Quick Update 2017: The best wireless routers for most people is the TP-LINK Archer C7. It is currently the #1 bestseller on Amazon and is a great pick because it offers the best balance of price, features, and speed.
Some of the notable features that TP-LINK Archer C7 offers:
- Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Easy Setup Assistant
- USB file sharing / Dual USB Ports to share files & media, and printer
- Parental controls
- IP-based Bandwidth Control
The only thing we didn’t like is the not-so-pretty user interface.
Quick Picks: 5 Best Wireless Routers
|Best Wireless Routers||LAN Ports||Supports||Overall Ratings|
|1. TP-LINK Archer C7 - (Best Overall)||4||802.11ac||A+|
|2. Netgear AC5300||6||802.11ac||A+|
|3. Nighthawk AC1900||4||802.11ac||A|
|4. ASUS AC3100 - (Runner-Up)||8||802.11 b/g/n||A+|
|5. TP-LINK N300 - (The Budget Pick)||4||802.11 b/g/n||B|
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Wi-fi Routers Buyers’ Guide
How routers work?
Routers are essentially just packet-switching devices. IP (Internet protocol) technology breaks data into “packets” containing address information. Each packet, whether outgoing or incoming, is forwarded to the correct destination IP address in use by a particular computer, smartphone, or other device. A
A router handles one packet at a time (in a fraction of a second). Network activity may involve thousands of packets going to multiple addresses, so those coded packets are reassembled into usable information at a target device with a wireless adapter. A wireless router therefore includes a network switch and wireless access points (antennae).
Types of routers
- Dual-band routers are the cheapest and most common, providing both a 2.4GHz (gigahertz) band (radio frequency) and a 5GHz band.
- Tri-band routers have an additional 5GHz band and are a fairly new technology. Bear in mind that the second 5GHz channel is only used when it’s necessary.
- N600 designs have a total 600Mbps (megabits per second) data transfer rate split between the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. These may be inadequate in modern networks.
- N900 routers are an updated version giving a combined 900Mbps data rate.
“AC” designates the modern (2013) radio standard 802.11ac.
- AC1750 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 1750Mbps: 450 to the 2.4GHz band and 1300 to the 5GHz.
- AC1900 – a higher speed of 600Mpbs on the 2.4GHz band.
- AC3200 offers 600Mpbs on the 2.4GHz band but 2600Mbps split between two 5GHz bands.
- AC5300 are the latest and fastest with a total speed of 5300Mbps. There are currently few client devices that can match this data rate.
WiFi router FAQs
1) What does WiFi stand for?
Most people assume it refers to “wireless fidelity”, and in part it does, but it’s technically just a term invented for the outdated 802.11b wireless standard.
2) How does WiFi work?
It involves computer-binary 1s and 0s which are sent as radio waves and converted back to electrical signals by the receiving device.
3) What is NAS?
This is short for “network attached storage”, which means connecting an external hard drive via USB 3.0 to access digital files such as video or music.
4) What should I look for in a wireless router?
In modern routers you should expect an easy user interface (UI) to manage the device, a printer connection (USB 2.0), and useful features like parental control, network prioritization, and security. They also come with the ability to handle data backup, and technologies like DLNA, QoS, WPS, and Beamforming. (As mentioned before, the best wireless router we choose for you has the best value for money. )
5) What is DLNA?
Digital Living Network Alliance technology lets you control how information is used on your network.
6) What is QoS?
Quality of Service is a technology that lets you prioritize data streams to preserve bandwidth for critical operations.
7) What is WPS?
Wi-Fi Protected Setup is an easier way to connect a WPS-enabled client without having to type in passwords.
8) What is Beamforming?
This is a technology that allows you to focus wireless signals in order to minimize signal loss over distance.
Many devices today are Wi-Fi compatible. Getting these devices to communicate requires a wireless router. The right choice comes down to your needs and budget.
Based on consumer reviews, start with this list of 10 of the best wireless routers.
