The 30-Second Review

Whether you’re dealing with slow speeds or WiFi dead zones, a new router can improve your internet experience. We spoke with networking experts and WiFi geeks to get to the root of what matters. Our top picks come with the latest protocols and recommended frequencies, have been independently tested for speed and range, and boast a great track record with consumers.

Best for High Traffic

If you’ve got a lot of people or a lot of devices, you’ll like this feature-heavy option with parental controls.

Best Budget

TP-LINK - Archer C7 AC1750
An affordable and reliable option for surprisingly fast speeds.

Best for Large Homes

If you’re not getting enough reach from routers, this mesh network is the best way to blanket your large home with connection.

Best for Gamers

Asus AC88U
A powerhouse for extreme speeds with limitless customization options.

The Best Wireless Router

A lot of things factor into your home network performance: the speeds in your internet plan, your home’s layout, the number of devices connected and the way they’re being used, and regional internet traffic. Routers range from budget $20 picks to $400 powerhouses. While top-of-the-line is always appealing, an expensive router is overkill for the majority of users and you may not need the features that make it worth that price tag. We found routers with the latest protocols and recommended frequencies, verified independent testing, and a great track record for working for the majority people.

If you’re just looking to optimize your internet speed, but aren’t interested in messing around with features, the TP-LINK - Archer C7 AC1750, delivers solid performance at an affordable price ($90). The Archer is speedier than others in its price range, and if you don’t need anything more than quicker internet, this router should solve your connectivity issues and save you money. Unlike most rented routers, the Archer C7 has two frequency bands so you can hop onto a less crowded channel and get an instant speed boost. However, the Archer will struggle with 10+ devices connected and can’t direct signal to specific devices, so households with several people actively using the internet will want to consider a step up.

If you have a large and/or multi-story home with and are looking to support several devices across a larger space, we recommend the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 ($180). It’s designed to host a larger number of devices while maintaining high speeds -- perfect for the family with more than a few connected gadgets. If you’re interested in toggling more advanced features, like beamforming (directing signal to devices) and Quality of Service (designating priority to specific apps), the Nighthawk comes with a Genie app for accessible customization. This router also comes with a separate Disney-sponsored app for Parental Controls, making it easy to set boundaries on surfing during homework time and late night sneaky streaming.

If a powerful router just isn’t covering dead spots in your sprawling home, a mesh system may be for you. It’s basically a fleet of mini routers that ping internet signals and data packages around your home for more blanket coverage. The Google Wifi AC1200 System ($274) is our favorite as it’s more affordable and accessible than others on the market. Google WiFi’s interface offers modified advanced features, like Parental Controls and Quality of Service, that are easy for beginners to utilize. On the other hand, that can be limiting if you’re used to taking advantage of advanced tinkering.

For those looking to hack their routers to host a VPN (virtual private network - a layer of privacy to prevent your data being sold to advertisers) or enable MU-MIMO (to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously), the Asus AC88U ($270) is a powerhouse. It has a built in game accelerator that will prioritize data from online games to prevent any lag or buffering. It has 8 ports, ideal for connecting printers, home automation, or external storage devices. It’s overkill for the average user, especially if you aren’t willing to fiddle with the features, but if you need internet connection with no lag and you like to control your network, this is your mothership.

How We Found the Best Wireless Router

Best for High Traffic

Netgear Nighthawk R7000A powerful router with easy customization.

For bigger homes, faster speeds, and a few more advanced controls— we recommend the NetGear Nighthawk AC1900. The NetGear Nighthawk hits a happy medium between a powerful router and a sophisticated network switchboard. Amazon reviews rave about the speeds they get, even with a high number of devices connected. And an intuitive portal means even novice users are able to take advantage of the advanced features.

CNET found that on the crowded 2.4 Ghz band at 100 feet, the Nighthawk delivered 64 Mbps. That’s a lot better than most routers did at that distance, although admittedly not as impressive as the 102 Mbps that our top pick ASUS AC88U tested at that range. By simply switching to the 5Ghz band, however, CNET found it delivered a whopping 295 Mbps at the same distance. So what does this is all mean? You won’t have to worry about slow speeds unless you’re a major power user (simultaneously streaming on 20+ devices), and if you find it too slow when you’re far from the router -- like, halfway down the block -- just hop onto the 5 GHz frequency.

Netgear for Wireless Router

Images: Netgear

Complaints on Best Buy and Amazon mention poor technical support from Netgear, so if you’re concerned about setup it's best to purchase from a retailer that offers additional tech support, like Best Buy. But the Nighthawk is simple enough that you’re unlikely to need the support unless your device happens to be a faulty product or the router turns out to be ill-suited for your circumstances. (Think: lots of brick walls, offset rooms, or a neighborhood full of NetGear users.)

