The 9 Best Long-Range Routers of 2021

Eliminate those dreaded Wi-Fi "dead zones"

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
Best Overall:
Asus RT-AX88U at Amazon
An upgrade to an already great router for a whole new generation of Wi-Fi devices.
Offers great range at a wallet-friendly price.
A multi-unit 'hotspot' system with great coverage and plug-and-play simplicity.
Best for Gaming:
Asus GT-AX11000 at Amazon
An ultra-fast Wi-Fi 6 router with great range and a ton of gaming optimization features.
Offers up to 8,100 square feet of Wi-Fi 6 coverage at a price that's easy on the wallet.
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 capabilities make this the fastest and most impressive mesh system available.
Best Parental Controls:
TP-Link Archer AX6000 at Amazon
Offers great range and speed, joined by a full suite of advanced parental controls at no extra charge.
A powerful Wi-Fi 6 router that looks every bit the part thanks to its cool futuristic design.
Can deliver up to 20,000 feet of coverage through multiple mesh stations.

If you live in a larger home, you’ve probably already discovered how challenging it can be to get a strong and reliable Wi-Fi signal throughout your living space. The good news, however, is that it doesn’t have to be if you get one of the best long-range routers. The powerful routers don’t just offer top speeds, but they also go the distance, so you’ll get the fastest possible speeds even when you’re at the outer edges of your Wi-Fi coverage. 

Thanks to advanced technologies like powerful beamforming antennas and MU-MIMO, along with mesh technology and Wi-Fi 6, the best long-range routers will make sure that you can enjoy smooth 4K streaming, lag-free gaming, and uninterrupted Zoom calling from anywhere in your home. Since large homes also often play host to a wealth of laptops, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and smart home devices, these long range routers are also designed to handle dozens of devices without breaking a sweat. The best long-range routers are ideal for anybody who is struggling to get fast online performance around their home, but they’re also great for users in smaller homes who have a lot of connected devices competing for internet bandwidth.

Best Overall: Asus RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

Asus RT-AX88U
What We Like
  • Advanced Wi-Fi 6 support

  • Excellent performance

  • Eight LAN ports

What We Don't Like
  • A bit pricey

Asus’ RT-AX88U is a worthy upgrade to the company’s highly acclaimed RT-AC88U, taking it to the next level with advanced 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 technology that equips it for handling the largest and busiest homes. It also manages to retain all the advanced features and configurability that made its predecessor so versatile. 

The RT-AX88U shares the same sleek low-profile look of most of Asus’ other routers in its class, with a smaller footprint than the company’s behemoth gaming routers, so you’ll have no problem finding room for it in your home network. Don’t let its smaller size fool you, however, as it packs in four powerful beamforming antennas that will deliver enough range to cover a living area of up to 5,000 square feet, with Wi-Fi 6 speeds of up to 6Gbps across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and full compatibility with your more common 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 devices.

Around the back you’ll also find a generous collection of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, so you won’t need to worry about adding an extra hub or switch if you have a lot of wired devices. Like most of Asus’ other premium routers, this one also comes with AiProtection network security baked right in at no extra charge, plus AiMesh 2.0 to let you mix it up with other Asus routers to get even stronger coverage around your home, and a wealth of other advanced networking features, from a built-in VPN server to traffic monitoring and adaptive QoS.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8

"The Asus RT-AX88U is an excellent Wi-Fi 6 router and is a great way to future proof your home network even if you don’t already have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Asus RT-AX88U

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Budget: TP-Link Archer C80 AC1900 Wireless MU-MIMO Wi-Fi 5 Router

TP-Link Archer C80 Wi-Fi Router
What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Strong Wi-Fi signal

  • Easy setup

What We Don't Like
  • Limited positioning options

While there are many really affordable routers on the market, it’s not easy to find one that also delivers outstanding range. TP-Link’s Archer C80 is one of those rare gems that will deliver solid coverage throughout a reasonably large home without forcing you to spend a bundle.

Its array of four beamforming antennas are backed up by a higher-power front-end module (FEM) than you’ll find in most routers at this price, meaning it can punch out a surprisingly powerful signal around your home. Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 support delivers up to 1.9Gbps of throughput across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, giving you more than enough performance for the 4K streaming and video calling needs of all but the very busiest families. 

