AC-equipped wireless routers have been flooding into the market by the handful over the past few years, taking over the dominant spot that was once occupied by lesser technologies like b\/g\/n. But what exactly is an AC router, and more importantly, which is the\u00a0best AC router for you?\r\n\r\nRead on in our guide to find out everything you need to know about this exciting evolution in wireless transmission standards, and which routers sport the absolute best of the best features that will let your family stream, download, and game online at blisteringly quick speeds any time of the day.\r\nBest\u00a0AC\u00a0Routers Compared\r\n\r\n TP-Link Archer AC5400\r\n\r\nAward: Editor's Choice\/Best AC Router\r\nPrice: $249.99\u00a0| Read Full Review:\u00a0TP-Link Archer AC5400 Review\u00a0| Features:\u00a0Dual-core 1.2GHz processor, AC1900 transmission speeds, dual-band antennas\r\n\r\nWHY IT'S A TOP PICK:\u00a0The insane speeds on the TP-Link Archer AC5400 don't slow down for anyone.\r\n\r\nWhen you're looking for the best AC router, the first thing you should have on your mind is how much power, range, and signal reliability you're going to get out of it in the long run. With all these factors taken into account, it's hard to beat a device like the TP-Link Archer C5400, which features eight high-powered antennas that can broadcast your network out in all directions while still rocking a razor-thin profile.\r\n\r\nThis is a router that won't take up half your living room or office space, but still manages to compete at the top of its class with speeds and signal strength unlike anything else on the market. Combine its small stature with its solid software and ease of use, and you've got a router that deserves all the praise it gets as the #1 best AC router out there today.\r\n\r\n\r\n Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300\r\n\r\nAward: Best AC Router for Range\r\nPrice: $359.99\u00a0| Read Full Review:\u00a0Netgear Nighthawk X8 Review\u00a0|\u00a0Features:\u00a0Dual-core 1.4GHz processor, 802.11ac, tri-band Wi-Fi\r\n\r\nWHY IT'S A TOP PICK:\u00a0The Netgear Nighthawk X8 is a high-performance AC router that shouldn't be missed.\r\n\r\nWhen we first reviewed the Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300, we struggled to find reasons why it wouldn't be an automatic pick for anyone who was looking for a powerful AC router that could reach every corner of their home with a strong signal. The best we could come up with was a few problems with the Netgear Genie system, but since improving their online dashboard, Netgear has remedied the mistakes of the past and shifted focus to making reliable, consistently high-performing routers that aren't bogged down by buggy software or confusing user interfaces.\r\n\r\nNow that the issues of the Genie have been patched up, the Netgear Nighthawk X8 has no more hurdles in the way on\u00a0its ascension to greatness. It's a fast, powerful router that can support dozens of devices at a time without a flinch, and although it might be slightly pricey for some consumers, anyone who is serious about their home network should do themselves a favor and give it a second glance.\r\n\r\n\r\n TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900\r\n\r\nAward: Best Budget AC Router\r\nPrice: $127.99\u00a0| Read Full Review: TP-Link Archer C9 Review\u00a0|\u00a0Features:\u00a0Slim design, intuitive mobile app, USB 2.0 port\r\n\r\nWHY IT'S A TOP PICK:\u00a0The TP-Link Archer C9 pumps out serious speed for the price.\r\n\r\nOf course, if you want to reap all the benefits that the best AC routers have to offer but don't have a ton of cash to drop upfront, there are always alternative options like the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 router to round things out at the lower end of the cost spectrum.\r\n\r\nThe Archer C9 surprised all of us here at Gadget Review when, despite its small size and bargain price, it still managed to beat out other routers that were twice as expensive (or more) in raw output and speed. If you live in a smaller home or an apartment and don't need to worry as much about range (one area where the C9 couldn't quite measure up), this is undoubtedly going to be the unit for you.\r\n\r\n\r\n Linksys EA9500 AC5400\r\n\r\nAward: Best AC Router for Large Homes\r\nPrice: $399.95\u00a0| Read Full Review: Linksys EA9500 Tri-Band MU-MIMO Review |\u00a0Features:\u00a0MU-MIMO beamforming technology, high-powered AC5400 speeds\r\n\r\nWHY IT'S A TOP PICK:\u00a0Powerful and sporting the latest technology, it's hard to go wrong with the Linksys EA9500.\r\n\r\nWhen you think about performance, reliability, and simplicity in the router space, ask anyone and the first name that pops up will almost always be "Linksys". That pedigree for quality didn't come from nowhere though, built up over years as the company continually dominated the market with routers and networking hardware which continue to set the gold standard that all other competing manufacturers strive to beat.\r\n\r\nThere's not a whole lot to say about the Linksys EA9500 AC5400 that hasn't been said a hundred times already, but if you want a future-proof router that's one of the best long-term investments you could make for your wireless network, this is the device to get. With a tri-band transmission spectrum, MU-MIMO capability, and a whopping 5.4Gbps of throughput, this router will max out your broadband connection, your fiber connection, or whatever mystical internet technology that comes after both.