Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

A good Wi-Fi router is the most essential component for your home network. The best ones offer great range, speedy communication, broad management features and customisability. This week, we're looking at five of the best on the market right now, based on your nominations.

Photo by Danny Choo

With all these models, it's worth shopping around before you buy, as pricing varies quite widely.

ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

The ASUS RT-AC66U is the latest in the well-regarded RT series of routers. It offers support 802.11ac, incredible range and signal power, and performance that can punch through walls and other obstacles to connect devices around your home. The RT-AC66U includes NVIDIA's GameStream technology for gamers who use NVIDIA products and GPUs. The antennae on the back are adjustable and detachable in case you want to add bigger ones or signal boosters. The router also houses four gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections, two built-in USB ports for printer or drive sharing with your network and dual-band transmitters to help balance out connected devices. It sells for around $215.

The RT-AC66U has a built-in connection wizard and management tools. It offers a built-in VPN, so you can connect securely anywhere. It also gracefully supports DD-WRT and Tomato custom firmware if you want to install either.

Netgear AC1900 Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R7000)

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

The Netgear AC1900 resembles a stealth fighter. Its design is supposed to boost signal, and the three external antennae are adjustable and designed to help deliver 802.11ac wireless signal to all corners of your home. The Nighthawk is a dual-band router, perfect for connecting lots of devices or devices with varying ranges, and is heavily marketed to gamers due to its support for NVIDIA's GameStream technology. It also packs four gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connectivity and two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0) for device sharing. The router also supports Apple AirPlay and Time Machine backups right to connected drives.

The Nighthawk packs a built-in VPN, guest networking, parental controls, and a range security and configuration features, including QoS, traffic shaping, and application prioritisation. It's also DD-WRT compatible. You'll pay around $250 for the model.

Apple Airport Extreme/Airport Time Capsule

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

Apple's Airport Extreme and Airport Time Capsule both bundle 802.11ac wireless into small routers that can fit just about anywhere, set up easily, and can be remotely managed by iOS devices if you have one. Both support printer and hard drive sharing, and the ability to connect other devices via USB and share them with other computers, or to share a printer wirelessly with everything on your network. Both models also feature three gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections. While the Airport Time Capsule is essentially a NAS and router combination, the Airport Extreme is a pure router. They're both relatively pricey though -- the Airport Extreme will set you back $249, and the Airport Time Capsule will set you back $349 or $449, depending on whether you want the model that offers 2TB or 3TB.

Buffalo Technology AirStation N600 Gigabit Dual Band DD-WRT Wireless Router

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

Its name may be a mouthful, but the Buffalo N600 comes in a couple of flavours -- the one we're highlighting is the one that ships with DD-WRT already on-board, offering you unprecedented control over the router's features, and the ability to get under the hood and really manage your router and your network and set everything up the way you like. The router itself is no slouch -- it's a dual-band 802.11n router with great range and signal strength, so if you're not looking for 802.11ac like some of the other models in the roundup, but you are looking for DD-WRT compatibility, this one might be a good option. It packs four gigabit Ethernet ports in the back and a single USB port for connected devices and device sharing, extendable antennae from the chassis for a little signal boost, and it can be configured as an access point or as a wireless bridge that can extend your current network's reach. You'll pay around $100 for this model.

Asus RT-N56U Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Gigabit Router

Five Best Home Wi-Fi Routers

The ASUS RT-56U remains a popular choice. It offers fast, flexible router with internal anntennae that can be mounted anywhere, and supports dual-band 802.11n and NVIDIA's GameStream. It has twin USB 2.0 ports on the back and four wired gigabit Ethernet ports. It's a snap to set up, it looks great, and it's rock solid -- a great router for someone who wants a device to connect to the internet, not necessarily manage a network. It sells for around $105.

An honourable mention this week for to the venerable Linksys WRT54G, which is a relatively ancient model these days but remains popular and reliable. It's the gold standard for customisable, hackable and reconfigurable routers, and supports both DD-WRT and Tomato custom firmware.

Have a different choice for your favourite router? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.


    I would point out that the Apple devices have no ability to connect to an internet service on their own, you still need to uplink to an Internet router (eg. cable or ADSL).

      To be fair, the article is "WiFi Routers" as opposed to modem routers. I imagine it's not the only one on the list that requires a separate modem.

        tazza is correct, none of the routers on the list have an inbuilt modem.

      incorrect, you need an airport extreme to connect to the NBN for does all the PPOE connections...

      None of the router on this list have ADSL modems in-built. This is another copy-pasted US article, without taking into account considerations for local usage. Here in Australia, where we've got far greater ADSL usage, it would be far more beneficial to show routers that have in-built ADSL modems, instead of just "WAN" ports, otherwise, they should write a new article, listing the best ADSL modems as well...

        I wouldn't advise buying a modem/router after going through six of them...

