Best Gaming Routers

Updated May 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
371 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best gaming routers

Last Updated May 2019

It's not much fun to play when your game keeps freezing up or you constantly find yourself a step behind everyone else. You acted first, but it doesn't matter because by the time the signal gets to the game server, your character has already lost his last life and all of your possessions have been taken. You're going to have to start over from scratch. Again. This frustration has nothing to do with your skills. Your router just can't keep up with the heavy demands of online gaming.

A gaming router could turn things around. The best ones allow you to play at your full potential. You could become a champion, owning whatever world you set foot on.

But before you buy the most expensive model, read through this guide to learn exactly what you should be looking for in a gaming router.

Lag time is the number one reason why people lose in online gaming. It doesn't matter how great a gamer you are, if your ping rate is significantly higher than that of an inexperienced player, that player will easily be able to beat you.

Key considerations

What does a gaming router do?

The most basic routers are mail carriers. They take information (data packets) from one place and deliver it to another. A router communicates with other routers to determine the best route to take to deliver that information. It will send your data packet from point A to point B to point C. However, if there’s a problem at point B, your router will find an alternate route to get your data to point C.

Since online gaming can gobble up your bandwidth, and you can't afford to freeze up in a critical situation, gaming routers have special features that allow them to get a little more involved in deliveries. For instance, a gaming router can prioritize your gaming data packets to make sure they’re delivered and received promptly. It can keep an eye on every device on your home network and let you know when they’re hogging the network.

When you’re a gamer, the three crucial aspects of your internet connection are upload speed, download speed, and ping rate.

  • Upload speed: This is how fast you can send data. Mostly, you’ll notice this when emailing large files. If you’re using video chat while gaming, however, having a slow upload speed could impact your real-time engagement with other players. Also, if you want to stream your session, you’ll need to be concerned with upload speeds. The absolute minimum needed for gaming is 1 Mbps (megabit per second).
  • Download speed: This is how fast you can receive data – it’s important for downloading webpages and streaming videos. You will need a faster download speed than upload speed, but that works out fine because services provide much faster download speeds than upload speeds. The impact is felt in situations when more than one gamer is online or someone starts watching a movie while you’re playing. The absolute minimum needed for gaming is 3 Mbps.
  • Ping rate: This is what's important in gaming. It is the delay you experience when you send a signal to the game server. If you're playing a first-person shooter game and you come face to face with an adversary, the victor won't be the most skilled player; it will be the one with the least delay (the lowest ping rate). For gaming, you'll want something under 150 ms (milliseconds), which equals 0.15 second.

Prioritize and optimize

With advanced QoS features, the Nighthawk Pro allows you to prioritize your bandwidth and monitor your network in real time to see exactly who is using how much. Four 1Gb Ethernet LAN ports provide a lag-free wired connection while the Geo-Filter lowers your gaming lag with blacklisting and whitelisting capabilities. The router utilizes a VPN to help maintain security by protecting your network identity and preventing DDoS attacks.

Gaming router features

Gaming routers have many essential features in common, but different companies give them different names to make them sound more cutting edge or unique. The following are some key gaming router features to look for. Remember, not every gaming router will have all of these features, and some are either/or options. Ultimately, you’ll need to determine which features provide the best solution for your particular situation.

Beamforming: Beamforming is a technology that can significantly boost your WiFi signal using phase amplitude. It doesn't amplify the entire signal; it just increases signal strength at a designated location where the radiating waves from multiple antennas cross.

Design: Most gaming routers feature a sleek, dangerous, or futuristic design. If the look is important to you, find one that meets your aesthetic sensibilities. Just remember that a cool design doesn't translate to a better model.

Diagnostics: The best gaming routers can monitor usage over your entire home network. This information shows you what devices might be hogging up your bandwidth and allows you to make the necessary adjustments so you can have the best gaming experience.

Directional antennas: A directional antenna focuses your WiFi signal like water coming out of a hose instead of radiating out like ripples in a pond. It’s possible to achieve a greater range with this type of antenna, but it will only be in one direction.

Easy configuration: Some gaming routers require a complex setup that involves a bit of knowledge or experience to properly configure. If you aren’t comfortable with this, look for a router that’s easy to set up. Some offer push-button technology so the user doesn't need to have any experience or knowledge to get up and running.

Ethernet ports: These ports allow for a wired connection. A physical connection offers the greatest potential for speed.

