The wireless router is an essential piece of modern technology, but there are a ton of huge differences which can make all the difference between a seamless online experience and a frustrating life filled with buffering and dropped connections. We found the Google Wifi System to be the best overall option for everyday consumers!
If you’re looking to upgrade, and a lot of us are, then you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve managed to break things down for the layman to help you get the best online experience possible.
A single Wifi point covers up to 1,500 sq. ft, a set of three covers homes up to 4,500 sq. ft. If you can stand having only the best, and you’re willing to fork over the money for it, the Google Wifi delivers in ways that you scarcely dreamed possible.
Top 10 Wireless Routers
|ASUS RT-AC88U||AC3100||Gamers||Check Price|
|Nighthawk X8||AC5300||Overall||Check Price|
|Nighthawk AC1900||AC1900||Best Value for Money||Check Price|
|D-Link AC3200||AC3200||Range||Check Price|
|Nighthawk X10||AD7200||Technophiles||Check Price|
|TP-Link Archer C7||AC1750||Tight Budgets||Check Price|
|Securifi Almond||N300||Easy Setup||Check Price|
|TP-Link N450||N450||Super Cheap Upgrade||Check Price|
|ASUS RT-ACRH13||AC1300||Small Living Quarters||Check Price|
|Linksys Velop Tri-band||AC2200||Whole Home Solution||Check Price|
1. Best for Gamers
Gamers are always looking for the best hardware around, and the ASUS RT-AC88U delivers on that end. With 4 powerful antennae, 100MB/s USB drives, and powerful range you’re looking at a router which won’t leave you lagged out when you’re fragging.
Even better, you’ve got Smart Connect capabilities, allowing you to prioritize whichever device you choose to game with over the others in the household in order to make sure you get the lion’s share of the bandwidth necessary to keep things running smooth.
It’s also good if you like hosting LAN parties without having to deal with a secondary switch you’re in luck as well. It has 8 gigabit LAN ports to allow everyone to connect and get right down to it withough having to worry about wifi bandwidth.
For those looking for a smooth, gaming experience this router has a lot to offer.
Pros and Cons
- 8 gigabit LAN ports
- ASUS interface is easy to use
- Powerful USB drives
- Superior range
- Smart Connect
- Can be difficult to configure initially
2. Best Overall
The Nighthawk X8 is one of the top of the line routers on the market right now, and it has a price to match. If you’re looking for a blazing fast router that can handle multiple connections and make sure that you get the maximum amount of bandwidth out of your service provider, however, you’re in luck.
This router is classified as being AC5300, which puts it at the bleeding edge of what’s possible with the 802.11ac protocol. It’s fast, it’s steady, and it has impressive range to allow it to reach throughout your home.
It’s fast, it’s stylish, and it’s probably one of the best routers on the market right now… period. The cost is pretty extreme however, due to it being on the bleeding edge of the industry as it stands.
Pros and Cons
- AC5300 classification
- Quad stream capabilities
- 4 powerful antennae
- Smart connect to prioritize devices
- 2 USB connections (1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0
- Extremely expensive
- Can be complicated to set up
3. Best Value for the Money
Not all of us need a lightning fast router, and the Nighthawk AC1900 delivers some of the best value for the money you’ll be able to find. It’s quick enough to allow streaming for multiple people, but you probably won’t want to rely on it for extensive gaming over the wifi or super heavy data applications.
Coming in the AC1900 class, which was absolutely the top of the line a couple of years ago, it’s a definite winner for most people. For those who aren’t paying for ridiculous Mbp/s ratings from their provider it’s more than adequate to keep things level.
It has a huge range and also offers a couple of USB ports to let you access some data from anywhere in your home. As a centralized router for a home, without any super heavy applications, the Nighthawk AC1900 performs better than anything at near this price point.
Pros and Cons
- Great cost to value ratio
- Wide range
- 5gHz channel offers amazing speed
- Detachable antennae if you need to upgrade range
- Super reliable
- 4gHz channel performs slightly under spec
- Software is a bit cumbersome
4. Best Range
While it might not offer the speed of some of the competition, the place where the D-Link AC3200 really shines is in the range it offers to the consumer. The way it offers it is through 5 beamforming antennae to allow you to access the 5gHz channel over a wide range without as much slowdown as the completion.
It also offers three bands of wifi. Two of these are the much faster 5gHz while the last is in the wider ranged 2.4gHz range. What this means for the person who chooses to utilize it is that there’s plenty of bandwidth for everyone. All of the bands operate at high speeds at all times, making this one ideal for those with a sprawling home.
