The 9 Best Gaming Routers of 2021

These routers will give you the speed and competitive edge needed to win

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The best gaming routers will make sure you have the performance you need to dominate the battlefields in even the most demanding online games. While having the best gaming PC is also important to deliver top graphics performance and raw CPU horsepower, it’s also critical to ensure your gaming traffic flows quickly and smoothly to the game servers, and that’s where these top-notch gaming routers come into play. 

With powerful multi-core CPUs and advanced gaming optimization features, the best gaming routers will make sure you have ultrafast lag-free performance, so you won’t find things freezing up just as you’re about to lead your troops into battle or make that critical kill shot. Further, advanced QoS features keep your games running fast and smooth even when other folks in your home are streaming Netflix or hanging out on FaceTime. Any serious online gamer will benefit greatly from one of the best gaming routers, but don’t let the word “gaming” fool you—these are also great routers for anybody looking for the ultimate network performance for streaming and video calling too.

The Rundown
This ultra-fast Wi-Fi 6 router offers a ton of network optimization features designed specifically for gamers.
Highly configurable game optimization features set the standard for advanced gaming routers.
A high-performance gaming router that looks the part, with a unique design and configurable RGB lighting.
Best for Hardcore Gamers:
Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 at Amazon
Game-centric DumaOS 3.0 firmware offers a full-featured operating system designed solely for gamers.
A purpose-built system that’s designed to work as a mesh right out of the box, with low-latency for fast-paced online games.
AiProtection with Game IPS by Trend Micro helps protect your home gaming network from hackers and malware.
Delivers strong Wi-Fi to the distant corners of your home thanks to its RangeBoost feature and beamforming antenna array.
Anti-Buffer Bloat technology ensures that your gaming devices get their own Wi-Fi express lane.
Designed to provide the lowest possible latency for game streaming, thanks to a specialized GeForce NOW QoS mode.

Best Overall: 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

  • Great performance and range

  • Cutting-edge game-centric QoS

What We Don't Like
  • Large footprint

  • Expensive

The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a powerful beast of a gaming router that's built to meet the demands of even the most serious gamers—and the busiest homes. While it doesn't come cheap, it's a no-compromise router that delivers unparalleled range and performance with a wealth of advanced gaming optimization features. Blazing-fast 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 offers up to 10Gbps of total bandwidth, and the tri-band Wi-Fi is backward compatible with more common 802.11ac devices,. The eight-antenna beamforming array can also put out a solid and reliable Wi-Fi signal throughout homes of up to 5,000 square feet.

If those Wi-Fi speeds still aren't fast enough, however, you'll find four Gigabit Ethernet ports around back to hardwire in your gear, plus a fifth 2.5Gbps gaming port for the most insanely fast wired throughput you can get. Its 1.8GHz quad-core CPU powers a wealth of smart features to help you up your game, including WTFast game acceleration, VPN Fusion to isolate your gaming traffic from your VPN, and Dynamic QoS that automatically prioritizes gaming traffic. Games Radar will also keep you connected to the fastest servers for the most popular online games, and Asus offers the most flexibility of any router we've seen when it comes to optimizing your Wi-Fi, letting you set up a separate SSID for each 5GHz band to help separate your traffic, or configuring advanced rules to prioritize and steer higher-bandwidth traffic to the fastest and least congested frequencies.

You also get all of Asus' other great security and networking features here too, including a built-in VPN server and client, adaptive firewall, and more, plus AIMesh technology that lets you connect a mix of Asus routers to create a mesh network to expand coverage throughout your home (and keep the non-gamers off the important Wi-Fi). With the range and coverage the GT-AX11000 offers by itself, though, you probably won't need it. 

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

"If you do a lot of gaming, or if you just have a lot of data-hungry devices connected to your wireless network on a daily basis, then the ROG Rapture AX11000 won’t disappoint." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Value: Netgear Nighthawk XR500 Pro Gaming Router

Netgear Nighthawk XR500 Pro Wireless Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Advanced game-centric firmware

  • Powerful web interface

  • Two USB 3.0 ports

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks anti-malware and parental controls

  • Limited Wi-Fi settings

While Netgear has a great family of multi-purpose routers, the sleek-looking XR500 has been built with only one purpose in mind: gaming. When it was first released, the XR500 set a new bar for all gaming routers with its introduction of the pioneering, game-centric DumaOS firmware.

