With the gaggle of connected home appliances, smart TVs, smartphones, and other mobile devices that dominate our lives, it’s more important than ever to outfit your home or business with a wireless router which can manage the increased demand for the Wi-Fi connectivity. While selecting a new router, consider the size of your coverage area and the number of users, as well as the types of devices that connect to the router. Not everybody wants the kind of value you get with the latest and most excellent models, and there’s no need to pay for features you’re never going to use.
Although you could be using the cellular network on your phone to connect to the outside world while you’re on the go, your Wi-Fi network is probably the backbone of your digital life when you’re at home. As such, making sure you find a Wi-Fi router that meets or exceeds your standards is pretty important — and one that will last for at least a few years before it needs replacement.
Not sure what a router does, either? To the uninitiated, the Wi-Fi router is simply the system that turns the wired internet link from your modem into a wireless one — which you can use to access the internet from any Wi-Fi-enabled computer.
But if you have several family members vying for the bandwidth for items like watching Netflix video and playing online Computer games, a new router will make a difference in the world and help keep the peace. We direct you by choosing a router that can handle your current and future needs for wireless networking, and give our top picks to get you started.
Radio Bands, You Must Know About
Any router worth it’s salt nowadays should be providing at least two radio bands, a 2.4GHz band, and a 5GHz band. The 2.4GHz band operates at a lower frequency than the 5GHz band and offers a more excellent range as it can penetrate walls and other structures more effectively. Yet the fat pipe and high-speed connectivity you get with the 5GHz band isn’t provided.
The 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band also has to compete with other home-based devices that use the same frequency, such as microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, and wireless telephones. As said, it is ideally suited for activities such as Web browsing and connecting to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If one or more of your users are streaming content from a service like Netflix, or connecting to an online gaming service like Xbox Live, the less crowded 5GHz band offers substantially higher throughput with limited signal interference. Most dual-band routers allow you to allocate a band to different applications and clients, making loading on both bands easier.
If you have a busy network of multiple clients competing for bandwidth, then the way to go is a tri-band router. For load balancing, they use three radios — one that operates at 2,4GHz and two that operate at 5GHz. For instance, you can devote one of the 5GHz bands to handle tasks such as video streaming and torrent downloading, and reserve the other 5GHz band for online gaming, leaving the 2.4GHz band open for applications that don’t require a ton of bandwidth. If you’ve got a house full of gamers, we’ve got a broad list of best routers.
Wireless Protocols | Everything You Must Know!
Wireless Ethernet networks transmit and receive data using 802.11 protocols. The most commonly used Wi-Fi protocol, 802.11ac, allows up to 5,400Mbps maximum (theoretical) data speeds and operates on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It utilizes Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology, which sends and receives up to eight spatial streams using multiple antennas, resulting in improved performance. It also supports beamforming, a system that delivers Wi-Fi signals explicitly to a customer instead of transmitting in all directions, and automatic band steering that enables the router to pick the most active radio band based on network traffic, band availability, and range.
The 802.11ac protocol also provides downstream Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology, which is designed to give multiple devices bandwidth at the same time rather than sequentially. That means up to four clients can have their data sources, rather than waiting to receive data from the router in turn. For MU-MIMO to operate, MU-MIMO Wi-Fi circuitry must be in the router and the client computers. MU-MIMO routers are commonly available, but consumer products were slow to catch on and are still reasonably rare.
You can see 802.11ac routers with such labels as AC1200, AC1750, AC3200, etc. It denotes the router’s theoretical maximum speed. For example, an AC1750 router is called a router which can reach a maximum link rate of 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1.300Mbps on the 5GHz band. A tri-band AC3200 router offers you 600Mbps over the 2.4GHz band and 1.300Mbps on each of the two 5GHz bands, and an AC5400 router is capable of speeds up to 1Gbps on the 2.4GHz band as well as 2.1Gbps on each of the two 5GHz bands.
