Best Wireless Router in 2021 – Wires? Who Needs Them

Creating a robust home Wi-Fi network has never been easier. Modern internet routers make setup easy. Gone are the days of typing 127.0.0.1 into your browser, decoding arcane menus, and keeping your lucky rabbit’s foot handy in case the router configuration goes awry. Today, some routers can be set up with user-friendly mobile apps. It’s a breeze.

Setup may be easier, but choosing the best wireless router is harder. The market is crowded with manufacturers, models, standards, specs, and options. It’s easy to get lost in all the jargon when all you want is a decent router that won’t be obsolete within a few months.

That’s why we’ve explored the market and identified the best solutions for homes, offices, and gamers. Here’s what we’ve found.

ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300

ASUS

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Max speed: 5,334 Mbps
Coverage: Up to 5,000 sq. ft.
Wireless type: 802.11ac
Ports: 8 Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0
Key features: 8 antennas, dual 5GHz, VPN Fusion, Game IPS, ASUS AiMesh support

  • Lots of ports
  • Blazingly high speeds
  • Easy to set up
  • Expensive

ASUS routers are known for distinctive designs. We can envision this one beaming up to its mothership or getting up on its antennas and scurrying. Despite the futuristic appearance, this router is likely to be one of the best purchases you’ve ever made when it comes to computer equipment.

This is one powerful piece of hardware. ASUS’s eight-antenna design was the first of its kind in 2015, and the new model continues this legacy as the best wireless router you can buy. 

The ROG Rapture is one of the market’s few tri-band routers, which means that it provides twice the 5 GHz signal in addition to traditional 2.4 GHz network connectivity. Thanks to amplitude modulation, this router provides incredibly fast Wi-Fi connections – 1 Gbps on the 2.4 GHz channel and 2.1 Gbps per 5GHz band. MU-MIMO technology is supported, as well as beamforming for stable connections and simultaneous data streaming. With ROG Rapture, you won’t feel any lagging in your favorite games even when other household members are streaming Netflix and downloading Windows updates. Everyone gets a fair share of network traffic.

As a strong candidate for the best WiFi router, ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is great for LAN parties and large home networks. On its backside, you’ll find eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, and you can use link aggregation for a 2 Gbps Ethernet connection. The router also has two fast USB 3.0 ports, letting you hook up external drives or share a printer with the rest of the network. The accompanying software is robust but intuitive, letting you set everything up in just a few clicks – including mesh networking if you wish.

All of this comes at a price. This is not the most affordable wireless router, not by a long shot. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive routers on the market. Considering all the high-end features provided by this alien artifact, we can safely say that the price is worth it.

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TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750

TP-Link

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Max speed: 1,300 Mbps
Coverage: 3-bedroom house
Wireless type: 802.11ac
Ports: 4 Ethernet, 1 USB
Key features: Dual-band antennas, local FTP server, Tether app, guest network, OneMesh support

  • Affordable
  • Affordable mesh network solution
  • Sleek design
  • Archaic user interface

Need an affordable internet router that packs some punch? Take a look at the TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750. This is the router that tops our “under $100” category, which is fiercely competitive these days. The Archer C7 is the most affordable way to experience the next generation of home Wi-Fi.

Let’s start with the price. This is simply the best value wireless router you’ll find on the market. The affordable price makes it hard to compete against the Archer C7, especially considering it offers over 1 Gbps bandwidth over a 5 GHz network. Most routers in this price range don’t come close to this speed. The 2.4 GHz band supports a remarkable 450 Mbps connection, and you can set up mesh networking if you need better coverage. If you decide to use this router in an office or public place, you’ll be glad you can set up guest networks so all your network devices are kept safe behind a password barrier.

Another factor that makes the Archer C7 the best router under $100: dual USB ports and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. These ports give you great flexibility. For example, you might hook up a printer on one USB port and use the second for a network drive that your whole household can access. Granted, these USB 2.0 ports are significantly slower than USB 3.0 ports, but that’s reasonable in a router this affordable.

We like the visual appearance of this device. It’s not an out-of-this-world space-age design, and it’s not boring. It strikes a perfect balance between style and function. 

The only reason this isn’t the absolute best router ever is its clunky, dated user interface. TP-Link recommends downloading a free Tether app for your smartphone, which substantially helps with basic setup but doesn’t allow much fine tweaking. For that, you’ll still need to use the desktop UI, which looks like a forgotten product from 1997.

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ASUS RT-AX88U

ASUS

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Max speed: 6,000 Mbps
Coverage: Large house or office
Wireless type: 802.11ax
Ports: 8 Ethernet, 2 USB 3.1
Key features: AiMesh support, integrated firewall, beamforming, Wi-Fi 6, Amazon Alexa compatible 

  • Highest Wi-Fi speeds
  • Future-proof
  • USB 3.1 ports
  • Expensive

We like ASUS routers. The Taiwanese manufacturer makes high-tech cool by cramming great features into fashion-forward futuristic cases. Still, we were not prepared for this product. The company has outdone itself with the ASUS RT-AX88U, the fastest wireless router in the world.

