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- A great router is essential to ensure that you have speedy Wi-Fi at home.
- The best router you can buy is Google WiFi because it is not only capable of providing a good internet connection in large homes, but it doesn’t cost too much, either.
Having a good router at home is becoming increasingly important. It’s not just about connecting your phone and your computer to Wi-Fi anymore. Nowadays, you need a good router to maximize your internet speeds and connect all your smart home devices and other connected things. But not all Wi-Fi routers are good. In fact, plenty of them won’t give you fast internet or a stable connection.
There are a few things to consider when you’re buying a Wi-Fi router. For starters, you’ll want to think about the standards that the router is capable of handling. Most new routers use the 802.11ac standard, which is capable of faster wireless speeds than other routers. If your ISP offers speeds of 100Mbps or more, routers with the 802.11am standard will be able to handle it.
Another thing to consider is whether your router is single band or dual band. The two bands are 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and 5GHz connections are typically faster and more reliable. Some routers offer both bands separately or both bands combined. Dual-band routers are also typically better in high-density areas.
You’ll also want to think about the range of a router, especially if you live in a larger home. Often, you’ll experience dead spots in your home with some routers, but those can be eliminated through the use of a router with a big range, or by using a mesh system, which basically connects multiple routers together to extend the range of Wi-Fi in your house.
Here are the best routers you can buy:
- Best router overall: Google WiFi
- Best router for big homes: Linksys EA7500 router
- Best router for less than $50: TP-Link Archer C50 router
- Best router for gamers: Netgear Nighthawk X4S router
- Best mesh Wi-Fi system: Netgear Orbi router
- Best router and smart home hub: Samsung SmartThings Wifi router
- Best router for extra security: Norton Core router
- Best router for free parental controls: Gryphon Router
Updated on 12/21/2018 by Malarie Gokey: Added the Gryphon Router after testing. Updated prices and formatting.
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best router overall
Why you’ll love it: Google WiFi isn’t just well-designed and easy to use, it also allows you to check internet speeds and extend your Wi-Fi signal to cover your entire home.
The Wi-Fi router has largely stayed the same over the past few years, but some companies are finally trying to push the router into this decade. One of those companies is Google, which recently launched its Google WiFi system.
One of the cool things about Google WiFi is that it’s aimed at extending the range of your Wi-Fi network. How? By creating what’s called a mesh network. That basically involves a main router that communicates with other routers you can place around the home to extend your Wi-Fi range and eliminate dead spots.
That’s not the only thing that makes Google WiFi a hit. Another great feature allows you to monitor your Wi-Fi use through the Google Wi-Fi app. Not only can you see how much data you’ve used and how fast your internet speed is, but you can also see a visualization of your entire home, prioritize some areas over others, and more. It’s really a pretty smart system.
We’re not the only ones that love Google WiFi and how smart it is. You can read our full review on Business Insider. CNET gave it 4/5 stars, while Digital Trends gave it a more conservative, but still very respectable, 7/10.
Pros: Easy to use, great speeds, inexpensive
Cons: Some mesh systems have more features
The best router for large homes
Why you’ll love it: The Linksys EA7500 AC1900 is built for performance with super fast speeds and beamforming technology to widen your Wi-Fi range.
The Linksys EA7500 is a dual-band router that’s able to provide up to 1.9Gbps, but beyond that, it’s known for being able to handle multiple users and devices without too much signal degradation.
One of the best things about the router is that it uses beamforming technology to concentrate its signal towards the connected devices, rather than simply sending out a blanket signal. That helps keep upload and download speeds as fast as possible.
Beyond that, the router has a quick and easy setup procedure that reportedly takes under 20 minutes. After that setup, you’ll be able to create a free Smart WiFi account so you can manage certain aspects of the router through a mobile app. It also has as many as four Ethernet ports and two USB ports.
Pros: Fast speeds, great range, decent port selection
Cons: A little expensive
The best router for less than $50
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Why you’ll love it: The TP-Link Archer C50 AC1200 is well-designed, easy to set up, and costs less than $50.