It’s important to remember that routers seldom, if ever, hit such “full speeds” in real-world applications but find one of the high-speed routers (but be prepared to pay a premium if you’re looking for performance).
The newest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6 or High Efficiency (HE) Wireless, is an enhancement of 802.11ac technology promising faster transmission rates (up to 4.8Gbps), lower network latency, higher user efficiency, and better range coverage, thanks to many new and enhanced wireless technologies including the Orthogonal Frequency Multiple Access Division (OFDMA) and Tar OFDMA increases maximum throughput by splitting Wi-Fi channels into sub-channels allowing up to 30 users to share a channel simultaneously.
Target Wake Time (TWT) is designed to minimize power consumption by allowing devices to decide when and how often they must wake up to start transmitting and receiving data. TWT tech is expected to extend the battery life of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as smart home devices powered by batteries such as surveillance cameras and video doorbells.
802.11ax uses a previously unused radio frequency to give a faster 2.4GHz performance. It also utilises an improved uplink as well as downlink bandwidth control to give an improved QoS (Quality of Service). It also provides MU-MIMO streaming via uplink and downlink (802.11ac only supports MU-MIMO downlink). While a handful of 802.11ax routers are now available, it is not expected that client devices will reach the market until this year. As with the 802.11ac standard, 802.11ax is backward compatible and can work with devices that use Wi-Fi radios 802.11a / b / g / n / ac
Features Of Wireless Routers
Wireless routers come with a range of features, and the more options you get, the more you can expect to pay, as is the case with just about anything. Look for a router with at least four 10/100/1000 (gigabit) Ethernet ports to connect to wired devices such as desktop PCs, Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives, and hubs for home automation. For massive file transfers, look for a router that supports link aggregation, if you need faster throughput. Simply put, the link aggregation uses two gigabit Ethernet LAN ports to provide improved (up to 2Gbps) throughput. It also ensures fail-safe when one LAN link goes down and can be used to load your network traffic balance.
Having at least one USB port makes it easy to plug in and share a printer or USB drive over the network, but you can do both with two ports. Also, try selecting a router that offers removable antennas. Some router manufacturers offer high-gain replacement antennas, which will help boost performance, and a range of third-party antennas are available. Just make sure that your router supports whatever antennas you buy, or you’re likely to wind up with lower performance.
Different Types Of Wireless Routers | Find The Best Wireless Router
The first step to buying a Wi-Fi router for home is to find out which form of the router is right for you. There are several main router models to consider. Namely, you’ll want to think about the number of bands you want from your router — and if you wish to accept mesh networking from your router. Here’s a rundown of the various forms and their variations.
Single Band Routers
Wireless Wi-Fi routers communicate via radio frequencies to things like your phone — and different routers can communicate over one or more of those frequencies. As the name suggests, when it comes to single-band routers, you’re limited to one frequency band — 2.4GHz.
For a variety of different conditions, the 2.4GHz frequency band is outstanding. For example, the penetration through walls and floors is higher than some other frequency bands. Also nearly, all devices are compliant with the 2.4GHz band. However, those advantages shouldn’t automatically stop you from purchasing a dual-band router — dual-band routers also support the 2.4GHz frequency band.
Dual-Band Wireless Routers
Although single-band routers stick to the 2.4GHz frequency band, dual-band routers incorporate another frequency band — 5GHz — to step it up. All it means is that, depending on what you are doing and whether or not the system you are using supports 5GHz communication, you will be able to connect to your router either at 2.4GHz or 5GHz.
The use of a dual-band router with 5GHz connectivity has some pretty significant advantages, mainly if you live in a densely populated area. For example, 5GHz links have much less intrusion, both because they are much less used than 2.4GHz and because 5GHz is not as able to penetrate walls and furniture.
It will be easy to believe that tri-band routers add another frequency band to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands — but instead of adding a separate frequency band, tri-band routers add a second 5GHz band.
