Adding one of the best Wi-Fi routers is the easiest way to upgrade your home network and well worth it since we’re now spending even more time online. Swapping out your existing router with a new, up-to-date one can make it seem like every laptop, smart TV, game console and doorbell camera is working a lot faster.
Besides giving you a speedier Wi-Fi connection throughout your home, many of the latest routers ship with built-in security software, mobile apps to configure their settings on the go and easy to use parental control software to help limit how much time your kids spend online.
Whether you’re working from home, streaming content online or even gaming, there’s no substitute for the top-notch performance offered by one of the best Wi-Fi routers.
In order to find the right models for a wide variety of needs and use cases, we thoroughly test each and every router we review. This way we can help you find one that works for you and fits your budget.
Best Wi-Fi routers right now
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The Asus RT-AX86U is a Wi-Fi 6 powerhouse that delivers great speeds and killer gaming features, as well as awesome customization options. With high-end performance and lifetime protection against intrusions and malware, it's also a great option for securing your entire home network, providing long term protection without a subscription fee, and carrying a two-year warranty.
But the real draw of the Asus RT-AX86U is the performance, which in our testing approached the the magical 1Gbps mark to provide speedy and effortless connectivity for all of your devices. With excellent range and great performance — even through walls and between floors — the RT-AX86U is equal parts general-use router and elite gaming router, and the collection of features and ports it offers are a steal compared to some of the top-performing gaming gear. If you want the best Wi-Fi 6 router for the whole household, the Asus RT-AX86U is it.
Read our full Asus RT-AX86U review.
Netgear's Orbi WiFi 6E (model number RBKE963) is one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems on the planet — and also one the most expensive. But if you have money to burn, a gigabit broadband connection from your ISP and an enormous house, then this is probably the mesh system for you.
The Orbi WiFi 6E can cover up to 9,000 square feet. Add a third satellite and you can go to 12,000 square feet. At a distance of 15 feet, the router's 6-GHz channel delivered throughput of more than a gigabit per second, the first mesh router to do so in our tests.
Each unit has 12 antennas and four Ethernet ports (one rated at 2.5 Gbps), and the system creates channels on the 2.5, 5 and 6-Ghz bands, plus a fourth 5-Ghz one for backhaul between units.
Netgear offers trial subscriptions to its Armor security software, which includes Bitdefender antivirus, and parental controls. You'll also have to pay for tech support after 90 days. But if you can afford to pay for this mesh system, you won't mind.
Read our full Netgear Orbi WiFi 6E (RBKE963) review.
With the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) Wi-Fi 6 router, top performance and enhanced security go hand in hand, combining throughput that smashes through the gigabit per second barrier with malware protection and Disney’s Circle app for blocking inappropriate content and managing family network use. And with excellent performance through walls and floors, the Nighthawk AX8 will work just as well in the real world as in the lab.
It may be expensive — most of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers are — but the RAX80 was easy for us to set up and lets you configure the router exactly the way you want it. It's also got a 90-foot range, but we found it delivered better performance at distances of 50 feet, making it better suited to medium-sized homes. By almost any measure, the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) is the Wi-Fi-6 router to get if you don’t want to compromise on speed and safety.
Read our full Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) review.
The first gaming router we tested that features Wi-Fi 6, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a gamer's delight, with speed that improves over longer range, low latency and all the features that gamers expect. Add it all up and most other gaming routers are now second best.
The GT-AX11000 is large, with a gargantuan base, eight swiveling antennas, and massive 10.8Gbps maximum throughput. This wireless router has connectivity in droves, thanks to its tri-band design and four downstream Gigabit LAN ports, a single 2.5G Base T Ethernet connection, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Built-in customization and gaming-oriented optimizations provide plenty of control, and you can even pair it with other Asus routers for mesh networking to cover a larger home. At $450, it is expensive, but this is one of the best gaming routers for gamers wanting an edge online.
Read our full Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 review.
The Google Nest Wi-Fi combines an excellent mesh Wi-Fi router with a smart home speaker, giving you whole-home connectivity along with the benefits of Google Assistant, wherever you are in your house. Although they lack WI-Fi 6, they have both Bluetooth and 802.15.4 Thread mesh networking built in to efficiently connect with low-power home-automation devices. However, if you want a mesh router from Google with Wi-Fi 6E support, the Nest Wifi Pro is now available and our full review will be published soon.
While the overall throughput of the Nest Wi-Fi isn't the best among mesh routers — it had a peak throughput of 653.2 Mbps in our tests — we liked that each satellite was small and unobtrusive, so it wouldn't look out of place on a bookshelf. All in all, this is a great little mesh Wi-Fi system at a reasonable price.
