The Best Wi-Fi routers in 2022

A wi-fi router is the cornerstone of your house community. In case your router is previous, underpowered or malfunctioning, you’ll really feel it: You’ll wrestle to get a superb connection in some components of your home, your video convention will begin to flake out if somebody’s watching Netflix within the different room, and you could end up unable to reap the benefits of your costly high-speed web plan, losing your cash and inflicting pointless frustration.

Whereas bigger properties or these with advanced layouts, or plaster or concrete partitions, are higher served by mesh networks, a single router is all you want in lots of properties. We examined seven extremely rated routers in a 2,000 square-foot, single-story dwelling and a 1,100 square-foot, two-story townhouse, evaluating their vary, single- and multi-device speeds, options and ease of use. We discovered two nice picks: one greatest fitted to a midsize home full of devices, and a cheaper one that also has nice vary and velocity for residences and smaller properties.

The perfect Wi-Fi router general

The Asus RT-AX86U has wonderful velocity and vary, and might deal with a number of folks streaming 4K video, enjoying on-line video games, working from dwelling and taking video calls on the similar time. It’s an amazing Wi-Fi 6 router for small- and average-sized properties with demanding networks.

Asus RT-AX86U

The Asus RT-AX86U delivers unimaginable efficiency for an inexpensive worth. It had a number of the greatest speeds on the longest vary on our hardest checks, and it dealt with a number of units higher than some other router we examined. It additionally takes up much less room. And it contains superior options like 2.5Gbps Ethernet, hyperlink aggregation, visitor networks, Wi-Fi scheduling and an OpenVPN server for individuals who want them. It’s the perfect router we discovered for giant properties with a number of units, particularly when you’ve got an web plan above 200Mbps.

Key specs

  • WiFi model: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
  • Variety of streams: 3×3 (2.4GHz), 4×4 (5GHz)
  • DFS channels supported: 52–64, 100–140
  • Ethernet ports: 1GbE WAN, 2.5GbE WAN or LAN, 4 GbE LAN
  • USB ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps)
  • Mesh-compatible: Sure, Asus AiMesh
  • Different notable options: OpenVPN server, visitor networks, scheduling

In our long-range testing at a 2,000-square-foot home, the RT-AX86U beat the mixed common of its competitors by 47%–138% on the 5GHz band. And it was 11% quicker than the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000 at shut vary.

Once we moved the routers to a two-story townhouse and slammed them with a workload that mimics the wants of a bandwidth-hungry dwelling — a 4K Extremely HD Netflix stream, a 4K HDR Apple TV+ stream, a 16.6GB wi-fi file switch, a bandwidth check between two WiFi 6 smartphones and a World of Warcraft session all on the similar time — the RT-AX86U gained with out query. It gave the bottom recreation latency, the quickest file switch time, the very best common obtain and add velocity on the wi-fi benchmark and the perfect speeds and lowest lag on our Cloudflare internet tests.
The RT-AX86U’s efficiency on the two.4GHz community was often sluggish, however that band could be cluttered with interference from neighboring Wi-Fi networks. Gadgets that want a number of bandwidth, like computer systems, telephones and streaming bins, ought to use 5GHz at any time when doable. (2.4GHz remains to be helpful for older units, and plenty of Wi-Fi good dwelling units use 2.4GHz completely.)

In contrast to a lot of the Wi-Fi 6 routers we examined, which eat up shelf house with their massive rectangular designs, the RT-AX86U can stand vertically. You may depart its three antennas pointed straight up or tilt them barely; both approach, the RT-AX86U’s design saves lots of house and the vertical orientation makes it even simpler to succeed in the router’s rear ports.

Organising the RT-AX86U is a breeze. Its browser-based configuration portal prompts you to select an SSID and password on your Wi-Fi community, and asks whether or not to make use of the identical SSID for each networks. It additionally prompts you to obtain the newest model of the router’s firmware, which is a crucial safety characteristic.

The RT-AX86U has virtually all of the encompasses a router at this worth ought to have: visitor networking on 2.4GHz and 5GHz; schedule-based parental controls for web sites and purposes; quality-of-service guidelines (QoS); a built-in visitors analyzing device for video games and apps; and an OpenVPN server so you possibly can safely connect with your house community from outdoors. It additionally has two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (learn: USB 3.0) for connecting exterior storage which you can then entry utilizing any gadget inside your house community. The RT-AX86U additionally helps extremely strong WPA3 encryption and DFS channels — which will help keep away from interference out of your neighbors’ 5GHz networks.

