Even if newer Wi-Fi 6 devices are becoming more widespread, it is still cutting-edge technology that provides much more than most people need in their homes, so 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 is expected to remain the dominant standard for many years. After all, even the finest 802.11ac routers on the market today can handle all of a normal family’s streaming, gaming, and video calling demands.
Because the vast majority of home network devices still utilise Wi-Fi 5, there’s no need to spend money on a Wi-Fi 6 router unless you have a large number of Wi-Fi 6 devices on your network, particularly because even the most recent smartphones and tablets are perfectly compatible with all Wi-Fi 5 routers. This means you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a cutting-edge router, and you generally won’t benefit from one unless you have a big house with a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices on your network. As a result, the finest 802.11ac routers are an excellent alternative for anybody looking for reliable Wi-Fi performance at a low cost.
Asus RT-AC88U AC3100 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router
The Asus RT-AC88U strikes a good mix between price, performance, and functionality, making it an easy choice for anybody seeking a general-purpose Wi-Fi 5 router that ticks all the boxes. The dual-band Wi-Fi has a total capacity of 3Gbps on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels, and the four beamforming antennas can cover up to 5,000 square feet of living area.
This enables it to give more than enough performance for seamless 4K streaming and video chatting, but it’s also a good performer for gaming, owing to its dual-core CPU, which processes traffic rapidly and keeps latency low. It can also manage a dozen or more active devices without breaking a sweat, thanks to MU-MIMO compatibility and sophisticated features like adaptive QoS, while ensuring that everyone receives their fair share of your internet connection.
One of the nicest things about Asus routers is how flexible and feature-rich they are, so sophisticated users will like the eight Gigabit Ethernet connections around the rear for connecting wired devices, as well as the two USB 3.0 ports for sharing media, data, and even printers in a variety of ways. This covers everything from using Apple’s Time Machine tool to setting up a DLNA server on your home network to share films, images, and music. You also receive Asus’ AiProtection Pro suite of tools to safeguard your network from outside and inside threats, and you don’t have to pay a regular membership fee to keep your antivirus and anti-malware security up-to-date.
Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System
From the minute you pull it out of the box, you can tell that Netgear’s Orbi isn’t like the company’s other black-box routers. There’s a practical explanation for this, though: since it’s a mesh Wi-Fi system with many satellite units meant to be strategically positioned around your house, it’s far more vital that it looks at home in your living room.
Although the main base unit must be plugged in where your cable or DSL modem is located, you may place the additional satellite units wherever you require the most Wi-Fi coverage in your house. Your devices in such locations connect to the closest Orbi unit, which sends signals back to the main base station through a dedicated 1.7Gbps 5GHz backhaul link. This guarantees that no matter which Orbi unit you’re connected to, you’ll always receive the highest possible speeds, and with tri-band AC3000 Wi-Fi, it still provides an additional 1.2Gbps of bandwidth to all your client devices on the 2.4GHz and second 5GHz bands.
A pair of Orbi units will provide adequate coverage for a 5,000-square-foot house while also ensuring that the strongest coverage is delivered precisely where it is needed. You may add up to five more satellites to increase or improve your coverage for the best performance if you require it. Thanks to the dedicated backhaul channel, each satellite also features four Gigabit Ethernet connections, allowing you to hook up gaming consoles or PCs in any room and still have a fast connection. Netgear’s Armor and Circle with Disney both have built-in security and parental controls, making this a wonderful system for families, albeit you’ll have to pay a yearly membership fee to fully benefit from these features.
TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 Gigabit Smart Wi-Fi Router
The TP-Link Archer A6 (also known as the C6 in certain areas) is a low-cost router that packs a surprising amount of punch. While you won’t get enough coverage for a big house for this price, it’s a great option for users in smaller homes, flats, or condominiums who only want to go online for regular web browsing, streaming, and making group video chats with friends and family.
Indeed, the Archer A6’s dual-band Wi-Fi provides 1.2Gbps of bandwidth over both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, which is more than enough for seamless 4K Netflix streaming and uninterruptible video conferencing on services like Zoom and FaceTime. In addition, the four beamforming antennas with MU-MIMO support ensure that all of your gadgets receive their fair amount of bandwidth, even in a small living area.