1. Netgear AC5300 – Best Wireless Router for 2016
A tri-band router like the X8 is a strong choice for those with many devices (10 or more). This represents one of the high-end models of Netgear’s new generation routers, and works well where single or double channel routers can’t handle the throughput. It also supports a guest network with optional password.
Some of the feature expansions for the AC5300 include a total of 6 LAN ports, as well as the usual WAN connection. Two of the LAN ports can connect to NAS devices. It also supports Beamforming, dynamic QoS, and ReadyCLOUD allowing access to any connected USB device over the Internet.
At 12.5″x10.5″x2.5″ it’s laptop-sized, so you’ll have to clear some space to put it. Push buttons on the front allow control of WPS, Wi-Fi, and the smart LEDs. The on/off switch and reset pinhole are on the rear of the unit, and two USB ports (2.0 and 3.0) are on the side behind a flip-open panel.
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2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 – Best Wifi Router Under $200
Netgear’s R7000 offers home users a lot of performance from a mid-level router. A dual-core processer operates at 1GHz, making it one of the fastest routers around.
It also offers some features that weren’t previously available, such as a built-in VPN server, support of the faster Broadcom TurboQAM, and 3rd-party firmware like DD-WRT. Add an external hard drive, and it’s ready for Time Machine backup. The USB 3.0 port is at the front of the router for quick attachment of the drive.
The R7000 is bulky as home routers go, even down to its power adaptor. So it will take up some room even if it’s wall-mounted. The 3 detachable antennae take up even more room. But it’s a bargain in home routers. A bigger footprint is part of the new design approach moving away from upright routers to flat models. Despite a smudge-free plastic body, it still feels solid and ruggedly well-constructed.
3. ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-AC3100 – Best Wireless Router Under $300.
Asus is known for a little flair in its designs, and the AC88U is no exception. It is one of the best wi-fi router on the market right now. A gold logo and some diamond-shaped patterns are immediately noticeable on what is a very compact router for its abilities at roughly 6x8x3 inches. One awkward element is a fixed stand, which may be for ventilation reasons, but it would be nice to have options.
Indicator lights across the front for the WAN and 4 LAN ports, power, Wi-Fi, etc. show a solid blue when active. Both of the USB ports can support external drives and be used for failover, as well as printers and mobile devices. This also utilizes the Broadcom wireless controller and TurboQAM for throughput on both channels.
4. ASUS RT-AC5300 Wireless AC5300 – Best Wifi Router Under $500
The design has both good and bad aspects. The router is a little large, but still limited to the standard 4 Gigabit LAN ports and single Gigabit WAN port. A mostly-open bottom and additional ventilation grilles help to keep it cool. A little higher clearance beneath, and a geometric design on top, make it seem a little more stylish than previous versions.
Like other Asus routers of this generation, it supports solid AiProtection for security and the excellent Web UI Asus provides. The two (3.0 and 2.0) USB ports can also host a cellular dongle to share 3G or 4G networks with your clients. Unfortunately, it does not come with wall mount slots, and the LED indicator lights on the front are only marked with little gray icons that can be hard to see in dim light.
The RT-AC5300 comes with 8 detachable antennae, which is the most you’ll find on a home router. These antennae do have some plastic parts, which looks interesting but adds weight that can make the antennae fall over. This could get irritating if it happens a lot, but you should still get decent signals most of the time, and they are replaceable.
5. D-Link AC3200 (Best Long Range Router)
The DIR-890L/R has an eye-catching design that seems to present a sci-fi drone in stunning fire-engine red. And it deserves the attention as a fast, easy to use, and extremely stable Wi-Fi router. It also functions smoothly as NAS device with an attached external drive. The D-Link AC3200 is among the best wireless routers today.
If you live in a small home and have limited Wi-Fi devices to connect, the DIR-890 might be excessive, but at least you won’t be disappointed with its performance. In fact, you’ll probably be thrilled.