Filters: Filters allow you to block players or servers that add to your lag time. Some may allow you to blacklist or whitelist specific individuals, while others work on more general conditions, such as distance.

Link aggregation: This technology allows you to combine multiple Ethernet connections into one link in order to boost your throughput.

Mesh router: A mesh router blankets your entire home by utilizing a series of satellite modules or nodes that have been strategically placed throughout your home to get rid of all the dead zones in your WiFi network.

Parental controls: If you want to create restrictions for accessing dangerous or inappropriate sites, you’ll need a gaming router with a parental control option.

Quality of Service: For the best gaming experience, look for a router utilizing Quality of Service (QoS)  technology. This feature allows you to prioritize your bandwidth. In other words, you can keep what's important to you – gaming – from being put on the back burner when someone else begins a massive download.

Privacy and security: Anything you do online leaves you vulnerable to attacks. The best gaming routers make your network private and have protocols to help protect your personal information. But to be the most effective, you’ll need to take an active role and follow all the security instructions in your user's manual.

EXPERT TIP

When you've reached your breaking point of frustration with online gaming and you throw your controller down in disgust, it’s called a rage-quit. This can happen when a player is experiencing appreciable lag time.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If someone calls you a “spammer” in an online shooting game, that isn’t a good thing. It means you’re holding your finger on the fire button, which makes any victories you have more a matter of luck than skill.


Staff  | BestReviews

Gaming router prices

The price of gaming routers ranges from a simple, no-frills wireless router for $15 to a bells-and-whistles, top-shelf model with the ability to prioritize your bandwidth and decrease lag time for $450.

Around $70 to $180 is where you can find the best value. In that range, gaming routers offer some impressive features, but the price tag isn't out of reach. Be careful, however, because if you don't read the fine print, you could wind up with one that doesn't actually do what you thought it would do.

Once you go above $240, you'll likely find everything you need, but the higher price could cause you to balk.

Affordable optimization

The affordably priced WAVLINK Dual-Band Router offers a number of features typically found on higher-end routers. The unit has three 10/100 Mbps Ethernet LAN ports and 1Gb Ethernet LAN port. The router's Touchlink technology allows friends to connect to your network without you needing to tell them your password. The easy TURBO setup lets the gamer optimize his or her network with just the push of a button.

Tips

  • Be aware of game ratings, such as the maturity, language, and violence levels.

  • Never reveal any personal information to other players. A red flag should immediately go up if another gamer asks you for personal information.

  • Downloading "cheats" is a good way to get a computer virus.

  • Cyberbullying may happen during gameplay. During gameplay, children can be manipulated into doing things they normally would never do.

  • It’s possible to become addicted to playing online games.

  • The average gamer is 35 years old. Voice changers can allow adults to sound like children.

Other products we considered

The right gaming router can be as individual as a player's technique. Maybe you want something a little different? Something with a little more flair that feels more like you? In that case, the TP-Link AC5400 Tri Band Gaming Router might be a little closer to what you're looking for. It can broadcast over three different bands, one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz. And it looks wicked, like Darth Maul collaborated with Spider-Man on the design. If you'd like to try something a little more cutting edge, the Google WiFi System could be your solution. It blankets your entire home – up to 4,500 square feet – with WiFi coverage that has no dead zones. It's not the answer for everyone because there are some limitations, but many users love it.

A firewall/antivirus software and encryption are not the same thing. You need both types of protection to be safe when you’re online.

FAQ

Q. What is a DDoS attack?

A. Digital denial-of-service attack. During this type of attack, a server is targeted and flooded with unwanted traffic from a wide variety of sources until the network slows down or goes offline. Your IP address is all someone needs to make you a target. Some gaming routers come with additional security features to lessen the chance of a DDoS happening to you.

Q. What is a VPN?

A. A VPN is a virtual private network. It provides a secure connection between two private networks that need to communicate over the internet. This type of connection offers greatly increased security. In gaming applications, it may also help lower ping rate.

Q. The router I am renting from my internet service provider has more than enough speed. Why should I be worried?

A. The speed your router offers is finite. Every device you have running takes a nibble out of that speed. Often, it isn’t the actual speed that is a problem; it’s prioritizing which device gets the first bite. Your home router doesn't care if you’re gaming or watching an HD movie, but your gaming router has your back.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

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