’ll want a wireless router that offers high speeds and uniform signal strength to keep up with all your 4K-enabled devices.
Best Wireless Router for Multiple Devices
In a world of increased connectivity, we’re becoming more and more reliant on all of our connected devices. Our homes are increasingly fuller with so-called “smart” devices that are connected to the Internet. If you have a wide variety of wireless devices in your home, you’ll need to take advantage of a wireless router that can handle the load to ensure everything stays connected.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S is an impressive dual-band router with a zippy internal processor that can handle a heavy load of devices connected to the Internet at the same time. With a high range and Dynamic QoS functionality, this wireless router is sure to handle homes with tons of connected devices.
Why We Recommend It
- High Connectivity and Internal Speed. The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S is a dual-band wireless router that offers combined speeds of up to 2,600 Mbps. It also has a high range and impressive throughput speeds through obstructions such as walls in your home. If you have a lot of devices in your home, they’re likely spread throughout the entirety of the home, which means the Nighthawk’s range and throughout is especially important. It also has an impressively fast 1.7 GHz dual-core processor, which it allows it to handle everything thrown at it.
- Dynamic Quality of Service. Different wireless devices connect and use bandwidth in different ways. One may need more than the other, and it’s important your wireless router can handle those differences on the fly. The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S has Dynamic Quality of Service (QoS) functionality that can intelligently and quickly prioritize devices based on the kind of speed and bandwidth they need.
- Good Port Selection. Not all devices have to be connected wireless to your wireless router, and you may want to connect some of your devices directly to the router. The Nighthawk X4s has a good selection of ports for you to use in these cases. The wireless router offers four Gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port for internet, two USB 3.0 ports, and one eSATA port for eSATA drives.
- Fast MU-MIMO Performance. The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4s has MU-MIMO (Multiple User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) enabled, meaning it will connect to multiple devices simultaneously, significantly decreasing buffering times. Sometimes this feature can slow down connectivity speeds, but this is not a problem for this wireless router.
- Confusing Web Interface. The Nighthawk’s web interface, Netgear Genie, can get confusing at times, making it a little more difficult to play with parental controls and network management settings.
- Poor Storage Hosting. When compared to other high-end routers, the NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S struggled to perform with storage devices. Read and write speeds for network storage devices were much slower than similar wireless routers on the market.
Best Wireless Router for Large Homes
Large homes often mean more devices and more dead space when it comes to wireless signals. As such, you’ll want to find a wireless router that has a high range and good throughput, along with the performance to keep up with multiple devices.
With 4-transmit, 4-receive antenna design, the Asus RT-AC88U offers 33 percent more coverage up to 5,000 square feet. It also has more connectivity options with eight LAN ports. This wireless router is best for large homes due to this increased coverage and connectivity options.
Why We Recommend It
- 4T4R Antenna Design. With a four-transmit, four-receive design, the Asus RT-AC88U utilizes all four of its antennas to their maximum potential, distributing signal at a higher range and higher stability. This means that no matter where your devices are in your home, they should be able to connect and stay connected to the router. This wireless router also uses its proprietary AiRadar beamforming feature to distribute its signal uniformly throughout the house.
- Expansive Connectivity Options. In larger homes, having a strong Wi-Fi signal is crucial, but you may also want to keep your most important devices connected directly to the router for faster speeds. The Asus RT-AC88U has eight Gigabit LAN ports and two USB ports (2.0 and 3.0) for better connectivity options.
- Good Network Management Interface. Having the option of accessing a good Web interface to manage your network is essential for routers in large homes. This wireless router’s interface is intuitive and easy to use, making parental controls, resets, and other network management easy and painless. You can even set up guest networks for visitors who are staying in your home for extended periods of time.
- High Speeds. The Asus RT-AC88U wireless router provides combined speeds of up to 3167 Mbps, ensuring smooth browsing and streaming throughout the entire home.
- Poor USB Performance. If you’re hoping for strong network-attached storage (NAS) performance, you may want to look elsewhere. This router has less-than-impressive performance with network drives connected through the USB 3.0 port. This port is also on the front of the router, which makes for awkward placement.