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Best Overall: Asus RT-AC88U at Amazon
"One of the fastest, most capable routers, comes with dual-band functionality, allowing for maximum speeds up to 2.1Gbps."
Best Performance: Gryphon Secure Mesh System at Amazon
"A surprising amount of power for a home router, with mesh tri-band Wi-Fi and performance to spare."
Best Coverage: Eero Pro at Amazon
"Offers easily expandable mesh Wi-Fi coverage with a wealth of real-time parental control features."
Best Budget: Linksys EA7300 at Amazon
"An affordable dual-band wireless router that delivers speeds up to 1.7Gbps."
Best Mini: Router Limits Mini at Amazon
"Plugs into the back of your router and acts as an intermediary between your children’s devices and the Web."
Best for All Ages: Circle Home Plus at Amazon
"Works securely with your existing router and offers a variety of preset filters based on age."
Best for Simplicity: Koalasafe Dome at Amazon
"A simple Wi-Fi router that makes it easy to set up a restricted Wi-Fi network just for your kids."
Best for Smart Home: Netgear Nighthawk R7000 at Amazon
"Arguably the most important feature is its support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant."
Best for Privacy: Syfer Unlimited Smart VPN Router at Amazon
"Offers a secure VPN and advanced intrusion protection system to keep your family safe from hackers, viruses, and malware."
Best for Multiple Devices: Netgear Nighthawk R8000P at Amazon
"This fast tri-band router provides AC4000 performance for up to 55 devices."
Eight Gigabit Ethernet Ports
Advanced Malware Protection
Complicated back-end can be intimidating
Our testing has determined that Asus' RT-AC88U is one of the fastest, most capable dual-band routers in its class, offering maximum throughout of up to 2.1Gbps, plus four antennas to provide up to 5,000 square feet of coverage and MU-MIMO support and a built-in game acceleration feature.
Inside, you’ll find a 1.4GHz dual-core processor that helps to facilitate fast USB data transfers when you connect storage units to the RT-AC88U. Additionally, its whopping eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports on the back provide ultra-fast connections for wiring up computers, game consoles, and other hardware.
A feature called AiProtection is baked into the Asus RT-AC88U that handles all parental controls, letting you easily choose from pre-set options to filter all content that you might consider inappropriate. In order to allow it again, you’ll need to log in to the router’s AiProtection pane and change your settings.
"The Asus RT-AC88U is a dream come true for the power users out there and is filled to the brim with software features." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester
Mesh Tri-Band Wi-Fi offers whole home coverage
Fast and powerful CPU
Easy setup with smartphone app
Malware protection requires a subscription
Lacks advanced configuration settings
Gryphon’s Secure Mesh System is one of the more unique-looking routers we’ve seen, with a white tower design that includes a stylish twist that makes it something you might want to show off in your kitchen or den rather than hiding it away in the computer room.
There’s more to this router than just looks, though. It packs in a surprising amount of power for a home router, with mesh tri-band Wi-Fi—one 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz channels—that’s rated at AC3000 and includes MU-MIMO for connecting multiple devices at peak performance. This offers coverage for a 3,000 square foot living space, and since it’s a mesh router you can add another one to double that if you've got a bigger home.
You’ll need to use your smartphone to set up the Gryphon, but it also makes the process really easy, letting you configure the router and enable malware protection and parental controls all in one place. You’ll need to subscribe to keep the malware protection, but the parental controls are free and let you organize your family devices into categories to control what each one can access. As a parent you’ll be able to limit screen time, set bedtimes and homework times, and grant extensions to these restrictions when necessary, all using the Gryphon app from anywhere you happen to be.
"Many parental control routers offer varying degrees of protection against internet threats like malware, but be sure to keep in mind that some of these come with the added cost of a recurring monthly subscription after any initial free trial period ends, so you’ll want to factor in when making a purchasing decision." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Real-time content filtering & malware protection
Family Profiles allow for scheduled access
Content filtering requires monthly subscription
No manual URL blacklisting features
Eero Pro is a popular mesh Wi-Fi system that can blanket your entire home with solid and reliable Wi-Fi while also offering robust parental controls and malware protection with its Eero Secure plan, while also being inexpensive and really easy to set up and manage through Eero’s intuitive mobile app.
The main Eero Pro base station offers tri-band Wi-Fi, with a single 2.4GHz and a pair of 5GHz channels for plenty of bandwidth, along with MU-MIMO to ensure that each of your devices get the fastest speeds possible. The base unit offers 1,500 square feet of coverage by itself, and you can add additional Eero Pro or Eero Beacon modules, each of which will add another 1,500 or 1,000 square feet, respectively.
