There's a traffic jam in your home, with a wide array of connected devices — from smartphones and tablets to laptops and media streamers — competing for a share of your wireless network. According to market research firm IDC, the average home has more than eight connected devices.
Routers that support the latest wireless standard, called 802.11ac, help alleviate those issues by providing more than four times the throughput of 802.11n hardware. Plus, by using a more efficient process, newer routers can help save battery life on your mobile devices. But not all 802.11ac routers are created equal.
Based on our in-depth testing and reviews of more than 15 routers, the Linksys WRT1900ACS ($180) is the best overall choice, thanks to its high throughput and extensive monitoring tools. If you're on a budget, you should also consider Netgear's R6220 ($80), which offers welcome features like parental controls alongside solid performance in a reasonably priced router. And gamers will appreciate the ability to customize the Amped Wireless RTA2600 Athena router ($160).
A new type of router uses mesh networking, in which a router uses relay points to extend a wireless network throughout your home. The Netgear Orbi ($400) is currently our favorite mesh-router system, although rival mesh systems, including the Eero, the Amped Wireless Ally Plus and Google Wifi have their merits. If you need to fill a large home with Wi-Fi, we recommend the $350 AmpliFi HD.
*The AmpliFi and Netgear Orbi routers were tested at 150 feet.
If there's a router you'd like us to review or if you have any questions about what to buy, drop us a note in the comments. You may also want to check out our recommendations of cable modems and Wi-Fi extenders.
How We Evaluated
We tested all routers in our office using IxChariot to measure throughput at distances from 5 feet to 140 feet. (In some tests, the latter distance was 150 feet.) We then measured real-world performance in an older house with thick walls, to test both range and how they handle simultaneous streams from multiple devices. Other factors used in evaluating the routers include ease of setup and use, software features and available ports.
Here are our top Wi-Fi router picks across several categories.
|Related Buying Guides:|
|Best Wi-Fi Extenders|
|Best Wireless Printers|