The 9 Best Wireless Routers of 2021


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The RundownBest Overall:Netgear Orbi at Amazon"The Netgear Orbi can cover up to 5,000 square feet and can handle speeds of up to 2.2Gbps."Best Security:Asus RT-AX88U at Amazon"Cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 performance and advanced security features keep everything in your home protected from internet threats."Best Mesh:Eero Pro at Amazon"Can cover your whole home and beyond without the need to fiddle with advanced Wi-Fi settings."Best for Gaming:Asus GT-AX11000 at Amazon"An ultra-fast Wi-Fi 6 router with a plethora of advanced features designed specifically with gamers in mind."Best Technology:Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 at Amazon"With a futuristic look and 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, the RAX80 paves the way for the future."Best Value:Linksys EA7500 at Walmart"An affordable router that is great for handling lots of devices."Best for Simplicity:Google Nest Wi-Fi at Amazon"If you want a simple, fast setup and a 'set it and forget it' router, this is the one to get."Best for Media Streaming:Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 at B&H Photo Video"Ultrafast WiGig speeds plus a built-in Plex server let you stream your media to a wide variety of devices."Best Under $50:TP-Link Archer A6/C6 at Amazon"A great little router for an extremely reasonable price."in this articleExpandOur PicksHow We TestedAbout Our Trusted ExpertsWhat to Look For in a Wireless Router

To enjoy all that the modern internet has to offer, you need one of the best wireless routers to deliver the performance for demanding online activities like streaming, gaming, and video calling. With many households playing host to everything from laptops and PCs to smartphones, tablets, game consoles and connected home appliances, a basic router just isn't going to get the job done anymore—you need one that can keep up even while multiple family members are streaming Netflix in 4K and hanging out on Zoom.

The best wireless routers deliver top-notch range and speed for households of all sizes, meeting the needs of users from small condos to sprawling villas—and all the devices and users containing in them. With advanced technologies like beamforming antennas, QoS, and Wi-Fi 6 support, these routers make sure that every one of your devices gets a fair share of your broadband connection. The best wireless routers aren't just for power users, either—they're designed to be incredibly easy and intuitive to set up thanks to accompanying smartphone apps, so anybody can get one up and running on their home network in no time at all. 

Best Overall:Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

4.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Full Home Coverage

Speedy performance

Beautiful aesthetics

What We Don't Like


Older devices can complicate things

Netgear Orbi Review

With a much more living-room-friendly aesthetic, the Orbi is not your typical Netgear router, but don't let its good looks fool you—the venerable networking company's first fully mesh wireless router can deliver solid and reliable wireless performance for every corner of the largest homes.

The Orbi incorporates tri-band Wi-Fi, with two of those Wi-Fi bands available to provide speeds of up to 866Mbps to your 5GHz devices and 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz side. The remaining band—the second 5GHz channel—offers a dedicated"backhaul"pathway to keep traffic moving at top speeds between all of the units. As our testing found this ensures that you still get maximum Wi-Fi speeds from anywhere in your home, regardless of whether you're connected to the main router or one of the Wi-Fi satellites.

This ultimately means you can get enough range to easily cover a 5,000 square foot home, and as an added bonus it also has a staggering number of LAN ports for a mesh system, with three on the base unit plus four more on each of the satellites, and they all support Gigabit Ethernet so you can easily hardwire in a TV or game console for maximum performance.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"Anyone that has a large home or office that needs a fast and reliable network connection will find a lot to love with this router."— Bill Thomas, product tester

Best Security:Asus RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

4.7 Buy on AmazonBuy on WalmartBuy on EBayWhat We Like

Advanced Wi-Fi 6 support

Excellent performance

Eight LAN ports

What We Don't Like


Asus AX6000 RT-AX88U Router Review

Asus has a well-deserved reputation for building some of the most secure and feature-rich wireless routers, and the RT-AX88U continues that strong tradition with a flagship device that offers the latest and greatest Wi-Fi technologies along with solid range and performance, plus all of Asus' cutting-edge security features.

