The top 5 routers for your connected home

Netgear
By Haroon Q Raja on 6 Aug 2014 09:24 am
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Last week, we brought you our in-depth guide on choosing the right router for your home network. As mentioned in that guide, having a decent router can make all the difference when it comes to making the best out of your connected devices. Though considering the sheer number and variety of options available in the market, a lot of us simply don't have the time or patience to do all the research needed to make sure we're getting the best value for our money. And that's when recommendations by industry experts come handy. So, here's our list of best-in-class Wi-Fi routers for your home that give you the best bang for your buck, and come highly recommended by networking professionals considered an authority on the subject.

If you're familiar with router classification, you'll notice that we have skipped routers from certain classes altogether, specifically AC1300, AC750, AC580 and anything below N900. We believe these classes just aren't worth investing in anymore because the speeds they offer just don't cut it by today's standards, and better routers are available in higher classes at lower or comparable prices. At the other end of the spectrum, routers in classes even higher than AC1900 (such as AC3200) have started to surface, but we wouldn't consider them targeted at the home market for now, as their price range of over $300 would make them cost-prohibitive for most people who wouldn't get to utilize any of their additional benefits anytime soon. For those unfamiliar with router classification, we highly recommend you go through the section on router classes and speeds in our guide linked above.

Special thanks goes to Tim Higgins and his team at SmallNetBuilder for rigorously testing pretty much every router out there, and sharing their results with all of us. For most people, Tim suggests setting a maximum budget of $100 for your purchase and getting the best router available in that range, and we completely agree. That said, for those of us who do have the latest connected devices supporting AC1750 or above, or at least plan on getting some within the next few months but can't wait till then to get a new router, going into the $150+ zone might make more sense. Also, if spending a few dollars more gets you a router with some built-in extra features that could be very useful to you, that's all the more reason to go for it.

Now, without further ado, let's get to the list. For your convenience, we have organized the list by router class, and also discussed a few alternatives in each class that didn't make it to the top of our list.

Reader comments

The top 5 routers for your connected home

41 Comments

How does the Nighthawk R7000 compare to the recently released Asus Extreme Wireless-AC2400 (RT-AC87R)? It's an update to the ASUS RT-AC66U.

Yes... great question. I have had 3 Netgear top of the line wireless routers and they all 3 failed to cover our house. We have 6,600 sq. ft. and the only wireless router to work is the Asus RT-AC68U. Every room now gets Wi-Fi and not just weak signals either. And, the router is in the basement where the cable and modem are. So its a tough assignment for any router to cover a 3 story house... but the Asus works perfectly.

that's really interesting as we have the 66U and had coverage issues in our home (4500 sq ft). our router is in our home office which is located in the front right corner of our home so that could play some role. i wound up having to install three wired WAPs to eliminate the dead spots.

If range is your primary concern, you can't go wrong with the TP-Link Archer C7. It offers the best 5 GHz range among all AC1750 options currently available. And the RT-AC68U is indeed an amazing device (I've mentioned it in the alternatives in the AC1900 section), though considering all features as well as the price, the R7000 Nighthawk simply outperforms it, albeit not by a very wide margin.

I haven't included any classes above AC1900 for the reasons mentioned in the post. Though top-of-the-line ASUS routers are among the best in their classes, and judging from ASUS' history, I'd expect the RT-AC87R's performance to be nothing short of stellar.

Technically the RT-AC87R is the beginning of WAVE2 of AC equipment. The only thing I see is it that should support real MU-MIMO. I would expected faster speeds with Wave2 AC gear though.

It appears to be the first gear using the new Quantenna 4×4 MU-MIMO chipset with 4 antennae. Most likely you won't see a huge improvement unless you are running allot of Wifi AC devices on it.

This is ofcourse all based on my understanding of the tech. A more practical test is needed.

There is also the Nighthawk R8000, but it has been shown to have very minor improvements over the R7000

I have the Asus RT-AC66U and I bought it because the DD-WRT firmware exists and it does so for the 68U as well. It does not exist for the R7000 so if you're a power user looking for the features DD-WRT offers, you will need to wait and as with most things, there's not really a release schedule so there's no telling how long you'll need to wait for the firmware.

DD_WRT generally does become available for all major NETGEAR routers too (the R7000's predecessor, the R6400, has it), so it's pretty much a given that the R7000 will get it. Also considering its popularity, I don't think it'll take too long. But yes, there's no official ETA, and for those who have to buy a router right away and just can't go without DD-WRT, shelling out over $32 extra for the RT-AC68U would be the next best option.

After years of trying to make a series of Netgear routers play nice with my Verizon FiOS router, I finally struck paydirt with an Asus AC66 router and overnight my connectivity, speed and sharing issues dissipated into the ether. It was a little pricey but it is stable and some altruistic genius who calls himself MerlinAsus continually rolls out terrific firmware upgrades. Deliverance!

Theduder, I don't remember the Actiontec MoCA bridge being available back then. If it was I missed it and I sure looked for a simpler solution. As my setup is now, I have the MoCA connection through the original Actiontec router where I have the wireless radio off, in favor of the Asus wireless radio which is working fine. Is there some better performance inherent in your setup?

