Infuriated by slow internet or flaky performance from that old wireless router? We looked at over 65 different products, then bought the top 10 routers to actually test head-to-head and see which one is really the best that you can buy today. We evaluated and compared how convenient and easy to use each WiFi router is and the various features and functions. Additionally, we also compared each product's range and data throughput, scoring their effective range as determined by streaming video playback and the throughput at various distances on both their 2.4 GHz. and 5 GHz. networks. Keep reading to see which router rules them all, which gives you the most megabits per buck when shopping on a tight budget, and which ones you should probably steer clear of.
Best Wireless Routers of 2019
$249.99 at Amazon
$387.00 at Amazon
$109.00 at Amazon
$89.99 at Amazon
$158.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Extremely easy to use, packed with features||Tons of features, easy to use||Relatively inexpensive, exceptional range||Very easy to use, more affordable, solid set of features||Super easy to use, decent set of features|
|Cons||Average range, throughput||Expensive, mediocre throughput||Sparse on features, average throughput||Unimpressive throughput and range||Below average throughput, somewhat expensive|
|Bottom Line||Taking home the top score, the Asus is the best of the best when it comes to routers||This expensive product failed to impress with its lackluster range and throughput scores||The NETGEAR would be a good option for those shopping for an upgrade pick on a budget and have a larger home||The Nighthawk AC1750 is our top recommendation for those budget-conscious shoppers that are willing to spend a little bit more for better performance||While this router did alright, it seemed a little expensive relative to its results|
|Rating Categories||ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100||Nighthawk X10 (R9000)||AC1750 (R6400)||Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2)||RT-AC68U (AC1900)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|2 4 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|5 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|Specs||ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100||Nighthawk X10 (R9000)||AC1750 (R6400)||Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2)||RT-AC68U (AC1900)|
|Wireless Specification||802.11ac||802.11ad||802.11ac||802.11ac|| 2.4 GHz: 802.11n
5 GHz: 802.11ac
|LAN Ports Available||8||6||4||4||4|
Since it is the new year, we have added in a new wireless router to our current lineup, the ASUS RT-AC68U. This router is a step down from our overall winner, the RT-AC88U, but can't quite match its sibling's performance. While the RT-AC68U is just as easy and intuitive to use, it can't quite match the RT-AC88U when it comes to throughput on either frequency or the overall number of features. However, it does cost about half of what the RT-AC88U does, but there are still some other models that are a better value. All in all, the ASUS RT-AC68U is a decent router, but you can probably do better. Check out the full review below to see exactly how this newcomer stacked up against the rest of the pack and where it fell a little short.
Best Overall Router
ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100
Receiving the highest score that we have seen to date by a decent margin, the ASUS RT-AC88U is the clear choice for winning an Editors' Choice Award and the title of Best Wireless Router Overall. This top-notch router has one of the most comprehensive set of features and functions, all while being one of the most intuitive and easy to operate routers of the entire group. On top of all that, it tied for the top spot when it came to 5 GHz. throughput and in the runner-up position overall in our series of 2.4 GHz. tests.
Unfortunately, the effective range on this router is more average than amazing and it definitely is a bit on the more expensive side, usually retailing for around $270. However, we think it is the best of the best and is the perfect option for someone who needs serious performance from their router — as long as they are willing to pay a premium for it.
Read Full Review: ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100
Best Upgrade Budget Pick
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2)
If you are looking for a high-performance router and the price tag of the ASUS RT-AC88U is causing you to panic, then you should consider the Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2) by NETGEAR. Earning the Best Buy Award, this router tied for the third place overall, but retails for less than half of what the RT-AC88U does. It is still quite easy to use and holds its own with the top products when it comes to throughput on its 2.4 GHz. and 5 GHz. networks. Additionally, it also has an absolutely phenomenal range, with our test computer able to effectively stream video at one of the furthest distance out of the entire group when connected to the Nighthawk.
However, this router does have a reduced set of features and functions when compared to the top-of-the-line products. In spite of that, this is our favorite product to recommend to someone that is shopping on a budget, but willing to pay a small premium for better performance.
