We are more reliant on the internet today than ever. As not only do we need to connect our laptops, tablets, and smartphones but smart home devices and wearable gadgets to our home network. This means we require a high-quality router along with a good Internet Service Provider to ensure seamless connectivity for dozens of devices.
Acquiring high-speed internet with good value is not an issue these days. There is a good number of quality Internet Service Providers like Spectrum Internet, AT&T Internet, Mediacom Internet, Wave Broadband, or Grande, vying for your attention. However, it is not as easy to choose the fastest Wi-Fi router among the thousands flooding the market to complement your internet service plan.
So here is an essential guide that tells you how to choose the fastest wireless router in 2020—one that describes the features you should be on the lookout for. But before we delve into that here are the top Wi-Fi routers recommended in 2020.
AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (Archer A7) is one of the best in the market and comes at an amazing value. You can buy used and new devices on Amazon with prices starting from $62.59. The 802.11ac router is perfect for a medium-large sized house as it boasts an adequate range for up to 2500 sq. ft., theoretical speeds up to 1300 Mbps, as well as 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual bands that provide concurrent connections. The Wi-Fi router comes with four Gigabit LAN ports for wired connectivity, and an integrated USB port. The best part is it also enables you to exercise parental controls and has a voice control feature if combined with an Alexa supported device.
The AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is perhaps the most powerful router we will see for some time. If you want to experience the best of the internet, buy this Wi-Fi 6 certified device for $349.99 on Amazon.
The router supports a combination of MU-MIMO and OFDMA technology, making it perfect for households with multiple internet-enabled devices in use. It offers top-notch speeds up to 6000 Mbps. And, is able to handle a network, which supports multiple devices, with considerable ease. Moreover, AX6000 comes equipped with 4 antennas and 8 LAN ports, robust security features, and boasts in-built Alexa support.
The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 Tri-band Wi-Fi Gaming router is for a house full of gaming junkies and avid streamers. You can buy the ASUS gaming router, new and used, with price starting from $300.00 at Amazon.
Its ROG gaming center keeps track of all relevant gaming info such as traffic stats, pings, lag, and device connections, and optimizes your connection to deliver the ultimate gaming experience. With its incredible range of up to 5,000 sq. ft, the latest 802.11ac 4x4 MU-MIMO tech, VPN support, dual 5GHz, and 2.4GHz radios along with a maximum theoretical speed of up to 5334 Mbps, you can enjoy seamless connectivity all around the house. The device comes with 8 LAN ports to connect all your gaming devices, and also has 2 USB 3.0 ports for access to data in USB storage.
The Amazon eero Mesh Wi-Fi system provides uninterrupted signals throughout the house spanning up to 5,000 sq. ft. and ensures there are no dead zones. You can purchase the eero 3-pack whole-home Wi-Fi system for $249.00 at Amazon.
The mesh system works well with most ISPs’ services and connects equally well with your own modem as long as you can hook up the gateway eero to a modem via an Ethernet cord. It works with Alexa and lets you manage Wi-Fi access for devices in your household. The eero app helps you easily set up the system and manage it from anywhere. And the automatic updates ensure a safe and secure connection.
If you are very picky about the type of router you want, you can always look up and compare routers yourself. But for that, you need adequate knowledge of what makes up a good router so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you really need to buy an expensive router.
So here are some features you should look for as you shop for the best Wi-Fi router in 2020.
As router manufacturers and ISPs build, supply, and support internet services, they must keep up with a specific Wi-Fi standard, which has its own set of specifications. So that they can ensure their services and devices are compatible across the globe and can connect the user seamlessly.
Wi-Fi standards were previously known as 802.11 (Eight-O-Two-Eleven), with appropriate letters such as a, b, g, n, ac, or ax assigned to the relevant version-- depending on the device’s capabilities. More recently, they have been assigned less complicated names so to speak, following the release of the latest 802.11ax standard. Therefore, the latest standard, 802.11ax, is now referred to as Wi-Fi 6.
While the older version, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), is still commonly used-- especially due to the drop in its price, the newer standard-- Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), comes with better capabilities. It is able to deliver faster speeds across multiple devices, over a larger span, while operating in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It can cater to more number of smart home devices while efficiently utilizing their battery power.
As more and more people are beginning to prefer high-intensity gaming, high-resolution streaming, and use multiple internet-connected devices at once, Wi-Fi 6 will be more apt at effective handling of such high-level congestion across the network, as well as at ensuring higher speeds.
More new smartphones and other devices are now adhering to the Wi-Fi 6 standard and it won’t be long before Wi-Fi 5 is outdated. So you better consider the newest standard as you look for a router.
Data transfer across a wireless network occurs over the radios, which are also called bands. The older Wi-Fi standards only operated on the 2.4GHz band. But the latest versions i.e. Wi-Fi 5 and 6, come equipped with the 5GHz band as well. So these devices with both bands are known as dual-band devices.
