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If your Wi-Fi connection is constantly dropping, or if Netflix continues to lag and run slowly, your wireless router is likely to blame. Choose from our selection of the best wireless routers and you can improve your wireless coverage and make sure you’re getting the most out of your internet connection.
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There are many options to choose from. Below you’ll find our buyer’s guide, followed by a selection of the best wireless routers on the market, from budget models to the latest high-speed Wi-Fi 6 monsters, along with links to our full length and in-depth review.
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The Asus RT-AX82U is the annual expert reviews wireless router of the year, and although it works a little, it’s still a great product. The deal isn’t the lowest it’s ever been, but at 6,156 it’s a solid 35 35 from historical averages and represents fair value for money.
Before investing in a new router, check that it will work with your internet connection. If you have an older ADSL connection, you’ll want a router that comes with an ADSL2+ modem. If you have fiber broadband, you may need a router with VDSL2 support.
In some cases, all you need is an external WAN port. For example, if you’re a Virgin Media fiber subscriber, you can switch the supplied router to a modem and connect it to the router of your choice using an Ethernet cable. And some routers support both ADSL and VDSL, which can be useful if you plan to switch providers in the future.
Wi-Fi 6 – or 802.11ax to give it its proper name – is a new wireless standard that gives you a faster connection as well as better penetration to every corner of your home or office. It can get the appropriate signal. And because it’s designed for the connected age, it’ll be less annoying than 802.11ac when multiple devices want to connect at the same time.
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Sounds great, right? However, 802.11ax is still new, and while there are some newer models available, you’ll have to pay a premium for a router that supports it. And perhaps even more so, once you’ve got your shiny new router, you won’t be able to see the full benefits until you upgrade your device.
All 802.11ax routers will work with older 802.11ac clients, but if you’re not ready to replace your smartphone and laptop just yet, it might make sense to hold off now and wait until the 802.11ax hardware drops.
All modern routers can transmit and receive two radio waves simultaneously. The 5GHz band is fast, but some older devices don’t support it. 2.4 GHz is slower but has a longer range so may be good for older homes with thick walls.
So far so good, but when so many clients are trying to connect to the same radio, contention and interference can slow things down. The three groups of routers have two separate 5GHz radios that allow twice as many devices to communicate simultaneously at full speed – so it could be a smart investment if you have a home full of Wi-Fi devices.
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Note, however, that this applies mostly to 802.11ac: as already mentioned, 802.11ax is more elegant with simultaneous connectivity, so the tri-band technology is more necessary as the world gradually changes to a new standard.
Mesh systems work basically the same as routers, but along with the main unit, they come with additional “satellites” that you place around your home to help spread wireless signals more widely. Network devices will be more expensive than the average router, but if you’re struggling to get a decent connection in a remote area of your home, this could be the perfect answer. If that sounds good, check out our guide to the best Wi-Fi Mesh on the market.
Router manufacturers advertise some high transfer speeds, but these are the maximum theories: you will never be able to come close to them in real life.
They also have the illusion of increasing the speed of the different radios to reach the total data rate. For example, if a router has a 2.4 GHz radio that supports speeds of up to 400 Mbits/sec, plus two 5GHz radios with speeds of up to 867 Mbits/sec, the manufacturer may advertise it at a total speed of 2134 Mbits/sec. In fact, no device will get a connection faster than 867Mbits/sec, and the real-world transfer speeds you see are probably less than half that.
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Don’t get too hung up on high speeds: It’s nice to be able to quickly copy large files to your personal network, but when it comes to downloading and streaming videos, the limit is usually your internet connection.
Ethernet ports are far from obsolete. Many “smart” home appliances come with a low-power hub that requires cables to be routed to your router, and if you plan to add a NAS device to your network at some point, that will also take up the port. We suggest you look for models with at least four ports—although it’s necessary, you can buy an inexpensive Ethernet switch to connect more wired devices to your router.
Some advanced routers allow you to integrate two ports into a single 2Gbits/sec connection, or you may have dedicated high-speed ports up to 10Gbits/sec. In practice, you’re unlikely to find much use for these capabilities: Sure, you can give your NAS box the fastest connection to your router, but only when you want to access your files. Just connect to a router. Your laptop will act as a barrier.
If you have children, you may choose an existing router with parental controls. Some allow you to limit Internet access on a per-device basis to certain times of the day or limit it to a certain amount of accumulated time. Some even offer filtering of websites by category. There are software packages that can do the same, but router management is easy to maintain and manage.
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Finally, USB 3 ports make it easy to share a hard drive or flash drive with your entire network. It’s a cheap alternative to a NAS drive for easy file sharing, although it won’t give you the security of a properly defined RAID array. USB 2 also works but is much slower.
Looking for more tips to extend and improve your Wi-Fi signal? Check out our wireless speed and troubleshooting guide
You usually have to pay top dollar to get dedicated wireless performance, but the Asus RT-AX82U proves an exception to that rule. While it’s no match for more exotic hardware, it’s closer and offers an impressive balance of value and performance.
In Wi-Fi 6 testing, the router delivered strong, fast signals in almost every part of the home, closer to its more expensive sibling, the RT-AX88U. Despite being reasonably priced, Asus doesn’t skimp on this feature, which includes external VPN support, VPN servers that come with extensive parental controls, and more.
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It’s not the cheapest router, but the Asus RT-AX82U is more competitive. It has a great round shape at an attractive price.
Key features – Modem: None; Wi-Fi standard: 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6); Nominal speed: 5,400Mbits / sec; USB port: 1 x 3.2 generation 1
ASUS RT-AX82U 5400 Dual Band + Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router, PS5 Compatible, Up to 2000 sq ft & 30+ Devices, Mobile Game Mode, ASUS AURA RGB, Lifetime Free Internet Security, Mesh Wi-Fi Support, Gaming Port, black
Cheap Wi-Fi 6 routers are starting to appear, but so far there aren’t many. The cheapest is the Honor Router 3, but it’s not available online now. The D-Link EXO AX1800 is still basic, but at least it offers a more rounded feature set, albeit at a slightly higher price, with firewall and VPN support, as well as 4×4 MIMO and dynamic DNS. It’s not the fastest speed on Wi-Fi 6, but it’s more affordable and provides better performance than Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
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D-Link DIR-X1860 EXO AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 Router with Gigabit Ethernet Ports, MU-MIMO, Band Steering, 1024 QAM, OFDMA, Firewall, Parental Control and Speedtest. Works with Alexa / Google Assistant, Black £43.20 Buy Now
In the absence of the Honor Router 3, which is already sold out in most places, the honor of the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 router goes to the TP-Link AX10.
For less than £60, it has support for the latest Wi-Fi standards, is easy to set up and use and delivers solid performance in our tests, besting the Netgear Nighthawk RAX40. Also for speed.
But it’s a bit rudimentary when it comes to basic features. There’s no USB port and MU-MIMO, resulting in slower long-distance performance than the Honor Router 3. Overall, we can’t complain for the money, especially since it was recently reduced to £58.
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