Looking for a great router but don’t want to spend too much money? That’s where the TP-Link Archer C50 AC1200 comes in.
The first thing you’ll notice about the TP-Link Archer C50 is its design, and it’s not a bad-looking device. It may not be as classy as Google WiFi, but it should still fit pretty well with your home décor. The router itself is dual-band, so it’ll deliver a little more bandwidth and speed than its single-band counterparts. On top of that, it’s easy to set up and offers a pretty decent range compared to other, similarly-priced routers.
When it comes to ports, the device has four Ethernet ports, as well as two USB ports, and while more USB ports would have been nice, the included ports should still offer plenty for most users.
There are a few downsides to consider here. Unlike other routers on the list, this router doesn’t have a built-in modem, so you’ll still have to buy a modem to access the internet. Still, despite the downsides, the router sits in with a nice 3.9 stars on Amazon.
Pros: Dual-band, good speeds, easy to use, reliable
Cons: Router only (no modem)
The best router for gaming
Why you’ll love it: The Netgear Nighthawk X4S is classy and well-built, but it’s also reliable and fast for gaming and more.
If you’re a gamer, you likely want a router that’s optimized for high speeds and reliability, and while many gamers will swear by a hardwired connection, more and more are opting for wireless connections, too. The Netgear Nighthawk X4S is built for customizability. There are a number of management settings, and the router supports MU-MIMO data streaming, so it can handle multiple users at a time without any effect on bandwidth.
The idea behind buying a router optimized for gaming is that it’s reliable and fast, so you won’t lose a connection mid-game. In reviews, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S certainly delivered on that promise. PCMag gave the router 4/5 stars, while IGN gave it an even better 9.3/10.
There are a few downsides to the router. For example, some note that the management software seems a little out of date, while the 2.4GHz performance could be a little better. Still, the pros far outweigh the cons here, so if you’re looking for a great router for your gaming needs, this might be the one for you.
Pros: Good management settings, dual-band, MU-MIMO streaming
Cons: Software a little outdated, somewhat expensive
The best mesh Wi-Fi system
Why you’ll love it: The Netgear Orbi is designed for larger homes, and you can connect satellite routers to extend the signal even more.
Google WiFi is our top pick for a number of reasons – smart management, great app, and mesh system – but if you’re looking for a great mesh system and don’t really care about those other features, then the Netgear Orbi might be for you.
The Netgear Orbi is built to cover your entire home with an excellent Wi-Fi signal, and you can link multiple Orbi routers to each other in order to achieve that. Once you do, you’ll get great speeds all over the home. In fact, the system uses technologies like MU-MIMO to send focused beams to users, ensuring great speeds.
The main router can handle up to three satellite routers, so even really large homes should be fine when it comes to getting a connection. Even without the satellites, however, the Orbi router is still excellently fast, and if you have a smaller home, you may not need extras.
As usual, there are a few downsides. The main router and satellites, for example, are not interchangeable, and the mobile app is a little limited, according to some reviews. Still, Tom’s Guide gave the system 8/10, while Trusted Reviews gave it an even better 9/10.
Pros: Excellent speeds, reliable
Cons: Expensive, large, router and satellites aren’t interchangeable
The best router for smart homes
Why you’ll love it: The Samsung SmartThings Wifi is a great router that also works as a hub for your smart home.
If you need a new router and you also want to create a smart home, look no further than the Samsung SmartThings Wifi. This device kills two birds with one stone: You get a fast router that provides excellent, secure, mesh Wi-Fi in your whole house as well as a smart home hub that works with many SmartThings-compatible products.
You can get the Connect Home in a three-pack to ensure a perfect Wi-Fi signal throughout a large house, or simply buy a single Connect Home to cover your apartment or smaller living space. Setup is incredibly easy, and Samsung’s app makes connecting smart home devices by SmartThings and its partners a cinch. You can see the full list of supported devices here.
