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Best Overall: Asus RT-AC88U at Amazon
"Can automatically detect network vulnerabilities or identify malicious sites."
Best Open Source: Linksys WRT3200ACM at Amazon
"Technology helps each device stay connected to the network at the fastest possible speed."
Best Privacy: Synology RT2600ac at Amazon
"Parental controls, a blacklist of malicious risky websites and security options."
Best Mesh: eero Pro at Amazon
"Little risk of the network being set up incorrectly and left vulnerable."
Best Gaming: Asus RT-AC5300 at Amazon
"Offers great performance and advanced gaming features that let you keep your VPN up even during marathon gaming sessions."
Best Budget: Asus RT-N12 at Amazon
"This cheap and cheerful router provides good security and even VPN support at a price that won't break the bank"
Best Value: Netgear Nighthawk R7000 at Amazon
"Offers great value for those looking for solid and reliable performance without spending a fortune."
Best Setup: Linksys EA6900 at Amazon
"Beamforming technology make it a formidable competitor to more expensive options."
Best Splurge: Netgear Nighthawk RAX200 at Amazon
"The ultimate future-proof router offers Wi-Fi 6 and performance and coverage to spare for even the largest home networks."
Best Design: TP-Link OnHub AC1900 at Amazon
"One of the easiest setup processes around and provides easy network monitoring."
Courtesy of Amazon
Below average range
The Asus RT-AC88U is supported by 1024-QAM technology and is 80 percent faster on the 5GHz band at up to 2100Mbps and 66 percent faster on 2.4GHz with speeds reaching up to 1Gbps. It comes equipped with a four-transmit, four-receive antenna design that enables it to reach a coverage area of up to 5,000 square feet. Add in higher capacity Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO technology and it’s easy to see why the AC88U is an award-winning router.
The AC88U also offers Asus' AiProtection, which is powered by Trend Micro to keep your web browsing, downloading and streaming safe from questionable behavior. The baked-in Trend Micro services also provide parental controls and can automatically detect network vulnerabilities or identify malicious sites before you reach them.
"The router is a dream come true for the power users out there, and is filled to the brim with software features." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester
Open source firmware
Slow 2.4GHz speeds
The Linksys WRT3200ACM has Tri-Stream 160 technology that doubles bandwidth to help maintain speed better than most dual-band routers. Additional features such as MU-MIMO technology helps each device stay connected to the network at the fastest possible speed without interfering with the performance of other devices.
Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi smartphone app also lets you manage and monitor your network from anywhere at any given time, but it’s the open-source aspect that really shines for security-focused router buyers, since you can easily use “packages” from trustworthy open source distributions such as OpenWRT or DD-WRT and establish a secure VPN, monitor and analyze network traffic or detect network intrusions instantaneously. Since the firmware packages are all open source, that also means that they've been extensively “peer-reviewed” by security experts, making them much more likely to be free of vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
"Guest Access, Parental Controls and Media Prioritization are all easy to setup and use. You can create up to 50 guest networks and password protect them. With Parental Controls you can set up how much time devices on the network have internet access, our outright restrict and block access for specific devices." — Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester
Can double as network storage when paired with an external HDD
Fewer Ethernet ports than we'd like
Synology might not be the first name you think of when purchasing a router, but this security-focused unit is good for both homes and small businesses. Incorporating its learnings from the Network Attached Storage (NAS) industry, the Synology RT2600ac offers four 802.11ac antennas for extending signal range and speed up to 2.53Gbps (1,733Mbps 5GHz, 800Mbps 2.4GHz). Added features such as MU-MIMO and beamforming help maintain the boosted speed and allow available bandwidth to be properly shared when multiple devices are connected.
Setup is a snap and within five minutes you’re up and running on both Mac and PC where you’ll gain access to Synology’s Router Management System. It’s here you’ll find options such as parental controls, a blacklist of malicious risky websites and security options. Synology’s biggest bonus is the package center where you can download NAS-grade apps such as VPN Plus or Intrusion Prevention to double up on the built-in security, so you'll have far more peace of mind when it comes to potential attacks.