Combining four powerful beamforming antennas with 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, the RT-AX88U can comfortably cover a 5,000 square foot home from a single central point, offering up a total of 6Gbps of bandwidth for all of your devices. This means you'll get great performance on even the busiest home networks. Around back there's a healthy array of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, letting you hardwire in any PCs, gaming consoles, or other devices where you need maximum performance or security, and dual USB 3.1 ports offer the ability to share files or media across your network.

Asus' RT-AX88U also bundles in AiProtection Pro powered by Trend Micro, offering malware protection and an intelligent firewall that will protect everything from your PCs and smartphones to your smart home devices from a variety of internet threats, and there are also advanced parental controls, VPN server and client support, and more.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: RADIUS Server, WPA, WPA2, WPA2-Enterprise, WPS, 802.1x Authentication | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8

"I was able to stream high definition Netflix to two televisions on my network while someone else was gaming, and various other phones and tablets were in use without any stuttering or slowdown."— , Product Tester

Best Mesh:Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

4.3 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on AppleWhat We Like

Easy to set up

Great wired speeds

Real-time content filtering & malware protection

What We Don't Like

Single Ethernet port

Lacks PPPoE support

Content filtering requires monthly subscription

Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System Review

If you need a wireless router that can cover your whole home without making you fiddle with a bunch of advanced Wi-Fi settings, then the Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System is the one to get. The full Eero Pro system comes with a trio of tri-band routers that collectively offer up to 6,000 square feet of mesh network coverage without slowing down your internet speeds, and our testing showed that even somebody with zero networking knowledge can get the whole system up and running in a few minutes, thanks to the really intuitive mobile app. 

Eero Pro is also one of the first Apple HomeKit-enabled wireless routers, which means that users of Apple's home automation platform can take advantage of an intelligent firewall that automatically secures HomeKit-compatible smart home and IoT devices from internet threats.

The single 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz channels with MU-MIMO support on the main station give you enough bandwidth for all of your devices, and each station can handle up to 128 wireless clients. You can add as many additional Eero units as you need to extend your network around your home, and mix and match different Eero devices, from adding more full Eero Pro devices, each of which will provide a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and tri-band Wi-Fi, to the more affordable Eero Beacons which plug discretely into wall outlets to offer 1,500 square feet each of dual-band Wi-Fi coverage, although they lack the wired Ethernet ports.

One word of caution, however, is that as great as Eero's system is, it conspicuously lacks support for the PPPoE protocol that's used by many DSL providers, so if this is your ISP we can't recommend Eero unless you're willing to change providers or you have the advanced networking skills needed to work around it.

Wireless Spec: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac| Security: WPA2-PSK | Standard/Speed: AX4200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 3

"The bottom line is that this system offers decent performance while demystifying the process of setting up a mesh Wi-Fi network."— , product tester

Best for Gaming:Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

4.6 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Support

Extremely Fast Performance

Cutting-edge game-centric QoS

What We Don't Like

Large footprint


User interface can be a bit daunting

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Router Review

Asus has long been known for its high-performance wireless routers for gamers, and right now its flagship GT-AX11000 is the cream of the crop, with blazing 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 speeds that can reach 10Gbps—provided of course you have the necessary Wi-Fi 6 adapters on your PC or gaming console. Even with older Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac devices, however, the eight-antenna array provides great throughput thanks to the usual beamforming and MU-MIMO technologies.

For gamers who prefer to jack in, not only are there the usual four Gigabit Ethernet ports, but there's also a special 2.5Gbps dedicated gaming port, so you should have no problem saturating even the fastest fibre connections, and thanks to its 1.8GHz quad-core CPU, it offers the kind of low-latency that serious gamers demand. In addition to all of Asus' usual great general security and networking features, the GT-AX11000 also includes support for the WTFast Gamers Private Network which automatically keeps you connected to the fastest servers for popular online games, plus VPN Fusion so you can keep your VPN up and running without slowing down your gaming traffic. 