        It may be a copy & pasted article (and I'm unable to prove or disprove), but with more and more providers going to Cable via the NBN this is definitely still a valid article. That and modem routers are typically bloody awful!

        I've had nothing but trouble with my modem routers and I've tried nearly all of them courtesy of my workplace. Everything from Wi-Fi dropping off entirely, low speed connections and of course power loss. Hardly any modem routers are currently running 802.11ac & I genuinely believe the hardware on most are incapable of running a modem connection and routing traffic without struggling under the most basic & expected home based LAN's.

        The router I chose (not because of this review, but because of other similar reviews) was the ASUS RT-AC66U. Mostly because I have non-NBN cable at home and there's no decent modem routers available at retail, especially for Cable. ADSL has a little better but still, dedicated modems and dedicated routers (arguably even dedicated WAP's) are all I would ever recommend for anyone in the home.

        Besides, I'm almost certain anyone with two brain cells would know you'll nearly always be better off putting any standard modem into Bridge mode and running a dedicated router. I was considering getting a half-decent wired-router and running a behemoth UniFi AP Pro from a dedicated switch. But 802.11ac at a range of 450m was probably overkill and I was afraid of giving me and my pets some kind of radiation poisoning. Or at worst growing additional limbs in inconvenient places (read: my crotch).

        Back on topic though.... the ASUS RT-AC66U is an absolute gun and can't recommend it enough. My current setup is now beasting any previous setup I've used and the router it's self is quite pretty and even the native OS is good for most of those who are less in the know. You might even be able to use it Cameron?

        So in summary. It may be a copy and paste article. But it's not dedicated to the US, just those who know that modem-routers are bloody terrible.

        Last edited 10/03/14 6:34 pm

          My point still stands, if you're going to do an article about routers, you need to cover off the other half, which is how you actually connect to the Internet.

          It's wonderful you're one of the lucky few who can get access to Cable Internet, but for the rest of us, who will be stuck with ADSL for some time, a good ADSL modem can make a huge difference to connection speeds.

          Thanks @johnidt. I moving house and I'm the midst of getting Cable set up at the new place. I've been looking at the ASUS RT-AC66U and I think your comments now have me closer to making a decision. Really wasn't keen on Telstra's combined modem/router offering. Cheers.

          Ummm, I have more than 2 brain cells and it hadn't occurred to me before reading these comments that separate devices are a good idea. I, like a lot of people, like the simplest solutions to the confusion that is maintaining a decent internet connection. Understanding of these things aren't second nature to everyone.
          Having said that, thanks to everyone for the discussion that has led to me seeking further information and has helped me understand basically why I seem to have trouble every couple of years.

          I'm currently in the market for a new modem/router and a number of reviews/feedback I've read indicate that certain routers offer better performance (over modem-routers). Whilst I'm persuaded by jonnidt's comments and am happy to purchase 2 devices (modem and router), it appears that no companies manufacture stand alone modems anymore... . I'm looking for medium to high-end performance.

        The article does say "5 best home wifi routers", not "5 best home wifi modem routers".

        Personally I run separated ADSL modem and wifi router. I don't think I'd want a combined device.

        Last edited 10/03/14 9:33 pm

    I bought the "Asus RT-N56U" in preparation for the NBN connection. It has no problems getting me the best possible speed, it has good 2.4 and 5ghz coverage, practically no jitter, and indeed is very easy to setup, however, the one issue I do have with it is the stand, which is quite flimsy. I got so sick of it falling off whenever I changed or adjusted the cables that I screwed it down to the shelf.

    Last edited 10/03/14 8:54 am

      TROLL MODE ON preparation for the NBN connection ...
      I got so sick of it falling off whenever I changed or adjusted the cables that I screwed it down to the shelf.

      Ha, the NBN ... that's ridiculous you had to do that. The NBN is obviously a failure and incompetent!


      * my sister in Gungahlin reckoned the NBN 'was crap' .. why? Because her mobile phones suddenly wouldn't last a day after installation. I guffawed when she told me, almost choked. She was dead serious. Apparently they had to move the wifi router out into the garage, causing the phones to struggle a bit more for signal .. which was the NBN's fault!

      Last edited 10/03/14 11:40 am

        Did your sister use her own router/modem or the one supplied by the ISP...? Because I refused to use the one iPrimus was offering and used the Asus RT-N56U instead.

        Last edited 11/03/14 8:12 am

          Her own. Not sure what type though, haven't been there in a while.

      I've got one too, it's great. No issues with the stand for me, though it basically just sits on top of a cupboard and doesn't move.

    What about iinet's BOB or Telstra's Hub. How could they possibly have missed the cut for this list.

      Telstra T-Hub is an android tablet, DECT phone combo. Telstra's (Technicolor) TG797, on the other hand, has built in DECT and even has a spot allocated at the bottom of the router to connect a t-hub handset cradle for charging, similar to iiNet's BOB. TG797 is a surprisingly good router for only $144 from Telstra Shops.

