The 8 Best 802.11ac WiFi Wireless Routers to Buy in 2018

Keep your connection strong with these top-notch routers

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Our Top Picks

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.  

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.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best mesh wi-fi network systems

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.

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 Range: Asus AC5300

Asus AC5300's tri-band performance is aided by dual 5GHz and a single 2.4GHz band with the latest 802.11ac 4x4 technology that's capable of reaching a maximum speed of 5334Mbps and covering a house or business up to 5,000 square feet. The inclusion of MU-MIMO technology allows the Asus hardware to direct higher speeds in the direction of specific devices based on their maximum speed capability, ensuring that all Wi-Fi connections are working at peak performance. For gamers, the Asus has a built-in Gamers Private Network (GPN) that ensures stable ping times for increased multiplayer performance while online.

The Asus has a four-transmit, four-receive antenna setup and both Wi-Fi and range benefit from this 4x4 setup with an amplified signal reaching areas of your home that might have been dead spots before. Additionally, AiRadar beamforming helps direct signal directly at devices increasing Wi-Fi speeds and making the signal itself stronger. With all this range and speed, protection against Internet intruders is a necessity and Asus is assisted by AiProtection from Trend Micro, which will help detect and eliminate vulnerabilities that exist on your home 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.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 129 hours testing three of the most popular 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless routers on the market. They installed set them up in their own homes, connected their various devices, and took careful notes on the performance. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these wireless routers, from their speed to the number of Ethernet ports they have. We've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a 802.11ac WiFi Wireless Router

Ethernet ports - Fast wireless is the selling point of 802.11ac routers, but you can’t forget about Ethernet ports. Look for a router that has at least four Gigabit Ethernet ports, unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll be able to get by with less. You can always add an Ethernet switch later on if you end up needing more ports, but it’s easier to buy a router with enough ports in the first place.

Dual- and tri-band - If you plan on streaming video from services like Netflix and Hulu over your wireless network, choose a dual-band router. Routers with this feature can create two networks — one 2.4GHZ and one 5GHZ — at the same time. If you want the best performance possible, a tri-band router adds second 5GHZ connection so you won’t have to deal with congestion or slowdown.

Standalone vs. mesh - A standalone 802.11ac router can provide decent coverage, but if you have an especially big house, you’ll probably still end up with dead spots. Look for a router that uses mesh networking, which allows you to place wireless relay points around your home.

Test Results: Asus RT-AC88U (Best Overall)


Asus RT-AC88U
Asus RT-AC88U back
Asus RT-AC88U cable
Asus RT-AC88U side
Asus RT-AC88U top

This “plug and play” router was a winner with one of our testers because it was “surprisingly easy” to set up — plus it was faster and more efficient than the models he’d used in the past. This efficiency is partly due to four tall antennas, which one tough tester wished were smaller: “My cable line is in my living room and I rest the router on a shelf,” he explained. “I wish it was a little flatter so I could hide it better.”

Test Results: Netgear Orbi (Best Mesh Networking)


What We Like

  • Fast speeds

  • Simple setup process

  • Configurable options

What We Don't Like

  • Only offered in one color

  • Bulky

Netgear Orbi
Netgear Orbi parts
Netgear Orbi detail
Netgear Orbi information

Our testers gave Netgear’s Orbi a perfect five-star rating, with one person reporting that he experienced a very consistent connection and an improved range. “I get a very good connection even working out in the yard,” he said. Our reviewers did wish, however, that the router wasn’t offered just in white: “I’d like to see the product offered in at least one more color — preferably black — so consumers have a choice based on their home decor,” said one tester.

Test Results: Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 (Best Splurge)


What We Like

  • Tri-band technology

  • Very fast setup

  • Guest Wi-Fi access through EZ Mobile Connect feature

What We Don't Like

  • Oddly shaped

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200
Netgear Nighthawk
Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 parts

One tester deemed this router a “polished piece of hardware” for its well-thought-out menus, ease of use, and exceptional user support. Its speed and consistency were also above average. “The router doesn't drop connections,” reported one reviewer, “and can handle traffic on multiple networks that it’s handling at once. This was my primary concern, and the router comes through with flying colors.” Our reviewers didn’t have much to say in the way of negatives — just that the router was was oddly shaped.

Want to know more?

Read additional tips and recommendations for buying a new router with our ultimate router buying guide.