It’s bigger than most routers at roughly 15x10x5 inches, and with 6 antennae, it might take up some room. The antennae are not detachable so they can’t be upgraded to improve range. But since they do use Beamforming, you shouldn’t need to, not for the average home network.
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6. NETGEAR Nighthawk X6
The R8000 surpasses the excellent R7000 in many ways, such as a more innovative design and greater bandwidth. It looks meaner, larger, and in black its bug-shape seems more aggressive and robust. At the time of publishing, the Nighthawk X6 AC3200 is one of the best wi-fi router online.
But it’s actually more compact since it now has fold-down antennae. These antennae swivel and are retractable, allowing you to position all 6 as needed to maximize signals.
Functionally, it’s similar to its predecessor with 4 Gigabit LAN ports, a 1 Gigabit WAN port, and the expected pair of USB ports at the back. In a vertical stripe across the center top is an array of indicator lights- the R8000 actually has a little switch so you can turn them off if they become a distraction. It also has good ventilation and runs cool.
The R8000 comes with default Wi-Fi settings out of the box. These allow you to plug it in and go to work in moments without specific configuration. If you accept these settings, you’ll have no problems. But at some point you’re going to want to change them, at least for security reasons. You can connect to a simple Web-based UI that lays everything out in a simple, easy-to-follow format.
However, the R8000 has limited Wi-Fi settings. You can make them operate only up to specific limits, although you would naturally pick the highest setting. What’s more, there’s no more Auto mode, so you have to pick the channel for each access point. There are only 4 channels available for each band, which is probably to ensure they don’t interfere with each other. While there is no doubt logic to it, it does complicate things.
The R8000 is a little faster than the R7000 at close range, but actually slower if you get far enough away, indicating some signal loss. But it’s much better as a NAS server, even rivaling the read/write speeds of machines designed for the task. The X6 hardware includes a dual-core 1GHz processor with three offload processors, 256MB of RAM, and 128MB of flash memory. So while it’s not the fastest router out there, it’s plenty fast enough, considering the real point of a tri-band is to handle many different devices- which the X6 does well.
It’s still a fast router, and it handles so many devices so well that if you really have a complex or legacy-laden Wi-Fi network, the X6 will take it all in stride.
- Robust hardware
- High Wi-Fi data rates on the 5Ghz band
- Strong performance as a NAS
- Simple setup
- No heating problems
- Could use some better configuration UIs
7. ASUS RT-AC3200
The Asus RT-AC3200 is a solid performer with excellent hardware. It comes with some helpful features, good security, and acts admirably as a VPN or NAS server. It measures up well against tri-band routers from Netgear and Linksys, proving that it’s a fine choice for homes with heavy Wi-Fi needs.
But the RT-AC3200 has a few features that set it apart. Among these are Asus’ robust Web UI that looks and feels somewhat like a video game, making it almost fun to configure a router. It can handle multiple Internet connections at the same time and has built-in VPN features along with good monitoring tools, which make it suitable for small business.
The RT-AC3200 doesn’t disappoint. It’s big, with 6 detachable antennae, but has the usual complement of 4 Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port on the back panel. The USB 3.0 port is on the front while the 2.0 stays in back.
The RT-AC3200 involves the same easy setup you expect of Asus routers. Just plug in the router and point a Web browser at the router’s default IP address to bring up a UI with an easy-to-follow installation wizard. At the end you need to create passwords for both the UI and your Wi-Fi networks. Smart Connect is on by default and will combine all three bands into one network. You will have to manually change these into three separate networks if desired.
You can go back to the Web UI to alter settings, customize features, or manage router operation. The UI is well-organized, including a network map that lets you interact with your devices in real time. You can also customize the router from the same map, including DNS, Wi-Fi settings, Internet, etc. Everything should be intuitive and/or clearly explained. It includes a new Adaptive Qos, alongside a Traditional QoS to define your own rules.
