AX6000 WiFi Mesh System. We encountered this issue once during our previous testing: One of our laptops, an Acer, would connect to a router’s wireless-ac network but drop the speeds to almost nothing. Don’t just connect everything to your router’s 5 GHz radio “because it’s faster.” Yes, 5 GHz is faster than 2.4 GHz—at short range, at least. In the world of mesh networking for 2021, we’re likely to see the 6 Ghz bands used as the backhaul between the base unit and mesh nodes, which will free 5 GHz bands for servicing devices. TP-Link sells a variant of the Archer A20 called the Archer C4000. Google Nest Wifi He did that so he could connect to the internet from his desk, his couch, and his bed seamlessly (a rarity for the time). However, like the Eero Pro 6, the MX12600 is pricey—currently $50-170 more expensive than the Asus kits. This test measured throughput and speed, and—more important—put a constant load on the router and satellite(s) that the other devices on the network had to work around. That throughput graph is worth looking at to get an idea of your best-case performance when you’re the only one on the network, but those test results don’t tell the most important story. Although it was competitive in this go-around, it ended up in the middle of the pack overall. Eero Pro 6 But the only router that was notably faster is also notably more expensive: Our upgrade pick, the Asus RT-AX88U, was more than 20% faster but typically costs as much as double the price. The XT8’s latency (the time you’d be waiting for sites to respond when browsing them) was only a few percent faster than the CT8. A 2×2 laptop wouldn’t get any more throughput from a 4×4 router than it would from a 2×2 router, though it would still get twice as much as a 1×1 laptop. The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a great choice if you want to set up a lag-free Wi-Fi network all over a larger home, as well as folks who need a mesh network that can handle a growing number of smart devices in a home. As of this writing, COVR-2202 stocks are low, so it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid it. If Ethernet is an option in your home, you should use wired access points rather than mesh. The Archer A7 is typically less than half the price of the Archer AX50, and we think it’s the best router you can buy for less than $100. Note that tri-band routers have two 5 GHz radios, so you can connect critical devices such as a streaming set-top box or a gaming PC to its own 5 GHz radio manually. But for spaces that a single router can’t cover, the most important thing about mesh-networking kits is how they’re designed to work together—the vendor has specifically tuned the units to establish fast, reliable “backhaul” connections with one another. SSID or network name: An SSID is the fancy term for a Wi-Fi network’’s name. This is a tough test, but we think a good network should respond reliably all the time. Like the AmpliFi HD, which we tested and dismissed in 2017, the compact and inexpensive AmpliFi Instant has a front-mounted touchscreen that lets you monitor your network bandwidth. The UDM did okay on our tests, though the Asus RT-AX88U was able to outperform it. The test home measures over 3,000 square feet, with three floors of living space and a garage with cinder block interior walls. If you place the mesh node in your den or home office, you can connect your laptop or desktop PC to it for better speeds. On the other hand, the AX20 was less responsive than the AX50 when multiple devices were active, so a busy household might notice more lag on the AX20 than a home with fewer devices. Don’t count out Wi-Fi 5: Even while Wi-Fi 6 grabs the headlines, we’ll continue to watch out for new Wi-Fi 5 routers, like the TP-Link Archer A8 and Archer C80, as they are released by the network manufacturers. Here are the top wireless routers you must consider when shopping around for one this 2020. Basically, if you feel that your old router cannot get the job done anymore, i.e. We’d only suggest it if you have a gigabit (1,000 Mbps, or close to it) internet service plan. We started by placing the main router or node in the living room, in the center of our testing space, and connecting it to our cable modem via Ethernet. Without further ado, here are the best routers of 2019. We repeated each test set six times and averaged the results to smooth out spikes. In our testing, the Nest Wifi kit excelled at the single-client throughput tests but lagged the Eero Pro + 2 Beacons when all six laptops were using the network at the same time. The CT8 base unit and satellite look identical, so that could be an issue if you ever move them to another location. Asus has made some effort to build as minimalist an exterior as possible, but the CT8 units are a lot larger than the Eero Pro or Netgear Nighthawk MK62 nodes. It’s not that hard to use, but it definitely feels techy enough to scare off some less-technical people. The company confirmed to us that the hardware was “almost identical” but that “the available firmware features on each model may vary.”