Best TP-Link Routers

Updated September 2019
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.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

13 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
122 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.

Buying guide for best TP-Link routers

Last Updated September 2019

Routers are the backbone of internet access, both at home and work. Unless you work exclusively off of a cellular device, any time you access the internet, you’re doing so through a router.

A wireless router works by taking an internet connection and using radio waves to transmit networking signals to compatible devices. The quality of your router can have a significant impact on the quality of your internet experience. Especially as people have become more connected, with more devices than ever accessing the internet, you need a router that can keep up with modern demands.

But before you buy, there’s plenty to consider, from how much power you need to whether you want additional features such as parental controls, security software, or the ability to control your router via a smartphone app. To learn more, keep reading our guide. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our recommended models.

If your internet connection seems too slow or network latency skyrockets as devices log on, there’s a good chance your current router is not up to the task of handling the amount of traffic on your network.

Key considerations

Memory and CPU

Just like a computer, a router has a CPU and memory that enables it to perform its tasks. The more powerful the processor and the more memory it has, the better it performs. This is especially the case as more devices log onto a router for internet access. Years ago, there might have been only one or two computers in an entire home that were connected to the internet. Today, there are computers, smartphones, tablets, printers, and TVs. Add in the strain of multiple devices streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services, and older basic routers simply can’t keep up.

Gigabit connectivity

Most internet service providers (ISP) serve internet access that’s still measured in megabits, not gigabits. The problem is that most routers that are sub-gigabit only provide speeds of 100 megabits. With the introduction of fiber-based internet access in many markets, more and more ISPs are offering speeds of several hundred megabits. As a result, there’s no point in having a router that bottlenecks your speed. Even if your ISP doesn't currently offer high speeds, it’s usually worth the few extra dollars it costs to future-proof your router and be prepared for when higher speeds are available.

802.11ac

The wireless spec has gone through several revisions over the years, signified by the letters that follow the numbers. The version of the protocol that’s best for future-proofing your purchase is 802.11ac, as many current and most future devices will support it. Because 802.11ac is backward compatible, even if you have older devices, they should still be able to connect.

SU-MIMO vs. MU-MIMO

Another thing to consider is whether a router offers SU-MIMO, which stands for single-user, multiple-input, multiple-output, or MU-MIMO, which stands for multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output.

  • SU-MIMO routers can only deliver data to a single device at a time on a rotating basis. In theory, this rotation happens so quickly that you should never notice a performance hit. In practice, however, if a router is under a heavy load — such as one or more devices streaming data while another device is gaming — the rotation may become very noticeable in the form of extra lag.

  • MU-MIMO solves this problem by serving data to multiple devices simultaneously, rather than one at a time. This ensures that all devices have an uninterrupted stream of data, thereby reducing lag and performance issues. MU-MIMO relies on 802.11ac for its advanced functionality.
     

If your device doesn’t support 802.11ac, it can still connect thanks to backward compatibility, but it will not be able to take advantage of MU-MIMO features and will, instead, receive data via SU-MIMO.

Third-party firmware

Another factor to consider is the addition of third-party firmware. TP-Link, like many router manufacturers, has had a long history of allowing third-party firmware to be installed on its routers.

Although this won’t appeal to many users, having the option to use third-party or open-source firmware gives experienced users the ability to fine-tune how their router operates in ways that the factory firmware can’t match. In addition, open-source router firmware has a reputation of being more stable and secure than stock firmware, making it a good option for applications where security is of paramount importance.

DID YOU KNOW?

TP-Link is consistently ranked as the No. 1 provider of WiFi devices by the International Data Corporation.

Features

Multiple bands

Routers come with single, dual, or tri-band capabilities. This means that a multiband router is capable of sending more than one wireless signal. This can be a useful feature if you want to create multiple networks, such as for guests, streaming, or public access.

USB ports

Another feature you should look for is USB ports. USB ports allow you to connect other devices — such as printers — so you can access them over the network.

Gigabit Ethernet ports

While a router’s wireless options may be the main focus, you should still look for a router that has Ethernet ports, preferably the gigabit variety. This is a useful feature for older machines or desktop computers without a wireless card. They’re also handy when you need to connect to the router using the most secure method possible.

Security

With the rise of cyber attacks, routers are increasingly being targeted by hackers. In response, many newer routers come with security software that helps protect them from virus, ransomware, and other attacks.

Parental controls

If you have kids, some routers include parental controls to help protect children from accessing inappropriate content online.

Smartphone control

Another nice feature to have is the ability to control and configure your router via a smartphone or tablet app. This is often a smoother, more streamlined experience than using your smartphone to log onto the standard admin panel you would normally access via your computer. TP-Link’s app is called Tether. When shopping for a TP-Link router, look for one that advertises Tether support.

EXPERT TIP

While the 2.4 GHz band penetrates walls better, it is more prone to interference. A 5 GHz band, on the other hand, isn’t as good at penetrating walls, but it’s faster and less prone to interference.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Some models have Quality of Service (QoS) controls, which let you prioritize certain types of traffic when a lot of devices are on the router at the same time. You can prioritize gaming, streaming, web browsing, or other activities.


Staff  | BestReviews

TP-Link router prices

Inexpensive: Given the wide range of features, routers can vary wildly in price. Base models usually have single-band capability, no USB ports, and single-core processors. They’re good for a home network with a limited number of devices and usually cost under $50.

Mid-range: Mid-range models have dual-band wireless, better range, at least one USB port, improved software, and are under $150.

Expensive: Top-of-the-line models include multiple USB ports, dual or tri-band wireless, the longest wireless range, and high-end software to help manage and protect the device. These routers are a good choice for small businesses or homes with a lot of connected devices and cost anywhere from $150 to several hundred dollars.

Tips

  • For best coverage, place your router in a central location. Otherwise, if the router is placed at one end of the house, you’ll find your devices don’t have a strong signal at the other end.

  • Make sure you enable WPA2 encryption in your router’s security settings instead of the older, weaker WEP.

  • Buy your networking equipment from a single manufacturer. While equipment from different manufacturers will work together, the integration will be more seamless if the equipment is made by the same company.

  • If you have an older router, you may still be able to use it as a bridge router. A bridge router uses WiFi to connect two wired networks. If your old router’s firmware doesn’t support this functionality, you may be able to install open source firmware, such as DD-WRT, to add the necessary features.

Other products we considered

Ideal for heavy use, the TP-Link AC5400 Tri Band Smart WiFi Gaming Router is a high-end MU-MIMO router that has gigabit connectivity, integrated antivirus software, tri-band support, 802.11ac, Alexa support, 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, and a two-year warranty. The TP-Link AC1750 Smart WiFi Router is a dual-band, 802.11ac router designed for home use. It comes with three external antennas for long-range WiFi and a two-year warranty.

Floors and walls create obstacles and interference that can impact your router’s ability to broadcast effectively. Try keeping your router off the floor and away from walls for best performance.

FAQ

Q. Can’t I just use the router my ISP leases to me?
A.
Yes, but you’re often better off buying your own. Not only will it pay for itself quickly, but you can also buy a much higher-quality router than your ISP is charging you for.

Q. Can I configure my router over WiFi?
A.
Yes, although you may have better success configuring it over Ethernet. Some routers have certain configuration functionally locked out unless you physically connect to it.

Q. Will my Alexa device work with my router?
A.
It should. To be on the safe side, look for a model that specifically advertises Alexa support.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey