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We researched over 100 different products, then bought the 10 most promising WiFi routers on the market in our quest to find the best one for your networking needs. We extensively tested the performance of these products head-to-head, rigorously measuring performance through a series of objective tests. We also compared and scored how convenient and easy to operate each router is and tried out all the different features. Read on to find out which router is the best of them all, which is the best bargain option, and which one excels for heavy-duty applications.
Editor's Note: We updated this review for WiFi Routers on March 25, 2022, with additional information on our in-depth testing process and a section that highlights products we would recommend to a friend (that includes you!)
Of all the WiFi routers we've tested, the ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 is the cream of the crop. This router is a high-quality model with a comprehensive assortment of functions and features and is simple and intuitive to operate to boot. Regarding 5 GHz throughput, it tied for first place and made it to the second spot for our 2.4 GHz series of tests.
One downside to this router is that its capable range is average, which can be disappointing considering its higher price tag. Still, if you don't mind paying top dollar for a router that will offer you exceptional streaming performance, and don't need a device with exceptional range, look no further than the ASUS.
MU-MIMO?: Yes | # of LAN ports: 3 on primary, 4 on satellites
REASONS TO BUY
Very easy to use
Excellent parental controls
REASONS TO AVOID
No Quality of Service (QoS) network prioritization
For a premium network that can provide a good range throughout your whole house, check out the NetGear Orbi WiFi System (RBK50). This router is an intuitive device and one of the easiest to use right out of the box, delivering impressive range with its series of auxiliary transmitters. It includes robust parental controls and performed well in our range and data throughput testing.
Unsurprisingly, this performance comes at a somewhat high cost. The Orbi carries one of the highest price tags of all the routers we tested. Also, data throughput can fall off at the edge of its range, and you cannot prioritize specific network traffic. For us, these weren't dealbreakers. If you're shopping for a mesh network's expanded coverage, we think you'll have difficulty finding one better than this.
If you want a router that delivers excellent performance but you get sticker shock from the high-end models' price tags, check out the NetGear Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2). It stands up to the premium products for data throughput on its 5GHz and 2.4 GHz networks, and it's intuitive to boot. The range it provided was also quite impressive, allowing our computer to stream video without issue during testing from the farthest distance, performing the best out of our entire testing group.
However, this router doesn't have all the bells and whistles that the premium models feature. Despite that, this is our favorite product to recommend anyone shopping on a budget but is willing to pay a little extra for better performance.
The eero Mesh WiFi Router is a great choice if you want to improve the WiFi coverage area in your house while keeping your spending in check. This small, sleek, and stylish router is simple to set up and use, thanks to the companion app that easily guides you through the whole process. It comes with a solid set of functions and features, and the data throughput proved good as well.
The eero Mesh WiFi Router is limited regarding wired connections due to its petite nature — it lacks USB ports and only has one pair of LAN ports per transmitter. The range was also somewhat limited for a single node. Despite that, the network's entire range was pretty powerful. We think this router is a great choice for those seeking a straightforward and budget-friendly wireless mesh router system.
The NetGear AC1750 (R6400) is a good option for those who struggle to get sufficient connectivity at the furthest reaches of their homes. This router did quite well in our tests overall, but its range made an impression on us. Our test laptop was able to stream a video with over 200 feet separating it from the router, compared to other models that started buffering with as little as 65 feet between them and the computer. The AC1750 (R6400) also did well in our throughput tests and is one of the more user-friendly routers we have tested so far.
On the downside, we did notice that the AC1750 (R6400) has a limited selection of features than some of the other top-tier products, notably lacking MU-MIMO functionality. The QoS service also is far from our favorite. Regardless, the AC1750 (R6400) is our top recommendation if you need to send a signal to the far-flung reaches of your home.
Our lead WiFi router testing team of Austin Palmer and David Wise have both made a career out of reviewing tech and smart home products and have tested and reviewed hundreds of these products for TechGearLab. On top of their professional experience, Austin also brings his expertise as an avid PC gamer. He has extensively played PC games for over a decade, giving him a deep understanding of what factors contribute to the performance of WiFi routers.
