There’s almost nothing that can be done these days without some sort of internet connection. Whether its streaming the latest season of Luke Cage on Netflix or pulling up work email on your phone, a good internet connection has become essential. And to get the best quality, you need a router that can deliver.
But how do you know what router is best for you? There are plenty to choose from, but obviously everyone’s needs are different. Some may want a router that provides strong signals and bandwidth for gaming while others may just need a simple router for work and surfing the web.
Fortunately, there are choices at varying speeds and, more importantly, prices that fit those needs. Whether its a small router for less than $100 or a whole mesh network that could cost up to $500, these are some of the best to fit your lifestyle. And the speeds can range from AC1200 to AC5400, which indicates the megabytes-per-second. That means the higher the number, the faster the router and more devices it can support. So if it’s an AC2600 router, that means it’ll output 2600 megabytes-per-second for high speeds on one device or that can be shared with multiple devices.
Routers for everyday life:
Sometimes you just need a reliable router that gets the job done. That’s not to say that you won’t get improved performance or features out of these routers. Some will still provide improved range, connectivity, or security, but these are the most basic in the bunch.
If you’re looking for simplicity, there’s the R6230 dual band router. This is very much a bare bones setup, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not everyone needs a high-powered router to play games or a mesh network to cover every inch of the house with WiFi. This router does what you need it to without breaking the bank, which can be something to keep in mind with more powerful routers.
The R6230 can cover most large homes, has dual band networking to support extra devices, and dynamic quality of service to prioritize device needs. And with a speed rating of AC1200, it is certainly a competent. Also, since it’s 8 inches x 10 inches x 4 inches, it shouldn’t take up much room either.
Check out Joe’s Amazon review to get an idea of how reliable this router is:
“It’s been great. Throughput is good, range is much better than the old Netgear N router it replaced, and the web interface has plenty of configuration options.”
When it comes to NETGEAR, the Nighthawk brand typically means a better router compared to other options. And while the R6700 is not the most powerful Nighthawk, it is still a good router in its own right for the average user. It maintains a level of simplicity routers at that price range tend to offer, but with a little bump in power. That means it can handle a few extra devices better than some other models that are under $100.
The R6700 is longer though not quite as wide as the R6320, but still won’t take up much space. It can also support large homes with 12 or more smart devices in it, packing plenty of power in a small package. And with a dual band AC1750 rating, speeds will experience a nice boost.
Matthew Hamby had nothing but positives to say about the router on Amazon, saying:
“The signal strength is phenomenal – I spent a day in the garage streaming pandora while having a garage sale and had no signal issues through multiple walls and even upstairs. The nighthawk is pricey, but I wanted future proofing. Setup was a breeze – unboxed and online within 10 minutes (time for my modem to reboot and the firmware on the router to update).”
Now you might be asking, “I thought Norton was all about antivirus stuff?” You’re not wrong, but that doesn’t mean that philosophy couldn’t be applied to other areas of computing. That is the idea behind Norton’s Core Secure router.
The Core Secure is dual band with a speed rating of AC2600, making it perfect for device-heavy households and 4K streaming. It comes packed with Norton multilayer protection to ensure security. This applies to all devices in the house that could potentially get hacked. And since it’s only about 5 inches tall, you won’t have to worry about the router taking up too much space.
Josh Borden said in his Amazon review of it:
“Phenomenal router. Looks absolutely beautiful but also performs very well! We are getting the maximum speed of our internet connection 155 MBit through the router every time, even from outside across the street!”
Investing in some extra power is never a bad idea. And with an AC3200 rating, the Linksys WRT router definitely delivers that power. The WRT serves as a good compromise for those who want a general router but want extra power to support plenty of devices or connection needs.
One way the WRT pulls off this boost in power is thanks to the tri-stream tech under the hood. This doubles the bandwidth output for anything that might need to pull more data and speed from the router. That’s on top of the AC3200 rating mentioned above, which has a minimum speed of 2160 megabytes per second. There’s also the added bonus of file sharing through the router itself via multiple USB ports, if that was ever needed for personal or work needs. And it doesn’t take up as much space as you think, only coming in at just nine inches long.