. Latency refers to the time you spend between clicking on a link and waiting for the next web page, streaming video, or file download to come through. If you can run Ethernet cables and use standard access points instead of a mesh kit, you should consider it. Netgear’s Orbi RBK13 is a dual-band, three-piece mesh-networking kit featuring a router and satellites that are the same size as the Netgear Nighthawk MK62. These tests simultaneously evaluated range, throughput, and the router’s ability to multitask. After spending more than 200 hours evaluating and testing 24 mesh Wi-Fi networking kits in home and lab environments, we’re confident the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) set is the best mesh-router … AX4200 WiFi Satellite. At long range, the AX50 performed better than all of the competition except for TP-Link’s top-of-the-line Archer AX6000. Modem router combos conveniently combine an internet modem and Wi-Fi router into an all-in-one device, thus making it a WiFi networking essential. We believe that mesh’s purpose isn’t to make Wi-Fi fast somewhere—it’s to make Wi-Fi fast everywhere. This effect shows up best when you’re comparing a strong tri-band kit like the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) set or D-Link COVR-2202 with a kit such as the TP-Link Deco X20: The tri-band CT8 was rock steady in the green throughout our test suite, while the dual-band Deco X20 started to falter after the 80th percentile. Previously he tested and reviewed more than a thousand PCs and tech devices for PCMag and other sites over 17 years. How do I read more articles from the author who wrote Best Wireless Router Wirecutter? Band steering is essential for mesh networks, which have multiple access points and multiple bands to deal with, but the feature is important even in standalone routers, because if you aren’t using all the radios in your router, you aren’t getting all the performance you paid for. But “middle of the pack” is still impressive for an older router at a low price: In our tests, the Archer A7 was able to continue serving websites while the D-Link DIR-X1560 and the Archer AX10 virtually screeched to a halt under the same conditions. Even the far less expensive TP-Link Archer AX50, our top pick, performed better than the UDM in some situations. The D-Link COVR-C1203 is a dual-band three-piece mesh-networking kit that is easy to hide virtually anywhere in your home. Testing mesh kits this way—in the most difficult spots to reach, in a space with a mix of building materials—ensures that we find the ones that work best throughout your house, rather than just looking good in the easy spots. We did similar testing for the latest version of our guide to standalone routers. A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve considered adding a wireless extender or an extra access point to an otherwise satisfactory router, get a mesh system instead. Link aggregation used to be restricted to more expensive routers, so its presence in the AX50 is a huge bit of future-proofing if you think you might upgrade to network-based storage later on. Better, faster Wi-Fi routers are here -- and yep, they're fast. Compared with TP-Link’s router setup, D-Link’s setup tends to be on the limited side, while Asus’s and Synology’s screens have multiple settings that appeal to tinkerers and similar geeks. And folks who need more capabilities have to spend a lot to get just a small jump in performance. That’s something you can’t get just by adding another access point or wireless extender to your existing router. TP-Link is one of the best router companies in the world and has been leading the industry in technological development and technological innovation. The TP-Link Archer A20 was our top pick in the last iteration of this guide. The UDM has a built-in 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) access point, whereas Ubiquiti’s more enterprise-level options separate the router and access-point functions into different boxes (and saddle them with enterprise-level prices). So far, Asus has announced the ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 gaming router, but others will follow in 2021. The XT8 is almost a mirror twin of our pick, the CT8, but it includes extras such as Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and WPA3 security. In a variety of tests spread out around a three-story home, the CT8 was able to outperform all but our upgrade pick, including some kits costing considerably more, and it was relatively painless to set up. TP-Link Deco W2400 When it comes to picking the best long-range Wi-Fi router, there are a few things to consider; to make it really easy for you, think along the lines of choosing the best gaming router (yes, we have an article on that too) and add a long range into the mix. In the graphs above, we show the topmost and lowest performance groups individually, as measured by the average time to load web pages to the three browsing laptops during our multi-client testing. The DIR-X1560 in particular lost points for having a stripped-down administration interface that looked as if it came from a 2012-era router, not from a 2020 model. Overall setup with TP-Link, either through the Tether smartphone