In terms of its Wi-Fi capabilities, the XR500 offers what you’d expect for a mid-range dual-band gaming router, delivering low-latency performance of up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band, plus a respectable 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz side. While it’s not going to win any speed tests against more modern Wi-Fi 6 routers, it’s an affordable unit that still offers incredible value for its price. 

For gamers, the bulk of that value comes from the advanced features provided by DumaOS, which provides best-in-class QoS to make sure your game traffic gets maximum priority, along with a powerful web interface with a wealth of game optimization features. Logging into the dashboard will let you see exactly what’s going on not only in your home, but even out on the worldwide gaming networks, letting you build geographic profiles that will make sure you’re always connected to the fastest possible servers. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC2600 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Best Design: Asus RT-AX82U AX5400 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

Asus RT-AX82U Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Cool design with Aura RGB Lighting

  • Affordable Wi-Fi 6 technology

  • Free security and parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks WTFast Gamer VPN

  • Not wall-mountable

Asus’ RT-AX82U doesn’t just offer solid performance and advanced gaming features, but it looks the part too, with its trapezoidal spaceship-like design and throbbing Aura RGB lighting on the front. There’s a lot more to this router than just looks, however, as it also boasts advanced dual-band Wi-Fi 6 technology and almost the full set of advanced gaming optimization features that Asus routers have become known for. 

In fact, about the only thing missing compared to the more expensive Asus ROG routers is the WTFast Gamer's VPN, but that’s a fair omission considering the RT-AX82U’s much more affordable price tag. It’s got everything else going for it, however, including a dedicated gaming port that prioritizes whatever you plug into it, powerful adaptive QoS that’s focused on gaming, and Gear Accelerator, so you can make sure that your PC or console gets the dedicated bandwidth that it needs for lag-free gaming. 

What’s really captivating about the RT-AX82U, however, is the cool Asus Aura RGB lighting on the front. By default, it will simply pulse smoothly through a variety of colours, but you can customize it using the Asus mobile app to fit in with your tricked-out gaming PC or even just to use as mood lighting. It also includes Asus’ standard AiProtection anti-malware and parental controls at no extra cost, plus the latest AiMesh 2.0 technology, so you can join it in with any other Asus routers in your home to form a mesh network. A USB 3.2 port around the back also lets you share a hard drive, host printers, or even connect a USB cellular modem.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX5400 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Best for Hardcore Gamers: Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 6-stream Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

Netgear Nighthawk XR1000 Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Powerful DumaOS 3.0 with advanced gaming traffic management

  • Wi-Fi 6 technology

  • Sleek design

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Router management can be sluggish

Netgear’s XR series of gaming routers are unique in that they’ve been built right from the ground up with gaming in mind, thanks to Netgear’s use of the specialized game-centric DumaOS firmware. The XR1000 is now the flagship of the lineup, featuring advanced 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 technology plus the groundbreaking new DumaOS 3.0—a full-featuring “router operating system” designed for gamers.

Unlike the firmware on most routers, DumaOS supports specialized modular apps, known as “Rapps” that can be used to manage and customize the experience. This gives hardcore gamers everything they need to tweak for maximum possible performance, with Rapps designed to give you insights into every aspect of your gaming traffic. For instance, the Geo-Filter Rapp will let players optimize their connections to game servers around the world, building virtual “neighborhoods” of the fastest servers for their team right on a virtual world map. You can also pull up ping heat maps to help you find the best lag-free servers around the planet, and that’s just scratching the surface of what this powerful router operating system can actually do. 

