Fastest Routers for Gigabit Internet
Pro picks for the fastest Wi-Fi possible
Which gigabit router is best?
The Nighthawk AX12 is one of the fastest Wi-Fi routers on the market. And with its tri-band network, it can support over 40 connected devices without slowing down. It also supports Wi-Fi 6, the most current wireless protocol, which means that it won’t be going obsolete anytime soon.
The best gigabit routers
|Best for||Model||Image||Max speed||Antennas||Ports||Price*||Get it|
|Best overall||NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12||12 Gbps||8||5 LAN, 2 USB 3.0||$499.99||View on Amazon|
|Best value||TP-Link Archer AX6000||6 Gbps||8||8 LAN, 2 USB 3.0||$319.98||View on Amazon|
|Best for gamers||ASUS RT-AC5300||5.3 Gbps||8||4 LAN, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0||$299.99||View on Amazon|
|Best for budgets||TP-Link Archer AX1500||1.5 Gbps||4||4 LAN||$79.99||View on Amazon|
|Best for||Best overall|
|Model||NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12|
|Max speed||12 Gbps|
|Ports||5 LAN, 2 USB 3.0|
|Get it||View on Amazon|
|Best for||Best value|
|Model||TP-Link Archer AX6000|
|Max speed||6 Gbps|
|Ports||8 LAN, 2 USB 3.0|
|Get it||View on Amazon|
|Best for||Best for gamers|
|Max speed||5.3 Gbps|
|Ports||4 LAN, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0|
|Get it||View on Amazon|
|Best for||Best for budgets|
|Model||TP-Link Archer AX1500|
|Max speed||1.5 Gbps|
|Get it||View on Amazon|
Gigabit internet has gone from a cutting-edge convenience to an indispensable tool for many people. Whereas just 5% of households in the US could access gigabit speeds a few years ago, now 80% have access to gigabit internet service. Of course, to really take advantage of having a gigabit connection to your home, you also need a gigabit router for your devices.
If you want gigabit Wi-Fi, you need a router that can support it. Fortunately, there are plenty of gigabit routers to choose from. We’ve rounded up the best gigabit routers in 2020.
NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12
- 12 Gbps max speed
- 8 antennas
- (4) 1G Ethernet ports, (1) 2.5G Ethernet port, (2) USB 3.0 ports
- 7″ x 3.07″ x 8.3″
The Nighthawk AX12 is a powerhouse in every respect. It can reach speeds up to 4.8 Gbps (4,800 Mbps) on a 5 GHz frequency, which is faster than even most high-speed internet plans can provide. Because it’s a tri-band router, however, it’s essentially running three wireless networks simultaneously, giving you a theoretical max speed of 12 Gbps shared across all the devices in your network.
It also supports Wi-Fi 6, which is significant. Wi-Fi 6 isn’t a huge change in maximum speed from Wi-Fi 5, but it has a number of features that will make a definite difference in your online experience. Not all devices currently support Wi-Fi 6, but it will be the new gold standard moving forward, which makes the Nighthawk AX12 a good investment for those looking to the future when more Wi-Fi 6 devices and faster connections will be available.
The Nighthawk AX12 also supports port aggregation, which allows you to take advantage of those multigigabit speeds through a wired connection. This allows you to connect your most important devices directly to the router to get even faster speeds.
- Transmits very fast speeds
- Allows for more connected devices with tri-band
- Very expensive
TP-Link Archer AX6000
- 6 Gbps max speed
- 8 antennas
- (8) 1G Ethernet ports, (1) Type A USB 3.0 Port, (1) Type C USB 3.0 port
- 10″ x 12″ x 4″
The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is a close contender to the Nighthawk, but you can get it for just over half the price. Like the Nighthawk, the Archer AX6000 can reach speeds up to 4.8 Gbps on a 5 GHz frequency and supports Wi-Fi 6, making it a good long-term investment that will only get better as you add more Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices to your network.
It’s dual-band rather than tri-band, however, which means that your network won’t have the same capacity as the Nighthawk. But for most people, it still offers far more speed than the devices in your house could possibly use and does so at a much lower price. It also supports link aggregation for superfast wired connections. This can be useful if you place your router next to the most demanding device on your network, as you can get even faster connection speeds than you can over Wi-Fi.
- Transmits fast speeds
- Supports Wi-Fi 6
- Still kind of expensive
- 3 Gbps max speed
- 8 antennas
- (4) 1G Ethernet ports, (1) USB 3.0 port, (1) USB 2.0 port
- 6 x 9.6 x 2.6 cm
The RT-AC5300 is a powerful router designed with gaming in mind. It features wide signal coverage, link aggregation, beamforming, and MU-MIMO technology. These features are useful if you have multiple consoles or computers, especially if they’re located in different rooms throughout your house.
It doesn’t fully support Wi-Fi 6, so Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices won’t be able to make use of all the features that they would on some other routers. But it does feature adaptive quality of service (QoS), which allows the router to prioritize gaming data over other activities. This can help you achieve smooth, low-latency gaming.