Support for more sophisticated features, such as the current WPA3 wireless encryption standard and a built-in OpenVPN server, is especially unexpected for a router in this price range. Of course, TP-Link had to cut costs somewhere to make such a low-cost router, so although there are four Gigabit Ethernet connections on the rear, there are no USB ports for sharing files and printers. It’s worth noting that the Archer A6 and Archer C6 are almost identical routers with differing model numbers for marketing reasons. Both, however, have the same characteristics and capabilities.
Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System
The Eero Pro is one of the most user-friendly and adaptable mesh Wi-Fi systems available. It provides dependable whole-home coverage that works straight out of the box, eliminating the need to worry about complicated technical issues with an easy-to-use mobile app that guides you through the whole procedure and gets you up and running in minutes.
Not only does the Eero Pro provide powerful tri-band Wi-Fi, with three units capable of covering homes up to 5,000 square feet, but you can also add more affordable dual-band Eero units or plug-in Eero Beacons to expand your coverage into areas of your home where you don’t have as many devices or simply don’t require the fastest possible throughput. You may also add as many Eero Pro, Eero, or Eero Beacon units as you like, making this a system that can expand with you to cover even the largest estates.
Each Eero Pro and Eero unit has two Ethernet ports on the rear for connecting wired devices, and although the Eero Beacons don’t have any wired connections, they make up for it with a low-profile design that plugs into any wall outlet and doubles as a night light. While the Eero system lacks more modern capabilities such as built-in VPN support or dynamic DNS, the essentials are all included, including WPA3 security and time-based parental control filters with an optional Eero Secure membership. The one drawback to this otherwise excellent system is that it lacks support for the PPPoE protocol, which is used by certain ISPs. While this should be acceptable for all cable providers, if you’re on DSL or fibre, double-check with your ISP to ensure compatibility.
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 Gaming Router
Gaming routers, like the Asus GT-AC5300, are a distinct species focused on delivering the type of performance that today’s fast-paced online games need. It’s not enough for a gaming router to have enough raw speed to allow you to stream Netflix in 4K—it also has to have low latency, be better at managing network congestion, and prioritise and optimise gaming traffic to keep things running smoothly.
The GT-AC5300 excels in all of these categories, with tri-band Wi-Fi that allows you to devote one of the two 5 GHz bands only to high-performance gaming traffic and a strong quad-core CPU that ensures lag-free gaming. This means you won’t be slowed down by your network just as you’re ready to make that crucial kill shot in Call of Duty. This router also has significant game optimization tools, such as the Gamers’ Private Network (GPN), which connects you to the quickest and most reliable gaming servers automatically.
While the GT-AC5300 is designed to prioritise gaming traffic, with 5.3Gbps of total throughput, there’s more than enough power here for everyone in your house to enjoy uninterrupted streaming and video calling, thanks to MU-MIMO technology that ensures that each device gets its fair share of bandwidth and eight beamforming antennas that help to deliver a strong and focused enough signal for even the largest homes. There’s also plenty of capacity for wiring in PCs, gaming consoles, and external storage devices with eight Gigabit Ethernet connections and two USB 3.0 connectors.
Asus RT-AC68U Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router
There’s little use in spending a lot of money on a premium router if it just gives you more range and performance than you need, so if you live in an apartment or condo, the Asus RT-AC68U is a good choice. Because of its tiny and lightweight design, it can be tucked away almost anywhere while yet providing enough shelter for a small living space—even a small cottage.
With dual-band AC1900 speeds of up to 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz frequency and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side, this router is no slacker in terms of performance. While the absence of MU-MIMO support means you won’t achieve maximum speeds if you throw a bunch of devices at it, there’s still enough bandwidth for three or four devices to stream Netflix in 4K or keep in contact on Group FaceTime sessions without stuttering.
Plus, there are four Gigabit Ethernet connections on the rear for connecting wired devices at maximum speeds, as well as two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0) for sharing files and printers, backing up your Macs using Apple’s Time Machine, and streaming video to a smart TV through DLNA. Even at this lower price, the RT-AC68U comes with Asus’ complete (and free) AiProtection Pro security package, so you won’t have to worry about viruses or malware infiltrating your network.
Asus’ RT-AC88U is undoubtedly our top selection for a well-rounded router that combines the finest blend of performance, good coverage, and sophisticated capabilities. The Netgear Orbi, on the other hand, is unbeatable for quick and dependable coverage in every area of a big house.