A wireless router is the hub of your home’s or business’ network. At its most basic, a router delivers a single Internet connection to other devices on the network either through wired Ethernet or wireless connectivity. In addition, routers often provide additional capabilities such as a USB port for attaching an external drive or printer and then sharing those devices on a network, built-in firewall to protect against Internet threats from invading a network, and services such as UPnP and DLNA to allow streaming multimedia content throughout the network.
Wi-Fi routers can also perform other useful tasks, such as allowing you to set up access for guests to connect to your wireless network and use your Internet service (without giving them access to resources like files and printers, or you can at least limit that access). You can also use a router’s Quality of Service (QoS) feature to give priority to the type of network traffic most important to you, be it Voice over IP (VoIP), video, or even file-sharing.
So although a Wi-Fi router’s main function is delivering Internet (or WAN) access to your private network devices and gives those device wireless access, it can do much more; some can police what your children access on the Internet, (like the Cisco Linksys EA3500) and just about all can restrict which devices can connect to your network via a feature called MAC filtering (such as the Netgear N750).
Routers can vary from very feature-heavy to bare-bones. Some routers, targeted at novice users, are very easy to set up, while others take a little more know-how. Routers vary in the throughput they can crank out depending often on the antenna configuration and hardware components inside. You can get more information on the type of router you need in the “How to Buy a Wireless Router” guide.
When testing routers we look at a couple of key features: throughput speeds, how well the device keeps decent throughput as you move a wireless client further from it, how easy or difficult the router is to set up, its manageability, its feature set, and pricing. The ten routers that follow strike the best balance among all our criteria. Read the quick recaps below and then click through to the full reviews for more details on our favorite routers.
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Cisco Linksys EA3500 App Enabled N750 Dual-Band Wireless Router with Gigabit and USB
The EA3500 offers an amazingly user-friendly set up and hardware that gives excellent throughput. The device is also made to work with Cisco’s upcoming router software to enhance network management for home user Read the full review ››
Netgear N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR4000)
Great throughput, the ability to work across Mac, Windows and Linux plus an easy setup makes the WNDR4000 one of the top dual-band routers on the market. Read the full review ››
Western Digital My Net N900
Western Digital’s MyNet N900 is a delightful surprise from a vendor not known for making wireless routers with excellent throughput at 2.4 GHz, very good throughput at 5 GH and great range. Bonuses include an intuitive setup process and robust management software. The My Net N900 also has an unprecedented seven Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting a multiple of devices. Read the full review ››
Cisco Linksys Smart Wi-Fi AC 1750HD Video Pro EA6500
The cloud as management console with Cisco Connect Cloud raises the bar for router management and that capability coupled with fine performance makes the EA6500 a four star Editors’ Choice for wireless routers. Read the full review ››
Asus RT-AC66U Dual Band 3×3 802.11AC Gigabit Router
More technical and small business users including those wanting a true VPN server, robust IPv6, and granular control over the wireless signal will find the Asus RT-AC66U a delight. Read the full review ››
Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR4500
The N900 is a big router, with excellent throughput; in fact it gave the fastest throughput tested to date on the 2.4 GHz band. Read the full review ››
EnGenius ESR9855G Multimedia Enhanced Wireless 300N Gaming Router
The ESR9855G is not only an interesting-looking router with a bright-orange chassis, it offers great throughput for a single-band router, although has a little trouble keeping good throughput at distances greater than 30 feet. Read the full review ››
Securifi’s Almond is the industry’s first touch screen router. The device is attractive and easy to set up with a bright, colorful on-screen interface similar to Windows 8. It’s not a robust performer though, and best-suited for lighter Internet and networking needs such as Facebooking, chatting, emailing and your garden-variety Internet activity. Read the full review ››
Buffalo AirStation AC1300/N900 Gigabit Dual Band WZR-D1800H
The Buffalo AirStation AC1300/N900 Gigabit Dual Band WZR-D1800H is the first 802.11ac router to come to market, though it’s draft 802.11ac. The device is the fastest router we’ve tested to date with excellent range. A poorly designed interface and no native IPv6 are the only blemishes on this otherwise killer router. Read the full review ››
D-Link Amplifi HD Media Router 2000 (DIR-827)
D-Link’s DIR-827 has the hardware to make it a fast dual-band router, but issues with software and throughput at range leave room for improvement. Read the full review ››
By Samara Lynn, PCMag