-How good of a router do you need?

You have to consider what is the router going to be used for: Web browsing isn’t very demanding and isn’t as sensitive to latency (lag) as high resolution video streaming or online gaming can be.

More users, more devices, wanting higher transfer rates, streaming video or playing video games:
All of these factors will have have an impact on how good of a router that you’ll need.

Router performance – Don’t be fooled: 2 things you must know!

An AC1750 router and an AC1750 adapter will communicate with each other at 1750Mbps, right?

No. The listed speed combines the transfer rates of all antennas on all bands and isn’t what you’ll get.

1. Advertised speed = Maximum theoretical transfer rates of all bands and antennas

– What’s advertised is the total maximum theoretical transfer rates of all bands and antennas.
– Multiple band routers: the maximum theoretical transfer rates of all bands are added up.
– Receiving devices communicate over a single band, so they won’t get all that speed.
– Total transfer rates per band = the maximum theoretical transfer rates of all antennas are added up.
– Many devices still communicate with your router using a single antenna.
– Newer devices can transmit through multiple antennas using MIMO technology.

Example: A 802.11ac 1750Mbps AC1750 dual-band router
– Maximum theoretical transfer rate of 450Mbps (3x 150Mbps antennas) on the 802.11n 2.4GHz band.
– Maximum theoretical transfer rate of 1300Mbps (3x 433Mbps antennas) on the 802.11ac 5GHz band.

2. Maximum theoretical transfer rates V.S. real life transfer rates:

8 factors that affects WiFi performance
I’ve been talking maximum theoretical transfer rates so far, but actual wireless speeds vary due to:

1. Router: 802.11ac, MU-MIMO and beamforming allow for higher speed and longer range.
2. Distance between the router and device: the further away, the lower the quality and speed of the signal.
3. Physical obstructions: Walls, signal-blocking or reflecting materials affect signal propagation and speed.
4. Interference: Other routers, microwave ovens, cordless phones and Bluetooth affect performance.
5. Bandwidth is shared: The more devices you have, the less bandwidth is available for each of them.
6. Using a single band: Wireless devices will only connect to one band at a time, not all simultaneously.
7. Receiving device: Models with 802.11ac, MIMO and beamforming support higher transfer rates.
8. Older devices: 802.11b/g devices will slow down the network for faster devices.

Expect 15 to 60% of the theoretical rate in real-life, depending on the factors mentioned above.

Recommended routers:

1. Single-band 2.4GHz, 802.11n router: Recommended for up to 10 devices, not ideal in city environnement.
2. Dual-band 2.4/5GHz, 802.11ac: Higher speed, up to 25 devices, no problem with interference.
3. Dual-band 2.4/5GHz, 802.11ac, beamforming: Higher speed, longer range, up to 50 devices.
4. Tri-band: 2.4/two 5GHz, 802.11ac, beamformingTwo 5GHz networks, 100+ devices.
5. Best whole home coverage: Longest range for a large home that has dead spots that you need to reach.
6. 802.11ad 60GHz triple-bandIf you need a router that support the 802.11ad 60GHz protocol.

Recommended WiFi adapters:

1. 802.11n up to 150Mbps: 802.11n 2.4GHz single antenna (1 x 150Mbps)
2. 802.11n up to 300Mbps: 802.11n 2.4GHz dual antennas (2 x 150Mbps)
3. 802.11ac up to 433Mbps, Dual-Band: 1x 433Mbps (5GHz) / 1x 150Mbps (2.4GHz)
4. 802.11ac up to 866Mbps, Dual-Band MIMO 2×2: 2x 433Mbps (5GHz) / 2x 150Mbps (2.4GHz)
5. 802.11ac up to 1300Mbps, Dual-Band MIMO 3×3:  2.4GHz (3x 150Mbps), 5GHz (3x 433Mbps)
6. 802.11ac, up to 1300Mbps, faster 2.4GHz802.11ac 2.4GHz (3x 200Mbps), 802.11ac 5GHz (3x 433Mbps)

Recommended Bluetooth adapter:

1. Best Bluetooth adapter

The Best WiFi routers:

This article recommendations are based on the prices that I’ve seen on March 15th 2017.

Entry-level:

Best Single-Band 802.11n 2.4GHz Router

TP-Link TL-WR940N
Click here to get the price on Amazon
$29.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$29.99 at Newegg

Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 450Mbps (3 x 150Mbps)
4 LAN ports: 100Mbps
No USB ports

A highly reliable, inexpensive 802.11n 2.4GHz router, capable of a maximum throughput of 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

Fine for up to 5-10 devices in a location with no or few other wireless networks and for a 50Mbps or slower Internet.

