We researched wireless routers to find the best ones for any user. The Linksys WRT1900AC was the fastest router we researched, and because speed is generally the most important quality when dealing with a router, it’s our top pick overall.
Why Trust Us?
We used customer reviews from websites like Amazon.com to pick 17 different routers to research and evaluate. We compared the theoretical top speeds of each of the routers, the number of ports, the ease of setup and the warranty and service options included with each router. We also read and compared reviews from former CNET editor Don Ngo, an expert in the field of wireless routers.
We researched up and coming technologies to compare future wireless standards like 802.11ad with what is currently on the market. Very few devices or networks support the high speeds of 802.11ad, so we focused our research on 802.11ac routers.
Top Ten Reviews has been reviewing tech products, including wireless routers, for over a decade. We buy most of the products we review independently, and any products that are given to us for review are done so with no expectations. Our reviews are independent and original. I am an experienced writer and reviewer and have tested and written reviews for many digital products and services for Top Ten Reviews.
How We Evaluated
We first compared the advertised absolute throughput for each router. Though all routers claim these speeds, we took into account that you will rarely see these actual speeds in real-life scenarios. Though we focused on 802.11ac routers, we also researched cheaper 802.11n routers for our best value pick. Most people looking to save money on a router just want something that works, and speed wasn’t the top consideration for that category.
Beyond the underlying wireless protocols, we compared size and how many ports each router had, as well as the ease of contacting the router manufacturers for help with firmware, warranty issues and troubleshooting.
Wireless routers use similar technology, but each router allows different customization options and has a different set of parental control features. We made sure to look at the parental options for blocking sites and restricting access to certain devices during designated times of the day.
We combined all the information for each router in a spreadsheet and ranked each category according to its importance. We then picked the top routers from each category for our best picks.
You can easily tell the theoretical max speed of a router you’re purchasing by looking at the wireless standard it uses. The standards you’ll see when shopping for a router include the numbers 802.11 and then a number or a series of numbers separated by slashes. “N” routers have maximum speeds of 300 Mbps, but “AC” routers can achieve much higher speeds – as fast as 1 Gbps, and sometimes higher.
Newer routers may advertise 802.11ad standards, but these superfast routers aren’t compatible with many devices yet and therefore aren’t worth the extra cost.
It’s vital to secure your wireless network because hackers can access all sorts of personal information if they break into your network. When shopping for a router, be sure it supports WPA2 encryption. This is the newest and most secure level of encryption. Other encryption levels like WPA or WEP may still work, but they’re out of date and aren’t nearly as secure as WPA2.
Stateful Packet Inspection, or SPI, is a firewall that detects potential hackers. The best routers we researched offer SPI, and it’s something you should look for in your router.
Also be sure to secure your wireless network with a strong password. Don’t use the preconfigured network name and password for more than setting up your router. Pick a password that is unique and change it regularly if people get access to it.
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