Pop quiz: What’s the most important piece of tech in your house that helps you get online? If you guessed router, you’re right on the money — and if your router isn’t fast or powerful enough, you might not get the coverage you need in every room.
Thankfully, today’s networking tech is much better than what you could buy a decade ago. From Wi-Fi 6 routers to mesh networks, there are plenty of ways to set up your Wi-Fi without dead zones. Tap or click here to find out more about Wi-Fi 6.
If you’re in the market for a new router, it can seem like there are almost too many options to choose from. To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of our favorite new routers that can fit any sized home or budget. If you want a better network, check out our top picks.
Where do I start?
There are a few things to consider before picking out a new router. First, you’ll need to determine how many devices you plan on connecting to the web in your home. A weaker router won’t be able to support as many devices at once, which can affect your internet speed.
Second, you’ll need to factor in the size of your home when choosing for signal strength. If you live in a large house, you may notice dead zones where Wi-Fi doesn’t reach. In addition, areas further away from the router may see slower internet speeds. A router with a stronger antenna can penetrate walls and reach more areas of your home.
It helps to think of Wi-Fi like a sphere with your router at its center. If you live in a multistory home, the floor of the second story is the best place to put your router. If you live in a one-story house, try to put it as close to the center of your home as possible.
Finally, and most importantly, you’ll want to make sure the router you pick has secure encryption that can block out intruders. The most common type of Wi-Fi security you’ll find right now is Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption. Newer high-end routers will also include WPA3 — the latest encryption standard available.
Both are solid choices for your security, but WPA3 offers more advanced encryption. If you have the money to spend on a more expensive router, check the box to see if it includes WPA3.
The best routers for every budget
Now that you know what to look for in a router, let’s go through some of our favorite selections. Each of these routers is designed to fit a specific budget and home size, so try to pick one that works best for your lifestyle.
For homes 1,500 square feet or less:
If you live in a smaller home or apartment, this Linksys EA7300 dual-band router is a solid choice for your network. The router has a range of up to 1,500 square feet, so it should have no trouble covering the entirety of your home. It can also host up to 10 devices at once without affecting its signal strength or speed.
More importantly, this router offers dual-band broadcasting. In a nutshell, the Linksys EA7300 can project two kinds of wireless signals at once — 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The lower-frequency signal can travel further around your home while the higher frequency signal will give you better speeds.
This router can project both frequencies at once, and we recommend setting up your router this way. Gadgets that depend on fast internet like your computer and streaming devices can connect to the 5GHz band. Smart home devices further away from the router can use the 2.4GHz band. It’s a solid tradeoff for more consistent coverage.
For homes between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet:
For a bit more coin, you can pick up this ASUS RT-AX3000 dual-band router with a built-in range of up to 3,000 square feet. If you’re in an average-sized home, you shouldn’t have any trouble reaching bedrooms and bathrooms far away from where your router is located. Plus, this router comes with useful security features right out of the box like WPA3 and parental controls.
The ASUS RT-AX3000 is also a Wi-Fi 6 router, which means it uses the latest wireless standard available for Wi-Fi devices. Wi-Fi 6 has lower latency than earlier forms of Wi-Fi, so there’s less of a lag between your hardwired internet and your wireless devices. You’ll notice an instant speed boost on everything you connect with.
And speaking of devices, this one can host up to 30 without any issue.
For homes between 2,500 and 4,000 square feet:
Bigger homes require a beefier router, and the ASUS dual-band Gigabit router is one of the biggest around. Right off the bat, this router includes everything you need for fast secure internet — Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 and dual-band broadcasting. It also happens to cover up to 5,000 square feet of space. Wow!
In addition to its speed and range, this router also includes MU-MIMO like the others on this list. This stands for “Multiple User – Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output,” which refers to the way the router connects to devices it hosts. Instead of the router letting high-bandwidth devices clog up the connection, it gives each one its own dedicated full-speed Wi-Fi connection.
This allows multiple devices to connect without slowing the network. Add in the fact that Wi-Fi 6 makes MU-MIMO even more effective, and you have a killer router that works just as fast for every device it’s connected to.
Did you think all those antennas were just for show?
For larger homes or properties with multiple buildings:
A larger home (or a property that spans multiple buildings) can’t rely on a single router for all its internet needs. There’s just too much space to cover — which is why mesh networks are a perfect fit.
Mesh networks use multiple Wi-Fi routers called nodes to create stronger coverage over greater distances. Each node picks up the slack from the others and amplifies the network like a daisy-chain. You typically only need about five nodes to get the coverage needed for houses greater than 5,000 square feet.
When choosing a mesh device, there are two brands we’d recommend: Google and eero. Google Nest Wi-Fi is designed to totally replace your existing network setup, with one node standing in for the router you have now. Additional nodes will expand coverage and give you greater speed across your home.
Google Wi-Fi also comes standard with all the bells and whistles like Wi-Fi 6, WPA3 and a range of up to 2,200 square feet for each node. Plus, the devices are small and unobtrusive — so you can put them anywhere in your home.
On the other hand, if you want to save some money, you can also pick up the previous generation Google Wi-Fi for a fraction of the price. These nodes are not Wi-Fi 6 compatible, so you won’t see as fast of network speeds as you would on the newer model.
The other brand we recommend, eero, is owned by Amazon. Like the Google Nest Wi-Fi, each eero device is small enough to stow anywhere in your home while providing a range of up to 5,000 square feet per three nodes. But unlike the Google Nest, eero comes with a bonus feature you won’t find anywhere else: Alexa integration.
If you connect Alexa-enabled devices to your eero nodes, you can easily walk through wireless setups with your voice. It’s also compatible with iOS’s Homekit system, which makes it a solid choice for setting up smart home networks. If you have plenty of smart home devices, we’d recommend picking up a few eero nodes for your home.
It’s also worth mentioning that Amazon just rolled out the new eero 6 and eero Pro 6 that work on both WPA 3 and Wi-Fi 6. The eero 6 covers up to 1,500 square feet while the eero 6 Pro covers up to 2,000.
Eero’s extenders can also cover an additional 1,500 square feet. If you’re willing to put down the money for them, these are the best eero routers you can buy.
Keeping it safe: Securing your brand new router
Now that you’ve picked out a router, you’ll want to make sure it’s secure enough to browse the web with. These additional security steps can give you peace of mind about your network before you log on.
- Make sure your router gets automatic updates: Regular updates will protect your network (and everything connected to it) from security flaws and bugs. Check the instructions that came with your router to find out how to access its Admin Page. Once you’ve opened the Admin Page, locate a section called Advanced or Management to install any firmware updates. Enable automatic updates if possible.
- Use Quad9 DNS settings for maximum security: Quad9 provides an additional security check any time you visit a new web domain. This service is maintained by IBM and The Global Cyber Alliance, and it can prevent you from getting tricked by hijacked domain names and hackers. Tap or click here to see Kim’s guide to setting up Quad9 DNS for your router.
- Get rid of remote access: Many routers offer remote access so technicians can fix your network over the internet. Unfortunately, hackers can abuse this backdoor to gain access to your system. You can usually disable these settings by opening your router’s Admin Page and disabling the option under the Remote Administration heading. Exact settings will vary by device and maker.
Once your new router is plugged in, set up and ready to go, you can enjoy the web without having to worry about spotty connections or slow speeds. And best of all, you probably won’t need to upgrade your equipment for several years.
Unless, of course, you want to. After all, the next big advancement in Wi-Fi could come when we least expect it.
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