The 8 Best 802.11ac WiFi Wireless Routers to Buy in 2017

Keep your connection strong with these top-notch routers

In today’s world, there’s a lot of Internet congestion in homes with a wide range of connected devices from smartphones to tablets to computers and streaming devices. All this connectivity means it’s more important than ever for your home to have a wireless router that’s up to the task of handling all this demand. That's where 802.11ac routers come into play; they run solely in the 5Ghz band and are dozens of times faster than the previous 802.11n iterations. While not everybody needs to spend a fortune, 802.11ac routers range in price, size, and options and there are a slew of choices that will work for every member of the family. Here’s our guide for the best 802.11ac routers on the market today.

Best Overall: Asus RT-AC88U

Asus RT-AC88U
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Widely regarded as the crème de la crème of Internet routers, the Asus RT-AC88U wireless-AC1300 is a superb choice for 802.11ac router buyers. While its futuristic style might catch your eye, it’s what’s under the hood that helps set the tone for this Asus model. Powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core processor and 1024-QAM technology, the AC88U is blazing fast with speeds that are up to 80 percent faster at 5GHz up to 2100Mbps and 66 percent faster at 2.4GHz up to 1000Mbps. Additionally, the four-transmit, four-receive antenna offers 33 percent greater coverage on the 2.4GHz band (up to 5,000 square feet).

Another standout feature is the inclusion of MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input and multiple-output), which offers every connected device its own dedicated WiFi connection. In other words, each device that’s connected to the AC88U doesn’t unintentionally slow down the entire network. With all these great features, it’s good to know that setup is a snap with Asus getting you online with a three-step Web-based installation process. With a combined range of 3167Mbps, incredible coverage inside a home and easy setup, the 2.6-pound AC88U is an easy recommendation for the best router on the market.  

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Asus AC1900 RT-AC68CU

Asus AC1900 RT-AC68CU
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Asus’ AC1900 RT-AC68CU 802.11ac router is another outstanding choice that has the latest technology and ultra-fast speeds. Powered by a 1GHz dual-core CPU, the AC68U offers a dual-band 3x3 antenna technology capable of hitting up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac band and 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz 802.11n band. Plus, 4K HD streaming is supported by Broadcom TurboQAM technology.

Additionally, Asus includes a proprietary feature called AiRadar, which adds beamforming technology for amplified high-power signal connectivity. Users will find extended coverage, large speed increases and a stable signal. Fortunately, these features benefit from an easy setup with the AC68U requiring just a three-step Web-based installation process that has users online with minutes. As an added layer of security, Asus also includes AiProtection through Trend Micro, which protects against multi-stage threats and keeps your devices secure.

Best Budget: TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750

TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750
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Released in 2013, TP-Link’s Archer C7 AC1750 802.11ac router is still an exceptional choice for buyers looking for future-proofed technology. The AC1750 features 1.75Gbs in total available bandwidth, including 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 802.11ac 5GHz band. Boosting signal strength are six powerful antennas, three of which reside externally with the other three inside the C7 hardware. Regardless of their placement, high-speed WiFi reaches just about every room in the house for hassle-free gaming, streaming or just browsing.

Setup is a snap with TP-Link’s tether app available for both Android and iOS, so buyers can quickly connect and jump online with just a few steps. The budget pricing does mean it lacks some of the more intriguing features of its higher-priced competition (mainly beamforming and MU-MIMO technology), but the C7 still shines as a standalone model at a price point that’s easy to stomach.

Best Splurge: Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200
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Set aside Netgear’s Nighthawk X6 AC3200 space-age style and look at the feature set that offers some of the best pound-for-pound performance available today. With 3.2Gbps in total WiFi speed, six high-performance antennas guarantee a powerful connection. It is run by a 1GHz dual-core processor with three additional offload processors to increase performance when it matters most. Add in beamforming technology and this 802.11ac splurge adds an even stronger signal for all your devices.

