The 7 Best Routers to Buy in 2016

Shop the best routers for gamers, streamers, large houses, apartments and more

If you’re shopping for a new router, don’t be intimidated by all the technical jargon. For the average person, most of those specs won’t be all that relevant. Most likely, you just want to know which router is right for your particular set of circumstances. Are you a gamer? Are you a streamer? Do you live in a big house or a cramped apartment? What’s your budget?

How you answer these questions offers a better insight into what you should look for than a list of incomprehensible technobabble. If you really are into the specs, then you can probably form your own idea on what works best for your situation. However, if you’re like most people, you may need a little help. To make things easy for you, we’ve compiled a list of the routers that we think are the best for the most common situations.

Best Overall, Best for Larger Homes: TP-Link Archer C7 (v2)

TP-Link Archer C7 (v2)
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If you’re shopping for a new router, chances are you’re not going to need the most over-the-top one. Most people have simple networking needs, but they still want enough power and versatility to account for a shifting lineup of clients and network conditions.

The TP-Link Archer C7 is the best all-around router for your average buyer. As a dual-band router, it can utilize both the 2.4GHz (450Mbps) and 5GHz WiFi (1300Mbps) bands, making for 1.75Gbps of available throughput. (Keep in mind, advertised speeds are always theoretical.) It supports the recent 802.11ac (Wireless-AC) networking standard, allowing users to connect more devices at higher speeds. And it all comes in a highly affordable package of less than $90.

Beyond the core specs, it includes two USB (2.0) ports for sharing media on your network, Gigabit Ethernet ports, parental controls, simple setup and support for one guest network per wireless band (which is good for business applications). For added flexibility, the Archer C7 includes three internal antennas, plus three detachable external antennas, which means it's also great for larger homes. All this may prove unnecessary for your particular needs, but even so, the Archer A7 offers flexibility for a wide variety of networking needs—and at a fair price. Buy from Amazon »

Best Router for Streaming: NETGEAR WNDR3400

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If your WiFi is mostly used for streaming HD content on Netflix, Amazon or HBO, then you probably want something that’s a bit more robust with a larger coverage area. Of course, it really depends on the size of the home you’re trying to support (not to mention your technical know-how), but for most streaming needs, the NETGEAR WNDR3400 is a solid pick. It’s ideal for medium- to large-sized homes, and it comes equipped with a useful set of features, including network storage, a traffic meter, an intuitive web interface, five Ethernet ports (sorry, not Gigabit support), USB ports and guest networks (one per band).

The WNDR3400 only supports the 802.11n (Wireless-N) networking standard, which is a bit slower than the 802.11ac (Wireless-AC) standard. For most people, though, this won’t make a lick of a difference. The setup process may prove a bit slow and technically involved, but once you get it squared away you can set it and forget it. The biggest issue is the lack of Gigabit Ethernet support, but even that isn’t much of an issue if your biggest data strain happens during primetime streaming hours. Rest assured: There will be no buffering. Buy from Amazon »

Best for Complete Home Coverage: Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi
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It’s a pain point homeowners across the world are all too familiar with: How do you fill up every inch of your home with a solid WiFi signal? Fortunately, the time has come to put this problem to rest thanks to the introduction of Netgear’s Orbi. It’s pricey, starting at $399, but the cost belies the satisfaction you’ll receive walking around your entire home with a strong signal. The price includes two devices, a router that’s plugged into your Internet modem and an identical satellite device setup elsewhere in the home to extend the signal throughout your house. If it sounds familiar, Netgear wasn’t the first to try mesh networking but they have a secret weapon: a tri-band system that not only extends the signal, but maintains its performance by optimizing the signal with your home ISP as well.

Setup is a snap – Netgear promises you’ll be up and running in under five minutes. The 8.9 x 6.7 x 3.1-inch Orbi unit is small enough to fit just about anywhere or be tucked away near your modem. The Orbi satellite is best placed in a central spot so it can cover Orbi’s expected range of a 4,000-square-foot home. As for the hardware itself, you’ll find both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio connections, 802.11ac support up to three Gbps, three ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port for connecting wired devices. Additionally, you can purchase an extra satellite device to extend your connection signal another 2,000 feet for $249. While the price may sound expensive, the Orbi may be the perfect solution for even the most demanding and device-heavy households.  Buy from Amazon »

Best Under $50: TP-Link TP-Link AC1200

TP-Link TP-Link AC1200
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Think of the TP-Link AC1200 as the Archer C7’s baby brother. It offers a similar list of features and specs in a slightly slower format. TP-Link claims its Signal Sustain Technology (SST) can help provide a stronger WiFi signal while handling multiple high-bandwidth applications. And it can easily be found for less than $50.