Out of the box, Eero Pro includes a built-in Family Profiles feature that lets parents manage devices and control when kids can get onto the internet, while those who want even more parental controls can pay a small monthly fee for Eero Secure, which adds intelligent, real-time content filtering that blocks out adult, illegal, and violent content for specific family profiles, and it’s not just based on a static list either—our testing has shown that Eero Secure can actually analyze new websites as your kids them to make sure they’re safe before it lets them through.
"Eero Pro comes with powerful built-in parental controls that you manage through the app. It works by creating profiles for each member of your family, assigning devices to those profiles, and then placing content blocks and scheduling internet pauses for your kids if you don’t want them getting online during homework time or in the middle of the night." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Easy management with mobile app
Not suitable for very fast internet connections
Lacks recent firmware updates
The EA7300 is a dual-band wireless router that delivers speeds up to 1.7Gbps. It also includes MU-MIMO support that lets it identify the maximum speeds each device connecting to the network can handle in order to deliver that every time. Linksys didn’t say exactly how far its EA7300’s coverage will span but promises “complete coverage” in smaller homes.
One of the EA7300’s secret ingredients is a Wi-Fi app that you can run on your iPhone or Android-based handset. The app gives you access to a variety of features, including the ability to create guest Wi-Fi networks, set passwords and prioritize traffic to specific devices. The Smart Wi-Fi App, as its known, is also home to the router’s parental controls. From there, you can quickly choose the kind of content that’s allowed over the network and all the sites that won’t be allowed.
Works with your existing router
Detailed schedule settings
Easy to set up
Can be easily bypassed by unplugging it
Logs can be hard to decipher
If you’re in the market for parental controls and don’t necessarily want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new router that has the features built in, there are still some good standalone options. Chief among these is Router Limits Mini, a small device that connects to your existing router and gives you complete control over the content that flows through your home network.
Router Limits Mini plugs into one of the LAN ports on the back of your router and acts as an intermediary between your children’s devices and the web. Since it’s not a router itself, the Router Limits Mini won’t let you enhance speed or improve coverage. It will, however, give you full control over your network for as long as it remains connected, but unlike routers with built-in parental controls it can also be easily bypassed simply by unplugging it from the router. This makes it more suitable for parents with young children rather than clever teenagers.
From the Router Limits Mini, you can set a schedule that will allow certain devices on your network to connect or disconnect at specific times. You can also pause internet connectivity at any time if the kids aren’t behaving, and a filter feature lets you see what’s happening on the network. You can even lock internet searches, so devices on the network can only connect via Google SafeSearch, Bing SafeSearch, and YouTube Restricted Mode.
"Parental control devices that add on to your existing router can often be disconnected just as easily, so if you have clever kids, you may want to consider keeping your router locked up." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Battery backup prevents it from being easily bypassed
Advanced and easy-to-configure parental controls
Requires ongoing subscription after the first year
Only supports 802.11n Wi-Fi
Circle Home Plus is another great option for parents who don’t necessarily want or need a new router but would like to add parental controls to their home network.
This small white cube plugs into your router, monitoring the connection between the internet and the devices in your home and capturing traffic from your kids' devices. Once connected, you’ll need to download the Circle app to your iPhone or Android device, which gives you control over everything happening on your network and lets you filter online content to see who’s on the Internet at any given time. Further, since Circle Home Plus can be used over Wi-Fi and there's a built-in backup battery, a clever kid won't be able to bypass it simply by unplugging it.
If you want to filter online content from Circle Home Plus, you’ll find a variety of pre-set filters based on age. So, if your five-year-old is connecting to your network from an iPad, you can use the "Pre-K" setting, while if your teen wants to access websites, the "Teen" setting is likely more suitable. There's also an "Adult" option that gives your own devices unrestricted access, and of course all of the predefined settings mostly serve as starting points that can be further customized to your needs, or you can simply create a custom filtering profile from scratch. Further, if your kids are spending too much time online, you can also configure Circle to turn off internet access to certain devices at preset times.
Simple and easy to use
Supports multiple devices
Two scheduling levels
Poor Wi-Fi range
Can’t set time limits for individual services
Creates a second Wi-Fi network
Koalasafe’s Dome is a little router designed specifically for parents and kids, so rather than replacing your existing router, it’s plugs into it and sets up a separate Wi-Fi network for your kids to use. Parents and other family members who want unrestricted internet access connect to the main Wi-Fi, which the kids don’t get the password to, forcing them to use Koalasafe’s network instead.
Using the Koalasafe app, parents can set up schedules for internet access to filter the content their kids can access during certain times of the day for each of their devices. For example, you can limit access to certain sites on a computer during homework time and enforce “lights-out” for the iPad at bedtime. Although Koalasafe doesn’t let you limit the amount of time spent using specific online services, such as limiting your kids to only an hour on Netflix, the ability to configure two different filtering schedules makes up for this a bit, and on top of it, everything that passes through the Koalasafe Dome gets logged, so you’ll know where your kids are going.