The web portal offers simple enough setup, especially with its “Setup Wizard” tool to guide you through the 10 minute install. You will need some tech intuition for the more advanced customizations, like enabling a guest network or metering your internet traffic. We’re not talking coding-level knowledge, more like fiddling with your Myspace HTML. The NetGear Genie App is a convenient option, but not as comprehensive when it comes to customization.

There’s also a separate Disney-sponsored app for parental controls, called Circle with Disney. You can manage content, pause the internet, limit time online, specify destinations, and set a “bedtime”, all for different family profiles. What elevates this from standard parental controls is that these options are all conveniently designated to a separate app (read: portable and user-friendly). You won’t have to open your laptop and log onto your router’s web portal, just to pause internet usage for dinner time.

When it comes to routers capable of powering your whole home at fast speeds, the NetGear Nighthawk does this while offering some next-level features to the novice network user.

Best Budget

TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750An impressive speed upgrade, but customization gets complicated.

If you’re not quite ready to dabble in advanced features, but are looking for seamless streaming or faster browsing, the TP-Link Archer C7 is a simple solution. At $90 it rivals the speeds of routers double its price.

PCMag’s testing revealed the Archer C7 delivered speeds higher than most other routers in its price range, and even rivalled power picks, like the ASUS AC88U. On the more crowded 2.4GHz frequency, and 30 feet from the router, the speeds still tested at 62.8 Mbps, but jumping over to 5GHz boosted that speed up to 250Mbps. Both speeds are more than enough for streaming, web browsing, and some file downloads across a few different devices. However, don’t expect those same speeds if you’re connecting closer to 10 devices, as the Archer C7’s lack of beamforming and slower bandwidth speeds will clog up the network. It’s a cheaper router, so its firmware isn’t designed to handle high traffic, but if you’re living in a smaller home or apartment with fewer than 10 devices, this router will meet your needs.

TP-Link for Wireless Router

Images: TP-Link

The initial install is straightforward and there’s a standard Quick Setup option. You’ll be plugged in and ready to connect within 15 minutes. However, reviews pointed out that customization is difficult due to an overly text-based setup portal and a distinct lack of novice-friendly graphic elements. So while the Archer C7 does actually have some advanced features, like Quality of Service (prioritizing devices/apps) and parental controls, they’re hard to access, making this router a better choice for the “Quick Setup and Go” user (or the advanced user willing to tinker). There is a TP-Link tether app that can enable some features, but it’s quite limited outside of changing network passwords and blocking users.

The Archer C7 has everything you’ll need to optimize your internet in a smaller home, without some of the expensive features of our more advanced picks.

Best for Large Homes

Google Wifi AC1200A mesh network to blanket your whole home in WiFi.

Mesh networks are likely the easiest solution if you live in a large home and your WiFi has persistent dead zones. If you think you’ll need more than one extender to cover your whole home, a mesh network is a simple, unified way to upgrade. Mesh systems are made up of multiple router-pods placed around your home to provide a blanket of connection. The pods ping off of each other to reach dead zones and hidden corners. They can be expensive, starting at around $270, and are really best for sprawling, multi-story homes. So if you have a few dead spots but live in a smaller, single-story home, you may be better off with a powerful router like the NetGear Nighthawk.

Google WiFi for Wireless Router

Images: Google

Our favorite mesh network is the Google WiFi system. Google WiFi uniquely runs auto-steering for band frequencies. So rather than manually switching from 2.4GHz to 5GHz when your internet is bogging down, the system will switch to whichever is faster in the moment. As a result, PCMag found it outperformed the Eero and Luma mesh systems by around 100 Mbps, delivering 175 Mbps at a 30 foot distance.

The Google WiFi System has mastered simple networking. Setup is incredibly intuitive -- just plug the system in and follow a few steps in the app (Amazon reviews report it takes about 15 minutes). Granted, initializing on mesh networks in general is reportedly fairly easy, but Google WiFi makes advanced features, like Quality of Service and beamforming, accessible for any user to enable via the app. This downside of the app’s simplicity means that those looking for more advanced customization may feel limited. Google WiFi is suited for ‘plug and play’ users not power users. The parental controls, for example, aren’t as comprehensive as they are with routers like the NetGear Nighthawk. You can “pause” the internet, but you can’t set limitations on hours or sites. For those with a big home who want to customize internet access for specific profiles (like block social media but allow homework-related sites during certain hours), you’ll want to consider pairing the detailed parental controls of the NetGear Nighthawk with a WiFi extender to get broader coverage with more options.

Google WiFi is often compared to the Netgear Orbi in terms of performance, but at $274, Google WiFi is almost half the price and is more compact. Plus you can purchase wall mounts to install the pods in central hallways.

Best for Gamers

Asus AC88UThe ultimate router: speed, customization, and definitely no lag.