We had been thrilled to see Asus throw in an additional 2.5Gbps Ethernet port alongside the standard Gigabit WAN and 4 Gigabit LAN ports. Whereas most individuals won’t ever want that a lot velocity, it’s a crucial addition for these fortunate sufficient to have already got entry to gigabit-plus web plans or desktop computer systems with 2.5Gbps ports. It may be used as both a WAN port (to hook up with your modem or community field) or LAN port (to hook up with your Ethernet units). The RT-AX86U even helps hyperlink aggregation, which helps you to mix the connections of two LAN and two WAN ports into one in all every, in case you want the additional velocity or redundancy. One of many router’s Gigabit LAN ports is a “gaming port,” and the RT-AX86U can prioritize visitors from no matter gadget is plugged into it.

Even for those who don’t have gigabit-plus service now, the two.5-Gigabit WAN/LAN port helps futureproof the RT-AX86U. It additionally has two different options that ought to assist maintain it in service for a few years, even when you find yourself needing a extra advanced community setup: It may be used as a wired entry level hooked up to your essential router, and it helps Asus’s AiMesh expertise, which helps you to construct a mesh Wi-Fi community out of supported Asus routers and extenders.

A number of the RT-AX86U’s options are complicated to make use of, or a minimum of poorly described within the documentation. You may, for instance, allow Adaptive QoS to prioritize your gaming units, or allow a particular “Gear Accelerator” for gaming. The latter solely activates a simplified model of the previous, however we needed to flip to Google to determine that out. The RT-AX86U additionally lacks VLAN assist, which helps you to maintain less-secure IoT units (for instance) remoted from the remainder of your community, however this characteristic isn’t frequent on shopper routers.

We didn’t use the Pattern Micro-supplied AIProtection characteristic, which claims to maintain your community secure from malicious websites, nor any of the opposite Pattern Micro options, like Site visitors Analyzer, Apps Analyzer, Recreation Increase or net historical past. These really feel pointless at greatest, and sending your data to a third party could be sketchy — it appears extra a possible safety drawback than an actual resolution (Pattern Micro is the corporate that Apple busted in 2018 for accumulating customers’ browser histories with its varied security-themed apps).

TP-Link Archer AX21

A $250 router is overkill for a lot of properties. For those who don’t have lots of bandwidth-hungry units utilizing your community directly, and also you simply desire a Wi-Fi 6 router with extra throughput and higher vary than the one your ISP rents you, the TP-Link Archer AX21 is a superb improve for underneath $100.
On our hardest, long-range benchmarks, the Archer AX21’s 5GHz speeds had been neck-and-neck with the Archer AX50, a router with a a lot greater velocity score (AX3000 in comparison with AX1800). The one routers that beat the AX21 on this benchmark price greater than twice as a lot.

Key specs

  • WiFi model: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
  • Variety of streams: 2×2 (2.4GHz), 2×2 (5GHz)
  • DFS channels supported: None
  • Ethernet ports: 1GbE WAN, 4 GbE LAN
  • USB ports: 1x USB 2.0 (480Mbps)
  • Mesh-compatible: Sure, OneMesh
  • Different notable options: Scheduling, VPN

Once we moved the routers to a central location in our 2,000-square-foot check home, the AX21 outperformed AX50 on all of our add and obtain checks throughout each 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands — a clear sweep. Its common 5GHz efficiency was 30% to 40% slower than the Asus RT-AX86U and its closest competitors, the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000, but it surely was nonetheless a wonderful exhibiting given its a lot lower cost.

The efficiency hole between the $250 routers and the $100 AX21 was solely obvious after we slammed them with simultaneous gaming visitors, HD streaming and file transfers. The AX21 simply outperformed its direct competitors, the TP-Hyperlink AX50, on practically all of our checks, but it surely was noticeably slower than the RT-AX86U and TP-Hyperlink Archer AX6000. We recorded greater most recreation latency, the file switch took practically twice as lengthy and each our wi-fi benchmarks and Cloudflare connection benchmarks crawled.

What does this imply on your dwelling community? The AX21 is a good match for smaller households. For those who stay by your self or with a roommate, and also you do affordable, on a regular basis actions in your wi-fi community, you’ll be nice. Even for gaming, this router delivers nice velocity and vary on a funds for a solo adventurer or small get together. It’s not the only option for those who stay with a household filled with avid gamers, streaming aficionados, work-from-homers and people who find themselves always hammering the community with high-bandwidth actions. Below these circumstances, the AX21 will meet its match far ahead of the Asus RT-AX86U.