We tested out a three-pack of the Connect Home with the Samsung SmartThings Outlet and a smart multi-purpose sensor. We also connected our Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Phillips Hue lights to the system to see how well non-SmartThings products worked, and everything ran smoothly.
The Connect Home works great as a hub, and our Wi-Fi seemed much faster with the router at work. You definitely don’t need the three-pack if you live in a 1,000-square-foot home or apartment, but if your home is large or has multiple floors, it’s a great option.
The three-pack is pricey, coming in at just under $400, but the single Connect Home is very reasonable for less than $120 when it’s on sale. It’s a great hub-router combo that offers compatibility with many other smart home products. – Malarie Gokey
Pros: Doubles as a router and a hub, works with SmartThings, easy-to-use app, great connectivity, three-pack works in big homes
The best router with extra security
Why you’ll love it: The Symantec Norton Core is well-designed, easy-to-use, and super secure.
Symantec has long been known as a go-to for online security, and its router, the Norton Core, continues that mission. Apart from the futuristic design, the router has some pretty futuristic tech under the hood, making it a great option for those who want heightened security in their homes.
The Symantec Norton Core goes beyond basic routing and also acts as an internet security device, which you can control through the Norton Core app for Android or iOS. With the app, you’ll be able to set up parental controls and create guest networks for your friends when they’re visiting.
You’ll also get an overall security score, and Symantec will recommend changes you can make – like changing a weak password – to increase the level of security on your network. Overall, the app is very easy to use, and it’s well-designed, too.
Under the hood, the router is pretty powerful for a Wi-Fi router. It boasts a 1.7GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of flash memory, and it has 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band radios.
The design also comes into play for performance. It houses an antenna that’s capable of 365-degrees of coverage, so if you live in a multi-store house you shouldn’t get any weak spots, as long as they’re relatively close to the router.
In general, the Symantec Norton Core has been well-reviewed and in our tests, it performed very well. The only downsides? After a year you’ll need to pay a subscription fee for some of its best security features, and there’s no VPN functionality.
Pros: Well-designed, great app, highly secure
Cons: Subscription required after a year
The best router with free parental controls
Why you’ll love it: The Gryphon Router makes the most of your Wi-Fi speeds while keeping your network and your kids safe from hackers and inappropriate content.
If you have a large home, care about security, and have children, you may want to invest in the Gryphon Router with its parental controls and strong security features. Two members of the Insider Picks team tried the Gryphon out, and we both came away impressed with its powers.
In his review, James Brains highlighted the speed, reliability, and security of the Gryphon router. Although he’s got a big home, he found the signal to be strong throughout his house. When I tested it in my much smaller NYC apartment, I also had an excellent signal from every room.
That’s to be expected, of course. After all, the Gryphon Router uses a quadcore Arm Cortex A7 processor to achieve high speeds and it’s a tri-band router, so it’s capable of speeds up to 3 gigabits per second. The router also has three Ethernet ports in the back to give you multiple access points.
Because it offers 4×4 MU-MIMO, you can have several devices on the same network without losing signal strength. You can also prioritize certain devices over the others, so if you’re watching Netflix on your Roku or smart TV and you don’t want any buffering, you can ensure that your signal stays steady and strong.
When it comes to security, Gryphon offers malware protection, intelligent intrusion protection, Wi-Fi security, and secure app control. You get 12 months of free network security when you buy the router, though it will cost you $99 per year or $9.99 per month after that. If you decide not to renew the security protections after the first year, you will still have access to the parental controls, though.
The parental controls restrict internet access based on age group: Toddler, Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Adult. You can choose to turn on safe searching, store browsing history, and set times when children should be in bed or doing homework.
As with most parental controls, they can be a bit tricky to set up, but they are effective when you get them in place.
We’re not the only ones who like Gryphon’s router. Around 81% of reviewers on Amazon gave it five stars. PCMag gave it a great review. – Malarie Gokey
Pros: Great Wi-Fi signal, parental controls, mesh Wi-Fi system, covers up to 3,000 square feet