There’s one huge downside of this — and that’s to reduce congestion and interference even further on the Wi-Fi networks. For an additional traffic lane, congestion in that lane is significantly reduced, making it much more likely that at any given moment, you will be able to hit higher speeds. It might sound like this adds a lot of difficulty in using a Wi-Fi router, but most tri-band routers sort devices between the various networks automatically, so you don’t have to think about doing that.
How Wireless Routers Are Tested?
If you want to monitor how your Wi-Fi network is being used, make sure your next router has parental controls, choices for quality of service (QoS), and a mode for guest networks. Parental controls allow you to limit network access to particular times and days for other users. They are perfect for parents who want to keep track of online gaming and social networking activities for their children.
Some routers offer simple parental controls, such as access scheduling and website blocking options. In contrast, others offer more comprehensive controls that allow you the ability to pause the internet and pick age-appropriate settings that will automatically block access to social media networks and sites containing items like adult content, gambling, shopping, blogging, games, and more.
A network of guests allows you to give guests Wi-Fi access without leaving the entire network vulnerable. In short, you are creating a separate network for guests with a Service Set Identifier (SSID) and password that varies from your main credentials on the network. It allows your visitors to connect to the Internet but does not give them access to your files, printers, and other devices that are linked.
With the QoS settings, you can determine which applications and clients are given priority over the network. For example, if one device streams Netflix video, and another device downloads files, or runs a print job, the streaming device can be given priority to avoid choppy, out-of-sync video. The same applies to online gaming; assigning to a gaming console such as the Microsoft Xbox One S or the Sony PS4 Pro a high QoS priority would help reduce lag time and improve overall gameplay.
Nearly all the routers offer various types of protection. A Secure Wi-Fi Setup (WPS) router lets you press a button to connect compatible devices. To compare it to your network, simply press the WPS button on the router and then press the WPS button on the client computer. You can use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) for a more secure connection, which requires entering a network password for each device. WPA-Enterprise security routers provide a higher degree of protection than WPA / WPA2 but need a Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) server for each client to authenticate.
The technology currently used to allocate IP addresses, defined as version 4 of the Internet Protocol (IPv4), will eventually be replaced by its replacement, IPv6. IPv4 is a 32-bit addressing scheme that runs out of addresses early due to the number of devices connecting to the internet. IPv6 is a 128-bit scheme providing (nearly) an infinite number of IP addresses. Most current routers have built-in IPv6 addressing support, but if you want to be ready for the switch when IPv4 eventually hits the wall, it’s a good idea to test this.
Price Of Wireless Routers
Router pricing is based on efficiency and functionality like everything else. An AC1750 802.11ac entry-level router will cost between $60 and $100 anywhere, but if you want an AC2400 router with MU-MIMO streaming capabilities, expect the price to fall within the $100 to $200 range. A tri-band AC5400 gaming router with all the bells and whistles could cost as much as $500, while the latest 802.11ax routers are in the price range of $300 to $500 depending on data rates and functions.
If you live in a large or multi-story house, you might have “dead zones” of Wi-Fi. These are parts in your house where your main router can not reach a wireless signal. A simple way to fix this, without the hassle of running long cords around your home, is a wireless range extender that will pick up, amplify, and rebroadcast the Wi-Fi signal from your router. They come in variants of both the desktop and plug-in and are relatively easy to install.
However, they also have limitations: The retransmitted signal is usually half the strength of what you get from your main router, and most of them build a separate network that makes it challenging to travel smoothly around your house. Some router manufacturers, however, are now making extenders that will use the same SSID and password network as your current router. However, there is a catch: Typically, the router must be manufactured by the same supplier as the extender and must enable seamless roaming capabilities.
WIFI Mesh Network System
Consider overhauling the network with a Wi-Fi mesh system if a range extender doesn’t do the trick. This technology offers a simple way to fill your home’s wireless dead zones without the need for extra wiring, range extenders, or access points. They use extension nodes, or satellites, to spread the Wi-Fi signal over a higher region than most routers can.