While the GT-AX11000 doesn't come cheap, it's well worth the price of entry, since its sheer power and Wi-Fi 6 support makes it a future-proof router for serious gamers that will keep you well ahead of the curve for years to come, with enough power to spare to keep all of the non-gamers in your household happy too.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise , WPS support | Standard/Speed: AX11000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 6

"The ROG Rapture AX11000 worked almost flawlessly in the five days I spent with it. Even with multiple devices hitting it from every direction for high-bandwidth streams, it never failed to provide what was needed."— , Product Tester

Best Technology:Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 8-Stream AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

4.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on B&H Photo VideoBuy on Adorama.comWhat We Like

Sleek design

Wi-Fi 6 Support

8K streaming

What We Don't Like


Design can make for awkward placement

Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 Router Review

Netgear's Nighthawk RAX80 is a cutting-edge wireless router that was one of the first out of the gate with support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology, which means it's had time to both mature and prove itself as a solid 802.11ax router that paves the way for the future of home networking. 

Even the look of the RAX80 is futuristic, with a pair of hawk-like wings that conceal its four high-powered antennas that provide up to 2,500 square feet of reliable coverage thanks to its support for faster and less congested 160MHz frequencies. With 802.11ax devices, you can get get up to 4.8Gbps of throughput on the 5GHz band and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side, but it's also backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac and older standards, so there's no need to rush out and upgrade everything to 802.11ax right away.

That said, if you own one of the latest Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphones, you've already got at least one device with Wi-Fi 6 support baked in, meaning you'll get more reliable performance even with a lot of devices on your network, so you'll be far less likely to get dropped calls when walking around the house with your smartphone, and the improved efficiency of Wi-Fi 6 also means better battery life for your mobile devices. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: 802.1x Authentication, RADIUS Server, WPA, WPS, WPA2-PSK, Netgear Armor | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 6

"The Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 is a flashy dual-band router that features good Wi-Fi speeds, future-proof Wi-Fi 6 support, and fantastic file transfer speed between devices on your network."— , Product Tester

Best Value:Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 Dual-Band Router

4.5 Buy on WalmartBuy on EBayBuy on StaplesWhat We Like

Simple and intuitive router

Excellent for streaming with multiple devices

Hits speeds up to 1.9 Gbps

What We Don't Like

Speeds can fluctuate wildly

Software is not robust

Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Review

If you have a large home, you might have a lot of people with a lot of different devices: tablets, Alexa speakers, TVs, gaming consoles, phones, and VR rigs all compete for a slice of your internet bandwidth. Thankfully the Linksys EA7500 wireless router lets you connect 12 or more devices at once. It also sports both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, speeds of up to 1.9Gbps and an unobtrusive design.

You don't get much in the way of software, however, and if you stretch the router too thin with way more devices than is normal you'll get inconsistent downloads, so this is really best for small families with modest needs, and our testing showed that this is a very capable wireless router that will perform just fine for everyday use without breaking the bank.

Wireless Spec: 802.11b/a/n/ac/g | Security: WEP, WPA2, WPA2-Enterprise | Standard/Speed: AC1900 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"It's high-end enough that the average user won't run into any noticeable slowdowns, at a price that won't make your wallet cry."— Bill Thomas, product tester

Best for Simplicity:Google Nest Wi-Fi (2nd Generation)

4.4 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Attractive and simple design

Integrates with Google Home

Point units double as smart speakers

What We Don't Like

No Ethernet ports on points

Lacks a dedicated backhaul channel

Google Nest Wi-Fi Review

Google's Nest Wifi is the second-generation of the company's wireless mesh system which uses satellites—or"points"—that communicate with each other to help cover every inch of your home with a reliable and high-performance wireless network. The main Nest Wifi unit plugs into your internet provider's modem in the same way as any other router, and then you simply drop additional units around your home wherever your network needs more reach.

With two points, the Nest Wifi can offer up to 5,400 square feet of coverage, which should be enough to blanket all but the very largest homes, and as an added bonus, each point can double as a Google Assistant smart speaker, making this system a really great choice for those invested in the Google Home ecosystem. Thanks to Google's Home and Wi-Fi apps for Android and iOS, the Nest Wifi is also an absolute cinch to set up and manage, letting you get up and running within minutes with almost no fuss at all, and it even lets you set up a guest network for your friends and other visitors and let them get online simply by scanning a QR code.