That is an ordinary name for a far-from-ordinary product. Just one look at the AX88U is sufficient to convince you that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill device. A futuristic angular surface is the base for gold-tinted antennas. The golden color is repeated as a theme elsewhere on the case, making this router stand out from the crowd. On the back, you’ll find eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.1 ports for setting up shared network resources like printers and hard drives.

Speed is the main feature of the ASUS RT-AX88U, and not just through the Ethernet ports. This is the best highspeed wireless router available, with speeds reaching 6,000 Mpbs thanks to Wi-Fi 6 and beamforming technology. The router also supports MU-MIMO for simultaneous data streaming, AiMesh technology that lets you cover a bigger space with multiple routers, guest networking, and OpenVPN. 

One unique feature is the RT-AX88U’s ability to connect to the Amazon Alexa smart speaker using simple voice commands. 

If you’re worried about security, you’ll be glad to know that a lifetime license to TrendMicro’s AiProtection Pro is included with the router. The software includes parental controls, a network firewall, and filtering of known harmful websites.

We find a lot to like in the ASUS RT-AX88U. It is the best wireless router for large homes or small offices. The only real disadvantage is its high price. This is the most expensive router on our list. Considering all the future-proof technology bundled into the futuristic case, and the router’s status as the fastest device on the market, we’d say it’s a good value.

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D-Link Wi-Fi Router AC1750

D-Link

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Max speed: 1,300 Mbps
Coverage: Whole house
Wireless type: 802.11a
Ports: 4 Ethernet
Key features: SmartBeam, MU-MIMO, SmartConnect, 3×3 data stream

  • Optimizes traffic for streaming
  • Good speed and coverage
  • Mobile app for easy setup
  • No USB ports

Yes, “D-Link Wi-Fi Router AC1750 Wireless Internet” is quite a mouthful. It’s a product name that deserves its own ZIP code. Behind the long name is an unassuming router that looks decidedly tame. Looks can be deceiving, however. This might well be the best wireless router for you.

D-Link’s routers are mostly on the tame side, at least with their looks. Matte black on black is the color combination here, with just a few peculiar angles to distinguish the AC1750 from the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

The back panel features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, but unfortunately, USB ports are completely absent. This is a strange decision on D-Link’s part, especially considering that many less expensive routers, including TP-Link’s Archer C7 included, include USB connections. Speed, coverage, and network stability are all great, however, making D-Link’s device the best wireless router for streaming

The manufacturer includes several advanced technologies to help you get the best signal throughout your home or office – primarily SmartBeam and 3×3 MU-MIMO. MIMO also improves stability when a lot of devices connect to the router, so if you have a watching party or a lot of family members who watch YouTube at the same time, there won’t be any network congestion or slowdowns. 

One very big advantage of modern D-Link routers is the accompanying software. The UI is very nice, with all the options easily accessible. You can even download a mobile app that speeds the setup process and lets you monitor your network traffic.

This isn’t one of the market’s most affordable wireless routers. Priced slightly higher than TP-Link’s Archer C7 and lacking a USB port, the AC1750 doesn’t sound like a great deal. However, it offers one of the best router UIs on the market, fast home Wi-Fi network setup, and an impressive Wi-Fi range with optimization for streaming apps. For movie buffs and Chromecast fans, these are compelling features.

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TP-Link Archer C5400X

TP-Link

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Max speed: 5,334 Mbps
Coverage: Up to 5,000 sq. ft.
Wireless type: 802.11ac
Ports: 8 Ethernet, 2 USB 3.0
Key features: Link aggregation, HomeCare lifetime subscription, gaming mode, Airtime Fairness

  • Very fast
  • Automatic traffic optimization
  • Warranty
  • Bulky
  • Expensive

Another alien lifeform on our list is a router specifically targeted at gamers who want the best internet connectivity they can get. 

TP-Link’s Archer C5400X is similar to the ASUS ROG Rapture, and not just because of its outlandish looks. Marketed as the best wireless router for gaming, this tri-band device is capable of incredible speed and packed with more ports you’ll ever need.

Performance-wise, Archers C5400X matches the ASUS ROG Rapture blow by blow, reaching 2,167 Mbps on each 5 GHz antenna and 5 Gbit Wi-Fi available with link aggregation. A powerful quad-core CPU ensures a rock-solid internet connection even under maximum load, and beamforming technology means you won’t lose your signal even if you’re gaming on the opposite side of the house. 

Why mark this as a gaming router, aside from its bold looks? Because of special features that prioritize gaming traffic. It’s the best wireless gaming router because when a video game needs an internet connection, it temporarily makes that data stream a priority over everything else on the network. It doesn’t matter how many other devices are online at the same time. You can rest assured there won’t be any lagging with multiplayer games.

TP-Link provides eight Gigabit Ethernet ports. You can team them up for a 2 Gbps connection if you like. There are also two USB 3.0 ports, which let you share devices with the whole network. That could be handy when setting up a home theater system with video streaming, for example.

