Cisco-Linksys E4200 ($120)
One of the newest editions to the Cisco-Linksys wireless-n router lineup, the E4200 is a antenna powerhouse. The sleek, intuitive design houses three antennas for both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, as well as four Gigabit ports and a USB port for sharing files and devices over your home network. The router’s setup is by far one of the easiest of the bunch, and the throughput is excellent given the 450-Mbps speed and moderate range capabilities. The security and parental controls are industry standard, yet notable, but the Cisco Connect management system could use a little work when it comes to ease of use and overall accessibility, whether online or through the accompanying mobile app. The built-in UPnP media server, one which allows users to stream digital content between UPnP-equipped devices, is fantastic when it works properly. Keep in mind the router also runs hot during heavy use and the NAS performance is also fairly mediocre for the price.
The E4200 is a powerful piece of machinery, but it may be ahead of its time. There are cheaper routers that tout similar specs, but it’s not a bad idea to pick up the E4200 if you plan on retrofitting your home with the latest wireless technology.
Netgear N900 ($130)
Netgear’s N900 model is basically a more robust version of the N750 model, increasing the 2.4-GHz band speeds and putting it on par with the impressive speeds attainable on the 5-GHz band. The rest of the features are similar to the N750 model — four Gigabit LAN ports, 2 USB ports, parental controls and data transfer capabilities up to 900-Mbps — but the speed bump is definitely what set the two routers apart. The ReadySHARE Cloud allows you to access and utilize USB-connected devices remotely, even Time Machine, giving users access to a wide variety of remote features. The N900 supports more advanced features as well, including static routing, port forwarding, IPv6 support and options for setting up the device as a wireless repeater among other things. The initial setup is minimal and the Netgear Genie Management software makes further customization and networking monitoring just as simple.
The connection may be quick, but it’s also not the most reliable, occasionally dropping when you least expect it. Like the N750, the USB functions and software can also be a bit finicky and slow to respond. Regardless, the N900 is one of the fastest routers on our roundup, perfect for those looking to engage in heavy-duty gaming and intensive streaming.
D-Link DIR-605L Cloud ($40)
D-Link’s ultimate budget router is as stripped down as it gets, but what do you expect for a mere $40 or so? The single-band, wireless-N router lacks Gigabit and USB ports, IPv6 support and options for guest networking. However, the wireless connection is steady and reliable, capable of delivering speeds up to 300 Mbps on the single 2.4-GHz band without any additional bells and whistles that would up fantastic price tag. Once you’ve set up the router with a free mydlink account, the device becomes cloud-based, allowing you to manage your home network on the web or by using a mobile app. Although cloud-based functionality is not a new feature to modern routers, the DIR-605L does so without the infuriating hassle and complications that force users to jump through a series of loopholes just to get it to work.
The router doesn’t do anything more than what you might expect given the price, but it does them well nonetheless. You’re going to want to check out the rest of our list if you’re looking for more advanced features, but D-Link’s device is simply awesome if you want to do nothing more than check your email, browse the Web or carry out any other tasks that require a light connection.
Trendnet AC1750 ($210)
Treadnet’s AC1750 router is our most expensive pick, bursting with notable features and solid performance that holds its own amongst the rest on our list. Like Buffalo’s Airstation, the device is equipped with 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands capable of up to 450-Mbps, as well as 1,3900 802.11ac speeds if you have the proper computer adapter and necessary hardware. You can setup a whopping 16 concurrent Wi-Fi networks on the device — four main and four guest networks on each band — and share content from a storage devices plugged into the built-in USB port (there are also multiple Gigabit wired ports as well as a LAN). The AC1750 supports standard QoS, parental controls, virtual servers and DMZ, adding to a host of other advanced features including the ability to set each individual band’s data rate. The included guide and DVD make setup straightforward, but the management interface can be rather slow despite its easy-to-use navigation and attractive appearance.
With decent range and great overall performance, the AC1750 is the best 802.11ac router on our list. However, “best” comes at a price. We also recommend you be weary of its design, it’s likely to tip over from time to time given the lack of a stand and its bulky build.
“Buffalo” is an appropriate name give the Airstation is a beast of a wireless device. As one of the few 802.11ac routers on our roundup, the router handles all current and previous Wi-Fi standards, giving it the upper hand when it comes to network compatibility and speed. The equipped dual 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands aren’t the fastest on our list, but they’re admirable, pushing theoretical speeds up to 450 Mbps on a network that features the latest WPA2 security and encryption options. The built-in Gigabit ports and sole USB port offer faster wired connections and remote functionality for accessing stored files on connected drives affiliated with your network. Sharing printers is also an option, though it remains a bit buggy even after several firmware updates and supposed fixes. The setup wizard and horrendous management interface can be a bit of a pain, but the connection is fairly reliable and solid once the device is up and running.
Despite all the notes flaws and drawbacks, the Airstation is a great device. The coupled 802.11ac support is still in it’s infancy, but we are likely to see quicker connections as the new IEEE standard draft grows and manufacturers begin incorporating it into their products to a larger degree. For now though, it’s best for those wanting a solid N900 router with a peek of what the future of wireless technology holds.
What do you think our picks for the best wireless routers? What device are you using to fulfill all your wireless-networking needs? Let us know in the comments below.
This article has been updated since it was originally published to include new devices on the market.