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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.