Best Wi-Fi Routers 2021

Our experts' recommended wireless routers

Our top pick: Which wireless router is the best?

We recommend the Google Nest Wi-Fi System for most home networks. It’s an expandable mesh router that’s great for any size home, and it’s very easy to set up and use.

In this case, we define best as “the best for most people,” instead of just name-dropping the latest top-of-the-line gadget. The Nest router isn’t the fastest or newest on the market, but it has all the features most internet users need—and it makes it supremely easy to use them.

But we know home networking isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, so here are our other highly recommended wireless routers that will fit different networking needs.

The 5 best Wi-Fi routers

Best Wi-Fi routers comparison table

Best forModelWi-Fi standardPriceGet it
Best overallGoogle Nest Wi-FiAC2200
(AC1600 for points)
$296.79View on Amazon
Best for budgetsTP-Link Archer AX10AX1500$71.99View on Amazon
Best for speedNETGEAR Nighthawk AX12AX6000$399.99View on Amazon
Best for gamingASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000AX11000$469.41View on Amazon
Best combo deviceMotorola MG7700AC1900$159.99View on Amazon

What to look for in a wireless router

TL;DR: Go with a multi-core processor and at least 128 MB of RAM. You may not be able to find hardware specs easily, as they aren’t advertised as big selling points compared to throughput and Wi-Fi standard, but your router’s CPU and RAM impact its performance.

Routers with weaker processors may have a difficult time with multiple connections or working with a network-wide VPN—which could cause overheating or slower speeds.

For more recommendations on what to look for, check out the specs and features section below.

Google Nest Wi-Fi System: Best overall

Best overall

$296.79 (For one router and one point) 

  • Max throughput: 2,200 Mbps (1,600 Mbps on points)
  • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 5
  • Smart home integration: Google Assistant
  • Form factor: Mesh
  • Range: 2,200 (1,600 additional per point)
  • App: Google Home
  • Security: WPA 3
  • Automatic updates
  • Dual band
  • Quad-core 64-bit CPU
  • 1GB RAM (768 MB on point)
  • 2 Ethernet ports on router (none on points)

The Google Nest Wi-Fi System is our pick for best router overall. It’s easy to use and versatile enough for most home networks. It’s a mesh router, so you can add extra coverage by adding more Google Nest or Google Wi-Fi points. Nest points also have a built-in Google Assistant smart speaker.

This system is very Wi-Fi focused. If your network requires a lot of wired Ethernet connections, Nest Wi-Fi might not be for you. The router itself has only two gigabit Ethernet ports—one for WAN and one for LAN—and Nest points are sans Ethernet ports entirely.

Even so, Google Nest Wi-Fi’s AC2200 Wi-Fi is more than fast enough for gaming, 4K streaming, and basically anything else. The Nest router plus one point system is capable of handling up to 200 device connections, and you can manage all those connections on the Google Home app.

Pros

  • Expandable coverage with additional satellites
  • Easy setup
  • Google Assistant integration

Cons

  • Limited ports for wired connections

TP-Link Archer AX10: Best for budgets

Best for budgets

$71.99

  • Max throughput: 1,500 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 6
  • Smart home integration: Works with Alexa
  • Form factor: Standalone
  • Range: 3-bedroom houses
  • App: TP-Link Tether
  • Security: WPA2 and WPA3
  • Dual band
  • 1.5 GHz tri-core processor
  • 4 gigabit LAN ports

The TP-Link Archer AX10 is our favorite router for smaller budgets and smaller spaces because it’s a good value. For the price, you get a good router, Wi-Fi 6 efficiency, and some easy-to-use extras.

While it doesn’t have the same bells and whistles as higher-end routers, the Archer AX10 does cover the basics well. It’s not the best option if you want top speeds, but its AX1500 Wi-Fi speeds are fast enough for video streaming and online gaming.

There are cheaper routers on the market, but most don’t give you the same performance that the AX10 will. For example, the best-selling TP-Link Archer A7 is less expensive than the newer AX10, but it is also slower and has much less processing power, which negatively impacted its performance in testing.

Pros

  • Inexpensive price
  • Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • Lower max speeds

NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12: Best for speed

Best for speed

$399.99 

  • Max throughput: 6,000 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 6
  • Smart home integration: Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Form factor: Standalone
  • Range: 3,500 sq. ft.
  • App: Nighthawk app
  • Security: WPA2/WPA3
  • Automatic updates
  • Dual band
  • Quad-core 64-bit CPU
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 4 Ethernet LAN ports, 1 Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, 1 multigig port
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports

The NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12 is a splurge-worthy Wi-Fi 6 router for those who want superfast speeds. It’s a good option if you have gigabit or multigigabit internet because it has a multigigabit port and supports port aggregation—basically, you can use two gigabit Ethernet ports together to support speeds up to 2,000 Mbps.

