Web pages loading slowly, videos buffering and online games too laggy? It could be time to upgrade your router.
Many people install the Wi-Fi router supplied by their broadband provider and never think any more about it, but it’s possible to upgrade it for a model that will deliver a signal to more rooms in your home and faster Wi-Fi speeds.
But before you take a look at the routers we recommend, there are two key things to know:
1 – Wi-Fi speed is not the same thing as internet speed. If your internet connection is slow, making the Wi-Fi in your home faster won’t change that: it will still be slow. Use a speed-testing tool online (such as www.speedtest.com) to see how fast your internet is. Preferably, do this from a laptop connected to your router via a network cable to ensure slow Wi-Fi isn’t a factor in the test. You can also test your Wi-Fi speed independently of your broadband so you can determine where any bottleneck is.
2 – Replacing your existing router isn’t the only option. That’s because you can now buy a mesh Wi-Fi system. This is essentially a kit of two or three wireless routers which work together to provide a strong signal even across the largest of homes. Your phone or other mobile device will switch seamlessly between these routers as you move around your home.
Mesh systems aren’t as expensive as you might think and are very easy to install as they connect to your existing router.
If you decide a mesh system isn’t for you and you still want to buy a new router, make sure you know which type you need. There are two: those with a modem built in and those without one.
In the UK, ‘modem routers’ are common because most people still use ADSL or VDSL broadband, both of which require a modem. The other type is used for cable broadband, such as Virgin Media, or any other service that provides a separate box to which a Wi-Fi router would connect.
The latest standard is Wi-Fi 6E, but the high price of these devices means most people will opt for Wi-Fi 6. It’s worth choosing a Wi-Fi 6 router even if you don’t yet have a phone, laptop or other device which has Wi-Fi 6, as they’re backwards compatible with older Wi-Fi standards.
However, you might not need to spend any money at all: we’ve written a guide on how to improve Wi-Fi in your home, which includes some great tips on getting better speed and coverage from your existing router. They may work for you, but if you’ve already done everything we suggest, an upgrade is the answer.
In fact, if your reason for reading this is because you need better Wi-Fi in just one room, you could be better off buying a set of powerline network adapters with built-in Wi-Fi.
So, there are quite a few options open to you, but if you want to keep things simple and replace your old router with a new one, then here’s what we recommend you buy.
Best Wi-Fi routers reviews
1. Asus RT-AX55 – Best Overall
If you have an older Wi-Fi 4 router, the RT-AX55 should be a noticeable upgrade. Not in looks, probably, as the black plastic finish and insect-like antennae make it virtually indistinguishable from the many similar-looking routers we’ve reviewed over the years.
There’s a lot that’s changed behind the scenes, though. For one thing, there’s Wi-Fi 6 support plus a great companion app that makes it a breeze to set up the router when you first get it.
After that you can use it for checking what’s connected to the network and for basic parental controls, such as defining when Wi-Fi is available to certain devices.
Built-in TrendMicro software scans for viruses right on the router, but this isn’t a substitute for running antivirus software on your PCs or Android phones.
As it supports Asus AiMesh, you can use any compatible Asus routers alongside the RT-AX55 to form a mesh network. But it’s not cost-effective to buy the AX55 first, then add more nodes later. You’re better off buying a mesh system now and turning off the Wi-Fi on your old router.
The AX55 isn’t the last word in performance, but at this price, it’s great value. Just remember there’s no built-in modem.
Read our full
2. Linksys Hydra Pro 6 – Best Performance
Supports mesh Wi-Fi
Blocky and bulky design
It may not be the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 router, but there’s a lot to like about the Hydra 6 Pro. Unlike its identical-looking predecessor, the MR7350, this is an AX5400 router which should equate to better performance.
And the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 does offer good performance. It also has a lot of useful features and, though more expensive than the AX55 above, still represents good value for money. That’s in the UK, at least, because it’s considerably more expensive in the US for reasons unknown to us.
