Most of us only ever think about our WiFi routers when we plug them in and set them up. Then when there's a problem with the internet and the only thing we can think to do is to unplug it and then plug it back in, which usually works!
However, your WiFi router is perhaps one of the most important pieces of internet technology you own, and it can have a tremendous impact on the performance of your network, whether it's in your home or place of business.
In fact, if you haven't updated your router in some time, there's a good chance you're not experiencing maximum internet speeds, which can lead to slow streams and downloads.
If you're buying a router either to set up a new network or to update your current one and improve performance, know that, like all areas of the tech market, there are tons of options at many different price points. As this is such an important purchase, it's essential to consider each one carefully.
All of this can be a tad overwhelming, which is why we put together this list of the ten best WiFi routers you can buy.
What to Look For in a WiFi Router
To help you better understand why we chose the ten routers for this list, here are the things that we look at in a router and that you should consider when you're deciding which router is right for you.
First and foremost, modern routers need to be fast. We are in the digital age, and this means it's imperative to have a super-fast internet connection at both home and work.
Routers transfer data between your device and your internet connection, so your router needs to be fast enough to handle the speed of your internet connection. You can often see a router's speed rating usually right in the name, usually written as AC5600. AC refers to the protocol, which we will discuss in a moment, and the second refers to the maximum speed, which in this case, is 5600 Mbps. This far faster than most internet connections, which are usually no more than 100 Mbps.
On a more specific level, we also look at upload and download speeds, as well as data transfer speeds to see how quickly information is passed through your router.
If your router is old, it might not be rated for the internet speed you're paying for, which will limit its functionality and decrease network performance.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can travel over a network at any given time. Each connection has a certain amount, which is why you may have noticed your network slowing down at times when a lot of people are doing things such as streaming or downloading at once.
Your router can manage bandwidth by spreading signals out over multiple frequencies "2.4 GHz and 5 GHz" the lower frequencies, or bands, handle lighter tasks, such as basic web browsing, as well as the connectivity of smart devices in the home. It works just fine, but all the devices on it share the same band, which means more devices slow things down.
This is not a big deal for the devices that don't need much anyway, and the 5 GHz frequency is reserved for heavier tasks, such as gaming, streaming, and downloading. In addition, most routers can broadcast multiple channels of the 5 GHz band, which means devices can often get a direct connection to the router and not share bandwidth, which increases speed and performance.
Most routers worth anything emit a 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band, but not all of them emit multiple channels, and this is something to look out for when shopping for routers.
Wireless protocol refers to the type of WiFi the router is designed for. Up until recently, the Wireless protocol was 802.011ac, which is why we usually see speed numbers presented as AC####.
The technical specifics of this network are not worth discussing, but just know that this wireless protocol has a maximum speed. Since we are always aiming for faster connections, there is now something new, 802.11ax, also known as WiFi 6.
It's faster, able to do a lot more, and it's the future. However, only the newest devices are designed to access this type of wireless protocol, which means we're still a little ways away from this being a requirement in a router.
However, if you're someone who has lots of devices and frequently updates them, it might be worth it to look for a router that has this capability so that you can get the most out of your devices on your network.
Good routers also come with some additional features that make them more effective. For example, quality routers will have some sort of parental controls, and more advanced devices will allow you to control band assignments, which will make it easier for you to allocate bandwidth to the devices that need it most.
Another nice feature some routers offer is the ability to create guest networks. This is an excellent security feature that allows you to share your network with others without giving them full access to it, which can expose you to threats.
Some routers go even further, but those that offer these features are the ones that are going to stand out.
Your WiFi router should come with at least a few Ethernet and USB ports. Not only does it need one Ethernet port to work, but having others gives you a direct line to your internet connection and doesn't occupy WiFi bandwidth; if you're a gamer, or have one in the home, then this is something that will be extra important.
It's also good to have a few USB ports so that you can connect devices, such as a printer, to your WiFi and access it from anywhere in the home.
Another thing to look out for is how easy your router is to use when you need to adjust its settings or set it up. Some routers are clearly designed with the average user in mind, and others were perhaps imagined for people with more technical know-how.
Overall, the interface isn't a make or break characteristic of a good router. But a good one certainly helps set a device apart from the crowd.
As you will see, you can spend more than $300 on a router, but you can also spend about $80. Which is right for you will depend on your needs and, of course, your budget.
To help you, we've found the best options at different price points so that you can find something that meets your specific needs.
The Best WiFi Routers to Buy in 2020
Without further delay, here are the best WiFi routers that you can buy in 2020:
Best of the Best WiFi Router - TP-Link Archer AX6000
TP-Link's Archer AX 6000 is a beast of a router. As you can see, it's rated for WiFi 6 and has a maximum speed of 6000 Mbps, and when tested, it lived up to these expectations.
On top of this, it's incredibly user friendly. You can set it and leave it, or you can go in and really customize it so that you are getting the most out of your connection.
If you are someone who is a heavy user, or who has devices that can maximize WiFi 6 technology, then this router just might change your life and make surfing the internet a whole new experience.
However, with a price tag that ranges between $250 and $300, you're certainly paying for performance. So, while this is our choice for the best router on the market, it's probably not a realistic choice for most people, especially if you don't have any WiFi 6 devices, such as the iPhone 11 or the Samsung Galaxy S10.
Nevertheless, the Archer AX6000 is the cream of the crop and should be given serious consideration.
