The Best Wi-Fi Routers of 2019
We went hands-on with nine of the best routers on the market to find the best for you.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The best wireless router gives you the fastest performance for your devices at the farthest possible range. It's an easy formula, right? But it can be deceptively difficult to figure out when you need a new router—and even trickier to buy the right one. After researching tons of routers and testing nine finalists over four weeks, we believe that the D-Link DIR-878 (available at Amazon for $127.87) is the best Wi-Fi router for most setups.
While we've gone and done the hard part for you, we know that shopping for a router isn't easy. Manufacturers like to highlight crazy speeds and fancy features, but you shouldn't just pick a router because it has a big number on the box. For example, if you only own wireless-n devices, an AC5300 router—large as that number may be compared to an AC1750 router—is likely overkill for your needs and three times the price (or more).
We'll get into these confusing details within our "What to look for" section below. The bottom line: if you want a good router that can deliver the best performance and range for a handful of devices, D-Link's AC1900 DIR-878 is the best router for most people. If you (or your family) own a lot of bandwidth-hogging devices, or you need a router that's packed with as many features as possible, the Asus tri-band RT-AC3200(available at Amazon)—or a mesh WiFi system—may be a better fit.
Editor's Note: the following guide covers your traditional single access point wireless routers. Those with large homes or tricky situations requiring a bit more coverage may also want to check out our guide to the best mesh Wi-Fi routers.
Here are the best wifi routers we tested:
- D-Link DIR-878
- Asus RT-AC3200
- TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S R7800
- Trendnet TEW-827DRU AC2600
- Netgear Nighthawk R7000P
- Synology RT1900AC
- Synology RT2600AC
- Linksys EA7500 AC1900
The bottom line: Consistently good wireless performance and every feature you could ever want in a router; tri-band setup ideal for multi-device households.
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 3x3 wireless connectivity, one USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port
If you're tired of dealing with routers that only ever give you half of what you want, it's time to plunk down some cash for Asus' RT-AC3200, a tri-band router that has nearly everything you need for a higher $200 price. It's fast and fully featured, and Asus focuses less on future-proofing the router in favor of features you can actually take advantage of right now.
The RT-AC3200 is a "tri-band router," which means it gives you a single 2.4GHz network and two 5GHz networks to pick from. In practice, you'll want to split your wireless-ac devices between both 5GHz networks, as having too many devices doing too many things on a single network can impact the speeds of connected devices. The RT-AC3200 can help you manage this with its Smart Connect feature, band steering that you have to manually enable within its web-based configuration. However, we found our devices generally performed better without it.
On our 2.4GHz wired file transfer test, the RT-AC3200 delivered the best overall performance, and its speed at our most difficult long-range test location was a smidge above the average of the routers we tested. The RT-AC3200 was a little slower for file transfers between wireless clients, but its overall performance still put it in third place. Asus' router again offered decent speeds at our hardest test location, coming in just slightly above the average. Its measured latency on our 2.4GHz test was among the lowest of all the routers we tested up to the 95th percentile—in other words, almost all of our simulated web page requests completed quickly.
We measured the performance of the router's two 5GHz networks independently, and both performed nearly identically. They provided solid speeds on our wired file transfer test, earning fourth and fifth place for total combined performance and delivering average- to above-average performance on our hardest long-distance test. The RT-AC3200's two 5GHz networks bumped up to third and fourth place on our wireless file transfer test, and they outperformed the average measured throughput of all the routers we tested at our hardest testing location. Asus' router performed slightly worse than average on our 5GHz latency tests up to the 95th percentile, but when we switched to the router's Smart Connect mode, its latency was easily the lowest (best).
The router's band steering wasn't quite as impressive for speed, but that's also likely a byproduct of our test routine. When we moved between locations for our file transfer tests, we didn't break and reforge the connection to a router's wireless network. In the case of the RT-AC3200's single-SSID "Smart Connect" mode, our connection likely jumped to the router's 2.4GHz band once we reached the extremes of the router's 5GHz range at our third (and most difficult) test location. When we then moved to our fourth test location, the router stayed on 2.4GHz—as most routers would—and delivered great 2.4GHz performance, but nowhere near the much-faster speeds a 5GHz connection would allow.