Read Full Review: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700v2)
Best on a Tight Budget
TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750)
If the Nighthawk AC1750 is still a bit on the expensive side for you, then you should definitely consider the Archer C7 by TP-Link. While it isn't the best of the best when it comes to routers by any means, it's a fantastic option for anyone who is shopping on the tightest of tight budgets. This router usually costs less than a third of what our top choice does and delivers decent results. It's exceptionally convenient and easy to set up and has a basic set of features. It didn't do particularly well in our range and throughput tests, but it also wasn't particularly disappointing.
While it didn't do absolutely terribly in any of our tests, it is quite clear that there were some concessions made to keep the price down. We wouldn't recommend this product if you have tons and tons of internet-connected devices in your household or any particularly bandwidth-intensive operation, but it's a good option if you want to save some cash and don't expect too much from it.
Read Full Review: TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750)
Analysis and Test Results
To find out which wireless router topped them all, we looked at existing user reviews of products, as well as various forum posts and other information to assemble a list of over 50 different routers that looked promising. Then, we picked the most highly-regarded products on the list and bought them to test side-by-side to see which one is truly the best. We broke our comprehensive testing process down into five weighted metrics: Features, Ease of Use, 2.4 GHz. Throughput, 5 GHz. Throughput, and Range. Each metric consisted of a handful of tests, with the performance of each product ranked and scored against its peers. The sections below detail the results for each metric, highlighting which products performed well and which ones fell a little flat.
If keeping to your budget is one of your primary concerns when shopping for a new wireless router, take a glance at our Price vs. Performance chart above. Both of our Best Buy Award winners are shown in blue, with the TP-Link Archer being the best value if you are shopping on a tight budget and the NETGEAR Nighthawk R6700v2 is the best choice if you are shopping on a budget but are willing to pay a bit more to upgrade.
For our first metric, worth the largest portion of the overall score at 25%, we compared and scored how feature-rich each wireless router is. First, we looked for the presence of three key features on each router: MU-MIMO, Beamforming, and how many LAN ports each product has. MU-MIMO, or multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (we know, it's quite a mouthful!) simply means the ability for the router to talk back-and-forth (multiple inputs, multiple, output) with multiple devices (multi-user) simultaneously. For example, a MU-MIMO router could be sending data back-and-forth between an iPhone, a laptop, and a Smart TV much faster than a non-MU-MIMO router, essentially making your network faster overall and leading to less buffering and lag issues. The second feature, beamforming, refers to how the router actually shapes the WiFi field. Routers that support beamforming don't send out the same signal strength of WiFi in every direction. Instead, the router communicates with each device to get the relative position and concentrates the signal strength in that direction, leading to better overall signal and reception for each device.
Additionally, we also noted if you had the ability to turn the indicator lights on and off, turn the router on and off remotely, and the number and type of USB ports available. The chart below shows the overall top scorers in this metric and which routers came across as a little sparse in terms of features.
As shown above, the ASUS RT-AC88U and the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 tied for the top score, both earning an 8 out of 10 for their impressive suite of features. Both the RT-AC88U and the X10 are MU-MIMO and have beamforming capabilities, as well as the ability to be remotely reset and toggle the indicator lights on and off. The RT-AC88U has a slight edge when it comes to LAN ports having 8 compared to the 6 on the X10.
The ASUS RT-AC88U again has a slight edge when it comes to USB ports, having both a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 connector, compared to the pair of USB 2.0 ports on the X10.
Next, the ASUS RT-AC68U, the NETGEAR Nighthawk, and the Linksys AC1900 Max Stream each merited a 6 out of 10 for their above average set of features. Both the Nighthawk and the Max Stream have both beamforming and MU-MIMO capabilities, whereas the ASUS RT-AC68U only has beamforming. However, all three of these products allow you to turn off their indicator and network traffic LEDs through the web interface — although the Max Stream leaves the power indicator light on regardless.
However, the Max Stream lacks the ability to be power cycled remotely, forcing you to manually reset it when troubleshooting — a huge pain if you keep the router in a difficult to reach location — while the other two can be reset remotely.
This trio each has 4 LAN ports, but only the ASUS RT-AC68U and the Max Stream have a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port. The Nighthawk only has a single USB 3.0 port.
