Strictly speaking, you don’t need a wireless router to get internet service. A wireless modem is all you need. But if you want excellent internet access, a WiFi router is hardly optional.
There are some reasons why you should get a WiFi router. Let’s break it down briefly, shall we?
For starters, there’s security. While some internet modems are equipped with a basic firewall, wireless routers offer far more protection against hostile attacks than a modem by itself. While a router can’t protect your computer from viruses, it does have built-in firewalls that work to protect you from hackers or people who might want to steal your data.
This ties into the next reason you want a WiFi router: wireless protocols. One thing a router does is it mixes up and complicates your wireless signal, making them harder to hack. But by updating your internet protocols, they also allow your computer, gaming console and other devices to take advantage not just of the latest security, but the latest technology. This leads to better connectivity, faster results, and quicker download and upload speeds.
That’s right. WiFi routers make the internet better.
Of course, it’s also important to consider the wireless standards of your computer and other internet devices. All computers are rated to work with a certain classification of a router, known as a Wi-Fi AC specification. You reap no benefits if your computer’s wireless rating is better than the rating of your router. This means that it can be a good idea to update your router along with your computer.
Now that you know a thing or two about why you should get a WiFi router let’s talk about what features you should look for in an individual unit.
Things to Consider
Your internet speed may be only as good as your modem, but your Wi-Fi connection will only be as good as your router.
As much fun as it is to talk in riddles, what exactly do I mean by this? Well, it’s simple. When you log onto the internet with a Wi-Fi connection, your speed will be much faster if you have a wireless router, rather than simply piggy-backing off of your modem.
But the speed of the Wi-Fi signals is directly connected to the speed of the router. This means that if your modem has a speed rating of 750 Mbps but your router can only handle 300 Mbps, your Wi-Fi connection will be tied to the slower speed of the router.
This is just one thing you need to consider before buying a router. There are several other factors to remember as well.
1. Speed Rating
It’s important to make sure your router is rated for the same speed rating as your modem and your internet service connection. Otherwise, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Conversely, however, a router that is rated for a higher speed connection than your modem or internet service provides will also be tied to the slower speed.
2. Internet Protocol
There are several different internet protocols. The three most popular are 802.11ac, 802.11n and 802.11g. Knowing which protocol your modem and internet service is running off of will help you to buy a better router.
Just as not all modems are compatible with all internet service providers, not all routers are necessarily compatible with all modems. Compatibility may be limited by the internet protocol you’re running, or it could be limited by a competing brand.
For most of us, the style of our router isn’t all that important. It sits in our office somewhere, quite possibly out of site, except for when we want to connect a device to it. But for others, a stylish router is a big deal. It’s good to know what you want, but don’t pay extra for a fancy design you don’t care about.
Unfortunately, the price will often be a driving factor in what kind of router you purchase. Faster routers will always be more expensive, sometimes even prohibitively so. However, it is always best to try to match up your router with your modem speed if at all possible.
The Best WiFi Routers
The best wireless router will vary from person to person depending on the speed of your internet connection. However, if you’re looking for a solid recommendation for an excellent router, look no further than the TP-Link AC1900 Long Range Wireless Wi-Fi Router. It may not look stylish, but it delivers performance where it matters.
Best WiFi Routers Under $25
TP-Link N300 Wireless Wi-Fi Router
With nearly 17,000 user reviews on Amazon, the TP-Link N300 Wireless Wi-Fi Router is a popular model. Its low cost makes it an excellent entry-level router perfect for the average internet-age household.
This particular router has two external antennae transmitting at five dBi, an excellent frequency for boosting the wireless signal across a larger area while also helping to stabilize the connection. It works with all 802.11b/g internet protocols and offers wireless speeds of up to 300 Mbps. Setup is designed to be hassle-free, and technical support is available 24/7 should any problems arise. The router uses the latest WPA/WPA2 security encryption to keep your internet safe.
The router is equipped with parental controls that allow you to regulate what your child can and cannot access on the internet. The wireless speeds available are rather low, but if your wireless demands aren’t too severe, this is a good router.
Best WiFi Routers Under $50
TP-Link N150 Wireless Nano Travel Router
Although most wireless routers are designed for home or office use, there are exceptions to the rule. The TP-Link N150 Wireless Nano Travel Router is one such exception. Although the N150 wireless nano travel router can be used at home, it is especially useful for travelling.
