Unwavering internet connectivity has become a prerequisite for our lives. Be it streaming shows from Netflix, watching YouTube videos, playing multiplayer games online or simply downloading a big file— truth is we live in world that demands a consistent, lag-free connection.
Wireless connectivity has untangled our lives. Rather than seeing a crumbled mess of wires everywhere, the world is streamlined. It has made everything simpler, cleaner and efficient.
One device that can make or break the internet experience is a wireless router. If you are looking for a router that gives outstanding performance, great connectivity and exceptional stability then you have come to the right place. Today you are going to read reviews on 8 best wi-fi routers and see which one fits the bill.
After reading this post not only will you be able to zero down on the best device for your needs but also find something that doesn’t break the bank.
Asus, known for their gaming devices has always had a tiny presence in the networking devices market. That’s changing now.
They are upping their game with a new range of products. ASUS RT AC-88U is one example from the ASUS manufacturing line.
If you have any prior experience with the company’s gaming gear you would know that they never compromise on design. The RT AC-88U is not only a feature rich product but also aces on design. As far as the functionality is concerned, there’s a lot to discuss.
It’s a dual band AC 3100 router. It supports simultaneous dual bands one with 2.4 GHz and and the other on 5 GHz frequency. On the 5 GHz band, speeds up to 2100Mbps are achievable (in theory).
There’s a feature that analyses the current live traffic—which clients are using how much data, which processes are consuming data and so on. You can see active sites and the data being consumed by each of them along with devices like Android phone, tablets or iPad if connected.
AiProtection is another smart feature that I love. What it does is it protects you against virus attacks and if systems are already infected then it prevents them from sending any data.
You can also prioritize bandwidth allocation by the type of traffic—browsing, gaming, streaming, downloading files etc. So if you want browsing to be of the highest priority place it first in order.
AC routers are often tri-band routers but not this one. With advanced beamforming technology this router which works at 600Mbps can now work at 1000Mbps.
Another feature of the device as is common among most 802.11ac routers is the MIMO technology— Multiple User, Multiple Input. This technology extends the wi-fi range to several devices.
Even the configuration and installation process comes easy. The web-interface is quite intuitive.
Another factor that makes it stand apart its Link Aggregation feature, which is when you combine two Gigabit Ethernet ports to get improved speeds on file transfer. It might not be possible to aggregate WAN connections but it’s possible to balance the load between two connections so that each takes some of the load.
The RT 88U came out in fine style from all the tests we subjected the device to.
While you might get up to 1700MBps the 5GHz band with Netgear with Asus you get 2100MBps on the same band. The speed on the 2.4Ghz band is higher as well with Asus sitting at 1000Mb/s and Netgear merely getting by 800MBps.
As for the physical aspects— the antennas you see on the product can be removed and reassembled. It also sports 8 Gigabit LAN ports, while most offer 3 or 4. These ports ensure high speed wi-fi performance. There’s one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port. These ports can connect to external NAS, USB printers or phones and turn them to cellular modems. Essentially, if your network operator is down and there’s no internet connection you can tether an Android phone or iPhone and use it as a cellular modem. There’s also an option to automatically switch over from WAN to cellular modem if the primary connection fails.
With an external hard-drive you can also use the router as a NAS (Network Accessible Storage). There’s also the possibility of using a printer wirelessly. You need to connect the printer with the USB port and set it up to work with ASUS RT. Once connected this printer can be wirelessly accessed from any device viz pc/laptop/tablet to print wirelessly.
There’s PPTP and OpenVPN included. OpenVPN is preferable.
You have read all about the feature set.
On to the looks—the device is slick, with the entire body in solid black, sporting an eye catching design with a tinge of red. Personally, I love when they combine black and red. I love its feel. It’s sturdy and strong and doesn’t feel cheap on handling.
Overall, it’s one of the best routers considering everything— both design and functionality.
Superior, aesthetic design.
Inclusion of OpenVPN
A little bulky
One of the most stylishly designed routers is D Link’s DIR 890L/R. Here R stands for the Red color. It’s available in two colors- Red and Black. It looks more like a big angular piece of red exotic jewelry than a connectivity device.
The 890L/R has the body painted in bright red with six purposeful antennas in black. With the design comes the problem of placing it down somewhere. It measures 15 by 9.75 cm with almost 11 cm long antennas. Vertical placement might be possible using the screws on the base to attach it to a wall.
The antennas come permanently fixed atop the glossy surface and hence can’t be changed for other antennas.
Spectacular design isn’t the only reason why the DIR 890L found a spot on this list.
Beamforming technology seen earlier, forms a core part of the tech behind this hardware.
Beamforming is when signals in certain directions can be strengthened and weakened elsewhere. So signal remains strong where you want it to be strong.
Being an AC 300 device it’s a tri-band router unlike ASUS RT 88CU. But it doesn’t have three bands. Instead it splits the available 5 Ghz band into 2 equal parts—1300Mbps and 2.4 Ghz band into one part—600Mbps. With a 1 Ghz processor powering the operation, the beast is built for perfection.