The Archer C80 is also one of the few routers in this price range that offers full3x3 MU-MIMO support to make sure that all of your Wi-Fi devices can get the best possible speeds without slowing each other down. Four Gigabit Ethernet ports around the back let you hardwire in devices like PCs or game consoles for maximum speed, and the QoS features let you prioritize devices like smart TVs for the best streaming quality. There are also basic parental controls to help you filter internet access to specific devices by time of day, and best of all the whole thing is a snap to set up thanks to TP-Link’s Tether app. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC1900 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"Every closet, bathroom, and bedroom maintained a signal, and I experienced no dead zones whatsoever." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

TP-Link Archer C80

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Mesh: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

Netgear Orbi RBK50 Mesh Wi-Fi System
What We Like
  • Speedy performance

  • Full home coverage

  • Beautiful aesthetics

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Older devices complicate things

You may have a hard time believing that the Orbi is actually a Netgear product, as it’s such a huge design departure from the usual style of routers that are big black boxes with antennas protruding in every direction. In the case of the Orbi, however, Netgear has designed a router with a home-friendly aesthetic, and that’s important since this is one that you’re actually going to want to have in your living space. 

You see, the Orbi is a mesh Wi-Fi system, which means that it’s designed to give you great performance and coverage by placing units around your home in those areas where you need it the most. A main base unit plugs into your main internet connection, and then you use one or more satellite units to extend its range into the rest of your home. In the case of Orbi, you get tri-band AC3000 Wi-Fi, with one of the two 5GHz bands used as a dedicated backhaul channel to make sure things move fast between the mesh units and the main router. This means that your Wi-Fi devices will be able to take advantage of dual-band Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1.2Gbps no matter which satellite unit they happen to be connected to. 

A pair of Orbi units will easily cover a 5,000 square foot home, but the best part is that you can add up to five additional satellites for even more expansive coverage, so you’ll never need to worry about your devices straying too far away from the router when streaming, gaming, and video calling. Each satellite unit also offers four Gigabit Ethernet ports, so you can wire in game consoles or PCs in any room and get a full-speed connection, thanks to the dedicated backhaul channel. Netgear’s Armor and Circle with Disney features also makes this a great system for families, with sophisticated anti-malware protection and advanced parental controls, although you will need to pay a small ongoing subscription fee to benefit from these.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports:4 (per unit)

"When you take the phenomenal range, speedy performance, and MU-MIMO support together in a package, it’s frankly amazing. You will have a hard time finding a better wireless router than the Netgear Orbi." Bill Thomas, Product Tester

Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

Lifewire / Jordan Provost

Best for Gaming: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX10000 Wi-Fi Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Support

  • Extremely fast performance

  • Cutting-edge game-centric QoS

What We Don't Like
  • Large footprint

  • Pricey

Like gamers themselves, gaming routers are a special breed, as they not only need to deliver all the features of the best wireless routers, but also need to provide lag-free performance so that everything will keep running smoothly in even the most demanding online tournaments. This is where Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 leads the pack, as a powerful beast of a router that can meet the needs of large households with even the most demanding gamers in residence. 

The GT-AX11000 packs in a powerful quad-core CPU that guarantees the lowest possible latency, so gamers won’t need to worry about everything freezing up just as they’re about to make a critical kill shot. However, all of this power also means that everybody else in the home will be able to enjoy smooth 4K streaming and uninterrupted Zoom and FaceTime calls, even while a battle for world domination is raging on in the basement. 

With tri-band 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, the GT-AX11000 can also deliver up to 10Gbps of combined throughput across all of its frequencies, and the eight-antenna beamforming array can easily cover homes of up to 5,000 square feet. Around the back there’s the usual allotment of four Gigabit Ethernet ports that are also joined by a special 2.5Gbps gaming port, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports for connecting external storage devices for file sharing or media streaming. Lastly, in addition to all of Asus’ advanced networking features, the ROG Rapture firmware also delivers a gamer’s paradise of optimization tools, including WTFast game acceleration, VPN Fusion to isolate your gaming traffic from your VPN, and adaptive QoS to prioritize your gaming traffic and automatically connect to the fastest servers for popular online games.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX11000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5

"I took my mobile device down to my garage, about 100 feet from the router in a direct line, with a ton of interference, including metal, in the way. At that extended range, I was able to achieve a top download speed of 54Mbps, still plenty of speed for streaming and gaming." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Router

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Value: Linksys Velop AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (MX12600)

Linksys Velop AX4200 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (MX12600)
What We Like
  • Affordable Wi-Fi 6 Technology

  • Great Coverage

  • Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6

What We Don't Like
  • Requires mobile app for initial mesh set up

  • Lacks built-in VPN server

  • Limited parental controls

When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Linksys’ Velop MX12600 is one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems available, providing three mesh units for the same price that most others charge for only two. This means you’ll get up to 8,100 square feet of coverage, and each unit also provides consistently fast speeds even at more extended ranges.