Containing a relatively average set of features, the NETGEAR AC1750 (R6400) earned a 5 out of 10 in this metric. As far as we could tell, the R6400 does NOT have MU-MIMO, but it does support beamforming. This hurt its score considerably, effectively precluding it from a shot at an award. However, this router does have remote reset and the ability to turn the indicator lights off, as well as 4 LAN ports. It also has both a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 port.
Next, the TP-Link Archer C7 and the NETGEAR AC1200 both earned a 4 out of 10 for their somewhat sparse selection of features. This pair of routers both lack MU-MIMO and beamforming, meaning your network will overall be slower than if you used a router that had these features.
You do not have the ability to turn the indicator LEDs off on either of these routers and the Archer C7 must be reset manually. However, the NETGEAR AC1200 does support remote reset. These both have 4 LAN ports, with the TP-Link having a pair of USB 2.0 ports, compared to the single 2.0 connection on the NETGEAR AC1200.
Finishing at the back of the pack, the D-Link AC1200 earned a 3 out of 10 for its meager set of features. This router lacks the majority of the features that the top products have, failing to have remote reset, MU-MIMO, beamforming, or the ability to turn the LEDs off. It has the typical 4 LAN ports, but lacks any USB ports at all.
Ease of Use
For our next metric, worth 20% of the total score, we looked at how easy it is to operate these products, including how difficult it is to accomplish the initial setup. We also looked at how much work it is to update the firmware and whether it is required upon unboxing, if there are parental controls, how user-friendly the interface is, and if there are Quality of Service (QoS) controls. The chart below shows which router is the overall easiest to use and which ones require you to be more tech-savvy.
Taking home the top score of 9 out of 10, both the ASUS RT-AC88U and the ASUS RT-AC68U are essentially identical in terms of ease of use, relying on the same interface. Both of these routers impressed us with how little effort it took to get them set up and configured. While both did require an update to their firmware upon unboxing, it wasn't particularly difficult to do. It was an essentially problem-free setup process, with both a helpful web interface and a step-by-step wizard that guides you through configuring the network name and password. The wizard did give us some slight issues changing the network name one of the times that we tried to set it on the ASUS RT-AC88U, but that was it in terms of issues.
Both of these routers have an exceptionally approachable user interface, being one of the most straightforward and easiest to understand of the entire group. You also have the option of enabling parental controls on this device, blocking websites by genre or by specific addresses.
These blocks can also be set on a schedule or set to only apply for certain devices. Finally, both of these ASUS routers support QoS, allowing either adaptive, traditional, or bandwidth-limited.
For those unfamiliar with the term, Quality of Service or QoS allows you to prioritize bandwidth allocations for devices, letting you customize your network to best suit your needs, whether you are a streaming media, gaming, or just casually surfing the web.
Next, the TP-Link model — the Archer — took the runner-up position, earning an 8 out of 10 for its performance. Out of the box, the Archer did require a firmware update, but again this task was quite easy to accomplish. This model has a setup wizard that guides you through the network configuration. Thankfully, this process is very easy, as you can't surf the web with the Archer until this is completed.
The TP-Link Archer does have QoS, but it only allows you to sort priority by devices.
This router also has parental controls, allowing you to filter out websites by keywords, as well as set a schedule for internet access.
The bulk of the routers came next, with the Linksys AC1900 Max Stream, the standard Linksys AC1900, NETGEAR AC1200, NETGEAR AC1750, NETGEAR Nighthawk, and the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 all earning a 7 out of 10 for their showing in this group of tests.
All of the NETGEAR routers required firmware updates upon unboxing, but the Linksys routers were all set to go from the start. However, none of these routers were incredibly easy to configure the network settings on, with a myriad of problems presenting themselves when we attempted to set the network name and password. Both Linksysmodels, the NETGEAR AC1750, and the NETGEAR Nighthawk were the easiest to set up, but still much more difficult than the RT-AC88U or the TP-Link Archer.
