I can’t begin to tell you the number of times in the past I wished I had a proper, strong router. It’s one thing to acquire a faster and more reliable internet speed from your ISP. But this is only half the battle. A durable router that can easily transfer massive amounts of data at once is the necessary middleman between you and your mountains of gigabytes.
In this stage of the digital age, requiring high download rates is more relevant and useful than literally ever before. And they’re only going to become more relevant to us as the days, months and years go by. 4K Streaming is starting to catch on, especially on Youtube and Netflix. It’s called 4K for a reason too, you know.
4K four times the size of regular 1080p HD. As in, 8 million pixels of quality definition versus only 2 million. How are you going to watch those videos with constant loading screens popping up every 14 seconds?
It’s even worse if you like to game just as I do. Maybe you subscribe to a streaming service like PlayStation Now. Maybe you own a gaming PC rig and just want to download a digital copy of the latest release. But many games these days are 20gb in size…some of them are even upwards of 70 or 80gb. How long will that take with a regular router? Too long, I say.
If you’re like me and have been dying to upgrade your internet parking lot into a true internet highway then look no further. Below I’ll be showing you five of the absolute best routers for your HD viewing and gaming needs.
All of these products are more expensive than your typical router though. The cheapest one our list is just below $200 whereas many decent routers can be found for under $100.
But again, these are top of the line devices that offer bang for their buck and are a necessary part of being able to reach speeds in the hundreds of Mbps, as well as long wi-fi signal distances, and more.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 Smart WiFi Router (R9000) - AD7200 Wireless Speed (up to 7200 Mbps) for 60Ghz WiFi Devices | Up to 2500 sq ft Coverage | 6 x 1G Ethernet, 1 x 10G SFP+, and 2 USB ports
- Fast WIFI Performance: Get up to 2500 sq ft wireless coverage with AD7200 speed (Tri-band up to 800 + 1733 + 4600 Mbps - for 60Ghz band devices)
- Recommended Up to 45 Devised: Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices
- WIRED ETHERNET PORTS: Plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 6 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and 1 x 10G SFP+ port.
- Loaded with Advanced Technology: Designed with a 1.7GHz quad-core processor, 4 amplified antennas, Beamforming+, MU-MIMO, Dynamic QoS, Amazon Alexa Voice Controls, and more
- USB Connections; Share a storage drive and printer with any connected device, and create a personal cloud storage to access from anywhere, using the 2 x 3.0 USB ports
There are many good reasons why this router is listed as an “Amazon’s Choice” product. Only the best quality, bestselling and best-priced units earn this stamp of approval, and there’s no better way to kick off this list. Netgear makes a few routers under the name of Nighthawk but this is both their most expensive and best unit. It is capable of great download and upload speeds, rarely drops connection and can be used as a great wireless source sending signals to anywhere in your home.
The look of this router is very stylish and futuristic if not modern, and this isn’t something I or anyone is often caught saying about routers. The four thick black antennas stick out like looming towers and make regular antennas look like mere mortal weaklings in comparison. They aren’t just for show as I’m sure you’ve guessed, these antennas are designed to maximize the range of the wi-fi signal.
Many people complain of trying to watch Netflix in their upstairs living room with their router in the basement and having connections dropped or experiencing too long of loading times. This is even with regards to using only 720p or 1080p, not even 4K resolution. This is something I too have had to deal with when using ordinary routers. I guarantee you that those problems will be a thing of the past if you purchase a router like this. The signal is extremely strong and assuming you have the right internet plan you can easily exceed a download speed of 800Mbps, more than enough for 4K viewing.
The processor inside of the Nighthawk X10 is a very powerful one as well, a 1.7ghz quad core. All you need to know about that is that it’s properly equipped to deal with heavy load activities, including VR gaming or anything involving 4K.
One very neat feature I found convenient is the optional but highly recommended Nighthawk App. You can download it on your smartphone and manage basic tasks relating to your internet connection such as monitoring the current download speed, parental controls and more. Normally you’d have to interrupt whatever task you’re doing on your main screen to do this on your PC but having these tasks delegated to your phone makes it even easier. If Netflix is lagging, you can just open up the app from your living room instead of walking over to your computer or at least without having to close your browser.
All in all, the Nighthawk X10 is a phenomenal router that does everything you’d ever want it to. It’s only real flaw is the price. This is the most expensive model on our list, normally going for around $400 but it’s worth every dime, especially if you are in the market for 4K and heavy game downloads or streams.
TP-Link AC5400 Wireless Wi-Fi Tri-Band Gigabit Router (Archer C5400)
- BATTLE TESTED Enjoy 4K video and play online games simultaneously with ultra fast 802.11ac Wave 2 MU MIMO WiFi
- LIGHTNING FAST WIFI AC5400 Tri Band with 4 Stream and NitroQAM technology delivers up to 5400Mbps Wi Fi speeds over one 2.4GHz (1000Mbps) and two 5GHz (2167Mbps) bands
- UNIQUE ANTI VIRUS TP Link HomeCare protects every single device on your network from the latest threats with powerful security, antivirus, and parental controls
- FASTER WIFI FOR EVERY DEVICE Multi user support from MU MIMO technology allows high speed connections without interruption with powerful 1.4GHz dual core CPU and 3 co processors
- VPN SERVER Set up a personal VPN server with an OpenVPN client to browse the web and access files without paid VPN subscriptions
TP-Link is one of the more well-known names in the router business and with good cause. They make a variety of routers in differing price ranges and are often getting high performance results no matter what price range they go in. The AC5400 is roughly in the $200 range and has some very impressive specifications for such a price.
