We researched over 100 different products, then bought the 10 most promising WiFi routers on the market in our quest to find the best one for your networking needs. We extensively tested the performance of these products head-to-head, rigorously measuring performance through a series of objective tests. We also compared and scored how convenient and easy to operate each router is and tried out all the different features. Read on to find out which router is the best of them all, which is the best bargain option, and which one excels for heavy-duty applications.
Of all the WiFi routers we tested, the ASUS RT-AX86S (AX5700) was the best overall. It is a dual-band router that offers exceptional performance where it matters the most, especially with regard to 5 GHz throughput. You can rest assured that your modern devices will be supported with this router. High-priority devices can receive dedicated bandwidth, and your kids can be safe with robust parental controls. Getting this router set up in your home is also super easy, so you'll be able to use devices quickly with very little disruption.
The only thing that this model is lacking is Tri-Band support for 6G, but with most homes and common household devices still heavily dependent on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels, you are unlikely to feel any impact for a while. The ASUS RT-AX86S is also very reasonably priced, especially for such a great dual-band router.
All around, the TP-Link Archer AX55 is a great performer. It outperformed the majority of the WiFi routers across a large number of our test metrics, including our 2.4 GHz speed tests, where it was the absolute best model for the band. TP-Link also helps you get up and going with simple setup procedures and then helps you keep things reliable and safe with great QoS options and robust parental controls.
With such a reasonable price, it is impressive to have such few criticisms, but it is our job to test and be critical. While good, the range for the TP-Link Archer AX55 was below the average performance exhibited by stiff competition from its peers, and beamforming is explicit, meaning both the device sending data and the device receiving data need to support beamforming.
Keeping your home up to date with modern tech can be tiresome and expensive, and sometimes we need a more modestly priced solution to keep us going or just get by for a little while longer. The Netgear RAX20 fits that bill with above-average 5 GHz throughput, respectable 2.4 GHz throughput, good range, and best of all — a modest price.
There are some tradeoffs worth considering at such an approachable price for the Netgear RAX20. Parental controls are offered via a paid add-on. The add-on is an annual subscription and costs about as much as the router itself. However, if parental controls are not your concern, you won't find a more affordable unit that does the job.
If you are looking for a sleek Tri-Band router with great dual-band support and exceptional range for the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum, without venturing into exorbitant pricing, then the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 is the way to go. Great range means you can support devices all the way out into your yard, patio, or garage, and 6G means you can take advantage of gigabit internet connections if your ISP offers them. It also isn't as unsightly as other WiFi routers on the market, so it won't likely ruin the aesthetic of your office or living room.
The Netgear Nighthawk isn't without a few drawbacks. It has a marginal app that lacks robust settings and subscription-based parental controls that add to the cost of an already somewhat expensive router. This is also a fairly technical model, and both setup and configuration may not be for the uninitiated. Our test team also desired a little more from the limited quality of service (QoS) settings. But, again, this 6G router has a lot going for it that many others don't.
For this review, our experts purchased 10 of the best WiFi routers, basing the purchasing decision on in-depth research and ratings. Our team spent hundreds of hours comparing, measuring, and evaluating the top models for 2.4 GHz throughput, 5 GHz throughput, range, and user-friendliness. Our testing simulated real-world uses and applications to collect accurate data and inform our expert recommendations.
Our testing of WiFi routers is comprised of five rating metrics:
2.4 GHz Throughput (35% of overall score weighting)
5 GHz Throughput (35% weighting)
Range (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (10% weighting)
This in-depth review will help you to find the right WiFi router to fit your budget and satisfy your needs. Our in-house testers have examined a large variety of networking essentials that have become a standard in the modern home or home office. Our primary tester for WiFi routers, Matt Spencer, brings vast technical knowledge and experience to our testing designs and procedures. Our expert team conducted more than 200 individual tests to help you find the perfect one to match your particular needs and budget.
Analysis and Test Results
We purchased all of the routers tested here and never accept any free evaluation units to include in our reviews. By singling out the most promising products and testing them side-by-side, we can directly compare products to see which ones are truly the best. Each metric consisted of a handful of tests, with the performance of each product ranked and scored against the field. In our review, you'll find the detailed results for each metric, highlighting which products performed well and which ones dropped the ball. This comprehensive testing process and review will help you decide on the best WiFi router for your needs and budget.
A major consideration that can significantly affect your choice of WiFi router when value shopping is whether or not a basic model is all you'll need or if you'll need any add-ons, such as parental controls. Of the products we've tested, Netgear products tend to offer parental controls that add a significant amount of money to the upfront cost in the form of an annual subscription-based service, whereas TP-Link and ASUS models were all-inclusive. That said, we found great value in the TP-Link Archer AX55, which comes with parental controls — meaning no add-on subscription is required.