        I paid 100 (was 140ish) for my Netgear N300 and it runs rings around anything i've ever gotten from Telstra. It also works, unlike anything Telstra ever supplied with me.

      Not sure about the T-Hub, but every modem I have had from Telstra (minus the Speedstream 4200) was an absolute piece of shit. I'm not sure how Telstra can allow such broken hardware to be acceptable.

        Speedstream 530 was quite hard to beat. The 4200 was a pile of crap in comparison.

    On iinet's BOB just this.
    I had issues with connections dropping quite frequently. After a lot of searching found it to be the 5 ghz band causing this. Disabled it and not had a problem since.

      A lot of crappy wireless cards have issues with 5ghz, especially the absolute POS Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205, which a crap tonne of last years hardware have on board.

      Last edited 10/03/14 2:56 pm

    I would much prefer an article on the five best wireless modem routers for Australians.

      I too don't understand why most home users would need a modem and wireless router to be separate devices.

        Perhaps because they have an NBN connection and don't need an ADSL modem?

          They must be enjoying the fruits of the Labor govt, or living in an alternative universe where suburbs that were laid out around the election aren't still waiting for connection under the LNP.

        I'd rather have them separated, that way I know exactly where the problem is if the internet drops out for example. I only need to reset the modem, instead of resetting the router and bringing my whole home network down until it reboots.

    We went with the D-Link 868L ... it seems pretty zippy on the 5Ghz ac band and does the entire house and garden. We have thick stone and brick walls (classic old villa) which Telstra struggles to get through, but no such issues with the router.

    This is on Telstra cable so no need for a combo modem. Though warning to anyone considering cable ... don't just rely on the Telstra supplied Netgear all-in-one. The wifi is pants and has no range at all.

    +1 for a story on modem routers with a focus on chipset differences re coping with line distances/conditions, please.

    I'm glad you mentioned the Asus RT-N56U. I have one and it's fantastic.

    Everyone do yourself a favour if you want a quality router/network.......go buy a small business router like Billion, Draytek or Zyxel. No fancy wizard setup but their processing power is better spent where it counts. Airport Extreme is a good router but lacks features like dyndns and VPN.

    What, no mention of the Fritz!box?

    They aren't what I'd call 'cheap', but for a dual band WiFi modem/Router with VOIP support, the Fritz!box 7390 is EASILY the best piece of domestic comms equipment I have used.
    I've owned mine for coming up on 3 years, I could count the number of times I've needed to restart it on one hand and I can use it for ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL and (should my time come) NBN also.

    The interface is a little strange at first, but every feature of this router is accessible with very little effort and works exactly as logically as you might expect it to.

    I cannot recommend this unit enough if you are looking for a 'set and forget' solution; in the same breath, it works well as an intermediate solution also.

    In order to get more features for my home network, I'd be looking at dedicated network appliances.

    I don't understand how you can in good conscious recommend an overpriced apple router that does not even have one of the most basic and important features of any home router working QOS (Quality Of Service)

    This "Router" has no form of Qos whatsoever so forget about using voip or prioritizing web browsing over torrents.

    Basically any router with QOS by default is better than this product.

    Thanks for the article Alan, very helpful - do you or does anyone in this comment thread know which of these devices would be good in a house that house up to or over 20 connecting devices, from iPads or smartphones to laptops? I live in a big house and need advice! Thanks in advance.

    If you want the best ADSL modem/router with good WiFi for Australia its either Billion or Draytek.
    For me the billion modems win for the price point and features, the billion 7800N, 7800NXL, 7800DX and a few others in their range are capable of SNR adjustment via the web interface. This improves download and sync speed which also reduces latency which very important for gamers and anyone who wants webpages to load quickly.
    I use the older model 7800n and it improves my 6-7mb a second, 30ms ping with a standard modem (netgear, dlink, tplink etc etc) speed to 11-12mb a second with a 9ms ping, no other modem i have used or tested achieves anything close.
    I live 3.5km from my exchange so the speeds I'm getting with the 7800n are excellent.
    The Draytek range are bulletproof and also use the Broadcom chipset which Billion use but a bit pricey and more focused on business market, their 2600G was a great all in one with snr adjustment, not sure on the newer models as I haven't used them in a while.
    Anything supplied by an ISP in Australia is junk (except internode, they supply billion 7800 series modems), the bobs (belkin) from iinet and the Telstra rubbish are horrible devices designed to fail and make your internet a nightmare.

    I wonder if future reviews could also incorporate comparative testing of real-world end-user WAN speeds.
    At the moment router reviews across the net see to all focus on wireless speed which is not the be all and end all, since most home users want to access the net from time to time.
    For example, in the link below someone did some tests and found a real-world 20% drop in throughput by buying one of the newer routers (dlink DIR-880L) as compared to their old dlink DIR-655.

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