The N150 serves as a local access point or WiFi hotspot. Unlike wireless hotspots you find at cafes and restaurants, however, this is a private, secured hotspot, meaning only you and your friends/family can access it. In addition to granting greater privacy, this also often ensures better service and connections, as you aren’t jostling with other patrons for a share of the wireless network.
The N150 is powered by a USB-C, which can be connected either with an external adapter or a USB port. It is compatible with 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n protocols, and it is compatible with 2.4 GHz WiFi-powered devices. In addition to functioning as a router or mobile hotspot, it can be set up as a range extender or a bridge as well.
The N150 Nano does a lot of things well, but none exceptionally, and its slow internet download speeds are problematic for use as a primary router. If you’re looking for an extender or a mobile hotspot, however, the N150 works well, and it is also backed by an industry-leading two-year warranty. There are a lot of worse ways to spend your money.
TP-Link AC1200 Wireless Wi-Fi Gigabit Router
If you’re looking for speed, this is the first router on this list capable of delivering it. Where the previous routers were limited by maximum download speeds of 150 and 300 Mbps, the TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Router offers download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps.
The TP-Link AC1200 is quite a bit more advanced than the TP-Link N300. For one, it supports dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz networks simultaneously, making it easier for families to share internet without slowing it down and using bandwidth unnecessarily. It supports 802.11ac, the latest generation of wireless internet protocol.
The router provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports and cleaves to the latest WPS security standards. Your important data is protected by security encryption. The router also allows you to create guest networks, set parental access controls and carefully controlling internet bandwidth. The router is backed by a two-year warranty.
Best WiFi Routers Under $75
NETGEAR WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Router
Not everyone wants to pay premium prices for internet speeds they don’t need. That doesn’t mean you should settle for a subpar router. Although the NETGEAR WNDR4500 N900 WiFi Router doesn’t offer internet speeds as fast as the TP-Link AC1200, it protects your internet with various security provisions.
Like most high-speed wireless routers, the WNDR4500 provides dual-band Wi-Fi simultaneously broadcasting at both 2.4 and 5 GHz. In this case, both are rated for up to 450 Mbps. It has one WAN, and 4 LAN Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports and is supported by all the latest security features. These include WPA/WPA2, double firewall protection from SPI and NAT and DoS (denial of service) attack protection.
There are some other useful features as well. The NETGEAR Genie app makes it easier to monitor and modify your home network. Parental controls let you decide what your kids access and when they access it. If you’re looking for a good mid-range WiFi router, the WNDR4500 is a good place to start.
Best WiFi Routers Under $100
ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router
When it comes to providing better network coverage, more antennas is always a good thing. Router with more antennas can broadcast more of a signal and overcome bigger barriers, effectively increasing the coverage of your internet. The ASUS RT-N66U is one such router.
Like other dual-band routers, the RT-N66U transmits up to 900 Mbps of data on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The router features five Gigabit Ethernet ports, including one WAN and four LAN. The router comes with an app that helps you to get your router up and to roll. The router is compatible with a variety of wireless protocols, including 802.11A, 802.11B, 802.11G and 802.11n.
This is a pretty good router for the price, and it delivers decent speed and performance, as well as pretty good coverage. It doesn’t have the same two-year warranty that TP-Link offers their routers, but this is a very good product perfect for the middle-of-the-road high-speed internet.
Securifi Almond 3
Securifi Almond 3 is a completely different type of wireless range extender. Instead of functioning solely as a router, the Securifi Almond can also function as a WiFi extender. You can combine it with multiple Almond 3s to improve your range and wireless functions.
One of the big differences between the Securifi Almond and other WiFi routers is its interface. The Almond was the world’s first touchscreen wireless router, and its touchscreen interface makes it easier to install the Almond and manage your wireless household. The Almond 3 uses a wireless mesh system to blanket your house in a new kind of wireless connection with better reception and coverage. The Almond 3 offers dual-band 2.4 Ghz/5.0 GHz at speeds of up to 1300 Mbps. It is compatible with the latest security standards and wireless protocols.