Systems like Google Wifi and the Linksys Velop use mesh technology where satellites connect to provide coverage around your home. In contrast, others, such as the Netgear Orbi High-Performance AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System (RBK50), use a dedicated Wi-Fi band to connect with your satellite. You can spread a stable Internet connection over as much as 4,000 to 6,000 square feet of space, depending on the number of nodes in the network you chose.
Satellites in a Wi-Fi mesh system are all part of the same network and provide seamless access as you wander around the building, and typically do not need any setup or maintenance beyond just a few taps on a free mobile app. A variety of solutions in this category support high-end features such as guest networking, device prioritization, parental control, and MU-MIMO. Still, because Wi-Fi mesh systems are built to be easy, in most cases, you won’t be able to access the same kind of in-depth settings on routers as you can.
For that reason, power users and compulsive tinkerers may not love Wi-Fi mesh systems. Still, these are among the most friendly and creative solutions you can find today for those else who considers network setup daunting.
How To Decide Which Is The Best Wireless Router? How Does A Wireless Router Work?
Based on our in-depth review, thanks to its excellent performance and comprehensive feature set, the TP-Link Archer C2300 is the best overall Wi-Fi router. It’s one of the most powerful routers you can buy, and it’s a very affordable price.
You need coverage for larger homes that reaches further and extends as required to multiple floors, and that requires a mesh router. The Nest WiFi is the best mesh Wi-Fi system you can buy in our research and evaluation. It provides an excellent output that covers a whole house in sound and features an intuitive voice-activated Google Home smart speaker built-in.
The moderately priced TP-Link Archer A7 delivers reliable performance and range for a less costly option, without skimping on features such as parental controls.
We love the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400) for a router that delivers excellent Wi-Fi but also protects a whole house full of connected devices. The Netgear Nighthawk RS400 comes with three years of Bitdefender Total Protection security support, keeping the entire family secure while still being easy to handle.
If it comes to gaming, you want a router that helps you to stage, and we have two favorites for that. The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a powerful Wi-Fi 6 router offering a more extended range, lower latency, and tools to improve network performance every time you play. And with the improved pace and Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, you’ll be ahead of the curve for years to come.
We love the TP-Link Archer C5400X too, which is our very favorite gaming router. It may not have the cutting edge Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, but this 802.11AC tri-band router will still be the cornerstone for increased Wi-Fi speed and coverage in many homes.
And if the configuration is more interesting for you, we like the Linksys EA8300 Max-Stream, which allows you to customize your router with software to assign bandwidth, automate features, set up parental controls and more for optimal efficiency. It’s a decent router on its own, but for power users, it’s the best router available.
Best Wireless Wifi Routers To Shop For In 2020
The best Wi-Fi routers are doing more than just giving you wireless access at home. They offer you high speed, the coverage that fills up your home, and apps that make it easy to control your home network. We’ve been reviewing hundreds of routers for over 60 hours to help you bypass the confusion and find the best Wi-Fi solution for your home.
Many internet users would opt for the combined modem and router gateways provided by internet service providers, never knowing that they will be able to lower their monthly bills and get improved Wi-Fi in their home by buying a router.
TP-Link Archer C2300: Best Wifi Router
The TP-Link Archer C2300 has a disappointingly mild build, but don’t be fooled-it’s one of the most powerful routers you can purchase. It is the reigning performance champ, pumping out almost a gigabyte of data per second in our regular performance tests, and comfortably blasting through walls and ceilings. The Archer C2300 is not only the fastest router we’ve seen, but it’s also thin, unobtrusive, and full of high-end features.
The Archer C2300 comes with built-in optimization software, such as antivirus, QoS, and parental controls commonly found on more costly rivals. It’s under half of what equally performing competitors pay at $120 and is backed by a two-year warranty.
