Virtually every electronic device we use today connects to the internet through a wireless router. Yet, most people rely on a budget router supplied by their internet service provider without ever considering upgrading to a better router, one that can provide faster download and upload speeds, excellent coverage, cutting-edge parenting and security features, and lots of other perks.
If you’re ready to ditch your old router for a new one, our list of top 7 best wireless routers of 2018 will help you find a router that can satisfy your needs without breaking your budget.
The Best Gaming Router in 2018
MSRP: $399 | Speed: AC5300 | LAN Ports: 8 | Antennas: 8
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is a powerful tri-band wireless router designed specifically to meet the needs of hardcore online gamers who won’t settle for anyone else than a single-digit ping.
- The router is packed with cutting-edge wireless technology, including Game Dashboard, which provides a real-time heads-up about all of your devices and connections.
- The router is also equipped with an advanced intrusion prevention system powered by Trend Micro, protecting you from external attacks and threats even if your PC’s security software isn’t turned on.
- Inside the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is a top-of-the-line 1.8GHz 64bit quad-core CPU that dwarfs most gaming PCs of the last decade and allows the router to easily handle multiple simultaneous connections.
The Best Budget Router
MSRP: $140| Speed: AC1900 | LAN Ports: 2 | Antennas: 3
If you’re not keen on spending hundreds of dollars on a new wireless router but still want to enjoy fast data transfer rates and excellent coverage, then you should consider the Asus RT-AC68U, which is often sold for around $100.
- This dual-band router is powered by a dual-core processor that eliminates the performance drops that plague budget routers.
- It features two USB ports for file and printer sharing, and you can turn the router into your personal cloud storage hub thanks to Asus AiCloud.
- Robust parenting controls help you keep your children safe from inappropriate online content, giving you total peace of mind when your children explore the internet.
Easy Setup Wireless Router
MSRP: $399 | Speed: AC3000 | LAN Ports: 3 on base unit, 4 per node | Antennas: 6
Netgear Orbi is an easy-to-use mesh Wi-Fi system that makes it easy to cover your entire house with strong Wi-Fi and say goodbye to dead zones. Mesh Wi-Fi systems like the Netgear Orbi consist of a main router that connects directly to your modem, and a series of satellite modules or nodes.
You can start with a single Orbi Wi-Fi router and add nodes over time, depending on your needs. A single Orbi Tri-band Mesh Wi-Fi router can deliver speeds up to 2.2 Gbps, allowing you to enjoy 4K online content and smooth gaming.
Best for Medium-size Homes
MSRP: $199 | Speed: AC2200 | LAN Ports: 4| Antennas: 4
The Linksys EA8300 Max Stream is a relatively affordable tri-band router with support for the latest Wireless-AC technology for simultaneously streaming and gaming on multiple devices.
- When paired with Max-Stream Range Extenders, the router enables your devices to automatically switch to the strongest Wi-Fi signal as you move around your house.
- Apart from fast wireless connectivity, the Linksys EA8300 Max Stream also offers four Gigabit Ethernet ports that let you connect more devices and share files at blazing speeds.
- You can control the router using the Linksys smartphone app, which works on all Android and iOS devices.
Best Router for for Smart Homes
MSRP: $179 | Speed: AC2600 | LAN Ports: 4| Antennas: 4
It’s safe to say that the Asus Blue Cave is the strangest-looking wireless router on the market today. Resembling a Dyson fan, this unique router is powered by Intel Wi-Fi technology, giving it the power to handle the simultaneous demands of multiple connected devices in your home.
The Blue Cave protects all connected devices from online threats and features advanced parental controls that let you easily filter out inappropriate online content. The router is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and it supports Asus AiMesh technology for creating a flexible whole-home Wi-Fi network.
6. Google Wifi
Easy to install and manage
MSRP: $299 | Speed: AC2600 | LAN Ports: 1 on base unit, 2 per node
The Google Wifi is a mesh Wi-Fi system from the company behind your favorite search engine. It’s designed to reduce dead zones and provide you with fast download and upload speeds.
A single Google Wifi device can cover one small home or apartment, and three Google Wifi devices working in unison can cover up to 4,500 square feet. You can control, configure, and set up your Google Wifi using the Google Wifi app, which is available on Android and iOS.
Best router for video streaming or surfing
MSRP: $499 | Speed: AC1900 | LAN Ports: 7| Antennas: 4
Not all wireless routers are meant to be tucked in some corner, hidden from view. The Netgear Nighthawk X10 is a winner of the Red Dot Design Award, which is an international product design and communication design prize awarded by the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany.
- Besides its elegant, futuristic design, the Netgear Nighthawk X10 also offers an ultra-smooth, lag-free Wi-Fi experience thanks to its powerful 1.7 GHz quad-core processor and support for 802.11ac and 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology.
- Plex, a media server that allows you to aggregate all your personal media and access it anywhere you go, is supported right out of the box, which is just one extra reason why the router is worth the steep price.
How to Choose a Wireless Router
You don’t need to be a networking expert to choose a wireless router, but there’s a couple of things you should know about wireless networks before you take out your credit card and enter your PIN.
Modern electronic devices can wirelessly access the internet thanks to the IEEE 802.11 set of wireless computer networking standards. This standard dates to 1985, and there have been many revisions over the years.
- 802.11: The original IEEE 802.11 standard was published in 1997 and clarified in 1999. It offered a maximum data rate of only 2 Mbps over the 2.4 GHz band.
- 802.11b: Using the same media access method defined in the original standard, the 802.11b standard increased the maximum data rate to 11 Mbps, which led to its rapid acceptance as the definitive wireless LAN technology at the time.
- 802.11g: In 2003, the 802.11g standard was ratified, operating at a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps exclusive of forward error correction codes, or about 22 Mbps average throughput.
- 802.11n: In 2009, the IEEE published an amendment that improves upon the previous 802.11 standards by adding multiple-input multiple-output antennas (MIMO) and support for the 5 GHz band. As a result, the maximum data rate increased to 600 Mbps.
- 802.11ac: This latest amendment to the original IEEE 802.11 standard includes wider channels, more spatial streams, and the addition of Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), which enhances the MIMO technology by enabling the simultaneous transmission of multiple streams to different Wi-Fi devices. The maximum data transfer rate of 802.11ac is 1300 Mbps.
As you might have guessed by now, the newer version of the IEEE 802.11 standard a router supports, the better. Virtually all routers today support 802.11n regardless of their price, and mid-range and budget models with 802.11ac are becoming increasingly common.
Even if none of your electronic devices supports 802.11ac, it’s still a good idea to pay extra for a wireless router that supports this standard because it’s very likely that your next smartphone, smart TV, or even smart fridge will as well.