The 11 Best Wireless Routers to Buy in 2018

Shop the best routers for gamers, streamers, large houses, apartments and more

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Whether you’re setting up a new home network or upgrading your existing one, the router is the heart of your whole setup. And picking the right one can be the difference between frustrating dead zones and seamless streaming. Routers can come across as an intimidating piece of hardware, but don’t worry: we’re here to keep you calm, cool, and connected. To help you navigate the sea of router options, we’ve rounded up our favorite picks below. We even tested out a few top models, so be sure to look for the Tested by Lifewire seal to see our honest feedback.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall, Best for Larger Homes: Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router

Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you live in a large, multi-story home, you likely have several people – and even more devices – fighting over the Wi-Fi connection. The Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router is perfect for households with high Wi-Fi traffic, letting you connect 12 or more devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, game consoles, and virtual assistants (we're looking at you, Alexa!). And the router’s Beamforming technology means it focuses its signal towards those devices, rather than just sending out a blanket signal, resulting in a stronger connection for everyone.

Multi-User MIMO technology enables multiple people to stream simultaneously at faster speeds. The Linksys AC1900 has USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, plus four gigabit Ethernet ports, which let you transfer data 10x faster than Fast Ethernet. The 2.4GHz band delivers speeds of up to 600 Mbps while the 5 GHz band hits up to 1300 Mbps for more involved streaming and gaming. The router is a pretty standard size (7.25 x 10.03 x 2.19 inches) and if you stash it somewhere centrally located in your house, you’ll have no problem getting a strong signal in even the most remote corners.

Setting up the device can be done in 10 simple steps, thanks to Linksys’ Smart Setup Wizard, and Amazon reviewers have reported it takes under 20 minutes. When you’re finished, you can set up a free Smart Wi-Fi account to control your router and home network from anywhere via the mobile app.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best Linksys routers

Best for Gaming: ASUS AC3100 T-AC88U

ASUS T-AC88U
Courtesy of Amazon.com

When it comes to networking, gaming is a whole other ball game. Contenders really need to ramp up their specs, ports, and hardware to support the high-volume, high-bandwidth, low-latency needs of online gaming and streaming. Naturally, that means you’ll probably need to spend a bit more to get what you need.

The ASUS T-AC88U is the best all-around router for gaming purposes. It’s a little pricey, but if you’re serious about gaming you should be serious about speed and transfer rates—and this machine is tailor-made for gamers. It includes eight LAN ports, which is enough for server-hosting and local co-op activities; as well as another eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, which is almost (almost) overkill; and ports for both USB 2.0 and 3.0 standards. What else could you ask for as a gamer? How about a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor with 512 MB memory? How about the (advertised) coverage area of up to 5,000 square feet? This thing is a workhorse that’s sure to satisfy any serious gamer.

Check out our other reviews of the best gaming routers available on the market today.

Best for Full Home Coverage: Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi
Courtesy of Amazon.com

It’s a pain point homeowners across the world are all too familiar with: How do you fill up every inch of your home with a solid Wi-Fi signal? Fortunately, the time has come to put this problem to rest thanks to the introduction of Netgear’s Orbi. It’s pricey, starting at $399, but the cost belies the satisfaction you’ll receive walking around your entire home with a strong signal. The price includes two devices, a router that’s plugged into your Internet modem and an identical satellite device setup elsewhere in the home to extend the signal throughout your house. If it sounds familiar, Netgear wasn’t the first to try mesh networking but they have a secret weapon: a tri-band system that not only extends the signal, but maintains its performance by optimizing the signal with your home ISP as well.

Setup is a snap – Netgear promises you’ll be up and running in under five minutes. The 8.9 x 6.7 x 3.1-inch Orbi unit is small enough to fit just about anywhere or be tucked away near your modem. The Orbi satellite is best placed in a central spot so it can cover Orbi’s expected range of a 4,000-square-foot home. As for the hardware itself, you’ll find both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio connections, 802.11ac support up to three Gbps, three Ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port for connecting wired devices. Additionally, you can purchase an extra satellite device to extend your connection signal another 2,000 feet for $249. While the price may sound expensive, the Orbi may be the perfect solution for even the most demanding and device-heavy households.

Best for Busy Homes: Google Wi-Fi

Google’s Wi-Fi system consists of three satellites, called “Wi-Fi points,” each of which covers 1,500 square feet for a whopping total of 4,500 square feet of blanketed coverage. (You can also buy a single point.) The points look like stacked white hockey pucks, which is to say they are much better looking than most traditional router systems.