Not ideal in dense urban environnements: If there are a lot of 802.11n 2.4GHz networks within range, the interference may cause poor wireless performance.

Note that LAN connections are limited to 100Mbps, so choose another router if you need a fast wired network.

Mid-range:

Dual-Band 802.11ac 5GHz and 802.11n 2.4GHz Routers

ASUS RT-ACRH13

Click here to get the price from Amazon

Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 867Mbps (2 x 433Mbps)
Maximum throughput 2.4GHz network: 400Mbps (2 x 200Mbps)
4 LAN ports: 1000Mbps
– 1 x USB 3.0 port

For the vast majority of users, this is the ideal router, capable of handling most scenarios without costing too much and it is one of the, if not THE most reliable router on the market.

Compared to the model above, the ASUS RT-ACRH13 offers support for
– 802.11ac network
– Dual-band: 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.
– Full 1Gbps Gigabit speed on the 4 LAN ports.
– Should run smoothly with up to 25 devices

Its 2×2 MU-MIMO design means that it’s capable of receiving 2 data streams and transmitting 2 data streams to a single device at once.

The four external 5dBi antennas help with for improved Wi-Fi range.

ASUSWRT makes router setup even easier with a web-based interface.

There is also the ASUS Mobile app, which allows you to monitor and manage your router from your mobile device.

It features an USB 3.0 port, so it’s ideal if you want to connect a storage drive to it, so you can access it on the wireless network from any computer.

Worldwide alternative:
If you live outside the USA, B&H, who offer worldwide shipping, sell the TP-Link Archer C1200, which I used to recommend. Performance wise, it is similar to the ASUS, but you only get USB 2.0 ports, so it is not ideal if you want to connect an external drive to it and get full transfer rates. Other than that, it is a great choice.

Get the TP-Link Archer C1200: $76.66 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

High-range:

Dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11n and 802.11ac router with beamforming:

Get the TP-Link Archer C9

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$107.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$107.99 at Newegg

Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 1300Mbps (3 x 433Mbps)
Maximum throughput 2.4GHz network: 600Mbps (3 x 200Mbps)
4 LAN ports: 1000Mbps
1 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports

Compared to the ASUS RT-ACRH13, you get higher transfer rates and a longer range, thanks to the beamforming technology, which locates the wireless devices and concentrate the signal into a beam to them. Ideal for many users, with multiple devices each (computer, smartphone, console, etc.) and Internet connection up to 350Mbps.

This model is equipped with a USB 3.0 port, which is useful if you want to connect a storage drive to it and benefit from optimal transfer rates.

Most high-end 802.11ac routers: To avoid

You’ll note that I don’t recommend more expensive, higher-end 802.11ac routers, such as the ASUS RT-AC88U, D-Link AC3200, TP-Link AC3150, NETGEAR AC5300, Linksys EA9500, ASUS NETGEAR Nighthawk X4, NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 and NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 (just to name a few). While in theory they might seem better, for the vast majority of users and home owners, you’ll see no difference in performance and worse, their reliability (dropping connections, failing early, etc.) leaves a lot to be desired.

Simply put, I’m not comfortable with recommending what I see as unreliable routers that will not benefit of people and cost far more money. You’d think that at that price, they would offer better reliablity, but it is quite the opposite.

Tri-Band:

Tri-band 2.4 and two 5GHz 802.11n and 802.11ac router with beamforming:

Get the ASUS RT-AC3200

– Click here to get the price from Amazon
– $199.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz networks: Two x 1300Mbps (3 x 433Mbps each)
Maximum throughput 2.4GHz network: 600Mbps (3 x 200Mbps)
4 LAN ports: 1000Mbps
1 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports

What I like about this model is that it has been on the market for a long time, so the early bugs have been fixed and it’s now a reliable router.

Compared to the TP-Link Archer C9, you gain a second 5GHz network, which allows this router to handle more devices without sacrificing transfer rates.

The ASUS Tri-Band Smart Connect technology automatically assigns each device to either the 2.4 GHz band or one of the two 5 GHz bands, according to the device’s speed, its signal strength, and how busy each band is. This means you never have to decide which band to use, as the RT-AC3200 does it all for you. Note that some devices aren’t compatible with that smart connect technology, such as the Amazon Echo, but you can simply create guest networks for them.

