Best Wireless Routers

Updated August 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
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.Read more 
How we decided

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

35 Models Considered
36 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
161 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for best wireless routers

Last Updated August 2020
By Jaime Vazquez

There are a lot of different ways to set up WiFi in your home, but the most traditional method is to use a wireless router. Wireless routers, sometimes referred to as WiFi routers, take the internet signal from your cable modem and make it available wirelessly to your other devices — so it’s critical to get one that’s both fast enough for all of your gear and secure enough to keep all of your content safe.

Wireless routers are perfect for homes where they can be placed in a centralized location: most models include multiple antennas to increase their broadcast range. Many models also work with WiFi extenders, so you can add coverage to specific problem areas.

The wireless router market is pretty crowded, and picking the wrong one could slow down your entire network, so before you start shopping, read on for our best advice — and find the right router to keep all of your devices happy.

About the author

Jaime Vazquez has been writing about technology and geeking out with gadgets since 2000. He loves trying the latest electronics so that his readers don't have to, and using his inner cheapskate to find the best bargains.


Jaime Vazquez  |  Writer
The term "WiFi" can be used interchangeably with "wireless internet" or "wireless connection.” It doesn't actually stand for anything; it was simply created as a catchy name by a marketing firm.

What is a wireless router, anyway?

We don't want to leave anyone confused, so we'll start with the basics. If you're already comfortable with what a wireless router is and how it works, fell free to skip ahead to the next section.

A wireless router is a device that translates the internet signal from a cable modem into a radio frequency signal—aka WiFi. Your wireless router handles all of your WiFi traffic and allows you to configure specific settings like your WiFi password or WiFi network name.

Most internet service providers (ISPs) offer modem/router combo units, but monthly rental fees add up quickly, so we recommend buying your own cable modem and wireless router as separate devices.

TESTING WIRELESS ROUTERS

We spent 36 hours testing 89 wireless routers to find the top five routers for you. We purchased our top pick to test in our office to make sure it's worth your money.

WiFi terminology: a cheat sheet

​​​​​​Wireless routers are often described by a wide variety of terms, codes, and protocol names that are easy to confuse. Here’s a quick guide to what the key datapoints mean. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance—a worldwide network of WiFi researchers and manufacturers—ratifies new WiFi standards as they become available. For example, the first mainstream WiFi technology was built based on the 802.11b protocol. Subsequent upgrades like 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11a, 802.11ac, and the bleeding-edge WiFi 6 protocols have enabled WiFi to be faster and farther-reaching. Each new standard is backward-compatible with the ones that came before it. The bottom line: Most modern devices use the 802.11ac standard, and WiFi 6 adoption will be slow. In most cases, sticking with an 802.11ac wireless router is the best option.

Most modern wireless routers are dual-band, which means they broadcast at both the 2.4GHz and the 5.0GHz frequencies. That’s important because older devices and newer smart home devices will typically only work on the 2.4GHz band, and newer devices can take advantage of the less crowded 5.0GHz band. Some routers market themselves as “tri-band” routers, but that’s a bit of a misnomer; tri-band routers have an additional 5.0GHz broadcast. Tri-band routers are overkill for most people, but can be helpful if you’re supporting several users and dozens of devices. 

Some wireless routers are mesh networking systems, which offer similar features using a different delivery model. With a wireless router, you’re broadcasting your WiFi signal from one piece of hardware. With a mesh networking system, you use multiple nodes placed in different locations to create your WiFi network. Both traditional wireless routers and mesh networking systems can deliver fast WiFi to all of your devices; if you’re not sure which to buy, make the decision based on which approach is best for your home’s layout.

Buying your own wireless router and cable modem will save you hundreds in ISP rental fees, and allow you to upgrade on your own time.

Wireless router tips

  • The average wireless router covers about 2,500 square feet. If your home is larger than that, use a range extender or consider a mesh WiFi system.

  • If you want to connect computers or other devices directly to the router using an ethernet cable, make sure your chosen model has sufficient LAN ports.

  • Most wireless routers can be configured with a smartphone app. While you’re shopping, compare app store reviews of different companion app to get a sense of what your experience will be like.

  • If your router has two external antennae, you'll get the best signal if one is pointed vertically and the other horizontally.

Average price of a wireless router

The cost of a wireless router depends on the features and network standard.

  • If you want a cheap router and you're not too concerned about speed, an 802.11n wireless router should cost between $20 and $50.

  • A basic 802.11ac router that will provide fast wireless connection and not much else will cost $40 to $80.

  • Expect to pay $80 to $150 for a mid-range 802.11ac wireless router, with a few added extras like apps for remote access or Alexa compatibility.

  • The price of a high-end 802.11ac wireless router is roughly $150 to $350. These models should have a range of extra features, like a boosted signal range, multi-stage protection, game acceleration, and more.

Unless your internet connection exceeds 1,000 Mbps, you're unlikely to push the limits of an average router, so speed shouldn't be your main concern when selecting which model to buy.

FAQ

Q. How do I secure my wireless network?

A. There are a number of simple techniques that everyone should do to secure their wireless home network, such as:

  • Turning on wireless network encryption.
  • Ensuring that your wireless router’s firewall is turned on.
  • Enabling MAC address filtering.
  • Creating a custom name for your network.
  • Setting your wireless router closer to the center of your home, so less of your WiFi signal will be detected outside of your property.

 

Q. My WiFi connection keeps dropping. How do I fix it?

A. If your wireless router isn’t reliably emitting the WiFi signal that it should be, there are a few quick fixes to test out:

  • Reset your wireless router. (Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best).
  • Reposition your router.
  • Ensure that all cables are securely inserted into the router.
  • Update your wireless router’s firmware.
  • Call your internet provider and ask if there is an outage in your area.

 

Q. What is the best way to restart my wireless router?

A. Restarting your router is a common fix for wireless and connectivity issues, but there is a right and a wrong way to do so. Unless you want to turn your device back to its factory settings, do not push the “Reset” button on the back of your wireless router.

To restart your wireless router, simply unplug both your router and modem, and wait at least one minute. Plug in your modem, and wait another minute. Finally, plug your wireless router back in, and wait another minute or two to see if resetting your network connection fixed your problem.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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The team that worked on this review
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    Alvina
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    Branson
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  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jaime
    Jaime
    Writer
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    Senior Editor
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    Post Production Editor

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