Each point houses a quad-core Arm CPU, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of eMMC flash memory, plus AC1200 (2X2) 802.11ac and 802.11s (mesh) circuitry and a Bluetooth radio. Google combines its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands into a single band, which means you can’t designate a device to a single band, but on the upside, it uses beam-forming technology, which automatically routes devices to the strongest signal. The accompanying app for Android and, yes, iOS, is intuitive and lets you manage the status of your points, set up guest networks, test speeds, view which devices are taking the most bandwidth, and more. All in all, it’s a great option for busy homes that have many competing devices.

Best Under $50: TP-Link AC1200

TP-Link TP-Link AC1200
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Think of the TP-Link AC1200 as the Archer C7’s baby brother. It offers a similar list of features and specs in a slightly slower format. TP-Link claims its Signal Sustain Technology (SST) can help provide a stronger Wi-Fi signal while handling multiple high-bandwidth applications. It can also easily be found for less than $50.

Whereas the Archer C7 offers an impressive 1.75Gbps (1750Mbps) of throughput, the TL-WR1043ND is limited to just 867Mbps at 5GHz (and 300Mbps at 2.4GHz). But don’t let that deter you. If you’re looking for a budget router, 867Mbps is more than enough for most needs—and more than you’ll ever find in the sub-$50 price range. And the system is future-proofed with 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology. It's great if you're going to be primarily using the router for just web surfing. So, browse your memes, stream your Netflix and check your email all at once—if your Internet starts to crawl it won’t be the router’s fault.

The TL-WR1043ND also features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB (2.0) port, detachable antennas, and IP-based Bandwidth Control, which limits individual users from clogging the Wi-Fi with intensive applications. It comes in a somewhat boring package, but so what? The thing costs around $49 and comes with a two-year warranty.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best routers under $50

Runner-Up, Best for Gaming: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500

The Nighthawk line is known for Wi-Fi excellence for both gaming and general computing. And the XR500, released in early 2018, is the company’s take on a gaming-focused Wi-Fi router. The unit has five Gb Ethernet ports, all optimized for top gaming speeds when you’re looking for the fastest-paced play. The 802.11ac wireless supports breakneck speeds up to 2.6 Gbps, and there’s a dedicated 1.7GHz core processor to make sure the hardware itself has enough speed to handle all that data. There’s simultaneous dual-band support to effectively double your Wi-Fi bandwidth, and four external high-performance antennas are there to make sure there’s no external interference to get in the way of transfer volume. All of these premium features are there to ensure that you have a wireless router capable of handling the high demands of a gaming environment. 

Best for Streaming: NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200

If you’re looking for a router to handle multiple 4K TV streams, you’ll want something that can handle speed and throughput without choking. Netgear’s Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is powered by 802.11ac quad stream Wave2 Wi-Fi along with 60GHz 802.11ad Wi-Fi, which gives you up to 7.2 Gbps of throughput. It also includes a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor to help prioritize the fastest signals for your media streaming, including a dynamic quality-of-service (QoS0 system that makes sure each application and device gets just what it needs.

The Nighthawk X10 has a large range, too, and will work in larger homes as well as smaller ones. It also runs MU-MIMO (much-needed shorthand for multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology) so it can stream to multiple devices with aplomb. You set it all up with the easy to use Nighthawk app, which lets you manage internet access, check your internet speed, and pause your internet with the tap of a button.

Like most routers in this class, the Nighthawk X10 sports four proprietary antennas to amplify the Wi-Fi range and throughput, so you can let the whole family hunker down and stream their own shows. If you have wired devices in your home, you’ll be glad to hear that the Nighthawk also includes eight Ethernet ports, which can be great for peripherals and attached media storage.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Netgear routers

Runner-Up, Best for Streaming: TP-Link Talon AD7200

The TP-Link Talon is just as powerful as the Nighthawk, but it’s just a teensy bit more expensive, with some Amazon reviewers noting that the setup isn’t too intuitive. Still, the TP-Link offers 802.11ad Wi-Fi across three bands for interference-free data throughput, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60GHz, giving you up to 7.2Gpbs Wi-Fi speeds. It also includes MU-MIMO tech for streaming to multiple types of devices without lag and enjoys a 1.4GHz dual-core CPU to optimize your network and data throughput.