For maximum range, the D-Link AC3200 has you covered, but it’s expensive and comes at a small cost to the speed over the competition.
Pros and Cons
- 5 beamforming antennae
- Fantastic range
- High enough speed for nearly any wifi service
- Great build quality
- Tri-band with two surprisingly strong 5gHz signals
- Antennae are permanently attached, not allowing for upgrades
5. For the Technophile
Let’s be clear, right up front, the Nighthawk X10 is one of the fastest designs on the market. It’s the next step in wireless router evolution, it’s expensive and extremely powerful.
It’s also not worth buying for a casual user at all. The extra features are mighty impressive but not really usable by the average person. Simply put, this router is a bit ahead of the times.
If you can utilize 802.11ad protocols on your devices, then this is exactly what you’re looking for and the price probably won’t cause you to bat an eye. For the casual internet user it’s completely overkill, it will outpace all but the fastest internet services and won’t be fully compatible with their devices.
Like all of the Nighthawk routers, this is a super impressive piece of technology. It’s also a waste of money at this juncture for all but the most die-hard technology junkies.
Pros and Cons
- Wireless 802.11ad technology
- 7gHz processor
- Impressive range
- 10 gigabit LAN inputs
- Extremely expensive
- 11ad is unusable by any but the newest devices
6. Best for a Tight Budget
TP-Link Archer C7
The TP-Link Archer C7 isn’t the fastest wireless router out there, nor does it have the best range, but for the casual end consumer this AC1750 router should be able to handle their needs without any question.
The New York Times calls this one “the best router for most people” and they’re not far off the mark. The low cost, combined with the fact that it’s fast enough to handle all but the craziest high speed services makes it pretty much an ideal mix of speed, range, and cost.
The features are really nothing to write home about for those who are tech inclined, but if you’re just looking to upgrade a router that’s too old to function properly in today’s high speed environment then you’re looking at precisely the right choice.
Pros and Cons
- Worth way more than its cost
- Good performance on both bands
- Combined band speed of 1.75Gbp/s
- 6 antennae
- Supports 802.11ac
- Not enough for all services
- Default firmware is buggy
7. Easiest Possible Setup
It’s not going to be breaking any speed records when it comes to downloading, but the Securifi Almond boasts an effortless setup and can be used as a range extender as well if you decide that it’s not fast enough for your needs.
While N300 classification seems a bit slow compared to modern 802.11ac routers, it’s definitely nothing to sneeze at if you’re in a home where there’s not a whole lot of wireless devices. It’s good enough to run a phone, a tablet, and a computer in a smaller home for instance.
The easy setup and extender capabilities, which are compatible with pretty much any other brand of router, are the main draw here as opposed to extreme range or speed. It also comes in at a reasonable price.
If “fast enough” is your goal and you’re not tech literate enough to configure a router, then the Securifi Almond is pretty much what you’re looking for.
Pros and Cons
- Touchscreen interface
- N300 classification
- Can be used as an extender
- Extremely easy setup
- Solid single band performance
- Not super fast
- Range is about average for this classification
8. Best in a Pinch
Sometimes we just need something temporary while we hole up a gap in our budgeting. Or you might have an out of date router and a real need to replace it with anything modern but don’t have the money to really make an investment.
This router is solid and reliable, the main problem is it only produces with a N450 classification which limits its speed by quite a bit. It’s still robust enough for some of the slower connections out there to allow it to perform responsibly, but it’s not going to be winning any prizes in the modern age.
If it’s an upgrade, and you’re short on cash at the moment then you’ll be quite pleased with it. If you already have a modern router, then you’re best off saving up a bit more money to make sure you get the maximum speed.
As a stop gap measure or an immediate upgrade when you’re broke the TP-Link N450 shines, but it’s not going to be life changing for anyone who already has a modern router.
Pros and Cons
- Super cheap
- Supports parental controls
- Good range
- Can handle multiple devices well
- Four LAN ports
- Plastic casing feels fragile
- Borderline outdated technology
9. Best for Tight Living Quarters
While the range isn’t great, the combination of a low price and AC1300 speed makes this ideal for those in a small apartment or other tight living arrangement who still want to max out a moderate service connection.
This is a dual-band router which offers quite a bit for a really low cost. The sacrifice of range isn’t as important when things are small and the speed and bandwidth are really pretty impressive at the end of the day.
It also has an integrated USB 3.0 port so you can stick an external hard drive or USB stick in it to access movies and other media from any device in the home.
