The best wireless routers can be the difference between waiting about for videos to load and enjoying 4K high-res streaming in an instant. Sure, your internet connection plays the biggest part but without the right router you could be paying for fast internet and not getting your money's worth.
WiFi for 2021 tops out with WiFi 6 aka 802.11ax which offers the fastest possible bandwidth. This, over WiFi 5, or 802.11ac, is built for connecting lots of devices at once making it ideal for smartphones, laptops, and tablets as well as consoles, TVs and smart home gadgets all drinking from the same wireless router fountain.
Of course, device connections aren't just about numbers, it's location too. Go too far away from the router and speeds will drop to near useless. That's why placing your wireless router in a central location in your home is ideal. Or, for larger homes, go for something which can work with a mesh setup or booster units to spread that signal further.
While the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 is the router that we recommend overall, we’ve narrowed down seven routers below which can be used easily at home, while offering lots of device support as well as strong security.
So read on to find the best wireless router for you.
1. Netgear Nighthawk AX8: Best overall Wifi router
The Netgear Nighthawk AX8 is our best overall WiFi router that you can buy right now. While those spaceship style looks do help go towards that rating, it's what's on the inside that has really impressed. This is a WiFi 6 capable router meaning it has not only got high-speed capabilities but is also future-proofed to service lots more devices than many current routers can handle.
In our testing the AX8 managed a top speed of an eye-watering 1.4 Gbps which is one of the best we've seen out there right now. This continues to work well over longer distances and offers extra features like malware security and aggregated Ethernet port support for a 2 Gbps wired connection – ideal for gamers.
This is one of the more expensive WiFi routers out there but you get a lot for your money and this does perform better than many models which are priced even higher. Despite all that power and the many features, it's also easy to install and use. It even supports Alexa and Google Assistant for voice controls through your device.
- Read the full Netgear Nighthawk AX8 review.
2. TP-Link Archer AX6000: Best powerhouse Wifi router
For pure raw power the TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the WiFi router of choice. This WiFi 6 capable router not only offer great throughput wireless speeds but is also well built for wired connections. This offers a whopping eight wired LAN Ethernet ports, and a rather impressive 2.5-gigabit WAN – all meaning maximum speed potential.
The router looks very cool with the eight standing antenna and a lit central logo plus LED alert lights – all of which can be turned off if you want to go stealth. The TP-Link Tether app makes this easy to setup and use with lots of deep level controls for things like QoS, DHCP server, NAT forwarding and more.
Speed were impressive with a top end of 775 Mbps, which remained high at longer range and through floors too. This isn't a cheap model, but you get what you pay for here and that's a lot of speed and performance that will last you long into the future.
- Read the full TP-Link Archer AX6000 review.
3. Google Nest Wifi: Best mesh Wifi router
Google Nest Wifi is the culmination of the Google mesh Wifi offering with the smarts of Nest. The end result is a mesh network capable system that includes a complete voice controlled smart speaker in the satellite units. This means a wide and expansive coverage of even larger homes, with up to 5,400 square feet covered using the full three unit package.
Each speaker unit has a 360-degree speaker with 40mm driver and four far-field microphones. Everything is super simple to install using the Google Home app which can then be used to tweak anything as needed. That said there aren't deep level controls and features as on some more complex routers – but that's the point here, it just works.
Speeds topped out at a 100 Mbps download rates in our testing which is like getting a 12.5MB/s download – impressive stuff. The router itself isn't too pricey but for the system with the satellite units (which have the speakers) it's nearer the high-end for a router. But for a mesh network it's actually reasonably priced.
- Read the full Google Nest Wifi review.
4. Asus ZenWiFi AX: Best premium mesh WiFi router
If you need both the fastest speeds and an expansive network, then the Asus ZenWiFi AX is our top pick as the best premium mesh WiFi router. It offers lightning fast speeds with WiFi 6. It's a tri-band router too, so you can maximize the number of devices that you can connect without affecting performance.
The Asus ZenWiFi AX looks sleek with a minimalist, but stylish design that comes in either white or black. Whichever choice you go for, it will effortlessly blend into the background in just about any location, which is what you want from a mesh router system.
The parental controls are the real star of the show here though. The Asus ZenWiFi AX comes with a dedicated app that lets you quickly assign devices to certain people, and then set permissions for that person across all their devices, so you can keep your kids away from the dangerous parts of the internet with a few taps on your smartphone. It's not cheap though, and it may be overkill in most homes.