Despite all the powerful gaming features, however, the XR1000 is still as limited as most of Netgear’s routers when it comes to letting you fine-tune aspects of your Wi-Fi performance, although in all fairness most users shouldn’t need to, as it provides superb coverage right out of the box. Besides, it’s fair to say that most serious gamers would rather get right down to gaming than worrying too much about the vagaries of Wi-Fi channels. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX5400 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Best Mesh: Asus ZenWiFi XT8 AX6600 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Asus ZenWifi XT8 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (Charcoal)
What We Like
  • Game-centric advanced QoS

  • Compact and attractive design

  • AiMesh 2.0 integrates with other Asus Routers

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Considering Asus’ expertise in gaming routers, it’s no surprise that the ZenWifi XT8 is the best mesh system for gamers. While Asus’ AiMesh technology allows you to form a mesh network out of almost any group of Asus routers, the ZenWifi is a purpose-built system that’s designed to work as a mesh right out of the box, providing great coverage throughout your home with the low latency needed for today’s fast-paced online games.

Although the ZenWifi doesn’t provide all the advanced gaming optimization features of Asus’ GT series routers, it does boast cutting-edge tri-band Wi-Fi 6 technology, so congestion won’t be a problem on even the busiest home networks, combined with Asus’ best-in-class adaptive QoS that will make sure your gaming traffic gets maximum priority. 

If you’re looking to build the ultimate home network for gaming, the ZenWifi units also fully support Asus’ AiMesh 2.0, meaning you can easily use them to extend a more powerful Asus gaming router like the GT-AX11000. This will give you fast and expansive wireless coverage combined with powerful game optimization features. That said, the ZenWifi system still does an impressive job of providing top-notch gaming performance on its own, and like any other Asus router includes all the advanced configuration options to satisfy the needs of power users. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: AiProtection, WPA3 | Standard/Speed: AX6600 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"Swapping out my old router for the ZenWifi changed my gaming life—the first time I checked my internet speed, I saw speeds skyrocket to 300Mbps." — Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Best Security: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 Gaming Router

Asus GT-AC5300 Wi-Fi Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Eight Gigabit Ethernet ports

  • Game IPS Security

  • Gamers Private Network

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Large footprint

The Asus GT-AC5300 is a tri-band Wi-Fi 5 router that's built specifically for gamers. Offering maximum throughput of 5,334Mbps across the two 5GHz bands and single 2.4GHz band, our testing showed there's enough performance here to keep your gaming going fast, especially with MU-MIMO and beamforming to ensure that your PCs and gaming consoles get a strong and focused signal. With enough power to cover a 5,000 square foot home, Asus also offers some of the most comprehensive Wi-Fi configuration options available, so you can set up a separate SSID for each of your 5GHz bands to keep your gaming console traffic away from the rest of your family, or even configure advanced rules to prioritize and steer your higher-bandwidth traffic to the appropriate band automatically.

There are also a whopping eight Gigabit Ethernet ports around back, meaning there's plenty of room to jack in if the Wi-Fi isn't cutting it—and it's especially great for LAN parties. What really makes the GT-AC5300 stand out from the pack, however, is its support for gaming optimization features through the ROG Game Dashboard that lets you find the fastest and lowest latency servers via the WTFast Gamers Private Network (GPN), VPN Fusion to bypass your normal VPN connections so you can keep your surfing private without slowing down your games, and Game IPS from Trend Micro that protects your gaming network from hackers and malware. The complicated interface may be a bit overwhelming for some users, but it's worth it to be able to tweak the performance to fit your exact needs.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: AiProtection, WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC5300 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8

"The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is a tri-band router that’s packed with features gamers and power users will love." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Range: TP-Link Archer C5400X AC5400 Tri-Band Gaming Router

TP-Link Archer C5400X AC5400 Tri-Band Gaming Router
What We Like
  • Excellent range

  • Eight Gigabit Ethernet Ports

  • Free HomeCare security and parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • Large footprint

  • Fixed antennas

  • Lacks advanced game management features

TP-Link’s Archer C5400X combines the low latency required for gaming with impressive range. It’s a solid tri-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 router that can handle even the busiest homes, along with a generous collection of wired ports around the back.