For the network nerds who like to hack their router to do things like host their own VPN (an extra layer of private security) or enable link aggregation and need some major speed support, the ASUS AC88U is a solid choice. But for $270 you’ll want to be committed to customizing this router’s performance.

It has four antennas for optimal MU-MIMO functionality, compared to the two or three of most competitors. The result? It can beam data directly to your devices (plus, it looks like a spaceship). CNET found the ASUS’s data beaming to be exceptionally fast. Its same room speeds were 645 Mbps on the 5GHz frequency. Even at 100 ft, the ASUS still delivered 335 Mbps and managed 102 Mbps on the busier 2.4GHz.

Asus for Wireless Router

Images: Asus

One of the ASUS’s selling points for gamers is a WTFast Game Accelerator that boosts your connection for online games by automatically seeking the most efficient lane for transporting your gaming data. The catch? It’s available for only one device at a time and not every online game is supported yet (although several popular PC and Xbox games already are) -- the feature sends data packets directly to the game’s server, so they need an established partnership. You can also use the Quality of Service feature to designate priority to devices for non-supported games. So no matter what you’re playing, your games won’t lag with the ASUS.

The app’s web interface is fairly easy to navigate — the settings options are clearly labeled and it offers brief explanations of customizations. There’s a quick setup button too, that walks you through password and network creation. Beware: Amazon reviews claim setup does get increasingly complicated as you start accessing more advanced features. The ASUS also has a whopping 8 ports for link aggregation, which means integrating several ethernet wired connections into one. The result is the ability to transmit separate data packets down separate links, which improves performance and adds a layer of reliability for when one connection may fail (that data will hop onto another connection).

Be aware that without some techy tinkering, basic setup won’t deliver much more than the Netgear Nighthawk. Amazon reviewers noted that to really optimize the power of this router, you need to be willing to get nitty gritty with those advanced features: prioritizing specific devices and apps, strategically designating different uses to different bands, and arranging the antennas to best direct the WiFi to your device.

Did You Know?

WiFi doesn’t stand for anything.

Seriously, it's just a catchy name. You may have heard it stands for Wireless Fidelity, but that longer name actually came later. According to founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Phil Belanger, “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity” is a made up tagline because colleagues were worried about marketing with a name that didn’t mean anything. (They’ve since dropped the tagline as it actually caused more confusion.)

Still Worried About Security?

In light of a recent unraveling of traditional WPA2 security, some are worried their devices are at risk. Your operating system (Windows, Android) should roll out updates to combat the recent vulnerabilities, but beyond that you probably don’t need to worry too much about it. The only way for it to happen would be if the hacker was on your network, which means they’d need to be in your home/near your device and have your password.

Location, location, location: router real estate is key.

The placement of your router can be a simple fix for connectivity issues. To put it simply, place your router where your devices are. It should be out in the open with no obstructions and as central to your most used devices as possible. The signal works like radio waves, and Hunt explained, the “signal is released in a roughly spherical shape, so imagine you’re positioning the “bubble” to reach as many rooms as possible. Putting it in a cupboard, closet, corner, behind a desk, and in other claustrophobic placements will decrease the signal quality and slow down performance.” If your router has antennas, play around with those and try positioning them vertically or horizontally based on where your tend to have the weakest signal.

What’s your need for speed?

Once you’ve got a router that is optimizing the speeds you pay for, you may be able to lower them and save some money. For example, if you’ve been paying for 75 Mbps but your old router was only delivering 30 Mbps, you may be able to downgrade to a 50 Mbps plan because your new router will be more efficient. To help you find the right speed for your household, we gathered recommendations from a variety of internet service provider websites, as well as HighSpeedInternet.com, a site dedicated to providing information and tools to understand high-speed internet. Then we consulted with BroadbandNow co-founder Nick Reese to find the ideal speed ranges for most households.

Ideal Speeds Number of People/Devices Typical Uses
5–15 Mbps 1-2 people or 1-3 devices Basic traffic (emails, web browsing, social media, SD video streaming on one device)
25–50 Mbps 2-3 people or 4-8 devices Moderate traffic (music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices)
50–100 Mbps 3-5 people or 8-10 devices High traffic (multiple devices simultaneously streaming HD or 4K video, real-time gaming, or video conferencing)
100+ Mbps 5+ people or 10+ devices Very high traffic (multiple devices simultaneously streaming HD or 4K video, real-time gaming, video conferencing, large file download)

Still need better WiFi?

If you’ve upgraded your router but are still experiencing connectivity issues, you can expand that network with WiFi extenders. They’re basically little bonus satellites that take the pings of network from your main router and direct them off to different areas of your home that the original signal has a hard time reaching.

The Best Wireless Router: Summed Up

Wireless Router
Best For
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
High Traffic
Google Wifi AC1200
Large Homes
Asus AC88U
Gamers
TP-LINK - Archer C7 AC1750
Budget