Read our full Nest WiFi review.
Wi-Fi 6 routers aren't cheap, but value is the name of the game for the TP-Link Archer AX6000 router, our favorite budget-friendly Wi-Fi 6 router. It may lag on performance and range but it offers Wi-Fi 6 speeds for less than competing Wi-Fi 6 models. Think of the Archer AX6000 as the affordable router for the first generation of Wi-Fi 6 devices.
With eight wired networking ports and the ability to pair two together to create a 2Gbps stream of data, TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 router leads the way for Wi-Fi 6 routers that are just as good with wired devices as they are at Wi-Fi. By adding in router-based security, the Archer AX6000 stands alone as one of the best routers you can get, at a price that's hard to beat.
Read our full TP-Link Archer AX6000 review.
The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 was the first Wi-Fi 6e router to hit the market, and the results are mind-blowing. By adding the new 6-GHz band to the already impressive capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, the Nighthawk RAXE500 delivers category-leading performance — but at $599, it's not cheap.
This tri-band device more than lives up to the hype by delivering nearly 2.5Gbps of real-world data in our testing. Add this to the slick design and highly customizable configuration options, and the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 becomes one of the best wireless routers we've ever reviewed. While it’s best at close quarters and is one of the most expensive routers you can buy, the RAXE500 is worth every penny if you have the need for speed.
Read our full Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 review.
Other Wi-Fi routers to consider
The TP-Link Archer C5400X is the gaming router to beat, with some of the best performance you'll see in any single home networking device. It offers best-in-class tri-band performance, delivering 1Gbps over its 2.4GHz band and 2.167Gbps over each of its two 5GHz channels. It also has impressive coverage, with more than 100-feet of superb coverage that will blanket most homes in strong, clear Wi-Fi signal.
The spider-like 8-antenna design and red-on-black color scheme are sure to turn heads, but the real selling point is the collection of optimization and security features that will satisfy any power user. With excellent bandwidth-allocation controls to let you use the massive throughput as you wish, this router puts incredible performance into the user's hands, for gaming or anything else.
Read our full TP-Link Archer C5400X review.
For a truly customizable router, we recommend the Linksys EA8300 Max-Stream, which is not only a great tri-band router, it's also loaded with tools to tweak and customize your router for optimal performance. The small black EA8300 Max-Stream can move lots of data, though it will do best in smaller homes. But even with shorter range, it offers impressive performance for a router that sells for less than $200.
Whether you're allocating bandwidth to prioritize gaming or media streaming, or just setting up parental controls, you can automate many features, make manual adjustments on the fly, and monitor it — all from your desktop or smartphone. With so many ways to customize your router’s performance, the Linksys EA8300 Max Stream is an easy pick for the power user.
Read our full Linksys EA8300 Max Stream review.
Netgear's Orbi 4G LTE Advanced WiFi Router (LBR20) gives you the choice of using either a wired broadband modem or LTE to provide data to your home network. However, you can also configure this router to use 4G as a backup option if there are problems with your internet service provider. Since the Orbi LBR20 is a mesh router, you can expand your network using other Orbi gear.
While the LBR20 is a great choice for those living in rural areas or in RVs as it can always serve up data if you're close to a cell tower, the device uses the older Wi-Fi 5 specification as well as 4G instead of 5G.
Read our full Netgear Orbi 4G LTE Advanced WiFi Router review.
The Linksys Hydra Pro 6 is a compact Wi-Fi 6 router that is easy to set up. This router is unobtrusive and a great choice for filling a smaller home or apartment with Wi-Fi. Besides being able to tap into wide 160MHz data channels for data hungry users, the Hydra Pro 6 has four Ethernet ports as well as a USB port at its rear. Another thing that helps it stand out from the competition is the fact that it can be used to create a mesh network by connecting to Linksys Velop satellites.
In our testing, the Hydra Pro 6 was able to move 840.6Mbps at a range of 15 feet though the router has a max range of 95-feet. One downside though is that all of its Ethernet ports are capped at 1Gbps. If you have gigabit internet, this shouldn't be a problem but those with multi-gig plans will want to look elsewhere.
Read our full Linksys Hydra Pro 6 review.
Is it time to update your Wi-Fi router?
Maybe you’ve noticed that your current Wi-Fi coverage feels slower than it used to, have been experiencing spotty reception, or maybe you just need something better equipped to handle the demands of the growing number of smart home devices at your house. If you’ve been dealing with any of these issues, a new router should be able to fix these common problems.
