IT DOESN'T matter how fast your broadband signal is, if you don’t have the best router to make the most of it, you’ll always be faced with buffering, lag and poor load times.
This is because web speeds are slowed down as they travel through, and are spread across, your home’s many devices.
Although it's worth bearing in mind that depending on how large your house is, or what your walls are made out of, you might be better served getting a wifi signal booster rather than a new router.
When choosing the best router, we’ve used a mix of customer reviews and expert opinion and looked for those which feature MU-MIMO, Beamforming, a high number of wifi bands and offer Quality of Service tools.
MU-MIMO stands for multi-user, multiple input, multiple output and is perfect if you have a large family or a lot of devices.
Beamforming tech helps boost the signal around your home, a range of wifi bands helps make the signal more reliable, and Quality of Service features help you prioritise speeds to devices that matter to you most.
1. Best for speed: TP-Link Archer AX6000
- TP-Link Archer AX6000 Next-Gen WiFi 6, £249.99 from Amazon – buy here
If you’re an online gamer or a Netflix addict, or you have a relatively large family all with their own devices, TP-Link Archer AX6000 ticks many boxes.
Its Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) technology builds upon the Wi-Fi 5 (or 802.11ac) standard and promises faster performances for modern devices such as the iPhone 11 or the Samsung Galaxy S10.
The Archer AX6000 also features remarkable port connectivity. The device has eight gigabit LAN ports, a 2.5-gigabit WAN port, a USB 3.0 Type A port and a USB 3.0 Type C port.
It also packs in some remarkable power, with a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 128 MB of flash memory.
The dual-band eight-stream router also utilises the latest 802.11ax technology with 1024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), meaning it can potentially achieve speeds of up to 1,148 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 4,804 Mbps on the 5 GHz band.
Finally, the TP-Link Archer AX6000 supports direct-to-client signal beamforming, 160 MHz channel width, automatic band-steering and MU-MIMO data streaming.
- Specs: dual band 2.4 GHz (1,148 Mbps) and 5 GHz (4,804 Mbps)
- Ports: Eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB Type A, one 3.0 USB Type C and eight external antennas
2. Best with Alexa support: Netgear R7000 Nighthawk
- Netgear R7000 Nighthawk, £136.49 from Amazon – buy here
Netgear’s Nighthawk range offers some of the very best routers on the market, but they vary in price.
The best mid-range model, suitable for gamers as well as the average streamer, is the R7000 Nighthawk.
Ideal for larger homes, or homes with gardens and outside offices, this router has high-powered amplifiers, three external antennas and uses Beamforming+ to improve both range and reliability.
It then uses QoS to prioritise bandwidth for streaming videos and this helps reduce lag when gaming, too.
Like TP-Link, Netgear lets you control the settings of your router from your phone using the Nighthawk app, even letting you restrict web access to individual devices.
What’s more, thanks to support for Amazon Alexa, many of these settings can be controlled using voice commands.
If you’re after a souped-up version of the Nighthawk R7000; a router built almost exclusively with gaming in mind, check out the Netgear R9000 Nighthawk x10 in our best gaming router list.
- Specs: Up to 1900 Mbps AC wifi speed, dual band 2.4 GHz (600 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1300 Mbps)
- Ports: One WAN and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB, one 2.0 USB and three external antennas
3. Best for multiple network connections: Netgear Nighthawk X4S (R7800)
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S, £159.39 from Amazon – buy here
Whether you’re running a simple DSL connection or have an all-singing, all-dancing fibre network, Netgear's Nighthawk X4S has been built to both optimise your traffic and speeds.
With a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor and simultaneous transmission through Multi-User MIMO, the router allows for up to 45 devices to be connected at the same time.
Thanks to its four directional antennas, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S also has a very wide signal range, allowing for all devices connected to perform optimally within the router's effective range radius.
The Nighthawk’ Router app is also very good. Through it you'll be able to manage network traffic, troubleshoot problems and update your firmware.
If you have a big house with a lot of devices needing reliable connection, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S is the router for you.
- Specs: dual band 2.4 GHz WiFi speed (800 Mbps) and 5 GHz WiFi speed (1733 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two 3.0 USB and four external antennas
4. Best value for money: Linksys EA6350
- Linksys EA6350 Dual Band Smart Wifi Gigabit Router, £59.99 from Amazon – buy here
The Linksys EA6350 dual-band smart wifi router is a more basic one than others in this list but it still offers the essentials at a slightly cheaper price.