For a budget price, this AC1300 router allows you enough speed to take advantage of most high speed connections and is stable and durable enough to last for some time.
Pros and Cons
- Integrated USB 3.0 port
- AC1300 speed
- Reliable connection
- Easy to use software
- Runs hot
- Slow to reboot
10. Best Whole Home Solution
Linksys Velop Tri-band
The Linksys Velop is probably the best whole home solution around right now. While not a true router, instead being a mesh network, it provides an easy home solution for the IT challenged who don’t want to bother with extenders and setting up complex software.
The whole system runs as a AC2200 class router and if you purchase multiple units they can be linked together without any complications. This allows them to cover a surprising amount of ground, and do it with a crazy amount of speed.
In addition to the speed, this mesh system is also amazingly reliable. There isn’t much it won’t be able to handle and with the impressive amount of range you’ll be able to get if you purchase three units you can handle even the largest of houses with ease.
The Linksys Velop Tri-band is an amazingly powerful wireless network which is expandable to cover even the largest living space and provide you with impressive speeds.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to setup
- Modular design to allow for expansion of range
- Blazing fast AC2200 speeds
- Reliable network
- Covers a large area with no peripherals
- There are faster singular routers on the market
Doing Your Wireless Router Research
With the bevvy of specific technical qualities which go into choosing a wireless router, it can be awfully tempting to just spend as much as you can afford and hope for the best. You don’t want to do this. Instead, it’s best that you spend just a little bit of time learning what you need to allow you to make sure you have the perfect router for your needs.
You don’t need to break the bank if all you want to do is watch YouTube videos without waiting around for things to buffer for extended periods after all.
This will definitely mean a little bit of reading, but the whole subject really isn’t as complex as you might think at first glance. There’s a definite middle ground between being an IT expert and not knowing what you’re looking at and hoping for the best.
The requirements for someone who’s doing a lot of high-speed gaming and someone who’s just casually browsing the internet are going to be quite a bit different. You’ll also need to take into account the distance to your router from your computer, since speed and range aren’t necessarily a linear function.
Figuring out exactly what you’re planning on doing is your best bet.
The Qualities You Need in a Wireless Router
Things can get pretty technical when you’re looking into picking up new networking equipment. We’re going to break things down to make them easy to understand. If you’re in a hurry, the bolded parts are what you’re going to need to know, so let’s get started.
The range of a router is actually hard to predict. You not only have physical barriers which can impede your signal, like walls, but you also have to deal with the fact that pretty much everyone around you is using a signal as well. Most people can pick up at least a half dozen other routers from their devices, and some of them will be operating on the same channels which causes interference.
Each barrier that a signal has to pass through weakens it. This means floors, walls, and can even implicate furniture in a particularly crowded home. Think of the range as starting out as a sphere, and with each object that is passed through the router’s signal is weakened.
5gHz connections are actually weaker than 2.4gHz. The higher speed has something of a trade off, but most routers which boast a 5gHz connection will still allow you to connect with the slower signal if you’re out of range.
This also means that you can end up having some issues if you bought a wireless router designed for extreme speeds but you’re using your computer three or four rooms away.
If you’re looking for maximum range, say to cover an exceptionally large house, then you have a couple of options.
Looking for replaceable antennae is the first option. You can upgrade these in order to boost the signal and try to get things going as best as possible.
Your second option is to look into picking up a repeater or extender. These devices are pretty easy to set up and can expand coverage by quite a bit. They don’t work miracles, however, and the stronger the signal is in the first place the better off you’ll be.
The 802.11 Standard
Don’t get confused by the numbers, this is actually a pretty easy quality to give you a quick idea of what a router is capable of. The 802.11 is followed by a letter, a/b/g/n/ac are the current standards in ascending order of technology.
The backwards and forwards compatibility offered by this part of the router makes it a pretty much moot point. The biggest difference for the consumer is that all versions prior to 802.11n don’t support a 5gHz channel.
Just make sure that whatever you buy is either 802.11n or 802.11ac since the other signals are pretty much obsolete in the modern world and can cause issues.
Single and Dual Band
Single and dual band routers have a pretty significant difference.
To identify which you’re dealing with you have a classification number which is begun with either an N or AC. N is single band, AC is dual band.
You’re looking at a pretty significant difference here. N routers only support a 2.4gHz signal. This is a weaker signal as far as speed goes, but it’s less impeded by obstacles and has a better range.
An AC router will allow access to both a 2.4gHz and 5gHz signal. The latter is much faster, but it’s something of a trade off since the signal will be affected more by obstacles and have a lower range.