The option to expand the Hydra 6 Pro’s coverage using Linksys Velop mesh Wi-Fi units might appeal to some, especially those that can’t afford the upfront cost of such a system right now.
However, there are plenty of affordable mesh systems that can replace your existing router’s Wi-Fi for not much more money than the Hydra Pro 6, and they are a better choice if your priority is huge Wi-Fi coverage but not outright speed.
Like other modern routers, the Linksys has an app which makes it easy to set up and manage. Even the interface you see in a web browser is decent, but the app is handy for some settings, such as prioritising up to three devices on your network to get the best connection speeds.
Read our full
Linksys Hydra Pro 6review
3. Honor Router 3 – Best-value Wi-Fi 6
Comes in white
You may know the Honor name from the smartphones and wearables the company makes. It also makes affordable networking gear and, as you can see, it’s not just a clone of all the others. The white design sets it apart and makes it more living-room friendly, despite those protruding antennae.
When we first heard about the Router 3, we couldn’t quite believe the price. But it’s not too good to be true: you really can get a decent Wi-Fi 6 router for this little money.
There are some compromises: just three Gigabit LAN ports once you’ve used the fourth to connect up your existing modem or cable router, and there’s no USB port for adding a hard drive, or powering smart home hubs.
Not so much a compromise (since more expensive routers also have this issue) but do note that there’s no built-in modem, so you’ll need to keep your current router, and just turn off its Wi-Fi and (ideally) put it in bridge mode, but the Router 3 can also be set to bridge mode and effectively be used as a Wi-Fi 6 access point.
You can manage it via the nice-looking web interface, or use the Huawei SmartHome app for iPhone or AI Life for Android.
Performance is better than Tenda’s AC10U but not a whole lot quicker than, say the Virgin Super Hub 3. Where it earns its keep is in range: you’ll get a faster, stronger signal in those far-away rooms that ISP routers tend to be incapable of providing.
Read our full
Honor Router 3review
4. TP-Link Archer AX50 – Best for smaller homes
Lots of features
TP-Link is well known for making great-value networking kit and the Archer AX50 is no exception. It isn’t as cheap as some routers here, but it makes up for this with lots of features.
One is the built-in TrendMicro antivirus software and another is the decent parental controls, though neither are good enough to completely replace dedicated apps.
Talking of apps, TP-Link Tether runs on your phone and makes setting up the AX50 extremely simple. You can also use it to manage those parental controls, antivirus and other features such as quality of service (QoS). There’s even Alexa integration, allowing you to control certain router features with your voice.
Performance, considering this is a single router, is very good, with Wi-Fi 6 speeds of almost 1200Mbps in our tests. Unlike some Wi-Fi 6 routers, it supports 160MHz channels, which will improve speeds for compatible phones, laptops and other devices.
The AX50 won’t give you whole-home coverage like a mesh system, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
Read our full
TP-Link Archer AX50review
5. Tenda AC10U – Great-value Wi-Fi 5
Not the fastest or best coverage
If you’re after a Wi-Fi 5 router to replace your standard ISP offering, the Tenda AC10U is an inexpensive way to do so. It’s easy to set up and use and has a useful companion app for managing the router from your phone.
Don’t expect it to match expensive routers for performance, though. Speed is fine but not the best you can get.
Ultimately, if you can afford to spend more you can get better Wi-Fi speed and range from the Honor Router 3.
Read our full
6. D-Link DIR-X1650
Like several others here, the DIR-X1650 is aimed at those who want to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 but are on a strict budget.
It’s good to see D-Link hasn’t skimped on Ethernet ports – there are five in total, leaving four once you’ve hooked up your modem.
There’s no USB port, though, which means no connecting a spare USB hard drive.
The D-Link Wi-Fi app lets you manage the router from your phone, set Wi-Fi schedules and other features, but it’s much like its rivals: you can’t do everything and will need the web interface for more advanced settings.
Performance is good, but coverage is not outstanding, making this a good choice for flats or smaller homes.
