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The Best Wi-Fi Routers

The Best Wi-Fi Routers
Written by Techbot

The humble Wi-Fi router has become an essential fixture in every home, but the one your internet service provider (ISP) sent is likely the reason your Wi-Fi sucks. There are various ways to improve your Wi-Fi, but few are as effective as upgrading your router. Benefits will extend to everything from streaming movies and online gaming to video calls. Most people can get by just fine with a single Wi-Fi router, and I’ve collected recommendations to suit different needs, spaces, and budgets. I tested all of these in a busy family home full of Netflix-addicted gamers. 

There’s a mesh Wi-Fi option here too, but check out our Best Mesh Wi-Fi Routers guide for larger homes. If you’re confused about terminology, our How to Buy a Router guide can help. Whatever you choose, make sure you secure your router.

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  • Photograph: TP-Link

    Best Overall

    TP-Link Archer AX55

    This affordable Wi-Fi 6 router is what I think most people should go for. The slick black finish is attractive, and there are four antennas to direct Wi-Fi to every corner (it is worth tweaking and testing different positions). Performance was solid throughout my two-floor 1,600-square-foot home but dropped off slightly in the back garden. Stability was excellent over a couple of weeks of testing, hitting the upper mid-end in my speed and range tests. This router also ticks off all the feature boxes you want (MU-MIMO, beamforming, WPA3—we explain many of these terms in our How to Buy a Router guide). It has four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a single Gigabit WAN port, and a USB 3.0 port on the back, which is enough for most people.

    I’m a fan of TP-Link’s Tether app, where you can review traffic, split bands, create a guest network, schedule reboots, set automatic updates, and even tell the LED to turn off at night. TP-Link’s basic free HomeShield tier offers network scanning, QoS (Quality of Service) for device prioritization, and basic parental controls so you can filter and blacklist websites. If you want more perks, like time limits for apps, downtime, and real-time security protection, you’ll need to upgrade to HomeShield Pro ($6 per month or $55 for the year).

    ★ Another alternative: The TP-Link Archer AX50 ($120) is very similar to the AX55 but may be prone to overheating. The AX50 also lacks OneMesh support, which allows you to add extenders to create a mesh network with the AX55. On the other hand, the AX50 has HomeCare, a service that launched before HomeShield that includes superior parental controls without a subscription.

  • Photograph: Asus

    Upgrade Pick

    Asus RT-AX86U

    Simple setup, silky performance, and serious speed make this Asus router a good choice for anyone prepared to spend more for smoother Wi-Fi. It sports an eye-catching red and black design with three rotatable antennas. This router had no issues covering my entire home and garden and was one of the top performers in my tests. It delivered consistently fast speeds everywhere and was stable, even with four people streaming and gaming at once. There are some handy customization options for gamers and optimizations that ensure low latency. It also has plenty of ports, including a 2.5 Gbps port configurable as WAN or LAN and two USB 3.2 ports.

    The Asus app is packed with options, making it very easy to tweak router settings, should you need to. Everything is covered, from comprehensive parental controls to traffic prioritization to network security. That includes AiProtection Pro (powered by Trend Micro) too, which monitors your network for malicious activity, no subscription required. This router supports AiMesh, which means you can add any other AiMesh Asus router to create a mesh network and expand connectivity in your home.

  • Photograph: TP-Link

    Best Budget Router

    TP-Link Archer AX20

    This impressive Wi-Fi 6 router delivers reliable performance at a relatively low price. Despite the demands of four people video streaming and gaming, I rarely noticed a difference in everyday performance between this and my top pick, the AX55. However, my tests revealed some limitations on the range, and the download speed when installing a new game was noticeably slower than with the rest of our picks. I also had to reboot the system once after a dropped video call. But for most day-to-day tasks over weeks of testing, this router delivered sterling service. It matches the AX55 with four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one WAN but only has a USB 2.0.

    The Tether app is straightforward and packed with all the basic options you need, including traffic prioritization, parental controls, and a guest network. There’s no HomeShield or HomeCare support with this router, but most people don’t need those extra services. If you don’t care about online gaming performance or have tons of smart home devices, and your home is 1,600 square feet or smaller, you likely don’t need to spend more than this.

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