You're more likely to sleep, shutdown, power on, and restart devices during everyday use, which will help Asus' router move you to the band that offers the fastest performance for wherever your device happens to be.
The RT-AC3200's setup process was incredibly simple. We loved that the router prompts you to update its firmware at the conclusion of the setup procedure, but we hated that its default wireless networks are completely open—no password needed. While it's unlikely that you have a neighbor waiting to see you power up a new router and access its open network before you can, we'd still prefer Asus to provide a unique password for the router's initial wireless networks.
As for features, it's hard to know where to begin. Asus packs just about everything it can think of into the router's web-based configuration screen, and it does so in a way that's easy and accessible to navigate. The router's initial dashboard is all most users are likely to care about, and it provides useful information about the router's status—such as an unplugged Ethernet cable, a new firmware update, or the number of clients or USB devices that are presently connected to the router.
Power users will appreciate the RT-AC3200's comprehensive capabilities, including guest networks, Trend Micro-based protection against network exploits, Quality of Service controls for prioritizing bandwidth between connected devices, cloud-based access to USB-connected devices or network-connected clients, and an easy method for transforming the router into a simpler access point. The router even comes with a built-in OpenVPN server, which you can connect to when browsing the web at your local coffee shop to secure your connection without having to pay for a third-party VPN service.
For most people, the RT-AC3200 nails the essentials—a speedy router that delivers consistently strong performance and has enough overhead to support the ever-growing army of devices in a typical home or apartment. And for those who love to dig into their router and explore its features to the fullest, the RT-AC3200 is packed full of fun.
How We Tested
Hi! I'm David Murphy. I have tested way, way too many wireless routers in my decade-plus career as a technology journalist. I've spent plenty of hours coming up with great, real-world testing scenarios around my 2,563-square-foot house, and I've either researched or benchmarked almost all of the major routers you can buy nowadays. No joke: I'm pretty sure I've irradiated myself (and/or ruined my neighbors' wireless signals) from my deep love of helping people find the best Wi-Fi router for their needs.
We put our router contenders to the test by approximating a number of real-world scenarios. We set up each router at the same, southernly position in a 2,563-square-foot house. We then set up four testing points: one within the same room as the router; one 44 feet away from the router but within its line of sight; one in an adjoining room (with a wall and some furniture in between); and one 44 feet away from the router with walls and furniture in the way (no line of sight).
We used each router's settings as shipped, under the assumption that most people do little more than run through a router's default setup utility and call it a day. We tested each routers' wireless networks separately—2.4GHz and 5GHz—or just the single SSID for routers that shipped with band steering enabled. We conducted four primary tests for each router at each of our four test locations:
- Fast.com: We loaded fast.com five times at each test location and averaged each result. We then compared the how a router's speed at each test location compared to the average speed of a desktop system connected directly to the router via Gigabit Ethernet—the fastest and most stable connection a person could have.
- LAN Speed Test (Wired): We fired up Lan Speed Test Server on our Gigabit Ethernet-connected desktop PC, and Lan Speed Test on our client MacBook. We then read and wrote 100 packets to the test server, each 1MB in size, to approximate a typical series of file transfers. We recorded the average read and write speeds for each test, and combined them to get a sense of a router's overall performance at our different test locations.
- LAN Speed Test (Wireless): We connected a 2017 MacBook Pro (3x3 connectivity) to the same wireless network as our test client, placed it between our first and second wireless testing points (within the router's line of sight), and ran the same LAN Speed Test as before. Since the MacBook Pro can't run LAN Speed Test Server, we opened up a network share and directly targeted a folder on the MacBook Pro from LAN Speed Test on our MacBook Air.
- Latency Test: This one gets complicated. We re-enabled Lan Speed Test Server on our desktop PC, still connected to the router via Gigabit Ethernet. We also used a program called Fenix to launch a separate web server on the desktop PC, which we used to host a 128KB PDF file. To begin our test, we fired up a long 1440p YouTube video on our desktop PC. After that, we ran over to our MacBook Air in test position #3—the long-distance, no-line-of-sight location—and began a LAN Speed Test using 1000 packets each 1MB in size.
