The time we all are living in, the need to have a router at home has become mandatory, especially with multiple devices at home including mobile phones and PCs. Not to forget, we have more ways of consuming data which includes video and gaming as well.
So how do you choose a router? Like Mini-PCs, routers comes in all shapes, sizes, and features that can usually confuse anybody. The biggest problem is that we end up getting distracted by the features of some routers which actually cheesy, but we don’t need them.
In this post, we are not only suggesting which routers are the best in networking town, but also trying to help you understand the basic features of a Router. In the end, you should be able to pick one router depending on your need, and your budget.
How to Pick up a Router?
a) Single, Dual-Band or Tri-band?
When you connect to a router, over WiFi, you are actually sending and receiving data over radio band. Most of the routers are Single Band which operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. They use this band to serve all devices which connect. If your requirement is regular web surfing, and connecting just a couple of devices, then Single Band is adequate.
When the requirement goes beyond a couple of devices and brings in heavy work like Gaming, Videos Streaming, etc., Single-band gets overloaded, and hence the need of Dual Band or Tri-Band comes into the picture.
Dual Band Routers have two radio bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz). It can manage the regular web-surfing like work over 2.4 GHz and pass on the heavy work like gaming and streaming to the 5 GHz band.
I am sure, by now, you know that a tri-band router has three radios. One that operates at 2.4GHz and two that operate at 5GHz. However, most of the home users will not need it unless you have multiple consoles, and multiple devices involved in Video streaming all the time.
Recommendation: Pick up a Dual or Tri-Band router over Single.
This is an extreme factor, especially if you own a high-speed internet at home. Routers, like any other networking devices, have their own speed to transfer data. If you have an Internet speed which offers you, let’s say, 100 Mbps speed, but your router can only handle 54 Mbps, you will never get the speed you are paying for.
All the routers have a speed rating or protocols. Each of these protocols has their maximum speed. When you buy a router, make sure you check them.
- 802.11b offers speeds of up to 11 Mbps
- 803.11a and 802.11g offer speeds of up 54 Mbps
The above two protocols are available in Single Band routers which are also the cheapest. I would not recommend you to buy any of the above-mentioned routers. The protocols are slowly getting outdated, and routers have a pretty long life. I have been using a router which is seven years old. So, it’s wise to invest in a future-proof router, to begin with.
- 802.11n offers speeds of up to 300 Mbps
Now, this should suffice to most high-speed broadband users. It is more than enough for 2-3 gaming consoles, mobile devices, and laptops. It will be able to handle video streaming as well.
- 803.11ac offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps
Planning a home with devices interconnected including file sharing? You might need a router which can handle it. This protocol is recommended for heavy usage which includes gaming, video streaming, at least half-a-dozen laptops connected all the time. These routers are designed to offer multiple devices their own bandwidth for upload, and download, resulting in smooth experience.
Recommendation: Choose 802.11ac/802.11n router over others. The router you will buy is going to be there for next 5 to 6 years, and all the devices by the time will support this technology.
If you are looking to set-up a network which involves file sharing between connected users, routers that support external hard drives or NAS is ideal. It makes sure the hard drive is available as a network drive to all connected devices. This is useful when you maintain a central repository for all the things.
This section is for those who understand technical terms and can handle it when configuring it. If you don’t, you can always find one of the geeky cousins you have, and get it done!
- Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) Support: This is one button-press setup to connect any device to your router without revealing your password.
- QoS: It is possible to give more priority to a certain device over others. A gaming console is expected to need more attention over a phone. Using this you can define the priority policy for each On-line gaming, Application, LAN port, or the computer’s MAC address
- Traffic Meter: This helps you know how much bandwidth you are consuming. Depending on the software, you might get IP-based usage as well.
- Content Filtering / Parental Control: Using this feature you can block certain websites, search keyword, and even set time for this filtering.
Recommendation: Most of the routers come with these features. So from a software perspective, you don’t have worry too much, but you should know.
So what routers do we recommend?
Now that you know about Routers and their features, the last, and the most important thing is the price of the device. You may have $300 in your pocket, and get an amazing router, but it’s always a good idea to check if you actually need it. It is possible that your work might get done with a router which is under $50.
Disclosure: Just before we start, the routers we recommend aren’t individually tested. We have used the above-mentioned details, consumer feedback on the Amazon and star rating to recommend.
Best Routers Under $50
Priced at $15 and $32, this is the best router I have seen till now from all perspective. You get Wireless N, supports up to 300 MBPS, two antennas, Gigabit ports extend high performance wired connections, and so on. The router does support “B” format, but you can always turn it off and run just “G and N mixed”. Both the models have excellent reviews as well, and that’s the primary reason we picked them up on our list.
TP-Link AC1200 Wireless Wi-Fi Dual Band Fast Ethernet Router (Archer C50)
In next 2-3 years, AC technology is going to be a de-facto on all Wireless Devices. It only makes sense to buy a router which supports it. Priced at ~$38 (Rs 2400 in India), TP-Link AC1200 not only all help in HD streaming and online gaming with high-performance, you also get Superior, Wi-Fi coverage for longer distance. This is much needed if you have too many walls in between. It is also backward compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n.