It’s a good fit for those requiring limited range but with lots of compatible devices that need internet access.
The external aerials which cannot be removed are used to achieve the speeds we just saw above.
External connectivity options include one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port with 4 LAN ports and one Gigabit LAN port. With the size we would expect more ports, but we only have 4 of them provided.
You have the option of manually connecting the clients on the available networks or choosing the Smart Network mode that would let the router connect each device to its best suited band.
With QoS (Quality of Service), different devices can be assigned different priorities ranging from highest to lowest. When compared to other routers that offer this similar feature there’s a chief difference here. Other routers prioritize data by type of traffic— gaming, download, upload, etc. while DIR prioritizes it by client. So the highest priority would go to one client rather than the type of usage.
This by itself isn’t bad or good but depends on the consumer preferences.
The USB ports can as usual be used to host external drivers or USB printers.
Bulky and big
The RT 3200 is a tri-band router from ASUS.
It’s a powerful router that would match up to any titan in the industry. If you have a number of devices/clients at home that need simultaneous connectivity, then the RT 3200 is a fantastic choice. Powered by a 1.2 Ghz processor it can process data quickly and transfer it in and out for multiple clients without breaking a sweat.
If you only require something for connecting one or two devices, you should probably go for something cheaper.
The device sports a ton of features not easily seen on other routers. These features make it an incredibly powerful and easy device to use.
By default, the SmartConnect feature is ON and all three bands (2 in 5Ghz and 1 in 2.4Ghz) are combined into one network. The device automatically selects bands for clients depending on the wi-fi standard of the connected devices.
With AiProtection, you can also scan the router for any malware or security threats.
The software is powerful. The web interface isn’t much different to that of other ASUS routers and if you have used an ASUS router in the past there won’t be a learning curve. Even otherwise, each option is quickly accessed and easily laid out.
During our testing we found great range across the house and the most within hundred feet of the source.
There are 2 USB ports— one USB 3.0 port on the front and another USB 2.0 port on the back. These can be used to connect to external hard drives or USB printers. If you connect a printer on the USB port and set it up as per instructions then you can this printer on wireless access from any device. Transferring data to the NAS server easily crosses 100Mbps speed which is nice. That’s one of the perks of the powerhouse processor on board.
Similar to RT 88U you can use your smartphone as a cellular modem and access internet from the same.
The router is big and for the size we would expect a higher number of ports than the measly four that it comes with. Especially so since RT-88u comes with 8 LAN ports.
However, in the web interface there’s an option that enables one WAN port to be used as LAN port— if that’s some good news.
It comes with six antennas in the box which can be attached later.
Once you connect it to internet and the PC, you will be guided through the set-up wizard. You can choose names for the three SSIDs or apply the default names. Once that’s done you will be asked to update the firmware. Thereafter, you will have the web interface before you where you can play around with the options.
Under the wireless mode you can choose for N/AC mode or mode that supports legacy devices. Legacy device is a fancy name for older devices. If you have nothing of the sort, N/AC mode is the most preferred mode, instead of letting the device select the auto mode. Doing that lets you squeeze the maximum juice of it.
Very powerful device
Lots of unique features like AiProtection and traffic analysis
Only four LAN ports despite the size and width.
Can allot bandwidth by priority but doesn’t work very well with gaming.
NETGEAR Nighthawk R7000
The body is built entirely in black with a matte finish. At 25.6 cm width this is one of the widest routers ever built. The earlier version of the same was even wider. At the same time weighing at 3.5 pounds it’s pretty heavy.
It sports three thick round-edge antennas that are non-detachable.
When you start up the router, the power light will first turn orange and then white as soon as the device comes online. LED indicators show the running status for the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands, the USB ports and the Ethernet ports. As soon as a band is active the led starts blinking. Similarly if you plug in a USB device the light starts to blink showing that it’s connected.
During our testing we found the range to be pretty good around the home but it’s a little less than ASUS’s RT 800.
USB 3.0 port is conveniently situated on the front and the USB 2.0 port on the back. On transferring data via the USB 3.0 port you can easily get speeds above 200Mbps.
Powered by a 1Ghz processor, the router is one of the fastest available today.
Being AC1900 implies it has Broadcom BCM4708A chipset under the hood.
The chipset consists of a 1 GHz ARM® Cortex™-A9 dual-core for advanced Gigabit Internet solutions.
The advantage of the same is that it boosts speeds from 450Mbps to 600Mbps (at least in theory).
Also with Beamforming, signals are sent where devices are instead of randomly radiating them everywhere. This helps in better signal strength.
Setting up process
When you first do the setup it redirects you to the IP 192.168.1.1.
You get logged in with the default password— password, which can be changed later by accessing Advanced >>Administration>> Set Password.
The web interface has a lot of features and options like parental control, OpenVPN access and such. You can also see the number of connected devices, details of who’s on the Guest network also.
You can also access the same options with Neatgear Genie app which is available for free.
There are also a lot of options for setting up backups both on Windows and Mac running machines.
Even though it’s bulky and requires room, it can be easily mounted on a wall saving space.