Wireless Spec: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2

"Google Nest Wi-Fi warrants its high price tag with super-smooth wireless performance throughout the home and incredibly easy setup and use."— Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for Media Streaming:Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Router

4Buy on B&H Photo VideoBuy on Sears.comWhat We Like

Blazing fast three-band speeds of 7.2 Gbps

Versatile and durable

Integrated Plex Media Streaming

What We Don't Like

Very expensive

Signal can't penetrate walls well

Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Router Review

Netgear's Nighthawk X10 AD7200 wireless router is powered by an 802.11ac quad stream Wave2 along with a 60GHz 802.11ad Wi-Fi, which gives you up to 7.2Gbps of throughput for 802.11ad-compatible devices. It also includes a 1.7GHz quad-core processor and a built-in Plex media server with two USB 3.0 ports and six Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a 10Gbps SFP+ port that you can use either for connecting a high-speed NAS device or even connecting to a 10-gigabit fiber connection—if you're lucky enough to have an ISP that can provide you with one.

Needless to say, this router can absolutely handle whatever you throw at it: 4K streaming, VR gaming, and instant downloads, all lag-free. If you can stomach the entry price, this router will be with you for the long haul.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ad | Security: WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK | Standard/Speed: AD7200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 6

"I plugged in one of my media-filled SSD USB drives and had no trouble streaming to any of the Plex clients I have on my network."— , Product Tester

Best Under $50:TP-Link Archer A6/C6 AC1200 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router

3.3 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Affordable and reliable router

Four Gigabit Ethernet ports

Setup is easy and hassle free

What We Don't Like

Speed falls off at longer ranges

Missing some features like Alexa voice support

No USB ports

TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 Router Review

If you're on a budget, check out TP-Link's Archer A6 wireless router. While it won't handle the needs of a large household or a big family, it's speeds of up to 1.2Gbps are more than enough for most people's casual internet needs, plus there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports for those times when you need to hardwire in.

This is a simple to use, easy to install dual-band wireless router that's tiny and lightweight, and the A6 also has MU-MIMO technology powering it, meaning you can get multiple 5GHz devices online simultaneously without sacrificing speed. This little router won't win any speed records, but it's a cheap and cheerful choice if you need reliable coverage and don't want to spend a lot of money.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA, WPA2, WPA3, WPA/WPA2-Enterprise | Standard/Speed: AC1200 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"The TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 is an entry-level gigabit router that gets the job done at an attractive budget price."— , Product Tester

Final Verdict

If you're in a large home—or plan to be in one soon—then you'll want to take a look at Netgear's Orbi, which offers advanced mesh Wi-Fi to deliver top speeds to every corner. Families in smaller living spaces don't need to splurge, however, as Linksys' EA7500 will give you the coverage you need at a price that's much easier on the wallet. 

How We Tested

Getting coverage throughout a larger home can be challenging, but Netgear's Orbi will make it a breeze thanks to its mesh Wi-Fi networking technology, plus its modular design means it can grow with your needs. That said, folks in smaller homes, apartments, or condos will find that Linksys' EA7500 offers a very affordable option with great performance for these smaller living spaces. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has over three decades of experience in information technology and networking, and has installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender, dating back to the days long before Wi-Fi even existed, in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings and university campuses.

Bill Thomas has been covering tech for several years, and has extensive experience with PC hardware, networking gear, and gaming. They've written for a number of major tech publications.

is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.

Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician and writer based in southern Vermont. When he's not reviewing tech products for Ach5, he's getting nerdy fixing them or solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 


Can a better router increase my internet speed?While no wireless router can give you more speed than your internet plan offers, the best wireless routers will help you take full advantage of the broadband connection that you have by removing bottlenecks often caused by poor Wi-Fi coverage and too many devices sharing your Wi-Fi. Features like powerful multi-core CPUs, beamforming antennas, and dual-band or tri-band Wi-Fi provide extended range while also ensuring that every connected device in your home gets its fair share of your bandwidth. 