Although the C5400X doesn’t have the specialized gaming optimization features of many other gaming routers, it does offer ultrafast, lag-free performance, and sports advanced QoS features that make sure your gaming traffic gets top priority. This makes it a great pick for those who just prefer to jump right in and start gaming and have no desire to tweak and monitor network traffic and gaming server connections. As an added bonus, it also comes with a free lifetime subscription to TP-Link’s HomeCare suite of security and parental control features.

Where the C5400X excels, however, is in delivering strong Wi-Fi to the distant corners of your home thanks to its RangeBoost feature and beamforming antenna array. Its open-air range is comparable to other tri-band routers in its class, but it does a noticeably better job at penetrating walls and other solid objects, so you’ll still get more than enough bandwidth for fast-paced gaming and streaming Netflix in 4K throughout your home. Eight Gigabit Ethernet ports also give you plenty of room to hardwire in devices, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports let you attach external storage devices to share media and other files. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: HomeCare, WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC5400 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8

Best Budget: Netgear XR300 Pro Gaming Router

Netgear XR300
What We Like
  • Highly configurable options for gamers

  • Prioritizes Wi-Fi gaming traffic

  • Easy to install and configure

What We Don't Like
  • Lacklustre long-range performance

  • Security and parental control features are fairly basic

Due to their specialized features, gaming routers command a higher premium than your ordinary, everyday Wi-Fi routers, but Netgear’s Nighthawk XR300 does an impressive job of offering an option for budget-conscious users. It cuts a few corners to get down to a more affordable price tag, but it does so in all the right places.

The XR300 is a scaled-down version of Netgear’s classic XR500—the router that defined a new era of gaming routers. It features the same DumaOS as its older sibling, which has been designed to focus entirely on providing the features that serious gamers need. You get the same Pro Gaming Dashboard as the more expensive XR series routers, letting you monitor internet traffic in real-time, take advantage of advanced QoS to make sure your game traffic gets top priority, and choose the best game servers around the world to minimize latency.

The XR300 is missing a few things on the Wi-Fi side compared to its more powerful brethren, however, with modest specs that are more suited for smaller families. However, since most gamers don't require the kind of raw speed that an AX11000 or even AC5300 router provides, the XR300's AC1750 speeds shouldn't scare you off. Low latency is what’s most important for smooth gaming performance, and the XR300 has that nailed thanks to its powerful 1GHz dual-core CPU. Plus, Netgear’s Anti-Buffer Bloat (ABB) technology helps to ensure that other devices on your Wi-Fi network won’t get in the way of your game traffic. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC1750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Best for Game Streaming: Ubiquiti Amplifi Gamer’s Edition

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Gamers Edition
What We Like
  • Certified by NVIDIA for GeForce NOW

  • Expansive wireless coverage

  • Sleek design

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

  • Middling speeds at longer ranges

If you’ve embraced the world of game streaming, then you need a gaming router like Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi Gamer’s Edition that’s ready to keep up with all the online action. This stylish mesh Wi-Fi system will give you enough range to cover even the largest homes, but most importantly it was built in partnership with Nvidia to give GeForce Now players everything they need—even when gaming over a wireless connection. 

While the Amplifi Gamer’s Edition has a sleek new look from the standard Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System, it still shares many of the same features under the hood. The base unit retains the standard cube-shaped design with the front status display, but instead of the soft white finish, it comes in black with a green-tined LED screen. The Gamer’s Edition also includes black one-piece meshpoint nodes in the same style as the white ones included with the second-generation Amplifi HD. All in all, it’s one of the cooler aesthetics we’ve seen in a mesh Wi-Fi system.

What’s most important, however, is that the Amplifi Gamer’s Edition is designed to provide the lowest possible latency for game streaming, thanks to a specialized GeForce Now QoS mode that was built in collaboration with Nvidia to deliver maximum performance. It ensures that your game streams will be uninterrupted no matter what else is happening on your home network. Like its non-gaming counterpart, the Amplifi HD also delivers a staggering 20,000 square feet of coverage, although it still lacks beamforming and MU-MIMO support. This means that performance tends to fall off rapidly as you move farther away from the router or meshpoints, and it also struggles to deliver top speeds in busier homes with lots of devices. So, while it may be able to provide basic Wi-Fi throughout a massive home, the usable range for gaming and streaming isn’t much better than many other routers. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC1750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

Final Verdict

Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a powerful router that packs in just about every game optimization feature you can think of, plus advanced Wi-Fi 6 technology for maximum performance and range. If you’re looking for something that won’t put quite as big of a dent in your wallet, however, Netgear’s XR500 offers impressive gaming features with Wi-Fi specs that will more than meet the needs of smaller households. 

