What are the Best Wi-Fi Routers?
When it comes to getting reliable high-speed internet, choosing the right internet service provider (ISP) is only half the battle. Because most households rely heavily on Wi-Fi, choosing the right Wi-Fi router is important for the best experience. Even if you choose the best internet plan in your area, a low-quality router could act as a bottleneck and limit the connectivity of your devices.
You may be wondering which routers are a good option, and what features you should look for. This guide will cover popular brands, key considerations, industry brands and everything else you need to know about Wi-Fi routers to make the most informed choice.
The big players
There are many options out there when it comes to Wi-Fi routers, but we’ve narrowed it down to four big players. These are some of the most well-known and trusted brands when it comes to wireless networking. We’re also going to limit our list to Wi-Fi 6 routers, as these support the latest and greatest in Wi-Fi connectivity.
TP-Link Archer AX6000
TP-Link is known for producing high-performance routers and the Archer AX6000 is no exception. It offers dual-band Wi-Fi at blazing speeds. On the 5GHz band, the AX6000 can deliver speeds approaching 5000Mbps, and on the 2.4GHz band can reach nearly 1200Mbps.
The Archer AX6000 also features intelligent connections that use band steering to direct devices to the least congested band. For example, if your 5GHz band is seeing a lot of network congestion, the router will recognize this and steer additional devices to connect to the 2.4GHz band. The AX6000 is also easy to set up by connecting your smartphone via Bluetooth and taking advantage of TP-Link’s Tether app.
Asus is best known for its prowess in manufacturing gaming devices. This includes laptops, graphics cards, and, of course, wireless routers. The Asus RT-AX86U is one of the newest gaming routers in the Asus lineup. Keep in mind that just because it is called a gaming router doesn’t mean you can’t use it if you don’t play games.
What the router can offer both gamers and non-gamers is fast speeds up to 5700Mbps. The RT-AX86U also offers an adaptive quality of service (QoS) which allows you to prioritize traffic to keep your network running smoothly. You can set the router to prioritize video streaming, for example, if you want to ensure that you get the best performance when watching Netflix.
Eero 6 Plus
If you have a larger home that you need to supply Wi-Fi coverage to, then a mesh Wi-Fi system is exactly what you need. One of the most popular options for mesh Wi-Fi is the Eero 6 Plus. With this mesh Wi-Fi system, you can link several Eero 6 Plus routers together and place them strategically throughout your home to cover a wider area than you could with a single router.
The Eero 6 Plus supports up to 1000Mbps internet speeds, and a system of three routers can cover up to 4500 square feet. With this type of range, you could cover a large three-story home without a problem. If your home isn’t quite so large, you can cover up to 3000 square feet with just two Eero 6 Plus routers.
Netgear Orbi AX6000
Next, we’ll look at another Wi-Fi mesh system, with the Orbi AX6000 from Netgear. For more than 20 years Netgear has been one of the biggest names in wireless routing, and their Orbi mesh Wi-Fi systems are one of their newest innovations.
The Orbi AX6000 is a tri-band mesh system with speeds up to 6000Mbps. This mesh system has a large range, with a three-router mesh network providing Wi-Fi coverage to an area of up to 7500 square feet. If you have an even larger area to cover, you can gain another 2500 square feet by expanding to a four-router system.
Because every household has different needs, the best router for one home may not be the best option for another. When it comes to choosing the best Wi-Fi router for your home, there are several key factors to consider.
The speed you require is largely dependent on the way you use your Wi-Fi. If your primary use is web browsing with one or two video streams going at any given time, then you don’t necessarily need the fastest router.
However, if you have many devices in your home and there is a lot of 4K video streaming, online gaming, and video conferencing, then speed is very important.
Among the big players we’ve gone through, here is how they rank in terms of top-end speed:
- Netgear Orbi AX6000: 6000Mbps
- Asus RT AX-86U: 5700Mbps
- TP-Link Archer AX6000: 4800Mbps
- Eero 6 Plus: 1000Mbps
Truthfully, each of these routers supplies speeds that are sufficient for most internet users. However, you also have to consider the rapid rate at which internet speed technology is advancing. The faster the router you buy, the more future-proof it will be. So, while your internet plan may not include multi-gigabit speeds just yet, it could in the future and you may want to be prepared.
The size of your home is a major factor in choosing a Wi-Fi router. For small to medium-sized homes, a traditional router may be sufficient. When it comes to range, modern non-mesh routers have impressive range. However, the further you are from the router, the weaker the signal becomes which leads to a performance decrease.
Because of this, larger homes are best suited with a mesh system. Because the mesh Wi-Fi system has multiple access points placed throughout your home, you can cover a larger area without ever being far enough from an access point to experience a slow-down.