How often should I replace my wireless router?It's a good rule of thumb to upgrade your router about every three to four years to make sure that you're staying abreast of the latest technologies. While Wi-Fi standards are fully backward-compatible, newer features are much more capable at keeping up with the increasing demands of modern internet services and the number of devices you have in your home.

Do wireless routers go bad?Just like any other electronic device, even the best wireless routers can fail over time, especially if you're putting more stress on them by adding more devices and spending more time streaming and downloading large files. The most common cause of router failures is excessive heat, since many users tuck their router away in a corner or a closet and don't pay much attention to it; to keep your router healthy be sure to put it in a cool and well-ventilated area and clean it once in a while to prevent dust from building up around the cooling vents.

What to Look For in a Wireless Router

Your home network enables devices like computers and printers to communicate inside your house, and it also allows your computers, phones, game consoles, and other devices to connect to the internet. While the modem is the component that actually connects to the internet, the wireless router is actually the linchpin of the entire system that connects everything together.

Choosing the right wireless router can mean the difference between lightning fast download speeds and frustratingly slow data transfer, a rock-solid network or constantly dropped connections, and even basic compatibility with your latest devices.

Wireless router technology might seem dry and complicated, or even difficult to understand, but you can make an informed decision if you're able to wrap your head around a few key concepts. For example, you need to select a wireless router that supports the standards required by your wireless devices, and it's important to understand the difference between the two main wireless router frequencies.

Other features, like range, speed, and ports all impact the usability of a router and can have a huge effect on your overall experience and satisfaction. Select a router that doesn't have enough bands to support all of the users and devices in your house, for example, and you'll set yourself up for a disappointing experience.

Wireless Router Standards: Compatibility is Key

The wireless standards supported by a router determine which devices are able to connect to that router. These standards have been changed and updated a lot throughout the years, so it's important to make sure that you choose a router that works with the same standards as your devices. You can also future-proof your purchase a little by selecting a router that supports the latest Wi-Fi standard even if you don't currently own any devices that can take advantage of that technology just yet.

The modern Wi-Fi standards that you'll most often see when shopping for wireless routers all start with the number 802.11 followed by one or more letters. The latest standard that's in widespread use today is 802.11ac, which is essential if you have a lot of cutting edge equipment, like laptops, phones, and streaming devices that can really benefit from the higher speeds and frequencies that it offers. If you really want to make sure that you stay on the leading edge of technology, however, look for a router that supports the newest Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax standard, which offers better performance for the newest smartphones and other devices while remaining fully compatible with 802.11ac devices (also now known as Wi-Fi 5).

Ach5 / Jordan Provost

If you really don't have any devices that support 802.11ac, or your internet connection is slow, then choosing an 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) router might save you some money, but we don't really recommend that these days unless you're reasonably certain you'll never need the better performance, or you're willing to purchase another router down the road if you ever do.

There are a number of older standards, like 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g, but you won't find routers that focus specifically on those standards. If you have older devices that use those standards, however, there's no need to worry as almost all modern routers are backwards compatible with older devices.

Frequencies and Channels: Should You Save Money With Single-Band?

A wireless router is essentially a device that allows wireless connectivity between your modem and various other devices over radio frequencies. Every wireless router supports at least one frequency band, but these days dual- and tri-band routers are much more common, and you'll almost never find a Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac router that doesn't at least offer dual-band support.

Single-band routers typically use the 2.4GHz band, which is significantly slower than the newer 5GHz band. Dual-band routers support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and are actually capable of creating two simultaneous Wi-Fi networks, while tri-band routers add an additional 5GHz signal to support more devices at full capacity.

Most people need both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, because older devices only work with 2.4GHz, while newer devices can really benefit from the additional speed you get with a 5GHz signal. It's also important to keep in mind that 5GHz signals don't travel as far, so good 2.4GHz coverage is still important.

Dual-band routers are available in a wide variety of configurations, from budget models to higher priced units that offer blazing fast speeds, so you can probably find a dual-band option to fit both your budget and your connectivity requirements whatever they may be.