How We Tested

Our picks for the best gaming routers are tested under the most rigorous conditions. Our trusted experts use free tools like Ookla's Speedtest to determine the relative speed of a router in its current networking environment before logging into some matches of Apex Legends or Overwatch to determine the severity or frequency of any latency with a particular model.

About Our Trusted Experts

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. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.

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.

Rebecca Isaacs is passionate about how technology, no matter how big or small, can improve daily life. She works in higher education. When she’s not checking out the latest tech gadgets or writing about them, she’s snuggling up with a good book and her beloved cat, Hobbes.

Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing. She has written for BigTime Software, Idealist Careers, and other small tech companies. Yoona enjoys helping people simplify processes. She has experience providing technical support and help documentation to end users, building websites for small business owners, and offering career advice to social-impact job seekers.

The Ultimate Gaming Router Buying Guide

If you're a serious gamer, or you have one in your household, you'll know that gamers are a special breed when it comes to making demands on your home network. It's not enough just to have a fast router, or a long-range router, or one that provides good mesh network coverage throughout your home; you also need to make sure that it can offer the kind of lag-free performance that your favourite first-person shooters demand. After all, there's nothing worse than having your network slow down just as you're about to make that critical kill shot in Call of Duty.

A solid gaming router not only delivers when it comes to low latency, but it also recognizes gaming traffic so it can make sure it gets top priority. After all, you don't want your games lagging and freezing just because somebody else in your home is downloading 4K movies or watching Netflix. In fact, some of the better gaming routers can make sure your gaming traffic goes through first and even direct it to the fastest servers automatically, while also providing an intelligent firewall to protect the rest of your network and keep your gaming traffic from getting slowed down by a VPN. This is all thanks to the powerful built-in CPUs that rival those found on many PCs.

Keep in mind though that just because you're looking for a router that's focused on gaming doesn't mean that you need to cut corners in other areas, or even that you should. Since gaming routers usually offer really fast performance, this makes them great choices for many other things too, such as streaming 4K movies, and offering advanced quality-of-service features to prioritize other traffic such as voice and video calls.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Why Buy a Gaming Router?

A good network connection can make all the difference between success and failure in many fast-paced online games, so there's no doubt that it should be a key part of your arsenal if you're a serious gamer. While you might get by with a high-performance general purpose router, it's hard to beat the more focused performance and advanced optimization features that a proper gaming router can offer. 

Make no mistake, though, just because you happen to play games doesn't mean you need a gaming router—it's not going to help you get higher scores at Candy Crush, for instance—but at the same time just about anybody can benefit from the great performance and features that gaming routers offer, so while one of these doesn't need to be your first choice if you're not a gamer, you shouldn't rule out buying one simply because it has the word "gaming" in the description.

Quality of Service

Quality of Service, or QoS is just a fancy term for a feature that allows a router to identity different types of network traffic so that it can decide what should get priority.

For example, real-time internet activities such as gaming, video calling, and streaming are generally more time-sensitive than simply downloading large files, sending emails, or surfing the web. If an email you're sending takes a few seconds longer to go through because you've added a large attachment, you probably won't even notice, but you'll definitely feel the pain if the movie you're watching starts stuttering because your TV can't maintain a fast enough connection to the Netflix servers. The same is also true with gaming, where traffic needs to get through fast enough to ensure that when you pull the trigger, everybody else in the game immediately knows about it—especially the player on the receiving end. 

