The 10 Best Wireless Routers
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in May of 2015. It always seems like there isn't enough internet speed or Wi-Fi coverage to get you where you want to go online. But with one of the wireless routers on our list, you'll experience a significant increase in both the speed and reliability of your signal at home or the office, whether you're working or playing. We've ranked them here by their dependability, connection quality, and user interfaces. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best wireless router on Amazon.
July 20, 2020:
The biggest development for Wi-Fi in recent years has been the advent of the 802.11ax standard, better known as Wi-Fi 6. Without getting too much into detail, the new standard allows for more devices to run more smoothly on a single network, which might lead you to believe that any router that uses it would be an easy winner on anyone's ranking. But price is a complicating factor here, and while Wi-Fi 6 routers like the TP-Link Archer AX6000 and the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 are backward compatible with devices designed with 802.11ac in mind, you might not have enough modern devices made for Wi-Fi 6 to really get the most out of it.
For users looking to speed up their connections as compared to their ISP's provided modem/router combo, anything on our list is liable to be a big upgrade, even the inexpensive TP-Link Archer A6. But knowing your needs will go a long way toward guiding your selection, as that particular model doesn't have a USB port if you want to hook up a storage device, and it doesn't support speeds necessary to truly enjoy the most demanding video games on the market. Gamers would do better with that Archer AX6000 mentioned above, or the Razer Sila, which was designed by a company best known for gaming computers and accessories.
March 30, 2019:
Wi-Fi routers can be finicky bunch, but they do seem to be getting more and more user-friendly with each generation. As such, a newer router is much more likely to work quickly and consistently than one that's even a couple years old. Plus, you don't have to shell out a ton of cash if your Internet usage is relatively simple. The TP-Link Archer A6 and A7 are both exceptionally simple, as well as readily affordable for most people. They're pretty basic, but they should get the job done. If you want to take a step up as far as latency and bandwidth go, the Netgear Nighthawk R6900P is a great choice, and it costs just over a hundred bucks. The Synology is only a little more costly, and it introduces some security and management features that many small business and families will find useful.
If you stream a lot of video or like to play online games, you may want to spring for something a little more powerful. Razer's Sila boasts multiple features designed to keep your gameplay as latency-free as possible, though it is somewhat costly. The Gryphon offers an impressive level of control, whether you're going for locked-down security or you need to keep your kids on a reasonable Internet schedule. As far as long range goes, it's tough to beat the most recently updated Orbi, while the Eero is about the same quality, though a bit more expensive. TP-Link's Deco is another popular mesh system, and it also includes a built-in Zigbee hub, which is part of a growing ecosystem of smart home products. If you're intent on having the best of the best, check out the Netgear AX8, which is among the first to appear compatible with the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, formerly known as 802.11ax.
What Do I Need To Know Before I Choose A Router?
To do this, you'll want to look at the wireless protocols: that's those long strings of numbers beginning with 8.
The price range between wireless routers compares to that of the Straight of Gibraltar, whose depths range between 300 and 900 meters. Not that this equates to wireless router price tags, we're simply explaining that costs can vary greatly. So how does one decide on which router will work best for them? Answering that question is not so black and white, and your deciding factor may depend on what you're looking for at a price you can afford.
The first consideration relies on the range of wireless connectivity you're interested in. Ask yourself how big your property is, whether it's in a house, apartment, small business, or corporate building. Not only that, but consider the construction of these dwellings. Depending on the constructed materials, wireless signals can attenuate. Meaning, if the walls are four-inch-thick brick, you're going to want a router that promises better range, and place it out in the open, as opposed to hiding it in some obscure corner. However, since a better range can increase the cost of a router, it may behoove you to purchase at a lower cost, and consider applying antennas to improve performance.
