Top Product: TP-Link Archer AX21 Wi-Fi 6 Router | $130 | Amazon
If you’re still bearing with spotty Wi-Fi in your home in 2020, it’s time to accept you’re not going back to the office any time soon and buy a new router. Assuming the connection coming into your house is solid, a more up-to-date, advanced router might be the missing piece of the equation in ensuring steady, wide-ranging wireless internet throughout your entire home.
Routers come in all shapes and sizes, and lately, they even come in duos, trios, and more: mesh systems have rapidly gained popularity for their ability to blanket your space in Wi-Fi, but not every space needs the added hardware and expense. Likewise, the recent Wi-Fi 6 standard brings perks, but you might do just fine with something cheaper and unassuming. Here’s a look at the best routers you can plug into your modem today.
Best Wi-Fi 6 Router for Most People: TP-Link Archer AX21
If you’re buying a new router, it’s a pretty good idea to opt for a Wi-Fi 6 device if you can. The latest wireless standard significantly boosts the top maximum speed, but is perhaps, more importantly, better suited to deal with numerous devices at a time—good news for those of us with phones, laptops, tablets, consoles, smart TVs, smart home gadgets, and more in the mix.
Some Wi-Fi 6 routers will cost you hundreds of dollars, but TP-Link’s Archer AX21 is a great option that hits a sweet spot in terms of functionality and price. This dual-band router supports Wi-Fi speeds up to 1.8Gbps (total) and delivers powerful performance thanks to its four high-gain antennas and beamforming technology to provide better, more targeted connections with your devices.
Best Mesh Router: Google Nest Wi-Fi
I use Google’s Nest Wi-Fi in my own two-story house, and it’s such an effortless, easy-to-use mesh system that ensures that every corner of my home—and even the basement and backyard—have speedy wireless internet available. Nest Wi-Fi is powered by a main router unit that plugs into your modem and can cover roughly 2,200 square feet with Wi-Fi, and then you can expand further with smaller nodes that plug into wall outlets around your home.
To borrow a phrase from Google’s chief rival Apple, it just works. The nodes sync up easily and I haven’t encountered odd drops or hitches in my months of using it, plus the smartphone app provides network controls, diagnostics, and other details. On top of that, each node doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker … in case that’s a thing you want. Nest Wi-Fi does not support Wi-Fi 6 and it’s pricey, but it’s such a vast upgrade over my past single-router setup. It could be the same for you.
Best Budget Router: Linksys EA6350
Not looking to invest a bunch of cash in a new router right now? No worries: the Linksys EA6350 delivers strong speeds in a small footprint and is typically less than $75. If you’re using hardware that’s a few years old, it will almost certainly provide an upgrade, even if it doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6 capabilities and isn’t built for larger spaces.
The Linksys EA6350 is a dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi router that can deliver speeds up to 867Mbps via 5GHz and 300Mbps via 2.4GHz, both of which are much higher than the average internet connection coming into American homes. Intended for spaces up to 1,000 square feet, this one’s a good pick for an apartment or smaller home and can still deliver 4K video streaming and speedy downloads.
Best for Long Range: Netgear Orbi
Got a very large property that you want to fill with seamless Wi-Fi coverage? Netgear’s Orbi mesh system is a fine alternative to Google’s Nest Wi-Fi, and Gizmodo recommends it as one of the very best smart home gadgets around. As Andrew Liszewski writes:
If you can get over the fact the nodes look like a collection of glowing automatic air fresheners, Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 provides one of the best whole home wifi solutions, covering even larger homes with an expansive, reliable network that minimizes the number of times your devices need to hop between access points.
Best Budget Mesh Router: TP-Link Deco S4
TP-Link’s Deco S4 delivers the same kind of specs as the above Linksys router, with up to 867Mbps via 5GHz and 300Mbps through 2.4GHz, but does so with a multi-unit mesh design that spreads a signal across a much larger footprint. The two-pack can cover up to 3,800 square feet, while the three-pack is rated for up to 5,500 square feet.
The Deco S4 system can’t hit quite as high of theoretical speed peaks as Nest Wi-Fi and these units won’t blend into your space as easily either, but it’s hard to argue with the price: $110 for the two-pack and $150 for the three-pack. Amazon customers seem to agree on that point, too, giving the TP-Link Deco S4 a 4.6-star rating. TP-Link offers more powerful versions of the Deco system with varying designs, too, in case you’re looking for something more robust.
Best Gaming Router: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000
For the truly serious gaming fan who demands the best of the best, the brand new Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 is one perk-packed Wi-Fi 6 option. This beastly router is powered by a triple-core 1.5 GHz processor and Netgear’s DumaOS 3.0, which provides power user features such as optimizing and allocating bandwidth for certain uses (such as live streaming) and geo-fencing to help you pick the best gaming servers to connect to.
Netgear sent me a sample that I’ve been using for the last few weeks in place of my usual Nest Wi-Fi setup, and even with a single access point, it has delivered speedy wireless access throughout my home. More pressingly, of course, gaming performance has been excellent whether notching headshots in Fortnite or nabbing glorious aerial goals in Rocket League. At $350, however, only the super-hardcore with money to burn need bother.
Best Gaming Router (Runner-Up): TP-Link Archer C5400X
Looking for another option for gaming? TP-Link’s Archer C5400X is an older router that doesn’t have the benefit of Wi-Fi 6 support, but Gizmodo staff reporter Joanna Nelius recommends it for gamers who want to maximize their speeds and maybe juggle Twitch streaming alongside their online gaming.
You’ll get an absolutely absurd number of gigabit LAN ports here with 8 to tap into, plus one 2.4Ghz (1000Mbps) and two 5Ghz (2167Mbps each) Wi-Fi networks to use. That’s more than enough capability for any home connection these days, and it’s cheaper than the Netgear router at $280.