Much of this is thanks to the tri-band Wi-Fi 6 technology, which offers full 802.11ax speeds on all three bands, while also dynamically managing the backhaul channel for best performance. This means that the system itself can decide on the fly whether it’s better to use the extra 5GHz band to move traffic between Velop stations or make it available to your Wi-Fi devices. This means you’ll get high-speed Wi-Fi in all the places where you need in the most, for smooth 4K Netflix streaming and lag-free Zoom calls.

Each of the units also includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports plus a high-speed USB 3.2 port, for attaching an external hard drive or SSD to any (or all) of the stations, and it offers some of the best NAS performance we’ve seen on a mesh Wi-Fi system. Linksys’ mobile app also makes everything effortless to set up, although power users can still turn to the web interface to access some of the more advanced features. Sadly, however it does lack the more sophisticated anti-malware or parental controls found on many other systems.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX4200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4 (per unit)

Best Splurge: Netgear Orbi AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System

Netgear Orbi RBK852 AX6000 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System
What We Like
  • Blazing fast performance

  • Excellent range

  • 2.5Gbps WAN port

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Lacks some advanced features

  • No USB ports

Netgear’s Orbi is still one of the best mesh WI-Fi systems you can buy, so it stands to reason that if you want to pull out all the stops to get the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology in a mesh system, then the premium Orbi AX6000 is the way to go. With only two units you’ll get up to 5,000 square feet of reliable Wi-Fi coverage, with consistently fast speeds even in the farthest corners of your home, and you can easily add more satellite units to expand your range even farther. 

While this one doesn’t come cheap, it offers unrivalled performance among mesh Wi-Fi systems, capable of delivering up to 6Gbps of Wi-Fi 6 speeds. Like it’s highly acclaimed Wi-Fi 5 older sibling, it’s a tri-band system that dedicates the extra 5GHz band for use as a backhaul channel. This means that you get the same blazing-fast speeds throughout the entire home mesh network—no matter how far away you stray from the main router, you’ll be fine as long as you’re within range of at least one of the satellites. 

This makes the four Gigabit Ethernet ports found on the back of each satellite unit even more powerful, since the dedicated 2.4Gbps channel that runs between each of the units is more than ample for delivering full Gigabit speeds to a wired PC, game console, or smart TV plugged into one or more of the satellite units. To take full advantage of the extremely fast performance that this system offers, there’s also a 2.5Gbps WAN port, so it’s fully ready to plug into a multi-gigabit internet service. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4 (per unit)

"Just one base station is powerful enough for a moderately sized house, and adding a satellite can vastly improve speeds and range."Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Orbi AX6000

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen 

Best Parental Controls: TP-Link Archer AX6000 8-Stream Wi-Fi 6 Router

TP-Link Archer AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router
What We Like
  • Eight Gigabit LAN ports

  • Free security & parental controls

  • Includes USB-C port

What We Don't Like
  • Bulky Design

  • Limited antenna adjustment

The Archer AX6000 was TP-Link’s first router to offer advanced Wi-Fi 6 technology, and it remains the flagship of the company’s lineup, delivering extensive range and speed for a single-unit router, plus an advanced suite of security features that don’t require a monthly subscription.

As a dual-band router, the AX6000 can handle combined speeds of up to 4.8Gbps on its 5GHz frequencies, plus 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side. The eight fixed beamforming antennas and high-power front-end module (FEM) help it deliver strong wireless performance throughout a 5,000 square foot living space, although the antennas themselves aren’t positionable—they can only be folded down to give the router a flatter profile. The AX6000 also offers up eight Gigabit Ethernet ports around the back, plus a 2.5Gbps WAN port for connecting to the fastest broadband plans. The pair of USB ports includes a standard USB-A port that’s joined by a USB-C port, giving you more options for connecting different storage devices, which can be used for sharing files or media or even as a Time Machine server for Apple devices. 

