The wireless routers that ISPs provide as part of their broadband packages are often a mixed bag in terms of features and performance. As your router is the piece of equipment that all your other devices connect to in order to get on the Internet, it's often worth buying your own to get faster speeds.
Router technology has been changing loads recently, especially with the introduction of dual-band models, so it can be difficult to find the best one for your needs that falls within your budget. To help you out, we've put together this list of the best models on the market right now.
You probably don't need as advanced a home networking device as the Asus RT-AC68U Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router, but if you do buy it you'll love it.
In addition to excellent Wi-Fi coverage, the router offers fast wired speed and has enough power to work as a home server for media streaming, data sharing and even personal cloud services. We also love its extra features, such as built-in VPN and Dual-WAN support. What's more, its advanced network tools mean that the router will also serve well as a gateway for a small business. It basically has everything you'd want from an excellent router, for both home and business use.
The Linksys EA6400 Smart Wi-Fi Router is a good looking model thanks to its elegant UFO shape. It's flat with a glossy, smooth finish on the top and you can use it either on a surface or mounted on a wall. It is very easy to set up and creates two Wi-Fi networks, one for each of its wireless bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz), but both share the same name and password. It also has a robust, cloud-enabled Web interface that's easy to use and it creates a stable Wi-Fi signal. The only negative is that its Wi-Fi data rate isn’t as impressive as perhaps it could be.
The DIR-868L Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router is a massive improvement over its predecessor. This is mainly because D-Link has focused on what's important in a Wi-Fi router -- a strong Wi-Fi signal and fast data rates.
It uses the second-generation Broadcom chip and that sports SmartBeam technology, designed to enhance the router's Wi-Fi performance and coverage. It certainly seems to work, as at a distance of 100 feet, this model topped our charts with a data rate of 221Mbps. The companion mobile apps are a let down though. So, while there is still some room for improvement, in its current state, the DIR-868L is already one of the best straight-up 802.11ac-enabled routers on the market.
This may be Trendnet's first 802.11ac-enabled router, but the company has got most of the important stuff right, straight out of the traps. It's a true dual-band router that offers a top speed of 450Mbps on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands at the same time. In fact, its Wi-Fi performance is very speedy as its results in our tests place it in the top three of the 802.11ac-enabled routers we've tested. The only downside is the slow storage performance when using a plugged-in USB external hard drive. Nevertheless, this is a great alternative to the high-end Wireless-N N900 routers that don't support 802.11ac.
The RT-AC66U is a dual-band router that supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. We like its sleek casing and the detachable external antennas that stick up from its back. While the Web interface isn’t the best around, the router is still fairly easy to get up and running. It simultaneously offers up to 450Mbps Wireless-N standard on each of the two 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Its firmware was initially problematic, but recent updates have improved it hugely and it now offers great performance and lots of useful features. The upshot is that it's one of the best 802.11ac-ready routers on the market and worth its hefty price tag.