Best Wireless Router 2019 – In Depth Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

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The In-Depth Buyer’s Guide 2019

Best Wireless Router

Over 60+ Hours Testing & Reviewing 79 Wireless Routers.

Winner: TP-Link Archer A20 Smart Wi-Fi Router

9.8 out of 10

In a world of smart homes and constantly connected devices, having a solid, reliable wireless router is crucial. Unfortunately you might be hard pressed to find the best wireless router on the market due to the sheer number of choices.

This is why we went out and got our hands on the most popular models so we could narrow them down and find the top 5 wireless routers of 2019 for you. Our testing consisted of speed tests, performance at range and price. We even looked at cutting-edge features like MU-MIMO and mesh networking to get the full picture.

After dozens of hours of testing on a variety of different devices, we’ve identified the TP-Link Archer A20 as the best wireless router of 2019 because of its blazing speeds and highly customizable feature set. Keep reading to learn more about this top-of-the-line router and our other four picks so you can stay connected to your internet and get the fastest speeds possible.


Test Results and Ratings

– August 2019

How We Decided

4 main factors come down to picking the top routers.

5G
Wireless

400 Mb/s​
Throughput

1500+ sq. ft
Range

$100-$500
Value

Best Wireless Router

 TP-Link Archer A20 Router

9.8

out of 10

Pros
Cons
  • Easy installation

  • Amazon Alexa compatible

  • Super-strong parental controls

  • 5 GHz performance struggles at range

  • Bulky antennas

Why We Like It: The TP-Link Archer A20 features a wide range of features and management settings that make it extremely easy to use, including compatibility with Amazon Alexa. All fo this adds up to one of the best wireless routers for 2019.

Best Budget Wireless Router

 Linksys AC1200 Wireless Router

9.6

out of 10

Pros
Cons
  • Super affordable price

  • Excellent 5 GHz throughput

  • Easy installation and network management

  • Antennas aren’t removable

  • Slow file transfer speeds

Why We Like It: The Linksys AC1200 has no business being as fast as it is at this price, but every time we tested it, it blew away the competition in this cost tier. If you want a cheap router that will still keep your modem sweating through the heaviest of downloads, this is the one to get.

Best Wireless Router for Long Range

 Asus RT-AC88U Gaming Router

9.4

out of 10

Pros
Cons
  • MU-MIMO enabled

  • Fast throughput at long range

  • Tons of ports

  • More expensive than most

  • Awkward USB port placement

  • Less than average NAS performance

Why We Like It: If you’re a speed fiend and you need long range, you’re not going to find another router on shelves that delivers the best combination of range, speed and reliability into the kind of convenient package you get with the ASUS RT-AC88U.

Best Wireless Router for Gaming

TP-Link Archer C5400X Router

9.2

out of 10

Pros
Cons
  • Stellar performance

  • Tri-band functionality

  • Tons of customization options

  • Big and bulky

  • Most expensive option on our list

Why We Like It: The TP-Link AC5400 might be a bit overkill for non-gamer households, but for serious gamers or media streamers who want to be able to use multiple devices in one area of the home at once, the MU-MIMO radio on this router is undoubtedly one of the best in the business.

Best Mesh Networking Router

 Netgear Orbi Mesh Router

9.1

out of 10

Pros
Cons
  • Best performance on the list

  • MU-MIMO enabled

  • Easy to set up and configure

  • Actual routers are really big

  • Expensive when purchasing multiple

  • USB functionality is limited

Why We Like It: The Netgear Orbi turns traditional router conventions on their head with a beautifully minimal (if a little large) design, insane speed test results and enough style to go around. If you’re trying to get full-home coverage, the Orbi mesh networking system is the router for you.

Why You Should Buy a New Wireless Router

Wireless router technology has evolved rapidly in the past few years, incorporating a plethora of new wireless bands, transmission standards, and extra features that are all designed to keep up with the demands of a modern home.