The RT-AC3200 has data rates better than average, but it’s real strength comes from it’s ability to handle multiple high-bandwidth clients at the same time for hours without a hiccup. Since this is what it’s meant to do, it performs extremely well. It also has an effective range of around 200 feet, which is excellent.
If you really need to handle many data clients, and are ready to explore the RT-AC3200’s feature-rich UI, than this router will be a great investment.
- High storage throughput
- Good range
- More bandwidth monitoring features
- OpenVPN and PPTP server capability
- Reliable signal
- Poor documentation included
8. Linksys EA6900 AC1900
The Linksys EA6900 offers fast Wi-Fi speed from powerful hardware. Designed for smaller networks, it’s very fast at close range on the 5GHz band, and has even better range and speed at the 2.4GHz band. The upgraded chipset features a dual-core 800MHz processor. It also uses the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Web site for easy setup and management, along with a mobile app.
The new chipset is the Broadcom BCM4708A chipset that boasts the TurboQAM technology for the maximum 600Mbps. Each of the antennae includes a PCB circuit to enhance the Beamforming, while Linksys is launching its own firmware to support the Smart WiFi Cloud platform allowing uses to manage the router over any Internet-connected device.
The Linksys EA6900 it has a high-tech look in a compact, glossy design. Previous EA models relied on internal antenna, but the EA6900 has three detachable antennae on the back of the unit. It’s meant to lie flat at hardly more than one-and-a-half inches, but is also easily wall-mounted. It has just one status light – in the form of the white LED Linksys logo that blinks while booting or running WPS.
Setting up the EA6900 is just as easy as previous EA models. The router coms present with Wi-Fi networks and password ready, which is printed on the bottom of the router. By default there’s a separate network for the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, but each using the same name and password. All you have to do is power up the router and connect it’s WAN port to the Internet, and follow the Website setup procedures.
You can manage and customize settings through the same interface by connecting via browser to linksyssmartwifi.com or the default IP address (192.168.1.1). Creating a Smart WiFi account is optional, but if you do you simply add the router here to access its features. Once your account is set up you can manage your router from any Web-connected device. Alternately, you could get one of several mobile apps from Linksys. All in all, the website is intuitively structured and responds quickly.
TurboQAM appeared in only a few routers prior to the EA6900, and supports top performance by allowing each stream to deliver 200Mbps. Speed-wise, it’s probably the fastest router Linksys (Belkin) has offered yet. While performance is consistently good, one consequence of this is that it does tend to run hot, even without heavy traffic.
It is a very fast little router with some excellent management features, but it does get very warm to the touch.
* Superb wireless performance
* Pleasing design
* Easy Web setup
* Excellent UI
* Runs hot
9. D-Link Wireless AC1900 (DIR-880L)
The DIR-880L has excellent data rates, signal stability, and a healthy range. The router is managed remotely using D-Link’s cloud features. It’s one D-Link’s best routers for home use. An updated and cleaner Web UI may pose a learning experience even for those who’ve worked with D-Link routers before.
The 880L has foregone the cylindrical look of past D-Link routers for a squarish, tapered form with an array of LED status lights on the front. There are three detachable antennae on the rear, which tend to get in the way since almost all the ports are on the back. It is fairly compact and flat, and can also be wall-mounted.
Those ports are the 4 Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, and power port, along with the power and reset buttons. The USB 2.0 printer port is also there, but the USB 3.0 for storage devices they decided to put on the left side by itself.
The DIR-880L comes with a pre-configured Wi-Fi network ready to go right out of the box, with all the connection details on an attached label. As with other models, all you have to do is connect and power up the router, run your Internet to the WAN port, and you’re ready to go. It comes with the D-Link cloud feature enabling access to the MyDlink portal where you can create an account and add your router. This is all part of the setup routine, but you can return anytime to manage your router, or by using the myDlink Lite mobile app. There are other compatible mobile apps, but ‘Lite’ is the latest.