2.4 GHz Throughput
While 2.4 GHz may not be the gold standard for high-speed WiFi connections at home, it offers some range and obstruction penetration benefits that are inherent at the 2.4 GHz frequency, and many devices still rely on this band. It is therefore supported by nearly all modern routers, including the models we evaluated, so our team tested 2.4 GHz throughput at a variety of distances with and without obstructions for each model.
At a short, 9-foot distance, both unobstructed and obstructed, the best models we tested were the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 and the TP-Link Archer AX21, which were able to maintain data rates over X MBits unobstructed, and X MBit/s obstructed.
The Nighthawk R6700AX, RAX20. Archer AX55 and Archer AX21 formed the average for the group, with all other WiFi routers underperforming that average.
At a more typical household range of 35 feet, we saw the best performances from the Archer AX55 and ASUS RT-AX86S, with unobstructed speeds of up 115Mbits, and obstructed speeds up to 96 MBits/s.
At the far end of the 70-foot mark, with obstructions, the Nighthawk RAXE300 picked back up after a slump in the middle of our range test, outcompeting its peers.
5 GHz Throughput
Our test team repeated short-range, mid-range, and long-range tests for the 5 GHz spectrum, as it is the standard for high-speed data connections in the modern home. Overall, ASUS models led the way, with the RT-AX86S and RT-AX88U outperforming the next two most performant models, the Archer AX55 and the RAX20.
At the short range of 9 feet, the RT-AX86S and RT-AX88U dominated the field, followed by the Netgear RAX20 and the Netgear Nighthawk R6700AX. Whether obstructed or unobstructed, the ASUS models averaged speeds of about 400 MBits per second, whereas the runner-ups hovered around 350 Mbits.
What surprised our team is how the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 only did a slightly above-average job in our short-range tests, especially for such a pricey model.
Our short-range obstructed tests had the lowest drop in Mbps for each model. The Netgear Nighthawk placed slightly higher in our lineup when faced with obstructions.
The ASUS models continued to lead the way in our 35-foot tests, both reaching speeds of nearly 400 Mbps, respectively.
Although the ASUS models led the way in our 35-foot tests, these models dropped substantially with obstructions.
We tested the range of all the models in our lineup, by streaming the same 1080p video and moving 10-foot increments, recording when the video started buffering, or we lost a connection to the router. While the majority of routers performed well, a couple of models stood out as exceptional.
The Nighthawk RAXE300 led the way. On the 2.4 GHz band, we were able to stream our test movie out to 150 feet before it started buffering, and on the 5 GHz band we lost connection to the router at 170 feet before any buffering occurred. The ASUS RT-AX86S offered a similar performance, with buffering on the 2.4 GHz band occurring at about 140 feet and buffering on the 5 GHz band at 150 feet.
The bulk of models we tested formed a strong average at 113 feet for our 2.4 GHz tests and 110 feet for our 5 GHz tests, more than plenty of coverage for most homes, likely reaching a back patio or garage.
Even the most modestly priced model in our testing, the RAX20, offered average performances of 100 feet for the 2.4 GHz test and 110 feet for the 5 GHz test.
While the TP-Link Archer AX55 is one of the best overall values, as determined by a price-to-overall performance ratio, it didn't do as great a job in our dual band range tests as many other models. However, that's not to say that it is bad. With this model, you can still expect 90 feet of range on the 2.4 GHz band and 120 feet on the 5 GHz band.
Ease of Use
Our ease of use testing measured the ease of setup for each model, mobile interface friendliness, PC interface friendliness, parental controls, and quality of service (QoS). Our testing didn't reveal model-specific differences. Instead, the manufacturer determined the ease of use of each model, as manufacturers recycle software, firmware, and external services across models.
While we tested many different WiFi routers, we only tested a few unique manufacturers — Netgear, TP-Link, and ASUS. And in that order, these products offered ease of use ranging from below-average with Netgear products to above-average with TP-Link products to great with ASUS models. We broke up the ease of use test metric by brand evaluation based on testing the routers in our product lineup.
ASUS products were the best models we tested when it came to user-friendliness, and the rather exceptional ASUS RT-AX86S (AX5700) benefits from ASUS's integration of software and features that make it a simple device to install and maintain in one's home.
Installing an ASUS router is incredibly easy. To get started, download the 'ASUS Router' app from your preferred app store. The setup process is also easy, with minimal steps. Simply select the 'set up new router' option on the app and scan the QR code on the back of your ASUS router model. The app will then guide you through the short and uncomplicated setup step-by-step.
