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If you have a lot of wireless devices, and a lot of people in your home who use those devices simultaneously, then this type of router can be well worth the investment. You can even dedicate one of the 5GHz bands to a single purpose, like your work computer or a gaming console, to avoid slowdowns caused by network congestion.
Keep in mind, however, that since each of your devices can only connect to a single band at a time, a tri-band router won't offer any faster performance unless you have a lot of 5GHz devices—its purpose is to reduce congestion by spreading your 5GHz devices across both bands. There's also still only one 2. The range of a wireless router simply refers to the physical space covered by its Wi-Fi network. Range is normally calculated based on a clear line of sight, with no obstructions between the router and the wireless device.
Obstacles like furniture, walls, ceilings, and even people will reduce the actual range of a router. Also remember that 2. There are a few things that can increase the range of a router, eliminate dead spots in a Wi-Fi network, and improve connectivity. The first is the number of antennas that a router has and the orientation of those antennas. As a general rule of thumb, a router that has multiple antennas that can be rotated manually will have a greater range, and provide better coverage, than a router with just a single antenna.
If you have a small home with an uncomplicated layout, then you may do fine with an inexpensive single antenna router. Larger homes, multi-floor homes, and any situation that places a lot of obstructions between the router and your devices will benefit from a multi-antenna router. The construction of your home matters here as well, as concrete and metal will block signals more than wood and drywall. For large homes, you will have a much better experience if you use one or more Wi-Fi extenders or choose a mesh Wi-Fi system instead of a traditional wireless router.
Wi-Fi extenders connect to your existing network and project it further, while mesh systems use a number of interlocking nodes to cover a large area without slowing down your connection or introducing lag. These systems are more expensive than traditional wireless routers. If you like to stream movies in 4K , play video games, or just download large files, then the speed of your router is key. In some cases, the number will come before the AC or AX designation, which simply indicates whether it's using In either case, these numbers refer to the maximum throughput that the router can offer for all of the devices that are connected to it simultaneously, across all of its frequency bands combined.
For example, a dual-band AC router has a theoretical maximum speed of 1,Mbps, but that's split across both its 2. Similarly, tri-band routers usually have much higher numbers like AC since that total speed is divvied up across three bands instead of only two. For example, two AC routers from different manufacturers are in the same general speed class although they may offer different speeds on each individual band , while an AC router is going to be a lot faster.
That is to say you should absolutely invest in a dual- or tri-band gigabit router if your internet connection supports it, but buying a fast router like that is a waste of money if your internet connection speed itself is slow, unless of course you run your own media servers or often transfer files between your home computers.
Lastly, remember that these numbers represent the combined speeds that are available to all of your connected devices across all of the bands the router offers. Don't let the numbers fool you into thinking that a tri-band AC router is significantly faster than a dual-band AC router, as both likely offer similar speeds on each band. The tri-band router just has one extra band for handling more devices. At a bare minimum, your router should have at least one extra Gigabit Ethernet port in addition to the one you use for your modem or internet connection.
This is a wired connection that provides the fastest possible connection speed, and you can always add a network switch later if you want physical connections for other devices. A good standard to look for on a router is four Gigabit Ethernet ports, although some higher end devices include eight or more.
Some even allow you to achieve a 2Gbps connection by connecting to two Gigabit Ethernet ports at once, and a few leading-edge gaming routers now offer special 2. If you have a desktop computer, gaming console, and a network printer that don't support Wi-Fi, then a router with four Ethernet ports would be a good fit. Some routers offer additional ports, like USB ports and memory card slots. These ports are typically for connecting a hard drive to provide network storage.
Most routers offer simple file sharing, but if you want to stream media, then you'll probably be better off with a router that includes a built-in DLNA server or Plex Media Server that's specifically designed to handle streaming videos to your smart TVs and other devices. Some routers include a built-in firewall , virus scanner, and even the ability to protect all of your devices from malware and ransomware.
Pay close attention to whether these features are free or part of a subscription. Some routers will come with a complimentary subscription to a security service, and then you have to pay if you want to keep the security features. In some cases, a monthly subscription may be worth the expense if it offers sufficiently advanced protection features, but you can usually find routers that include basic firewall and content filtering features for free.
