We researched and tested the best wireless routers to find the top routers for different network scenarios. If you’re using a router that only has a single band of 802.11n, upgrading to one of our 802.11ac dual-band routers might increase your speed, as long as you don’t have a bottleneck at your ISP or your cable modem. These reviews don’t cover mesh routers or Wi-Fi boosters, but you can read about those in our separate review categories. If you have an old modem, you might consider upgrading to one of our top picks for cable modems.
Best Router: Linksys WRT1900AC
The Linksys WRT1900AC is the fastest Wi-Fi router we tested and our pick for the best router. This dual-band router is larger than some of our other picks and isn’t easy to mount on a wall, but you can flash it with custom firmware. It features a built-in fan so that it doesn’t overheat. The best part about this router is its speed, and the 2.4GHz band is rated for up to 600 Mbps. This router’s 5GHz band is compatible with beamforming, making the 5GHz band even faster and more reliable. If you’re looking for speed, the Linksys WRT1900AC is a great router choice.
Most Bands: NETGEAR Nighthawk X6
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 has a 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands, making it one of the few routers we tested that has three bands. This tri-band device is the most useful in situations where you have a lot of internet traffic that is slowing your network down. By diverting traffic into one of the two 5GHz bands, the Nighthawk X6 reduces the overall load on each band, keeping the speed high. You won’t see higher speeds with this router, but if you’ve been experiencing slowdowns due to a lot of devices, the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 is great at managing traffic and has the most bands to do so.
Easiest Setup: TRENDnet TEW-812DRU
If you’re looking for a simple, dual-band 802.11ac router, the TRENDnet TEW-812DRU is the easiest to set up and offers reliable speeds. This router only takes a few steps to set up because it comes with a preconfigured network. All you need to do is turn it on, plug it in and connect to the network listed on a sticker on the device. The router will then take you to a configuration page where you can set your network name and password. This TRENDnet comes as close to plug-and-play as any router we tested.
Best Warranty: Buffalo AirStation HighPower
The Buffalo AirStation HighPower N300 router has the best warranty of any device we tested – three years. It supports 802.11n and offers speeds up to 300 Mbps, so if you are looking for top speeds, this router isn’t your best choice. However, most of the routers we tested only offer warranties of one year, so this Buffalo router may be ideal if you’re worried about longevity.
Best Value Router
Best Value Router: Linksys E1200
The Linksys E1200 is our top pick for the best value router because it offers 802.11n speeds up to 300 Mbps, like other low-power routers we tested, but it’s more affordable than most others. If you need a basic router and aren’t concerned about maxing out the speeds on your network, this is a good choice. This Linksys router comes with a one-year warranty as well as one year of technical support should you run into any technical difficulties. If you want to spend under $30 for a good router, the Linksys E1200 is our pick.
Best Parental Settings
Best Parental Settings: NETGEAR Nighthawk
If you want a router with the best parental settings, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 comes with premade filters that can block content based on predetermined levels. You can also set up your own custom filters to block content that you feel is inappropriate. The Nighthawk also has a scheduler that you can use to limit the amount of time specific devices can access the internet – perfect if you want to put a stop to late-night online sessions.
Most Configuration Options
Most Configuration Options: ASUS RT-AC66U
If you want the most control over your router, the ASUS RT-AC66U offers a browser-like interface that lets you access firewall and security settings, as well as other advanced settings. This router can be used to set up a network storage device over its USB 3.0 port, and it offers up to 450 Mbps on its 2.4GHz band and up to 1300 Mbps on the 5GHz band. This router gives you the most options for home networking.
Best for Mac
Best for Mac: Apple AirPort Extreme
When it comes to Macs and iOS devices, the best router is the Apple Airport Extreme. Though all devices can access the internet through this router, Apple offers an iOS and macOS-specific app called AirPort that can be used to manage your network over any Apple device. This 802.11ac router offers speeds up to 450 Mbps on its 2.4GHz band, and up to 1,300 Mbps on the 5GHz band. To top it off, this router enjoys the beautiful simplicity of Apple’s design.
What Else to Consider
Wireless standards are a quick way to tell the maximum capacity of most routers or wireless devices. The most common standards include the numbers 802.11 before a series of letters like “n,” “ac” or “ad.” Older standards like 802.11g do exist and modern devices are backward compatible with these older routers, but the speed and affordability of 802.11n and 802.11ac routers makes them the best for most people. As 802.11ac routers become more affordable, 802.11n routers become less viable or attractive, especially because most people want the highest speeds possible when it comes to their wireless router.
A new standard, 802.11ad, is emerging from development, and some routers are shipping with 802.11ad compatibility built in. This new standard is capable of broadcasting 7 Gbps over a new 60GHz band, but those high speeds are restricted to a very short range. The 802.11ad routers also broadcast over 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so if you do purchase an 802.11ad router you’ll still be able to enjoy speeds up to 1,300 Mbps over the 5GHz band.
These 802.11ad routers are still very new and expensive. Because there are very few devices that can accept the maximum speeds of this Wi-Fi standard, and even fewer ISPs that offer speeds high enough to need an 802.11ad router, there is no reason to spend extra to purchase one yet.
Securing your wireless network is important because unsecured networks can open your browsing history and personal information to hackers or other outside parties. There are several different Wi-Fi security schemes you can choose to secure your network, including Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2). WPA2 is the strongest and most secure security scheme, so you should set up your router with that, if possible. For telecommuters who use personal internet accounts from home to access a Virtual Private Network at work, there are home wireless products that support VPN pass-through.
According to the Consumer Protection Bureau, wireless routers often ship with these security schemes and encryptions disabled. Be sure to take the time to locate the encryption settings on your router and enable them.
Wi-Fi routers include firewalls based on Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) or Network Address Translation (NAT) technology, or both. SPI detects traffic patterns that appear to be from hackers. NAT hides all of the devices on your wireless network behind a single IP address.
Finally, be sure to pick a strong password for your network and for the router itself. These shouldn’t be the same password and you should change either password if you feel anyone might have secretly gained access to your network.
Upgrading your router is one of the easiest ways to increase the speed of your Wi-Fi. But you need to be sure that you have devices that can handle the higher speeds and that your ISP and modem won’t bottleneck the speeds. Read more in our in-depth router reviews to find the best router for your needs.
Contributing Reviewer: Ryan Brown