Best Standard Router - D-Link DIR-867
If you read the review of the Archer AX6000 and thought, "$250 for a router! C'mon!" don't worry, we've got your back.
Obviously, not everyone needs the performance capabilities or price tag associated with the best router on the market, and for these people, there is the D-Link DIR-867. A staple in the router and internet tech industry, D-Link's middle-range router has everything you need.
It's still one of the fastest routers out there, and setting it up and adjusting settings couldn't be easier.
Of course, there are fewer features on this router, such as band assignments, but this isn't really a concern for you if you're just looking for something fast and straightforward. It does still have parental controls and guest network capabilities.
You should be able to find this router for around $100. Admittedly, there are cheaper ones, but the D-Link DIR-867 presents the best value as it's the highest performing WiFi router at an affordable price.
Best Gaming WiFi Router - Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500
Gamers have specific needs when it comes to WiFi routers simply because online games take up so much bandwidth. Not having the proper router will slow everything else down, and this can be very frustrating to the other people living in the home.
If this is a concern of yours, then look no further than the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500. Its not only super-fast, but it also has all sorts of special features designed for gamers, such as multiple bands and lots of channels.
This router also has a great range, so you'll be able to connect from anywhere in the home. And, as a bonus, it just looks awesome (this obviously has no impact on the functionality of the device.)
However, if you do need to access this enhanced performance, be ready to pay for it. This router isn't cheap, with an average price tag around $250.
You Should Also Consider..
If none of these WiFi routers seem to fit your needs or budget, then consider one of these:
Google WiFi and Google Nest WiFi
Yes, Google sells routers too. They have two options: standard Google WiFi or Google Nest WiFi. The latter integrates with your Google Home to create a pretty unique and streamlined smart home experience.
However, what is unique about Google WiFi is that it uses mesh technology, which means there are no connections and set up is incredibly easy. You simply place the two devices in separate parts of the home, scan a QR code, and you're done.
Mesh technology is likely the wave of the future. It provides a much wider coverage area and it's less disrupted by architecture in the home that might impede a regular WiFi signal.
At the moment, Google WiFi does not support WiFi 6, although we expect it will soon, and this system is not cheap; the Google WiFi will cost you around $269.
Orbi Mesh Routers
If mesh technology has piqued your interest, but you're not thrilled about potentially turning yet another aspect of your life over to Google, then consider a mesh router from Orbi. There are two options that are very different from one another.
First, you have the Orbi 6, which supports WiFi 6 and provides tremendous range (we're talking super-fast connections all over a 5,600 square foot house), but it costs around $700.
For something a bit more practical, you have the Netgear Orbi, which only costs around $150. Its range and speed aren't as good, but it's still mesh technology and will wow you as compared to a traditional router.
You'll still have all the same security and personalization features of other routers, but you'll get extended range and a super easy-to-use system.
ASUS Rapture GT-AC5300
This router was in the running for the best gaming WiFi router, but its $300+ price tag knocked it out of the running.
However, if you don't mind spending the cash, this router is fast. It was the top performer amongst the routers we tested. Plus, it has eight LAN ports, which allows you to connect a ton of devices and access a direct connection. You can customize almost everything to make sure you have the optimal connection for an excellent gaming experience.
This router also has a pretty outlandish design, which could be a plus for some and a negative for others. Considering its target market, we think it looks pretty awesome. (Again, not a critical detail, but still something to consider).
For those not interested in spending triple-digit dollars on a WiFi router, don't worry, we've got you. There are still plenty of options out there. However, know that we don't recommend going for the cheapest thing you can find. Routers, although ubiquitous, are still pretty complicated pieces of technology, and if something is way cheaper than the rest, there's likely a reason.
We feel these two routers offer the best combination of savings and functionality.
Linksys has been a household name for routers for ages, and it still makes a great product. It's fast and will be able to manage everything an average user needs. File transfer speeds are a bit on the slower side, but this won't affect most users. It's probably not ideal for gaming, but if that is what you're looking for, you're probably in a different market.
This router is also easy to install, set-up, and manage. You can have it up and running just minutes after taking it out of the box, and its simplistic, quiet design will allow you to hide it somewhere out of sight if that's something you desire.
Perhaps best of all, this router isn't going to cost you more than $80, which is an excellent price for a product that performs as well as the EA6350. Definitely consider it if you're looking for a lower-priced but still high-quality WiFi router.
TP-Link Archer C7
You may recognize this name from our "best of the best" choice, but this router is quite different. It offers still excellent performance, testing out near the top when compared with the many other routers we reviewed, although it has no WiFi 6 capability and is a bit slower at times.
But again, this will only be an issue for the most intensive users, which means this router is still a very viable option for nearly everyone.
Like the other standard/budget options we've discussed, the Archer C7 is also very easy to install and manage. It comes with your basic set of security and customization features, such as guest networks, parental controls, multiple bands, etc.
It has just a few USB and LAN ports, which does limit its functionality, but most of us buy WiFi routers so that we don't have to plug things in, so this shouldn't be much of an issue.
Lastly, it costs less than $80, usually about $75, which makes it very affordable. Considering how it performs, you're really not making much of a sacrifice here.
Get Your WiFi Set-Up
As you can see, when it comes to WiFi routers, there are a lot of choices. From the list of hundreds, we've identified the best ten. However, as we've made clear throughout, the best for some people is not going to be the best for others. It's important you take some time to determine your personal needs as well as your budget, and then you can do a bit more research on your own to find out which one of the routers on this list is going to be the one you use to get your WiFi set up and running at full capacity.