To be clear, QoS isn't all that critical if you have a really fast internet connection, since it's hard for most families to saturate a Gigabit fibre service, but most gaming routers include the feature anyway, so you'll always be able to benefit from it. Best of all, you usually don't have to do much to set it up, since the whole point of a gaming router is to identify gaming traffic and make sure it gets priority, ensuring that you'll always be able to line up those critical headshots even when other family members are watching Netflix. 

Low Latency

Among the most important features unique to gaming routers is guaranteeing lag-free connections by ensuring that it doesn't take any more time than absolutely necessary to process network traffic and move it on to its destination. This is sometimes described as offering low latency or low "ping times." 

In this context, you can think of your router as a really fast post office. Each piece of data that passes through it still has to be scanned and forwarded on to its destination, and just like in the real post office, there's going to be some delay involved while addresses and routes are checked. While these processing times are measured in fractions of a second rather than days, they're still present, and the faster a router can move your data, the better.

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

While some latency is unavoidable, gaming routers include faster and more efficient CPUs than you'll find in most typical routers, so they can process traffic more quickly and handle more traffic at once. This is especially important when it comes to features like QoS, as it takes even more time to figure out which traffic to prioritize. This is why not just any router can meet the demands of gamers simply because it supports QoS—it also has to be able to sort that traffic out fast to avoid creating even more lag. 

Note that latency isn't the same as bandwidth. Although they're both part of how fast your router can handle traffic, to go back to our post office analogy, bandwidth would be the size and speed of the trucks that deliver the mail, while latency is the time it takes to actually process the mail and get it onto the trucks. 

Special Gaming Features

All gaming routers offer advanced QoS features and low latency that will provide almost everything you need for solid gaming performance, but the best ones go the extra mile by offering a variety of gaming-centric features to quite literally up your game.

One example of this is support for the WTFast Gamers Private Network (GPN), a specialized service that automatically routes your gaming connections to the fastest servers available, ensuring that your traffic travels along the fastest routes even after it leaves your home network, since even the fastest and lowest latency router can't help if you're dealing with a slower connection on the other end.

Some gaming routers also offer special features such as the Republic of Gamers (ROG) GameFirst or the Killer Prioritization Engine that can automatically communicate with specially equipped gaming PCs to ensure that traffic from those devices always gets priority through the router. 

Wired vs. Wireless

Wi-Fi has gotten a bad rap among gamers, since issues with interference and network congestion often create additional latency and other performance problems. Fortunately, modern gaming routers have come a long way in addressing these issues, thanks to features like MU-MIMO, beamforming antennas, multiple frequency bands, and advanced Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax support

These come together to offer the kind of performance that gamers demand from their internet connections, and for the most part, if a well-known brand is promoting their Wi-Fi router as a gaming router, you can be sure that it's been designed to offer solid Wi-Fi performance as well, so for the most part, we're well past the days of needing to jack in your gaming console or PC.

That said, every gaming router provides at least four Gigabit Ethernet ports, with some offering up to eight, and a few of the newest high-end gaming routers even offer special 2.5Gbps gaming ports for the ultimate in wired performance. So in the event your Wi-Fi isn't cutting it, or you just don't want to take any chances, you always have the option of a hardwired connection. 

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Range and Coverage

How much range and coverage you'll need in a gaming router is going to largely depend on where your gaming PC or console is in relation to the router. While many gaming routers provide solid coverage, there's no need to make that a priority if your router is going to be in the same room as your gaming rig, although of course you'll still want to consider the other devices in your home too. 

Also keep in mind that even though a router offers good range and coverage, speeds decrease as you move farther away. For example, many higher-end routers can easily cover a 5,000-square-foot home, but you may only get the kind of gaming performance you need when you're right beside it. If your router needs to be some distance away from your gaming PC or console you may need to look to a Wi-Fi extender, Powerline adapter, or mesh solution to bridge the gap. Some brands like Asus also offer their own AiMesh technology, so you can extend your network by purchasing a second Asus router, which can also give you the benefit of keeping the non-gamers off your important Wi-Fi. 

Dual-Band or Tri-Band? 