Its signal is reliable and far-reaching, thanks to the use of Beamforming tech, and it protects your network with WPA/WPA2 encryption and an SPI firewall.
It’s also easy to setup. It’s not as easy as the others in this list, which can all be setup using an app, but it’s computer step-by-step guide is straightforward enough and doesn’t require an installation CD.
Once setup, you can control the router’s settings using Linksys’ free Smart wifi app.
One standout feature is that the router lets you create a dedicated network for guests and you can then easily share the password with your friends and family using the app.
- Specs: Up to 1200 Mbps AC wifi speed, dual band 2.4 GHz (300 Mbps) and 5 GHz (867 Mbps)
- Ports: Four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB and two external antennas
5. Best for online gaming: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
- Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, £259.99 from Amazon – buy here
A beast of a router, both in specs and in looks, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is the one device you need if you are a pro-gamer.
This high-end tri-band router is designed exclusively for gamers and its features prove it.
Powered by a blazing fast quad-core processor, the GT-AC5300 offers both hardware- and software-based gaming acceleration and prioritisation, as well as robust protection against malware and viruses.
The device also has several other gaming features, easily managed through the ROG Gaming Center web console and mobile app.
These include two LAN ports that automatically get network priority (so you can connect your gaming devices to them) as well as GameBoost, a mode the automatically scans the network to prioritise traffic coming from gaming consoles.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the Asus router counts eight LAN ports, two USB 3.0 ports and eight adjustable antenna stalks.
With 1 GB of RAM, and 256 MB of flash memory the router uses 1024QAM technology achieve incredible speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 2,167 Mbps on each of the 5 GHz bands.
- Specs: dual band 2.4 GHz (1,000 Mbps) and 5 GHz (2,167 Mbps)
- Ports: eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two 3.0 USB and eight antennas
6. Best for security: TP-Link Archer AC4000
- TP-Link Archer AC4000 Smart Wi-Fi, £178.30 from Amazon – buy here
If you're concerned about security on your network but do not want to spend a fortune on a router, the TP-Link Archer AC4000 is the device for you.
For little over £150 you'll get a tri-band speeds router supporting all the latest 802.11ac technologies and featuring some interesting security options.
In fact, the TP-Link Archer AC4000's security is enhanced by the Trend Micro-powered P-Link Homecare system, which offers both parental controls and built-in antivirus free for three years.
You can access the router's security options by logging into the dedicated web control panel. From there, you'll be able to configure options like security type (WPA/WPA2 Mixed Enterprise, WPA/WPA2 Mixed Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA2 Personal, and WEP), as well as editing SSIDs and passwords.
You can also use the control panel to prevent access to social media, gaming, pay-to-surf, and file-sharing sites, and to monitor web activity and block internet access for specific client devices.
- Specs: dual band 2.4 GHz (750 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1,625 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB and six antennas
7. Best Wi-Fi mesh system: Google Wifi
- Google WiFi, £229 from Amazon – buy here
In case you are not familiar with mesh routers, they are essentially devices that are designed to work in a setup with the main router connected directly to a modem, and a network of satellite nodes or module placed around for maximum WiFi coverage.
Mesh router setups share the same SSID and passwords and they are essentially part of the same wireless network.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google is currently at the forefront of the mesh router race.
The Google WiFi is built for the Internet of Things era, and as such it is so easy to set-up you won't have to break a sweat.
Install the app and plug-in the two (or more) devices, and an easy how-to guide will help you through the intuitive and fast installation process.
Considering its beautiful design and bandwidth priority control feature, Google WiFi is truly a router built for the future.
Power users may find that the device lacks some finer hardware control, but if you're in need of a straightforward and future-looking device, Google WiFi is the one for you.
- Specs: dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
- Ports: two Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, WAN and LAN on primary WiFi point; both act as LAN ports on additional WiFi points
How long should a router last?
Because technology moves on so quickly, once you've had the same router for three years, it's probably time for an upgrade to make sure you're getting best possible performance.
After extensive testing, The Wirecutter (via the New York Times) says: 'If your current router is at least three years old, there is no reason not to upgrade to a new router.'
How do I choose a router?
To make sure you get the best performance from your router, you want to make sure you buy as new a model as possible to make sure the hardware is all up to date.
With new phones, tablets and computers being released every year, you're going to want a recently-released router to make sure it pairs up efficiently with all the new devices.
You also definitely want a router that broadcasts over two bandwidths: 2.4 GHz (600 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1625 Mbps).
The former is good for long-range connectivity, whereas the latter performs better at short range, boosting your download times.
Source: Read Full Article