If you’re lucky enough to be able to take your work home, you’ll most likely need to up the internet connection speed in your home. COVID-19 has forced a large portion of the workforce indoors, making WiFi speed more important than ever. And if it’s been years since you bought your router, or if you’re using the cheap one provided by your internet service provider, then there’s a good chance you could benefit from an upgrade.
Thankfully, WiFi routers have become powerful enough to let you work from home without interruption. Plus, the best WiFi routers also allow the entire family to continue streaming and gaming in other rooms without slowing down your connection. Now, more than ever, they’re more equipped to handle everything you throw at them, with the ability to scale your network coverage depending on your needs.
What About WiFi 6?
With support from newer phones and laptops, we are quickly moving into the era of WiFi 6. What does this mean for you if you have a WiFi 6 router and devices? The most immediate benefit will be faster WiFi speeds, especially if you have a gigabit connection. But there are other benefits as well, which include:
- More stable connections: If you live in a large apartment building where everyone has a router, you may have noticed that your internet will frequently cut out. This is due to the fact that everyone is trying to hop on the same frequencies, which weren’t built to handle so many networks at once. WiFi 6 is designed to alleviate this, and as a result, you should encounter less interference and fewer dropouts with a WiFi 6 router.
- Greater capacity for the number of connected devices: While existing WiFi networks can theoretically handle 250 devices connected at once, the truth is that it starts to lag when you have 25 devices operating simultaneously. You may not think you’ll never have that many devices operating at once, but with the rise of the smart home, all of those connected bulbs, smart plugs, security cameras and voice assistant speakers all count as separate devices. If you already have a bunch of these which directly connect to your WiFi network (such as Alexa and Google Assistant devices), or you’re interested in doing so in the future, a WiFi 6 router is better suited to handle the network demands.
- Lower ping times: If you’re a gamer, this will be music to your ears as lower ping times mean less lag while playing fast-paced games.
If you don’t currently have WiFi 6 devices, the benefits of this most recent wireless technology will not apply to you . . . for now. But eventually, they will. And if you’re in need of networking equipment now, it might make sense to spend a little extra so you don’t have to buy another router in a few years.
And if you think WiFi 6 will never not be overkill, think of it this way: five years ago, nobody thought we’d be pulling 4K streams at 30 Mbps. In time, as your home internet gets faster and you begin to update your phone, laptop, TV and add more smart home gear into your life, the benefits will become apparent and you will almost certainly have a need for what WiFi 6 offers.
That said, if you’re the type whose collection of tech products is decidedly behind the times, you may not even need WiFi 6 in another five years. In that case, stick with one of the more affordable options.
1. TP-Link Archer AX50 WiFi 6 Router
BEST WIFI ROUTER OVERALL
So, you need a router that won’t be obsolete in a couple of years, but aren’t necessarily running 15 4K streams at once, right? The TP-Link AX50 is the best WiFi router you can pick thanks to its combination of speed, range, affordability and WiFi 6 capabilities. The 2×2 MiMo antenna array is set up to handle many devices operating at the same time and has a total theoretical throughput of 3 Gbps across its two bands, with 2.4 Gbps of dedicated to the 5Ghz band. This is hardware that is well-suited for a variety of scenarios, including gaming.
If you don’t have a gigabit Ethernet connection and a newer smartphone, laptop or tablet that takes advantage of WiFi 6, you won’t experience the full potential of this router. But even still, there’s a good chance that it will offer up faster speeds than whatever you were using before, and you will be set up for the future when you have faster internet and more advanced devices.
2. Asus RT-AX86U AX5700 WiFi 6 Router
The Asus RT-AX86U is a jump in price over our pick as the best WiFi router, the TP-Link Archer AX50, but it also represents a significant step up in performance. This router is equipped to handle anything and everything from gaming to 4K streaming, but its real killer feature is that it can accept two separate gigabit connections from your ISP and aggregate them into a single 2 Gbps connection to be used by devices on your network. With an AX5700 rating this router has enough bandwidth to support a total of 4.8 Gbps over the 5 Ghz frequency, and 861 Mbps over the 2.4 GHz frequency which will be more wireless bandwidth than you’re likely to need for years (if not decades). It also comes with a multi-gigabit LAN port that can transfer at speeds of 2.5 Gbps.
