Best Wi-Fi routers in 2023: Budget, premium & more
The focal point of many homes, the router is maybe the most important aspect of your online life. Getting a new one requires some strategy and planning.
Getting a new router can be a bit of a baffling choice at this point. Downloading games, movies, and even the various things we ask of you in our guides can all be a bit taxing if your connection sucks. Once you upgrade to one of our recommendations, you’ll be soaring through in no time.
Best budget router
With gigabit connections becoming highly popular and 2.5Gbp/s potentially on the way, getting yourself a decent, future-proof router has never been more vital. You don’t need to spend too much either, as some manufacturers are currently offering excellent routers at excellent prices.
TP-Link is renowned for bringing the best of current tech, at lower prices. The AX1500 is an astounding router for just under $80. It’s a little bare-bones in terms of functionality, but the software onboard can help you when setting up a connection for almost any purpose. It even caught out our bad ethernet cable coming from the modem.
Outside of this, if you’re simply after something to house your current connection, current deals stemming from Amazon include Netgear, and even Amazon’s own Eero. These, again, can be found under $80 when bought alone. The Eero has a built-in functionality with mesh networking, where adding more nodes around the house can increase the signal to those hard-to-reach areas.
For the Eero, we also recommend getting a network switch, as it has only two ethernet ports on the back, making it a little useless for those in need of a wired connection. With the addition of a cheap switch, you’ll be able to spread the love a lot more easily.
Best mid-range router
Once you leave the budget end of things, you’re almost guaranteed to be in the futureproofed zone. Having to replace a router is a pain, what with the whole having to set everything back up again. Let’s ensure that never happens.
These aren’t as exciting in terms of offerings, as they’re striding the line between fancy and premium and surprise pricing for current technology.
This is where we’ll recommend Netgear’s output, as it’s highly reliable and oftentimes, not overtly expensive in comparison to other brands. These devices will also hopefully blend into your home a little better than gaming-themed or even high-end ones.
Here you’ll start to find a lot more combo packages as well, mostly including things that revolve around mesh networks.
Best gaming router
We recommend not buying into the weird marketing that some of the ‘gaming’ routers actually provide. These routers often house features that aren’t surfaced unless dug for on regular routers. What they can sometimes provide is better coverage by way of adding on as many antennae as possible.
If you’re in need of an Asus ROG branded router or something that looks like it might fly into space, then you’re in the right place.
Best premium routers
While we would love to all own some of these routers, the premium end is incredibly premium. Our eyes balk every time we see the Orbis or similar ranges at the near $1000 they ask for. For most people, these are completely unnecessary, designed with the intention of connecting up larger houses and offices.
We also won’t be recommending things like the Cisco security routers, or anything daft like that. Unless you have the $10, 000 they want for something like it.
While you can overboard with things from Cisco and NetVanta, these just aren’t necessary for regular home use.
We’ll also recommend Netgear’s 5G router, which stands as an excellent way to bring your mobile network to your on-the-go, or poorly connected home, to the modern day. We found massive success with the ZTE router provided by Three UK until the local building work destroyed the connection.
These 5G routers will if positioned properly, be able to bring in over 500Mbp/s. Our Manchester, UK-based router was averaging 300-400 depending on the position.
Third-party routers on Verizon FIOS, AT&T, Comcast, and other US internet providers
America is a hellscape for internet providers at the moment. Extortionate prices and constant badgering to use their own, usually, the bad included router can cause issues down the line.
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Things are changing though, as more ISPs switch over to providing fiber or easier connections for their engineers to fit.
The main sticking point is that some providers, like Verizon, could still be using an ONT modem. This takes in the fiber to spread to your house, but they might not provide an ethernet connection out of the box.
Instead, you’ll have to thread the ethernet to your new router from the ONT and then call up your ISP to swap over from COAX to Ethernet.
With AT&T, there’s a whole array of steps you’ll have to take before you can use a router. We recommend using AT&T’s own guide for this, as it’s a little involved.
Despite what your ISP will say, you can and you should use your own router if you want the best service possible. As long as you follow their own instructions, you’ll be on your way to having a better connection, today.
Best router for gigabit fiber internet
If you’re one of the lucky ones out there who has managed to get a fiber optic connection fitted into your house, you’ll want something that can take the full signal. While you won’t get that full gigabit connection over a wireless signal, having it wired in can see your downloads, streams and uploads go blazing fast. Even over wireless, we’ve seen speeds of up to 100Mbp/s on a Steam Deck and over around 600Mbp/s on the MacBook Pro 2021.
Most routers have been coming with a full gigabit port for the last decade or so. Gigabit speeds aren’t new, it’s just relatively new to have them fed into your house for your internet connection. In some spaces, 10 gigabits is required for data transfers over a closed network of PCs.
As of right now, as long as you have a solid cable coming out of your modem, you’ll be able to go with almost any Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6e router for the best speeds.
For an all-around recommendation, ours is the TP-Link AX20 AX1800. It’s incredibly easy to set up the router, nearly plug-and-play. On our connection, we replaced the given router from the ISP with this and got the full information as to why our speeds weren’t too hot. (A bad Ethernet cable can make all the difference in the world.)
It has a selection of ports on the back, as well as is able to support static IP addresses for those home networking geeks out there.
While it might look a little futuristic, it’s not going to sit out of place in your home like a lot of other routers out there. The antennae on top can also be positioned to target particular spaces around the house.
What Ethernet cable should you use?
If you can run cable, you should only need CAT6 or CAT5e, depending on far you need to pull the length of cable. CAT7 and CAT8 are for extreme circumstances and currently offer no benefits unless you’re running more than a gigabit on your network.
Powerline adapter recommendations
If you’re in a position where running cable isn’t feasible, you might want to invest in a powerline adapter. Below are suitable adapters, but you’ll need to remember some key things:
- They’ll need to be on the same power grid as each other
- If you have any disruptions, it could affect your speeds
- You will not get as fast a speed as you if you decided to connect directly
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