- Optimized for gaming
- Is still kind of expensive
- Doesn’t fully support Wi-Fi 6
TP-Link Archer AX1500
- 5 Gbps max speed
- 8 antennas
- (4) 1G Ethernet ports
- 2″ x 5.3″ x 1.5″
The AX1500 doesn’t have quite as many features as its top-of-the-line cousin, the AX6000, but it’s still a solid router that provides more than enough speed for most people’s needs. It supports Wi-Fi 6, which is something that not all modern routers do—even the more expensive ones.
This also means that the AX1500 comes equipped with all of the features that come along with Wi-Fi 6, like MU-MIMO and OFDMA technologies for boosting your home network’s capacity. Even though it’s a fraction of the price of other routers that support Wi-Fi 6, it’s ready for the next generation of devices that will be arriving over the next few years.
- Comes at an affordable price
- Supports Wi-Fi 6
- Not as fast
What to look for in a gigabit router
For most people looking for a gigabit router, the first thing on their mind is speed. Of course, there are a lot of different routers that are pushing the limits of current wireless technology, so narrowing down your choices becomes tough when you’ve got half a dozen routers neck and neck at the 6 Gbps mark.
Fortunately, there are a lot of other features that can set a router apart and make a huge difference in how fast your connection actually performs. Here are some of the big things to look for.
Wi-Fi 6 support
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest generation of Wi-Fi specification standards. It is also known as the IEEE 802.11ax standard (that’s why so many models have “AX” in their names), but fortunately, the WI-Fi Alliance as decided to go with the simpler designation of “Wi-Fi 6” so that you no longer need to stand in the networking aisle of the electronics store wondering if your computer is compatible with the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac router on the shelf.
Wi-Fi 6 makes use of MU-MIMO technology, which stands for “multi-user, multiple input, and multiple output.” This allows the router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than each one having to wait its turn to get its data. Wi-Fi 6 also uses orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), which allows a single transmission from the router to carry information to multiple devices. All combined, this means that you can have tons of devices on your home network at the same time without slowing each other down.
Many older devices don’t support Wi-Fi 6, but it will be the new standard moving forward, which means that buying a Wi-Fi 6 router is a good investment. As more Wi-Fi 6 devices and faster connections become available, these routers will become even better than they are today.
In the 802.11 specifications, a is faster than b, but slower than g and n. Also, don’t mix up a, which is slow, with ac and ax, which are fast. We’re glad we’re moving to much simpler version numbers.
Dual-band and tri-band technologies
Modern routers broadcast multiple wireless signals simultaneously, allowing older devices to connect and giving your network a greater capacity. Looking at multiple signals can make comparing routers a bit more complicated, so it’s important to understand the difference between these technologies.
Dual-band routers basically broadcast two wireless networks at once. One broadcasts on a 2.4 GHz frequency and the other on a 5 GHz frequency band. In older routers, this usually meant having different Wi-Fi standards on each network (801.11b and g operated only at 2.4 GHz, while a and ac used only the 5 GHz band).
A dual-band router will allow all your older devices to connect while providing a less congested frequency band to your newer devices. Both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 are able to use both frequencies. Plus, the efficient data encoding in the Wi-Fi 6 standard can even squeeze a bit more speed out of those old 2.4 GHz networks if it has to.
Tri-band routers broadcast three signals: one at 2.4 GHz and two at 5 GHz. That means they’re essentially hosting three Wi-Fi networks at the same time. This further reduces congestion, keeping your network from slowing down.
Doing the math on router speed
When you look at the max speed for a router, it typically shows you the total throughput of all its signals. Wi-Fi 6 speeds currently top out at around 6 Gbps, and adding more signals can’t make one device go any faster.
However, if you had two devices trying to use all the bandwidth at once (this doesn’t typically happen, which is why it’s a “theoretical” max speed), they would normally have to split that bandwidth, with each one downloading data at a rate of 3 Mbps. With a second signal, they can each download (theoretically) at the full 6 Mbps, which places your total throughput at 12 Mbps. This is what you get with the NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12.
One thing in particular to watch out for is that not all online sellers get their math right on this. You might see a tri-band router listed as having a max speed of 6 Gbps, or even 18 Gbps. When in doubt, check out the manufacturer’s website to get the most accurate information.
For most people looking for a fast router, our choice is the TP-Link Archer AX6000. It’s neck and neck with the fastest routers out there on the market, but it costs considerably less. It’s not a tri-band router, so it’s possible to bog it down with enough bandwidth-intensive devices running on the same network, but that would be hard to do. It’s fully Wi-Fi 6 compatible, which means that you won’t be missing out on any of the features of future wireless devices.
Of course, If you have a need for speed and money is no object, you can’t go wrong with the NETGEAR Nighthawk AX12. It’s fast. It can carry a hefty load. And, most importantly, it’s ready for your future Wi-Fi 6 devices, which will really take advantage of the speed it offers.
