Best Router 2018: 6 of the best for speed, range and stability

Whether you’re a gamer, power user or regular consumer looking for better Wi-Fi, your next router is on this list.

If you’re a gamer looking for a no compromise router then the ASRock G10 AC2600 Gaming Router is the best overall option you’ll find. If you’re not a power user then the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 is the best value router around.

How we test routers

Every router we test is tested in identical conditions to ensure our data is uniform across devices. When reviewing we test key things including range, speed, ease of use and design.

ASRock G10

ASRock G10 AC2600 Gaming Router

Pros:

  • Really fast performance
  • Packed with features
  • Latest MU-MIMO WiFi
  • Reasonable value
  • Includes H2R and IR transmitter

Cons:

  • Whacky design and can’t wall mount
  • H2R and IR transmitter are of limited use
  • Slightly clunky UI
  • No faster than AC1900 routers

The ASRock G10 is the most feature rich router we’ve ever seen. As well as all the usual trappings of a high-end router you also get an IR transmitter for controlling AV devices from your router, a gaming boost network management feature and a separate travel router.

Called the H2R, the travel router docks into the main unit but can be pulled out and taken with you on your travels. It will convert a wired network connection into a wireless hotspot, plus it’s also a media streamer. Just plug it into your hotel’s HDMI port and you can play a pretty huge variety of multimedia files.

Joining that little lot you also get AC2600 WiFi (that’s 1733 Mbps at 5 Ghz and 800 Mbps at 2.4 Ghz), four gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.0 ports for sharing files and printers.

Overall performance is impressive too, with this comfortably beating most AC1900 routers.

All those extras do make this a pricey option, but if you might find them useful this router delivers where it counts.

Buy ASRock G10 AC2600 Gaming Router from Amazon for £175

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900

Pros:

  • Good Wi-Fi speeds at range
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Rock solid reliability
  • Good feature set for the price

Cons:

  • Can’t compete with fastest routers over short distances
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • Can’t be wall mounted or laid flat

The TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 is plain and simply one of the cheapest true AC1900 routers you can buy, and it doesn’t compromise on performance or features to achieve this.

A smart design and decent build quality are joined by all the usual physical features such as four Ethernet ports and a couple of USB ports for printer and file sharing.

As with any other AC1900 router, the actual speeds you’ll get from this thing are theoretically up to 1300Mbps using the 5GHz band and 600Mbps over the 2.4GHz band. Combined, that’s of course 1900Mbps.

Real world performance is seldom anywhere close to that but this router still delivers the sort of speeds you’d expect from AC1900. Plus range and reliability are good, too.

It’s certainly not the fastest, but considering it costs almost half of what many other AC1900 routers cost, it’s a great buy.

Buy TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 from Amazon for £99

Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO

 

Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO

Pros:

  • Very fast Wi-Fi speeds
  • Modest design with wall mounting
  • Rock solid performance

Cons:

  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • Pushes you towards Smart Wi-Fi service
  • Not as fast as fastest AC1900 routers

It may not be the flashiest router around, but the Linksys EA7500 (sometimes known as the EA7500-UK) is a great value piece of kit. Not only do you get up to 1300Mbps over 5GHz and 600Mbps over 2.4GHz (your mileage may vary), you also get MU-MIMO, which works wonders for houses with multiple bandwidth-hungry devices. It’s a big step up from non-MU-MIMO routers, which slow down significantly when lots of users are connected.

You get two USB ports, one of which is a fast USB 3.0 connector for connecting storage devices, as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports. Our tests found good reliability and range.

Buy Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO from Amazon for £88

BT Smart Hub

Pros:

  • 50% better performance than the Home Hub 5
  • Simple setup process
  • Solid multi-device connectivity

Cons:

  • More advanced third party routers available
  • Doesn’t match BT’s signal distance claims

BT’s broadband packages are what might be called “reassuringly expensive,” compared to some budget offerings. But with that higher monthly/yearly expenditure comes a better class of router.

While the likes of PlusNet and TalkTalk provide a pretty barebones experience with their routers, the BT Smart Hub is an impressively capable device.