What really makes the Archer AX6000 stand apart, however, is the HomeCare security suite that offers up parental controls, anti-malware, and advanced QoS features—all without the need for a recurring monthly subscription. Like Asus’ AiProtection, the security side of things is powered by Trend Micro, but the parental controls are considerably more sophisticated. You can block websites by a variety of age categories, or simply enter individual sites, as well as setting up time limits for internet access. On the QoS side, an intuitive interface lets you prioritize traffic by type of content, such as gaming or streaming, or for specific devices. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: HomeCare, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8

"Beamforming technology gives it the ability to concentrate Wi-Fi signals on the devices that matter to you most, while range boost allows the signal to travel farther." Erika Rawes, Product Tester

TP-Link Archer AX6000

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Design: Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 12-Stream AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 Wi-Fi 6 Router
What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • 5Gbps Ethernet port

  • Supports link aggregation for multi-gigabit internet plans

What We Don't Like
  • Security features require ongoing subscription

  • USB ports can't be used for printer sharing

Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX120 is a Wi-Fi 6 router that looks every bit the part of the future of wireless routers, sporting a pair of hawk-like wings that conceal its eight high-performance beamforming antennas. While it still has a very high-tech look, it’s definitely way sleeker than the traditional black boxes with sprawling antennas. 

It’s also as fast as it looks, delivering 6Gbps AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 speeds to compatible devices, with up to 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz band and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side for older 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 clients. This means you’ll have more than enough bandwidth to handle streaming, gaming, and video calling throughout your home, and thanks to 8-stream MU-MIMO support, more of your devices will be able to enjoy maximum throughput without slowing each other down.

The usual set of four Gigabit Ethernet ports around the back is joined by a special multi-gig Ethernet port that can handle 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps connections or simply work as a fifth Gigabit port. Combined with two USB 3.0 ports, this makes the RAX120 capable of delivering top speeds from faster network attached storage devices. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5

"The router has an impressive range overall, and I didn’t experience any dead zones, which has been a problem with other routers in the past. The speeds on the AX12 did slow down when faced with obstructions though, especially outdoor walls and appliances." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Netgear Nighthawk AX12

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Coverage: Ubiquiti Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System

Ubiquiti Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System
What We Like
  • Outstanding coverage

  • Very easy setup

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for busier households

  • Slower speeds at extreme ranges

If you’re in a situation where it’s important to get a basic level of wireless coverage to the very edges of a large property, then you’ll want to look at Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi HD. While this advanced mesh Wi-Fi system won’t win any speed records at its extreme range, it can deliver a Wi-Fi signal over staggering 20,000 square foot space. 

Ubiquiti’s system takes a slight left turn from the more traditional router designs, with a four-inch square box serving as the main router, and a pair of mesh points that are dropped farther out to extend your coverage to the outer reaches of your property. The dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 is only rated at AC1750 speeds, with 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz band and 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequencies. Thanks to its 3x3 MU-MIMO support, however it does better at delivering the best possible speeds over a larger range than most competing AC1750 routers. 

What makes the Amplifi HD distinct, however, is the unrivalled reach that this system offers. While you’ll only get top speeds over a space of around 5,000 square feet, which is about the same as most other long-range routers, you’ll still be able to get devices connected at up to four times that range. This makes the Amplifi HD a great option for users with large parcels of land that only need basic Wi-Fi access for handling things like cameras and smart home devices, or even just checking email and basic surfing as you wander around the outer edges of your property.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC1750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"This is an ideal system for someone with a large area to cover, but it’s not a powerhouse capable of managing an army of devices like the Nighthawk AX12 or the TP-Link Archer AX6000." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Amplifi HD

 Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Final Verdict

Asus’ RT-AX88U offers a wealth of advanced features along with expansive range backed by fast Wi-Fi 6 performance. If you’re looking to cover a larger home without spending a bundle, however, then TP-Link’s Archer C80 is worth a look.


How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate routers based on design, connectivity, performance, and features. We test their performance in both wired and (where applicable) wireless configurations, measure their effective range and bandwidth, and analyze their feature sets, including how well those features are implemented. We also consider each router as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the routers we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has over three decades of experience in information technology and networking and has installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender, dating back to the days long before Wi-Fi even existed.

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.

Bill Thomas is a New York-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They reviewed the Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System on this list.