Older routers that use b/g/n to transmit their signal aren’t built for the way people use their wireless networks these days, whether it be streaming Netflix in 4K, downloading file sizes that can stretch into the tens (if not hundreds) of gigabytes, or playing online games that demand the absolute lowest ping/latency possible to get you to the top of the local leaderboard.

If you find yourself running any of these activities but are constantly shaking a fist at your at the dreaded “buffering” symbol as it mocks you from the other side of the screen, a router upgrade could be just what you need to solve these problems and so many more.

Similarly, if you’re updating your smartphone every year to the latest model and splurging on a shiny new laptop shortly after, your router should get just as much consideration as any other technology you use on a daily basis.Your wireless router is the last boundary between your devices and the rest of the internet, which is why it’s important to ensure that it’s running the latest firmware with the best firewalls, and always has enough horsepower to spare whenever you tack on a new laptop or phone to your endlessly growing network of personal mobile technology.

Last, there’s the advent of features like MU-MIMO and mesh networking that should perk up the ears of anyone who’s considering upgrading their home network so far into the future that they won’t have to even think about router shopping for the next two years or more. Mesh networking in particular is probably one of the best reasons to upgrade in 2019, as it gives you a way to get signal in places like the basement, attic, or backyard which were previously thought to be total deadzones for all but the most powerful routers out there.

These reasons are just a few of the dozens that should give you all the motivation you need to look into investing in a new router this year!

Shopping Guide for Wireless Routers

When we went on the hunt for the best router in 2019, we measured dozens of different features, stats, and metrics against one another to come up with a list of the top five you’ll find on shelves today.


For starters, all the routers we chose must have a minimum bandwidth rating of 1900AC and pump out at least 200Mbps on the 5GHz spectrum. We made sure the router had a bevy of extra parental controls and firewall settings as well, so you can be sure your family is always protected when they’re on the web. Last but not least, wireless router come with future-proof tech such as MU-MIMO, which ensures that you’re always getting the fastest possible connection no matter where you’re browsing from in the house.

To see why the AC3200ACM beat out the rest of the competition, continue reading on in our annual roundup of the best routers in 2019!

Why You Should Trust Me


As Gadget Review’s resident router expert, in my nearly half-decade long career of reviewing the newest technology in wireless hardware, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a great router, and where the rest of the duds are so obvious you can see them coming from a mile away.

I’ve spent roughly 200 hours reviewing 15+ routers for Gadget Review, and have written a number of how-to articles and tutorials which explain what router technology is, how to use it, and where it can help you grow your home’s wireless network the most. I’ve had just about every mobile networking app installed on my iPhone 7 at one point or another, and know the ins and outs of both the desktop and web-browser based configurators that many of the current manufacturers use.

My reviews have been featured on the websites of some of the top router distributors, including Linksys, and I’ve continued to stay up to date on all the latest developments on both the hardware and software side of the business for years.

How We Choose Wireless Routers That Are Best in Quality

To make our list, each router had to not only perform exceptionally well in our range test, but had to achieve a set of features and match that with a price that was commensurate in value.

​​
When you’re asking yourself what to look for in a wireless router, there are a few key features to keep an eye on. How we choose the best of the best routers usually comes down to three main factors: the signal strength, the number of onboard features, and price. The routers on this list are all at the head of their game in these arenas, and consistently offer top-of-the-line performance alongside a fair price and a plethora of extras that users can utilize to perfectly customize their own wireless networking experience at home or their office space.

Router technology is constantly evolving to meet the demands of new internet activities, whether that be online gaming, photo uploads, or the advent of 4K streaming.

All the routers we’ve chosen run at a spec of 802.11ac, the latest version of Wi-Fi transmission technology to be released, and also feature a minimum of two wireless bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. They also come with a bevvy of extra features that put them ever-so slightly above the rest of the competition, including: QoS management, parental controls, intuitive mobile apps, media servers, internal firewalls, and more. The routers were tested in a 2600 sq ft home, which was only surrounded by two other wireless networks, so we experienced as little interference as we could during the testing process.

