Last updated: September 10, 2020

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More and more devices can be connected to the Wi-Fi network of our homes. It is no longer just the laptop, smartphone, or tablet of every member of the family, but also the television, the speakers, and even the fridge. The Internet of Things (IoT) will soon have you connected to your cat’s feeder.

And it isn’t just about the number of connections, but also their speed and strength. If you want to enjoy all the possibilities that the Internet has to offer, from video games to HD streaming services, you need an optimal and well-managed Wi-Fi network – and, therefore, a quality wireless router. We will discuss these devices in depth in the following article.

Key Facts

  • You may forget it sometimes, but the router is the heart of your home’s Internet network. All digital information passes through it: from data to multimedia or online video games. A quality router will help you take advantage of the speed and connectivity offered by your operator or Internet service provider (ISP).
  • A wireless router is one of the ways to improve your home Wi-Fi network. You will make the most of the Internet connection and bandwidth offered by operators today. You can increase range, speed, and connectivity, while also being able to manage, prioritize, and customize your home network.
  • There is a wide array of models on the market, which is why you should know exactly what your connection needs are before choosing. Some offer a high degree of network customization, with very advanced features that aren’t necessary for many users. Pay particular attention, for instance, to the Wi-Fi standard and processor of your router.

Our Selection: The Best Wireless Routers on the U.S. Market

In the following section, you can find our very own selection of some of the best wireless routers on the market. We have chosen models from various price ranges and tailored to distinct connectivity needs. You can also learn more about each router’s specific characteristics to help you make the right decision.

Best Wireless Router: Amazon’s Choice

With thousands of positive reviews and high ratings, TP-Link’s AC1750 has become Amazon’s Choice in the category for good reasons. It combines affordability with high-quality capabilities and the features you need for your home network. These include a parental control tool and compatibility with Amazon Alexa, as well as a coverage area of up to 2,500 square feet. This dual-band router works with the Wi-Fi 5 standard.

Best Budget-Friendly Wireless Router

Now, if you’re looking to boost your connection’s performance while keeping it budget-friendly, the N450 Wi-Fi router is exactly what you need. For less than $25, this model will allow you to reach speeds of up to 450 Mbps while allocating bandwidth to specific devices based on your needs of the moment. In addition, the WPS button gives you the security your network needs. It is backward-compatible with older Wi-Fi technologies.

Best-Selling Wireless Router

With literally tens of thousands of positive ratings, this wireless router by popular American manufacturer NETGEAR is undeniably a bestseller among bestsellers. Capable of handling up to 25 devices within a maximum area of 1,500 square feet, it features 3 Ethernet ports and one 3.0 USB port. Other key features include guest Wi-Fi access, a built-in security software, and parental controls – not to mention the Beamforming plus technology.

Best Wireless Router for Gamers

The last product of our selection may be more prohibitive than those above, but it is a top-of-the-line wireless router that offers the best performance out there. The 1.7 GHz dual-core processor allows your connection to reach speeds of up to 2.6 Gbps, which is plenty enough to play the most demanding video games lag-free. With 4 Ethernet ports and 2 USB ports, this wireless router is everything gamers have dreamed of.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Wireless Routers

Many people eventually get lost when talking about computers and networks. There are often a number of technical concepts that are difficult for any non-expert user to grasp. In the section below, we will try to explain the main aspects of wireless routers practically and simply so that you can learn more about them.

Man insert WiFi repeater into electrical socket on the wall

Make sure that you have established a stable connection between your modem and the router.
(Source: Wavemovies: 93704088/ 123rf.com)

How does a wireless router work exactly?

A wireless router picks up your modem’s cable Internet connection and transforms it into a wireless signal that feeds all the devices connected to the home Wi-Fi network. The router has to receive the decoded signal, either via a modem in case of ADSL/VDSL, or by an ONT (Optical Network Terminal) in case of optic fiber.

If you compare these routers to those provided by operators, you will realize that they offer more speed and improve the range, connectivity, and management of your Wi-Fi network. In addition, they boost network performance and allow you to get the most out of your Internet service provider’s connection.