Our testing of WiFi routers is comprised of five rating metrics:
Features (25% of overall score rating)
Ease of Use (20% of overall score rating)
2.4 GHz Throughput (20% of overall score rating)
5 GHz Throughput (20% of overall score rating)
Range (15% of overall score rating)
Through extensive online research, we examined the most popular products on the market before settling on and testing more than 12 of the best WiFi routers. We did extensive range testing, seeing just how far away you can be from the router and still receive acceptable streaming speed. We measured the throughput of each one on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz to compare their performance quantitatively. We also examined the ease of use, setup, and features of each of these routers. Our expert team conducted more than 200 individual tests to help you find the perfect one to match your particular needs and budget.
Analysis and Test Results
We purchased all of the routers tested here and never accept any free evaluation units to include in our reviews. By singling out the most promising products and then testing them side-by-side, we can directly compare products to see which ones are truly the best. Each metric consisted of a handful of tests, with the performance of each product ranked and scored against the field. In our review, you'll find the detailed results for each metric, highlighting which products performed well and which ones dropped the ball. We hope that this comprehensive testing process will help you decide on the best WiFi router for your needs and budget.
Balancing performance and price, the NetGear Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2) is the best value if you are shopping on a tight budget but want to upgrade your home or office network. The eero Mesh WiFi Router is our recommendation if you eventually want to get a mesh network throughout your home but are working on a tight budget. While this router is a little on the pricey side if you buy the 3-pack all at once, we like that you have the option to buy each node separately and build up your network as your budget allows.
Accounting for 25% of each product's overall score, we compared the feature sets of each router. First, we looked for the presence of three key features: MU-MIMO, Beamforming, and how many LAN ports each product has. MU-MIMO, or "multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output" (we know, it's quite a mouthful!), simply means the ability for the router to talk back-and-forth (multiple inputs, multiple outputs) with multiple devices (multi-user) simultaneously. For example, an MU-MIMO router could be sending data back-and-forth between an iPhone, a laptop, and a Smart TV much faster than a SU-MIMO, or non-MU-MIMO router, essentially making your network faster overall and leading to less buffering and lag issues.
Beamforming refers to how the router shapes the WiFi field. WiFi routers that support beamforming don't send out the same WiFi signal strength in every direction. Instead, the router communicates with each device to get the relative position and concentrates the signal strength in that direction. This design leads to better overall signal and reception for each device on your network. We also noted if you could turn the indicator lights on and off, turn the router on and off remotely, and the number and type of USB ports available.
Tied for the top spot was the ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 and the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 (R9000) for their impressive suite of features. They're both MU-MIMO and have beamforming capabilities and the ability to be remotely reset and toggle the indicator lights on and off. The ASUS RT-AC88U has eight LAN ports, whereas the X10 only has six. The ASUS RT-AC88U has a slight edge over the Nighthawk X10in terms of hardwired connections. Both have a pair of USB ports, but the ASUS RT-AC88U has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0, compared to the pair of USB 3.0 ports on the X10.
The ASUS RT-AC68U (AC1900), the NetGear Nighthawk X10, and the Linksys AC1900 (Max Stream EA7500) all have an above-average set of features. The NetGear Nighthawk X10 and the Linksys Max Stream have beamforming and MU-MIMO capabilities, whereas the ASUS RT-AC68U only has beamforming. However, all three of these products will allow you to turn off their indicator and network traffic LEDs through the web interface, although the Linksys Max Stream leaves the power indicator light on regardless.
This trio each has four LAN ports, but only the ASUS RT-AC68U and the Linksys Max Stream have a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port. The NetGear Nighthawk X10 only has a single USB 3.0 port. We have to note that the Linksys Max Stream cannot be power cycled remotely. When troubleshooting, you're forced to manually reset it, which can be a huge pain if you keep the router in a hard-to-reach location. You can reset the other two remotely.
As far as we could tell, the NetGear AC1750 (R6400) does not have MU-MIMO, but it does support beamforming. This lack of feature hurt its score considerably, effectively preventing it from a shot at an award. However, it does have a remote reset and the ability to turn the indicator lights off, and four LAN ports. It also has both a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port.