The Archer AX21, like most TP-Hyperlink routers, will not be sophisticated to arrange, however just a few steps within the course of may very well be complicated. Most individuals gained’t know if they should choose one thing aside from the default of “Dynamic IP” for the connection kind, or if they should change their router’s default MAC deal with, and most competing routers don’t embody these in preliminary setup. Apart from that, it’s commonplace stuff, together with the choice to assign a single SSID to each 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and allow computerized firmware updates.

After preliminary setup, you possibly can allow WPA3 encryption (which we suggest), assign visitor networks and dig into superior choices like scheduling, parental controls and a VPN. T.’s no assist for DFS channels, nor a VLAN, however a funds router can’t have every thing.

We like that the AX21 helps TP-Hyperlink’s OneMesh system which, like Asus’ AiMesh, helps you to arrange your personal DIY mesh Wi-Fi system by cobbling collectively different appropriate TP-Hyperlink routers and extenders. It’s an effective way to reuse older gear and get a mesh system that may intelligently hand off units to the perfect entry factors. Nonetheless, OneMesh gained’t allow you to join your mesh nodes again to your major router by way of Ethernet cables. It’s a wi-fi connection or nothing, which shall be slower than Asus’ resolution.

The AX21 has a single USB 2.0 port on the rear for network-accessible storage. It’s a characteristic most individuals most likely gained’t play with. Even when they do, USB 2.0 is previous and sluggish in comparison with USB 3.0, which we usually discover on new routers these days.

You can management the AX21 by way of Alexa, however you shouldn’t. Nor do you have to arrange your router with a TP-Hyperlink ID so you possibly can alter its settings from anyw. by way of the corporate’s Tether app. Most individuals don’t want that a lot entry to their routers, and it’s a follow that doubtlessly poses plenty of security problems.

Options apart, because you’re unlikely to make use of most of them, the AX21 performs w. it counts: nice speeds and vary for its extremely low worth. So long as you’re not inviting the router into a house that’s going to push it to the brink, the AX21 is a strong alternative for an easier on-line life.

If you’re shopping for a brand new router in 2022, get one with Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 has been round since 2019, and it’s quicker, safer and might assist extra units than Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Most new telephones, tablets and laptops include Wi-Fi 6, and the older units in your home will work nice with a Wi-Fi 6 router too. (Wi-Fi 6E, however, is simply too new and too costly, and t. are virtually no units but that may reap the benefits of its tech.)

When you’ve got a Wi-Fi 5 router that’s working nice, t.’s no rush to improve, but when that’s the case you’re most likely not studying this text. In case your router’s not reducing it, it’s value determining why, since that’ll assist you determine what to search for.

In case your router struggles to maintain up with the variety of units in your community, a Wi-Fi 6 router will help. When you’ve got a foul connection in components of your house, t. are just a few steps you possibly can attempt earlier than shopping for a brand new router.

First, ensure that your router is situated as near the middle of your dwelling house as you possibly can. You need to use an app like WiFiman (free, for iOS and Android) to check sign energy, throughput and latency round your house.

For those who’re completely satisfied together with your Wi-Fi besides in a single or two bother spots, a Wi-Fi extender can repair it. If t. are a number of rooms that want higher sign, a brand new router will help, however for giant (above 2,500-3,000 sq. toes) or advanced areas you could want a mesh Wi-Fi system, like Eero, Netgear Orbi or Google Wi-Fi. For those who do get a brand new router, ensure that to check its efficiency all through your home as quickly as you get it, so you possibly can return it if crucial.

Most new telephones, laptops, and tablets have Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) radios inside, often two-stream (2×2). You seemingly have loads of Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) units in your community, and possibly some even older ones too.

A 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 router shall be higher capable of juggle these Wi-Fi 6 units, because of expertise referred to as MU-MIMO that lets it break up its streams between shoppers (if all of them assist it). Beamforming — which lets a router focus a wi-fi sign within the path of a particular gadget — is one other good characteristic to search for, and it’s included in Wi-Fi 6.

Get a router that helps as many wi-fi channels in 5GHz as doable, together with these certain by DFS, or Dynamic Frequency Selection. The extra channels your router can entry, the extra you possibly can keep away from your neighbors’ competing wi-fi networks, which may take an enormous chunk out of your wi-fi efficiency at dwelling. With DFS channels, nevertheless, you’ll expertise some interruptions in case your router notices they’re being utilized by native radar techniques (airports, climate stations, et cetera.)