Well, you have a pretty small connection table on the Actiontec, so if traffic other than your STB traffic is going through it you have the potential for limiting behavior.

The rest of it (hardware and code) is super dated and not that great. If you don't need it in the network it's best not to run it.

Hey well done, you are starting to speak French "Crème de la crème".
I Love it !!!
May the next Post will be all in French ??

Hi! I recently got a deal for the NETGEAR R6300 for $90. Its manufacturer refurbished though. Do you think that it was worth it, and is it really any good?

I didn't see much regarding Web Filtering or monitoring for those with kids in the house. My son is getting to the age where he can start to put his DS online or play mine craft, but I don't a young kids learning about the birds and bees from the internet quite yet. I'm a network engineer, but I don't think a barracuda is appropriate for my home!

I have the R7000 and struggle with the range at times. If someone sees this and has tips on set up, etc. Please PM me. The help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

I have an R7000 and I've got to say it's probably the best router I've had so far. I don't have nearly as many issues with connectivity as I did with any of my previous routers. In the several months that I've had it, I've only had to power cycle the box once, and I don't think it was actually the problem. I have a few spots around the outside of my house where the 2.4ghz band is spotty in reception, but that may have something to do with the wire mesh in the plaster walls in my house (I get terrible OTA reception of tv and radio inside)

Great article! Unfortunately, I am still on the fence on whether to go with the Nighthawk R7000 or the Asus RT-AC68U.

My main PC has an ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-AC1900 PCI-E Adapter, so I can definitely take advantage of the AC speeds both routers provide.

And it's not really a price issue, because as of today (08-06-2014), Amazon has the R7000 for $188.99 while the RT-AC68U is now listed at $199.99. Only an $11 difference!

Which one should I go with????

Thanks!

ASUS has a long support record with there routers and provides higher quality with a exceptionally longer warranty and since you already own one of their adapters it will use the AiRadar directional signal focus.

http://www.asus.com/us/Networking/PCEAC68/

I've always seen netgear products fail before there time, i assume they are not well made devices.

I think the lack of Apple Airport Extreme here is a glaring omission. I've used Linksys and to a lesser extent Asus routers for years. I've tried their stock firmwares, DD-WRT, Tomato variants, and other firmwares, but always had issues of routers crapping out under load and needing to be restarted, or not connecting properly to certain devices. I upgraded to an Airport Extreme (actually a TimeCapsule which is an Airport Extreme with a hard-drive), and it is stable as a rock. Just in case others don't know it's 100% Windows compatible, However to set it up for the first time you need to run an application on Windows, Mac, or an iDevice.

I agree with SirTech as well and I am not an Apple fanboy. The Apple extreme / Express devices are fast, easy to setup and extremely stable. I have setup several large homes (5000 sqft+) with a combination of Apple extremes / express, and the home owners cant believe how stable a system it is. No issues on 15 large configurations so far.

I do not agree. Had so many problems with all 3 of them. Lack of stability being the biggest reasons. Frankly non of my friends have one anymore. All switched to TP-Link, Asus and for very big houses to UBIQUITI Networks with a couple of AP's.

One section I would've likes to have seen added into this article is "upcoming routers". The almond+ seems like the perfect router for the connected home but isn't released to the general public yet.

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I've zero complaints about the Trendnet TEW-818DRU. I got it months ago at less than $180 and it's cheaper still. It is compatible with open source firmware and it's quite fast. Having a guest network that doesn't use the home network password is great. Not sure why this never gets reviewed.

This should be called "TOP 5 Popular WiFi Routers - NOT BEST".
If someone want to have best router in price around $100 then should take a look at MikroTik RouterBoards. Comparing - these 5 are just toys.

Yes, I am a real innocent in the WiFi domain,
but have two Linksys WRT54GL's on my two home servers,
and they have served me reasonably well for many years,
though one has a problem dropping WiFi about once a day.
So I was looking for an upgrade, and naturally put Linksys first.
But I've found this thread very enlightening.

Hello

Archer C7 v. 2 is supported by OpenWRT. It is one of the best routers at all but with OpenWRT? Most powerfull. I like NetGear but for advenced users OpenWRT is a must.

Hello, I am new here and this is my first comment. I need help and have a question. For the last, almost, 5 years I have had a Motorola Surfboard. I purchased it to save the $5 dollar fees that Comcast charges for a modem and wireless router separately, and felt that a modem/wifi combo was a good choice, but to my question:

Should I separately have a modem and router? If so, which modem, as this article only discusses routers. A little direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the great article. It has me thinking now.

Which modem you should get depends on your ISP...and usually even a rather inexpensive modem that supports your ISP will do just fine. You'll have to ask your ISP if a particular modem that you're buying is supported, or just buy (and not rent) a compatible standalone modem (without built-in Wi-Fi router capabilities) from them, if they are offering any.

I was about to buy the TP-LINK Archer C7, but then I read of many Apple users with issues connecting the devices to the 5ghz band.

Are you aware of any such problems? Did you test with MacBooks?