The Linksys models both took about 30 minutes for us to get set up, with both giving us an error or freezing and forcing us to start over. We found these to be a little finicky when it came to using the browser interface, so switching browsers is a good idea if you are running into issues.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk and AC1750 both were about the same as the Linksys models, with a wizard to help you set an admin password and network login, but this can be a bit more problematic if you have other existing networks. We found our computer kept wanting to hop to a different network mid-setup process, causing difficulties. The NETGEAR AC1200 was next in terms of setup difficulties. It was pretty much plug-and-play from the get-go with the defaults, but it is a little difficult to find the options to change the network name and password from the defaults.
We were plagued with difficulties when trying to set up the Nighthawk X10. While the wizard did open automatically, it kept failing to load and forced us to switch browsers multiple times.
Moving on to the interface, we vastly preferred the interface of the Linksys routers to the NETGEAR models, putting it second only to the RT-AC88U for being easy to navigate and user-friendly. The NETGEAR browser interface is about average, though it looks a little outdated.
However, the NETGEAR routers have the most sophisticated set of parental control options. It can be a little more labor-intensive to set up, but allows you the finest level of control. We found the Linksys parental controls to be quite ineffective for filtering content, as it can only filter by website address, forcing you to create a list of all the questionable content that you want to block — an impossible task. However, you can filter by time, cutting off access to certain devices at certain times.
The Linksys models both have QoS, calling it media prioritization, and is about average in terms of capabilities. The NETGEAR routers also had QoS, but it was mediocre at best, seemingly very outdated compared to other models.
Finishing out the back of the pack, the D-Link AC1200 earned the lowest score of the group with a 6 out of 10. This model actually had one of the easiest initial setups and didn't require any updates upon unboxing. However, it had the least user-friendly interface and did not have an easy way to enable parental controls. It did have an easy way to enact QoS, setting a priority list of devices.
2.4 GHz. Throughput
For our next two metrics, both worth 20% of the overall score, we looked at each router's throughput, or how fast each router and a test computer can exchange data, both on the 2.4 GHz. and the 5 GHz. frequency ranges. We conducted five different tests for each bandwidth, averaging the results of three trials. We used the iPerf3 software running on our test client computer connected to each router, so the test was independent of the ISP speed in our area. The chart below shows which routers were the fastest of them all in the 2.4 GHz. band.
Earning the top score of 6 out of 10, the Linksys Max Stream reigned supreme when it came to 2.4 GHz. speed. The Max Stream delivered an excellent job in our first assessment, having the average fastest throughput speed in our line-of-sight, short distance test — about 10' away. The Max Stream clocked in at an average of 57 Mbits/second, with the chart below showing how this compared to the rest of the pack.
The Max Stream continued its stellar performance in the obstructed version of the test, again delivering the highest throughput of the entire group with 57 Mbits/sec. It was also the top performer in the unobstructed, medium distance test — about 35 feet away. However, it was dethroned in the obstructed medium distance, dropping to third place, as shown below.
Finally, the Max Stream's performance dropped in the longest distance version of this test — about 70' separating the computer and router. It still scored close to the top of the pack, but it was eclipsed by the stellar performance of the ASUS RT-AC88U.
Finishing next, the RT-AC88U, Linksys AC1900, NETGEAR AC1750, Nighthawk AC1750, and the Nighthawk X10 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their overall solid performance. The RT-AC88U and the Linksys AC1900 were the top two scorers in the short distance, line of sight test, clocking in at 51 Mbits/s and 53 Mbits/s, respectively. They were followed by the 49 Mbits/s of the X10, 48 Mbit/s of the standard Nighthawk, and the 47 Mbits/s of the NETGEAR.
Performance for some of the routers changed dramatically in the obstructed version of the test, with the RT-AC88U and the NETGEAR's throughput dropping dramatically, while the remaining trio of routers remained relatively unchanged. The chart below shows the performance of all the routers in this test.
Moving on the medium distance tests, the scores somewhat inverted, with the X10 doing the best of the group in the line of sight test. This product was followed closely by the normal Nighthawk and then the Linksys AC1900. For the obstructed test, the Linksys AC1900 did the best of this group, followed by the Nighthawk X10.
For the long-distance test, the RT-AC88U not only did the best of this group, but the best job of the entire bunch, measuring in at 27 Mbit/s. The Nighthawk AC1750 did the next best, with the chart below showing how the rest of the pack did.