Black three poles wifi router on the white table

Integrated into the most modern routers, the Beamforming technology allows you to improve the range of your Wi-Fi signal.
(Source: Chainarong Chokrung: 70258009/ 123rf.com)

What is the range of a wireless router?

A wireless router tends to improve home network coverage significantly compared to that set up by your provider. Thanks to its antennas and specific technologies that are integrated into the new Wi-Fi standards, you will be able to reach corners that were completely offline before. If you live in a standard flat or house, these devices can optimize the range of your network up to a little over 1,000 square feet.

That being said, a wireless router can’t work miracles either if you have a lot of walls and obstacles, or a home with several floors. In that case, you will want to opt for another type of device: Wi-Fi extenders, access point, or PLC devices. If that still isn’t enough, you always have the option to create a mesh network.

Wireless router or mesh network?

The Wi-Fi mesh network technology is based on a router and a series of satellites or nodes. It is similar to placing a Wi-Fi extender or PLC device in your home. However, the nodes of a mesh network are not independent access points but instead form a single mesh. The devices automatically connect to the nearest one, and switching between nodes is instantaneous.

This technology is naturally more expensive since you have to purchase more than one device. However, it is an excellent solution for large spaces or for multi-story houses where even a quality wireless router won’t allow you to reach every corner of the home. A mesh networking device enables you to avoid these Internet no man’s lands.

Blue wireless router

Wireless routers often improve the coverage of your home network greatly.
(Source: Ronaky: 78520894/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages of wireless routers?

You should already be familiar with a few of the many advantages these devices have to offer to your home Wi-Fi network. That being said, wireless routers also have a couple of drawbacks, and it is important that you know them too before making a decision. You can find both the benefits and disadvantages of these apparatus in the following table:

Advantages
  • They cover a larger area and therefore increase the range of your Wi-Fi network.
  • You can make the most of your home connection speed and increase the speed of the network.
  • They decrease latency, reduce and avoid lagging (delays and cuts) in online video games, video conferences, or streaming services.
  •  They allow you to prioritize traffic to certain devices.
  • You can improve security and control of your home network.
  •  They allow the connection of multiple devices simultaneously without saturating the signal.
  •  Hard drives and servers can be connected to be shared on the home network easily and quickly.
  •  They help with download management.
Disadvantages
  • They need to be installed and configured. While this tends to be fairly straightforward, it can be challenging with some models.
  •  You will add yet another electronic device to your system.

What types of Wi-Fi technology do these routers use?

If technology is generally developing rapidly, it is advancing at lightning speed when it comes to networks and the Internet. The nomenclature of Wi-Fi technologies is continually changing, with old standards (82.11a, b, and g) not being renamed because they are already considered outdated. The most recent ones, however, were renamed in 2019.

The Wi-Fi type known as 82.11.n has been renamed Wi-Fi 4, and the 82.11.ac has been renamed Wi-Fi 5. The 82.11.ax is a new protocol that has been developed and is already being commercialized in certain routers under the name Wi-Fi 6. Each one of these types has been an improvement to the previous one in both connectivity and speed.

Wi-Fi type Speed Features
Wi-Fi 4 Up to 800 Mbps The router only handles one device at a time, with the others waiting in line. The waiting time is imperceptible, just a few hundredths of a second, but it can lead to small delays (lags).
Wi-Fi 5 (Wi-Fi AC or Wave 2) Up to 1,733 Mbps on the 5 GHz band It supports simultaneous signals so that various connected devices are served at the same time (MU-MIMO technology).

It guides the Wi-Fi signal to the connected devices (Beamforming technology).

Wi-Fi 6 Up to 6,000 Mbps, and expected to reach 11,000 Mbps

It supports even more simultaneous and less interfering connections (enhanced MU-MIMMO).

It guides the Wi-Fi signal to the devices (improved Beamforming).

This standard will integrate new technologies, although few devices support it so far, and it cannot be fully exploited yet.

What is the Beamforming technology?

This technology concentrates the Wi-Fi signal and guides it to the devices currently connected to the network. In other words, the router determines where the devices are and sends the Wi-Fi signal in that direction. This improves the signal strength and thus the stability and quality of the connection that reaches each device.

 wireless network router on brown background

This technology concentrates the Wi-Fi signal and guides it to the devices currently connected to the network.
(Source: Martz: 107249145/ 123rf.com)

What advanced features can a wireless router offer?

In addition to the advantages of being able to work with dual or triple band, as well as the Wi-Fi 5 protocol, wireless routers can offer a series of advanced functionalities that help improve and have greater control over your home network. These features are mainly linked to security and traffic management. We have summed them up for you below:

  • Quality of Service (QoS). This functionality allows you to prioritize the traffic on any device or application you are using. For instance, you can prioritize the bandwidth for your game console when playing online, videoconferences, or for multimedia streaming services.
  • Security. Nowadays, most routers offer various security systems. The WPS is a basic protocol that lets you add a device at the touch of a button. You can also find WAP or WAP2 protocols, the latter being the most recommended, the most secure, and virtually always integrated into routers.
  • Parental control. The vast majority of wireless routers offer some kind of parental control tool. You can, therefore, determine the number of hours during which some devices can connect themselves, or block the access to specific webpages.
  • Guest access. This is another interesting feature that allows you to give access to your Wi-Fi to any guest you receive at home. That way, they have access to the Internet without entering your private network.
  • USB ports. Certain wireless routers incorporate one or more USB ports, through which you can connect a printer, a scanner, or a hard drive. You can share their use and content to your home network, so they become available to all users and devices.

Shopping Criteria

If you have decided to buy a wireless router to improve the speed and performance of your Wi-Fi network, it is essential that you start by analyzing your connection needs and how often you use it. In the following section, you will learn more about the main purchasing criteria to consider before making your final decision.

Type of Connection

If you have an ADSL connection, some routers on the market have a modem function so that you can completely replace the one provided by your ISP. If your model doesn’t have this feature, you will have to connect it by cable to the modem-router of your Internet provider that will act as a bridge. The wireless router will manage the traffic of your home network.

If you have an optic fiber connection, you must keep your operator’s ONT and connect it through a network cable. However, you can also keep the current installation by putting the ONT in bridge mode. It is essential that you check the compatibility of your router to all the services of your ISP – television, Internet, and sound – if you use optic fiber.

Modern wireless wi-fi router isolated on white background.

Having a good router is essential for your Internet connection.
(Source: Piotr Adamowicz: 32759208/ 123rf.com)

Type of Wi-Fi

While the Wi-Fi 6 standard was released a couple of years ago, most devices – mobiles, tablets, computers, etc. – aren’t compatible with it. This means that you cannot get the most out of a router with the latest Wi-Fi technology just yet. In that regard, it is more interesting to opt for the Wi-Fi 5 standard.

Some of the devices that connect to the network may not support the 5 GHz frequency band and will need to connect to the 2.4 frequency band. However, the speed increase that working with dual or triple band offers more than justifies choosing this type of technology. This is especially true for devices that require a lot of bandwidth.

Processor (Chipset)

The processor is responsible for executing the traffic management tasks of the network; the better it is, the more workload your router can support. If you are a demanding and intensive Internet user, you should opt for a model with a dual-core processor and good RAM. That way, you will avoid latency problems and lags.

Summary

New devices are constantly accessing our home Wi-Fi networks. While the connection speeds offered by ISPs are much better than they were just a few years ago, the equipment they provide is often not up to par. This means that we cannot take full advantage of the bandwidth and speed we pay for.

Whether you’re replacing your operator’s model or adding to your installation, a wireless router will help you get the most out of your Internet connection. You can improve the speed, range, and performance of your Wi-Fi network, as well as perform other tasks such as prioritizing or allocating bandwidth to specific devices.

We hope that our guide on wireless routers has helped you make the right purchase. If you found it useful, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article with your friends and family on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Boonpong: 67418874/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.