First of all, the look of this router is unique. The nine antennas always reminded me of the monolith status from Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whether or not that’s what TP-Link was going for, the AC5400 truly does look futuristic.
This is a 1.4ghz dual core processing machine, so it isn’t as fast as the Nighthawk we just looked at, but it’s still beefier than your average router. If you were to upgrade from an average $70 router to this you would definitely feel the difference, whether you’re dealing with average or more intense downloads.
Having said that, this router is still very useful for consumers who are invested in 4K. Much like the previous router, you can reach high speeds approaching 3 or 4gb per second assuming you have the proper ISP coverage plan and the right signal frequencies (2.4 and 5.0 GHz).
Now I know what some of you might be thinking to yourselves: 5400 Mbps? That’s overkill, I don’t even need 1000mbps!
And fair enough. A lot of the time when companies share these stats, it’s often just boasting in order to say that their router is more powerful and faster than their competitors, even if these high speeds are rarely used by the typical consumer. But think about what these high numbers imply. If this machine can reliably stream 1000mbps, then it can do something like 300mbps no problem, and this is perfectly acceptable for 99% of internet users, including those who stream 4K or Netflix regularly.
In other words, you’re not just paying for the option to have Mbps speeds in the quadruple digits, you’re also paying to have reliable signals and fast speeds in the triple-digit sweet spot as well. Many people have taken the plunge and upgraded from a run of the mill router to this one and have expressed extreme satisfaction. If you’ve been suffering from too much buffering or connection drops, those issues will be a thing of the past with the TP-Link AC5400.
ASUS AC3100 WiFi Gaming Router (RT-AC88U) - Dual Band Gigabit Wireless Router, WTFast Game Accelerator, Streaming, AiMesh Compatible, Included Lifetime Internet Security, Adaptive QoS, MU-MIMO
- 1024 Qam technology 80 percent faster 5 GigaHertz at up to 2100 Mbps, 66 percent faster 2. 4 GigaHertz at up to 1000 Mbps; utilities: firmware restoration
- 33 percent greater 2. 4 GigaHertz coverage with a 4 transmit, 4 receive (4T4R) antenna design, able to reach our widest ever coverage up to 5000 square feet
- Expansive connectivity options: with exclusively has 8 x Gigabit LAN ports for up to eight Ethernet compatible devices to connect simultaneously
- Powerful 1. 4 GigaHertz dual core processor, faster USB data transfers enjoy up to over 100 MB/s Speed and the router download/UPLOAD speed (WAN LAN throughput) up to 1. 8 Gaps
- Smart Connect automatically chooses the best band available for you, Dimensions: 11. 8 x 7. 4 x 3. 3 inch (WDHP).
Another “Amazon’s Choice” selection, the Asus AC3100 looks very much like a gaming computer, and this is no coincidence. Asus is a company that specializes in graphics cards and pre-built desktop gaming PCs. They have created a router that best caters to their primary market. The AC3100 is very similar to the TP-Link AC5400 but it has a couple of extra features that make it better for online gaming.
Again, the look of this router is very reminiscent of Asus computers and would be a perfect aesthetic fit if you yourself own a gaming PC. The silvery charcoal combined with little nuances of red streaks is a common gaming PC or laptop color scheme. The sharp yet sleek angles that make up the surface of the machine are also very reminiscent of many gaming peripherals, be that high-end GPUs or tower cases.
What makes the AC3100 special is that it prioritizes the ability to have optimized routes during online gaming sessions. This essentially means that this router does a great job of keeping your ping as low as possible by always searching for the fastest paths to connect your PC to the server you’re playing on. Combine this acceleration along with the dual-core 1.4ghz processor and download speeds exceeding 300Mbps and you have yourself the master of wi-fi routers.
Even if going wireless isn’t your cup of tea, this router features eight Ethernet ports and every single one of them can perform up to 2gbps. This makes downloading large files a piece of cake, and as a fellow gamer myself who dabbles occasionally in 4K content, I know personally just how incredible of a convenience this really is. People with gaming PCs normally stick to wired ethernet connections anyway as they are less likely to drop connections. Being able to download a new AAA title in mere minutes or watch endless 4K videos from Youtube with absolutely zero buffering is a remarkable way to upgrade your internet experience.
The AC3100 is a little more expensive than the AC5400, but fortunately is on sale often, as is the case with several Asus products. I recommend this router to anyone who plays online games very often and is ready to take the leap into high-speed download territory.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S Smart WiFi Router (R7800) - AC2600 Wireless Speed (up to 2600 Mbps) | Up to 2500 sq ft Coverage & 45 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet, 2 x 3.0 USB, and 1 x eSATA ports
- Fast wifi performance: Get up to 2500 square feet wireless coverage with AC2600 speed (Dual band up to 800 + 1733 Mbps). WiFi Band-Simultaneous Dual Band WiFi - Tx/Rx 4x4 (2.4GHz)+ 4x4 (5GHz)
- Recommended for up to 45 devices: Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices.