Ease of Use
Our second series of assessments deal with how much work it took to set up and use each router, comprising 20% of each product's final score. We paid specific attention to the initial setup process of each model — the time it took to get the network going, whether or not you needed to update the firmware, and how extensive the documentation is. We also looked at the scope and ease of use of the parental controls and Quality of Service (QoS) and the overall intuitiveness of each product's interface.
Taking home the top score are the ASUS RT-AC88U and the ASUS RT-AC68U. Both are essentially identical in terms of ease of use, relying on the same interface. We were impressed with how little effort it took to get both of these routers set up and configured. Though each required an update to their firmware upon unboxing, it wasn't particularly difficult to do.
For the most part, it was a problem-free setup process, with both a helpful web interface and a step-by-step wizard that guides you through configuring the network name and password. The wizard did give us some slight issues changing the network name one of the times that we tried to set it on the ASUS RT-AC88U, but aside from that, everything was a breeze. Both of these routers have an exceptionally approachable user interface.
This device also gives you the option of enabling parental controls so that you can block websites by genre or by specific addresses. These blocks can also be set on a schedule or programmed to only apply to certain devices. Finally, both of these ASUS routers support QoS, allowing either adaptive, traditional, or bandwidth-limited. Quality of Service or QoS allows you to prioritize bandwidth allocations for devices and customize your network to best suit your needs, whether streaming media, gaming, or just surfing the web casually.
The TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750) required a firmware update out of the box, but we easily accomplished this. You can complete the initial setup process for these routers through either a smartphone app or a personal computer. It is a super easy process whichever way you choose, but the smartphone setup provides prompts for every step. The browser-based setup through the computer isn't as helpful when leading you through the process, but you also have pretty extensive written documentation to consult if you need it.
The TP-Link Archer C7 has QoS, but it only allows you to sort priority by devices, not by content like some of the other routers in the group. This pair has identical parental controls, allowing you to filter out websites by keywords and set a schedule for internet access.
Equally easy to set up with a very helpful app that guides you through every step of the process is the NetGear Orbi WiFi System (RBK50). It helps you set the admin password, network password, and SSID, and then walks you through adding in additional transmitters. We did have to update its firmware, but it was a painless process, and we liked how intuitive, and user-friendly the interface and app layout is. This router also has some of the most extensive parental controls that we have tested, though it is through a separate app. It lets you select preset profiles based on the age you want to filter for and lets you block content by categories or specific sites. Additionally, you can set these filters to work on a schedule.
Except for the NetGear AC1200 (R6230), all of the NetGear routers that we have tested required firmware updates upon unboxing. Linksys routers were all ready to go right out of the box; none of them required a firmware update. However, the network settings of these routers are not particularly easy to configure compared to the rest of the group. They each had myriad problems when we attempted to set the network name and password — with the NetGear AC1200 (R6230) being an exception. The AC 1200 (R6230) is one of the easiest models for the entire group to set up, with an intuitive mobile app and a user-friendly interface. However, it is lacking in terms of features.
Minus the NetGear AC1200 (R6230), the NetGear WiFi routers have the most sophisticated parental control options. It can be a little more labor-intensive to set up but allows you the finest level of control. The AC 1200 (R6230) is pretty limited in letting you customize which content to block, leaving you with the preset lists already in the app. It is decent for blocking a wide spectrum of content but isn't very good at blocking specific things. We found the Linksys parental controls ineffective for filtering content, as it can only filter by the website address. You are forced to create an itemized list of all the questionable content that you want to block — an impossible task. However, you can filter by time, cutting off access to certain devices at certain times.
2.4 GHz Throughput
Worth 20% of the overall score, we looked at each router's throughput, that is, how fast each router and a test computer can exchange data, on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency ranges. We conducted five different tests for each bandwidth, averaging the results of three trials. We used the iPerf3 software running on our test client computer connected to each router, so the test was independent of the ISP speed in our area.
Reigning supreme was the Linksys Max Stream, earning the top score for its 2.4 GHz speed. The Max Stream delivered an excellent performance in our first assessment, having the average fastest throughput speed in our line-of-sight, short distance test — about 10 feet away. It clocked in at an average of 57 Mbits/second.
