The Best Wireless Router

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The Best Wireless Routers of 2018
The third laptop sat at fairly short range in the office and simulated a Web-browsing session. The Asus RT-AC is a tri-band router at a flagship dual-band router price, with great range and coverage, and really good device- and traffic-analysis capabilities in its UI. A nice extra if you haven't used Asus products previously. The AiProtection feature, powered by Trend Micro, offers several network protection services, including routine scans for vulnerabilities, malicious site blocking, and infected client blocking. Granted, initializing on any mesh network is fairly easy , but Google Wi-Fi makes advanced features, like Quality of Service and beamforming, accessible for any user to enable through the app.

Intuitive menu that's easily customizable, but only if you want to


The first method which we called hard mode exposed the difference that automatic band steering made in the quality of a large network: To accurately simulate real-world usage, we set up the routers using default settings and put all bands on the same SSID network name , letting the router sort out which band to assign each device. Manual band steering was easy mode. Easy for the router, that is, but more annoying for the user.

We gave each radio its own SSID, as is the case in most home networks, and carefully allocated the laptops to best split up the traffic. For dual-band routers, this meant our long-range download went on the 2. For tri-band routers, we put the 4K-stream laptop on the third band. After reconnecting all our devices manually to the separate SSIDs, we ran another five-minute test. If you just want to connect to the Wi-Fi and have it work without constantly fiddling with things, hard mode is the best test.

We also tested 5 GHz maximum throughput at approximately 20 feet, with one interior wall between router and laptop; 5 GHz throughput at about 35 feet, with four interior walls and some cabinetry in the way, at an oblique angle; and 2. We did not use Iperf3 —an artificial network-testing tool that moves data from one machine to another as fast as possible—even for the relatively simple throughput tests.

Instead we used real HTTP download, the same protocol you use to view websites and download files, to better expose differences in CPU speed and general routing performance. The purpose of our testing was not to choose a router that was slightly faster than another; it was to see which routers could deliver consistently strong performance without major issues in real-world conditions.

The Netgear RP Nighthawk is the best router for most people because it offers solid performance for multiple devices without a lot of hassle. Compared with our budget pick , the TP-Link Archer A7, the RP boasts band steering, much longer range, a faster CPU, and—even when you manually manage its two radios—better multi-client performance. This chart shows how long it took our test laptop to simulate browsing to a Web page while three other laptops around the house were busy doing other things like downloading files or streaming video.

The RP really shines under busy network conditions: In our tests, its load-balancing band steering automatically shifted the devices around to give work to both radios. Along with its long range and good performance on both 5 GHz and 2.

By contrast, the Archer A7 loaded Web pages noticeably slower even when we created two network names and joined our devices to each of them intelligently to get acceptable results manual band steering. For more detailed latency results, including comparisons with many more routers, see the test results section later in this guide.

The RP did a solid job at all ranges and all frequencies in our tests, making it an easy recommendation for just about any house. It also offers one USB 3. Netgear advertises the USB ports as places to plug in thumb drives or external hard drives for streaming and shared storage.

We did not test this feature thoroughly, but we are hesitant to recommend it: Services such as Dropbox or Google Drive store your data on professionally maintained, redundant hardware, and a USB drive stuck in a router is a pretty poor substitute. Netgear labels the RP as AC, but AC speed ratings are almost entirely snake oil , and we recommend that you not get too hung up on them—anything labeled AC or above can perform well in real-world use, and only actual testing can determine which models are good, bad, or mediocre.

The biggest shortcoming of the Netgear RP compared with some other routers in its price range is its lack of a third wireless band. It might be more of a problem in a crowded apartment complex, dorm, or row-house environment. If you have too many neighboring networks interfering, 2. Supposedly, you can block websites by domain name or keyword, but in practice the feature works only with non-HTTPS sites, which means almost no modern sites.

The Nighthawk series also claims to offer more general category-based filtering, which really amounts to nothing more than a link to OpenDNS, where you can set up an account. Trying to manage what little integration exists between the OpenDNS account and your router is an exercise in pain and frustration, and brighter kids let alone determined adults will easily find ways around it anyway.

The Synology RTac is a full-featured, very configurable router with good range and coverage. If our main pick is unavailable—or if you find a better deal on the RTac—this model is the one to buy. It was configured out of the box to steer devices to 2. Changing that threshold from dBM to dBM in the settings made our long-range laptop immediately connect at 2.

It should have decent coverage, though, and it should be reliable. This describes the Archer A7 to a tee. The A7 was also at least usable even with everything crammed onto the 5 GHz radio. When we took the time to set up two different network names and split our devices up between them manually, the A7 performed nearly as well as our main picks for about half the cost.

Like almost every Wi-Fi router available today, the Archer A7 sports a black plastic case with wiggly antennas, one Gigabit Ethernet port for your Internet connection and four more for local devices, and a USB port. We also recommend you step up to one of our main picks if you want to use a VPN connection; the Archer A7 offers one, but its weak processor will make that connection frustratingly slow.

