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Ashot Semyonov
Ashot Semyonov

Which Router To Buy

Adding one of the best Wi-Fi routers is the easiest way to upgrade your home network and well worth the investment. 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.

which router to buy

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 screen time.

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.

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.

Wi-Fi 6 routers are usually more expensive, 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 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 the Disney Circle app for blocking inappropriate content and managing family network use. With excellent performance through walls and floors, the Nighthawk AX8 will work just as well in the real world as in the lab.

The first gaming router we tested withs 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 those that want an edge online.

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 but it isn't compatible with Google's other routers and lacks smart speaker functionality.

The Reyee RG-E5 is a real bargain for a Wi-Fi 6 router that can cover 3,000 square feet. It can also become the center of a mesh network when paired with other Reyee gear and there's even a one-touch button to simplify the setup process. However, the Reyee RG-E5's budget price means this router lacks things like extra security software, port aggregation and a USB port for connecting storage devices to your network.

At its rear the Reyee RG-E5 has four gigabit Ethernet ports while the eight flipper antennas at the top of the device can be adjusted for a better signal. In our testing, the router was able to deliver 849.2 Mbps at 15 feet though it has a range of 100 feet. If you want to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 without breaking the bank, this is the router to get.

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.

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.

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.

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.

All routers should give you an idea of the amount of square footage they can cover, though some get more specific than others. For example, we recommend the TP-Link Archer A20 and xFi Pods, but both of those give an estimated range based on how many bedrooms are in your house.

Router brands are releasing new technology all the time, and some of the more recent upgrades can make a positive impact on your online experience. Here are a few features you might want to look for when shopping for your new router:

Modern routers use beamforming to direct a Wi-Fi signal to a device. Before beamforming, routers would blast a Wi-Fi signal in all directions. You can think of beamforming as a more efficient, laser-targeted Wi-Fi signal that also results in a stronger connection.

You need to be connected to your modem in order to send and receive data from the web -- your router lets you do that without need for a wire. It's basically a big, fancy antenna for your modem that lets you connect with it wirelessly, over Wi-Fi. You can also use that local Wi-Fi network to connect with other devices at home, like printers or remote storage servers.

It depends on what you need and how many people and devices need to connect, but a small- to medium-sized home or apartment can probably get by with a well-tested dual-band router in the $100 range. If your home is larger, then it's probably worth spending more on a mesh system that can spread more consistent speeds from room to room. And if you're working from home, gaming online or sharing bandwidth with multiple housemates or family members, upgrading to something like a high-speed tri-band router is probably a good investment, too.

The old-fashioned way is to plug the thing in and connect it with your modem via Ethernet cable, then type its IP address into a browser's URL bar to begin the setup. The easier, more modern way is to use the router's app, which will typically walk you through setup in about 5-10 minutes. After setup, you can also use either approach to access the router's settings or change your Wi-Fi password.

You can think of your router like a radio -- it sends and receives signals through airwaves. Whereas a radio picks up audio broadcasts in AM or FM airwaves, a Wi-Fi router sends and receives data through 2.4 and 5GHz airwaves (as well as 6GHz airwaves if it's a fancy Wi-Fi 6E router).

Nearly all routers include separate radios for those bands, which lets you connect to whichever band is best. Some routers will automatically steer your connection between the multiple bands available, but you can usually turn that off as well, making each band its own, separate Wi-Fi network. The 2.4GHz band offers better range than higher bands, but speeds are limited. With 5GHz (or 6GHz), you'll be able to hit much faster speeds, but those speeds will drop off at range faster than you'll see with 2.4GHz.

In most cases, you won't need to worry about updating your router more than once every five years or so, if not longer. That said, there are few things to watch for that might give you good reason to consider something new. 041b061a72


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