Erika Rawes has written for Digital Trends, USA Today, Cheatsheet.com, and more. Her areas of expertise include consumer technology, such as long-range routers.

FAQs

How do you know if you need a Long-Range Router?
While dead zones and dropped connections are obvious indicators that it’s time to get a long-range router, problems like lagging and buffering on services like Netflix or choppy video calls on Zoom and FaceTime can also be a good sign that your current router just isn't cutting it—especially if they only occur when you're farther away from the router.

Should you get a Long-Range Router or a Wi-Fi Extender?
If you’re having problems getting wireless coverage into one specific area in your home, then one of the best Wi-Fi extenders can be a quick and cost-effective alternative to replacing your entire router. However, you’ll almost always be better off getting a long-range router if you can afford it, as that will expand the coverage in every direction, making things easier in the long run.

Do faster routers provide better range?
Not necessarily. You'll get the fastest possible speeds from any router when you’re sitting right beside it, but those speeds can quickly fall off as you move farther away if the router can't put out a strong and focused signal. The best long-range routers are specifically designed to put out a powerful signal that can travel farther around your home, while also penetrating obstacles such as walls and floors.  

What to Look For in a Long-Range Router

These days our homes are more connected than ever. From computers and televisions to smart home systems that link together everything from refrigerators to power outlets, it seems like every device in your home is now talking to everything else. However, in order for the digital conversations that coordinate our electronic ecosystems to function, one key piece of technology is needed to link them all together: the humble and oft-neglected router. 

For many of us, a router is just a dust-covered box with blinking lights that our internet service provider installed for us some time in the distant past. Given its ever-increasing importance, however, that little box might bear greater consideration, and an upgrade could very well result in serious tangible advantages especially if you get a long-range router. 

Why Get A Long-Range Router? 

Many of the problems that we blame on our internet service could be resolved simply by improving how the internet is distributed inside our homes. It's also no longer even just a question of getting better range, as the increased number of devices in the average home also means that you need more powerful technology to deliver fast and reliable internet service to each of these devices.

A long-range router can provide very real benefits for your household. They're designed to cover larger areas, which means that you don’t have to install Wi-Fi extenders all around your house or deal with annoying dead zones, and if you have multiple devices scattered throughout your home, a long-range router can reach all of them. They also often include advanced features to speed up your connection and allow a larger number of users and devices to utilize your network. Today’s long-range routers are sophisticated devices that rival a PC with the number of advanced features.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Analyzing Your Network Needs

Before upgrading to a newer and more powerful router, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the technology involved. One way to help find the best router for your needs is to use a network analyzer such as Netspot, a free tool that can help you get a map of what your Wi-Fi coverage looks like. This can help you identify where the wireless signals are weakest in your house along with dead spots or areas prone to interference. 

Wireless Standards

There are a wide range of wireless standards, which are based on different radio wave spectrums. Radio waves are transmitted through the air, and operate at different frequencies, usually measured in Megahertz or Gigahertz (MHz or GHz). There's a limited range of usable frequencies in the radio wave spectrum, and these are carefully subdivided and assigned to different uses, such as communications, broadcasting, radar, and computer networking. 

As a rule, higher frequencies can offer faster data transfer speeds, but are limited to much shorter ranges and don't pass through solid objects nearly as well. When Wi-Fi networks were first developed, they were assigned to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, however most consumer networks originally stuck with 2.4GHz since it offered better range, and blazing fast speeds weren't really needed back then. The two oldest mainstream Wi-Fi standards, 802.11b and 802.11g, both only support 2.4GHz.

As internet speeds increased, however, it became necessary to start using the 5GHz band to get faster performance and avoid interference from other 2.4GHz devices like cordless phones and garage door openers. The 802.11n standard, today known as Wi-Fi 4, was developed to support both frequencies. Later on, the 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 standard came along to offer even higher performance by running exclusively on the 5GHz band. All of these newer standards remain backward compatible, however,, so there's never any need to worry about whether you'll leave older devices behind by purchasing a newer router.

The bottom line when shopping for a long-range router is to ensure that it can offer good performance and range on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Signals in the 2.4GHz frequency range travel farther anyway, so you usually won't have a problem with these on any router, but if you want the maximum speeds in the far corners of your home, you'll need a router that can punch through a strong 5GHz signal too.

Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Frequency Channels

Wi-Fi devices generally use only one of those two frequency ranges at a time—either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. A dual-band router operates on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, while a tri-band router offers a single 2.4GHz band and two separate bands in the 5GHz range. This allows these routers to support older 2.4GHz-only Wi-Fi clients while newer devices that support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz can use whichever band offers the best signal at any given time.

Signals in the 2.4GHz frequencies can travel over a longer distance than 5GHz signals, however the 5GHz frequency offers more bandwidth for faster speeds, and it's also less affected by interference since fewer household devices operate in those frequencies; the 2.4GHz band is shared by Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, garage door openers, microwaves, and more, all of which can get in the way of your Wi-Fi signal. Long-range routers typically use the 5GHz 802.11ac standard as it's not only faster, but also supports features like MU-MIMO that can offer even better performance over longer ranges.

The more bands a router provides the greater the number of devices that can connect to it without slowing each other down, but remember that each of your devices can still connect to only one band at a time, so you won't see any real performance benefit from a tri-band router if you only have one or two devices that support the 5GHz band.

Also keep in mind that the speed of your internet service will be a limiting factor here, as no matter how fast your home network is it can’t provide a faster connection to the internet than that service is capable of. However, a fast router with many channels may still be useful if you plan on using it to wirelessly transfer information between devices within your home network.

Extended Range

As the name implies, long-range routers are designed to cover a large area with a strong and consistent Wi-Fi connection. This makes them ideal for large homes and businesses, but an unnecessary expense if you live in a small apartment. 

In a large home of over 2,000 square feet, it may be difficult for a Wi-Fi signal from your garden variety router to reach all corners of the house. Walls and fireplaces can act as barriers to the signal, reducing its range by as much as 75 percent. This means that ideally, you want a router that covers a larger area than your home actually is to ensure more consistent coverage throughout. Typically, a long-range router will be capable of serving an area between 3,000 to 10,000 square feet. Also think about whether or not you want to cover an area beyond the interior of your home, such as a patio or garage. 

Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit WiFi
Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman 

Speed

The speed of a router is largely dependent upon the Wi-Fi standard and frequencies it supports. Since almost all modern long-range routers use the faster 802.11ac standard you can generally expect speeds of up to 2.4Gbps on 5GHz frequencies, and around 600Mbps on 2.4GHz frequencies. By comparison, a much older and cheaper router using the 802.11g standard would only be capable of delivering 54Mbps at 2.4GHz. 

Some very new routers are starting to use the 802.11ax standard (also known as Wi-Fi 6), which delivers a massive performance boost over older technologies. 802.11ax is capable of delivering up to a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 14Gbps, although most Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market right now max out at 4.8Gbps on the 5GHz band.

That said, don't expect to get these kinds of speeds from any single device. Routers offer these maximum speeds so that they can support many devices at the same time, and once again, keep in mind that your internet connection will be a limiting factor. If your internet is only 12Mbps then you won’t see any increase in speed in moving from an 802.11g router to an 802.11ac router unless you're transferring files between devices within your home network.

Also remember that faster Wi-Fi routers don’t automatically provide better range. While AC3200 and AC5400 routers offer speeds that make them ideal for handling the increased number of devices that are often found in a larger home, there’s no direct correlation between the speed of a router and the range that it offers.

Security

High-end long-range routers often come equipped with advanced security features such as firewalls and current encryption standards such as WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) that block suspicious activity on your network. Other security features to look for include support for router level VPN implementations. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and when you use one your data is sent through a secure, encrypted connection that obscures your identity from prying eyes. 

By implementing a VPN on the router level all your devices can take advantage of it without the need to install VPN software on individual devices. Many long-range routers have the option of implementing parental controls as well, and in some cases, you may be able to set up a guest network for better security from both kids and visitors. One of the first things to do after setting up your router is to access the router’s web interface to determine which security options you can control.

Mesh Networks

Traditional long-range routers rely on sheer brute force signal strength to cover a wide area. A mesh network, on the other hand, uses multiple routers broadcasting the same network signal to create one large network. These networks have the main router directly connected to the modem and a series of satellite routers that act as extensions of the main router, all with the same SSID (network identifier) and password. These will have faster speeds than traditional Wi-Fi extenders since they're designed to work together for maximum performance. They also allow for future expansion if necessary. An advantage of mesh networks is that they can cover larger areas than any single router. A disadvantage is that all those connected routers make for a more expensive system. 