After we ran our full set of tests on all the routers in the group, a few things stood out—such as the importance of managing which band your devices connect on. Run too many things on the same radio, or try to connect a long-range device to 5 GHz instead of 2. Running our test suite with all devices manually assigned to the most appropriate radios, we saw little difference between most of the routers we tested:. Latency measures how long it takes your inputs to reach the other end of the connection—the time between your clicking a link and the page loading.

Things got a lot different when we ran the same tests the way most people use their wireless devices in the real world: The difference was dramatic: What this graph shows is how many milliseconds it took to simulate loading a Web page during our hard-mode tests. On the left side of the graph is the 50th-percentile result—the result in the middle of the range. Then we took a sample at the 75th, 90th, 95th, and th percentile—the last being the worst results we got out of each device.

Keep in mind that while the laptop in this test was loading Web pages, three others were simulating downloading a big file, streaming 4K video, and making a VoIP phone call—this was a busy little network, at a busy time. These are both very capable routers that did a consistently good job in our testing, leaving us little to choose between based on performance alone.

The Netgear RP and Synology RTac both provided a pretty smooth experience up until the 95th percentile, where things got a little wonky. This is a pretty good indicator of what living with either model is like in real life: One of every 20 or so page loads will be noticeably slower than average.

MU-MIMO technology allows it to connect to multiple devices and simultaneously provide data streams to each at their top speed. Looking for a Wi-Fi router that has it all? The Synology RTac might be the best thing that's ever happened to home networking The Asus Blue Cave smart router is the whole package with style, speed, security and all The new Google Wifi is here, finally.

Is it worth the wait? Here's CNET's full review. Be respectful, keep it clean and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy , which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion. Don't show this again. Asus has built a fast router with something for everyone By Dan Dziedzic Reviewed: CNET may get a commission from these offers.

Review Sections Review Prices Specs. Cool look, but not a versatile design The Asus RT-AC86U is very sleek, showcasing a mostly black look with two red streaks across the front. Continue to next page 01 Best Wireless Routers for File-transfer performance, which we test by transferring a 1. While its file-transfer speeds are mediocre, it delivers fast close-range and long-range throughput on both bands.

It has numerous features including; a built-in VPN server, its also capable of protecting your network from intruders and malware. It is a top-notch router with little to no compromise. It also offers lots of parental controls, including time scheduling and app filtering. With the AiCloud feature, you can access your data from a smartphone or a tablet using an iOS or Android app.

In the Wireless Professional Settings page,. When you connect the router to your PC and to the Internet and power it up,. It then asks you to name each SSID one for each band and create a network encryption key for each band.

It turned in excellent scores on our 2. It also offers extensive management features in a user-friendly interface, including gamer-friendly QoS settings, parental controls, advanced file sharing, and mobile cloud services. With eight LAN ports and two USB ports, this router is an excellent choice for users who want to connect multiple peripherals and wired clients, such as gaming consoles, NAS devices, printers, and home-automation hubs.

Of course; this router can out-perform its close competitor RT-AC only when more than 10 devices are connecting through the 5GHz band. If you are farmiliar withthe issue, you will notice that on this router the port is positioned on the rear end allowing for a tidier setup when using an external hard drive.

Design and Features Measuring 2. The router uses a matte-black enclosure with red trim and beveled edges, and has eight removable and adjustable antennas. The front edge contains small LED indicators for Power, 2. On the left side is a USB 2. Removing each layer of cardboard protection exposes the various parts of the router, including the perfectly aligned and individually cradled aerials — all eight of them.

Put them together and you have a monster of a router. Without aerials it measures x x 65mm; with them it stretches to over 30cm square and 17cm tall. Combined, the package weighs in at over 1. In a similar vein, having only one USB 3. Instead, you get another USB 2. A selection of status LEDs sit at the front. As such, it really is the case that the main event here is the Wi-Fi hardware. You get three separate Wi-Fi bands: In theory, having two 5GHz bands should make for greater throughput when many devices are connected simultaneously since it essentially splits the load.

Powering it all are a couple of Broadcomm BCM chips, which each handle four of the antennae as well as the QAM technology that gives this router such awesome speed. In design and features, this router is equally capable. In terms of appearance, RT-AC is covered with robust plastic. The router includes six aerials to support the tri-band feature to continue providing the high speed connectivity to devices on the network.

It is just flawlessly easy. Design and Features At 2. Its black cabinet sports the same angular design as the Asus RT-AC87 Dual-band Wireless-AC Gigabit Router, but instead of four adjustable external antennas, this model has six four on the back and one on each side. The front edge contains nine status indicators, including a power LED, 2. A single USB 3.

The RT-AC is loaded with multimedia and management features, all of which are accessible via a user-friendly Web interface.

Cool look, but not a versatile design