Best Wireless Routers for 2018

The research

Shopping guide for best wireless routers
The Synology RTac is typically a bit more expensive than the RP but performs almost identically—you should buy it if our main pick is out of stock, or if the RTac is available at a lower price. For that reason, power users and compulsive tinkerers might not love Wi-Fi mesh systems, but for everyone else who finds network setup intimidating, these are among the friendliest and most innovative options you can find today. This can prevent shortages. Just note, those LED indicator status lights can be a bit pesky, especially in a dark room. The routers on this list are all at the head of their game in these arenas, and consistently offer top-of-the-line performance alongside a fair price and a plethora of extras that users can utilize to perfectly customize their own wireless networking experience at home or their office space.

A note on frequency bands and network standards

Best Wireless Router 2018

If you have too many neighboring networks interfering, 2. Supposedly, you can block websites by domain name or keyword, but in practice the feature works only with non-HTTPS sites, which means almost no modern sites. The Nighthawk series also claims to offer more general category-based filtering, which really amounts to nothing more than a link to OpenDNS, where you can set up an account. Trying to manage what little integration exists between the OpenDNS account and your router is an exercise in pain and frustration, and brighter kids let alone determined adults will easily find ways around it anyway.

The Synology RTac is a full-featured, very configurable router with good range and coverage. If our main pick is unavailable—or if you find a better deal on the RTac—this model is the one to buy.

It was configured out of the box to steer devices to 2. Changing that threshold from dBM to dBM in the settings made our long-range laptop immediately connect at 2. It should have decent coverage, though, and it should be reliable. This describes the Archer A7 to a tee. The A7 was also at least usable even with everything crammed onto the 5 GHz radio.

When we took the time to set up two different network names and split our devices up between them manually, the A7 performed nearly as well as our main picks for about half the cost. Like almost every Wi-Fi router available today, the Archer A7 sports a black plastic case with wiggly antennas, one Gigabit Ethernet port for your Internet connection and four more for local devices, and a USB port.

We also recommend you step up to one of our main picks if you want to use a VPN connection; the Archer A7 offers one, but its weak processor will make that connection frustratingly slow. After we ran our full set of tests on all the routers in the group, a few things stood out—such as the importance of managing which band your devices connect on.

Run too many things on the same radio, or try to connect a long-range device to 5 GHz instead of 2. Running our test suite with all devices manually assigned to the most appropriate radios, we saw little difference between most of the routers we tested:. Latency measures how long it takes your inputs to reach the other end of the connection—the time between your clicking a link and the page loading. Things got a lot different when we ran the same tests the way most people use their wireless devices in the real world: The difference was dramatic: What this graph shows is how many milliseconds it took to simulate loading a Web page during our hard-mode tests.

On the left side of the graph is the 50th-percentile result—the result in the middle of the range. Then we took a sample at the 75th, 90th, 95th, and th percentile—the last being the worst results we got out of each device. Keep in mind that while the laptop in this test was loading Web pages, three others were simulating downloading a big file, streaming 4K video, and making a VoIP phone call—this was a busy little network, at a busy time. These are both very capable routers that did a consistently good job in our testing, leaving us little to choose between based on performance alone.

The Netgear RP and Synology RTac both provided a pretty smooth experience up until the 95th percentile, where things got a little wonky. This is a pretty good indicator of what living with either model is like in real life: One of every 20 or so page loads will be noticeably slower than average. Moving on to the budget category, things get a little more interesting. Although the Rv2 looks slightly better than the Archer A7 in this graph, it was much more difficult to work with.

When we looked at our routers in easy mode—where we configured one SSID for the 2. This reflects the inconsistent performance and dropped connections we experienced with those other budget routers we tested. There are still definite differences between routers themselves, though. I find that the best way to assess range is the old-fashioned way: The test point in the bedroom was 43 feet away from the router, passing through four interior walls and some miscellaneous cabinetry at an oblique angle along the way.

In the chart above, you can see how much harder it was for us to deliver a long-range signal to the bedroom on 5 GHz instead of 2. This is a feature as much as it is a bug—shorter range means less congestion from neighboring networks. But if you have the kind of congestion issues we described above, you should limit yourself to one of the routers at the top of the graph, a position that indicates excellent long-range performance at 5 GHz specifically.

An extra 5 GHz band is nice to have even when you can use all three bands—but if you own a lot of devices and 2. Also known as WiGig, a new protocol dubbed The recommended usage is same-room-only, with a clear line of sight—making such models almost completely irrelevant to the way we use Wi-Fi today. The cost is also pretty eye-watering: And absent a dongle or a dock or two, few client devices have WiGig.

A new feature called OFDMA will allow central scheduling of client-device transmissions, which should greatly ease congestion within busy networks. This should be a big, big win for people struggling in crowded apartment complexes and dorm environments.

This means mainstream The TP-Link Archer C7 was our main pick for several years due to a combination of an extremely low price, a long range, and high throughput.

Our new budget pick, the Archer A7, is the continuation of the C7 line under a new name. The Asus RT-AC is a tri-band router at a flagship dual-band router price, with great range and coverage, and really good device- and traffic-analysis capabilities in its UI.

Unfortunately, its band steering was broken when we first tested it, and is still broken; it claims to steer across all three bands, but in our testing it never once connected a device on 2.

The C also had lackluster long-range 5 GHz performance in our tests. Apple officially discontinued the AirPort Extreme in spring The Amped Wireless Titan is attractively priced and offers really good short-range 5 GHz performance. However, in our tests its longer-range 5 GHz performance was quite poor, and its 2. If you have a really small apartment and you live alone, the Titan might win you over—its short-range 5 GHz performance really was great in our tests.

