With a wireless router, you can make the most of your internet connection without being tethered to cables. Connect your wireless router to your cable or DSL modem and enjoy the freedom of online gaming, content streaming, web surfing, wireless printing and so much more.
The speed of your wireless connection not only depends on your internet service provider, it also relies on your router. Wireless AC is the latest internet protocol that offers superior speeds to its predecessors, wireless N and wireless G. With a wireless AC router, you can experience faster speed, greater wireless coverage and smoother performance.
For your security, wireless routers use encryption technology to make it difficult for hackers and snoopers to access your information. WEP was the first security protocol introduced in wireless routers, with the more recent WPA and WPA2 offering stronger data encryption and greater security. Most routers also let you set up a password for your network, preventing outsiders from accessing it.
We characterized speed by looking at the combination of performance when downloading a large file at short and long range. The majority of the routers were able to top 500 Mbps at close distances, with some of the best-performing routers, like the Asus RT-AX88U, reaching over 640 Mbps. Only a couple of stragglers (the TP-Link Archer AX10 and D-Link DIR-X1560) fell far behind at 100 Mbps.
As mentioned in our guide to modems vs. routers, a modem is a box that connects your home network to your internet service provider, or ISP. A router is a box that lets all of your wired and wireless devices use that internet connection at once and allows them to talk to one another directly. Think of the modem as the box that deals with all the data packets to and from the outside world, and the router as the one that deals with all the communication inside your home (or business).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
There are two types of Wi-Fi range extenders: desktop and plug-in. Most desktop extenders look just like a wireless router and are typically equipped with external adjustable antennas, multiple LAN ports for connecting to devices like TVs and gaming consoles, and USB ports for attaching to peripherals such as storage drives and printers.
Not very long ago, setting up a range extender required a bit of technical expertise and a good deal of patience to find the best location (ideally halfway between the router and the dead zone). But most of today's routers and range extenders support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which makes pairing the two as simple as pressing a couple of buttons, naming your new extended network, and creating a network password.
Moreover, nearly all manufacturers offer web-based setup wizards and illustrated instructions that will help you configure basic wireless settings. Some (but not all) extenders are equipped with LED status indicators that tell you if the extender is too far from the router. Extenders can also offer advanced router-like features such as guest networking, access scheduling, and media server capabilities.
If you're considering upgrading your network with all new hardware, it's worth looking into a mesh-based Wi-Fi system before you spend money on a traditional router. Wi-Fi mesh systems are designed to blanket your home with wireless coverage and are made up of several networking components, including a main router and a series of satellite modules, or nodes, that you place throughout your home. They are all part of a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, which means you can roam throughout your house without having to log into an extended network.
In our wireless-extender review summaries above and our spec comparison chart below, check out our picks for the top extenders we have tested. To get even more from your home Wi-Fi network, also check out our guides to setting up your router, boosting your signal, and protecting your Wi-Fi network. 59ce067264