The main problem with the Almond 3 is that it isn’t compatible with ordinary range extenders. While you can always purchase additional Almond 3 units, they cost well over $100 each. Although they cover a greater area than a standard range extender, they’re also significantly more expensive. A single Almond 3 router can cover an area of approximately 1300 square feet, so if you have a large home or office, the Securifi Almond can be an expensive way to go.
Best WiFi Routers Under $150
TP-Link AC1900 Long Range Wi-Fi Router
TP-Link backs their Wi-Fi routers with the best warranty in the industry, which is just one reason to love the TP-Link AC1900 Long Range Wi-Fi router. The other reason to love it is the fast wireless download speeds it allows.
To be fair, there’s a lot to like about this particular AC1900 wireless router. The 5 GHz band offers download speeds of up to 1300 Mbps, offering plenty of speed for internet streaming, HD gaming, massive downloads and other uses. At the same time, a 600 Mbps 2.4 GHz band is still available for casual browsing, making this a perfect internet for a family with different needs. And interests.
Three antennae help to improve coverage, and advanced beamforming means it penetrates deeper and further, pushing your coverage into areas of the house that might be spotty otherwise. A 1GHz processor works hard to ensure your wireless connections continue without interruptions, and both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports are available for file sharing and other uses. Top it all off with TP-Link’s two-year warranty, and you’ve got a winning combination.
NETGEAR Nighthawk Router (R7000) – AC1900 Wireless Speed
The NETGEAR Nighthawk has long been a favourite of gamers and stylish users who enjoy a sleek, high-tech look to their electronic devices. The Nighthawk is also known in gaming circles for its beamforming technology and excellent wireless download speeds.
The AC1900 Nighthawk provides dual-band Wi-Fi with 450 Mbps download speeds at 2.4 GHz and speeds of 1900 Mbps at 5 GHz. Three high-powered wireless antennas help improve the range of the router while also improving both coverage and performance. Beamforming+ technology helps to focus WiFi signals directly to your WiFi devices, leading to better connections and faster speeds.
Like all NETGEAR routers, the Nighthawk comes with the genie app, which guides you through the installation and makes managing your network a cinch. A built-in 2.4GHz dual-core processor manages your data services to keep your devices connected at all times. Ports include one WAN, four LAN, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0.
ASUS Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router
Once upon a time, this was the fastest Wi-Fi router in the world. Now, of course, there are routers capable of handling download speeds even internet service providers can’t provide. Nevertheless, the ASUS Dual-band AC1900 Gigabit router is a very capable device.
Its dual-band data streams at rates of 600 and 1300 Mbps. A 1GHz dual-core processor keeps the connections clear, and many LAN ports are provided, as well as a WAN connection. Also, there are ports for both USB 2.0 and 3.0.
None of these things is a surprise by now. This is all sort of what you expect from a wireless router. So what makes the ASUS AC1900 stand out from other companies? This router gives you local access to the ASUS AiCloud, a private cloud that allows you to share files and documents privately with family and friends connected to the same wireless network. Aside from being a little loud, this router offers stellar performance.
Best WiFi Routers Under $300
NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 Smart WiFi Router (R8000)
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200 is a seriously powerful wireless router. In addition to having six antennas for incredible signal strength and coverage, it offers triple-band Wi-Fi, allowing more devices to connect and take full advantage of the download speeds provided by the Nighthawk X6.
This includes one router running at 2.4 GHz with speeds of 600 Mbps and two 5.0 GHz bands offering speeds of 1300 Mbps, for a combined total of 3.2 Gbps. In addition to its 1GHz dual-core processor, it also has three offload processors to help share the computing load. The Nighthawk X6 uses SmartConnect technology to automatically pair you with the ideal bandwidth for your activities. Streaming movies or online gaming will connect you with a higher bandwidth while browsing pictures of kittens will keep you at slower speeds.
This is an ideal router for college roommates or professionals who work at home. If you have several people in your dorm or household who stream frequently or play a lot of HD gaming, this router is a lifesaver.
There is no shortage of reasons to invest in a wireless router. Whether you’re tired of paying an arm and a leg on smartphone data plans or you need to take advantage of faster upload speeds for work, a good router can make your life a lot easier. And now that you have a better understanding of what you need in a router, you’re ready to make a decision. Have fun!
*All prices mentioned above are at the time of publishing.