The problem is, those two radios sit about an inch and a half away from each other in the same small plastic box. In practice, this meant that all our devices got crammed onto the first 5 GHz radio as though the router had no band steering at all.

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR is an AC dual-band router that offers a gamer-friendly management interface and solid close-range throughput performance. The TP-Link Archer C may not be quite as fast as some of its competitors, but it's packed with customization and safety features. Finding the Right Router With the gaggle of connected home products, smart TVs , smartphones , and other mobile devices ruling our lives, it's more important than ever to outfit your home or business with a wireless router that can handle the increased demand for Wi-Fi connectivity.

When choosing a new router, you should consider the size of your coverage area and the number of clients, as well as the types of devices that will connect to the router. Granted, not everybody needs the kind of performance that you get with the latest and greatest models, and there's no reason to pay for features that you will likely never use, but if you have several family members vying for bandwidth for things like streaming video and playing Overwatch online, a new router can make a world of difference and help keep the peace.

We guide you through choosing a router that will handle your current and future wireless networking needs, and offer our top picks to get you started. Not all routers are created equal. Some models can only communicate over a single radio band, while others can use two.

Single-band routers operate on the 2. That said, they are perfectly adequate for things like Web surfing and connecting to social media services like Facebook and Twitter.

If one or more of your devices will be streaming video from a service such as Netflix, or connecting to an online gaming service such as Xbox Live, consider a dual-band router. These have two radios; one connects to the 2. The 5GHz band is typically less crowded than the 2. Dual-band routers allow you to assign a band to specific applications and clients, thereby easing the load on both bands. Then there are tri-band routers. These have three radios—one that operates at 2.

These models are a good fit for multi-device households that experience heavy network traffic via lots of video streaming, torrent downloading, file transfers, and online gaming. Wireless Ethernet networks use Devices that use the older The most widely used Wi-Fi protocol, It utilizes Multiple Input Multiple Output MIMO technology, which uses several antennas to send and receive up to four spatial streams, resulting in enhanced performance. Most of today's laptops, smartphones, and connected home devices use But if you're using your network to share large files and have several smart TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices, and media streaming devices connecting wirelessly, a more powerful router that offers the latest Wi-Fi technology may be in order.

The newest class of Wi-Fi routers use That means up to four clients can have their own data streams instead of waiting in turn to receive data from the router. This designates the theoretical maximum speed of the router. For example, a router that can achieve a maximum link rate of Mbps on the 2. A tri-band AC router gives you Mbps over the 2. It's important to note that routers rarely, if ever, reach these "maximum speeds" in real-world applications, but if you're looking for performance, consider one of the high-speed routers but be prepared to pay a premium.

Wireless routers come with a variety of features, and as is the case with just about everything, the more features you get, the more you can expect to pay. Having at least one USB port makes it easy to plug in a printer or a USB drive and share it across the network, but with two ports you can do both. Additionally, try to choose a router that offers removable antennas. If you want to manage how your Wi-Fi network is being used, make sure your next router has parental controls, Quality of Service QoS options, and a guest-network feature.

Dashboards like the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi system continue to set the gold standard for how to create a piece of software that feels like it was made for actual people, not just those who had read the Wireless Routers for Dummies handbook. Every feature is clearly laid out and explained in a way that makes sense to the layman.

When it comes to speed, all routers on this list are equipped with a minimum spec of AC, which means they have a theoretical max output of simultaneous dual-band signals up to Mbps 2.

As explained in my HowToGeek article on the subject, MU-MIMO is a style of beamforming technology which evenly distributes traffic to all members of the household simultaneously, instead of one at a time. Outliers like the AmpliFi HD take router design to the next level, though we suspect it could be a number of years before more the traditional router makers go the same route.

The other, 5GHz, is made to achieve the highest-speed signal possible, usually at the expense of the amount of range you can maintain from the wireless base station. This refers to the way a router prioritizes which devices get their data first, either doling it out sequentially to up to four devices in older standards, or in the case of When it comes to achieving the best wireless routers range, both the type of channel you settle on 2.

This in mind, the size of the antenna on the back of the device can also play a huge part in what kind of distance or power you can achieve with any given model.

The larger the antenna, the longer the signal will transmit before eventually petering out. This is where the backend restriction controls come in. All of the routers on this list come with some form of parental control panel or another, capable of directly limiting access to specific websites, IP addresses, or connection types throughout the day.

QOS Quality of Service configurations on the other hand, are made for just the opposite, customizing which channels get opened up to a greater amount of bandwidth over others a game vs. In the war of routers, the tale of Linksys vs. The Linksys Smart WiFi system is a ubiquitous web-based login that can be used to set up, manage, and configure your router from anywhere in the world without using complicated logins or remote call procedures.

Netgear still makes seriously powerful routers that can handle almost any task the average internet user might be able to throw its way, but unfortunately both their desktop-based app and their mobile options are lacking when it comes to the level of polish that we see from Linksys in this department.

That said the main reason for preferring a cleaner dashboard is only to help novice users navigate their way around the configuration process. The first is to learn the basics, which you can do thanks to our resource article that covers this very subject. So with all of that in mind, which model is the best of wireless router for , and ? Google WiFi router works together with a companion app, which is quite user-friendly.

The app can be used to prioritize devices, enable to share passwords with guests and potential users and one is able to view who is connected.

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Test Results and Ratings Product. Best speed-to-price ratio Simple to navigate software and iOS app Speeds are out of control. Clean, thoughtful design Solid performance at all ranges Intuitive setup and app UI.

Standing design is more obnoxious than cool. Design may not be the best for everyone Wired performance could be better Makes noise at load. A high price for the average web surfer Bulky design may not fit where you want Premium, premium price.

Single- or Dual-Band?

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