We then ran over to our MacBook Pro, now moved to test location #2—long-distance, line-of-sight—and fired up a 4K YouTube video. Finally, we ran to test location #4 and used another 2014 MacBook Air to run NetBurn, a benchmark tool from Ars Technica's Jim Salter. We used this to simulate a typical web browsing session by downloading the 128KB PDF file at random times across a 300-second test. NetBurn tracks the latency of all the requests, and returns the results as averages, medians, and percentiles.
Our goal? To see how well a router can handle common web browsing when the network is jammed with activity—an everyday experience where latency is more likely to be noticed by an average user.
Our test results were useful indicators of performance, but they can't offer definitive answers. It's impossible to accurately predict how well a router will perform in your particular scenario, as too many factors can influence the results: where you've placed the router within your home, what your home is made of, what effect competing wireless networks may have on your wireless network's performance, what devices you're connecting to your router, et cetera. We tended to favor routers that performed consistently well on our tests, rather than focusing on a single result as a make-or-break metric.
What to Look for in a Wi-Fi Router
This guide focuses on the best wireless router you can buy, which means there are a few attributes your next wireless router should probably have.
One caveat: the "best" wireless router might not be the best wireless router for your specific setup; this is more a general list of recommended features that will be useful to most people. For example, if you don't use wired Ethernet connections, it won't matter whether a router has Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. If you only own a single wireless-ac smartphone and only need a signal throughout your one-bedroom apartment, you might be fine with a great (and less expensive) wireless-n router or a lower-classification wireless-ac router.
Wireless-ac: The latest and greatest wireless standard, wireless-ac is found on a number of today's top devices, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and media streamers. If you're looking to buy a router to use over the next few years, you need wireless-ac. This will give the wireless-ac devices you own (or are planning to purchase) much better performance than an older wireless-n router, depending on what you do within your home network. (If you just watch YouTube and surf the web on a single wireless-ac laptop, you'll probably experience better performance at long range on a wireless-ac router's 5GHz network, but that's it.)
AC1750/1900: Router classifications are confusing. In short, they represent the maximum theoretical performance a router can achieve, but that's the performance you might never see in real-world use. For example, an AC3200 router isn't twice as fast as an AC1750 router; it just supports a second Wi-Fi network on the 5GHz band instead of the AC1750 router's single 5GHz network. And if it's not a very good AC3200 router, the AC1750 router might actually be able to offer better performance and range if you're only using it with a few devices.
For most people, an AC1750 or AC1900 router is good enough to handle the top speeds of all the wireless-ac devices they own—typically "1x2" or "2x2" devices, as they're commonly called. If you have a lot of devices (think double-digits), you might be better off with a tri-band router like Asus' RT-AC3200.
Gigabit Ethernet: For those using desktop computers, or who are willing to string Ethernet cables around their house or apartment to achieve the fastest and most consistent connections, Gigabit networking (sometimes designated as 10/100/1000) is a must-have. Unless you're only ever planning to use wireless devices, don't settle for routers with antiquated Fast Ethernet, or 10/100 connectivity.
Band Steering: Routers with band steering make it easier for you to connect your devices to your wireless network by asking you to set up a single SSID (and password) instead of separate SSIDs for the 2.4GHz band and 5GHz band. When you connect to your router with a dual-band device—one that can use either band—the router forces it to the (likely) less-crowded and speedier 5GHz band. Older or simpler devices that can only use 2.4GHz stay on 2.4GHz.
Price: A great wireless router should cost less than $200. Once you go north of that, the gains you experience from a single router—if any—are marginal. You'd likely obtain better performance by purchasing two less-expensive routers, especially if you can set up one as a wireless access point (assuming you have already have Ethernet connections in your house or don't mind spending a little time stringing cable.) Otherwise, you could also invest in a mesh wireless network, which could give you much more wireless coverage than a single $300 router.