George Baldwin attests to the quality of it, writing this in their Amazon review:
“I used the exact name and password for my new Network as my previous one, all my devices immediately recognized the new router, so no glitches at the device contact points. I immediately notice faster Internet page transfers, and no more lags in video streaming. We are even going to get a smart TV for movie streaming!”
Best routers for gamers
If you’re a gamer, you understand the need for a good router. Whether you’re trying to stream a few rounds of Fortnite or raiding in Destiny 2, you’ll need a strong, smooth internet connection, otherwise you’re going to experience lag, delays, or even drops during intense gaming sessions. Well fear not, these are a few of the routers that can help with your gaming needs.
Gaming routers can be expensive, so if you’re looking to save some money then you may want to turn to TP-Link. The Archer C9, while on the lower end of the tier, is a reliable gaming router in its own right. This entry from TP-Link is best for gamers who are more casual or simply stick to one platform. That said, its more than able to maintain connections needed for consistent gaming or 4K streaming.
The Archer C9 has a speed rating of AC1900 for 1900 megabytes per second, which is about as low as you’d want to go for reliable gaming speeds. A dual-band design should also help with prioritization, which is always important when it comes to gaming.
But don’t just take my word for it, this is what Matthew Hudson had to say about it:
“The AC1900 is a solid mid-tier option in the wireless market. It has many of the features that low-end routers are missing (ac, signal shaping, network repeating). It is reliable and has been running without a single issue.”
Netgear’s next entry is the Nighthawk X8, which delivers for the more hardcore gamers out there. Though it’s not the newest router out there, don’t let that dissuade you. This thing packs a lot of power. Granted, it will need a tiny bit more space at 13 inches x 11 inches x 5 inches.
With a speed rating of AC5000, it is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, which is what you’ll want while gaming. On top of that, the Nighthawk’s WiFi band is a tri-band setup, further bumping up the performance. This means X8 has a better area coverage compared to most routers at that scale, which is always a good thing.
David Rosenbaum spoke highly of the router on Amazon:
“Easy setup and it makes/exceeds my expectations. The 6 Ethernet ports on board are very handy. Previous routers I’ve owned had less ports. Much better signal with this device than I’ve had with previous routers, including Netgear routers. Seeing much faster throughput than my previous routers. Streaming to 3 different devices and have 4 computers, 2 printers and a WiFi scanner hooked up simultaneously and never have any kind of issues with this.”
The NETGEAR pro gaming router is a prime example of what a gaming router can be. With a rating of AC2600, you won’t have to worry about signal quality. Granted, the X8 has a higher speed rating at AC5000 with a tri-band setup, but there are always features that can make a router like the Pro Gaming better.
One such feature that makes this router ideal for gaming is the prioritization. You can prioritize gaming devices to make sure that bandwidth is distributed evenly to reduce lag. It also uses a feature called Geo Filter, which limits distance to servers and players. You’ll just need a little bit more space to set it up since it measures 14 inches long.
Gregory Ventola had praise for the router on Amazon:
“If you’re a gamer, get this router! I can’t express enough my gratitude for this thing. The combination of the best hardware in the business (Netgear) and the best software (DumaOS) make this router a blessing for online gaming. Seriously, a BLESSING.”
If you consider yourself among the most hardcore gamers, then you need a router that can support multiple systems, a heavy duty PC, and more. That is where the Linksys Max Stream EA9500 comes in. Rated at AC5400, the Max Stream delivers where it counts on speed. Of the individual routers listed above, the Max Stream is easily the most powerful, pushing out 5400 megabytes per second with a tri-band network setup. So speeds and connectivity shouldn’t ever be an issue.
It also sports device prioritization, making sure connections and speeds are evenly spread for the best performance. And if you’re nervous about the wireless connection, don’t worry, the Max Stream sports eight ethernet ports. It’s also the biggest, physically, of the individual routers, coming in at 14 inches x 5 inches x 11 inches.
James D. speaks to the quality of the Max Stream on Amazon:
“I have 9 devices presently connected to wifi. It is a real advantage to be able to prioritize the devices. I live in a two story 3200 sq ft brick home with the router located in my upstairs office within 12 feet of the center of the house. I get excellent connection in all parts of the house and outside up to about 60 feet of the house. I am presently working with several wifi cameras and find good facility with the Linksys support page. In short I am happy with my purchase.”