We expect it’s necessary for a router to additionally be capable to operate as an entry level, which can assist you to lengthen its life (and the vary of your Wi-Fi community) for those who improve to one thing newer. Your subsequent router also needs to have Gigabit Ethernet ports, at minimal; when you’ve got a gigabit web plan already, search for one thing with a 2.5Gbps port.

Most individuals by no means contact a majority of their router’s options, so don’t store by characteristic until you’re an influence consumer with particular wants. The options you need to care about are computerized firmware updates, visitor networks, an “entry level mode” for extending your router’s usefulness, assist for DFS channels, and WPA3 encryption. (VLANs are additionally a nice-to-have for energy customers that wish to wall off their unsecured good dwelling gear.)

Relating to safety, resist the temptation to make use of any characteristic that might ship your router’s knowledge to a third-party company, just like the Pattern Micro companies equipped with ASUS routers’ AiProtection. Our recommendation is to stay to the fundamentals. Nor do you have to hyperlink your router to Amazon’s Alexa, or use cloud-based companies like Pattern Micro’s AiCloud to hook up with your router from afar or distant management apps like TP-Hyperlink’s Tether.

David Murphy/CNN Underscored

We pored over opinions of Wi-Fi 6 routers to provide you with an inventory of contenders, primarily based on their benchmarks and opinions from consultants across the net. We recognized seven candidates for hands-on testing: 4 essential contenders and three funds choices.

We examined in two places. In our first spherical, we arrange all of our contenders in a 2,000-square-foot home. Just like our testing for Wi-Fi extenders, we positioned the router on the far facet of a home (in a rest room), related a Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely 5G to the router’s 5GHz community from an adjoining bed room, and related an iPhone 12 Professional to the identical 5GHz community from the lounge on the both finish of the home, 45 to 50 toes away. We used the Galaxy S21 Extremely 5G and iPhone 12 Professional as a result of each have 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 radios and might reap the benefits of the velocity enhancements of our Wi-Fi 6 routers, and we caught with 5GHz as a result of it helps quicker speeds and is much less susceptible to interference from neighboring alerts than 2.4GHz connections. Our two smartphones had no line of sight to at least one one other, and had been separated by a number of rooms and partitions. The Samsung smartphone additionally had no line of sight to the router, however was solely separated by two partitions and one small room.

We loaded up the WiFiman app on every smartphone and ran add and obtain checks (downloading from the Samsung to the iPhone and importing in reverse) to provide you with a preliminary rating. The WiFiman app may also assist you to check your Web speeds, sign energy, and latency as you progress round your house; it’s an amazing device for diagnosing your house community.

From t., two routers emerged as apparent finalists for our major and funds picks. We retested these utilizing the identical telephones, in the identical positions, however transferring the router to the middle of the home — following the identical recommendation we’d give anybody organising their router for the primary time.

We then moved the finalists to a two-story, 1,100 square-foot townhouse. We positioned the router in the lounge on the bottom flooring, close to a 4K Apple TV and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely 5G, each related to the router’s 5GHz community. Upstairs, we related an iPad Professional to the router’s 5GHz community from the bed room immediately above the lounge, and a desktop pc with an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 adapter, MacBook Professional and iPhone 12 Professional to the router’s 5GHz community from an adjoining room.

We ran a simultaneous load check consisting of a 4K UHD stream on the Apple TV, a 4K Apple TV+ stream on the iPad Professional, a 16.6GB file switch from the desktop PC to a NAS field (related to the community by way of Gigabit Ethernet), World of Warcraft on the MacBook Professional, and the identical WiFiman switch check we used beforehand from the iPhone 12 Professional to the Samsung Galaxy S21. We recorded all the outcomes of those checks, and threw within the outcomes of Cloudflare’s Internet Speed Test, run from the desktop pc, as an additional knowledge level. These checks gave us a transparent image of how the routers carried out on a small variety of units at excessive vary and optimum situations, in addition to a lot of various units in pretty taxing situations.

David Murphy/CNN Underscored

In our testing, the TP-Link Archer AX6000 was a detailed second to the Asus RT-AX86U. Just like the RT-AX86U, it’s a dual-band, four-stream Wi-Fi 6 router. It didn’t do fairly as properly in our multi-device testing, and it’s often costlier than the Asus. It’s nonetheless an amazing possibility, particularly when you’ve got lots of wired units you’d like to attach, because it has eight Ethernet ports, twice as many as our prime decide. (You can, after all, all the time add an inexpensive networking swap to the RT-AX86U if crucial.)