It’s also worth upgrading to a new Wi-Fi router if you’re still using older hardware. If you have an old Wireless-N or Wireless-AC (retroactively renamed Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 respectively) router in your home, you should definitely consider upgrading to something more current. Newer standards will not only provide faster connectivity but there are other benefits as well. For instance, your smartphone battery will last longer as a result of more efficient device management and your connected home gadgets will all feel much faster with these more capable standards.
The other big reason to upgrade your router is that you’re tired of paying a monthly rental fee for a router from your ISP. Since average equipment rental fees cost anywhere from $10-15 each mount, a new router can pay for itself in just a short amount of time while providing you with better service and features. Just don’t forget to pair it with one of the best cable modems if you want to entirely free yourself from the extra costs that often come with broadband internet packages.
How to choose the best Wi-Fi router for you
When it comes to choosing the best wireless router for your home or small business, it’s easy to get lost in the complex networking jargon and obscure technology standards. However, all you really need to know is how to answer two key questions: What speed do you need for your internet connection? And what sort of coverage do you need?
Speeds and standards: The internet speed you need for your router is determined by the speed you get from your internet service provider as well as the speeds supported by your modem. For most people, a standard 802.11ac router will handle all but the highest performing plans, like Gigabit internet plans that aren’t available everywhere just yet. With average broadband speeds at around 100 Mbps, most wireless AC routers will be able to handle the job with ease.
The latest technology for routers is called Wi-Fi 6 (aka 802.11ax) which is a faster standard that’s better suited for households with a lot of smart home devices. There are many Wi-Fi 6 routers available today, though there’s an even newer twist on this standard called Wi-Fi 6e that takes advantage of a newly opened part of the radio spectrum.
Wi-Fi 6e-enabled devices, such as laptops and smartphones, are still few and far between. Unless you’re using a dozen devices at once, you likely won’t see much benefit from upgrading to Wi-Fi 6e at this time. See our article What is Wi-Fi 6E: Routers, devices and how it's better than Wi-Fi 6 to learn more.
Coverage range: The other part of the wireless equation is coverage area. A basic standalone router will generally offer 50 to 100 feet of range, so that it can easily cover the majority of apartments and smaller homes. If you have a house with 3,000 square feet or more of space, you’ll want to consider a mesh router instead which use multiple devices to provide a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout larger homes. These are especially helpful in multistory houses or in homes with dead spots where the Wi-Fi signal drops out.
Ports: Though wireless connectivity is the main thing you want from a Wi-Fi router, you’ll also want to think about wired connections. Ethernet offers faster connectivity for devices like game consoles and smart TVs that use more bandwidth and USB ports are handy for connecting older printers or storage to your network.
Input is another issue, especially if you live in an area where Gigabit internet is available. With a Gigabit connection, an older router can be a bottleneck, slowing down your entire home. Some routers can even aggregate two inputs for even faster connectivity.
Price range: Current 802.11 ac routers often sell for less than $100 for basic, dual-band models. More expensive modems range up to $300 but offer better coverage and faster speeds, while gaming routers have built-in optimization features and typically sell for more. New routers using the Wi-Fi 6 standard (previously known as 802.11 ax) often cost $400 or more.
Keeping up on everything happening in the networking world can be difficult, so check out our helpful guides on the latest technology, like What is a mesh Wi-Fi router, and do you need one? Or get the latest advice on how to fix your router's security problems, from simple steps to advanced protections. From router security to in-depth explanations of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, we're always providing the latest info about the newest products and innovations.
How we test Wi-Fi routers
We test every router we review to measure performance and range, in addition to hands-on use to evaluate the ease-of-setup and quality of settings and features.
Throughput describes how much data the router can move back and forth over its wireless connection. Higher throughput will serve you better in data-heavy uses, like streaming video, gaming, or connecting multiple users at once.
We measure throughput using IXChariot (opens in new tab), first at a 5-foot distance without obstructions, so that we can gauge the maximum amount of data that the router can move. We then measure how much data the router can move at 50, 75 and 100 feet, so that you can also choose the best model for smaller homes and apartments, where short-range performance may be the priority.
We also test performance through walls and ceilings, to determine how well a router can provide signal in the Wi-Fi-dampening conditions common to many buildings and homes.
For mesh routers, we perform additional testing to determine how well the mesh system does sending a signal through both the main router and through a satellite unit.
Following out throughput tests, we also put the router through real-world tests by connecting a number of devices — laptops, TVs, smartphones, and tablets — and stream a number of games, TV shows and movies simultaneously to see how well the router performs under strain.
For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.
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