Internet access is everywhere. Like oxygen, we take it for granted. We don’t have to connect a cable or make a call, it’s just there, and we use it for just about everything. The only time you really think about it is when there is a problem, and when that happens, most of the time the culprit is your router.
Your router is probably the hardest working electronic device in your entire home. It is on 24/7 and is connected to every device in your house capable of accessing the internet. Create and manage your home network, share your modem’s internet connection, and keep intruders out. We take it for granted until something goes wrong, and that’s when everyone starts complaining in seconds.
Editor’s Recommendation: Top 5 5G Router
Most likely, the router you use is the one granted to you by your internet provider. This consists of a not very expensive device that hardly fulfills the task of allowing your family to connect to the internet, and could even be integrated into your modem. If surfing the internet feels slower than it should, it could be that your router can’t keep up. If your home Wi-Fi performance is being affected, it’s probably also because of your router. Don’t settle for the router your internet provider gave you for free, buy a better one!
Many families should consider replacing it with a mesh network that covers the entire home. These consist of various devices placed around the house to ensure that the internet is available in every space you need. It is not much more expensive than buying a single router, and the difference will be noticeable. The Google Wifi is an excellent option, providing coverage to high – speed internet throughout your home.
But perhaps you’re more interested in performance than coverage, for example if you’ve made a big investment in games or video production. In that case, a powerful gaming router will offer greater bandwidth to the devices that interest you. The Netgear Nighthawk AX12it is the router of the future. It is the only router on this list that supports the latest Wi-Fi and security protocols and is incredibly powerful.
For those on a tighter budget, we’ve included some more affordable routers with very good performance. Of these, our favorite is the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 , which offers impressive performance and very good value for money.
Routers will cover nine in total, three in each category: systems mesh network , fast and powerful , and economical . We will name the advantages and disadvantages of each one so that you can make your own decision being well informed.
The first thing you should know about 5G WIFI routers
Someone is hogging the internet!
Do you notice when your internet suddenly slows down? If you are like me, you will wonder who is hogging the internet.
The things we require from routers change rapidly. Every time more of our life goes on online, and every year we seem to use more devices to achieve this. Someone could be playing in one part of the house, someone else could be watching Netflix in the living room, and at the same time, others could be watching YouTube on their iPads from their rooms. Meanwhile, each of your computers, phones, tablets and Smart home devices are connected to the router 24/7. You need one that can measure up!
So think about how you will be using the internet next year and next year. Every Wi-Fi device you buy will put more load on your system.
- Video game consoles
- Smart TVs
- Even smart scales
Simply put, you need a better wifi router, one that can match up to all your connected devices at once and can offer enough bandwidth to meet the needs of all of them. It needs to have enough coverage so that it can cover every area of your home so that you can have internet whenever you need it, and it should be easy to set up and maintain.
Some technical terms
How do you spell Wi-Fi?
Everyone spells it differently! The problem started with “High Fidelity” sound systems, which are commonly called hifi, or hi-fi, sometimes with strange capitals. The term became the inspiration for the most common way of naming “wireless networks”: “wifi”, or “wi-fi”, or “WiFi”, or “Wi-Fi”. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean “Wireless Fidelity” or anything like that, it just sounds like “hi-fi”.
So what is the correct way to spell it? While I personally prefer Wi-Fi, the Oxford and Merrian Webster dictionaries have it as “Wi-Fi”, and this coincides with the way the Wi-Fi Alliance (owners of trademarks related to Wi-Fi) constantly spells the term. We will follow your example in this guide, except for product names where it is spelled differently.
I am sure that in the long run simplicity will win and “wifi” will be in fashion. It wasn’t long ago that “email” should be spelled “e-mail.”
Wireless network speeds and standards
We are now in the sixth standard of wireless network:
- 802.11ac (also called Wi-Fi 5) compatible with most devices,
- 802.11ax (or Wi-Fi 6 ), the newest standard, compatible only with the latest devices.
Each standard is faster than the previous one. In this guide, eight of the devices we cover support Wi-Fi 5, and only one supports the new Wi-Fi 6. In 2019, you don’t want to buy anything slower than 802.11ac.
You will often see the speed represented as AC2200 (802.11ac with a speed of 2200 Mbps, or 2.2Gbps), or AX6000 (802.11ax with a speed of 6 Gbps).
These speeds are spread across multiple bands, so they won’t be available to a single device – it’s the total bandwidth that is theoretically available to all of your devices.
The more bands a router has, the more devices can be connected to it simultaneously. The routers in this guide are at least dual band and some triple band. The most powerful router we cover, the Netgear Nighthawk AX20, has an incredible twelve bands.
MU-MIMO stands for “multiple-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (multiple users, multiple inputs, multiple outputs).” It allows a router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously, which is important for homes where multiple people use the internet at the same time.
For security, we must ensure that users must log in to your router in order to use it. This keeps away anyone who has bad intentions. When you are configuring your router, you can usually choose between several security protocols:
- WEP, which has the weakest security and should not be used,
- WPA2, the most used protocol,
- WPA3 , which is so new that few devices are compatible.
We recommend WPA2, which is compatible with most routers. Only the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 has WPA3, but this protocol will be more widespread in the coming years.