MU-MIMO and Beamforming

MIMO stands for multiple in, multiple out, and is a method for coordinating multiple radio antennas in a wireless network. MU-MIMO (the MU stands for Multi-user) is a variation of MIMO designed for 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi networks. It improves the performance of connections made using it. Essentially, MU-MIMO is a technology that improves the performance of long-range routers.


Beamforming
is another technology designed to improve performance in routers. Put simply, traditional routers are omnidirectional, casting a signal over a wide area, diluting the signal. In the case of routers with beamforming, the signal is directed to devices that connect to the router in a concentrated beam that improves signal strength. For this reason, your new long-range router is likely to have an array of antennae. Rather than send equal signals in all directions, these antennas can be aimed towards areas of the house that are most in need of extra signal strength.

Number of Users

The increased strength and bandwidth of a long-range router allow these routers not only to serve a larger space, but they also allow for more devices and users to share that network. You could theoretically connect hundreds of devices to your router. But in reality, the more devices you have, the more they will slow the speed. If you are getting 1,625Mbps at 5GHz and you have ten devices, each one will actually function at one-tenth of the highest possible speed, or about 160Mbps—assuming of course they're all download or streaming simultaneously.

Some routers include software that allows them to prioritize different types of network traffic or different traffic sources to prevent one device from hogging the network and provide the optimum balance for all users. The feature which allows you to prioritize traffic on your system is known as QoS (Quality of service). Using this feature will improve the performance of the most critical network traffic. Care must be taken, however, so that other important connections are not slowed down. QoS is most likely to be useful for streaming and gaming.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Internal Components

All the powerful features of long-range routers require some serious hardware to run, so much so that you should really think of them as mini-computers in their own right. Dual-core and even quadcore processors (CPUs), as much as a whole gigabyte of random access memory (RAM), and flash memory drives for storing settings and software are key components to look for. Generally, more is better, but don’t be too concerned by such nitty-gritty details here.

AI Assistant Support

Some routers allow you to integrate an AI assistant like Amazon Alexa and use that to control the router. This enables you to adjust router settings via simple voice commands. For example, you could use it to enable a guest network, start a speed test, or activate Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) to easily connect a new device to the router, all without pressing a button.

Brands/Manufacturers:

TP-Link

With their excellent Archer C80 long-range router, TP-Link is a great choice if you’re looking for a more affordable long-range router. What’s more, their budget-friendly products don’t suffer in terms of quality despite their low price point, and the company is known for its quality routers. They also stand out for their unassuming minimalist design philosophy. However, they don’t have the best customer support available.

Netgear

Netgear is known for its expensive, high-end Nighthawk series of routers. They specialize in long-range routers with performance to match their high price tags, and which wouldn’t look out of place in the Bat Cave. Netgear products are typically flashy both in design and feature set, and they have superior customer support to that of TP-Link. However, expect to pay a premium price for their routers.

Asus

If gaming is your thing, then you might already own an Asus gaming PC or laptop. Asus also makes excellent long-range routers such as the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, a hulking machine, the bizarre and ornate appearance of which resembles nothing more than some kind of sci-fi portal to another dimension. Asus routers are clearly marketed towards gamers with outrageous specifications to match their outrageous appearance. Expect to pay extra for their high-end products.

Other Considerations 

It’s worth considering that long-range routers, in general, are expensive devices. If your internet is slow, your house is small, you don’t have many devices to connect, and you don’t need to wirelessly transfer large files, then you might as well save a few bucks by keeping your existing system or buying an inexpensive one. Often it’s possible to get your internet service provider to install a basic model at little or no cost to you. 

One thing is for sure though, routers need not be the boring office furniture we assume them to be. Manufacturers are now creating routers that replicate alien spacecraft in appearance, and pack in technology to match. With a little knowledge and understanding of the tech, buying a router can be a downright exciting purchase.

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Long-Range Router 

Long-range routers may carry a high price tag, but in addition to serving a large area, they also offer faster speeds than your average router. They offer high-grade security features, greater bandwidth, and advanced network management tools. If you’ve got a slow internet service provider, then the value of a long-range router will be less significant, but still appreciable thanks to the extensive and varied features they include. Whatever the size of your house or the speed of your internet, a long-range router might be a worthwhile upgrade.

Was this page helpful?