The Linksys Max Stream continued its stellar performance in the obstructed version of the test, again delivering the highest throughput of the entire group with a comparable 57 Mbits/sec. The results of the routers drastically changed in the obstructed version of our assessment, with the performance of the ASUS RT-AC88U and the NetGear AC1750 (R6400) decreasing notably. However, the other routers were relatively unaffected, though the eero Mesh weirdly did a bit better in this test.
The Linksys Max Stream also delivered the best results in the line of sight, medium distance test — about 35 feet away. We saw some movement in the rankings from the short distance test, with the NetGear Nighthawk X10 and the NetGear Orbi delivering some of the best results.
The Linksys Max Stream was finally dethroned in the obstructed medium distance evaluation, dropping to third place. For the obstructed test, the NetGear Orbi did the best of this group, followed by the NetGear Nighthawk X10.
For the long-distance test, the ASUS RT-AC88U outperformed the rest of the group, measuring at 27 Mbit/s. The Max Stream's performance dropped again in the longest distance version of this test — with about 70 feet separating the computer and router. It still scored close to the top of the pack, but it was overshadowed by the stellar performance of the ASUS RT-AC88U.
The TP-Link Archer C7, the NetGear AC1200 (R6230), and the ASUS RT-AC68U all did a fair job with the short and medium-distance tests, but their throughput fell off for the long-distance test. These routers averaged in the 30-50 Mbits/s range in the short distance tests and dropped to the 20-40 Mbit/s in the medium distance. This performance is a stark contrast to their performance in the 70-foot test, with the TP-Link models averaging around 9 Mbits/s, the ASUS RT-AC68U averaging 12.7 Mbit/s, and the NetGear AC1200 (R6230) only measuring an abysmal average of 2.3 Mbits/s.
5 GHz Throughput
For our next metric, we repeated the above set of tests for each router, using the 5 GHz network. As a quick refresher: we conducted five tests for this bandwidth by running iPerf3 software on our test client computer connected to each router (so that the test was independent of our local ISP speed) and then averaged the results of three trials.
The data rate is usually much faster over a 5 GHz network, but the signal attenuates rapidly, meaning the speed decreases as the distance between the router and the server increases.
While the NetGear Nighthawk X10 ultimately delivered the overall fastest 5 GHz performance at a distance, it wasn't nearly as impressive in the short and medium-distance tests, dropping it out of the running for a top score in this metric.
The NetGear AC1200 (R6230) proves its worth in the short distance, obstructed test.
The NetGear AC1200 (R6230) did very well in the short and medium-distance versions, while the NetGear Nighthawk AC1750 (R6400) excelled in the obstructed and unobstructed medium-distance tests.
The NetGear Orbi did just a bit better than the Nighthawk in the line-of-sight test but didn't handle the interference quite as well.
The ASUS RT-AC88U impressed us with its great performance at a long distance, but the NetGear Nighthawk X10 reigned supreme in the long-distance 5 GHz test, recording an average throughput of 46 Mbits/s.
The NetGear AC1750 (R6400) — impressive in other specific tests — showed a middle-of-the-road performance for throughput at long distances.
For this metric, we compared and scored the range of each WiFi router. We measured out various distances then streamed the same video to see if there were any buffering issues. We noted the distance the video playback was interrupted for each WiFi router then used that to determine the scores.
The NetGear AC1750 (R6400), delivering uninterrupted playback at a distance of over 200 feet, earned the top score in this metric. We successfully watched a 5-minute YouTube video in 720p without buffering or interruptions.
Despite their other accolades, the ASUS RT-AC88U, the NetGear Nighthawk AC1750, and the NetGear Orbi all displayed a mediocre performance. The range of all of these products dropped dramatically, with the video stream cutting out about 50 to 60 feet closer than the NetGear AC1750 (R6400).
The eero Mesh and the TP-Link Archer C7 performed slightly below average. At the back of the pack, the Linksys AC1900 Max Stream had a meager range of just over a hundred feet, and the NetGear AC1200 (R6230) had an even more disappointing 65-foot range.
There is a lot to consider when looking for the best WiFi router for your home or office. The lists of features and technical jargon can sometimes be overwhelming, and we try to make all those things much clearer for you in this review. Hopefully, this review has answered some of your questions about WiFi routers and helped you find the perfect model to suit your needs and budget.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.