This router is pretty expensive, but for the price, you get the latest Wi-Fi tech and the capacity for up to 12 simultaneous bandwidth-heavy connections. That would be great for a large family where everyone is constantly online.

The Nighthawk also includes a 30-day free trial of NETGEAR Armor, which provides network-wide antivirus and security software. If you choose to keep up the subscription after your trial, it costs $69.99 per year.

Pros

    • Multigigabit internet support
    • Impressive range

Cons

    • High price
  • Pro tip:

    Looking for a router with top speeds and the latest Wi-Fi standard but want to compare your options? Check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi 6 routers.

    ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000: Best for gaming

    Best for speed

    Price: $468.41

    • Max throughput: 11,000 Mbps (11 Gbps)
    • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 6
    • Smart home integration: Works with Alexa
    • Form factor: Standalone
    • AiMesh compatible
    • Range: Not listed
    • App: ASUS Router app
    • Security: WPA 3
    • AiProtection security
    • Automatic updates
    • Tri-band
    • Quad-core CPU
    • 1GB RAM
    • 4 Gigabit LAN ports
    • 1 2.5 Gbps LAN port

    While you can play online games successfully with any of these routers, the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is built specifically for gamers who want to be able to tweak their home networks for the best performance. Admittedly, it might be overkill for most folks, especially if you don’t want to play too much with your router’s settings.

    The gaming optimization features are what sets this router apart from others, but just because it’s a gaming router doesn’t mean you can’t use it for all your other connected devices.

    In fact, the ROG Rapture has multiple features to keep gaming and non-gaming network traffic separate so that gaming data gets priority but doesn’t interrupt normal household goings on. For example, it has a dedicated 5GHz Wi-Fi band for gaming to isolate that bandwidth-hogging activity.

    Pros

    • Gaming optimization features
    • VPN fusion

    Cons

    • Bulky design

    Pro tip:

    While we think the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is the best, there are a ton of other gaming routers out there that can keep you at the top of your game. Check out our recommendations for the best routers for gaming.

    Motorola MG-7700: Best combo device

    Best combo device

    $159.99

    • Max throughput: 1,900 Mbps
    • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 5
    • Form factor: Combo
    • Dual band Wi-Fi
    • 4 Gigabit LAN ports
    • Compatible with Xfinity, Cox, and Spectrum
    • 24 x 8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem
    • Supports bridge mode
    • No mobile app

    Modem and router combo devices (sometimes called gateways) like the Motorola MG7700 are great space savers and combine everything you need to get your home network set up in one device. We recommend this one for apartments and smaller homes.

    One downside for this gateway is that it doesn’t have a network management app—you have to use the web interface to tweak your settings. But on the other hand, you only have one interface for both your modem and your router, which can make network management a little easier.

    We usually prefer separate devices for your modem and router to limit the risks of overheating and to give you more control over each piece of your equipment. But The MG7700 can also be used just as only a modem when in bridge mode if you decide to upgrade to a different router in the future.

    Pros

    • Space saver
    • Inexpensive replacement for ISP gateway

    Cons

    • Limited ISP compatibility

    Pro tip:

    Routers work with any internet provider, but modems are certified to work only with specific providers. If the Motorola MG7700 doesn’t cover your ISP, check out our other recommendations in our guide to the best modem and router combo devices.

    Wi-Fi router specs and features

    Your router is one of the most important parts of your home network, so picking the right one can seriously affect how you interact with your internet connection. But with hundreds of routers on the market—how do you choose?

    We’ll walk you through the major specs and features to keep an eye on when picking your router. Then you’ll be able to shop like a pro.

    Router red flags

    We recommend avoiding buying a new router that has any of the following specs:

    • Speeds below AC1200
    • A single Wi-Fi band
    • Only WEP or WPA security

    These are all signs that the router is old and out of date.

    Price

    About $100–$200 is a good price range for a router. That should cover one that’s powerful enough to handle multiple connections, uses newer Wi-Fi standards, and offers useful network management features (like QoS and and a decent app).

    You can get a good router (like the TP-Link Archer AX10) for less than $100, but many higher-end routers (especially gaming routers) can cost $400 or more. What differences cause such price disparity?

    Well, better hardware and features usually come with higher price tags. Higher-end routers tend to have more powerful processors, more RAM, faster throughput, and three Wi-Fi bands instead of the standard two. Not everyone needs the extra power. But users with a lot of bandwidth-hogging connections (like gamers and streamers) could benefit from the additional oomph.

    Wi-Fi standard

    Look for a router that advertises Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 (these may appear as wireless ac or wireless ax, respectively). These are the two newest Wi-Fi standards, and they’ll work the best for your home network.

    Wi-Fi 6 is newer, faster, and more efficient, but Wi-Fi 5 devices still work great for most internet users. However, if you want to futureproof your setup, Wi-Fi 6 is better because the standard will be around for the next several years.

