Delivers decent speeds and is compatible with OneMesh that allows extending the range of the router.
WiFi 6 compatibility paired with fast transfer speeds. OneMesh allows router to extend its range for larger households. Multiple Ethernet ports mean multiple wired connections.
Ethernet connection is not multi-gig.
An all-around solid router that can be connected to Amazon Home devices for easier use.
Amazon Alexa connectivity for simplicity and control. Ethernet ports have 4GB wired connection for reliably fast internet. USB port functions as media server. Wireless connection works for most tasks.
Loses speed with multiple connections.
Fast wired and wireless connections along with a reliable HomeShield Basic plan that protects the device.
Triband wifi. HomeShield Basic has security scans and parental control. WiFi 6 compatibility ensures quick internet speeds. 2.5GB Ethernet ports provide speedy wired connections for gaming.
HomeShield extensions cost more money.
A lightning-fast router that provides reliable internet connection for gamers.
The unique design goes hand-in-hand with gaming speeds. 8 Ethernet ports for large households. Range boost and triband connection for uninterrupted gaming. Free HomeCare security.
No WiFi 6 compatibility.
Comes in a 2-pack to improve the range of the mesh system and has 2 points of WiFi.
Mesh system covers large areas and is perfect for bigger homes. 2 devices serve as WiFi sources to cover area evenly. Each node has an ethernet connection for wired connectivity. A decent router replacement.
Extra features require a subscription.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have kids, some routers include parental controls to help protect children from accessing inappropriate content online.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.