Other Wi-Fi Routers We tested
The bottom line: Way too expensive for its wireless-ac performance, but easy to set up and packed full of features
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 4x4 wireless connectivity, two USB 3.0 connections.
This beast of an AC2600 router can deliver incredible speeds for all the 4x4 and MU-MIMO devices you currently own—which, for most people, is a whopping zero. We'd rather have better long-distance performance.
On our wired file transfer tests, the R7800 excelled on 2.4GHz, delivering the best performance on our hardest long-range test and the second-best combined performance. When we switched to 5GHz, its close-range performance was strong when our client was in the same room as the router, merely average on our easier long-distance test and tougher close-range test, and not very impressive on our hardest long-range test.
The R7800 router performed well on our latency tests for 2.4GHz, but it was among the worst on 5GHz. Slightly cheaper routers—Asus' RT-AC3200 in particular—generally had better speeds, range, and latency.
Netgear does a great job walking you through the router's initial setup process, but we were a little annoyed with Netgear's many requests during the setup process, like asking users to download the accompanying Genie app and sign up for a Netgear account. We appreciate that Netgear prompts you to update the router's firmware to its most recent version.
We also love that the router comes with "Basic" and "Advanced" tabs in its web-based configuration screen, which helps keep router novices focused on the key settings they need to know. It's easy to access the router's parental controls, ReadySHARE settings for USB-attached storage or printers, and built-in BitTorrent downloader, although one of its most useful settings for those who already own a router—access point mode—is a little buried on the Advanced tab.
The bottom line: Quirky setup process and less-impressive performance makes Trendnet's router a big "pass."
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 4x4 wireless connectivity, Two USB 3.0 connections.
Trendnet's AC2600 TEW-827DRU is overkill for most people's needs, though it's does win a few points for being one of the most inexpensive 4x4 MU-MIMO routers we've yet seen. Don't fall for the future-proofing though; by the time enough devices arrive that can actually make use of this router's capabilities, you'll probably be able to purchase something that performs even better.
The TEW-827DRU's performance on our 2.4GHz tests was mixed. Its combined performance was slightly below average on our wired file transfer tests, and it struggled greatly when we transferred files wirelessly between two MacBooks. That said, its latency on our 2.4GHz test was the best of all the routers we tested.
On the 5GHz band—where most people will want to connect their wireless-ac devices for the fastest possible speeds—the TEW-827DRU coughed up the second-worst throughput of all the routers we tested on our wired file transfer test. On our wireless file-transfer test, the TEW-827DRU struggled to outperform the average of all the routers we tested. Its long-range performance at our most difficult test location was among the worst of the routers we tested, as was its overall latency for 5GHz.
We had a bit of trouble setting up the TEW-827DRU. The setup wizard that supposedly helps users out by checking the status of your Internet and LAN connectivity kept knocking our wireless connection offline. We were able to bypass the setup wizard and adjust the router's settings manually—not a problem for experienced users, but a frustrating issue for those who just want an easy way to set up their routers for the first time.
Additionally, the router's firmware updating feature indicated that the router's as-shipped firmware (November 2016) was its most current, even though new firmware was available as of July 2017 on Trendnet's website. That's not great for router security and performance, since most people—if they update the router's firmware at all—are much more likely to trust what their routers are telling them than to go to the manufacturer's website to check.
The bottom line: Great 2.4GHz performance at range, but 5GHz connections aren't so strong. Excellent features, especially Circle-based parental controls.
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 4x4 wireless connectivity, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 connection.
Netgear's R7000P is an AC2300 router that shares many of the same great attributes as the company's AC2600 R7800 router. For example, both have quality-of-service features that allow you to prioritize bandwidth for different devices in your network, as well as the same readySHARE access to connected USB storage and printers, a super-handy BitTorrent downloader built in, and guest networks—for the three of you that actually run a guest network.
Netgear has boosted the parental controls in the R7000P by integrating Disney's Circle service, which allows you to set access limits by device, filter websites based on your kids' ages and interests, and monitor what websites your kids are looking at and what services they're using. Your kids will hate you, but the comprehensive access limits are a big step above Netgear's standard OpenDNS-based limits (which it also includes).