Read our full
7. Synology RT2600ac – Best For Attaching Storage
Works like a Synology NAS drive
Synology has approached its router range with the same design ethic as its excellent NAS range and the RT2600ac is the stunning result.
Where some router manufacturers merely talk about security, flexibility and performance, the RT2600ac unequivocally delivers on all three counts.
It’s also pretty handy if you don’t already own a NAS drive, as you can attach a hard drive to this router and it’ll basically become one.
Read our full
8. Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Pro – Best For Gamers
Gamer-specific management features
As gaming routers go, this is a spectacular one. The DumaOS gives the XR500 the sort of operating system flexibility that you get from a Synology NAS. The operating system is focused on effective network management rather than providing network services, though.
We’d like it to be cheaper, but that is so true of many of the most desirable devices. If you can afford it, and need the features it offers, you won’t be disappointed.
Read our full
Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Proreview
9. AVM Fritz!Box 7590 – Best For Enthusiasts
A router by name, yet so much more in reality. The AVM Fritz!Box 7590 makes other router makers just look like they’re just not trying.
However, it’s expensive and you’ll need to use the extra features on offer to make it worth spending the extra money.
One of those features is the ability to use with the Fritz!Repeater 3000 to form a mesh Wi-Fi network.
Read our full
AVM FRITZ!Box 7590review
Wi-Fi router buying advice
Should I buy a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E router?
Wi-Fi 5 (also known as 802.11ac) is still the prevalent standard at the moment, but if you’re buying a router in 2022, you should be looking at Wi-Fi 6 unless you’re on a tight budget.
Having said that, Wi-Fi 6 isn’t always faster than Wi-Fi 5: you have to look more closely at the specifications, and read reviews to find out how a router performs in the real world.
Manufacturers use terminology such as AX1800 and AX5400 as a means of explaining performance and allowing buyers to compare, but it is a rather misleading number.
That’s because it’s the total speed calculated by adding together the speeds possible using different frequencies, including 2.4GHz and 5GHz. But devices connect to only one frequency at at time.
There are other factors, such as the number of data streams a router can broadcast at the same time, and this is further complicated by the number your phone, laptop or other device can handle, too.
If you want ultimate speed you need to make sure your router and any devices match each other, and the fastest speeds are often possible only with relatively expensive routers and phones / laptops / tablets.
The bottom line is this: Wi-Fi 6 has some extra features which improve your experience as a whole, but you’ll need Wi-Fi 6 in your phone, laptop and other devices to really benefit from them.
Right now, there’s little point in choosing a Wi-Fi 6E router because prices are so high and so few other devices support it and can use the new 6GHz frequency. Plus, Wi-Fi 7 is coming and looks to be the one to go for – eventually.
What features should I look for in a router?
Once you’ve decided on the Wi-Fi standard and know whether you need a router with or without a modem, it’s a case of deciding how much to spend and the features you want.
With many homes still finding a need for wired ethernet connections, it makes sense to have a good number of LAN ports – check out our guide to the best ethernet cables if you want to maximise speeds in a wired network.
Look for Gigabit ports, as these run up to 10 times faster than the older 10/100 Ethernet ports.
Don’t get too hung up about the number of ports, as these can be easily and cheaply extended using a hub such as the TP-Link SG1005D although that creates more wires and power supplies to hide away. (Here are the best Ethernet hubs.)
If you want to share a hard drive without going the whole hog and buying a NAS drive, then get a router with a USB port which supports storage. Many also let you share a USB printer this way.
Synology’s RT2600ac router combines the software from its NAS drives with router hardware, so you can simply add your own external storage.
Some routers offer a ‘guest’ network that lets friends get online without being able to access the computers and other gadgets on your home network. This won’t be high on your list of priorities, but it could be invaluable if you’re running a small business such as a B&B, or rent properties out on Airbnb.
The routers reviewed below are a mixture of those with modems and those without, so make sure you know which type you need before buying one.