When you’re asking yourself what to look for in a wireless router, there are a few key features to keep an eye on. How we choose the best of the best routers usually comes down to three main factors: the signal strength, the number of onboard features, and price. The routers on this list are all at the head of their game in these arenas, and consistently offer top-of-the-line performance alongside a fair price and a plethora of extras that users can utilize to perfectly customize their own wireless networking experience at home or their office space.
Router technology is constantly evolving to meet the demands of new internet activities, whether that be online gaming, photo uploads, or the advent of 4K streaming.
All the routers we’ve chosen run at a spec of 802.11ac, the latest version of Wi-Fi transmission technology to be released, and also feature a minimum of two wireless bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. They also come with a bevvy of extra features that put them ever-so slightly above the rest of the competition, including: QoS management, parental controls, intuitive mobile apps, media servers, internal firewalls, and more. The routers were tested in a 2600 sq ft home, which was only surrounded by two other wireless networks, so we experienced as little interference as we could during the testing process.
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Accessing and configuring these features used to have a barrier of entry that only the mid-level tech nerd would understand completely, but nowadays thanks to mobile and desktop apps, the process has gotten significantly simpler to deal with.
Dashboards like the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi system continue to set the gold standard for how to create a piece of software that feels like it was made for actual people, not just those who had read the Wireless Routers for Dummies handbook. Every feature is clearly laid out and explained in a way that makes sense to the layman. In today’s world of internet threats, we think it’s important that you as the buyer (and owner) of these routers know exactly what they can (and can’t) do to protect you and your family while they browse online, which is why a well-laid out dashboard is a must.
When it comes to speed, all routers on this list are equipped with a minimum spec of 1900AC, which means they have a theoretical max output of simultaneous dual-band signals up to 600 Mbps (2.4 GHz) + 1300 Mbps (5 GHz) at a time. Options like the Linksys WRT3200ACM are even faster than that though, cresting at a whopping 2.6Gbps.
One of the newer pieces of tech to make it to the high-end sector of the router market in recent years is the addition of MU-MIMO, or Multiple User Mulitple-Input Multiple-Output technology. As explained in my HowToGeek article on the subject, MU-MIMO is a style of beamforming technology which evenly distributes traffic to all members of the household simultaneously, instead of one at a time. There still aren’t a huge number of devices that can support a MU-MIMO stream just yet, but if you’re the type of buyer who prefers to future-proof as much as possible when making purchases like these, than MU-MIMO is the way to go.
Finally, we always do what we can to keep a careful eye on the design of a router, and only recommend those which don’t take up too much space or end up being a central conversation piece of your home (unless you want them to be, of course). Outliers like the AmpliFi HD take router design to the next level, though we suspect it could be a number of years before more the traditional router makers go the same route.