Top Product: TP-Link Archer AX21 Wi-Fi 6 Router | $90 | Amazon
Wi-Fi is one of those things that a lot of us accept as just being bad sometimes. Maybe it’s just a room in your home that simply doesn’t get a good signal, or maybe you know you can only have a couple of things streaming at once, even though your broadband speeds should be fine. It’s annoying, but it’s not actually something you just have to accept. As with many things, it could be that part of the internet chain is letting you down, and it could well be that in this case, that’s your wi-fi router.
You really don’t have to settle for a rubbish router anymore, because there are just so many options. You can even grab things like mesh routers, which allow you to completely cover any home with an excellent signal. However, you don’t need to go all-out to improve your current set-up, sometimes just one bit of new tech is going to be enough to help you improve the quality of the Wi-Fi in your home.
Of course, you’re going to need what to look for if you’re going for an upgrade, and thankfully for you, that’s where we come in. So, let’s dive into the best Wi-Fi routers you can get, no matter what you’re in need of.
Best Wi-Fi 6 Router for Most People: TP-Link Archer AX21
If you get the chance, you should absolutely make sure you’re upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 as soon as possible. It’s a new wireless standard that substantially boosts what a router is capable of, and it’s ideal for the modern home that’s filled with more devices than people. That’s pretty much every home at this point, especially for those of us who have tech-savvy kids. If that all sounds familiar, then you should consider the TP-Link’s Archer AX21.
It’s one of the best budget options for a Wi-Fi 6 router around, and is a dual-band router that supports Wi-Fi speeds up to 1.8GBps, and has an impressive performance thanks to its four high-gain antennas, and the in-built beamforming technology. It basically means that it’s far better at getting the Wi-Fi signal where it needs to be, rather than just all over the place without any thought.
Best Premium Wi-Fi 6 Router: Asus RT-AX86U
Want an even more powerful Wi-Fi 6 router? Our friends at Gizmodo recommend the Asus RT-AX86U, which has plenty of customization options in the mix, although the interface isn’t the best of the best. It packs in four outgoing gigabit Ethernet ports, including one that’ll prioritize gaming traffic automatically, plus it has gigabit LAN, 2.5-gigabit LAN/WAN, and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports for network attached storage (NAS) via hard drive.
It’s not as simple and straightforward as the TP-Link option above, but power users will dig the added versatility and options. Reviewer Wes Davis wrote:
“Whether you just want lag-free gaming or you need something that can handle a heavy overall load, this router does it with aplomb. We are rapidly approaching the day when recommendations like this one aren’t just about future-proofing, but you will find in the RT-AX86U a router more than capable of meeting the unexpected demands put upon all of us this year. If you’ve got a smaller home that needs a lot of power and would prefer to check out mesh networking at a later date, this is absolutely the router for you.”
Best Mesh Router: Google Nest Wi-Fi
A normal router is fine in an apartment, but when you start adding in extra floors it can get a little harder to make sure you’re getting decent coverage. That’s even more true if you’re also lucky enough to have a bit of outside space or a converted loft or basement. Well, Google’s Nest Wi-Fi mesh system is an exceptional choice when you need better-rounded coverage in a wider space.
One of the best things about the Google Nest devices is the fact that they’re so easy to set up. There’s so little fuss or hassle when installing these and getting them working. You just need to put them where you think is best, then use the mobile app to fine-tune things if there’s ever a need to do so. Plus, the devices also work as Google Assistant smart speakers, so you’re not just getting good Wi-Fi, but also a nice little boost to your smart home.
Best Budget Router: TP-Link Archer A6
Sometimes you need an upgrade, but you also need to be careful with your cash. Actually, that happens a lot. Thankfully, you can grab a refurbished TP-Link Archer A6 for less than $50. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6, and it struggles a bit with really large spaces, but it’s still likely going to be an upgrade if you’ve not looked into routers for a few years.
It’s a dual-band, dual-antenna router that can go up to 867Mbps via its 5GHz connection, and 300Mbps via the 2.4Ghz one. Both of these are still going to be better than what most older routers can manage, so if you’re using one that you got back when you moved into wherever you’re living, definitely check this out. It’s especially good for smaller homes and apartments, so don’t pass this one up if that fits you.
