best wifi router

Chances are, you’re using the wireless router that was supplied when you last changed your broadband provider. Some of the ‘free’ routers are pretty good, but some aren’t. And even the best will struggle to compete with the fastest wireless routers from D-Link, Linksys, TP-Link and others.

Before you buy a new router, make sure you know which type you need. There are two main types, those with built-in modems and those without. In the UK, most people use the first type because the most common type of broadband is ADSL (and VDSL) which require a modem. The second type is for people with cable broadband, such as Virgin.

Buying a single router may not be the best plan these days, though. That’s because there’s now a new type of router available, and it uses what’s called mesh Wi-Fi.

Such systems include two or more wireless routers which work together to deliver a Wi-Fi network that can cover even the largest of homes. And they’re not as expensive as you might think, so if you were planning to buy a new router because your current one doesn’t bathe your whole home with Wi-Fi, then take a good look at a mesh system as it will plug in to your existing router and should provide a much better signal. 

In fact, you might not need to spend anything at all: we’ve written a guide on how to improve Wi-Fi in your home, which includes some great tips on getting better speed and coverage from your existing router.

However, if you need better Wi-Fi in just one room, you could be better off buying a set of powerline network adapters with built-in Wi-Fi.

So, there are quite a few options open to you, but if you want to keep things simple and replace your old router with a new one, then here’s what we recommend you buy.

Best Wi-Fi routers for 2020

1. D-Link EXO AC2600

2. Asus DSL-AC68U

Asus DSL-AC68U

3. Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Pro

Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Pro

4. Asus DSL-AC88U

Asus DSL-AC88U

5. AVM FRITZ!Box 7590

AVM FRITZ!Box 7590

6. AVM Fritz Box 7530

AVM Fritz Box 7530

7. Synology RT2600ac

Synology RT2600ac

8. Netgear Nighthawk AX4

Netgear Nighthawk AX4

Do I need an 802.11ac router?

802.11ac is the prevalent standard at the moment, so chances are that any reasonably priced router you look at will support this standard. The latest routers have so-called Wi-Fi 6, which is supposed to be even better when you have many Wi-Fi devices trying to access the internet at the same time. It’s early days for Wi-Fi 6, though, and almost no phones and laptops support it.

What features should I look for in a router?

Once you know the type of router you need, it’s a case of deciding how much to spend and the features you want.

For best results, look for an 11ac wireless router with at least three aerials. Sometimes these will be mounted inside, so check the specs or our expert reviews to be sure what you’re getting. Our extensive lab testing suggests that internally mounted antennas can be just as effective as routers that rock the stealth bomber look, so you don’t have to have something that looks like an inverted robot spider to get good performance.

With many homes still finding a need for wired ethernet connections, it makes sense to have a good number of LAN ports – check out our guide to the best ethernet cables if you want to maximise speeds in a wired network.

Look for Gigabit ports, as these run up to 10 times faster than the older 10/100 Ethernet ports.

Don’t worry too much about the number of ports, as these can be easily and cheaply extended using a Gigabit switch such as the TP-Link SG1005D although that creates more wires and power supplies to hide away

If you want to share a hard drive without going the whole hog and buying a NAS drive, then get a router with a USB port which supports storage. Many also let you share a USB printer this way.

Synology’s RT2600ac router combines the software from its NAS drives with router hardware, so you can simply add your own external storage.

Some routers offer a ‘guest’ network that lets friends get online without being able to access the computers and other gadgets on your home network. This won’t be high on your list of priorities, but it could be invaluable if you’re running a small business such as a B&B. 

The routers reviewed below are a mixture of those with modems and those without, so do make sure you know what you need before buying one.


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