You can reach the Web UI to make changes and access other features by pointing your browser to the default IP address. The first time you use it you’ll be asked to create a login password for your account. The layout of the new interface is quite different. It now has 4 buttons labeled Home, Settings, Features, and Management. Mousing over the Home button brings up an interactive network map. Mouse-over with the other three buttons brings up drop-down menus for accessing other features and settings. This more organized and simpler for those new to D-Link.
The DIR-880L is a powerful router. It works well with most if not all WiFi clients on the market. It also comes with the useful features you want in today’s routers, such as IPv6, QoS, port forwarding, Web-filtering, and more.
Top-notch performance and an improved UI make it one of the best routers available.
* Powerful wireless performance
* Great value compared to some similar models
* Smart design, even with the rear antennas
* Simple setup and upgraded UI
* The mobile apps, unfortunately, are not free.
10. TP-LINK N300
The TL-WR841N Wireless N Router is perhaps the most cost-effective router on the market that will still deliver good wireless performance. As the cheapest model you aren’t getting the full-featured, powerhouse performance of a top-end router. This is a basic connectivity device for small, simple networks. That being said, it works fine.
In fact, it’s a great bargain. It does have short range, suitable perhaps for a home office or apartment, but within that range it provides a strong, consistent Wi-Fi signal. If you’re just looking to share Internet among several devices, without the need for massive throughput, this is the right router.
It’s small at about 5x8x1 inches so you don’t have to worry about taking up space on your desk. It has a flat profile with two detachable antenna at the rear. On the top front are the small LED status lights. Surprisingly, this tiny device comes with 4 LAN ports supporting Fast Ethernet, which is admittedly quite slow these days.
Like many of the other routers on this list, the TL-WR841N will work right out of the box if you just connect the WAN port to your Internet source. It comes with a Wi-Fi network preset; the network name and password are printed on the bottom of the router.
Like the more powerful models, all you have to do is point your browser to the default address to access a Web interface for changing settings. There’s a user-friendly Installation Guide included with the router just in case. While the Web UI is simple and responsive, changing any device settings will require manually entering its MAC address. The router can display a list of connected devices, but they are all identified by IP or MAC addresses, not names. Unless you have a good memory, it can be easy to forget which is which after awhile.
Understand that this device is not going to be super fast, but it does work pretty consistently even in high-interference environments, depending on range. Up close (15 feet or less) you can expect speeds of close to 100Mbps, but as you go farther away it drops, until at around 75 feet you’re looking at half the throughput. At the closer range, however, the signal is very stable even over hours of busy use. And if your Internet connection isn’t particularly fast, you might not even notice the limitations of the TL-WR841N.
The TL-WR841N is a nice little router that’s easy to set up and provides consistent WiFi at close range for basic, small networks.
* Very light weight and compact
* Easy to install
* Reliable Wi-Fi signal
* The most affordable router you’ll find
* Decent set of features
* Slow outside its limited range
Getting the best wireless router for your network needs is never easy, as there is such a wide variety of routers out there, and new WiFi client devices are constantly appearing. But this list should give you a good sampling of what kind of routers are out there and what they can do.
Each router review on the list is based on the responses of other consumers, and these 10 are some of the most popular and highly rated. Especially if you’re new to Wi-Fi networks, they are a good start in router shopping.
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- 1 Quick Picks: 5 Best Wireless Routers
- 2 How to improve your existing router? (Must See!)
- 3 Wi-fi Routers Buyers’ Guide
- 4 WiFi router FAQs
- 5 1. Netgear AC5300 – Best Wireless Router for 2016
- 6 2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 – Best Wifi Router Under $200
- 7 3. ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-AC3100 – Best Wireless Router Under $300.
- 8 4. ASUS RT-AC5300 Wireless AC5300 – Best Wifi Router Under $500
- 9 5. D-Link AC3200 (Best Long Range Router)
- 10 The Competition: Alternative Best Wifi Routers to Consider.
- 11 Conclusion