Routers really are the unsung heros in your home. Of all the gadgets you own - or are planning to buy - the humble router has got to be the least loved.
And yet, like your electricity or gas supply, a router delivers an essential service to your home: the internet connection that's required by so many devices.
If your Wi-Fi is slow or even non-existent in certain parts of your home, you'll be thinking about replacing your router with a better one. And it's not a bad plan: the routers supplied by your ISP aren't the best and the latest models can provide a faster, strong Wi-Fi signal around your home.
But before you get carried away there are two 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.
2 - Replacing your existing router isn't the only choice these days. That's because you can now get what's called mesh Wi-Fi. A mesh Wi-Fi system is essentially made up of two or more wireless routers which work together to cover even the largest of homes with a strong signal. Your phone or other mobile device will switch seamlessly between these routers as you move around your home.
Mesh systems are not as expensive as you might think and are very easy to install as they plug in to your existing router.
If you are going to buy a new router, make sure you know which type you need. First, work out if you need one with a modem built in or not.
In the UK, most people need a 'modem router' because the most common type of broadband is ADSL or VDSL, both of which require a modem. Other type is for people with cable broadband, such as Virgin, or any other service that provides a separate box to which a router would connect.
The latest standard is Wi-Fi 6 and it can be worth going for 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 may well be the answer.
In fact, if you 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
Asus RT-AX55 - Best Overall
- Excellent speeds
- Great app
- No modem
- No USB port
As a next-gen router, the RT-AX55 should be a noticeable upgrade from your existing one. Not in looks, mind, 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 the latest 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 existing Asus routers (which support this feature) 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.
What’s really great about this router, and why it’s our top pick, is thanks to its excellent Wi-Fi speeds and coverage compared to its rivals, for a price that undercuts virtually all of them.
Read our full Asus RT-AX55 review
Linksys MR7350 - Best Performance
- Great performance
- Easy setup
- No modem
- Dated design
It may not be the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 router, but there’s a lot to like about the MR7350. Ok, so it’s not a looker, but routers tend to be placed out of sight or – at the very least – not placed prominently on show in the living room.
As well as great Wi-Fi 6 performance, 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.
Like the Asus above, the MR7350 lets you create a guest Wi-Fi network, so visitors don’t get access to devices on your home network: just an internet connection.
If you happen to have a Linksys Velop mesh system, the MR7350 can act as the main node, but obviously it won’t magically upgrade older Wi-Fi 5 gear to Wi-Fi 6: it will simply work with it.
Price varies: we’ve seen this router on sale for as little as half its recommended price, but even at full price, it’s still a good choice.
Read our full Linksys MR7350 review
Honor Router 3 - Best-value Wi-Fi 6
- Comes in white
- No modem
- No USB port
You probably know the Honor name from all 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.
So there are compromises: there are only 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 3 review
TP-Link Archer AX50 - Best for smaller homes
- Lots of features
- Fast speeds
- No modem
- Wide design
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 HE160, which will improve speeds for compatible phones, laptops and other devices.
It won’t give you whole-home coverage like a mesh system, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The wide design could be problematic if you have limited space, but otherwise it shouldn’t be an issue.
Read our full TP-Link Archer AX50 review
Tenda AC10U - Great-value Wi-Fi 5
- Very affordable
- USB port
- 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 Tenda AC10U review
Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Pro - Best For Gamers
- Gamer-specific management features
- No modem
- Not Wi-Fi 6
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 Pro review
- Good speeds
- Middling range
- No modem
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 D-Link DIR-X1560 review
AVM Fritz!Box 7530
- VOIP Support
- Built-in modem
- Not Wi-Fi 6
The Fritz!Box 7530 is a much cheaper alternative to the 7590 yet still offers a lot of the additional features of that model including VOIP support and network media streaming.
More importantly, thanks to the latest software update, you can use the 7530 as part of a mesh Wi-Fi network in conjunction with Fritz!Repeater 3000 or, indeed, the 7590.
It's a fine option if you're looking to upgrade an old router with one that offers good performance at a reasonable price. But it is best suited to more tech-savvy users who will get the most out of it.
Read our full AVM Fritz Box 7530 review
Synology RT2600ac - Best For Attaching Storage
- Works like a Synology NAS drive
- Not Wi-Fi 6
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 Synology RT2600ac review
AVM Fritz!Box 7590 - Best For Enthusiasts
- Built-in ADSL/VDSL modem
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 7590 review
Wi-Fi router buying advice
Do I need an 802.11ac or Wi-Fi 6 router?
802.11ac (now known as Wi-Fi 5) is the prevalent standard at the moment, so chances are that any reasonably priced router you look at will use this standard.
The latest routers, often much more expensive, have Wi-Fi 6, which is supposed to be better when you have many Wi-Fi devices trying to access the internet at the same time. It's still early days for Wi-Fi 6, though, and most of your phones, laptops, TVs and other smart home kit will use Wi-Fi 5 or even the older 802.11n.
What features should I look for in a router?
Once you know the type of router you need, it's a case of deciding how much to spend and the features you want.
Wi-Fi standards are the first choice, but not every Wi-Fi 6 router is the same. One difference is how many aerials a router has. The more, the better it should perform. And don't think that routers with external aerials - those that tend to look like robot spiders - perform better than those with aerials hidden inside. Our extensive tests suggest there's not a lot of difference.
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 worry too much 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.