The QoS (Quality of Service) settings on the ASUS RT-AC3200 are particularly effective and well designed.

ASUSWRT graphical user interface is easy to use and allows for a CD-free 30-second setup and hassle-free advanced network control.

ASUS AiCloud 2.0 lets you access, sync, share and stream your files anywhere, on any internet-connected device

This model is equipped with a USB 3.0 port, which is useful if you want to connect a storage drive to it and benefit from optimal transfer rates.

Most high-end 802.11ac routers: To avoid

You’ll note that I don’t recommend more expensive, higher-end 802.11ac routers, such as the ASUS RT-AC88U, D-Link AC3200, TP-Link AC3150, NETGEAR AC5300, Linksys EA9500, ASUS NETGEAR Nighthawk X4, NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 and NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 (just to name a few). While in theory they might seem better, for the vast majority of users and home owners, you’ll see no difference in performance and worse, their reliability (dropping connections, failing early, etc.) leaves a lot to be desired.

Simply put, I’m not comfortable with recommending what I see as unreliable routers that will not benefit of people and cost far more money. You’d think that at that price, they would offer better reliablity, but it is quite the opposite.

Best Whole Home Coverage

Google WiFi (3 pack)

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$299.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

If you have a large home and have trouble with dead spots where you get slow or no WiFi coverage with your router, this is the solution for you. The 3-pack set covers homes up to 4500 sq. ft.

Basically, this operates using mesh networking technology, meaning that you have three routers that work together seamlessly to increase range and improve WiFi signal over a much larger surface area.

The simple to use Google WiFi app gets you set up quickly and allows you to see what’s connected, prioritize devices, and pause the Wi-Fi on kids’ devices.

Network Assist technology keeps your connection fast by always selecting the clearest channel and fastest band for your devices.

Cons:
– Only 1 usable wired port for a device on main router (the other one is for the Internet connection from the Modem). The two additional hubs both have 2 Ethernet ports that are available for use.
– No USB ports if you want to connect a printer or external drive.

Best 802.11ad 60GHz Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10

Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $448.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$499.99 at Newegg

Maximum throughput 802.11ad 60GHz network: 4600Mbps
Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 1733Mbps (4x 433Mbps)
Maximum throughput 2.4GHz network: 800Mbps (4 x 200Mbps)
– 7 LAN ports: 1x 10G, 6x 1000Mbps
2 x USB 3.0 ports

802.11ad 60GHz network:
Top of the line wireless router, this model offer support for the latest 802.11ad network, with throughput of up to 4600Mbps.

Note that the 802.11ad network operates on the 60GHz spectrum, which cannot penetrate walls, meaning that it only work in the same room.

Of course, you’ll need a device which supports 802.11ad, which at this point in time, only a very few devices do.

The TP-Link Talon AD7200 also offers 802.11ad support and similar transfer rates, at a lower price, but I don’t recommend it because it offers poor reliability.

Equipped with a quad-core processor, it can handle the heaviest of loads.

It is the first consumer router to sport a 10G network interface, and it is the first router capable of running Plex with transcoding capabilities in a standalone manner.

This model is equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, which is useful if you want to connect a storage drive to it and benefit from optimal transfer rates.

The best WiFi adapters:

Ideal if you want to add WiFi to a desktop PC or upgrade the WiFi adapter of a device to handle your new, faster router!

Pick an adapter that matches your router, in order to get ideal transfer rates and a long range.

Best 802.11n up to 150Mbps WiFi adapter

Get the Edimax EW-7811Un


Click here to get the price from Amazon
$8.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$8.99 at Newegg

Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 150Mbps (1 x 150Mbps)

Tiny, reliable and inexpensive 802.11n adapter that offers decent performance. Fine to use with an older router.

That said, if your Internet connection is above 50Mbps or if you want to transfer large files over your network, it is not fast enough.

Due to its size, it’s also not ideal if your device is far from the router. Pick one of our recommendation below, with antennas to get better reception at longer ranges.

Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Linux, Mac OS and even the Rasberry Pi!

Best 802.11n up to 300Mbps WiFi adapter

Get the TP-Link TL-WN822N


Click here to get the price from Amazon
$15.98 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 300Mbps (2 x 150Mbps)

Small, reliable and inexpensive 802.11n adapter that offers performance (up to 300Mbps) that’s good enough for the majority of Internet connections.

