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Best Overall: Asus AC5300 at Amazon
"With 8 flanking antennae to maximize signal quality, and covering up to 5,000 square feet, a great option for larger homes."
Best Budget: GL.iNet GL-MT300N at Amazon
"Actually a mini travel router, the GL.iNet GL-MT300N is the epitome of budget-friendly routing."
Best for Mobile App Users: Linksys WRT AC3200 at Amazon
"Sends signals over airspace that’s typically not crowded, for a cleaner connection."
Best for Backup: Netgear Nighthawk X4S at Amazon
"Capable of more than just routing, the Nighthawk X4S is one of Netgear’s most advanced routers."
Best for Video Streaming: D-Link AC3150 at Amazon
"Allows several devices to pull a high level of bandwidth, perfect for 4K media and gaming."
Best for Green Shoppers: TRENDnet AC1900 at Amazon
"GREENnet technology reduces power consumption by 50 percent compared to previous models."
Best for Extending Your Network: NETGEAR Nighthawk at Amazon
"Supporting speeds up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300MBps on the 5GHz band, 4K streaming is handled with aplomb."
Best for the Smart Home: NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 at Amazon
"A premium router to be certain, the X6 maxes out at an ultra-fast 3Gbps speed."
Courtesy of Amazon
If you don’t mind spending a pretty penny to get your hands on a DD-WRT-compatible router, the Asus AC5300 is a great option. The router comes with a slew of antennas all around to maximize signal quality and has four ports on the back for hardwiring computers, game consoles. It offers maximum throughput of up to 5.3Gbps, thanks to tri-band support, and can deliver coverage at up to 5,000 square feet, so it’s ideal for larger homes. Still, if your coverage isn’t where you’d like it to be, the AC5300 comes with an AiMesh feature that lets you connect multiple Asus routers to it to further expand your coverage.
Since older and slower devices can sometimes throttle your entire network, the AC5300 ships with a MU-MIMO feature that will deliver the fastest speed to each device, which ensures a better overall connection.
If you’re a gamer, you’ll be happy to know that the Asus AC5300 has built-in support for WTFast Gamers Private Network for accessing the “route-optimized services” to deliver stable and fast connectivity while you’re playing video games.
A feature called AiProtection on the AC5300 is powered by security company Trend Micro and will analyze your network to identify vulnerabilities and keep your data safe from hackers.
The GL.iNet GL-MT300N is the epitome of budget-friendly routing. The yellow brick-like device is actually a mini travel router that will deliver wireless connectivity wherever you may be going. And it’s also one of the cheapest options you can find. DD-WRT comes pre-installed and you’ll even find 16GB of storage on the device, so you can store some content while you’re on the go. And since it’s so small, you can pop it into a bag and bring it with you without fear of it taking up too much room.
One of the nice things about the GL.iNet GL-MT300N is that it can take a wired connection at a coffee shop or airport and convert it into a wireless connection for you. And although it doesn’t come with a built-in battery, the device can be plugged into laptops, power banks or other components, and siphon power to deliver connectivity.
Simply said, the GL.iNet GL-MT300N is the cheapest way to get access to DD-WRT, VPN software like OpenVPN, and even TOR.
The WRT AC3200 has what the Linksys calls, “Tri-Stream 160” technology that can offer speeds up to 2.6Gbps. The big advantage to the WRT3200, however, might come in the form of a Dynamic Frequency Selection certification, which allows it to send signals over airspace not typically crowded by other wireless products. That results in a cleaner connection between device and router and should reduce the amount of lag and poor connectivity issues you could face. You’ll also find MU-MIMO support, which means the router will dole out connections individually to each device to ensure some of your older products don’t slow down your newer and faster hardware.
On the rear, you’ll find a variety of ports, including eSATA, USB and LAN. That all translates to the ability to connect external storage and other, hardwired products with ease. There’s even a Wi-Fi app for your smartphone of choice that lets you see who and what is connecting to your network and unclog it if (and when) things get out of hand. You can even connect to that app regardless of whether you’re on the network.
One of Netgear’s most advanced routers, the Nighthawk X4S allows access to 802.11ac wireless networks and delivers speeds that easily exceed 2.5Gbps. Interestingly, Netgear has designed its Nighthawk X4S to be about more than routing and offers the ability for you to plug in a variety of storage devices through the router’s two USB 3.0 ports and 1 eSATA port. It also comes with an app called ReadyShare Vault that will automatically back up your PC connections to the attached storage.
Although the Nighthawk X4S is fast, it works over two Wi-Fi bands, which means its top speeds will be slower than other tri-band options. However, the router ships with a Dynamic Quality of Service (QoS) feature that will prioritize bandwidth and ensure some of the latency-sensitive apps you care most about, such as video games and Netflix, are delivering the best experience.