Best Wi-Fi 6E Router: Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500
What’s this? Wi-Fi 6E? Yes, there’s an even newer standard than plain ol’ Wi-Fi 6, as Wi-Fi 6E opens up the 6Ghz band for even faster top speeds. It’s purely for early adopters right now, as the initial Wi-Fi 6E routers are very expensive.
Still, if you’re keen on riding the Wi-Fi 6E wave, Gizmodo has picked the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 as the best of the early bunch. In a head-to-head showdown between multiple Wi-Fi 6E routers, it prevailed as the best overall option. As Wes Davis writes:
“Its staggeringly high-bandwidth throughput, stability, and range, combined with easy-to-use software, robust security, and slick appearance, gave it the edge over the others in this face-off. As things stand now, it felt the most complete, and I feel it will probably stand up well against the others as they add features and performance tweaks over in the coming months.”
Best Premium Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router: Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Router
Gizmodo reviewer Wes Davis summed it up best right out of the gate: “The Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien is an expensive black Wi-Fi 6 Internet tube that promises super-fast wifi and a unique, pleasant user experience that is as intuitive as these things can probably be.”
The distinctive cylindrical shape and on-device status display makes the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien a very unique router to bring into your home, and it’s packed with the latest and greatest tech. It has Wi-Fi 6 support and broad coverage with up to 8x8 MU-MIMO.
On the other hand, it’s very pricey at $380 for the base unit and $320 each for add-on mesh units. Still, if you want a cutting-edge mesh system that stands out, this is definitely it.
Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router: Amazon Eero 6
If you’re set on buying future-ready Wi-Fi 6-compatible hardware and want a modest mesh system, Amazon’s new Eero 6 is right up your alley. It can’t handle gigabit speeds, but this dual-band system is reasonably priced, with Amazon claiming top speeds of about 500Mbps with the three-unit system (or 900Mbps with a single unit).
Gizmodo reviewer Florence Ion praised the helpful companion app, but lamented the lack of Ethernet ports on the extenders for plugging in gaming hardware and other devices:
“The Eero 6 is very much an entry-level product for those who haven’t yet adopted mesh networking. It’s also a good choice if you want something that supports new technologies rather than require an upgrade down the line. For full gigabit support, Amazon offers the Eero 6 Pro, which costs $100 more—more than $300 extra for the three-pack—and has the requisite tri-band that takes full advantage of the spec. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer extra Ethernet jacks, so this isn’t a system for sophisticated setups either.”
Best for Long Range: Netgear Orbi
Got a very large property that you want to fill with seamless Wi-Fi coverage? Netgear’s Orbi mesh system is a fine alternative to Google’s Nest Wi-Fi, and Gizmodo recommends it as one of the very best smart home gadgets around. As Andrew Liszewski writes:
If you can get over the fact the nodes look like a collection of glowing automatic air fresheners, Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 provides one of the best whole home wifi solutions, covering even larger homes with an expansive, reliable network that minimizes the number of times your devices need to hop between access points.
Best Budget Mesh Router: TP-Link Deco S4
TP-Link’s Deco S4 delivers the same kind of specs as the above Linksys router, with up to 867Mbps via 5GHz and 300Mbps through 2.4GHz, but does so with a multi-unit mesh design that spreads a signal across a much larger footprint. The two-pack can cover up to 3,800 square feet, while the three-pack is rated for up to 5,500 square feet.
The Deco S4 system can’t hit quite as high of theoretical speed peaks as Nest Wi-Fi and these units won’t blend into your space as easily either, but it’s hard to argue with the price: typically $110 for the two-pack and $130 for the three-pack. Amazon customers seem to agree on that point, too, giving the TP-Link Deco S4 a 4.6-star rating. TP-Link offers more powerful versions of the Deco system with varying designs, too, in case you’re looking for something more robust.
Best Gaming Router: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000
If you’re serious about gaming and want a router that promises the best-possible experience, the recently-released Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 is a feature-rich Wi-Fi 6 model. Powered by a triple-core 1.5 GHz processor and DumaOS 3.0, this beast of a router lets you optimize and allocate bandwidth for certain needs (including live streaming to Twitch) and has geo-fencing features to help you select the best servers to use.
Netgear mailed me a sample to try out for a few weeks in place of my usual Nest Wi-Fi setup, and even with just the single access point, it provided speedy wireless access throughout my entire house. Gaming performance was stellar across the board, whether in Rocket League or Fortnite, but it’s not cheap: the list price is $350, but Amazon is offering it for just $297 as of this writing. Only the truly hardcore need apply.