- Wired Ethernet ports: plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 4 x 1 gigabit Ethernet ports.
- Loaded with advanced technology: Designed with a 1.7GHz dual core processor, 4 amplified antennas, Beamforming, MU-MIMO, Dynamic QoS, Amazon Alexa Voice Controls, and more.
- USB connections: Share a storage drive and printer with any connected device, and create a personal cloud storage to access from anywhere, using the 2 x 3.0 USB and 1 x eSATA ports.
Consider this the budget version of the Nighthawk X10 that we looked at in the beginning of this article. The X4S is cheaper for having a less powerful processor and less max download speeds, but is still very reliable when it comes to signal length and supporting multiple wi-fi devices.
One of the key features of this router is how it handles the internet connection for various connected smartphones. If you live in a home that has constant wi-fi access from multiple Android devices, Apple Tablets or the like, the X4S has a special frequency designed to optimize wireless internet browsing and usage for such portable devices. While some routers are better designed for smart televisions or computers, they aren’t always the best equipped for portable devices. This is why you may sometimes experience connection drops or heavy lag when using your smartphone and everything is fine on your desktop.
The X4S is a great choice if you live in a family or rent out with a bunch of people who use their phones at least as often as their main computers. And like the Nighthawk X10 from before, the X4S is also compatible with the Netgear Nighthawk phone app, making it easier to monitor your internet connection status.
Streaming data to devices is made easier as well with this router since one can’t bet on people strictly doing things as simple as search engine usage on their phones. Using what’s called MU-MIMO technology (multi-user, multiple input and multiple output), this router is designed to be able to deliver heavier loads of information to multiple different devices at faster speeds and with much lower rates of connection loss. Everyone in the house can be on Youtube or Netflix at the same time and no one would be able to notice due to how smooth the connection would be.
While the Nighthawk X4S would be a good choice for a single person, it’s an excellent one for anyone who shares a home with three or more other people. It’s almost as if the four antennas are meant for four different users. For the price, it is a top of the line router aiming to satisfy as many people at once as possible.
Google WiFi System, 1-Pack - Router Replacement for Whole Home Coverage - NLS-1304-25,white
- A new type of connected system that replaces your router for seamless wifi coverage throughout your home, helping eliminate dead zones and buffering
- Network assist technology keeps your connection fast by always selecting the clearest channel and fastest band for your devices; WiFi throughput: 1200 MPBS.
- A simple app gets you set up quickly and allows you to see what's connected, prioritize devices, and pause the WiFi on kids' devices
- A single WiFi point covers up to 1,500 square feet, a set of three covers homes up to 4,500 square feet WiFi points work together so you can add more if you need additional coverage
- 24/7 phone support from google; 1 year warranty; material: plastic
The last model on our list is both the newest and the most innovative in terms of what it tries to achieve. Simply known as Google’s Wi-fi System, this router is a small little cylinder that is meant to be paired with other routers of its kind. Much like the X4S the GWS is meant for large homes with presumably several occupants. The twist however is that the GWS isn’t necessarily one unit, and is designed to operate either as pairs or as a group of three.
Let me explain a little more in detail. While most routers aim to have a large and long reaching signal from just one unit (any of the previous four routers we looked at are an example of this), the GWS aims to have this accomplished through multiple smaller units that can be strategically placed throughout your home. So instead of one unit laying in the basement, you can have one GWS unit in your basement and a second one in your first floor living room. And if you so choose you could always add a third unit onto your second floor in case you need the extra signal boost.
In other words, the GWS is a network of routers in a more literal and physical hardware sense. Each unit has a range of roughly 1,000 square feet meaning that at least two would be ideal if you’re living in a suburban home. One unit would likely suffice if living in an apartment, and each GWS runs for around $120, technically making this the cheapest router on our list.
The GWS works with 2.4ghz and 5ghz frequencies, and each unit has two ethernet ports and is wi-fi enabled. They’re so lightweight and portable that they fit virtually anywhere from a bookshelf to a coffee table or even right next to you on your computer station.
The GWS can easily reach rates of 100Mbps and this alone will satisfy most internet users. But if you’re in the market for something much higher you will definitely want to look at another one of the routers I’ve previously discussed. I do find this new router of Google’s to be especially interesting and a step in the right direction for technological innovation, although it is a tad bit gimmicky in my opinion, and maybe for some others too. But if you live in a large home and want something that is easy to install and meets the bare minimum needs of a router then, by all means, go for it.
My Final Thoughts
Picking a router doesn’t have to be as difficult as picking a smartphone, a television or a laptop. My top 5 list was designed to help you realize that despite the plethora of options, it really is a simple task of balancing out your budget and your need for signal strength and download speeds. Whether you’re an avid 4K streamer or just someone who needs reliable connections for the family, these five routers cover the gamut of well-priced router upgrades.
Last update on 2023-03-25 at 00:05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.