Like every other top WiFi router on our list, the TP-Link Archer C5400X comes with a robust set of security features. A free lifetime subscription for TP-Link HomeCare is included with every purchase. It provides integrated antivirus protection, a firewall, and VPN apps. This router supports OpenVPN, so you can install a third-party VPN on it if you wish.

Our main complaint is the price. When a router costs as much as a decent monitor or a brand-new gaming console, you have to wonder whether it’s worth the price. But if you don’t mind paying a premium price for excellent features and performance, you’ll be happy with the Archer C5400X.

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Our Methodology for Identifying the Top Wireless Routers

Our reviews are based on objective evaluations of key metrics. These criteria make it easy to perform a meaningful comparison or identify the product that best meets your needs. You can use this methodology to evaluate products we haven’t reviewed and see how they stack up.

Coverage

The main reason we buy wireless routers is to distribute internet connectivity through the office or home without using cables. Routers don’t provide infinite coverage – their range is limited. Stray outside of that area and you’ll enter a Wi-Fi dead zone, losing internet signal.

This is why Wi-Fi range and coverage is the first feature we analyze when we evaluate a router. We’re looking for a wireless router with the best range. At the very least, you want a wide enough range so you’ll have no Wi-Fi dead zones in your home or office. While most modern routers let you create a mesh (more on that in a bit), we are also interested in the raw power of the base station.

Speed

You not only want to have all your wireless devices connected to the internet, you want to give them enough bandwidth to surf the net smoothly. That is why we put the maximum router speed so high on our list of priorities. This is a straightforward requirement, just like with other wireless devices like controllers and speakers – the faster the speed, the better. Since we are talking about the top Wi-Fi routers, we’ll be looking at the wireless connection first and foremost. Modern routers are equipped with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities and employ advanced technologies to provide maximum bandwidth for each device as needed.

Supported Technologies and Ports

A good router is more than range and raw power. While those are essential, it’s also important that a router supports a decent range of technologies and protocols that will make it future-proof and provide better networking. First of all, the router should provide a dual-band Wi-Fi signal that works at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It’s even better if the router operates on three bands.

The best internet router should also come with a lot of Ethernet ports. We consider four the bare minimum. A USB port – preferably v. 3.0 or later – gets a big thumbs-up from us, as it allows easy home streaming and network sharing, basically creating a network disk for all your devices to use.

Innovative technologies that improve the overall quality of service are a plus. We’re talking about MU-MIMO support, prioritized network connections based on usage, and parental controls, among other features. Link aggregation is also a nice bonus. It lets you use two LAN ports, essentially doubling the speed of your connection to another device.

Whether we’re talking about the best wireless router for office or home use, it should provide some level of protection for the network. Security features include the ability to create guest networks, integrated firewalls and antivirus software, and filters for blacklisted malicious websites. Your home probably has more interconnected devices than you realize, so digital security is important – and it all starts with the router.

Price

Value is an important factor. We look for the best ratio of features versus price. That means an expensive router that’s jam-packed with lots of useful advanced technology may be a better bargain than a less expensive router that barely does the job. Cheap routers that lack basic features will not find a place on our list.

Best Wi-Fi Routers in 2021

  1. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
  2. TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750
  3. Asus RT-AX88U
  4. D-Link Wi-Fi Router AC1750 Wireless Internet
  5. TP-Link Archer C5400X

FAQ

What is the best wireless Wi-Fi router for home use?

Depending on the size of your home and your budget, you should probably go with the ASUS ROG Rapture or TP-Link Archer C7. The ASUS router has incredible coverage and max speeds of up to 5 Gbps, but it costs quite a lot. TP-Link’s model is modestly priced, and even though it can’t match the ROG Rapture’s performance, it’s a great, affordable solution for a home wireless network.

Which brand of Wi-Fi router is best?

ASUS, D-Link, and TP-Link produce some of the best routers today. These companies are known for creating high-quality hardware for both the lower and higher ends of the consumer spectrum, so you can rest assured that you’ll always get top-quality devices from them.

Do wireless routers go bad?

When wireless routers fail, it’s generally due to overheating. As routers run 24/7, they produce heat, so they should be set up in a ventilated space. Avoid placing your router on top of other devices or in a cramped spot with no airflow. Also, connecting too many devices on the same network may lead to overheating, even if it’s the best wireless router for home use. Be sure to read any safety manuals that come with your router.

Should I buy my own router?

Depending on your internet service provider, it might be better and cheaper to buy your own router. Most ISPs rent you a router, not just lend it for the duration of your contract. In the long run, that means you’ll end up paying for that router, but you won’t get to keep it.

It’s often better to have your own router to improve connection speed and stability. The routers provided by ISPs are far from high-end. They provide weaker signals, slower Wi-Fi speeds, and fewer advanced options. A good router is an investment, but we think it’s worth it.

What is the best inexpensive Wi-Fi router?

In our judgment, the best wireless router for users on a budget is the TP-Link Archer C7. It costs less than $100, comes with a lot of bells and whistles, and offers decent speeds. You can even use it for wireless mesh networking. The only disadvantage is its retro UI.

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