app or the administration website, is quick. Before joining Wirecutter in 2018, Joel Santo Domingo tested and wrote about PCs, networking, and personal tech for PCMag.com, Lifewire, HotHardware, and PC Magazine for more than 17 years. You have to spend a … If you don’t give your networks different names (SSIDs), in practice all your devices end up piling onto one 5 GHz band, and you experience slower speeds, delays, and even dropped connections when several of them are online and busy at the same time. And this idea has ruined me. The RBK50 is one of the first successful mesh kits, but we think our current picks have surpassed it. A deep dive into why Wi-Fi kind of sucks, Serious flaws leave WPA3 vulnerable to hacks that steal Wi-Fi passwords, What is WPA3? Priced just above the Netgear RAX40, it was a strong performer in our tests, and it offered multiple QoS settings to tweak its network for gaming. But TP-Link has improved the Archer A7 since we tested it in 2018, adding via frequent firmware updates features such as compatibility with TP-Link’s OneMesh extenders. If you want to make the leap to a Wi-Fi 6 router, it's important to learn what these wireless internet routers can (and can't) do for you, as well as some of the best ones to consider. We drew our eight criteria below from research, as well as extensive testing. To test the router’s best possible speeds at close range, we placed one of our test laptops approximately 15 feet from the router, with one interior ceiling between router and laptop; we also performed a long-distance maximum-throughput test at about 50 feet, with four interior and two exterior walls in the way. This kit might work if you want to inexpensively outfit a spread-out home that doesn’t have a lot of devices and has a basic internet plan (under 100 Mbit). The Asus RT-AX88U had the least lag of any router we tested, and it was faster overall than our top picks, but you pay twice the price for what constitutes a small improvement for most people. It’s about 40 to 45 feet vertically from the base router, through two floors, and at least two interior walls. Like the other Eero kits here, online security and parental controls require a $30-120 per year subscription. For the tests in our 2017 house, the UAP-AC-Lite access points were in the same sites as our multi-hop configured mesh kits—one in the network closet, one atop the living room TV island, and one downstairs in the den. The TP-Link Deco M4 and Deco M9 Plus are compatible with other Deco kits, and the Deco M9 Plus has a smart hub built in for Zigbee and Bluetooth devices, but most folks don’t need a smart hub. Latency still tends to be a better measure of how your Wi-Fi network feels, and in latency the two UAP units beat the Orbi system (and every other mesh kit we tested in 2017) everywhere. Each node had screw mounting holes molded into their bases, which is a nice touch. This expanded wireless standard will take advantage of newly deregulated 6 GHz radio frequencies. We suggest considering either of the latter two models if you’re a networking whiz and you want to tweak your router’s radio strength, its channel selections, and the threshold where the band steering switches clients from 5 GHz to 2.4 GHz. In its quest for simplicity, it removes even basic niceties (it has only one extra Ethernet port on the base unit, and none on the satellites). Band steering—specifically load-balancing band steering—lets you use a single network name for all your Wi-Fi bands and allows the router to decide which devices go on 2.4 GHz and which ones go on 5 GHz based on where they are in your house and how much bandwidth they’re using. In our tests, it connected rapidly and transferred data smoothly and consistently. Whether you’re dealing with slow speeds or Wi-Fi dead zones, a new router can significantly improve your internet experience. Modern web pages consist of a complex set of files that must all be fetched before the page renders in your browser. (If you’re wondering how routers have been managing multiple Wi-Fi devices up till now if they can actually talk to just one device at a time, it’s by switching between devices very quickly.). We didn’t touch most other settings—you should be able to connect to your Wi-Fi and have it work without constantly fiddling with things. If you have a larger space, a mesh-networking kit may be the solution. Orbi Tri-Band WiFi System, 2.2 Gbps, Built-in Cable Modem Router. At short range, the advantage of Wi-Fi 6 was less pronounced, as the AX50 roughly tied with a handful of other routers in speed at a little over 500 Mbps. If you’re an even more technical sort and have a (possibly humongous) home with some truly troublesome coverage zones, you might wonder how a UDM/BeaconHD mess setup compares with a more traditional multiple-access-point setup such as Ubiquiti’s UAP line of devices. While the Nest Wifi is easy to set up if you use Google’s services often, there are privacy concerns with Google’s Assistant technology, which extend to the websites and services you visit using the Nest Wifi. Ron Goldberg, Change Your Router’s Wi-Fi Channel for Better Streaming, Lifewire, May 