The Archer AX6000 carried out very properly on our preliminary knowledge switch checks between two Wi-Fi 6 smartphones. It was particularly sturdy on 2.4GHz, although we don’t think about that as necessary as its 5GHz efficiency, since your neighbors’ competing wi-fi networks can create all types of interference in that band that even a tremendous router will wrestle to beat.

The Archer AX6000 did fairly properly on our multi-device testing, w. we slammed the router with all types of visitors from quite a lot of units positioned round a two-story dwelling. Given it was costlier than our stronger and quicker major decide on the time of our testing, we expect Asus’ RT-AX86U is the perfect router to get.

The AX6000 has a single 2.5Gbps WAN port and eight Gigabit LAN ports, and you should use hyperlink aggregation to mix two of those LAN ports into one single, speedy connection. You additionally get a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port to attach storage that community units can entry. We don’t typically see USB-C ports on routers, in order that was a pleasing shock.

You arrange the AX6000 utilizing the identical sort of browser-based consumer interface because the Archer AX21. A “HomeCare” part, not discovered on the AX21 configuration, is w. you’ll be capable to arrange schedule-driven parental controls that may block content material by class (playing, social networking, and many others.). It’s also possible to view which web sites a selected particular person in your home visited and the way a lot time they spent on-line. That is additionally the part w. you’ll be capable to arrange the router’s QoS, to prioritize visitors to and from particular units, and allow its built-in antivirus software program. (Because the software program is a Trend Micro feature, we share the identical privateness issues as we had with the RT-AX86U’s comparable options. Greatest to skip that one.)

These apart, the AX6000 has all the usual options we’d anticipate from a TP-Hyperlink router: visitor networks, Wi-Fi which you can schedule on and off, OpenVPN assist, computerized firmware updates and OneMesh. We additionally love that you’ve got a ton of various channels you should use on your 5GHz community: 36–48, 52–64 (DFS), 100–144 (DFS) and 149–165. That ought to provide you with loads of leeway for avoiding your neighbors’ competing networks. And for those who resolve ultimately to improve to a different router sooner or later, you possibly can simply arrange the AX6000 as a wired entry level to increase your wi-fi community. Don’t let good {hardware} go to waste.

The TP-Link Archer AX50 router was a detailed runner-up to our funds decide. It had barely higher long-range efficiency than the AX21, however was outperformed by the newer, cheaper AX21 in our different checks. Its AX3000 velocity score proved deceptive; to take benefit, you’ll want to make use of 160MHz channels on 5GHz, which most units don’t assist. Most neighborhoods don’t have the free bandwidth for channels this broad, although the AX50 does allow you to use DFS channels to attempt to escape competing Wi-Fi networks on 5GHz. Add in the truth that is doesn’t assist computerized firmware updates or TP-Hyperlink’s OneMesh, we expect you need to go for the AX21.

The Netgear Nighthawk AX6 (RAX45) AX4300 router had subpar efficiency on our preliminary long-range checks: half the common efficiency of the Asus RT-AX86U on 5GHz, so we dominated it out consequently. It does price round $100 much less, however we expect it’s value spending a little bit extra for the elevated velocity and vary.

The Linksys E9450 struggled with 5GHz sign energy in our preliminary testing; it’s the one router we examined that couldn’t even join on the long-range check location. Although we respect the router’s slick design, with no seen exterior antennas, the inner antennas didn’t do pretty much as good a job. Making issues worse, the router did a poor job avoiding interference. Its computerized configuration mode, which is meant to assist it decide a channel and bandwidth profile that avoids interfering with neighboring alerts, as an alternative defaulted to the widest doable bandwidth whatever the crowded airwaves. 4 folks attempting to stroll shoulder-to-shoulder down a busy sidewalk and also you get the image. We’d choose that the router insist they stroll single-file as an alternative.

The Netgear R6700AX, our third funds contender, did an OK job on our preliminary, long-range testing, however the different low-priced routers had been practically twice as quick on 5GHz, and at vary we had points getting a connection to stay on the router’s 5GHz community from our check iPhone. That’s not a superb signal, and it led us to consider we had been testing the router on the very limits of its vary. We skilled no connection points over comparable distances with TP-Hyperlink’s Archer AX21 or Archer AX50, and we expect you’d be higher off with both of them.


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