Routers may not be the most exciting piece of technology out there, but with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, streaming boxes, smart TVs and more, the need for a good wireless router in modern homes is undeniable. Streaming services and online gaming can put a lot of strain on your local network and router, and if you’re sticking with the free option you get as part of your ISP deal, you might notice your connection slowing to a crawl when multiple devices are fighting for bandwidth.

We’ve gone through dozens of expert reviews and long-term usage impressions from actual owners to bring you the best router you can buy in three distinct price points.

Best Overall

Asus RT-AC68U AC1900 802.11ac Router

Great | Differentiating Features

Excellent wireless speeds and range, easy-to-navigate user interface, dual-WAN support, removable antennas.

Good | Most Have It

Powerful home networking features, simple setup.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

Not wall-mountable, can only be placed standing upright.

Asus has consistently delivered some of the best routers in the market over the last few years and the RT-AC68U Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router is no exception. Even though it’s already a couple of years old, it’s packed with useful features, has a refreshingly simple user interface, and is an excellent performer when it comes to speed and range.

The RT-AC68U can deliver up to 1.3Gbps speed on the 5GHz frequency band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Speed tests by Tom’s Guide, ExpertReviews, PC Magazine, TrustedReviews and more, consistently put Asus’ router among the top performers of the market in various scenarios and at up to a 20 – 25 feet distance.

It’s also got a solid set of features for advanced users or small businesses. USB support, for example, is quite versatile with support for external storage for NAS-like applications, printers and even cellular dongles. Other noteworthy features include easy traffic management, multiple wireless SSIDs, dual-WAN support for separate ISPs, secure VPN access, and replaceable antennas — so you can swap in a more powerful one or even hook up an extension cable to get better signal in that hard to reach area of your house.

At around $180 this is not exactly an affordable option but the RT-AC68U is actually a good value overall. Its features and performance are on par with more expensive — also great — routers like the D-Link DIR-890L/R AC3200 and NetGear R8000 Nighthawk X6 AC3200 yet it costs about $100 less. Also, looks shouldn’t be too high up your list of priorities when buying a new router, but it doesn’t hurt that the Asus RT-AC68U has the looks with its textured black finish.

Best Mid Range

TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router

Great | Differentiating Features

Very good wireless coverage, detachable antennas, excellent price for 802.11ac and dual 2.4GHz 450Mbps / 5GHz 1300Mbps connections.

Good | Most Have It

Gigabit Ethernet ports, USB for storage and sharing.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

USB is only 2.0, upstream speeds are a little weak.

If you want a router that will deliver top speeds without too many bells and whistles you might not end up using, the TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 has you covered — pardon the pun. Priced at $90, this overachiever offers great wireless performance and range, on par or even surpassing its more expensive competition according to reviews from TechRadar and SmallNetBuilder. It supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals rated for up to 450Mbps and 1.3Gbps speeds respectively, which not many routers in this price range offer.

It’s a great value overall and has all the basic features the majority of people will actually use, and then some. That includes Gigabit Ethernet, a couple of USB 2.0 ports for basic NAS capabilities, parental controls, guest networks, and a utilitarian (read: not the prettiest but gets the job done) web interface. If USB 3.0 is important to you the step up Archer C8 has this for an extra $35 but its wireless performance is largely the same. Lastly, if we’re naming this the top pick for most people that don’t need advanced features, it’s worth taking a look at what actual owners think of it. Out of 1,908 reviews on Amazon, the Archer C7 scores 4.1 with a whopping 76% of reviewers giving it either 4 or 5 stars.

Best Budget Option

TP-Link TL-WR841N

Great | Differentiating Features

Extremely cheap.

Good | Most Have It

Limited configuration options and feature set, good wireless performance and coverage for this price point.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

No USB or Gigabit Ethernet (10/100 only), bandwidth decreases dramatically at 15-20m.

If you are on a very tight budget and only have about $20-30 to spare, the TP-LINK TL-WR841N is decent option in this price range. This 802.11n router only operates on the 2.4GHz band which is often more congested in modern homes compared to the 5Ghz band, and has a theoretical throughput of 300Mbit/s, but compared with similarly priced alternatives performance acceptable at close range. In a performance test by ExpertReviews, the TL-WR841N was able to deliver transfer speeds of up to 33.1Mbps at 10 meters distance, dropping to 5.3Mbps at 25 meters.

Decent wireless performance is pretty much all you can hope for in a router this cheap. Elsewhere you’ll have to make do without Gigabit Ethernet (the four LAN ports only run at 10/100 speed, as does the WAN port), no USB support, and very basic configuration options — port forwarding, dynamic DNS, IP, domain and MAC address filtering options are all there, but features like Quality of Service (QoS) are missing which means bandwidth heavy applications will heavily impact on the speed of other applications and users.

For the price this router gets the job done. Our alternative pick is the Linksys E1200, which is also $20 and has very good coverage/performance for small appartments using a single 2.4Ghz band. It’s a close call between this and the TL-WR841N, but ultimately the latter ranks a bit higher in customer reviews, and we think long-term usage impressions can be as important as expert reviews.

What to look forward to

Tri-Band AC3200 routers like our alternative picks for Best Overall — D-Link DIR-890L/R AC3200 and NetGear R8000 Nighthawk X6 AC3200 — are able to use two 5GHz bands simultaneously and can deliver better performance when multiple devices are fighting for bandwidth — in multi-streamer households or a co-working space, for example. But unless you fall into that category you’ll be spending an extra $150 or $200 for no real benefit. Or if you already have another router converted to an access point handling your wireless network load, you probably won’t see much benefit from an AC3200 class router either.

Four-stream AC2350 routers on the other hand will be faster thanks to something called MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple-input, multiple-output), which allows them to send and transmit data with up to four devices simultaneously instead of your phone, streaming box, and laptop taking turns. But there aren’t a lot of devices supporting this technology right now so our advice is to wait it out. It could take some time before manufacturers learn how to make the most of of MU-MIMO.

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