Gigabit router FAQ
What is gigabit technology?
Gigabit refers to internet speeds of 1,000 Mbps or more. 1,000 megabits makes 1 gigabit, hence the name. To learn more, check out our complete guide to gigabit internet.
What’s the difference between a router and a modem?
A modem is what takes the internet signal from the internet service provider (ISP) and translates it into something the devices in your home can use. In the case of cable internet service, it’s the box that plugs into the coaxial cable jack in your wall (the one with the screws on each end).
A wireless router takes the internet signal from your modem and broadcasts it over the air as radio waves. It’s what powers the Wi-Fi network in your home and allows you to connect your devices. Often, you can find a modem and router combined into a single device, which is sometimes referred to as a wireless gateway.
Should I buy a router or rent one from my ISP?
Most ISPs provide routers or modem-router combos for customers. These are convenient since you can have them set up for you when you get your service installed. They are also guaranteed to work with your internet service.
The downside to using the ISP-provided router is that they tend to be pretty basic. Some users will need more range, power, or features than these routers can provide. The monthly equipment fee may also be more expensive over time than just purchasing an equivalent router. And, of course, you don’t own the equipment. If you move or change providers, you’ll have to get a new router from your next provider that may not meet your needs.
What is a wireless protocol or wireless standard? Which wireless protocol do I need?
The wireless protocol (or wireless standard) is the type of wireless technology used by your router and the devices trying to connect to it. The names of these protocols start with the number “802” and are often advertised on wireless devices, including routers. The protocol used determines several things about a router’s capabilities, but the one relevant to most consumers is maximum speed.
The most current protocol for gigabit speeds is 801.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6. It can theoretically reach speeds up to 9.6 Gbps, which is faster than even the current fiber-optic internet connections can get data to your house. The Wi-Fi 6 standard also includes technologies such as MU-MIMO and OFDMA, which doesn’t increase the max speed but prevents your network from slowing down due to traffic.
The previous generation of wireless network, 801.11ac, also reaches gigabit speeds. And although this older standard doesn’t have all the features of Wi-Fi 6, many routers using this protocol can still keep up with some of the newer Wi-Fi 6 models.
How many Ethernet ports do I need?
Four Ethernet ports is a good number to shoot for—not many devices require Ethernet these days, but it’s still useful for things like game consoles or streaming boxes to maximize reliability. Choosing a router with extra Ethernet ports allows you to plug devices in for a wired connection when you need more reliability than Wi-Fi can provide.
Many routers now support port aggregation, which allows you to combine two gigabit Ethernet ports to improve the file transfer speed. If you have a device that supports port aggregation, you can connect it to your router with two gigabit Ethernet cables for double the aggregated speed.
Does the router have enough range for my home?
Most modern routers will have plenty of range for all but the biggest of houses. Depending on where your internet connection enters your home, you might find that there are dead zones where walls or other obstacles create a “shadow” in your wireless network. In that case, you can look into getting special wireless extenders or long-range routers to make sure you have a strong signal everywhere you need it. Check out our guide to the best long-range wireless routers.
Many routers also support the construction of home mesh networks, which means that you can place multiple, identical routers around your house that work together to form one big, interconnected wireless network. Mesh systems have a lot of advantages over extenders. They have specialized software to make your network work more efficiently, giving you better speeds and less congestion. The only downside is that if you’re investing in a top-of-the-line router, investing in three or four of them can be pretty expensive.
Is the price of a gigabit router worth it?
If you’re already paying for gigabit internet, investing in a gigabit router is a necessity. You can’t take advantage of gigabit speeds without both. That also means that if you have a slower connection, having a faster router won’t make much of a difference.
With the arrival of Wi-Fi 6, one of the most important questions is how many devices you’re going to have on your network. If you’re going to be streaming video in different rooms or trying to play online games with multiple people, it might be worth it to invest in a router that can handle that extra capacity smoothly.
Do I need a new router for gigabit internet?
If you recently signed up for a gigabit internet plan, the router you receive from your ISP should be able to handle gigabit speeds. If you’ve been using your own router and switch to a gigabit internet plan, then you’ll need to upgrade to a router that can take advantage of your new speed if you don’t want to be stuck with the basic router from your ISP.
Can you get gigabit internet over Wi-Fi?
In order to get gigabit internet over Wi-Fi, you need a both a gigabit internet connection from your ISP and a wireless router that supports gigabit speeds. Routers with technologies such as MU-MIMO and OFDMA can help you take advantage of your gigabit Wi-Fi network by increasing the number of devices that can be on your home network without slowing it down.
For the best speeds possible, routers with Wi-Fi 6 capability and Wi-Fi 6 enabled devices work together incredibly efficiently so that you get the fastest and most reliable Wi-Fi connections available.
*Amazon.com Prices as of 10/8/2020 17:35 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Highspeedinternet.com utilizes paid Amazon links
Author - Peter Christiansen
Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.