The router also comes with a USB port, and a mobile app to manage your router from your phone.
Best Routers Between $50 and $100
The router comes with Dual-Band, 2×2 AC1300 Wifi, 4-port Gigabit Router with USB 3.0 in the front. You can manage and monitor your network with ease from your mobile device using the ASUS Router App. The four antennas make sure you get the maximum coverage possible. Priced at $69.99 (~Rs 11,000 in India), this houses latest technology and is highly recommended.
This model is very similar to the Archer C50, we mentioned above, with few key differences. This model-
- Supports 802.11ac
- Three Antennas for better coverage.
- Dual USB Ports to share files & media, and printer.
Looking at the feature, the router looks rock solid both from the technical perspective, and the speed it offers. It competes with the ASUS RT-ACRH13 neck to neck.
Best Routers in $100-$300 Range
If you have extra money to spend and have the need for extremely high performing router, it is time to take a look at those mammoths which have set an industry standard for design, build and performance.
NETGEAR AC1750 Smart WiFi Router Dual Core 800MHz Processor – Router Only (R6400-100NAS)
If you are looking for a good performing router for your home and is priced around $100 (Rs 8870 in India), NETGEAR AC1750 is worth looking at. The router delivers a combined speed of 450+1300 Mbps speed, and wide coverage using the external antennas, which actually work.
It comes with Netgear’s “Beamforming + focuses” feature which makes sure every device gets the signal and managed well. The company suggests that it will be able to cover up to 12 devices without a problem. You get 4-gigabit ethernet ports, 1 USB 3.0, and 2 USB 2.0 ports.
Like all Netgear routers, you get the in-house products which include:
- ReadyShare USB, ReadyShare Printer and ReadyShare Vault.
- Parental Control and Guest Network.
Asus Wireless AC3100 Gigabit Router (RT-AC3100)
Priced ~$299, this router is a beast. It’s overkill if you don’t have a busy network, as the device offers mixed-protocol, mixed-device, high-activity support for multiple devices. If you think it’s still jazzy, let’s take a look at few facts:
- It is powered by 1.4 GHz dual-core processor backed by 512 MB of memory.
- It comes with built-in game acceleration using a built-in WTFast client to access the GPN: a private network of route-optimized servers to ensure consistently low ping times.
- Looking at those antennas, I don’t think there should be any question about its coverage. On paper, it can cover 5000 square feet area.
- It comes with 1024-QAM technology which is claimed to be 80% faster 5 GHz at up to 2100 Mbps, 66% faster 2.4 GHz at up to 1000 Mbps.
- 8 x Gigabit LAN ports & USB 3.0 port.
- Comes with ASUS AiProtection powered by Trend MicroTM.
- Supports 801.11 AC, 2.4 GHz Radio Frequency, 802.11 a/b/g/n.
If you have a need where around 25 to 30 people stay connected to the network all the time, playing games, streaming video, and downloading content, this router can handle it.
This is a spaceship if you can fit into it. This one line defines how much effort Netgear has put into designing this ultimate product. Just like the RT-AC3100 we mentioned above, the product is built for heavy usage and a very very busy network.
Priced at ~$279 (Rs 13,999 in India), it can deliver up to 3.2 Gbps WiFi speed (by combining all radios) for uninterrupted streaming, comes with three band support which means all your device will connect it. It’s the best combination of high performance, and maximum range, thanks to the six powerful antennas. It is powered by 1 GHz dual-core processor to make sure streaming content, and high-speed gaming doesn’t lag at all.
Not only the hardware is powerful, but the software also makes sure that it can smartly prioritize devices using Dynamic QoS. It will balance devices by moving them on less busy radios, decreasing impact on other devices and make sure bandwidth is utilized properly. Apart from this you also get
- ReadySHARE Vault app provides automatic backup of Windows PC.
- ReadySHARE Printer, ReadySHARE USB Access, NETGEAR genie app, and a Personal FTP Server.
You can also plug-in high-speed storage to its UBS 3.0 port, and If you are geeky enough, it also supports Open Source platform for routers.
If you are looking for a router that has a range for the whole neighborhood, TP-Link’s AC5400, has got you covered with its eight powerful antennas. Using the Tri-band, and NitroQAM technology delivers up to 5400Mbps Wi-Fi speeds over one 2.4GHz (1000Mbps) and two 5GHz (2167Mbps) bands.
Like all three high-end routers we mentioned above, it comes with Dynamic QoS, Load balancing, great for HD streaming including 4K, and gaming.
It comes with 1x USB 3.0 + 1x USB 2.0 ports, 4x Gigabit and is MU-MIMO ready. At around $249 or Rs 22k in India, this is a neat buy.
This wraps up our recommendation of Routers you can buy, based on features, performance, and price. Let us know which one you plan to pick up. Are you using a great router already? Let us know your experience in the comments.