It provides the latest AC WiFi standard and includes four Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port for sharing files and printers as well as seven antennae.

BT claims that all allows for up to 500m range or up to 350m with a wall in the way. In reality it’s nowhere near that powerful but it does provide good overall WiFi speed and range, plus it comfortably bests BT’s previous effort, the BT Home Hub 5.

As such, if you’re an existing BT customer it’s well worth the £50-£70 upgrade.

Buy BT Smart Hub from Amazon for £72

Linksys WRT1900ACS

Pros:

  • Excellent AC1900 Wi-Fi performance
  • Robust and functional chassis design
  • Good USB transfer performance
  • Powerful UI
  • OpenWRT support

Cons:

The Linksys WRT1900ACS isn’t quite the company’s flagship router in terms of raw speed and technology. It is, however, specifically designed with enthusiasts and demanding users in mind.

A robust build is joined by a very practical design that includes things like individual lights to indicate the status of every connection and feature of the router.

Moreover, you get OpenWRT support, which is the equivalent of Linux for routers. The open source firmware allows you to completely tinker with and customise the router’s functionality.

Alternatively you can use the impressively powerful but easy to use OS that’s pre-installed. It has all the latest software features, including things like printer and file sharing and much more.

With ‘only’ four aerials and limited to ‘just’ AC1900 WiFi, it doesn’t match the very latest for pure WiFi features – most notably MU-MIMO is missing – but this is still among the fastest AC1900 routers you can buy. Plus it’s rock solid stable and reliable.

Buy Linksys WRT1900ACS  from Amazon for £113

Asus RT-AC5300

Asus RT-AC5300

Pros:

  • Incredible top speeds
  • Masses of features
  • 2Gbps Ethernet link aggregation
  • Plenty of media server features and setup options

Cons:

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Only one USB 3.0
  • Only four Gigabit Ethernet ports

The Asus RT-AC5300 is quite simply the fastest router we’ve ever tested. Equipped with the latest in WiFi technology, it boasts AC5300 speeds (that’s two 5GHz bands at 2167MBps each, plus a 2.4GHz band at 1000MBps), MU-MIMO and NitroQAM.

To pack in all that technology Asus has also had to make this the largest router we’ve ever tested, with it measuring over 30cm square and 17cm tall with all its eight aerials attached. Plus it weighs 1.7kg. This is a hefty thing.

It’s therefore a bit of a shame that you only get one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port and four Ethernet ports. At this price and size I’d have hoped for two USB 3.0 and eight Ethernet. You do get Ethernet link aggregation, though, so you can combine two ports for up to 2Gbps speeds.

As such, if you simply must have the best, then the RT-AC5300 certainly delivers.

Buy Asus RT-AC5300 from Amazon for £239

 

Those are our top picks of the best routers. If you want to know more about what to look out for when buying a router then read on.

What should I look for in a router?

We’ve taken one of the key choices out of your hands. Previously, picking between a Wi-Fi ac-grade router or one that only subscribes to the slightly older a/b/g/n standards was an important decision, but all of our recommended models are of the new-age type.

Related: Best desktop PCs

The biggest advantages of ac are that it offers better range and maximum theoretical speeds. You can sometimes get better n-grade performance for less if you stick to the old standard, though ac is future-proof and a/b/g/n is not. In short, nothing other than ac will do. For more information, read our 802.11ac vs 802.11n feature.

The next thing to consider is how much you’re willing to spend. The cheapest entry in this round-up costs under £100, though if you’re willing, you can shell out more than £200 and get your hands on a range of advanced features, such as one with a built-in VDSL2 modem so you don’t need plug your new router into the one provided by your ISP.

Related: What is Mesh Wi-Fi and is it right for you?

Good range is especially important if you live in a house rather than a flat, and would ensure all rooms pick up the same strong Wi-Fi signal. Thanks to the integration of USB ports, the best routers can now cater to printers and external hard drives, while cloud support enables you to even use your mobile to quickly tinker with settings.

Related: Best Wi-Fi Extenders

For many, ease of use is a major selling point. There aren’t too many things more frustrating than trying and failing, and then failing again, to get your home network up and running.

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