• Linksys EA7500 AC1900

  • Netgear RAX200 Nighthawk

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Wi-Fi Routers

  • Other Wi-Fi Routers We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Wi-Fi Routers of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Linksys EA7500 AC1900

    Pros

    • Consistently strong

    • Parental controls

    • Built-in speed test

    Cons

    • Pricey

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best for High Speeds

    Netgear RAX200 Nighthawk

    Pros

    • Super-fast connection

    • Support for three Wi-Fi bands

    • Fast wired connections and USB 3 ports for hard drives

    Cons

    • Large router and external antennas mean it needs a lot of room

    Skip to the full review below
The Best Wi-Fi Routers
Credit: Linksys

The Linksys EA7500 packs a lot of value into a small package.

Best Overall
Linksys EA7500 AC1900

The Linksys EA7500 provides a lot of value in a reasonably priced package. It is the best Wi-Fi router, for most people.

During testing, the EA7500 proved capable of serving up speeds in excess of 600 Megabits per second to laptops and tablets in close proximity to the router. If you have a home with a lot of Internet users, or need to provide web access to a number of devices, simultaneously, during your workday, it won’t let you down. We found that it could handle streaming a 4K YouTube video to one device while two others downloaded large files, at the same time.

In addition to being able to connect wirelessly to the network, this router features four Gigabit LAN ports—which are must-haves for anyone that owns a home media server or older devices that lack Wi-Fi capabilities. Finally, its integrated USB 3 port allows you to connect a USB hard drive or thumb drive to it. This makes it possible to share the contents of the connected drive to any computer connected to your network.

We loved how the EA7500 companion Linksys app, which is available for iOS and Android made the router so easy to use. Thanks to the app, setting up the router and administering who can (and cannot) use it are pain-free experiences. You can even use it to administer the EA7500 when you’re out of the house. So, while you’re out shopping, for example, you can switch Wi-Fi access on or off for each device connected to your network—a useful tool for parents trying to keep their kids from watching too much YouTube, when they should be doing their homework.

It’s worth noting that the EA7500 doesn’t support the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard. Despite this, it’s fast enough for most tasks. Unless you’re a hardcore online gamer or need to shuttle large video files between your home and office for work, you’ll be happy with the EA7500’s capabilities.

Pros

  • Consistently strong

  • Parental controls

  • Built-in speed test

Cons

  • Pricey

The Best Wi-Fi Routers
Credit: Netgear

If you have the need for scorching-fast Internet speeds, the Nighthawk AX12 is the way to go.

Best for High Speeds
Netgear RAX200 Nighthawk

Looking for a super-fast router that can handle several people playing online games, streaming to Twitch or watching Netflix at the same time, while still leaving enough bandwidth for web browsing? That would be the Netgear Nighthawk AX12, a Wi-Fi router that supports the fastest standards and features that Wi-Fi 6 has to offer.

The AX12 supports two Wi-Fi bands: one at 2.4Ghz, one in the 5GHz range. It can send and receive up to 12 separate streams of data using its eight antennas: four streams on the 2.4GHz band and eight on the 5GHz bands. It also includes a 2.5Gbps wired ethernet connection, which is 2.5x faster than the typical 1Gbps gigabit ethernet connection—a must-have for a home media server streaming 4K video to multiple devices. That’s good, as we found that the Wi-Fi was fast enough to nearly saturate a 1Gbps connection: during testing, it consistently sent and received data at over 700 Megabits per second.

In addition, the AX12 also includes four gigabit ethernet connections for connecting to older computers, as well as two USB 3.0 ports for connecting USB hard drives. The data on drives connected to the router can be shared with Windows or Mac devices over the network thanks to the router’s built-in software.

The AX12 is controlled through the Netgear Nighthawk app, available for Android and iOS devices. The app provides full control of the router from either within your network or remotely. Additionally, it allows you to do things like block individual devices from your network or set up a Wi-Fi network specifically for guests that blocks them from accessing your local devices.

Pros

  • Super-fast connection

  • Support for three Wi-Fi bands

  • Fast wired connections and USB 3 ports for hard drives

Cons

  • Large router and external antennas mean it needs a lot of room

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How We Tested

The Best Wi-Fi Routers
Credit: Getty Images

We connected multiple devices, via Wi-Fi and wired connections, to push each router to its bandwidth limits.