While the second-generation Koalasafe Dome promises Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1,300Mbps, you probably won’t get anywhere near this unless you’re sitting on top of the router, and if you’ve got a multi-storey home you may even need to buy a Wi-Fi range extender, especially if you have a lot of devices on your network.
Good 5 GHz performance
Integrated Circle with Disney parental controls
Weaker 2.4 GHz performance
Netgear’s Nighthawk R7000 is a dual-band Wi-Fi router that can deliver speeds up to 1.3Gbps, and also comes with dynamic quality-of-service (QoS) that helps you prioritize bandwidth across your network to optimize quality for gaming and streaming video. Additionally, the built-in beamforming capabilities help to boost your range and cover most small houses.
Arguably the Nighthawk’s most important feature is its support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. With these virtual personal assistants in the mix, you’ll be able to control your home network with only voice commands.
Interestingly, the Netgear Nighthawk R7000 also comes with Circle with Disney parental controls, letting you simply download the Circle with Disney app to your iPhone or Android device and use its advanced features to control when your kids can access the internet and what they can see when they’re online. There’s even a pause button to stop your kids from accessing the internet during homework times, meal times, or when you simply feel they need to take a break.
Intelligent AI malware protection
Sets up a secure VPN
Doesn’t work with modem/router combos
Requires monthly subscription
Lacks ability to set time limits
Syfer’s Unlimited Smart VPN Router is a great solution if you already have a good router and aren’t looking to replace it. Syfer plugs into the connection in between your router and your modem and automatically sets up a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) between you and the rest of the internet. This does mean it won’t work with a modem/router combo, but security-conscious users should be using a separate router anyway.
Once installed, Syfer ensures that your internet traffic stays private from your ISP and others along the way, promising that it doesn’t log or track your activity either. In addition to a robust set of parental controls, an intelligent firewall and advanced intrusion protection system will keep viruses, trojans, ransomware, and other malware out of your home network. A built-in ad blocker prevents you from being tracked by ad networks, and Google’s Safe Search and YouTube content filtering keeps your kids away from the darker corners of the internet.
While Syfer offers a great set of privacy and security controls thanks to its built-in VPN, it doesn’t come cheap, and after the free one-year trial of Syfer’s VPN service runs out, you’ll also find yourself paying $10/month to keep it running. There’s also a slight performance hit to using it; streaming 4K video should be fine, but the added latency may impact online gaming.
"A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is designed to protect your privacy and improve security by encrypting all of the internet traffic that enters and leaves your home. This not only helps ensure that your ISP can’t monitor your traffic, but can also help you avoid the kind of traffic-shaping bandwidth throttling that some ISPs engage in." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Fast Wi-Fi speeds
The Netgear Nighthawk R8000P X6S is a fast, tri-band router that can deliver speeds up to 1.6Gbps, and also supports MU-MIMO to maximize bandwidth to the devices on your network and prevent older and slower products from bogging down everything else. AC4000 speeds deliver performance of up to 1.6Gbps on each of the 5GHz bands, plus 750Mbps on the 2.4GHz side, on networks of up to 55 devices.
On the rear, the R8000 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, along with two USB ports—one of which is USB 3.0—to attach a storage drive and share your media content across your network. Thanks to the router’s Dynamic QoS and beamforming technology, you can also take advantage of improved streaming for large files such as 4K video. Six amplified antennas also provide enough range for a large home.
Once you’re ready to configure your network with parental controls, you’ll find that's possible with built-in Circle with Disney. After downloading the Disney Circle app to your iPhone or Android device, you can create time limits that will govern when and for how long your kids can access the internet. A "Bedtime" feature will turn off your children’s access to the Internet at night, and a filters option will let you decide what kind of content should be allowed through your network.
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings.
Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They began writing for Lifewire in January 2018, but you can also find their work on TechRadar. Bill has also worked as an editor at Future.
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.
Range - One of the most critical factors to consider when purchasing a router is whether or not it’ll be able to blanket your entire home in Wi-Fi. Before purchasing your router, be sure to check its specifications to get a better understanding of whether it’s appropriate for your property, and keep in mind that advertised coverage can be affected by the materials that your home is built from.
Mobile Apps - Having a router with parental controls can feel like a relief for parents, but it isn’t much good if you can’t control those settings with ease. Check to see whether the router you’re looking to purchase has a mobile app for quickly controlling it from your smartphone. Newer routers also offer features like scheduling and the ability to "pause" the internet for your kids' devices when they're supposed to be doing their homework or chores.
Security - Protecting your children with parental controls is a significant first step, but the second is to ensure the network itself is secure. Some routers offer enhanced security features like firewalls, anti-malware protection, and to keep your entire home safe, and in some cases even VPN support for added privacy.
Take a look at our ultimate router buying guide.