6, 2019, Joseph Stromberg, 10 simple tips for making your home wifi network faster, Vox, July 28, 2015, Jim Salter, 802.eleventy what? Long story short: If you can run Ethernet cables and use standard access points instead of a mesh kit, you should consider it. The TP-Link Archer AX10 and D-Link DIR-X1560 were our budget router contenders. At its best, the A7 is capable of speeds of about 430 megabits per second, a figure that conveniently matches some midtier and “performance” internet service plans. It was just behind its more expensive sibling, the ZenWiFi AX (XT8), at close range and in the attic where the test laptop was all but guaranteed to connect through a mesh point. Older routers simply switched back and forth between devices, albeit at an imperceptible rate; one “slow” device on an older router, and the whole thing would grind to a halt. That left us with almost a dozen kits from eight vendors (Asus, D-Link, Eero, Motorola, Netgear, TP-Link, TrendNet, and Ubiquiti) to test, in order to find the best Wi-Fi mesh network kit. This third band allows more devices to connect and be busy at once without slowing the network down so much. More expensive home routers exist, but the next step up from here is practically a commercial-grade router, and in that realm you get features that most people would never touch (and might need an IT degree to understand). A dual-band router operates on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, while a tri-band router offers a single 2.4GHz band and two separate bands in the 5GHz range. Mesh can offer better coverage and lower latency in a wider area, which makes your connection feel faster throughout the house because your devices aren’t grabbing at faint wisps of signal. Linksys EA6350 AC1200 + Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router The Linksys EA6350 is a dual-band router that offers blazing 5GHz throughput speeds, four Gigabit LAN ports, and a fast … The median—or typical—result is the 50th percentile, on the left. The test procedure was actually downloading a 1 MB file over and over as fast as it could. For example, Wirecutter managing editor Annam Swanson experienced dropped connections on her A7. D-Link doesn’t sell individual COVR-2200 nodes, so the kit has limited expandiability, beyond buying multiple kits. Linksys Velop AX4200 (MX12600) The resulting network congestion that such homes experience has made us a lot pickier about what routers we accept as the best for the most people, as well as a lot more interested in features such as Wi-Fi 6 support and mesh compatibility. Wirecutter - There may be spots in your home where the Wi-Fi sucks, which is often more frustrating than no Wi-Fi at all. This router’s plastic body is a little shiny and kind of cheap feeling next to that of the Archer A20 or Asus’s routers, but you’re probably not going to be handling your router after you install it. A Facebook feed, for example, has multiple resources, like HTML code, CSS libraries, and Javascript, that load after each click. © 2020 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company, The best Wi-Fi mesh kit: Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8), Upgrade mesh Wi-Fi pick: Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8), How mesh-networking kits work (plus a glossary), performance testing of standalone routers, can also make it hard to troubleshoot problems, features that most people would never touch, the latest version of our guide to standalone routers, how we set up the network and what tests we ran, 802.eleventy what? A deep dive into why Wi-Fi kind of sucks, Ars Technica, March 4, 2017, Dan Goodin, Serious flaws leave WPA3 vulnerable to hacks that steal Wi-Fi passwords, Ars Technica, April 11, 2019, Eric Geier, What is WPA3? The CT8 mesh units aren’t the largest in our roundup, but they’re close. (Here's our comprehensive guide to wireless extenders.). We’ve found them all wanting for one reason or another, and dismissed them from this guide update. After new testing, including the Eero 6, Eero Pro 6, and Linksys Velop AX4200 (MX12600), we affirm the the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) as our top pick. Although your network probably isn’t always that busy, those busy times are when you’re most likely to get frustrated by poor network performance. Our previous pick: Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons The AX6000 is notable among our test group for having the sole 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port, for those who own a compatible modem, but on the whole the Asus RT-AX88U is a better pick. The eero is the best-selling mesh router setup on Amazon, and for good reason. You’ll have to check the administration screen or mobile app for that notice from time to time. TP-Link Deco X20 We didn’t touch most of the other settings—you should be able to connect to your Wi-Fi and have it work without constantly fiddling with things. It has support for WPA3 security, but that’s one of the few settings you can change beyond network name and password. If you’re due for an upgrade or are simply a fan of the latest tech, Dionicio said you'll do well