The amount and types of devices you plan to connect with the router will also affect your choice. To do this, you'll want to look at the wireless protocols: that's those long strings of numbers beginning with 8. Your laptop and your smartphone almost certainly use 802.11n WiFi, so if all you're just using a few of those sorts of devices, you're most likely fine with an 802.11n router. But if we're talking a lot of mobile devices, plus smart TVs, game consoles, etc, then you may want to take a look at the latest, more powerful WiFi tech, like the 802.11ac protocol with beamforming capability; where WiFi signals go directly to a device, rather than bouncing around the dwelling haphazardly.
Another option is one that features MU-MIMO technology, which can provide faster performance for multiple devices. The catch here is that it only benefits certain devices, and you'll have to confirm that your devices are MU-MIMO enabled. Features that are not as difficult to assess include the number of available USB ports, whether or not it has removable antennas, if it allows guest networks, and if you have kids, whether or not it offers parental controls.
Twenty years ago, nearly 220 million Americans had a television in their home; a number that has since dwindled down by half today. Also 20 years ago, about 120 million Americans used the internet. Today, that number has doubled. Do you see the relation? As Albus Dumbledore might say, the evidence behind the internet taking over the world is incontrovertible - just ask the 13 percent of Americans who don't use it. Asia alone has seen an internet usage increase of 622 percent in that same time span; they are after all the world's largest internet consumers.
And with a little time, an additional millions of device owners will be depending more and more on WiFi and the routers that connect us to it.
It's obvious that people have an insatiable need to use the internet, but why has WiFi, once described as the "poor cousin" to licensed communications, become today's standard to browsing the web? After all, 94 percent of hotel patrons say WiFi is the most important amenity; 34 percent consider it to be a deal breaker. This is largely due to data traffic. People today are constantly on the go and typically have a device well within reach, if not already on their person. All of this internet use clogs networks, resulting in sluggish performance, resulting in these monopoly businesses having to deal with disgruntled customers.
Another huge factor that dictates WiFi popularity is the seemingly never ending world of smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Ethernet may perform faster compared to a wireless connection, sure, but this day in age no one wants to be tethered by a cable. It's all about portability, hence the extreme demand and expansion of WiFi. But perhaps the biggest reason why we always want to be connected to the Internet is because it's our passport to the entire world.
People used to flood libraries to attain knowledge; today, Google is one step away from helping to answer your question. With WiFi, the possibilities are limitless and there is so much left to be explored. With WiFi, we're always learning, always searching, and with little letdown and zero obligations. Let's face it, a wireless Internet connection is the best relationship you've ever had. And with a little time, an additional millions of device owners will be depending more and more on WiFi and the routers that connect us to it.
Still Not Fast Enough?
Once you've gone and acquired the right router for your needs, there's a chance that your internet speed won't significantly increase. That's because the speed of your connection is only going to be as fast as the weakest link in the chain. If your smartphone, tablet, or laptop is a bit outdated, it might have a hard time running RAM-hungry browsers or loading high-resolution videos, even if your signal is theoretically strong enough to carry the data at the right rate.
And if you haven't upgraded your plan with your service provider in a while, they may still have you on a sluggish part of the network.
There are some other things worth investigating if your devices are all up to date and otherwise running smoothly, including your modem and your subscription plan. Most ISPs give their customers halfway decent modem/router combos, and when you upgrade, if you're not getting a better combo unit, then you're going to need a fast modem. Hooking a cutting edge router up to a decrepit modem isn't going to do much for your speed. And if you haven't upgraded your plan with your service provider in a while, they may still have you on a sluggish part of the network.
Most routers and modems allow for some degree of user configurations, with certain brands offering much more in-depth tweaking than others. These can usually be found in a web portal interface or on an app associated with the device. It's the same place you go to set things like parental controls, and there you might find additional opportunities like streaming priorities. Based on the content coming through and the device receiving it, routers are pretty good at discerning whether you're gaming, watching a movie, or doing something else entirely, and if you need your internet to focus its power in one direction, you can set that priority list here. Also, if you're running a VPN, which some routers can do for you, you'll want to try different location settings to see what gives you the best speed.
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