Whereas the Archer C7 offers an impressive 1.75Gbps (1750Mbps) of throughput, the TL-WR1043ND is limited to just 867Mbps at 5GHz (and 300Mbps at 2.4GHz). But don’t let that deter you. If you’re looking for a budget router, 867Mbps is more than enough for most needs—and more than you’ll ever find in the sub-$50 price range. And the system is future-proofed with 802.11ac WiFi technology. It's great if you're going to be primarily using the router for just web surfing. So, browse your memes, stream your Netflix and check your email all at once—if your Internet starts to crawl it won’t be the router’s fault.

The TL-WR1043ND also features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB (2.0) port, detachable antennas, and IP-based Bandwidth Control, which limits individual users from clogging the WiFi with intensive applications. It comes in a somewhat boring package, but so what? The thing costs around $49 and comes with a two-year warranty. Buy from Amazon »

Best Router for Small Apartments: TP-LINK TL-WDR3600

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If you live in a small apartment and don’t need a high-powered behemoth like the ASUS T-AC88U, the TP-LINK TL-WDR3600 may be for you. If you’re looking for something to supply a small apartment, chances are you don’t need professional-level throughput (unless, of course, you’re a gamer). That also means you don’t need to spend more than $100. The TP-LINK TL-WDR3600 is the best option for optimizing the limited space of your small home or apartment.

This sleek router packs a lot of punch in a simple, elegant machine that can be found for as low as $60. It supports dual-band (300Mbps / 300Mbps) connectivity, two USB (2.0) connections, Gigabit Ethernet, parental controls and guest networks. You could probably rely on it for most gaming needs, too.

Unfortunately, the TL-WDR3600 does not support the latest 802.11ac (Wireless-AC) standard, but that may be a moot point for most people, especially at this price point. Buy from Amazon »

Best Router for Gaming: ASUS T-AC88U

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When it comes to networking, gaming is a whole other ball game. Contenders really need to ramp up their specs, ports, and hardware to support the high-volume, high-bandwidth, low-latency needs of online gaming and streaming. Naturally, that means you’ll probably need to spend a bit more to get what you need.

The ASUS T-AC88U is the best all-around router for gaming purposes. It’s a little pricey, but if you’re serious about gaming you should be serious about speed and transfer rates—and this machine is tailor-made for gamers. It includes eight LAN ports, which is enough for server-hosting and local co-op activities; as well as another eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, which is almost (almost) overkill; and ports for both USB 2.0 and 3.0 standards. What else could you ask for as a gamer? How about a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor with 512 MB memory? How about the (advertised) coverage area of up to 5,000 square feet? This thing is a workhorse that’s sure to satisfy any serious gamer. Buy from Amazon »

Runner-Up, Best for Streaming: TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900
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The TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 comes right out of the box with 802.11ac support and 1.9Gbps of total available bandwidth. Internally, the AC1900 has a powerful 1GHz dual-core processor that helps handle simultaneous wired and wireless connections without interruptions. On the top of the router are three dual band antennas with high-powered amplifiers to help create a strong WiFi signal across the home, whether you want to stream in bed, on the couch or in the backyard. And setup is a snap. Just plug everything in and head to the included TP-Link website, input your admin password and WiFi name/password and you’re ready to binge stream Netflix.

The rear of the device has a USB 2.0 port, while the side of the device has a 3.0 USB port, Ethernet connection socket to your modem and four more gigabit Ethernet ports. When it comes to streaming speeds, you’re in good hands because the AC1900 is capable of 600Mbit/s transfers over 2.4GHz and 1,300Mbit/s over 5GHz. And its beautifully smooth and curvy white design is reminiscent of Apple products, which makes it much less of an eyesore than what the standard black routers look like. Buy from Amazon »


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