I’ll come right out and say it: I used to be like you. I used to think that I was only allowed to use the janky wireless router that my internet service provider rented out to me. After all, wouldn’t they give me the best router money could buy? I was certain Bill Gates himself used the same router. Boy, was I a dumb dumb. If you really want every member of the family (including the cats) to be able to binge watch their media of choice, you need good wireless routers.
We’ll start off by looking at how to choose the best wireless router for your needs. Then, I’ll give you my top picks.
What Should You Consider When Shopping for a Router?
- How many people will be using the router?
- What types of devices will they be using?
- What will they be using the devices for?
- How big is your house/business?
- Does that make you feel inadequate?
These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself as you shop for a router. If you live in a tiny shack and only need a wireless router for checking email forwards from your conservative uncle, you don’t need the top-of-the-line models. On the other hand, if you are locked in a fight-to-the-death war with family members for the bandwidth needed to play World of Warcraft or whatever it is the kids are into these days, you might want to splurge.
What Kind of Band Do You Want?
I’m not talking about music here. That answer would be obvious: country. Instead, we are referencing the number of radio bands that the router is able to communicate over. When you have a single-band router, the cheapest around, you might have trouble streaming 13 Reasons Why when you are microwaving a Hot Pocket. Bluetooth devices and smartphones usually use the 2.4GHz band of a single-band router.
Dual- and tri-band routers also operate on the much less busy 5GHz band. These models would be ideal for households with several devices that are busy transferring files, streaming porn, gaming, or downloading torrents of bootleg movies.
What Features Do You Need to Know about?
Expect to pay more for cool features. I recommend choosing a router with four or more 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports. This allows you to connect NAS drives, home-automation hubs, desktop PCs, food processors, and other wired devices. USB ports are also cool to have if you want to share a printer with several devices. Plus, look for a router that comes with removable antennas. This will help you if you need a last-minute Halloween costume.
If you don’t want to put in the legwork of gathering data on all of the top wireless routers, I strongly recommend picking one of our top 10 best wireless routers:
- Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) enabled – basically, it’s polyamorous
- Both bands deliver fast throughput
- There’s a metric lot of USB ports and Gigabit LAN ports
I just got done saying that if you want awesome features, you’re gonna have to pay for them. Dollar for dollar, the Asus RT-AC88U is the best you’re going to get. It has an unprecedented eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port, a power jack, and a USB 2.0 port. There’s even a USB 3.0 port and kitchen sink. The management features are accessible via mobile app or user-friendly Web interface. It also uses Trend Micro’s Smart Home Solution to detect and monitor viruses and malware and block malicious sites that your newest Facebook friend wants you to visit.
- Dual-band: 802.11ac (5GHz) and 802.11n (2.4GHz and 5GHz) in case you’re keeping score
- Uses beamforming technology
- Has more ports than the Death Star
The Linksys WRT1900ACS has you covered whether you want a router that is capable of moving a lot of data to your devices or you just enjoy tinkering with a router’s settings. The beamforming technology does an excellent job of directing wireless signals. And, if you want, you can give certain devices priority. For instance, you’ll never have to stream a glitchy roller derby bout because your son decided to download all the anime ever made. Just give your streaming media player priority. It’s your house: you make the rules! (You may need your son’s help figuring out how the router works).
- Performs well over Wi-Fi regardless of how many devices are connected to it
- Easy setup makes it ideal for old people
- The customized settings make it perfect for gamers
This is the Greek goddess of routers. Athena was built for network enthusiasts, though it is easy for people of all levels of nerdity. The router is dual band, has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a USB 3.0 port. Athena can handle music and video streaming on multiple devices while simultaneously allowing you to take out your aggression in an FPS game.
- Easy enough for a teenager desperate for Internet access to install
- You feel like the head of an IT department with all of the management settings
- Three removable, adjustable antennas
Based on its feature set and performance, you would never guess that the TP-Link Archer C8 AC1750 is available for under $100. It knocks the pants off of its similarly-priced competitors when it comes to the dual-band throughput scores. There are lots of I/O ports and several management settings. The only misgivings we have about this router is poor file-transfer performance and the ugly user interface.
- Looks like it could kill you at any moment
- Blazing fast file-transfer speeds
- Has MU-MIMO throughput
The D-Link AC5300 has eight antennas, so if you put it upside down, it looks like a cyber-spider hell bent on enslaving the human race. Aside from the unique design, this router has incredibly fast speeds no matter how you look at it. It has all the hot features, like band switching, 4X4 data streaming, and beamforming. Plus, it has the power to provide strong Wi-Fi signals to your guest houses and the far-off wings of your mansion.
- The most affordable router on my list
- Surprisingly powerful range
- No-nonsense design for people who don’t want funny business (you chose the wrong review site)
For the price tag on this little number, you get a surprising amount of features. The NETGEAR R6220 features a switch for turning off wireless transmissions when you’re on vacation in East St. Louis, parental controls that force your kids to go to a friend’s house if they want to watch porn, and a USB 2.0 port for connecting peripherals. This router pushes through more data and has better performance than comparably priced products.
- Looks like the baby, just as lethal version of the D-Link AC5300
- Great range
- Fast and problem-free Wi-Fi
When it comes to functionality and speed, the D-Link DIR 890L delivers. The experts who tested it found it is easy to use and setup and has impressive Wi-Fi range and speed. Plus, thanks to its aerodynamic design, it can physically move fast. You can also add an external hard drive and use it as an NAS.
- For hoity-toity rich people who wear monocles
- 60GHz throughput (that’s fast)
- Supports muumuus…er…I mean, MU-MIMO
This is the most expensive router on my list, and in my opinion, there are much better options out there for the price. Of course, if you want to show off your understated elegance to router aficionados who visit your domain (who doesn’t?), then by all means, get the Nighthawk X10. It has all the whistles and bells. It’s just you can get the same whistles and bells elsewhere for cheaper.
- Ideal for power users
- 6 Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port
- Incredibly customizable
Power users will find that the big price tag on the NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 is justifiable. There are six wired LAN ports on this router for delivering gigabit traffic. For top-speed data transfers, you can aggregate two of them.
- Many features not normally found in a cost-effective router
- Performs well on the 5GHz band
- Comes with complete parental control package (so your kids can keep you in line)
You may have noticed that we listed four NETGEAR and three Nighthawk routers in our top ten. This is because they are solid products. But, there are better options that are less expensive. With NETGEAR, you are paying a premium for support, experience, and excellent networking hardware.
Did we miss one of your favorite routers? Share your opinions with the entire world below!