As far as extras go, this router comes with free lifetime security from Trend Micro that’s built into the router’s firmware, WPA3 encryption, compatibility with other Asus Ai Mesh devices (if you want to extend your network later on), 160 MHz support for greater network reliability, and advanced gaming features as part of Asus’ Game Mode suite of features.
3. TP-Link Archer AX21 AX1800 Router
BEST WIFI 6 BUDGET ROUTER
For those who just want to get a taste of the potential benefits of WiFi 6, but don’t necessarily want to splurge on a high-end router, the TP-Link Archer AX21 is an affordable router that promises solid performance for a smaller home or an average internet user. The quad-core CPU on this router will ensure that it can efficiently deal with a large number of devices on the network at the same time, while the 1.2 Gbps throughput on the 5 GHz band ensures that you can simultaneously stream 4K video while FaceTiming your parents and downloading the latest game for your PS5. While it doesn’t have the built-in security and antivirus features of the TP-Link Archer AX50, you still receive many of the same benefits that our top pick provides.
4. Netgear WAX204 AX1500 Router
BEST BUSINESS ROUTER
If you’re currently running a small business out of your home, or you need a router for a smaller office space, the Netgear WAX204 is a business-oriented AX1500 WiFi 6 router that provides some unique security features. What this router will let you do is set up three distinct networks under different SSIDs so that you can sensitive information protected. Whether that’s separating your personal and professional networks at home, or separating the employee network from the public guest WiFi at a place of business, this router gives you the flexibility and security you need.
5. Netgear Nighthawk R6700 AC1750 802.11ac Router
BEST WIFI 5 ROUTER
The key word to know with this Nighthawk router from Netgear is smart. Capable of detecting which devices are taxing the network the heaviest and adjusting bandwidth accordingly, users won’t notice a drop-off in performance when everyone is using a different device (it has support for up to 35 WiFi-enabled gadgets). And with the corresponding mobile application (which allows users to set time limits and website filters), setup is a breeze, eliminating a lot of hassle that comes with installing a new router. It’s everything a modern router needs to be, at a price point that’s more than justifiable.
6. TP-Link Archer A7 AC1750 802.11ac Router
WiFi 5 BUDGET PICK
Speedy performance at a budget price is what you get with the TP-Link Archer A7 as it’s a solid, no-nonsense router that will absolutely handle the average computing demands of a small household. Setting up the router only takes a couple of minutes and delivers a theoretical max throughput of 1.3 Gbps across the 5 Ghz band. In the real world, according to PC Mag speed testing of the near-identical Archer C7, that means you can expect WiFi speeds around 500 Gbps if you have a gigabit connection and the right modem.
While it won’t cover a large house with a strong signal on its own, withstand the simultaneous needs of dozens of smart home devices, offer the lowest ping times for gamers or thrive as six devices are streaming 4K content at once, it is just fine for everything else. So, if you’re needing a faster signal as you transition from the office to working from home, this is a solid performing router that won’t break the bank.
7. Google Nest Wifi Mesh Router
Google’s Nest Wifi mesh router is a great way to get full, fast internet coverage throughout your home with some added benefits along the way. Not only does this AC2200 system blanket your home with speedy WiFi, but you can eliminate pesky dead spots by additional mesh nodes. It’s also dead simple to set up. Even better, each node doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker. Hey Google, is this a smart purchase? Yes.
8. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Tri-Band Router
BEST GAMING ROUTER
Work from home warriors or elite gamers demand speed from their WiFi routers, and the Asus ROG Rapture delivers just that. Sure, it might look like a techno-tarantula from a science-fiction fever dream, but gamers will appreciate Game Boost, a feature where the network prioritizes signal strength to Sony, Nintendo and Xbox gaming devices while keeping latency to an absolute minimum. On top of that, there are 10 Gbps of max throughput here, so you can dedicate an entire 5Ghz band to gaming and nothing else. The design may be aggressive, but the speed is top-notch and the setup is surprisingly easy to manage. Plus it can link up with other compatible devices that are part of Asus’ Aimesh system. The only downside: it’s crazy expensive.