\r\n\r\n\r\n AmpliFi HD Mesh Router\r\n\r\nAward: Best AC Mesh Networking System\r\nPrice: $349.00\u00a0| Read Full Review:\u00a0AmpliFi HD Router Review |\u00a0Features:\u00a0Mesh networking technology, AC1900 transmission speeds, two external antennas\r\n\r\nWHY IT'S A TOP PICK: The AmpliFi HD brings router design\u00a0into the 21st century.\r\n\r\nWhen we first heard about the AmpliFi HD wireless router, we were rightfully skeptical that such a tiny, unassuming box could compete with the other big boys on this list...but oh how wrong we were.\u00a0Utilizing a new system of Wi-Fi\u00a0technology called "mesh" networking, the AmpliFi HD is a cheaper alternative to other mesh competitors like the Eero and Luma, utilizing a series of external antennas to ensure that large homes or apartments get the absolute best signal coverage no matter how large or small they may be.\r\n\r\nFor a first-time entry into the world of routers, the AmpliFi HD impresses on nearly ever level, save for a few minor gripes with the software that the company says will be fixed in the next few months with future patches. If you're constantly dropping wireless signal when you head out to the backyard or into the basement, do yourself a favor and jump into the mesh networking revolution with the AmpliFi HD today.\r\n\r\n\r\nBest AC Router Features to Look Out For\r\n\r\n \tAC Rating\r\n\r\n \tThe first thing you probably noticed while browsing this list was the different tags that followed the name of each router.\u00a0Specifically here, we're talking about: AC1900, AC5300, and AC5400.\r\n \tThese designate the maximum bandwidth throughput that a particular router can handle across all its wireless bands. For example, a standard AC1900 router can handle 600Mbps on its 2.4GHz spectrum and 1300Mbps on 5GHz (1600 + 300= AC1900), while AC5400 would be two 5GHz devices transmitting 2166Mbps at once.\r\n \tMake sure you always get a router that can has a minimum rating of AC1900 for small homes, and if you have a lot of people on the network at once during peak hours, it might be better to shell out for AC5300 or above.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tMU-MIMO\/Beamforming\r\n\r\n \tSeveral of the routers we've listed here come with a newer technology known as "MU-MIMO", which stands for "Multiple User, Multiple-Input Multiple-Output".\r\n \tIn a normal router without MU-MIMO, the way data is sent to multiple devices is a bit like a machine gun strapped to a carousel. with each packet being shot out once in a separate direction (or to a separate device) one time before the next rotation.\r\n \tThis can make buffering video or playing games harder to do the more devices are on the network at a time. MU-MIMO solves the problem by creating multiple simultaneous streams, or to continue with the metaphor; straps more machine guns to the merry-go-round.\r\n \tAnd while it's definitely future-proof and a great investment for 2017 and beyond, you should check to see if you have any devices that can actually support it before pulling the trigger. Very few laptops, desktops, or smartphones out right now actually have chips that know how to decode the MU-MIMO signal, so before you drop extra cash on it check with your device manufacturer to see if it knows how to translate a MU-MIMO broadcast first.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tNAT, Firewall, and Port Forwarding\r\n\r\n \tHaving an AC router is great for getting top speeds and maximum bandwidth throughput, but the best routers also come with a bevy of extra software features like NAT options, firewall settings, and port forwarding to ensure your connection isn't bogged down by a bad configuration.\r\n \tMake sure you have all your settings lined up for each device when you get everyone added to the network, so you can be sure that incorrect firewall settings or port blocking aren't slowing you down.\r\n\r\n\r\n \tRange\r\n\r\n \tThe last\u00a0benefit of AC-equipped routers is that on the whole, their higher price also makes them much better for transmitting their signal at long\u00a0ranges.\r\n \tAside from the Archer C9, every router on this list feature high-range antennas that can transmit a reliable signal in homes larger than 1000 sq. ft.\r\n \tThe AmpliFi HD is an especially good pick in this regard, as its mesh antenna system lets you put a range extender wherever you need it most in your home. If you're not getting any bars upstairs or in your room, just an add another antenna in the loop to boost your signal to the max.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhich AC Router Is Right for You?\r\nAs AC has become the dominant Wi-Fi transmission standard over the past two years, you'd be hard-pressed to find a router that\u00a0doesn't\u00a0automatically come equipped with it in one version or another.\r\n\r\nThat said, our five picks here feature some of the best of the best that the industry has to offer in AC routers, with models like the Linksys EA9500 leading the charge in features, while budget models like the TP-Link Archer C9 make it widely available to customers shopping on any budget.\r\n\r\nThe AmpliFi HD is a solid pick for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the pool of mesh networking for the first time, while the TP-Link Archer AC5400 and Netgear Nighthawk X8 are just raw powerhouses that could probably strip the paint off your walls if you streamed enough data through them.\r\n\r\nAnd if you still can't decide? \u00a0Take a look at the rest of our wireless router reviews\u00a0to find the AC router that fits your needs and budget best!