The AC3150 from D-Link has the space-age look that you’d expect from a gaming-centric router. But with optimizations for 4x4 data streams, it’s perfect for households that find themselves doing a lot of video streaming. Multi-User MIMO technology allows several devices to pull a high level of bandwidth, perfect for 4K media and gaming. While this router can employ the open-source DD-WRT protocol, there are some handy software features it comes with out of the box. A Smart Connect assistant measures and chooses the best band to latch onto depending on the bandwidth and data needs of your device. This is paired with an AC SmartBeam tech that ensures your connected devices don’t lose their channel with the router. It all comes in a Dual Band system that provides up to 1,000mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2,167mbps on the 5GHz band — speeds that are bolstered nicely by the power 1.4GHz dual processor and the 1024-NitroQAM technology. The latter is a proprietary protocol included by D-Link to help with the 4x4 data streams mentioned early. All in all, the device is a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re looking for a router that can handle a variety of streaming video users, this could be the one for you.
TRENDnet might not have the most well-known brand, but its AC1900 router supports DD-WRT. And according to customers, it works quite well. The TRENDnet AC1900 has what the company calls GREENnet technology, which reduces its power consumption by 50 percent compared to previous models.
Unlike some tri-band models, the AC1900 doesn’t have a slew of antennas jutting out from its box. Instead, the device is designed to fit into any area in the house without detracting from your interior design with unsightly antennas. Because of that, however, you shouldn’t expect the kinds of speeds you’d get in higher-end options. The AC1900 can deliver speeds up to 1.3Gbps over 802.11ac and just 600Mbps over 802.11n.
Still, if you can live with the slower speeds and want to take advantage of the AC1900’s price tag, you’ll find a USB 3.0 port and USB 2.0 port for adding external storage. The LAN ports on the back are also Gigabit-compatible, so you should be able to derive solid speed.
You’ll be able to set up both a secure network and guest network with the AC1900 to keep others away from your sensitive files. The router also comes with parental controls for blocking specific websites from loading on any device that connects to your network. If your kids connect to the Web on other networks that aren’t protected, however, you won’t be able to control what they see.
Widely loved for its ease of installing DD-WRT firmware, the NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk fits the bill as a mid-range option that covers every corner of the house. With an instantly familiar design that’s similar to the rest of the Nighthawk series, it’s compact enough to fit on a desk at 11.22" x 7.26" x 1.97". Internally, the design is — again — similar to its more expensive brethren. A 1GHz dual-core processor helps wireless and wired performance stay strong.
Once you move past design form, the function of the R6700 is where it really shines. NETGEAR touts that the router is ideal for homes with 12 or more Wi-Fi devices. Beamforming+ technology provides whole home coverage and benefits from three external antennas. Each antenna is tuned with high-powered amplifiers to help extend signal range deep into large homes and reduce dead spots.
Supporting speeds up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300MBps on the 5GHz band, 4K streaming is handled with aplomb. Putting the potential speeds to good use is the Dynamic QoS which ensures 4K streaming and online gaming are lag free.
For speed, security, and a rich feature set, you need not look further than the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6. As a tri-band device, the X6 performs at a higher level than more common dual-band varieties. Broadcasting on a single 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands, the overall signal is stronger with faster speeds. A premium router to be certain, the X6 maxes out at an ultra-fast 3Gbps speed. That’s more than fast enough for uninterrupted video streaming and gaming all at once.
Powering all that speed is a 1.8GHz dual-core processor that ensures lag-free gaming. Also under the hood is Dynamic QoS bandwidth prioritization; essentially, this premium technology works to prioritize the speed of different devices. It automatically determines which device on the network requires the fastest connection and delivers it. With all that speed, you need maximum signal range. On top of the router are six high-performance antennas; each antenna adds its own amplifier to increase signal strength. While the NETGEAR features its own security, you can also quickly download and install DD-WRT software for enhanced protection.
DD-WRT preinstalled - Some routers are compatible with DD-WRT, which means you can install it yourself. If you aren’t already an expert, then a router that comes with DD-WRT preinstalled can make life a whole lot easier for you.
File transfer speed - Security is probably the reason you’re looking at DD-WRT routers in the first place, but securing your data doesn’t mean you have to settle for life in the slow lane. Look for a DD-WRT router that performs well in both total throughput, or how much data all of the users can successfully transfer at once, and file transfer speed.
Ports and bands - Make sure the router has enough ethernet ports to hardwire your mission-critical equipment, and a dual band router is the bare minimum on the wireless side. Future-proof your router situation by choosing one that also features Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO).
Find additional tips and recommendations around what to look for when selecting a new router with our ultimate router buying guide.