Accessing and configuring these features used to have a barrier of entry that only the mid-level tech nerd would understand completely, but nowadays thanks to mobile and desktop apps, the process has gotten significantly simpler to deal with.

Dashboards like the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi system continue to set the gold standard for how to create a piece of software that feels like it was made for actual people, not just those who had read the Wireless Routers for Dummies handbook. Every feature is clearly laid out and explained in a way that makes sense to the layman. In today’s world of internet threats, we think it’s important that you as the buyer (and owner) of these routers know exactly what they can (and can’t) do to protect you and your family while they browse online, which is why a well-laid out dashboard is a must.

When it comes to speed, all routers on this list are equipped with a minimum spec of 1900AC, which means they have a theoretical max output of simultaneous dual-band signals up to 600 Mbps (2.4 GHz) + 1300 Mbps (5 GHz) at a time. Options like the Linksys WRT3200ACM are even faster than that though, cresting at a whopping 2.6Gbps.

One of the newer pieces of tech to make it to the high-end sector of the router market in recent years is the addition of MU-MIMO, or Multiple User Mulitple-Input Multiple-Output technology. As explained in my HowToGeek article on the subject, MU-MIMO is a style of beamforming technology which evenly distributes traffic to all members of the household simultaneously, instead of one at a time. There still aren’t a huge number of devices that can support a MU-MIMO stream just yet, but if you’re the type of buyer who prefers to future-proof as much as possible when making purchases like these, than MU-MIMO is the way to go.

Finally, we always do what we can to keep a careful eye on the design of a router, and only recommend those which don’t take up too much space or end up being a central conversation piece of your home (unless you want them to be, of course). Outliers like the AmpliFi HD take router design to the next level, though we suspect it could be a number of years before more the traditional router makers go the same route.

Other Routers Considered

#

Device Name

1

Linksys EA8300

2

Amped Wireless ALLY Plus

3

Netgear Nighthawk X10

4

TP-LINK Archer C5400

5

D-Link DIR-879 AC1900 EXO

6

Netgear Nighthawk X4S

7

Netgear Nighthawk X8 AC5300

8

Linksys EA7500 AC1900

9

TP-Link P5 AC1900

10

Linksys WRT1900ACS

Wireless Router Features to Look Out For

​Before (and after) you buy your next router, educate yourself to some of the top features and terms associated with a wireless router.

  • Dual-band
  • wiFi Types
  • Range
  • Ports
  • Parental Controls
  • WPS & Security
  • Media Server

Having once been a kid with the internet myself, it’s no secret that parental controls installed on a local computer can only go so far to prevent certain members of the household from doing what they want online without getting caught. This is where the backend restriction controls come in.

All of the routers on this list come with some form of parental control panel or another, capable of directly limiting access to specific websites, IP addresses, or connection types throughout the day.

QOS (Quality of Service) configurations on the other hand, are made for just the opposite, customizing which channels get opened up to a greater amount of bandwidth over others (a game vs. a Netflix stream, for example).

If you live in a house with a lot of roommates or family members, but need to prioritize certain activities over another, a solid QOS rollout is how you’re going to make it happen. Next is the option to set up what’s known as a “guest network”, or a WiFi space that’s transmitted separately from the primary hub. Guest networks are great if you have people coming in and out of your home often and asking for the password, but don’t feel comfortable letting everyone on the block know how to get into to your main network after the visit is over.

Three Ways to Increase Your Wireless Speed

Switch to 5Ghz, Utilize QoS and Invest in in a MU-MIMO Router

1

Switch from 2.4GHz to 5GHz

While the 2.4GHz spectrum is fine for homes that have a lot of obstacles between the router and your device (or has a lot of routers surrounding your space, like in an apartment), it’s also the slowest of the two radio types and can only max out around 120Mbps at best. On the other hand, the 5GHz spectrum is ripe for anyone who has a need for speed, and can often top out up to 700Mbps under ideal conditions. You can read our in-depth guide on the exact differences between the two options in our guide found here.