9. Netgear Orbi AX6000 Mesh WiFi 6 System
BEST WIFI 6 SPLURGE
Throwing down on a WiFi 6 mesh router system is no casual play, but if you’re in need of more signal coverage than a single router can provide, have the equipment that is WiFi 6 compatible and have some money to burn, The Orbi RBK852 WiFi 6 mesh system has all the specs you could want. There are two bands offering a combined theoretical throughput of 6 Gbps, and a dedicated 160 Mhz band to allow both the main router and the satellite to more efficiently communicate and transfer data. The 2.4 Gbps WAN port ensures that as your ISP offers faster speeds, this router will unlock them with ease. What this all means is that your WiFi speeds will absolutely scream as you stream, download and control multiple smart home devices.
On the software side, the Orbi web interface and the Netgear Genie apps make managing your network a joy. You can easily set up a guest network, manage your devices and security settings, set up port forwarding and manage parental controls, such as turning off WiFi during dinner or blocking certain websites. And for the security-minded out there, you can also add a layer of security with the optional Netgear Armor subscription service, which will help protect you from various cyberthreats. Again, none of this comes cheap, but if you want one of the most advanced home networking solutions money can buy, the Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 is the best WiFi router you can buy.
10. Google WiFi
BUDGET GOOGLE ALTERNATIVE
Small, discreet and just plain cool-looking, the Google Wifi router is a great solution for city-based apartment-dwellers that need something powerful in a small space. If you do want to cover a large area, the router is part of a mesh system, so buy however many you may need in order to ensure the appropriate coverage. Additionally, Google’s Network Assist works to make sure that your devices always have the fastest lane possible for optimal speeds on all of your devices. So even though it doesn’t provide as much coverage in terms of real estate, it’s still one of the best wireless routers for sale today.
11. Netgear Orbi AC3000 802.11ac Mesh WiFi System
BEST 802.11AC PERFORMANCE
This two-pack whole mesh WiFi system helps cover your entire home with a reliable wireless signal providing 5,000 square feet of speedy coverage while handling upwards of 60 connected devices simultaneously before feeling the strain. This tri-band router will deliver a strong signal through the most problematic of walls and obstacles, and if you have a gigabit connection, you can expect to see WiFi speeds up to 580 Mbps across the 5 Ghz spectrum. Like the more expensive WiFi 6 Orbi, this 802.11ac Orbi has the same great software and security features, so managing this device is painless.
An added benefit of the Orbi system is it doesn’t look like a router. It’s not an eyesore, so need to worry about hiding it — instead, let it shine out in the open. Not only will it look great, but your WiFi coverage will be great, too.
12. eero 802.11ac Mesh WiFi System
BEST MESH WIFI VALUE
For reliable and scalable internet connection all wrapped up in one simple package, check out the eero Home WiFi system from Amazon. The system starts with a really stylish, sleek base unit that’s augmented by a series of beacon systems (the entry-level unit comes with one beacon, but there are options to upgrade accordingly) that plug into your standard electrical outlet. Fast and easy, with units that eliminate garish antennae, this is an elegant solution for homeowners looking to never lose a step with their coverage. Buy as many eero units as you need to cover your entire home and never worry about buffering again.
13. ASUS RT-ACRH13 AC1300 802.11ac Router
While the ASUS RT-ACRH13 doesn’t automatically flight-control your devices in the same way as the Nighthawk, it does provide consistent access through its dual-band frequencies and four external antennas. The combination of both elements means that you’ll have strong signal access throughout your home. Additionally, it includes a smart setup via the ASUS app. It might not be as technical as some want, but for the money, it’s tough to beat. If you want to set up a more sophisticated mesh network, choose one of the best wireless routers from Google or Netgear.
14. D-Link WiFi AC1750 802.11ac Router
Speedy and smart, the D-Link WiFi AC1750 router is a great upgrade for your home WiFi system. With Smart Connect, the router will automatically shift devices over to the band with the best signal, so you always receive the most from your WiFi. And if you feel like purchasing extenders to get better coverage in a bigger multi-level home, it can integrate right into a mesh system.
15. Linksys MR8300 Tri-Band AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router
With an 87% approval rating on Amazon, the Linksys Mesh WiFi Router is a popular choice to speed up your home WiFi. Like the best WiFi routers, this hardware sets up a smart mesh network that diverts resources where they’re needed the most. This router provides the speed for multiple users in the home to stream 4K content, host Zoom calls and game without missing a beat. You can even link this router with Velop Mesh nodes to get strong coverage in multi-level homes or to get rid of any lingering dead spots.