Someone will hate any router that I recommend
I hate recommending products that have bad reviews, so in this roundup I only include routers that have a user-rated score of 4 stars or more. Despite this, not everyone is happy with their purchase. I was surprised to find that typically around 10% of router buyer reviews are only one star! Although the exact number varies, it applies to all the routers included in this overview.
How can this be so? Should I be worry? Users who make these negative reviews have genuine problems – the signal goes down, the video broadcasts are interrupted, the router reboots, and the wireless network just fades – and understandably they are annoying. Usually the problem is solved by returning the unit for warranty and getting a refund or a replacement unit.
Because of this negative experience, these users are surprised by the positive reviews the router receives and passionately recommend that potential buyers choose another model. We should? How seriously should we take these negative reviews? This is something you must decide for yourself.
I admit that over the years I have had several routers with similar problems. This is not surprising – they are complex devices that are expected to work 24 hours a day. Do these reviews mean that 10% of the routers are faulty? Probably not. An annoying user is more likely to leave a review than a satisfied user.
So which router should you choose? Everyone has negative reviews! Don’t be frustrated by indecision – do some research, make a decision, and live with it. My strategy is based on hoping for the best, making use of the router’s warranty if necessary, and first of all spending some time reading both positive and negative reviews to get a balanced idea of what to expect.
How we conduct the tests
Positive customer reviews.
I have my own experiences and router preferences, but the number of routers I have never used is much greater than the number I have used. And technology continues to change, so the brand that a few years ago was the best has probably already been surpassed by another.
Then I must take into account the experiences of other users. This is why I consider customer reviews important. They are written by real users about their own experiences with routers that they bought with their own money and use day after day. Your compliments or complaints add more credibility to the story than simply reading the product’s datasheet.
In this roundup, we have only considered routers with a rating of four stars or more from reviews of hundreds of customers or more.
Compatible with the latest wireless networking standards
You need a modern router for the modern world. All the routers in this guide are compatible with 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) or 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6).
Bandwidth / Total speed
With so many devices connected to the internet, you need all the speed you can get. Most families would like to be able to have this speed shared equally across all devices, but gamers need service as fast as possible and prefer that their machines be given a higher priority. There are routers with the qualities indicated for both cases.
Routers with a single band can only have one device connected, so we have only considered routers that are dual or triple-band (or even better). Most smartphones and appliances use the 2.4 GHz band, while the most data-consuming laptops and tablets use the 5 GHz band.
It is difficult to predict how much coverage each router can offer because it is affected by many factors. Your wireless signal can be hampered by thick brick walls or your refrigerator. Other wireless devices, such as your cordless phone, microwave, or your neighbor’s router, can cause interference that negatively affects the range of your router. But we have included the estimates of the manufacturing in each case that are available.
A router typically has a line-of-sight range of about 50 meters, but that depends on the number and type of antennas it has. Placing it in the center of your home will improve range because everything will be closer on average. Wi-Fi extenders are a great help and we will discuss them in another guide.
Mesh networks are the easiest way to extend the reach of your network to cover your entire home, although the initial cost may be higher. This consists of multiple routers (or a router with multiple satellite units) that work together and don’t require different network names and passwords, allowing you to move from room to room with your devices and stay connected. A three unit mesh network will cover most large homes.
Number of supported devices
How many devices does your family have? Next year they will probably be more. Prepare for the future by choosing a router that supports more devices than you currently have. Some can support more than 100 devices.
Routers may include various additional hardware and software features that may or may not be useful to you. They can include high-speed Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can connect to the network with even higher speeds. They may have one or more USB ports so you can connect older peripherals like printers without wireless capabilities, or external hard drives. They can include QoS (Quality of Service) that ensures consistent bandwidth, parental controls, or anti-malware software.
How serious do you take the quality of your router? There is a wide variety of prices, starting with cheap routers for less than 100 euros that will satisfy the needs of many users, up to the most powerful and innovative units that cost 500 euros or more.
The 3 mesh network unit packs rank at the middle of the list in terms of the initial investment required and are the best choice for users who need all devices to have excellent service in every room of their home or business . They offer the best coverage, excellent speeds, and great value for money. If less coverage is enough for you, you can save money by buying just one or two units.
But they are not the best option for everyone. Some users – including dedicated gamers – prioritize power over coverage, and may choose a more expensive router. They prefer routers with powerful processors, eight wireless antennas, enormous bandwidth, and abundant ethernet ports. Our winner even supports the 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 standard. If more coverage is required, this can be achieved by adding satellite units, and we discussed your options in another guide.
Finally, many users have more basic needs. They just want to connect to the internet and they don’t need to spend a mountain of money. We have included some routers that will adapt to this.
- Wireless Standard: 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5),
- Number of antennas: 3 (adjustable, external),
- Coverage: 140 square meters,
- MU-MIMO: Yes,
- Theoretical maximum bandwidth: 1.9 Gbps (AC1900).
For such an inexpensive modem, the EA6900 is everything that many users need. Configuration is easy, Wi-Fi speeds are adequate for most users, and multimedia prioritization offers more than reliable content streaming. User reviews express satisfaction with the speed of the router, and frequently with coverage as well.
It has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports – one 2.0 and the other 3.0 – so you can connect a printer or external hard drive. The Linksys Smart WiFi app ( iOS , Android ) helps with router setup – in fact, you need to configure it using the app. Feedback from users about Linksys technical support is quite positive.