The wireless router is the brain, the central hub if you will, of your network. Aside from providing you with wired and wireless connectivity, a worthwhile router will provide you with advanced Internet security, parental controls, device sharing and few other features that make them more than just an intuitive way to connect to the Web. Yet, choosing the model that’s right for you can be a chore, one that can leave you incredibly frustrated and completely broke should you make the wrong decision.
So here is our roundup for the best wireless routers so you can get the most bang for your buck and ditch that clunky, Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL of yours (don’t lie — everyone had one at some point or another). The prices below are the list prices straight from the manufacturer, but you can typically purchase the same router at nearly half the cost elsewhere. Shop around and check out our wireless router buying guide if you need to make sense of all that dual-band, WPA2 jargon.
With nearly 5,000 customer reviews on Amazon, MediaLink’s flagship router is one of the standout routers on our list in terms of both cost and accessibility. It’s fairly basic, complies with the current 802.11n standard and is guaranteed to be compatible with any manufacturer’s wireless adapter and equipment. The latter is actually a huge plus considering some manufacturers, such as Cisco-Linksys, often have compatibility issues that render their products utterly useless when paired products from other manufactures. It also features a built-in antenna, runs on 2.4Ghz wavelength and touts wireless transfer speeds up to 150 Mbps on a good day. Combine that with the WPA2 security, automatic encryption, notable customer support and lightning fast setup and you have a router loaded with essential features for an affordable price tag.
However, we recommend picking up a longer Cat 5 cable and covering the indicator lights with a thick strip of tape, unless you want the blinding LEDs keeping you awake all hours of the night.
Asus RT-N66U ($170)
The RT-N664 is a sleek, but intimidating, beast of a router packed with a slew of advanced features that put it beyond the realm of just casual use. The equipment is dual-band, meaning it can operate on both 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz frequencies in 802.11n and 802.11ac modes, and features three adjustable/detachable antennas for channeling the router’s remarkable speeds (supposedly up to 900 Mbps). Although the initial setup and interface navigation can be a bit cumbersome, not to mention the parental controls and other security features within the interface, but the router boasts one of the quickest and most reliable signals on our list. The TR-N66U is even equipped with a robust VPN server, IPv6 support and two multi-functional USB ports for connecting USB-enabled devices and accessing the content remotely via the bundled AiCloud software.
The biggest drawback is definitely the high price point, but it’s certainly a more capable router for more tech-savvy users or those looking to set a wireless network for a small business or office.
Securfi Almond ($80)
The Almond is what happens when routers decide it’s time to catch up with the 21st century. The 802.11n-compatible device can can connect to 50 users at a time at a range of more than 100 feet, offers users speeds up to 300 Mbps and is equipped with built-in, 2.8-inch touchscreen display that operates at 320 x 240 resolution. The display is actually pretty attractive, featuring colored tiles akin Windows 8 interface, but it can be a little finicky if you accidentally touch the wrong button. Still, it makes setting up the router for your wireless networking needs a breeze and the firmware updates routinely add new apps — such as weather and time — as well as the expected security fixes. It also features WPA2 security and simple content filter for blocking specific websites on your network such as Facebook and YouTube, an incredibly handy and quick feature that forgoes any complications you might encounter accessing your router’s main control panel from your browser.
Despite it’s novelty appearance and comprehensive controls, the single-band device is not the best when it comes to delivering a high-quality signal on your network. It can be rather slow and occasionally drop off, rendering it more suitable for mere browsing than HD streaming and anything else that may require a solid Internet connection. You can also purchase a router with the same specs sans touchscreen for far cheaper, but that wouldn’t be as fun or look as nice on your counter.
Western Digital MyNet N900 ($180)
Western Digital is not a household name when it comes to routers, but the MyNet N900 could change that. The 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands allow ample bandwidth between devices, minimizing interference and allowing theoretical speeds up to 450 Mbps that hold up pretty well throughout your home. The seven Gigabit Ethernet ports may be overkill, but they are nice touch if you prefer to directly hard wire your devices instead of access the Internet over Wi-Fi. The included parental controls and WPA2 security are typical, but the router’s Web-based management system is incredibly customizable once you move beyond the intimidating interface, offering options for guest networking and real-time prioritization of multimedia to hone your bandwidth when playing online games or streaming demanding HD content.
Like many router’s on our list, the MyNet N900 can be a costly investment. However, it should not be one that is overlooked given the variety of features and quick, reliable speeds at 2.4-GHz.
Netgear N750 ($100)
Netgear’s N750 once again proves that the company has a knack for churning out quality products that often go above and beyond their expectation. One of the newest in the Netgear router lineup, the 802.11n-enabled N750 is capable of producing breakneck speeds at both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, especially at the latter. It’s equipped with a USB and LAN port among others, and allows users to share hard drives and other devices wirelessly over their network with little to no hassle. More advanced features include everything from extensive content filtering and USB functions to a repeater mode and options for setting up a separate guest network. Setup isn’t tough, but you are required to use the bundled Smart Wizard assistant unless you want to chance installing it manually, something better suited for more advanced users or those running Linux systems.
The router’s range isn’t stellar, nor is particularly impressive when it comes to the equipped USB functions, but the surefire speeds within close range and the great assortment of customization options make it worthy of our best-of list. However, quality still comes at seemingly daunting cost.
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