"This router is worth a look if you want something that’s easy to set up but hides a lot of hidden potential under the hood." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Easy to set up
Great wired speeds
Real-time content filtering & malware protection
Single Ethernet port
Set up requires mobile app
Content filtering requires monthly subscription
The Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System is pricier than a traditional black router, but it comes with more than enough benefits to justify its higher price tag. Although you can start with a single Eero Pro router to get up to 1,750 square feet of coverage, the mesh Wi-Fi features let you add additional units to expand coverage throughout your entire home, which can be either more Eero Pro devices or Eero Beacons that offer slightly less coverage (1,500 square feet each) but plug discretely into any standard wall socket.
The Eero Pro features tri-band Wi-Fi, with a single 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz bands (5.2GHz and 5.8GHz, respectively) plus MU-MIMO to ensure all of your devices can get on at the fastest possible speeds from anywhere in your home, and if you choose to add additional Eero Pro units, you also get two Gigabit Ethernet ports with each one.
Eero Pro is also ridiculously easy to configure, with all of the setup handled through a mobile iOS or Android app that requires zero knowledge of routers and networking. With a small monthly fee, you can also add Eero Secure for intelligent, real-time content filtering that dynamically blocks out unsafe and unsavoury websites. It's also one of the first Apple HomeKit-enabled routers, which means users of compatible smart home devices gain an intelligent firewall that automatically ensures that access to your IoT accessories only travels through the securely encrypted HomeKit protocol.
"Eero Secure automatically scans for problems, blocks threats, and blocks ads at the DNS level, and you can see details about what it has blocked through the app." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Lots of Ethernet Ports
Gamers can still use a VPN
Asus' routers already offers some of the most advanced security features out there, so when you pair that with a set of features that's specifically designed with gamers in mind, you end up with the best of both worlds—a router that will keep you gaming smoothly while protecting you from outside threats.
Maximum throughput of 5.3Gbps across the two 5GHz and single 2.4GHz band means that there's enough performance here to keep your games, 4K streaming, and just about anything else going fast, and the either MU-MIMO and beamforming antennas can offer some of the fastest speeds across an entire area of 5,000 square feet.
What's especially great here for gamers, though, is Asus' VPN Fusion feature, which lets you keep your VPN up and running for all of your normal traffic while making sure it doesn't interfere with your gaming performance, and the GameIPS feature from Trend Micro offers a firewall that's specifically built with gamers in mind. Also, although the Wi-Fi capabilities of this router are great, it also offers eight Gigabit Ethernet ports on top of that, so hardwiring in is always an option.
"It’s an 802.11ac router that delivers support for everything a super-user could want—including VR, gaming, and 4K streaming, AiMesh, and top-notch security monitoring." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Works as a router or repeater
Multiple wireless SSIDs
No 5GHz support
Not ideal for very fast internet plans
The Asus RT-N12 is a “cheap and cheerful” router that offers very few frills, but gets the job done if you’re simply looking to support shared access to a lower-bandwidth internet connection. It won’t win any performance awards, but what it offers isn’t bad considering the price tag. It only supports a single-band 2.4GHz network, and is probably best for a single floor of your home or an apartment or condo, but at this price you could buy two or three for the cost of a single higher-end router.
The RT-N12 can also work as a router, access point, or range extender, so it’s quite versatile, and provides the ability to configure 4 different SSIDs with different passwords to help control internet access, meaning you can use one SSID for yourself, one for your kids, and one for your Internet-of-Things devices, and manage what can be accessed and even how much bandwidth is allocated to each one. There’s also basic PPTP VPN support, letting you connect securely to your home network while you’re out on the road.
Excellent 5Ghz performance
No access to parental controls over web
Netgear’s Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi router, properly known as the R7000, is a great option if you're looking for solid performance without spending a fortune. Built-in extras such as Dynamic QoS let the R7000 prioritize bandwidth by determining which real-time application requires the most signal, which ensures optimal performance for online gaming, video chat or HD streaming. Setup remains easy with users online and browsing within five minutes of unboxing.
The router supports 600Mbps and 1,300Mbps speeds on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, respectively, and when it comes to security, both parents and security-savvy users will enjoy extras such as parental controls and web filtering levels, while OpenVPN offers secure access to your home network from anywhere you can get online.