Additionally, Netgear’s inclusion of Dynamic QoS bandwidth prioritization selects which devices currently online require the most signal and then it provides that device the strongest possible connection. With Tri-Band WiFi on board, the bandwidth prioritization helps ensure that both fast and slow devices are connected to separate networks to maintain WiFi signal stability. Fortunately, these features are easily connected with a simplified setup that requires only minutes to get online.

Best Range: Linksys AC1900 WRT1900ACS

Linksys AC1900 WRT1900ACS
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Released in 2015, Linksys AC1900 WRT1900ACS offers 802.11ac with simultaneous dual-band speed up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band. While its design may be bland, the four high-performance antennas are engineered to enhance signal strength through adjustability, ensuring the best possible WiFi signal in multilevel homes or offices. Powered by a dual-core 1.6GHz processor, the WRT1900ACS is more than capable of handling simultaneous gaming, streaming movies and file transfers without skipping a beat. Additionally, Linksys includes Smart WiFi with network map software that allows a user to completely control signal direction to maximize strength in a specific room or general area.

Linksys includes beamforming technology as a bonus, which helps focus signal strength on specific devices. The result is a faster network, better wireless range and a stronger WiFi signal overall. Parents take note as well: with the WRT1900ACS you can limit access to content, as well as offer guests a one-time use password to get online through a separate guest network.

Best Design: Portal

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While the design may not always be a deciding factor when purchasing a 802.11ac router, Portal’s Wi-Fi router has an unusually attractive look that offers coverage in homes up to 3,000 square feet. The design itself almost resembles a flattened pebble, but with features that can replace both a current wireless router and WiFi extender, the Portal is far more than just an flashy device. With patented technology features like FastLanes, the Portal can use exclusive fast channels that can avoid congested WiFi signals and networks.

The Wave-2 4x4 MU-MIMO dual-band internals all boost the Portal to more than 3x faster than any competitive AC3200 router. Additionally, the Portal is Mesh-ready, which allows an additional Portal unit inside a single home to create a signal strength that’s 10x faster and offers more than 3x the coverage of the single unit. Beyond its feature set, setup is a snap; you’re online within minutes through the Android and iOS-compatible applications.

Best Gaming: D-Link AC3200

D-Link AC3200
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While its design may be something straight out of a sci-fi movie, the D-Link AC3200 ultra tri-band WiFi router has six high-performance beamforming antennas that make it a gamer's delight. Featuring 600Mbps performance on the 2.4GHz band and 2x 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band, the D-Link is capable of incredibly fast speed that won’t even blink at intensive gaming or 4K video streaming. Powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, the 2.5-pound router might be a few years old with a 2014 release, but its specs more than hold their own today courtesy of a slew of future-proofed additions.

Advanced AC SmartBeam helps track devices inside the home to make sure the best possible band for maximum WiFi performance is at the ready as soon as a device comes back online. Additionally, the D-Link utilizes a process called Smart Connect to determine which of the three WiFi bands available is the clearest one and it re-routes a device’s signal to the best possible band. The good news for gamers is they can forget about lagging while multiplaying with friends around the world as beamforming technology is designed to give gamers maximum performance without adversely affecting other WiFi users in the house.

Best Mesh Networking: Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi
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A relatively new technology for consumers, Mesh networking represents a whole new way of covering an entire house or office with WiFi without taking out a second mortgage. Netgear’s Orbi Home WiFi system not only replaces WiFi range extenders, but does so while offering a fast and secure system that offers a stronger and faster signal altogether. Connecting two 1.96-pound Orbis together will provide enough signal strength to cover a 4,000-square foot home. Fortunately, setup is a snap. The Orbi comes preconfigured right out of the box with your Internet service provider of choice. Utilizing Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi, the Orbi connects on the 5GHz band with speeds up to 1733Mbps and 866Mbps and runs speeds up to 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

Add in beamforming and MU-MIMO technologies and the Orbi offers each individual WiFi user the best possible signal without adversely affecting others who are online at the same time. Whether it's gaming, streaming 4K movies or just browsing online, the Tri-Band Wi-Fi connections search for the best possible signal strength and route that to each device online.


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