Routers Today’s tech — from smartphones and tablets to streaming devices and smartwatches — all require a Wi-Fi connection. That makes the wireless router one of the most important home appliances you never talk about.
Since it’s probably something you seldom think about, here are some basics you should know about: When shopping for a router, make sure you get an 802.11ac model. If that sounds like mumbo-jumbo, don’t worry — it just means it supports the latest wireless standards, so you can achieve Gigabit speeds.
There’s even a newer standard, Wi-Fi 6, which is sometimes called 802.11ax. But it is still in the early stages of being rolled out and few devices support it. We know, that was a lot to take in. But luckily for you, we’ve researched more than 40 different router models to find the top seven that should work for most home setups. If you’re constantly unplugging and restarting your modem and router in hopes of getting faster internet speeds, we’ll help you find the best router for your needs and budget.
1. TP-Link Archer A10 (AC2600) MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router
The Archer A10 is among the best routers available on the market today. Its dual bands deliver speeds of 1,733 and 800 Mbps, so it’s an excellent option for users who stream lots of video or play video games online. The router offers superb wireless coverage and has a total of five Ethernet jacks for those who prefer wired connections.
We like that the router automatically designates slower and faster devices to the appropriate Wi-Fi band and as an added bonus, it supports MU-MIMO (tech that helps it better handle simultaneous data streams).
The router is backed by a 2-year warranty and its free downloadable app makes setup a breeze. The app comes packed with parental controls, security features, and device management software. The device packs a single internal antenna, plus three detachable ones, to ensure your entire home is blanketed in high-speed internet.
All in all, the Archer A10 is an extremely versatile and powerful router for homes of all shapes and sizes.
2. TP-Link Archer A20 (AC4000) MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router
The Archer A20 is essentially the stronger older brother of the Archer A10. Rather than only supporting two wireless bands, this one has enough knowhow to juggle three.
It offers two 5 GHz channels for short-ranged connections, and a single 2.4 GHz for longer ranges. You’ll get slightly faster speeds with this model over our best overall pick, the Archer A10, but you’ll have to pay almost twice as much.
The Archer A20 is actually Wirecutter’s top router pick for its ability to handle more connections and for its advanced features like link aggregation — a feature we think you can live without. Most homes will get on just fine with dual bands, and only power users need tri-band Wi-Fi setups like what the Archer A20 offers.
If you have a large family with several wireless devices under one roof, or you stream video in multiple rooms throughout your home simultaneously, consider spending the extra $100 for the Archer A20. But if you want to save the hundred bucks, we think you’ll be more than happy with the Archer A10.
3. Google Nest Wi-Fi Mesh Router
The Google Nest Wi-Fi is an elegant and reasonably priced mesh router setup that’s capable of covering more than 5,000 square feet with a speedy and reliable wireless internet connection. Setting up and managing the device is as easy as it gets, courtesy of the Google Home app. As an added bonus, its included range-extending point doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker.
Ry Crist, a senior editor at CNET, named Nest Wi-Fi the best mesh router of 2019 for its top-tier speeds, its nice design, and reasonable pricing point.
Although it doesn’t support the new Wi-Fi 6 format, and its beacons don’t have Ethernet jacks, we think that it’s a well-rounded and reliable mesh network system that gets the job done better and easier than the competition for a reasonable price.
4. TP-Link AC1750 Archer A7 Smart Wi-Fi Router
The TP-Link Archer A7 is a budget-friendly router that supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, so it’s a great option for achieving high-speeds without breaking the bank.
Its antennas help ensure your devices reach peak network speeds of up to 450 Mbps over 2.4 GHz and 1,300 Mbps over 5 GHz. Four Ethernet ports on its backside and dual USB ports make it easy to connect video game consoles, hard drives, and printers.
Don’t expect to be able to do any intensive gaming or juggle several video streams while using this router. Unfortunately, it only packs a single-core processor and a measly 128 MB of RAM. It’ll be fine for single story homes and it can handle a half-dozen simultaneously connected devices, but it’ll get bogged down for heavy users.
The router includes a free download link to an intuitive app, which you can use to set it up, manage your router, and adjust settings or passwords. If you want a router on the cheap for streaming HD video, or for achieving faster speeds on your smartphone, you can’t go wrong with this TP-Link. But power users should opt for something stronger.
5. Amazon eero Mesh Wi-Fi System
The eero is the best-selling mesh router setup on Amazon and for good reason. It offers a cool design, consistent performance, and an incredibly easy setup. The eero stretches your dollar and Wi-Fi signal further since it comes with three devices for blanketing your home with Wi-Fi — most other mesh setups only include two beacons.
Installing the eero beacons is as easy as plugging them in. Key hardware specs of the eero include simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands, Alexa support for managing device access with your voice, as well as convenient control from a mobile app. Each unit has a duo of Gigabit Ethernet ports and supports speeds up to 350 Mbps for a total combined coverage of 5,000 square feet.
Compared to other mesh systems like Netgear’s Orbi system or Google Wi-Fi, you can expect slightly slower speeds. But since the eero comes with a third beacon you’ll have better, more reliable coverage for a lower price.
You can access even more with an eero Secure subscription, which starts at only $3 per month. Offerings include enhanced network protection, access to a password manager and VPN service, as well as antivirus software.