That said, if your Internet connection is above 100Mbps or if you want to transfer files over your network quickly, I’d get something faster

Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Linux, Mac OS and the Rasberry Pi.

802.11ac up to 433Mbps, Dual-Band WiFi adapter

Get the TP-Link Archer T2UH

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$24.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$24.99 at Newegg

Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 433Mbps (1 x 433Mbps)
Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 150Mbps (1 x 150Mbps)

Entry-level 802.11ac adapter, capable of transmitting at up to 433Mbps on a 802.11ac 5GHz network.

It’s also a great 802.11n adapter if you need more range, thanks to its large antenna.

However, it’s not ideal if you want an higher transfer rate on the longer range 802.11n 2.4GHz network.

Best 802.11ac up to 866Mbps, Dual-Band MIMO 2×2 WiFi adapter

Get the TP-Link Archer T4UH AC1200 802.11ac

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$35.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

– Maximum throughput 5GHz network: 866Mbps (2 x 433Mbps)
– Maximum throughput 2.4GHz network: 300Mbps (2 x 150Mbps)

If you want a reliable, high performance adapter. It can offer a throughput of up to 866Mbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac network or up to 300Mbps when used on a 2.4GHz network.

Make sure to connect it to an USB 3.0 port to take advantage of its full speed, USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mbps! Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 PCs and Linux.

Tiny adapter alternative: Edimax AC1200 EW-7822ULC

While its range is shorter, seeing as it doesn’t have external antennas, its tiny size is convenient if you want to use it with a laptop, and or put it in an USB port and forget about it and it’s less expensive too!
Click here to check the price on Amazon
$19.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$21.86 at Newegg

Best 802.11ac up to 1300Mbps, Dual-Band MIMO 3×3 WiFi adapter

Get the Edimax EW-7833UAC

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$39.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$39.99 at Newegg

– Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 1300Mbps (3 x 433Mbps)
– Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 450Mbps (3 x 150Mbps)

If you want a reliable, high performance adapter. It can offer a throughput of up to 1300Mbps when used on a 5GHz 802.11ac network or up to 450Mbps when used on a 2.4GHz network.

High performance with 3T3R MIMO technology: three transmitter antennas and three receiver antennas MIMO technology for optimized performance

Make sure to connect it to an USB 3.0 port to take advantage of its full speed, USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mbps. Compatible with Windows 7/8/10, macOS and Linux.

Best 802.11ac up to 1300Mbps, Faster 2.4GHz WiFi adapter

Get the ASUS USB-AC68

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$86.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$86.99 at Newegg

– Maximum throughput 802.11ac 5GHz network: 1300Mbps (3 x 433Mbps)
– Maximum throughput 802.11n 2.4GHz network: 600Mbps (3 x 200Mbps)

If you want one of the best wireless adapter that’s still small and portable, this is it.

It offers a throughput of up to 1300Mbps when used on a 5GHz 802.11ac network or up to 600Mbps when used on a 2.4GHz network.

3×4 MIMO design, beamforming, with two external foldable and two internal antennas. Included USB 3.0 cradle provides additional placement options to optimize coverage.

Make sure to connect it to an USB 3.0 port to take advantage of its full speed, USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mbps! Compatible with Windows 7/8/10 PCs and macOS.

Five reasons why I only recommend USB adapters:

  1. Easy to install
  2. Compatible with most computers, not only large desktop computers.
  3. You can easily swap it to another computer.
  4. If you use it with a desktop computer, you do not need to worry about having a free expansion slot on your motherboard, now or in the future if you decide to change your motherboard at some point in time.
  5. PCI cards would be in the back of the computer, where there’s a lot of metal (interference) and likely against a wall or in the back of a desk (not ideal for signal reception).

Recommended Bluetooth USB adapter:

Get the Plugable USB Bluetooth 4.0

Click here to get the price from Amazon
$12.95 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
$14.95 at Newegg

Simple, inexpensive and reliable: That’s what you want in a Bluetooth adapter and that’s what you get here.

Compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, Raspberry Pi as well as Linux.

Note that if you also plan on using WiFi as well as Bluetooth, most definitely go with a 802.11ac router and adapter, as they run on the 5GHz spectrum, to avoid interference from Bluetooth, which operates on the 2.4GHz spectrum.

Need help picking the right WiFi router and/or adapter?

Read this article, but can’t figure out what’s best for your needs?
Leave a comment below, with as much details as possible about what are your needs and what you’re trying to do and I’ll get back to you.