This is further broken down into simultaneous dual band, which transmits both signals at the same time and selectable dual band which only transmits one or the other.
For the most part, any wireless router worth its price is going to be a simultaneous dual band router and there’s no need to bother with the other types.
The classification ID of a router can tell you a lot without the need to dig much deeper. If you’re not inclined to press into things too much, just note whether it’s an N or AC router and know that the higher the number the quicker things will be.
For those with a serious interest, consult the following table:
|Classification||Max 2.4gHz in Mbp/s||Max 5gHz in Mbp/s|
Keep in mind, these are theoretical maximum speeds. In practice you’ll usually be limited to about 50% of these speeds in excellent conditions and 25% or so is closer to standard.
For truly high speed routers, you’re probably also going to run into limits with the hardware of your computer. Not everyone’s machine is fast enough to take advantage of all of the speed which can be offered by a high-end router.
You also need to keep in mind that Mbp/s is a different measurement than download speeds which are rated in MB/s. You can divide by eight in order to get the true measurements, for instance a 1300Mbp/s connection operating at full speed would give you a 162.5 MB/s download if operating at 100% efficiency.
For the laymen, a higher classificiation means higher speeds. In practice, it’s best to find something which fits cleanly into your budget rather than purchasing the fastest router you can find unless you have the hardware necessary to take advantage of it and a real need for ridiculous amounts of speed.
The trade-off at the higher ends versus the cost gives you diminishing returns pretty quickly as well, in this case staying a couple of generations behind the newest technology is usually the best for the end consumer.
Software and Security
The software which a router utilizes and the security features it offers can be of greater or lesser importance depending on your need for privacy and technical abilities.
Advanced software allows for more customization of the way your network runs. Most people with a little bit of technical ability should be able to modify things to suit themselves with a little bit of study, whereas laymen are more likely to just utilize the software “out of box.”
It’s worth checking to see if the software included with your router is able to be modified to your liking if that’s your thing.
Security features, on the other hand, can keep people out of your network. This is the most important part for many people, since keeping people off the network preserves speeds and can keep them from accessing your devices if you’re working with an interconnected household.
No one wants their printer being accessed after all. Most routers have this well covered with a key and encryption protocol.
If you regularly deal with sensitive data, however, you may want to focus on more security features to keep people out of your data stream. These features are a bit outside the purview of this article but can include firewalls and the ability to use add on firmware to make things much more secure.
You can actually make things a lot more specialized with some features.
A USB drive is sometimes included to allow for access to data across the network. With a lightning quick USB 3.0 connection, for instance, you could easily store a ton of movies and access them from any device on the network to create a centralized home theater system.
LAN connections are great for gamers and secure data. While they used to come standard, they’re not on all modern routers. If you’re planning on engaging in a highly competitive game then a LAN connection is pretty much essential, since it will reduce latency greatly and let you operate at much higher speeds.
When it comes to secure data, a direct connection to the router can offer some other advantages: namely, by physically connecting to your router you’re able to avoid any hacking attempts which rely on decrypting wifi data.
Picking Out Your Wireless Router
So, now that you know about the specifications which go into your networking equipment it can still be a tough choice to make sure that you have the right router for what you’re planning on doing.
There’s one more vital thing to keep in mind before you decide on a router, however, which is the speed of your internet connection.
You’ll have to keep in mind that quite often the advertised speed is much lower than the speed which you’re actually receiving at the end of the line.
A cheap connection might only run around 10Mbp/s after all, which works out to only a little bit more than 1 MBp/s. This means that buying a high speed router is a losing game even if you’re receiving one hundred percent of the bandwidth that is advertised.
For general streaming you’ll need around 5.0Mbp/s for HD. This means that, in many cases, that you’re pretty much good to go with any modern wireless router and range is going to be the main concern to make sure you get a strong enough signal to not have to deal with buffering.
Gamers are in need of a solid and fast connection. For this application, the faster the better. While a couple seconds of buffering can be irritating during a movie, it can be absolutely “fatal” in a game. Most serious gamers will run a hardline, but that’s not always available so overdoing it definitely helps in this instance.
And finally, you need to take into account how many devices are on your network. Keep in mind that Bluetooth technology will run interference with 2.4gHz connections but basically every wifi connected device you own will be using some ambient bandwidth even when it’s not actively being used. How many times have you come back to updates on your phone about a program updating?
By keeping the above in mind, you should be able to easily pick out the router which makes the most sense for you by matching your specifications to what you need. It’s not nearly as hard as you think, you just need to be aware.