- Read the full Asus ZenWiFi AX review.
5. Asus RT-AX58U: Best affordable WiFi router
The Asus RT-AX58U is a superb option if you want to save a few bucks but still get the latest WiFi 6 connectivity for future-proofing your setup. This dual-band router looks pretty standard with its minimal four antennas and LED notification lights, but for the price it's impressive.
This router features USB 3.1, QoS controls and the top-end Broadcom BCM43684 processor for theoretical top speeds of 3 Gbps. In the real world tests this managed to hit 59 Mbps on the limited line it was tested on – meaning there was virtually no bottle necking on the part of the router. And that was using the older 802.11ac backward compatible connection at the time.
For the money this is a great WiFi router but you can ditch the WiFi 6 and get the model below – the Asus RT-AX56U – for a saving, if that's good enough for your needs.
- Read the full Asus RT-AX58U review.
6. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000: Best gaming WiFi router
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a serious gaming WiFi router, a rig for those that want the very fastest connection with minimal lag. While the WiFi 6 connectivity is fast, it's the 2.5 Gbps wired Base T Ethernet connection that makes this especially suited to gamers that want maximum bandwidth and responsiveness. That and those badass looks with the frankly aggressive eight antennas and customizable lighting.
Software feature controls like QoS and parental controls and even setting limits on when users can access the internet connection via this router, are great. Security is also a bonus here with password strength and encryption analyzed by the dedicated Security Scan.
This is very pricey, one of the most high-end out there. But with speeds, in our tests, hitting the 807 Mbps mark, this definitely justifies that price tag.
- Read the full Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 review.
7. D-Link AC1200 DIR-842: Best budget WiFi router
The D-Link AC1200 DIR-842 is a great budget router that gives 802.11ac dual-band Wifi without breaking the bank, or even denting it really. Despite the lower than most price, for the specs, this offers very respectable performance speeds. Four antennas and four LAN ports make this well equipped and the MU-MIMO tech means it's good for supporting plenty of devices at once. You can even edit the QoS settings on this router.
Performance testing saw this top out at 232 Mbps, which is a lot less than the competition, but not that much less when you consider how much cheaper this model is. You are going to be more than happy streaming 4K Netflix over this router, without issues, for example. You don't get the latest Wifi 6 connectivity, but for the price you can upgrade later when more devices support that, without having lost much in between.
Why Trust Us?
We used customer reviews from websites like Amazon to choose the best WiFi 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 researched up and coming technologies to compare future wireless standards with what is currently on the market. Very few devices or networks support the high speeds of 802.11ax, so we also kept out our research on 802.11ac routers.
We have reviewed 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.
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 802.11ax routers, we also researched cheaper 802.11ac 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.
Wireless routers cost $60 to $120 for current-generation technology that isn’t quite cutting-edge. Top-of-the-line products cost about $300 or more, but most users don’t need such a sophisticated router.
On the other end of the spectrum, last-generation routers are available for less than $30. We don’t recommend buying products that use the wireless n standard, as they are outdated and don’t give you the same speeds and network quality as wireless ac or ax devices.
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. the latest Wifi 6, or 802.11ax, top out at a theoretical 3 Gbps speed.
Newer routers may advertise 802.11ax standards, but these superfast routers aren’t compatible with many devices yet and therefore aren’t necessarily 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 or even WPA3 encryption. This is the 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 or the latest WPA3.
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.
The Difference Between Modems & Routers
If you’re replacing your ISP-provided networking equipment, you may need more than just a router. ISPs often supply subscribers with modem/router combination devices, and you need to replace both to set up your network. A modem modulates the internet signal from the provider, whether that comes from a cable, satellite, DSL or fiber optic service. It translates the signal from the original into an Ethernet-friendly version and back and acts as the gate between your home network and the ISP’s larger network.
Though you can plug your computer’s Ethernet connection directly into the modem, we don’t recommend it. That’s where the router comes into play. The router connects to your modem and creates your home network. It manages all the wired and wireless internet connections in your home and adds a layer of security between your home network and the internet at large.
When replacing both pieces of equipment, you can either buy a combination device or two separate devices. A combo takes up less space but is less convenient to replace. With separate devices, it is easier to upgrade your network by simply getting a new router or to replace a single component if only one of the devices stops working. If buying separate devices, check both the modem's and the router's wireless standards and advertised speeds. A home network is limited by the slowest piece of equipment, so we advise buying a modem and router that both support speeds at least as high as your internet subscription's top advertised speeds.
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