Most routers include everything you need to get started right there in the box. One notable exception is the Ethernet cable used to connect the router to your modem, as the included cables are almost always very short. If you need to place your router more than a few feet from your modem, consider purchasing a high-quality Ethernet cable.
If you plan on hanging your router on a wall, and your router supports that, check to see if mounting hardware is included. If you can mount directly to studs, then you may need to pick up some wall anchors. The networking space is extremely crowded with time-tested giants and intriguing newcomers alike. Here are a few that are worth looking at as you search for your ideal wireless router. Asus You might think of laptops and computers when you think of Asus, but they actually make some of the best wireless routers on the market.
From budget routers to their high performance and high priced Republic of Gamers ROG line, Asus has a wireless router to fit just about any situation. Asus also has its unique AiMesh 2. These are also some of the most configurable routers on the market, making them an ideal choice for power users, but that also adds a layer of complexity that less tech-savvy users might find a bit intimidating.
They offer a decent balance between ease of configuration and advanced features. Linksys This company has a bit of an interesting past. While it was one of the original giants in networking equipment, it was eventually folded into Cisco and then sold to Belkin.
They more recently broke into the wireless router market, where they've applied their expertise in building some universally impressive routers, with specifications, performance, and pricing that meet or beat more established brands. Google Google has its fingers in everything these days, and wireless networking is no exception. With their Nest brand, Google provides an intriguing mesh option where the nodes are also smart speakers and the whole thing integrates especially well with Google Home.
Eero This is another relative newcomer that has put out high-quality equipment on a regular basis since they showed up on the scene. They're also the simplest and easiest to manage of just about any other router on the market, since everything is done through a mobile app, but more tech-savvy users who like to tinker with things will find the lack of advanced options to be somewhat limiting. In that same vein, speed is important, but only if your internet connection can handle it.
Range is also important, but the degree of its importance is directly related to the size and configuration of your home. In the end, the key to finding the best wireless router is to consider all of the factors outlined above, and then select the device that best meets your own personal needs. By Jesse Hollington. Jesse Hollington. Fact checked by Rich Scherr. Rich Scherr is a seasoned technology and financial journalist who spent nearly two decades as the editor of Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire.
Tweet Share Email. The Rundown. Best Overall:. Best Value:. Best Security:. Best Mesh:. Best for Gaming:. Best Design:. Best Parental Controls:. Best for Smart Homes:. Our Picks. How We Tested. About Our Trusted Experts. Our Ratings. Netgear Orbi Review. What We Don't Like A bit pricey. The 9 Best Gaming Routers of It's easy to get lost in all the specs and features that Wi-Fi routers list and boast.
We'll dive into what the most significant features and specs mean, in plain terms, below. To give you an idea of some of the best routers out right now, these top routers come with different price points and equip varying levels of bells and whistles, some of which are universally substantial and others of which only matter to heavy users like gamers. TP-Link offers some of the best bang for your buck with their Archer A7.
If you need more bandwidth than TP-Link's budget-focused router offers, their newer Archer Ax50 packs faster speeds with the enhanced Wi-Fi 6 for a more powerful step up. While some people prefer to set their router up once and forget it, others like myself prefer to tweak settings and make use of advanced features to get the best experience possible. There are even higher-end routers out there, like Netgear's Nighthawk AX12 , but they're likely more than most people need.
Each unit intelligently communicates the others to blanket your house in a single, far-reaching Wi-Fi network, and it's easy to set up. That metric denotes how fast the router can move incoming data — like an internet signal — from one computer like your modem to another like your smartphone or TV.
For the past few years, the fastest Wi-Fi routers on the market used a standard called " When you shop for a router, you'll usually see a speed advertised on the spec sheet. The fastest AC routers, for example, might boast up to 5, Mbps of blazing-fast speed. If you need a new router now, you can either get an affordable AC router as a stopgap before upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E down the line or grab an early Wi-Fi 6 router now.
If you can, I'd recommend waiting until when Wi-Fi 6E will be fully baked. Having both allows you to get the best connection no matter where you are in the house. Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal finance , tech and tools , wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek. IE 11 is not supported.
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