The lower frequency range of 2.4GHz couldn’t handle the increasing congestion across networks, due to lower speed limitations and lower capacity for data transfer. Therefore, the 5GHz band, with its higher speed limit and greater data transfer capacity, was introduced.
So, dual-band routers ensure seamless wireless performance-- the 2.4GHz band handles lighter online activities such as web surfing or e-mailing, and the 5GHz band takes care of intensive activities like online gaming and 4K video streaming. There are even tri-band routers on the market with one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. These devices deliver powerful performance even in a household full of techies, gamers, and streamers.
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. The feature is in-built in most routers these days as it enables multiple users to access the wireless network at the same time. In contrast, the SU-MIMO (Single-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) delivers data to only one user at a time while rotating among users. SU-MIMO can be enough for you because data transmission during rotation happens so fast it isn’t noticeable on most occasions.
However, if multiple users are streaming and gaming on the wireless network, consider a router that features MU-MIMO so as to support seamless data delivery across multiple points.
One of the drawbacks of a huge house is adequate signal reach in all areas of the house. No matter which ISP’s plan you subscribe to, or which router you buy, there is always going to be a dead zone in the house. The 5GHz band may offer greater bandwidth, but it is prone to interferences from surrounding objects so its range is not as high as 2.4GHz radio.
To counter this issue, ISPs like Mediacom Cable offer the use of extenders alongside their modem/router, so the signals can even reach your backyard.
You can also choose to replace your router with the mesh Wi-Fi system through which signals can reach every corner of the house.
You don’t have to go for a fancy router with dual or triple bands if you are a solitary individual with only a smartphone, laptop, and smart TV that require a connection. A modest router will do the job without feeling much strain.
A typical router can hold up to 250 devices, but for all practical reasons connecting as many devices to a single wireless access point is not advisable. As more devices get onto the network, the slower the speeds will become. For example, a router with a 2.4GHz radio and a dozen devices connected to it will only supply 1/12 of the supported bandwidth to each device.
For a huge household that needs simultaneous multi-device connectivity, consider investing in a dual-band router. Moreover, if your household is quite extravagant with streaming and gaming, a tri-band router with one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands would be a much better investment.
Moreover, also consider the number of Ethernet ports that a router has to offer and see how many devices in your house would require a wired connection. Most top Wi-Fi routers in 2020 are equipped with multiple ports and dual or tri-band features.
Each Wi-Fi standard offers a certain level of performance. Most of the fastest internet routers are advertised as AC1200 or AX6000 to tempt you into acquiring such unbelievable internet speeds. However, speeds like 1,200 Mbps or 6,000 Mbps are only theoretical in nature and aren’t attained in the real-world. In fact, not even your ISP boasts such speeds. One of the fastest speeds offered by ISPs is that of Spectrum’s cable-fiber hybrid internet at 940 Mbps and the same from AT&T’s Fiber.
However, advertised speeds on routers are actually combined speeds from both bands. For instance, TP-Link AC1750 A7 Dual Band divides its total speed between both bands-- with 450 Mbps for the 2.4GHz and 1300 Mbps for the 5GHz band. It’s the same with expensive and feature-rich routers like AX6000, which has an advertised theoretical speed of up to 1.2 Gbps for the 2.4GHz band and 4.8 Gbps for the 5GHz band.
Consequently, buying an expensive router with the latest standard, boasting incredible speeds and equipped with eight ports, wouldn’t be of much use if you have subscribed to an internet plan of 60 Mbps from your ISP and you reside in a studio apartment. Your internet speeds can only be as fast as what your Internet provider delivers. A router cannot enhance the speed delivered by your ISP. It only offers a streamlined performance depending on its hardware.
It’s better to find a compatible router according to your ISP’s plan. If you are an AT&T subscriber, find out how to use your own router with AT&T Fiber. For Spectrum fans, there is a whole array of compatible and fast wireless routers.
As we rely more on the internet, network security becomes an important concern. For worried parents, a built-in parental control feature can help eliminate your fears as you limit internet access for your children by setting a usage time slot. Besides, you can even offer temporary access to visitors in your house, and allow them to use the wireless network without giving up your primary Wi-Fi password.
Moreover, you can obtain greater control of your network via a router that is equipped with advanced firmware and comes with an adequate firewall as well as any other security features you may prefer.
Now that you are aware of the important aspects of a router, you can easily choose the right Wi-Fi router to perfectly suit your needs and internet plan. For a futuristic home, Wi-Fi 6 could be your choice. However, if you want to economize, Wi-Fi 5 can also deliver robust performance.
Consider your household space, the number of users, and their level of activity before venturing out. As it will help you determine whether you need a big Wi-Fi router, extender, or a mesh Wi-Fi system. Similarly, it can help you determine whether you need a single, dual, or tri-band router.
Moreover, you can always consult with your ISP through their customer service so as to find out the best Wi-Fi router that will complement your internet plan. Most Internet Service Providers just take care of it for you by renting out a modem, router, or a gateway as you subscribe to their internet plan, but also allow you to BYOD.
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