2

Utilize QoS

QoS, or “Quality of Service”, is a feature on many modern routers which allows you to prioritize certain applications or devices for increased traffic throughput. For example, if you’re always stuck behind the annoying Netflix buffering signal on your living room television because someone else in the house can’t stop downloading torrents, simply go into your router’s settings and give the TV and the Netflix app priority over their downloads. This will force the router to save extra bandwidth for the TV first, and only once that channel isn’t available will the torrent downloader get to experience the full extent of bandwidth available in the house.

3

Invest in MU-MIMO

MU-MIMO is a relatively new feature that’s entered into the router market over the past year, and for as many people that say it’s useless there’s a hundred more who need it in their home. See, on traditional routers a wireless signal will be dispersed in sort of a “machine gun strapped to a carousel” manner, if you’ll forgive the metaphor. Each packet of data is sent individually to each device in a particular area of the home, and fired off one bullet at a time per rotation of the carousel. In MU-MIMO routers however that packet stream is kept open individually per device, meaning that your speeds and performance will stay consistent no matter how many different devices are accessing the network from any part of your home.

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Linksys vs Netgear

In the war of routers, the tale of Linksys vs. Netgear is one that’s almost as old as the technology itself. And despite how long both have been keeping a neck and neck pace with the other, it seems that in recent years thanks to some serious innovation on the software front, there’s no question that Linksys is currently coming out on top.

In the war of routers, the tale of Linksys vs. Netgear is one that’s almost as old as the technology itself. And despite how long both have been keeping a neck and neck pace with the other, it seems that in recent years thanks to some serious innovation on the software front, there’s no question that Linksys is currently coming out on top.

The Linksys Smart WiFi system is a ubiquitous web-based login that can be used to set up, manage, and configure your router from anywhere in the world without using complicated logins or remote call procedures. Simply register your email with Linksys and you’ll have access to all your Smart WiFi features, making it easy to do anything from creating a new firewall rule to streaming media server content straight to your portable device.

Netgear still makes seriously powerful routers that can handle almost any task the average internet user might be able to throw its way, but unfortunately both their desktop-based app and their mobile options are lacking when it comes to the level of polish that we see from Linksys in this department. For all their technical prowess in hardware they still manage to come up drastically short on the software side, which is why for less experienced users it’s always a good idea to go with Linksys instead.

That said the main reason for preferring a cleaner dashboard is only to help novice users navigate their way around the configuration process. If you’re more of a networking expert who knows their way around a router then ultimately the decision should come down to features, speed, and price. On these three fronts Linksys and Netgear still maintain a pretty even race after all these years, and both have their own unique aesthetic which can fit comfortably in almost anyone’s home decor.

What Else You Should Think About

Before you run off to buy your first (or fifteenth router), there are a few things you should catch yourself up to speed on first so you can make the most informed buying decision possible.

The first is to learn the basics, which you can do thanks to our resource article that covers this very subject. Next, once you’ve actually got your router in house, you’re going to need to know how to get everything set up properly. There’s no point in trying to protect your network after it’s already been infected, so having a strong security strategy and a full understanding of all the threats that your network can be protected from out of the gate is imperative to maintaining proper internet security practices from the get-go.

So with all of that in mind, which model is the best of wireless router for 2017, 2018 and 2019?

If we’re going purely off the metrics of range, reliability, and ease of use, the TP-Link Archer A20 Router  takes it. It is a bit pricier than some, but with an elegant, timeless design that’s combined with TP-Link’s notorious attention to detail, the Archer A20 manages to hit all its marks while still bringing an air of simplicity to the table that just can’t be matched.

Still can’t decide? Take a look at our wireless router reviews, and by the time you’re done reading you might feel informed enough to pull the trigger on the model that’s right for you.

Who Contributed to this Review

Tyler Lacoma

Editor

Shawn Sanders

Contributor

Scarlet Barber

Contributor

Ryan Hansen

Editor

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