While mobile application setup is the gold standard for nearly all modern WiFi routers, it's also possible to set up an ASUS router via a computer. All you need to do is connect to your router via the WiFi tab on your computer and visit the ASUS website. This will direct you through the rest of the setup process.
Once you are up and running, ASUS provides two options for managing settings — mobile and a PC interface. Our test team found the mobile experience made it easy enough to navigate and provided lots of settings. While it could initially be a bit confusing, especially if you don't know what you're looking for, the user interface is still easy enough for the average person to work through. The computer interface for managing ASUS routers is very similar to the mobile experience. Again, we found it easy to navigate with many settings to make changes.
The ASUS products we tested, like the ASUS RT-AX88U (AX6000), ASUS RT-AX86S (AX5700), and the ASUS RT-AX1800S (AX1800), really shine when it comes to parental controls. In the parental controls settings page, users are able to block all devices with a slider and schedule blocking restrictions. If you are inclined to block a single device, perhaps as discipline for a child who may be a little too attached to their devices, you can simply visit the devices tab of the parental controls and click on the client you want to block, and press a button.
All the ASUS products are exceptional when it comes down to QoS, which lets you select devices and favor bandwidth for those devices. Every ASUS router our team tested allows the end user to easily prioritize devices and their designated bandwidth. They don't just provide the feature but make it super simple. Via the app, it's as easy as dragging and dropping where you want the most bandwidth to go.
While ASUS set the gold standard for user-friendliness across all the routers we tested, TP-Link does a bang-up job also, stepping on ASUS's heels for a close silver. In our round-up, the TP-Link Archer AX55 (AX3000), TP-Link Archer AX21 (AX1800), and the TP-Link Archer A7 (AC1750) all benefited from exceptional ease of use. While the AX55 and AX21 were great all-around, the Archer A7 proved underwhelming as a router, except for its great ease of use.
Getting a TP-Link router started is simple. First, you download the Tether app on your smartphone. Next, you follow a few minimal steps. Simply select the 'Set up new router' on the app and scan the QR code on the back of the router. The app will then guide you through the short and easy setup, step-by-step.
Once up and running, any sort of additional configuration or settings are easily managed through TP-Link's mobile interface. The interface is fairly simple to understand and navigate. The PC interface is also easy to navigate and understand — with every basic need on the front page. The advanced settings page is labeled well, so making specific changes is more streamlined.
The parental controls on TP-Link routers give ASUS products some real competition. They are robust, included as part of the router software, and easy to use. In the parental controls settings page, you can filter certain sites to either block or allow specific ones, set scheduling, and set time limits. You can even create different profiles and assign different devices to each profile. If you want to block a single device, TP-Link has made it as easy as the press of a button.
When it comes to QoS, TP-Link products let you set a high priority to specific devices, by an amount of time or by schedule. While not quite as robust as ASUS's integration of QoS, we found it worked well and should be sufficient for most households.
The Netgear products that our team tested, like the Nighthawk RAXE300, Nighthawk R6700AX, Nighthawk R6700v3, and the RAX20, didn't fare as well as ASUS, or TP-Link products we tested in our ease of use metric.
Through the testing experience, our team generally found Nighthawk app annoying and unstable. The app crashed several times in our testing of Netgear products, and Netgear has made it too easy to accidentally tab out of the setup process, forcing a complete restart of the setup process. Our team also experienced frequent connection drops from the router, which also required restarting the setup process.
The mobile interface for both the Nighthawk RAXE300 and the Nighthawk RAX20 is easy to navigate and simple to use. The average person shouldn't have any difficulties changing settings or understanding the app.
The experience with the PC interface is not as good as the mobile experience. While it is easy enough to navigate, it can be pretty advanced, and we wouldn't recommend it for people who just want to quickly set up a router or have limited networking knowledge.
Netgear does not include parental controls in any of the models we tested. Instead, they have chosen a paid subscription service model for parental controls, and that subscription will set you back an additional 60 dollars per year. Netgear's 'Circle' app for parental controls also lacks robust controls and settings, which really sets it apart, in a bad way, from router manufacturers that include parental controls with more robust features as part of their product offerings.
The QoS on the Netgear products we tested is only accessible via webpage login. Once there, the options seemed overly simple, with little customizability compared to the robust offerings of the competition.
With so many router options available, and mostly indiscernible differences based on manufacturing claims and appearance, we hope that our extensive product research, testing, and review process has provided you with the best insight possible for purchasing your WiFi router.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.