Unless you plan to hardwire in your gaming console or PC, you'll want a router that offers at least dual-band 802.11ac support as a bare minimum. This allows older and slower devices to connect on the lower-frequency 2.4GHz band, while your gaming and streaming devices can use the higher-frequency 5GHz band. This higher band offers faster speeds and is less prone to interference from other household devices like microwave ovens, cordless phones, and Bluetooth speakers.

If you have several family members who want to game or stream movies at the same time, you'll benefit from a tri-band router, which offers a second 5GHz band to separate your traffic and avoid congestion. Many gaming routers also support a feature called "band steering," which can automatically direct your gaming devices into their own high-speed 5GHz lane for maximum performance, since even the best QoS features won't help if your gaming traffic can't make it to the router in the first place. 

Keep in mind, however, that any given device can only connect to a single band at a time, so you'll only benefit from the additional 5GHz band if you have several active 802.11ac devices; you probably don't need a tri-band router if you live by yourself or have other family members that are extremely light internet users.

Top Brands

Asus

Asus has become one of the leading names in gaming routers, thanks to its focus on building powerful routers and delivering advanced gaming features across almost its entire product lineup. The flagship GT-AX11000 is the latest entry in its GT family of higher-end gaming routers, but even most of its general purpose RT series models still offer many of the same gaming features. While you'll pay a slight premium for Asus' gaming routers, the investment is well worth it if you're a serious gamer, with features like the WTFast Gamers Private Network support, GameBoost QoS to optimize gaming traffic, and even VPN Fusion to keep your VPN up and running without worrying about slowing down your gaming. Plus, if you're using Asus notebooks or PCs, its Republic of Gamers (ROG) ecosystem will make everything work together seamlessly for maximum performance. 

Netgear 

Netgear defined the modern era of gaming routers with the release of the Nighthawk XR500 a few years ago, built with an entirely new firmware, DumaOS, that was designed solely with gaming in mind. Since then, it's expanded its XR series in both directions, with models to meet the needs of just about every hardcore gamer. These routers build on Netgear's larger Nighthawk lineup of routers, which are some of the best in the industry, so they can be trusted to provide outstanding performance for a wide variety of applications.

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

Conclusion

By necessity, gaming routers offer some of the best networking performance you can get, so it's probably not surprising that they don't come cheap. If you're a serious gamer, the investment in a good gaming router will be well worth it, but keep in mind that a router can't help out much if your internet connection isn't up to snuff, so you may need to consider replacing your cable modem, too, especially if you find that you're not getting good ping times. QoS can help if you're sharing a slow connection, but it can't do much about latency.

Also be sure when buying a gaming router that you don't forget about the other devices in your home. Even if your gaming rig is going to be in the same room, you'll want to ensure your router offers good coverage and performance so all your other devices get the bandwidth they need.

FAQ
  • How do I know if I really need a Gaming Router?

    If you’ve got a powerful gaming PC or console and you still find that your games are lagging and freezing up, then chances are you need to make sure your router is moving your gaming traffic as quickly as possible. Even though some of the best wireless routers may get the job done, gaming routers are a special breed of devices that are focused on helping you up your game. The best gaming routers are guaranteed to deliver the raw performance you need for serious gaming with a wealth of optimization features to make sure that your gaming traffic moves fast and gets maximum priority. 

  • What is “Low Ping?”

    “Ping times” are a measure of network latency, which represents how fast even the smallest packets of data can travel from your computer to their destination. You can measure your ping times using online tools like Speedtest.net, and for online gaming, low ping times—less than 100ms—are far more important than raw speed, since game traffic isn’t about moving a lot of data so much as it’s moving many smaller pieces of data as quickly as possible. Just keep in mind that while the best gaming routers can significantly reduce ping times, they can't eliminate the latency you'll get from your ISP.

  • Should I used a wired connection for gaming?

    Many hardcore gamers don’t trust wireless connections at all for serious online gaming, and those fears aren’t without merit as there was a time when Wi-Fi added significant latency and unreliability to gaming traffic. With modern gaming routers, however, that’s no longer an issue, and most of the best gaming routers will provide amazing performance over a wireless connection, as long as you remain within a reasonable range and don’t overload it with too many devices. 

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