(Pocket-lint) - It doesn't matter how fast your internet download speed is if you're sending it around your home using a sub-standard router.
Spotty connections, drop-outs and disruption could all result from sticking with your default ISP router, since they often lack the state of the art technology of dedicated, third-party wireless routers.
Replacements routers make a lot of sense, whether you're trying to safeguard a great connection or shore up a terrible one, and they don't have to break the bank.
We've rounded up some of the best routers on the market for you to choose from, after testing them to see which offer the most impressive range, speed and reliability in a bunch of different scenarios, whether you're looking to stream 4K movies or game without any lag.
What is the top Wi-Fi router you can pick up today? Currently, our first choice is the Netgear Nighthawk AX8. However, for some users, we'd also recommend checking out the Asus RT-AX88U, Nest Wifi, Asus RT-AX86U 5700 and Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000.
Our Top Pick: Best Wi-Fi Router
Netgear Nighthawk AX8
- Wi-Fi 6-enabled
- Superb speed
- Funky design
- Funky design
- High price
This batwing-looking piece of kit is about as advanced a router as you're likely to want, packing massive speed potential along with an all-important bit of future-proofing. That's right, it's fully compatible with Wi-Fi 6, the next big Wi-Fi standard. That's by no means essential for most users, but given that we are likely to see devices swap to it over time, it's a nice feature to have.
We admit that the Nighthawk design is a bit risky depending on your taste, but, overall, we're taken with its mixture of a bold look with seriously powerful performance. If you want Wi-Fi 6, this is the one for you.
Wi-Fi routers we also recommend
Here are four other impressive routers to consider.
- Ideal for gamers
- Wi-Fi 6-enabled
- Great for Ethernet
- Also pricey
This router from Asus is impressive on two counts - it packs Wi-Fi 6 into the package, but is more explicitly aimed at gamers who can't afford even minute lags and hitches in their home's connections.
To that end, it boasts massive speeds, and a really impressive eight Ethernet slots on its back, to let you wire up your various systems as well as use its bleeding-edge Wi-Fi. That sort of adaptability makes it a great fit for the ultra-enthusiastic gamer in you.
Google Nest Wifi
- Unobtrusive design
- Great ease of use
- Easy to expand
- Expensive to start with
Find us a pie Google hasn't got its fingers in and we'd be surprised — whole-home mesh Wi-Fi is no different. Along with most of its other efforts, Google's Nest Wifi is also predictably fantastic. It's pretty reasonably priced, although it'll still feel steep compared to the router that comes with your internet contract.
For us, the real difference is in day-to-day use. Nest Wifi has a strong signal to make sure that you get whole-home coverage, and extenders available to widen that coverage if your home needs it.
The router is unobtrusive and easy to set up, and each extender doubles up as a capable smart speaker with Google Assistant on board. It's a market-leading product as far as simplicity and benefits are concerned.
ASUS RT-AX86U 5700
- Wi-Fi 6-enabled
- Looks pretty normal
- Great speeds
While it's not exactly a quiet look, this router from Asus is a little more "normal" looking than some of the other options on this list, which is a plus.
It also offers superb speeds and impressive range, all with a user interface that makes it really easy to set up and tweak to your exact needs.
It's got Wi-Fi 6, just as you'd hope, and therefore does have a high price to show for it, but you should find it a reliable workhorse for years to come.
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
- Immense speed
- Great range
- Huge price
- Crazy design
Look, we're not going to lie - a lot of higher-end Wi-Fi routers will have guests in your home raising an eyebrow with their spaceship looks. That applies to the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 more than any other we've ever seen. It's pretty monstrous.
However, it backs up those Tower of Barad-dûr looks with unbelievable speeds and some pretty crazy range, all on Wi-Fi 6 to make sure it'll be great for years down the line. It's massively pricey, but you can't do much better in terms of raw performance.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don’t make our final best guides.
These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5:
How to choose a Wi-Fi router
Choosing the right Wi-Fi router can involve a lot of technical jargon you might not understand. Here are some broad questions to help guide you through your decision.
What's your budget?
This is a question that we apply to pretty much every tech purchasing decision, but it's undeniably important. Knowing how much you want to or can afford to spend is really important in ensuring you don't end up going over that budget.
Sadly, the best Wi-Fi routers out there are largely very expensive now, as a result of a push into new territory with Wi-Fi 6, but that's not to say you can't find a bargain at a lower price point if you look.
Are you an online gamer?
While every router on our list will offer great speeds and responsiveness, some are more explicitly aimed at the gamers among us, who might want extra features like ping heatmaps or low-latency options to make sure that their online gaming is never disrupted by a poor connection on their side.
This is something to look into if you are serious about your gaming, as you might find that a gaming router is the best pick. That said, in our experience, these do tend to look a little more outlandish.
Do you want to future-proof?
Wi-Fi 6 is here, bringing improved connections for those devices that support it (which isn't actually all that many yet). While it might be a little superfluous right now, you won't want to update your router every couple of years, so we'd recommend plumping for a Wi-Fi 6 router if you can afford it - it's the best way to ensure you have a router that will stand the test of time.
Does design matter to you?
We've mentioned it a couple of times, and it'll also be self-evident from the list we've compiled, but routers come in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, many of these shapes and sizes are a little bit ugly. It's fine if your access point means the router will be in a hallway or home office, but if it's going to somewhere that is visible all the time or to guests, you probably don't want some crazy spiked monster that takes up a couple of square feet.
We'd generally prioritise functionality over design for something like a router, but it's fair to say that if you want something both impressive technically and nice to look at it might take you a while to discover the right choice.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
Routers are a product category where direct comparisons are relatively straightforward, letting us compare range as well as signal strength and speed to ascertain which routers perform best even over long distances. We're also able to check which ones are the easiest to set up and get using, something that can be a hurdle.
Pricing is also, of course, a huge issue, and one that can swing a router from a top recommendation to a less glowing review, but the reality is that most of the best options on the market are quite pricey. They're also largely quite ugly, something that we account for - where there are nice, subtle designs, we're doubly impressed.
We aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don’t for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.
We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.