    Most routers advertise their Wi-Fi standard somewhere in the name. If you see a number/letter combination like AC1200 or AX3000, that’s the wireless standard. The letters tell you the Wi-Fi generation, and the numbers usually represent the theoretical max speed.

    We recommend avoiding anything Wi-Fi 4 (wireless N or 802.11n) because it’s outdated. In fact, it’s best not to choose a router with speeds lower than AC1200.

    Wi-Fi bands

    Choose a dual-band or tri-band router. Dual-band routers are the standard nowadays and give you more wireless flexibility than older, single-band routers. Some high-end routers have three wireless bands, which is great if you want a dedicated Wi-Fi band for your gaming connection but not necessary for most people.

    Wi-Fi signals use two main radio frequencies:

    • 4 GHz has slower max speeds but can travel further.
    • 5 GHz has shorter range but faster speeds.

    The best home networks split connections between the two wireless bands to keep either one from getting overloaded. For example, gaming or video streaming devices are better off on the 5 GHz band while smart home devices are better suited for the 2.4 GHz band.

    Speed

    Your router should have a max throughput (router data transfer speed) well above your actual internet speed. For example, if you have 100 Mbps of internet bandwidth, you still want to go with something like an AC1200 router, even though it may seem like overkill.

    The truth is, the speeds most routers advertise are their theoretical max, but their practical speeds are much lower. And the advertised speeds also combine the max speeds of all the Wi-Fi bands together. Going back to the earlier example, an AC1200 router’s max Wi-Fi speed is 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band and 900 Mbps on the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band.

    Ethernet ports

    Many people use Wi-Fi as their primary internet connection, but you shouldn’t forget about Ethernet. Wired Ethernet connections are valuable because they are more stable and can deliver better speed than Wi-Fi. If you plan on connecting multiple devices to your router, make sure you have enough ports. (But if your router of choice doesn’t, you can always add an Ethernet switch for more.)

    Beyond the number of ports, you should pay attention to the type of Ethernet ports as well. Gigabit Ethernet ports are standard on home networking equipment, which is fine unless you have multigigabit internet. In that case, you should find a router that offers port aggregation or a multigigabit port—otherwise you’re paying for bandwidth you won’t get to use.

    User interface and management app

    You want your router and all of its features to be accessible and easy to use, and for that, we strongly prefer routers that have a mobile app. Network management apps are often more convenient and intuitive than web-based interfaces, and that makes it easier to set up and monitor your network.

    We like management apps that let you access most of your router’s features from the app—some basic ones are just used for setup and still make you log in to your router’s user interface to change settings.

    Mesh vs. standalone

    Mesh routers are best for large homes, buildings with a lot of interior walls (or other physical obstructions), and users who want to stretch their Wi-Fi signals to a garage or back porch. Standalone routers can have great Wi-Fi range, but mesh routers let you customize your Wi-Fi coverage and are honestly just kinda neat.

    If your home is more than 3,000 square feet or you notice Wi-Fi dead zones in certain areas, going with a mesh router is a good idea.

    The drawback is mesh routers tend to be more expensive than standalone routers, especially if you want to add multiple points or satellites.

    Pro tip:

    If you want to compare standalone and mesh routers for your home, check out our review of the best long-range routers, where we weigh the pros and cons of both mesh systems and standalone routers with great range.

    Security features

    Make sure your router has Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) 2 or WPA3. The security standard encrypts your Wi-Fi signals so no one can snoop through your network (or at least, it makes it more difficult). The original WPA is outdated and should be paired with another security standard to be effective.

    Automatic firmware updates are also a great bonus for keeping your network secure. Firmware updates keep your router up to date to protect against any potential vulnerabilities and make your router as efficient as possible.

    Pro tip:

    Read more about Wi-Fi security (and peep more router recommendations) in our review of the best Wi-Fi routers for security.

    Our verdict

    We think the Google Nest Wi-Fi is the best router. It’s easy to use and powerful enough for most home networks, and its mesh form factor makes it easy to expand your network to fill any space.

    Wireless router FAQ

    What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

    A modem translates the internet signal you get from your provider into an Ethernet signal that your home network can use, while your router takes that translated signal and distributes it through your home network. You connect your router to the modem with an Ethernet cable, and then connect all your devices to the router (either with Ethernet or Wi-Fi).

    Does my router affect my internet speed?

    Your router manages your whole home network—so one that is out of date or too slow can definitely drag down your speed. A good router makes the most of your speeds and keeps up with all your connected devices.

    Make sure your router has a max speed that is higher than your actual internet speed—you’ll never see your router operate at its advertised max. For example, an AC1200 router is a good choice for internet plans up to 300 Mbps.

    If you think your router may be slowing down your speeds, check out our guide to figuring out whether your internet is slow because of your router or ISP.

    Author -

    Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

    Editor - Aaron Gates

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