The Tester

I am Richard Baguley. I’ve been testing and writing about technology since connecting to the internet using a 300-baud modem. I’m a freelance writer whose work has appeared in places such as Wired, CNet, Tom's Guide and, of course, Reviewed. I am also the former VP of Editorial Development at Reviewed, where I developed a lot of the testing that is still in use to this day. Suffice to say, I’ve tested lots of stuff and know how to put it through a torture test that identifies its true performance.

The Tests

While testing Wi-Fi routers, we looked at three main aspects of their performance: speed, distance and managing traffic.

We tested speed and distance by connecting two Wi-Fi 6 devices (A Samsung Note 20 and a Dell XPS 13 laptop) to the network each router created and measuring the speed of the connection using iPerf3 at just a few feet from the router, then again about 50 feet away. In addition, we watched a 4K YouTube video at each distance to see if it was watchable.

To test how well each router managed high-bandwidth traffic, we connected three devices to its Wi-Fi network, each performing a different data-intensive task.

As one device used a wired connection to copy a large file to a network-connected server, another downloaded a huge chunk of data over BitTorrent. Meanwhile, our third device ran a Speedtest.net speed test, while streaming a 4K YouTube video. Pushing the routers to their limits in this way gave us an idea of how well they might work in your home, while connected to multiple devices performing high-bandwidth tasks like streaming video, gaming or high-resolution video calls for work.

What You Should Know About Wi-Fi Routers

There’s a lot of technical terms in this guide, which can make things a little confusing to anyone without an in-depth understanding of wireless networking. In an effort to keep your head from spinning, we’ve put together this list of terms you should know:

Bandwidth: A measure of how much data a router can send or receive. The wider the bandwidth, the more data the router can handle at any one time. It is usually measured in Mbps (Megabits per second), how many million bits of data the router can handle per second.

802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6: The latest wireless standard available to the public. It’s designed to increase data transfer speeds, ease the congestion created on your home network by data-intensive tasks, like streaming 4k video and online gaming.

Wi-Fi 6 can, in theory, be used to send data at speeds of over 6 gigabits per second (Gbps). Not only is it faster than previous standards, but it also makes it easier and faster for multiple devices to connect to your network at once. As more Internet-connected devices like smart home tech, and tablets creep into our lives, this provides for some future-proofing. 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 is backwards compatible with the older standards. So, if you use an 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 router with an older device, like a Playstation 4, it will work, but at slower speeds, than it would with a Wi-Fi 6 capable device like a Playstation 5.

Wi-Fi 6E: is the latest update to the 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 standard. Wi-Fi 6E devices support an extra band in the 6GHz frequency range. This means they offer even more potential bandwidth, but only with devices that support this third band. 6E routers are only just coming onto the market, and very few phones, laptops and other devices support it, so we didn’t test Wi-Fi 6E for this roundup.

AC1750, 1900, etc: The letters represent the version of the Wi-Fi standard, while the numbers indicate the maximum theoretical speed that the router can send data over all of its supported frequencies in Megabits per second (Mbps). So, for example, an AC2900 router can send up to 750 Mbps of data on the 2.4Ghz frequency, plus up to 2167 Mbps on the 5GHz frequency for a total of around 2900 Mbps. Don’t forget that the number is the combination of the maximum on all frequency bands: you’ll never get that much out of any single device.

MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multi-In, Multi-Out): Modern routers can send and receive multiple streams of data simultaneously, using multiple antennas. By carefully juggling these signals, they can send these multiple streams on the same frequency, increasing the amount of data that can be sent or received. The limitation here is the number of antennas that the router has.
However, the device receiving the streams also has to have multiple antennas to be able to take advantage of this, and most cell phones and laptops more than a couple of years old will only have one. More modern devices will have two or more antennas.


Other Wi-Fi Routers We Tested

Linksys MR9600

The MR9600 is a fast, sophisticated router that has a lot to offer. It supports WIFI 6, with 4x4 MIMO, on four separate antennas. This means it can send and receive four signals simultaneously, to ‘talk’ with up to four devices at one time. This is a big plus if multiple devices are connected to your home network, at any one time.

During testing, we found that the MR9600 managed over 700 Mbps, with a single device connected to it, in close proximity. It also handled multiple connections well, too: we were able to view a 4K YouTube video on one device while three others were swamping the router with various types of high-speed connections. This makes the MR9600 a good pick, for example, for anyone who enjoys streaming music while working at home, while their kids attend school using video conferencing software.

The app that controls the MR9600 is available for both iOS and Android and can be used to set up a guest network or turn off the Wi-Fi while you’re out of the house if the kids are binging YouTube.