If you have a slow internet connection that can't benefit from a 5GHz router, none of your devices support 5GHz, or you just value saving money over getting the best performance, you can save a lot of money by going with a single band 2.4GHz router.

Tri-band routers tend to be the most expensive of the bunch. If you have a lot of wireless devices, and a lot of people in your home who use those devices simultaneously, then this type of router can be well worth the investment. You can even dedicate one of the 5GHz bands to a single purpose, like your work computer or a gaming console, to avoid congestion issues.

Keep in mind, however, that since each device can only connect to a single band at a time, a tri-band router won't offer any faster performance unless you have a lot of 5GHz devices—its purpose is to reduce congestion by spreading your 5GHz devices across both bands. This also means it won't do anything at all to help your older 2.4GHz devices, which will remain cluttered up together on the lone 2.4GHz band.

Range: Antennas, Extenders, and Mesh Systems

The range of a wireless router simply refers to the physical space covered by its Wi-Fi network. Range is typically reported with the assumption of a clear line of sight, meaning there are no obstructions between the router and the wireless device. Any obstructions, including furniture, walls, ceilings, and even people, reduce the actual range of a router. Also remember that 2.4GHz signals travel farther, and better through solid objects, than the higher-frequency 5GHz signals.

There are a few things that can increase the range of a router, eliminate dead spots in a Wi-Fi network, and improve connectivity. The first is the number of antennas that a router has and the orientation of those antennas. As a general rule of thumb, a router that has multiple antennas that can be rotated manually will have a greater range, and provide better coverage, than a router with just a single antenna. 

 Ach5/ Jordan Provost

If you have a small home with an uncomplicated layout, then you may do fine with an inexpensive single antenna router. Larger homes, multi-floor homes, and any situation that places a lot of obstructions between the router and your devices will benefit from a multi-antenna router. The construction of your home matters here as well, as concrete and metal will block signals more than wood and drywall will.

For large homes, you will have a better experience if you use one or more range extenders or choose a mesh router instead of a traditional wireless router. Range extenders connect to your existing network and project it further, while mesh systems use a number of interlocking nodes to cover a large area without slowing down your connection or introducing lag. These systems are more expensive than traditional wireless routers.

Speed: Don't Pay For More Speed Than You Can Use

If you like to stream movies in 4K, play video games, or just download large files, then the speed of your router is key. When you look at most modern routers, you'll typically see a label like AC1700, AC3000, or AX6000. In some cases, the number will come before the AC or AX designation, which simply indicates whether it's using 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) or 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6).

In either case, these numbers refer to the theoretical maximum throughput that the router can offer for all of the devices that are connected to it simultaneously. For example, a dual-band AC1700 router has a theoretical maximum speed of 1,700Mbps, but that's split across both its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

While the numbers are theoretical, and you typically won't see actual speeds that match the listed numbers, you can use them to compare one router to another. For example, two AC1700 routers from different manufacturers are in the same general speed class (although they may offer different speeds on each individual band), while an AC3000 router is going to be a lot faster.

In general, you should look for a router that's fast enough to match the speed of your own internet connection. That is to say you should absolutely invest in a dual- or tri-band gigabit router if your internet connection supports it, but buying a fast router like that is a waste of money if your internet connection speed itself is slow, unless of course you run your own media servers or often transfer files between your home computers.

If you aren't sure how fast your internet is, you can contact your ISP or just connect your computer directly to your modem and run a speed test. Once you know the top speed of your internet connection, look for a router that can match it, and don't waste money on an expensive router that's significantly faster than your connection.

Ach5/Jordan Provost

Ports and Connectivity: Is Ethernet Enough?

While the Wi-Fi network is the most important thing about any wireless router, you shouldn't overlook other ports and connectivity. At a bare minimum, your router should have at least one Gigabit Ethernet port. This is a wired connection that provides the fastest possible connection speed, and you can always add a network switch later if you want physical connections for other devices.

A good standard to look for on a router is four Gigabit Ethernet ports, although some higher end devices include eight or more. Some even allow you to achieve a 2Gbps connection by connecting to two Gigabit Ethernet ports at once, and a few leading-edge gaming routers now offer individual 2.5Gbps or even 10Gbps ports.