Next, the TP-Link Archer and the ASUS RT-AC68U both earned a 4 out of 10 for their overall so-so performance. This models both did alright in the low and medium distance tests, but their performance fell off quite a bit in the long-distance tests, with the TP-Link averaging 8.6 Mbits/s and the ASUS RT-AC68U averaging 12.7 Mbit/s.
At the back of the pack, both the D-Link and the NETGEAR AC1200 earned a 3 out of 10 for their substandard performance. These models didn't impress us in the short and medium tests and essentially were unusable at long distances, dropping to essentially 0 Mbit/s throughput rate.
5 GHz. Throughput
For our next metric, we repeated the above set of tests for each router, using the 5 GHz. network. The data rate is usually much faster over a 5 GHz. network, but the signal attenuates rapidly, meaning the speed rapidly decreases as the distance between the router and the server increase. The chart below shows which wireless routers have the best throughput 5 GHz. and which ones are going to leave you hanging.
Tying for first place overall in this metric, the RT-AC88U, Linksys AC1900, and the NETGEAR AC1200 all earned a 6 out of 10 for their showing. Both the RT-AC88U and the NETGEAR impressed us with their great performance in the long distance test, while the Linksys was a bit disappointing. However, the NETGEAR outperformed both of the other wireless routers in this group in the obstructed range tests, both in the short and medium distance versions. The NETGEAR had the edge in the short distance line of sight tests, while the Linksys did the best of this trio in the medium distance line of sight test, as shown below.
While the X10 delivered the overall fastest 5 GHz. performance at a distance, it performed relatively poorly in the short and medium distance tests.
Next, the D-Link, Linksys Max Stream, NETGEAR AC1750, Nighthawk, and Nighthawk X10 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their middle-of-the-road performance. As mentioned above, the X10 reigned supreme in the long distance 5 GHz. test, maintaining 46 Mbits/s. However, it did a below average job in both the obstructed and unobstructed short and medium distance tests.
Of this group, the D-Link did the overall best at the short distance test, while the normal Nighthawk excelled in the medium distance test.
Finally, the TP-Link Archer and the ASUS RT-AC68U tied again, each earning a 4 out of 10, which was the lowest score of the group. The TP-Link did above average at the line of sight, short distance test, but was relatively unimpressive in the other tests. The ASUS RT-AC68U didn't do amazing in either short distance or the obstructed medium distance test and did exceptionally poorly in the line of sight, medium distance test compared to the rest of the router. However, the ASUS RT-AC68U redeemed itself slightly in the long distance test, doing extremely well compared to the rest of the group and finishing not far off from the top products.
For the final metric of our review, we compared and scored the range of each wireless router. This metric accounts for the remaining 15% of the final score and is comprised of a single test. We measured out set distances, then played the same video to see if there were any buffering issues. We noted at what distance the video playback was interrupted for each wireless router, then used that to determine the scores shown below.
The NETGEAR AC1750 delivering uninterrupted playback at a distance of over 200', earning it the top score of 7 out of 10 in this test. We successfully watched a 5-minute YouTube video in 720p without any buffering or interruptions when connected through this wireless router.
Next, the ASUS RT-AC88U, the ASUS RT-AC68U, the Nighthawk X10, the Nighthawk, and the Linksys AC1900 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their performance. The range of all of these products dropped dramatically compared to the NETGEAR, with the video stream cutting out about 50'-60' closer. The chart below shows the exact numbers for each of these products.
Next, the D-Link, TP-Link Archer, and NETGEAR AC1200 all merited a 4 out of 10 for their efforts, having an effective range of about 145', 135', and 143' in our tests, respectively. Rounding out the back of the pack, the Linksys AC1900 Max Stream earned a 2 out of 10 for its paltry range of just over a hundred feet in our test.
Hopefully, this review has answered some of your questions about wireless routers and helped you find the perfect one for your needs. If you are still interested in exactly what we did to test and score these products, take a look at our How We Test article here for a full breakdown of our processes and plans. You may also be interested in our Buying Advice article, linked below, that gives some more background on these products, what they actually do, and what you should look for when buying one.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer