2017’s Best Long-Range Routers
Our Top 5 Picks for Wi-Fi Routers That Go the DistanceA Wi-Fi router is the heart of a home network, supplying devices with a steady stream of internet connection. But in a large home, that stream can slow to a trickle as the signal bounces around walls, floors, and other obstructions. If you’ve got dead spots or significant signal loss in your home, it may be time to invest in a new router optimized for longer distances. The team at HSI (highspeedinternet.com) investigated the best methods for creating networks in large homes, and we’ve come up with two distinct options to help you flood your entire property with reliable connectivity: long-range routers and mesh networking systems. Our long-range router picks are for homes in the 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot category, which are best covered by a powerful router equipped with an extender or other special features that optimize range. The second table reflects the best options for mesh networking, which can be a more effective and efficient method than a traditional router, utilizing multiple units to connect homes with footprints of 3,000 square feet or more.
Our Top 3 Long-Range Wi-Fi Routers for 2017
(Best for 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot homes)
|1. Netgear Nighthawk X4S (Best Overall)||2. Linksys AC 5400 (Most Powerful)||3. TP-Link Archer C7 (Best value)|
|Dimensions/Weight||12.1 x 10.2 x 3.3 / 2.5 lbs.||5.39 x 14.79 x 11.23 / 3.25 lbs.||9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 / 1.9 lbs.|
|Speed||1.7 Gbps||5.4 Gbps||1.7 Gbps|
|Reviews||4.5 Stars||4 Stars||4 Stars|
Our Top 3 Mesh Network Routers for 2017
(Best for homes 3,000 square feet or larger)
|1. Netgear Orbi Home Wi-Fi (Best Overall)||2. Ubiquiti Ampli-Fi HD Wi-Fi (Longest Range)||3. Luma Home Wi-Fi System (Best Value)|
|Dimensions / Weight||3.92 x 3.85 x 3.91 / 5 lbs.||2.36 x 6.67 x 8.89 / 1.96 lbs.||1.4 x 4.5 x 4.5 / .5 lbs.|
|# of Units||2||2||3|
|Speed||5.25 Gbps||3 Gbps||3.9 Gbps|
|Reviews||4.5 Stars||4.5 Stars||4 Stars|
Before we give you the lowdown on our picks, let’s go over a few considerations you should keep in mind when choosing a router for your home. We’ll also give you recommendations for which piece of equipment to pick based on your priorities, whether they be price, advanced features, or the ability to get a strong signal in every nook and cranny of your super-sized home.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Router?
Number of BandsBack in the day, routers operated on a single band and broadcast only one frequency: 2.4 GHz. As connected homes and the Internet of Things (IoT) expanded, routers began to share that bandwidth with microwaves, Bluetooth devices, wireless phones, and more. Modern routers adapted to the increase in traffic by becoming dual band, connecting devices on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Today’s routers have taken this approach a step further with tri-band, which utilizes a 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz connections. As with most technological advances, you’ll pay more for a tri-band router and, for the average household, it isn’t necessary. Consider a tri-band router if you have heavy internet usage due to streaming, gaming, or an unusually large number of connected devices in your home. The number of bands being used has more to do with accommodating heightened volume than increasing range—so if your concern is distance rather than multiple devices, dual band should be sufficient.
ProtocolRouters used to operate on 802.11 b and g protocols, using a single band and supporting speeds of 11–54 Mbps. If that sounds like technological gobbledygook, don’t worry. Protocols refer to a set of features or a particular iteration of technology as it pertains to a class of equipment. You can read more about router protocols, otherwise referred to as Wi-Fi standards, here but for the most part they simply refer to how many bands are being used. Today’s routers typically have dual-band technology and 802.11 n, which can deliver speeds up to 600 Mbps. Some of the more powerful routers and mesh networks that made our list use 802.11 ac, the most advanced protocol that delivers a wider channel bandwidth and pushes speeds upward of 1,300 Mbps. Snazzy speeds and a more advanced, efficient protocol can help if you are trying to compensate for signal loss over longer distances, so stick with routers that use the 802.11 ac for optimal long-range performance.
Antennae“The bigger the antenna, the better the signal” sounds like an old wives’ tale, but it’s absolutely true in this case. That’s why some of the more powerful routers look like massive spiders, with errant antennae sticking in all directions. Range is about signal strength, but until recently, most routers used antennas that were omnidirectional, sending out equal amounts of signal strength in all directions. The routers that made our list have adjustable antenna (lots of them!) so you can be intentional about covering certain areas of your home and reaching devices in previously dead zones.
PortsThe number of ports you have is also more about the volume of devices on your network than it is about enabling more efficient signals or longer range. Different routers have different numbers of ports, which allow you to directly connect wired devices to the network. Because many devices access the internet wirelessly using Wi-Fi, you probably won’t need to connect many of them directly to the router. However, if you have an extensive and robust network, you may need to opt for more ports to avoid overcrowding at the network hub.
Quality of ServiceAdvanced routers allow users to specify which applications get priority when divvying out the internet signal. Normally, routers simply handle all signal distribution equally with no special preference, but quality-of-service features allow you to specify what gets premium bandwidth and what gets the leftovers. This can improve your range by increasing the bandwidth to certain applications. If that’s something you want, look for routers that incorporate a quality-of-service feature.
Guest Networks/Parental ControlsA guest network allows you to set up security features and controls so you can offer Wi-Fi to kids and guests without compromising the rest of your devices. These networks can be isolated from each other, offering selective access to certain kinds of activities and each requiring different passwords. While this feature isn’t necessarily helpful when it comes to covering longer distances, it’s an attractive feature for larger networks with multiple users.
MU-MIMO and BeamformingThese terms sound a bit like tech-speak, but they make a lot of sense for increasing signal to specific devices. MU-MIMO stands for multi-user, multiple input, multiple output, and it’s a router feature that allows you to direct the full strength of your signal to specific devices rather than sharing it across all devices. If you’ve got a dedicated device in a room far from your router that’s suffering signal loss, MU-MIMO is just what you’ve been looking for. Another feature, Beamforming, allows you to boost a signal in a specific direction rather than to a particular device and can also be essential for increasing signal across longer distances. Look for some variation of either or both in your router to optimize for longer range.
Top 3 Long-Range Routers
Best for 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot homes
Amazon Rating: (4.5 /5)
Amazon Rating: (4 /5)
Top 3 Mesh Network Systems
Best for homes 3,000 square feet or larger
1. Netgear Orbi Home Wi-Fi Best Overall
Amazon Rating: (4.5 /5)
Amazon Rating: (4.5 /5)
Amazon Rating: (4 /5)
Want to learn more about internet equipment and ways to extend your Wi-Fi signal? Check out our equipment reviews and additional resource guides. Do you need more speed for your connected home? Enter your ZIP code to discover what’s available in your neighborhood.
Kaz is a writer, blogger and social media junkie. She uses her tenacity to investigate the best of the Internets.