When selecting the best wireless router, it's important to think about the devices you own that could benefit from a wired connection. If you have a desktop computer, gaming console, and a network printer that don't support Wi-Fi, then a router with four Ethernet ports would be a good fit. If you don't really need or want to connect anything via Ethernet, then a router with just a single Ethernet port would be fine.

Some routers include additional ports, like USB ports and memory card slots. These ports are typically for connecting a hard drive to provide network storage. If you have a lot of digital media that you'd like to stream to various devices on your network, then make sure your router includes at least one USB port, but also look closely at what you plan to use it for. Most routers offer simple file sharing, but if you want to stream media you'll probably be better off with a router that includes a built-in DLNA server or Plex Media Server that's specifically designed to handle streaming videos to your smart TVs and other devices.

Security: Protect All of Your Devices at Once

Basic routers don't include any built-in security measures, so you have to meticulously secure each of your devices individually. If you're looking for a central approach, then look for a router that has built-in security features. Some routers include a built-in firewall, virus scanner, and even the ability to protect all of your devices from malware and ransomware.

Pay close attention to whether these features are free or part of a subscription. Some routers will come with a complimentary subscription to a security service, and then you have to pay if you want to keep the security features. Others include basic functionality, like a built-in firewall, that you don't have to pay any ongoing fees to use. In some cases, a monthly subscription may be worth the expense if it offers sufficiently advanced protection features, but you can usually find routers that include basic firewall and content filtering features for free.

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Accessories: Most Routers Work Right Out of the Box

When you buy a router, you usually don't need to worry about any accessories. Most routers include everything you need to get started right there in the box. One notable exception is the Ethernet cable used to connect the router to your modem, as the included cables are almost universally very short.

If you need to place your router more than a few feet from your modem, consider purchasing a high-quality Ethernet cable. Use the shortest Ethernet cable that will work in your application, and stick with CAT 6 or CAT 7.

If you plan on hanging your router on a wall, and your router supports that, check to see if mounting hardware is included. If you can mount directly to studs, then you may need to pick up some wall anchors.

Brands/Manufacturers: All The Big Names

The networking space is extremely crowded with time-tested giants and intriguing newcomers alike. Here are a few that are worth looking at as you search for your ideal wireless router.AsusYou might think of laptops and computers when you think of Asus, but they actually make some of the best wireless routers on the market. From budget routers to their high performance, and high priced, Republic of Gamers (ROG) line, Asus has a wireless router to fit just about any situation.

NetgearWith more than two decades of experience in the networking hardware space, it's no surprise that Netgear is one of the most well known wireless router manufacturers. They've ridden the cutting edge of router technology over the years, including MU-MIMO, beamforming, and even a mesh offering in their Orbi system, and were one of the first companies to offer Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax routers.

LinksysThis company has a bit of an interesting past. While it was one of the original giants in networking equipment, it was eventually folded into Cisco and then sold to Belkin. Despite changing hands a few times, Linksys still has a reputation for rock solid hardware that doesn't break the bank, and they make some of the best open source routers available.SynologyThis is a company that's been around for a long time, but they only recently broke into the wireless router market. Their offerings so far have been universally impressive, with specifications, performance, and pricing that meet or beat more established brands.Google Google has its fingers in everything these days, and wireless networking is no exception. With their Nest brand, Google provides an intriguing mesh option where the nodes are also smart speakers and the whole thing integrates especially well with Google Home.EeroThis is another relative newcomer that has put out high-quality equipment on a regular basis since they showed up on the scene. Like Google's Nest, Eero is focused on mesh routers, and they do it quite well.

Ach5/Jordan Provost

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Wireless Router

Compatibility with your wireless devices is key, because there's no point in owning a wireless router if your devices can't connect. In that same vein, speed is important, but only if your internet connection can handle it. Range is also important, but the degree of its importance is directly related to the size and configuration of your home. In the end, the key to finding the best wireless router is to consider all of the factors outlined above, and then select the device that best meets your own personal needs.