As always, Netgear makes it super-easy to switch the router to an access point mode, even though the feature is a little buried in its web-based configuration screen. Netgear splits the router's settings into Basic and Advanced tabs to help novice users feel less overwhelmed with options, but we bet Netgear could do even more to make its router's features friendly and approachable.
The R7000P generally performed well on our 2.4GHz wired file transfer tests, but its long-distance performance at our trickiest test point was a smidge below average. The router was incredibly fast up-close on 5GHz, but hovered around the average speeds of all other routers we tested for long-distance performance. On our wireless file transfer tests, the R7000P exhibited the best performance at distance of all the routers we tested on 2.4GHz, but was much less impressive on 5GHz—especially at our hardest testing point, where it reached around one-fourth the speed of D-Link's DIR-878.
On our latency tests, the R7000P delivered the fastest response times on 2.4GHz, but worse latency on 5GHz. On average, around one-fourth of our 5GHz requests took longer than 400ms to complete.
The bottom line: One of the best user interfaces we've seen on a router, but lackluster long-distance performance.
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 3x3 wireless connectivity, one USB 3.0 connection.
We love the user interface Synology throws into its routers; it reminds us more of a network-attached storage device than a typical web-based router configuration screen—and that's a good thing. That said, the RT1900AC still isn't a great router. It's friendly, just not incredibly fast.
The router's band steering is activated by default when you first set it up, which means that you provide a single SSID to use and the router determines whether your devices connect to its 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. The RT1900AC delivered the second-best combined throughput on 5GHz when we tested it by transferring files to a wired client, but the worst performance at our hardest long-distance test.
The RT1900AC also struggled to produce good speeds on our wireless file transfer test at our toughest long-distance testing location, and its combined throughput fell toward the bottom of our list. Its measured latency was similarly uninspiring.
Setting up the router was easy, though Synology uses the same default Wi-Fi name and password for all iterations of the RT1900AC, which is a bit of a security risk.
Some options in the router's setup utility aren't defined very well, like whether you need external access to SRM—you don't—or whether you need to check for special requirements from your ISP as part of the Internet connection setup process. We appreciate that the router immediately asks you to check for firmware updates at the end of the setup process, but we had to run multiple updates to get the most recent firmware.
We generally like the router's features: guest networks; QuickConnect, for accessing your router's settings from anywhere on the web; parental controls; and an easy-to-toggle access point mode. Unfortunately, they aren't enough to overcome the router's so-so performance for its price.
The bottom line: We love the user interface, but this expensive router's speeds just aren't good enough to justify its high price.
Key Specs: Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, 4x4 wireless connectivity, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 connection.
For its price, we don't recommend Synology's RT2600AC as the ultra-expensive router to get.
Similar to the RT1900AC, the RT2600AC activates its band steering feature by default when you initially set up the router. You only have to provide a single SSID and password; the router figures out whether it makes more sense for connected devices to live on the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands.
On our file transfer tests to a wired system, the RT2600 delivered great speeds up-close and average speeds from far away when our test MacBook could see the router. When our client wasn't within the RT2600's line of sight, its performance suffered. The RT2600 was the slowest router on our short-range test that places a wall and furniture between the MacBook and router, and it failed to outperform the average of all routers we tested on our similarly designed long-distance test. (We suspect our connection may have jumped to the slower 2.4GHz band at these locations, an issue that would normally be fixed the next time you power on or awaken a device and reconnect to the router's Wi-Fi.)
When we transferred files between two wireless systems, the RT2600AC's combined throughput across all our test locations was slightly better than the average of all the routers we tested, though it still failed to beat the average on our hardest long-distance test.
The router's software is full of features and settings, but they're presented in an accessible fashion. We appreciate the RT2600AC's comprehensive help system—which works offline—in case you need a little more information about any particular setting. And the router has all of our favorite features, including guest networks, MAC filtering, parental controls, a "traffic control" option for prioritizing bandwidth to different devices, and an access point mode that's incredibly easy to flip on.
More Stories You Might Enjoy
Get Reviewed email alerts.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.