with an early Wi-Fi 6 model. Even if you add the cost of labor for a professional to run Ethernet cables from, say, your router to the downstairs office and up to a bedroom, the total cost to add three Ubiquiti APs is still currently well under $400, making it a potentially cheaper option for large homes that might otherwise need several mesh nodes to provide reliable service. It had excellent short-range throughput speeds in our tests, doing better than four of the other 12 routers in this guide. (Use your router’s mixed-mode setting—AES and TKIP—only if you have older devices that don’t support WPA2.). The kicker here is that the phones, laptops, game consoles, and other devices you’re using are almost always 1×1 or 2×2 (so they support either one or two spatial streams, respectively), and the speed of the connection is determined by the device with the fewest spatial streams. Instead of using a single router, mesh-networking kits use multiple access points spread around your house to improve … After spending more than 200 hours evaluating and testing 24 mesh Wi-Fi networking kits in home and lab environments, we’re confident the Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) set is the best mesh-router choice for most people who need one. Overall, the RAX80 is a perfect choice for those who want a high-end WiFi 6 router despite a rather higher price tag. When we updated our Acer laptop with Wi-Fi drivers straight from Intel, which were newer than the ones Acer offered, our problem went away. The best mesh networks ensure good connections between devices, the base unit, and any satellites, reducing the situations where a poorly connected device can slow down the others. From The Wirecutter: The best Wi-Fi router (for most people, anyway) The best mesh-networking kits occupied similar spots in the stacked latency chart compared with the throughput charts, though there was some movement in the middle and bottom of the pack. Significantly, the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 dropped from sixth overall on the throughput chart down to 13th overall on the stacked latency chart. A couple of nice unique features: The power supply is built in (no wall-wart AC adapter necessary), and the UDM has an internal fan to quell overheating. The neighbors and our home network also kept their Wi-Fi networks going, which left somewhere in the vicinity of a half-dozen to a dozen network names visible at any given time. The TP-Link Archer A7 is an older router, but it still receives valuable firmware updates and performs better at close range than some newer, more expensive models. Our web browsing test, by more closely simulating what your browser really has to do behind the scenes, exposes such problems more accurately. Both had tri-core CPUs, but both seemed not to utilize them well, as both finished behind the single-core Archer A7 in our tests. This efficient relay system is the hallmark of a good mesh network. The best Wi-Fi routers of 2020: Nest, Asus, TP-Link and more. TP Link’s Archer A7 router is a relatively inexpensive, slightly older router that can still provide a good network for small homes or one- or two-bedroom apartments without many devices. We tested throughput using a real HTTP download, the same protocol you use to view websites and download files, to better expose differences in CPU speed and general routing performance. It has a lifetime subscription to Plume, and has a built-in SmartThings hub, but it finished close to the bottom of the pack in 2019. In this test the Archer AX50 finished a close second to the Asus RT-AX88U, even though the AX50 is considerably cheaper. Without even getting into the explosion of smart-home devices (everything from smart light bulbs to doorbells to washing machines now relies on a decent Wi-Fi connection), most homes these days have two or more personal Wi-Fi devices (phone, laptop, tablet) per person, as well as smart TVs or a media streaming box such as a Roku or an Apple TV. We evaluated and passed on expensive mesh networking kits like the AmpliFi Alien Mesh, Arris SURFboard mAX Pro (AX11000), Linksys Velop Wi-Fi 6 (MX10), Netgear Orbi852/RBK853, and TP-Link Deco X60. The 5 GHz band is faster but has a shorter range. We’ve tested the latest Wi-Fi routers to find the best ones—from budget options to top of the line—to make your wireless network faster and more responsive. If you have a larger space, a mesh-networking kit may be the solution. The ZenWiFi AX (XT8) is almost a clone of our CT8 pick, but with significant upgrades in the form of future-proof technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and WPA3. Wirecutter is reader-supported. Metaphorically, Joel has been a wire cutter for over two decades: Testing wireless home networking has been a part of his life for the past 20-plus years through all versions of Wi-Fi, back to the wireless phone extension he tacked onto the back of his Apple PowerBook. Also let the router ’ s compatible with AmpliFi HD routers and devices both it... Alert when a new router—it ’ s top-of-the-line Archer AX6000 RBK50 was our in. 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