Next to the computers to which it connects, your wireless router could be the most important electronic item in your home. Having briskly ushered on a connected age in which largely everyone enjoys (or would like to enjoy) the option of constant 24/7 connection to the internet, there are fewer things more critical than the glorified radio antenna that broadcasts your Wi-Fi signal.
But why is it that some routers work great and others don’t? Your friends may swear by the one they bought last summer while you can’t even connect from outside the same room as the device in your home. There are a number of factors at play that make a great wireless router, and this article is going to cover some of best WiFi Routers available in 2014.
Wireless routers largely fall into two categories: the first are simple routers which eschew extra features and extravagant options in favor of pure networking power, speed, and reliability. The second, a newer niche breed of routers, are the specialty routers which host a wide array of useful features designed by, and for, networking geeks of all creeds. These routers are generally most comfortable in businesses but have been known to inhabit homes when given device connections with which they can thrive.
What makes a great wireless router?
The answer to this question is more than just signal strength. Some routers feature security options or parental controls that many customers find absolutely necessary, while others are able to support a wide range of difference devices such as printers, tablets, and external storage drives. Knowing exactly what you need allows you to make the best decision for your situation.
Knowing which wireless band your devices use is critically important as well. Getting the newest and most expensive router on the market does not help if your PC does not have the applicable wireless card to communicate to the network with. Knowing what kind of network protocols your devices can communicate on is key to understanding whether a certain router is right for you.
The Asus Dark Knight is another great and stable option that can be relied upon to provide a host of wireless protocols in both 2.4 and 5 GHz over a wide enough distance to work in any home or office. It has great data rates for the distance and at $125, it’s cheaper than other routers mentioned in this article.
One of the drawbacks of this router is that it does not support USB 3.0 hardware, which puts your wired connections back to the USB 2.0 standard. This should not represent a big problem for most, however, since simple routers such as this one are largely valued for the stability and simplicity that they offer to customers.
Alternatively, if you’ve bought a high-end device (smartphone/tablet/notebook) in the past few months, it’s very likely that it supports the latest 802.11ac WiFi protocol. This, and its predecessor RT-AC66U are known to support dual-WAN which is great if you own a home-office. It’s known to sustain speeds of 65MBps (521Mbps) at a close range of 15 feet and about 42MBps (336Mbps) at 100 feet. Obviously they’re pricey at around $200 and $160 respectively. But if cost isn’t a factor, Asus RT-AC68U is definitely the best router you can buy right now.
The Linksys EA6500 is a very new offering from Linksys, who has one of the best track records around when it comes to providing powerful, reliable network service for the home or office. It provides support for new 5 GHz networks including 802.11ac which promises high speed for multiple devices and future-proofing against any set to be released in the next several years at least.
Independent testing has verified high benchmarks for 450 Mbps and 1300 Mbps connections both in the same room and further away from the device. It has six antennae under its sleek hood, and they manage to radiate the resulting Wi-Fi signal reasonably far for any friendly devices that you are likely to want to use in a normal home or office setting. At $169 it’s a bit pricey, so those looking for a cheaper option can check out the Linksys EA4500 which is also proven to be a great choice and available for around $112.
The German-engineered AVM Fritz!Box is a magnificent simple router that comes at a premium price (EUR 116) but deserves the investment. It features three data streams and a WLAN data transfer rate that reaches up to 450 Mbps. The robustly-built inner antennae are noticeably more effective than those of many of the competitors, and this results in a powerful simple-styled router than can cover the weak signal areas and blind spots that you may be suffering from.
The Fritz!Box 3370 is not a fully-featured router, but it does have two USB 3.0 ports with which you can connect a network printer, hard drive, or even 3G dongle from your preferred cellular network carrier. There is also an eco mode available that automatically saves on power usage by lowering the device’s current usage when not being actively used- this feature alone can end up saving you the extra cost of the router in the long run.
AMV brings their flagship router to the forefront of the wireless router market with the Fritz!Box 7390. This is a very powerful and capable router with a whole host of advanced features. It excels in business environments where a multitude of connections must be maintained between different devices over large areas. It includes connectivity for up to six cordless phones and five answering machines, as well as many other devices.
The way in which this router really shines, however, is in its unique capability to simultaneously broadcast in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. This allows the more congested 2.4 GHz frequency band to be allocated only to the devices which are not compatible with 5 GHz. The speed that this kind of technology allows for is unprecedented and makes for a formidable wireless networking solution for most any business or home.
The trade-off for this fully-featured and highly impressive router is that it is expensive. It is, in fact, the most expensive router on this list and well-deservedly so. Fortunately, it is well future-proofed through its network specifications and will remain a viable contender in the Wi-Fi router market for years to come- including those years in which the price inevitably drops.
The SkyDog is not fully-featured in the conventional sense: it will not support a whole host of exotic network devices, program your house to obey your every whim and wash your dishes on the weekend, but it does provide a service unique enough to place it on this list. The SkyDog features the best and most comprehensive home network cloud management on the market today.
The SkyDog is perfect for business owners and parents who want to have a very clear idea of who is doing what on their network. It will provide information and unique control protocols for each connected device and user. Signing up for the cloud service and enabling the network management options is unbelievably easy.
Security is paramount with SkyDog. Its cloud service can email you whenever someone logs onto your Wi-Fi service, or support the use of a “watchlist” by which you can monitor both the websites that your wireless users access and the amount of time they spend there. Bandwidth zones that limit certain users to certain kinds of content are also possible.
This router’s drawbacks stem from the power and speed that it is capable of, which are not as high as others on this list. It is not a performance router designed to spread multiple broadband protocols over large distances and will not satisfy the average networking geek in this regard, but it will satisfy businessmen, concerned parents, and the occasional information-tyrant.
This was a successful hugely Kickstarter project which managed to raise more than $850,000. Its main USP is the touchscreen panel paired with a smart home hub. It supports the latest 802.11ac WiFi protocol and is compatible with variety of Z-Wave & ZigBee smart sensors. At $99 it’s much cheaper than any of the competition, but sadly, the router is yet to ship.