Everyone has their own budget, and you’ll need to balance costs against features. The routers we’re comparing vary widely in price. To complicate matters further, mesh system pricing is based on the number of access points you need. The breakdown is as follows, from lowest to highest cost:
- Asus RT-AX86U: $199.99
- TP–Link Archer AX6000: $249.99
- Eero 6 Plus (3–pack): $299
- Netgear Orbi AX6000 (2-pack): $699.99
As expected, the two traditional routers are both lower priced than the mesh systems. For the two mesh routers, we tried to compare pricing for similar home coverage. The Eero 6 Plus 3-pack covers around 4500 square feet, while the 2-pack of Netgear Orbi AX6000 covers 5000 square feet. So, these two configurations offered the most logical comparison.
Another consideration is the number of devices you will need to connect. Each router can handle a maximum number of devices connected at one time, which can increase or decrease based on how much bandwidth is being used. For example, several devices streaming 4K video at one time, could cause a decrease in how many devices can connect in total.
With the growing popularity of smart home devices, it’s easy to start pushing the limits on a router with low capacity. For example, if you’ve upgraded all the light bulbs in your home to smart bulbs, your lighting system alone could consist of dozens of devices that need a Wi-Fi connection.
Only two of the routers on our list have specific device limits:
- Eero 6 Plus: 75+ devices
- Netgear Orbi AX6000: 100+ devices
The Asus RT-AX86U and TP-Link Archer AX6000 both simply emphasize that they can connect many devices. In practice, each of these routers should have high capacity as one of the many benefits of Wi-Fi 6 is the capability to connect far more devices than Wi-Fi 5. This is a big reason we’ve considered only Wi-Fi 6 capable routers in this guide.
What others are saying
TP-Link Archer AX6000
The TP-Link Archer impressed in this CNET router comparison with its high-speed performance. The review claims “The fastest among them was the TP-Link Archer AX6000, which we measured an average speed of 1523Mbps on the 5GHz band at a distance of 5 feet. When we increased the distance to 75 feet, the average speed fell to 868Mbps, which is still a faster speed than any of the Wi-Fi 5 routers we tested were able to reach at all, even up close.”
The RT-AX86U impressed with its gaming performance according to this PCMag review: “The Asus RT-AX86U is a solid choice for online gamers looking to eliminate network bottlenecks. It uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 tech to deliver fast, close-range throughput and offers several features designed to optimize your network.”
Eero 6 Plus
When it comes to cost-to-performance, the Eero 6 Plus was touted router for its value. According to this CNET review, “At $299 for a three-pack, there’s plenty of value here, particularly given that a lot of other top-performing systems cost more for a two-pack. Since the system is backward-compatible with previous generations, I also like the idea that people who already own an Eero system can pick up a 6 Plus device whenever those go on sale and swap it into their setup.”
Netgear Orbi AX6000
The Orbi AX6000 mesh Wi-Fi system is the most expensive option on our list, but this ZDNet review was impressed with its performance: “The sheer performance and capacity of this new mesh system can provide a useful ‘future-proofing’ option for businesses that need to support ever-increasing numbers of Wi-Fi devices on their crowded networks.”
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest Wi-Fi standard. The 6th generation Wi-Fi is the 802.11ax standard, which replaces the older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 technology. The important points of Wi-Fi 6 are:
- Fastest speeds
- Longest range
- Increased bandwidth
Is mesh Wi-Fi the same as a range extender?
Range extenders and mesh Wi-Fi serve a similar purpose, which is to expand the coverage area of a Wi-Fi network. However, there’s a distinct difference.
Range extenders are add-on devices that pick up your router’s signal and broadcast it out to boost the range. However, the extender has its own network ID which will differ from your main network’s name. This setup is almost like having two separate Wi-Fi networks in your home.
A mesh system acts as one cohesive network with multiple access points. These access points are all aware of each other and route traffic as needed throughout the network.
Choosing your Wi-Fi router
Choosing a router can seem like a complicated job, but there are only a few main bits of information to look at. You’ll primarily want to consider speed, cost, and the size of your home to ensure you have sufficient Wi-Fi coverage.
If you have a household that does a lot of gaming, 4K video streaming, or video conferencing, you’ll want to ensure you have a speedy router. If your home is exceptionally large, then a mesh Wi-Fi system is often a better choice than a traditional router.
For many users though, internet usage is more on the moderate side, so really any Wi-Fi 6 router on our list will offer the required performance and future-proofing. In this case, simply go with the option that best fits your budget.
Also keep in mind that your ISP may offer to rent a router as part of your service plan, and not all of them will waive equipment fees if you supply your own equipment.
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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 6/2/22.
Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.