NEST Wifi: Best Wireless Wifi Router
There are many mesh Wi-Fi solutions on the market, and while they can all cover your home in wireless signals, the Nest WiFi has to be our pick. The Nest WiFi, built by Google, is small enough to hide out of sight and sufficiently fashionable you won’t need to. But for the compact mesh units, the real draw is more than just excellent efficiency. The mesh extension of the Nest WiFi system features a built-in Google Home smart speaker, giving you one of the house’s best voice assistants, along with the powerful wireless signal.
The quick Nest WiFi also offers one of the most straightforward setup processes we’ve ever used, making it a breeze for installing extensions across the home. It is the best wifi router as the wifi router price is economical and affordable.
Archer: Best Wireless Router
For those on a budget, the TP-Link Archer A7 is the best Wi-Fi router, offering excellent 802.11ac performance and a decent range of features for less than most competitive routers. The Archer A7 has excellent price efficiency – moving out more data than any of the comparably priced routers that we’ve reviewed – and features four Gigabit LAN ports and a networking device USB 2.0 port.
Besides reliable performance and features, the Archer A7 also features a straightforward configuration process and use parental controls, with an app that allows you to track and manage network use from anywhere. It may not be filled with configuration tools, but it does have parental control and service quality.
Netgear Night Hawk Wireless Router
It may be priced as a high-performance or gaming router, but the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400) delivers cybersecurity in another (and perhaps more critical) region. The RS400 may provide dependable performance and ample range to cover most homes. Still, the real value is protection, with a fistful of Netgear and Bitdefender security features, including three years of Bitdefender Total Protection Software support.
The RS400 is designed to secure all of your connected homes, from your computers and phones to a variety of smart appliances, from TVs to ovens, thermostats, and doorbell cameras. You have to be more careful, with so many apps on today’s home network.
Asus Rapture: Hasslefree Wireless Router Setup
The first router we’ve reviewed featuring the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, is a delight for gamers, with the speed that increases over a more extended range, low latency and all the features that gamers anticipate. Add it all up, and now most other gaming routers are in second place.
The GT-AX11000 is vast, with a broad base, eight swiveling antennas, and a maximum throughput mass of 10.8Gbps. Due to its triband design and four downstream Gigabit LAN ports, a single 2.5 G Base T Ethernet link, and two USB 3.0 ports, this router has connectivity in droves. Built-in configuration and gaming-oriented optimization, it provides plenty of flexibility, and you can even combine it with others.
How To Choose The Best Router For You?
It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of networking jargon and vague technology requirements when it comes to selecting the right Wi-Fi router. But all you need to know about it is how to answer two key questions: What speed do you need to connect to the Internet? And what kind of coverage are you in need of at home?
In general, the internet speed you need for your router will be determined by the speed you receive from your internet service provider and what speed your modem supports. A regular 802.11AC router can manage all but the most spectacular plans available for most people, such as Gigabit internet plans, which are only available in selected cities. With average broadband speeds sitting about 100 Mbps to the right, most wireless AC routers can handle the job with ease.
Perhaps you’ve seen information for several routers on the latest norm, Wi-Fi 6. Newer Wi-Fi 6 routers are available, but there are still few and far between Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices, such as laptops and telephones. If you’re using a dozen apps at once, at this point, you probably won’t see any gain from Wi-Fi 6. See our article Wi-Fi 6: What’s it, and why knowing more is more comfortable.
The other aspect of the Wireless equation in the field of coverage. In general, a simple standalone router can deliver between 50 and 100 feet of coverage, ably covering most apartments and small homes. Nonetheless, if you have a house of 3,000 square feet or more, you’ll want to find a mesh router that uses multiple devices to provide Wi-Fi signal through a more extensive household. In multi-story buildings or homes with dead spots where the Wi-Fi signal falls out, these are particularly helpful.
Hope this article will help you in choosing the best wireless router.