It cannot work as a bridge like the RT-AC68U and it doesn’t pack any remote Cloud access like Linksys’ latest routers and, to a lesser extent, Asus and D-Link.
In short the R7000 was built with a simple purpose: to be the fastest, rangiest wireless router available.
The RT-AC5300 embodies the latest in wi-fi technology. Designed completely in black with a red accent at the lower bottom it looks nothing short of a beast. From all the different devices listed on this page, this one could be the bulkiest.
The cobwebbed mesh like structure at the top helps circulate air and prevents heat build-up.
With 8 sturdy antennas, you can also place the router upside down. 3 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports flank the construct with two WAN ports that can double up as LAN ports.
For the size and width, we could have easily expected more LAN ports since the humble 88U sports 8 of them. There’s one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port. USB 3.0 port is placed at the back which adds to convenience.
Compared to earlier models that run on 256 QAM this hardware is powered by 1024 QAM that improves the data speeds by about 25%. With NitroQAM, Beamforming and MU-MIMO the router delivers 2,167 Mbps each on the 5Ghz band and 1000Mbps at the 2.4Ghz band. This is approximately 400Mbps higher speed at each band, at least in theory. Another reason for the incredible speeds is the Broadcomm BCM43465 chipset under the chassis.
Discuss GLAN options
Similar to AC3100, the router can dish out bands to clients automatically based on their wi-fi configuration and dynamically adjust bands to their needs.
The numbers pegs the RT AC5300 for the highest speeds in this range of devices.
Setting up the router
Most set-ups are fairly easy. It might take some resets and page refreshes but they don’t make your head spin.
However the set-up configuration for this might take longer than most. It would also most likely beat other ASUS routers in the set-up time and sheer number of options.
You would be asked to choose the configuration for the desired function. You might set it up merely as a switch, wireless bridge or just as a router.
Standard options available on AC 3100 are seen on the dashboard. You can set up cellular modems using your smartphone as an alternative source of Internet.
At the same time USB drives can be set up as actual media drives.
Akin to all AC3200 routers reviewed here— this too is powered by the Broadcom chipset. With AC3200 routers you can run both legacy devices and the latest 802 devices.
The design is a bit different than its predecessors all of which featured internal antennas.
This one comes with six antennas all of which are adjustable and can be twisted and turned to point in multiple directions. Two of them are at the back and two each at each side.
Powered by a 1Ghz powerful processor and 256MB of RAM under the chassis, Trend Net packs in 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports with supports 3 bands— 1 in 2.4Ghz and 2 in 5Ghz. The 2.4Ghz band is capped at 600Mbps and the 5Ghz band at 1300Mbps each.
With the SmartConnect feature slower devices are assigned a band automatically and faster clients another— each according to their capability.
During our testing, we found that the 828 DRU’s range is as good as any of the routers in the same band-3200.
The User Interface presents us with many familiar options but isn’t as slick as Asus’s interfaces.
USB storage might present problems when trying to connect.
TP Link’s AC1900 may not win any prizes for design. It’s a simple design in glossy white and touches of silver.
Yet, the functionality of the design escapes my understanding. The stand feels cheap and might not stand on its own given a small jolt.
However it’s the cheapest router on this list.
With the stand coming in between, you can’t place it flat footed either. The WPS switch, Ethernet ports (4) and USB 2.0 port are at the back and are all spaced out neatly. The USB 3.0 port sits at the side. There’s a wi-fi kill switch on this side if you want to kill wi-fi in an emergency.
Also, LED lights indicate the status of each. The blue lit icons against the white backdrop work really well.
It comes with support for OpenSourced software DD WRT
It is dual band 802.11a router with three antennas that can be positioned in pretty much any way you want. Triple antennae aren’t going to be much useful. The antennas are detachable and can be replaced.
The set-up is fairly intuitive with three levels of setup possibilities— Quick, Basic and Advanced. Quick set-up would configure the router with mostly default options and gets done in the shortest possible time.
Advanced set-up offers a lot more options to drill down and configure each and everything as you desire. There are drop down menus for each band, dual band selection, USB settings, NAT Boost settings, forwarding options, Mac binding, dynamic DNS to name a few. Along with usually available options like Parental Control, Bandwidth and Access Control.
The layout of options in the web interface follows the same neatness and clarity of design as was seen on the router. The reboot option can be seen on the top right hand side which makes it incredibly convenient to do the obvious should need arise.
With bandwidth control you can get a quick overview of the different clients on the network and the ongoing bandwidth consumed by each. If NAT boost is enabled the router will prioritize bandwidth automatically with default options. On disabling NAT boost, your choices for traffic prioritization come into play.
It offers 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band and 1300Mbps on the 5Ghz band. Due to network latencies and most ISPs limiting speeds to 1Gigabits, 1300Mbps is generally always a theoretically listed speed.
However, during our testing we found it be slower than other routers listed here. File sharing over the USB ports too isn’t particularly spectacular and there are routers with much better file transfer speeds.
An affordably priced router
Provides most features available on other routers
Poor file transfer speeds
Can’t be wall mounted or set up flat on a surface.