Excellent performance at shorter ranges
Below average long range performance
With one of the easiest setups in the secure router space and a pre-configured network available on the bottom of the device, the Linksys EA6900 offers excellent performance for a budget-friendly price. Featuring 600Mbps performance on the 2.4GHz band and 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz band, the dual-band output and beamforming technology make it a formidable competitor to more expensive options. The design has a utilitarian black casing and three large adjustable antennas for equal signal distribution throughout a home or office.
Beyond design, the included Guest Access feature helps maintain network security by limiting users to a separate network that removes access to on-network hardware such as other computers or printers. Security-conscious users will love the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi smartphone app that shows information about home Wi-Fi when on-the-go. You can even set up parent controls, prioritize connected devices and send guests Wi-Fi passwords via text or email. Plus, the router has SPI and NAT firewalls to fend off any network attacks.
Wi-Fi 6 Support
Tri-Band Wi-Fi with 12 streams
Advanced Wireless Features
Reports of “early adopter” problems
Few devices can yet take advantage of it
If you’ve got the money to spare and want the ultimate “future-proof” router, Netgear's Nighthawk RAX200 is a beast that should provide everything you need for years to come, including support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 protocols that will offer wireless speeds in excess of 1Gbps, with enough simultaneous streams to let up to a dozen of your devices get online at maximum possible speeds.
The 64-bit 1.8GHz quad-core CPU also means that it has power to spare, and the eight amplified and beamforming antennas provide massive coverage for even the largest homes. The tri-band Wi-Fi also offers a pair of 5GHz channels, each with MU-MIMO support and 4.8Gbps of bandwidth, so network congestion won’t be a problem even in a large family.
Security-wise, the RAX200 offers a robust set of features, including support for WPA3, the latest Wi-Fi security protocol that not only protects your wireless network from snooping but also features improvements that make it easier to add new ones. There’s also the usual set of firewall capabilities to protect your network from outside intruders, plus the ability to control access to the Wi-Fi networks, block specific sites and services, and set schedules for access. It also features a built-in VPN server, which lets you securely access your home network from your PC, Mac, or even your iPhone or Android device.
"Wi-Fi 6 isn't just about faster speeds—it also automatically provides improved security over older Wi-Fi standards, since all Wi-Fi 6 devices are required to support the newest WPA3 security standard. WPA3 will make it harder for hackers to get at your Wi-Fi network, but also adds features that make it easier for you to get your own devices connected." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Promised features don't always deliver
Google’s TP-Link OnHub AC1900 is the search engine giant’s first entry into the wider space of router manufacturing. Partnering with TP-Link, the OnHub reaches speeds of up to 1900Mbps and is powered by 13 antennas capable of blanketing a home with network coverage up to 2,500 square feet. With a bonus of support for more than 100-plus connected devices, even if you’re having a party there’s more than enough power to make sure everyone stays connected. Google’s own On app adds one of the easiest setup processes around and provides easy network monitoring directly from your Android- or iOS-powered device.
Google has also ensured a steady future for the OnHub with the promise of automatic security updates far into the future. The OnHub receives software updates to stay up-to-date with known Internet threats. Beyond security, its cylinder shape is a far cry from the run-of-the-mill wireless router design.
For its blending of excellent network performance with advanced security features and an affordable price tag, Asus' RT-AC88U ticks all of the boxes as the secure router to buy unless you have very specific needs.
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.
Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician and writer based in southern Vermont who specializes in solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective. With more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry and an educational background in the arts, he has an eye for well-designed tech products and an understanding of how they fit into our lives.
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.
Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing who 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.
Built-in VPNs - ISPs can keep a closer eye on the content we access online by selecting specific services they may wish to throttle (slow down) or prioritize (speed up). Routers with built-in VPNs allow users to surf the web without worry of being watched; all traffic is carefully encrypted out of sight of your ISP.
Built-in firewalls - Because we tend to use multiple devices on our home networks, ensuring that a firewall is installed correctly on every machine can be a difficult task. Keep an eye out for routers that have built-in firewall solutions — they offer broad network protection to fend off potential attacks.
Smartphone access - Many modern routers allow for remote monitoring of your network via dedicated mobile applications for your smartphone or tablet. The ability to access your network from your smartphone means you can keep a close eye on everything that is happening. If you spot an unrecognized device accessing the network, you can quickly take action to remove it.