Routers to future-proof the home:
The biggest change hitting home internet and routers is the growth of mesh, or whole home, internet systems. The idea behind these is to provide more powerful and even internet across a household without having to load all devices onto a single unit or router. Instead, multiple units work in tandem to ensure coverage and share the weight of multiple devices.
If you’re looking to test the waters with a mesh network, the Google system is an excellent place to start. It’s one of the simpler systems to set up and works in tandem with a companion app that provides an easy way to control and monitor use, set up parental locks, etc. Plus, the three pack allows you to cover a large area with even coverage.
The Google system offer speeds of AC1200 per unit on a dual-band network setup. Essentially, that means you’ll have three small routers spread throughout the house. And with a three unit setup, you’ll be able to cover 4500 square feet, so you shouldn’t ever experience signal drop while at home and won’t take up much space because of how small they are.
George G. speaks to both in his personal Amazon review:
“Our Internet is now blazing fast no matter where you are in our house, and we even get great reception in our garage! Installation couldn’t have been easier. Just install the app on your smart phone and follow the easy directions. I had it up and running in less than 10 minutes with zero problems. The app has many cool features, like being able to pause the Internet to certain devises and check the system performance in each room.”
While having a mesh network is great, you might want a bit more control over the network’s security and filters. The Asus Lyra Trio system has an app you can use to set privacy and parental filters so you can make sure no one is doing anything you don’t want them to. On top of that, the Lyra has a feature called ethernet backhaul to improve signal quality. This allows the nodes to be linked by ethernet cables or wall ports to communicate and improve the system.
The Trio system has an AC1750 dual-band setup for reliable speeds across the board in a 5400 square foot area. When working in tandem, that means the Trio is producing 5000 megabytes per second, so there’s no worry on speed. The units are also a little bigger than the Google Home, but still won’t take up that much space compared to a normal router.
Todd attested to the quality in his Amazon review:
“I have a three story home with these routers on the 1st and 2nd floors. I’m getting regular download speeds on all three floors with no drops of 150-220 mbps! There is no switching networks depending on what floor your on or anything else special needed. It’s just simple, fast and so far, reliable (about 45 days in use). Thanks Asus!”
The Orbi systems are among the best that NETGEAR offers. And out of all of the options available, the Orbi RBK50 is easily the most powerful. The system is able to cover 5000 square feet and consists of two units. The central router works with its extension satellite to provide single network coverage, so there’s no need for changing networks. The router and satellite also include eight ethernet ports between the two.
And while it may only be a two unit system, it doesn’t skimp out on network speeds. When working together, it produces a speed rating of AC3000 with tri-band networking. So while you might be sacrificing a third unit compared to the other mesh systems, the Orbi works just as well. And the units still sport a smaller body than most standard routers.
See what Connie McNeill had to say:
“This Orbi two-node system replaced a router and extender that we had. The results: better speed, especially at a distance from the base node, better reliablity, and only one network name to connect to (the old setup had 4 – 2 for the base router and 2 for the extender). Love that the Orbi picks the band that is best. It was extremely easy to set up, and configuring was also very easy.”
For bigger households, eero is a great option. The eero Pro WiFi system is within the upper echelon of mesh systems. To start, the difference between this system and the other offerings from eero is it includes three full units, as opposed to a central unit with two beacons to boost out the signal. This ensures more even coverage, not just for area, but general signal strength.
The eero is able to achieve this through a tri-band network setup with 2.4GHz, 5.2GHz, and 5.8GHz wireless connectivity. The three run simultaneously because of the tri-band network, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to network use. But you won’t have to worry about space thanks to the small body design, with each unit only measuring 4 inches x 4 inches x1 inch. That’s plenty of power packed into small bodies.
Julia W. praised the eero Pro on Amazon, saying:
“So happy with my eero system! I have a small 2 story condo, but the upstairs had very bad signal. Lots of lag and buffering while watching netflix, browsing the internet on my laptop, or even listening to the radio on my alexa. And, heaven forbid my daughter be in the next room streaming games. I placed the base eero in the living room, and then set up the beacon in the upstairs hall way. We can now use multiple devices at once without interruption. I even have full wifi bars on my mobile phones when upstairs. It’s like night and day. This system was so easy to set up, and I love the ability to control features through the app. Brilliant. It was the perfect fix for our situation!”