It’s worth noting that this router can work with some mesh network setups. However, it doesn’t support the third Wi-Fi band that some mesh networks use to communicate between with each other, so it may not perform as quickly as the rest of the network.

Pros

  • Supports Wi-Fi 6 and mesh networks

  • 4x4 MIMO means fast Wi-Fi for multiple users

Cons

  • No third Wi-Fi band support

Netgear WAX204 Essentials WiFi 6

The Netgear WAX204 is a Wi-Fi 6 router that can support up to three independent Wi-Fi networks. This could be useful, for example, to a homeowner who wants one network for their family, one for the folks renting the basement suite in their home and, a third network specifically for their property’s wireless security system.

There is no app to set this router up. Instead, the short, printed setup guide assumes you have access to a wired ethernet computer that you can plug into the router. Once your computer is connected to the WAX204, setup is completed using a web browser.

Once it was installed, we found the WAX204 offered speeds of over 700 Mbps, when our test devices were placed close to the router. While testing it with a laptop, 30 feet away from the router, we saw speeds of 300 Mbps. While these speeds are acceptable, they’re nothing to write home about. However, if you can find a use for the WAX204’s multi-network capabilities, it might be worth your attention.

Pros

  • Multiple network support

  • Supports Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • Setup must be completed with a wired computer and a web browser.

Asus RT-AX56U

Despite having Wi-Fi 6 technology baked into it, The RT-AX56U failed to impress us. It’s a 2x2 MIMO router that supports Wi-Fi 6 on the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, but not the newer 6GHz third band that many routers in this guide support. Aside from its wireless connectivity, this router has four gigabit wired ethernet ports, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port. Both of the latter can be used to connect USB thumb or hard drives for sharing files over the wireless network.

The RT-AX56U managed just over 500 Mbps when our test devices were close to the router. Further away from the router, speeds begin to drop off, significantly. At a distance of about 35 feet from the router, we recorded a paltry 100 Mbps—which is significantly slower than the other routers in this guide. What this means, in practice, is that attaching more than a couple of devices to this router is going to slow things down: online multiplayer games will get glitchy and Zoom calls may stop and start. It’s worth noting that the RT-AX56U is designed to work both as a standalone router and as part of a Wi-Fi 6 mesh network, with other Asus products. As such, its poor range performance can be corrected, provided you’re willing to pay for additional mesh access points.

Pros

  • Works with Asus Mesh systems

  • Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • Choked with multiple bandwidth-hungry tasks

  • Wi-Fi speed at a distance wasn’t great

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is designed primarily with gamers in mind. That said, this powerful router can, potentially, support enough bandwidth to download all of the Rocky movies in a few seconds. It achieves these breakneck speeds thanks to a fast processor that keeps the data moving around quickly and an array of eight antennas.

Setting up the GT-AX11000 is completed using the Asus Router app, available for both iOS and Android. The app also allows you to view how much traffic the router is carrying and the amount of data each device on your network is using. That the app makes it possible to prioritize your data, is the icing on the cake. You can, for instance, prioritize data for online gaming over file downloads or normal web traffic, making for a smoother playing experience.

We certainly found that this Wi-Fi 6 router was fast: we measured the speed it sent and received data at over 700 Mbps with both a smartphone and a laptop when they were close to the router. The speeds at distance were a bit more limited, though: with the phone and laptop about 35 feet from the router, they dropped down to around 100 Mbps. That said, this is too much router, for most people.

Pros

  • Fastest router we tested

  • Powerful admin app and traffic routing features

Cons

  • Complicated setup and administration

Synology RT2600AC

The Synology RT2600AC is a powerful, fast and full-featured router that has a lot to offer. However, with cheaper routers offering similar performance, most users would be better suited by another model. One feature that might be useful, however, is support for a second Internet connection.

The RT2600AC is one of the few consumer models to support a secondary Wide Area Network (WAN) connection. This means that it can use a second Internet connection, which can be used for failover (if the connection fails, the router will switch to a second one—from Verizon to Comcast, for example) or load balancing (where both connections are used at once, and the router balances the connection between them).

Other than that, the RT2600AC is pretty standard fare, with four gigabit wired ethernet connections and a single USB 3.0 port for networked file sharing.

Pros

  • Comprehensive help system

  • Automatically chooses between 2.4 and 5 GHz

Cons

  • Pricey

  • Performance drops at long range

Meet the tester

Richard Baguley

Richard Baguley

Contributor

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Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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