This beast has eight external antennas (and one internal antenna) for incredible reliability, though the design only delivers four Ethernet ports, so if you have more than four devices that need a wired connection, you might want to look at the Nighthawk. The Talon’s 60GHz band also offers what the company calls “beam steering,” which promises to detect objects and direct the Wi-Fi signal along clearer paths to your many home devices. Unfortunately, if you don’t have any 802.11ad devices in your home, you’ll need to settle for a little slower speed, but the Talon AD7200 is one great way to future-proof your home for all types of streaming devices. 

Runner-Up, Best for Full Home Coverage: Netgear Nighthawk w/Mesh Extender Bonus

Netgear Mesh Extender with Nighthawk Router
Courtesy of Walmart.com

If you’re not ready to take the plunge into a mesh-only network like Google Wi-Fi or the Orbi system, you can do pretty well with a solid router, like the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 and an extender like Netgear’s X4S. The AC1900 router gives you a full-on 802.11ac dual-band gigabit router with a 1GHz core processor, which would be just fine for most homes all on its own. It’s got a dynamic quality of service (QoS) system that prioritizes bandwidth by application and specific devices to make sure all your home devices get the best connection possible. Netgear’s own proprietary Beamforming+ adds to that with antennas and amplifiers to extend your coverage even without an extender. The AC1900 also lets you manage some functions with your voice, via either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and comes with Circle with Disney smart parental controls to keep your family cyber-safe. Set up with the Nighthawk app is easy, too, and you can run a speed test, pause, and restart your internet with a simple tap.

The Nighthawk X4S Tri-Band extender is made to work with any router, but it will work even better with the Nighthawk AC1900. It’s got a dedicated Wi-Fi link back to the main router to avoid congestion on the bands you use for data streaming, and the two work together to create a single Wi-Fi network to cover your entire home. 

Best for Small Apartments: ASUS RT-AC1200 Router

If you reside in a smaller apartment or home, you don’t really need to get anything super expensive to have a good Wi-Fi experience. The ASUS RT-AC1200 fits the bill, coming in at around $50 and offering a cute plaid cover and a couple of antennas. It’s a dual-band gigabit router that runs on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, offering up to 1200 Mbps of 802.11ac Wi-Fi throughput that works well for file sharing. It comes with four external antennas, two for each band. There’s a USB 2.0 port that supports AiPlayer for streaming music and Parental Controls in case you need to help your kids (or nieces and nephews) stay safe online.

The ASUS RT-AC1200 is set up easily via the ASUS Router app via iOS or Android. If you already have a router, you can pick this one up and use it as an inexpensive repeater, as well. At this price, you won’t find much better out there, a fact Amazon reviewers make an effort to point out in their notes. It will fit almost anywhere you need it to, with a 9.25" x 6" footprint and antennas which rise to about seven inches.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best ASUS routers article.

Best for Simplicity: Linksys N600

Linksys N600
 Linksys

If you’re looking for a dual-band router that can go toe-to-toe with most of the others on this list, but without the need for blown out features and outer-space levels of speed, then the Linksys N600 might be the machine for you. This sleek, unassuming device gives you up to 300mbps in both upload and download speeds (hence the name N600), and it offers you connectivity within both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. That latter feature is common with a lot of routers, and that’s for good reason – it ensures stable connectivity for a variety of devices and users.

If you’d prefer a faster connection, there are onboard Gigabit Ethernet ports for up to 10x faster transfer speeds than the average wired connections. There are encryption techs, including WPA and WPA2, and there’s even an SPI firewall included. It’s all controlled centrally and easily with the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app (downloadable to iOS or Android), which avoids the usual headache of having to go to data browser-based control portals to set everything up. Linksys has even thrown in some easy-to-use parental controls for additional control and customization.

Best for Smart Homes: Samsung SmartThings WiFi + Hub

Smart homes, where you can wirelessly control nearly every device in your home with your smartphone, are the future. If you’ve already embraced it by equipping your home with all sorts of smart tech — things like wirelessly-connected lights, cameras, doorbells, and speakers — the best wireless router for you is the Samsung SmartThings WiFi + Hub. This router is specifically designed to both create an extensive wireless network and control more than 200 SmartThings-compatible devices.

The Samsung SmartThings WiFi + Hub on its own can create a network that covers up to 1,500 square feet in your home or apartment. But if you want more coverage, you can also connect up three of these routers together and obtain 4,500 square feet of coverage. After installing your router, you can then go to the SmartThings app for iOS and Android, and control all the SmartThings devices in your home. One other neat feature the router offers is to grant easy wireless access to guests in your home, just in case you want to show off just how fast your network is to friends and family.