The 10 Best Wireless Routers
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Streaming videos lag, web pages crawl toward loading, and games freeze. 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. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best wireless router on Amazon.
April 01, 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 (Really) Need To Know Before I Choose A Router?
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 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 4-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 twenty 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.
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.
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 - which at least 70 percent of people do. 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.
This 2004 Article About Wi-Fi Will Make You Feel Hella Old
We'll be honest, we felt a little silly when we set out to research the history of Wi-Fi. A quick glance at the relevant Wikipedia article will confirm what anyone over the age of 15 probably already thinks: it's really not that long since the internet came to our homes through dial-up modems that made, er, distinctive sounds. Or at least - being ancient - that's what we thought.
Until we found this article.
And The Economist newspaper was reflecting on the brief history of a little thing called Wi-Fi.
It was 2004. Christina Milian was dippin' it low. The Ocean's franchise was only up to twelve. And The Economist newspaper was reflecting on the brief history of a little thing called Wi-Fi.
There are two aspects to this article that we find really fascinating. The first is the article's general tone of explaining to its readers just what is this 'Wi-Fi' that has the kids so excited: "Among geeks, it has inspired a mania unseen since the days of the internet boom."
The second is when the article tries to predict the future. It gives short shrift to the idea that Wi-Fi is going to undermine the growth of mobile networks, arguing that this was unrealistic...in part because "subscribe to one network of hotspots (in coffee-shops, say) and you may not be able to use the hotspot in the airport". Imagine!
In fact, such are the limitations of this mania-inducing technology that "Wi-Fi is also under threat in the home"! Instead, according to the voice of 2004, by now we should all be talking about WiMax and WiMedia instead. The what, now?
This Economist piece isn't just good for a chuckle: it does a good job of providing an informative and interesting run-down of the science - and the politics - that was involved in bringing Wi-Fi to our homes and public spaces (not to mention why it's really called Wi-Fi!). So fire up your WiMax connection and give it a read.
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