With so many of us now working from home this year and beyond, it's never been more important to have a strong WiFi connection throughout your house. However, there's a lot of choice out there, and routers can get very technical. That's why we wrote this guide, to help you zone in on exactly what kind of router you might need for your particular situation.
On top of that, we've picked out our top 10 from brands like Netgear, Google and TP-Link with those criteria in mind. From Smart hubs with innumerable features to mesh routers for the best long range coverage and specialised gaming options, no matter what your streaming, working or entertainment needs are, there should be a WiFi router here for you!
For many of the less techy amongst us, knowing what you want or need from a router is not always straightforward – especially if you're in charge of buying one for multiple people in a household. This part of the article explains what router features are useful in what circumstances, so you'll know exactly what practical considerations to take into account before you buy. Easy!
The two biggest developments in router technology over the last few years (we're simplifying a lot here, sorry router nerds!) have been the advent of mesh routers and the release of WiFi 6 protocol. Here are the specifics of each to help you work out which might suit your home best.
The first big development came with the release of WiFi 6 routers, which began rolling out across the UK market throughout 2020. WiFi 6 triples the potential speed of any router to way above the maximum that most UK home broadband providers offer.
But, the best part is that this power can be split across multiple devices, easily enabling everyone in your house to stream, game, work or download all at once.
Mesh routers, meanwhile, basically integrate extender technology into a standard router package. A mesh router will come with two or more small "nodes" that you can put around the house. This eliminates dead zones with your WiFi and ensures blanket coverage across even the most palatial homes
Standard routers have neither these features nor those of WiFi 6, but they can compensate with extra antennae and bands for a more powerful signal. If you've got a smaller house or flat, a standard router should probably cover you without too much trouble.
If you're a gamer, or if you've got one in your house, you know the frustration that can be caused when the connection is lost mid-game. One way to prevent that from happening is with a shiny mesh router – or you can plug an ethernet cable in.
For gaming households, we recommend you pick a router with at least one ethernet cable port. If you don't want cables going all through the house, you can also buy an ethernet plug adapter that uses the wiring in your house like an extension cable.
Other inputs on modern routers include USB and USB 2.0 ports. They allow you to plug shared household printers, speakers or other USB devices directly into the router instead of someone's laptop or PC. Just make sure you get the right connection type for your device, or you may have to fork out for an adapter!
There are also dual or tri-band routers, which can be set up to show as two or three separate connections. That means you can have one for work and one for gaming, for example, so the bandwidth is never clogged up.
With so many features listed on a lot of modern routers, it can be hard to know which you ones you actually need to know or care about. That's why we've picked out a few of the most important and most interesting ones right here!
Online security is critical in the modern era. If you're working from home or buying a router for a small business, this is even more true.
Many high-end routers will come with a whole bundle of security features bundled in. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, let you do your online activities through a "proxy" connection in another place. This stops legitimate advertisers and websites tracking your location, but can also foil those with even shadier intent.
Guest networks are great for home or small businesses, as you don't have to let any random person that comes through the door connect to your main network. You can organise these yourself with some technical know-how, of course, but when it comes packaged as part of a router, it's incredibly easy to set up and maintain.
With modern routers, there are a whole host of ways to ensure that whatever the main owner of the router (or anyone else) is doing gets priority bandwidth. Firstly, imagine your kids are downloading a game update while you're uploading files for work. With QoS, this doesn't have to cause an argument!
Simply head to your router, or sometimes even your computer device, and configure the Quality of Service settings to prioritise your device's MAC address (or even just simple device name). Boom – some bandwidth will be taken off the download and sent to your computer instead.
There are also Mu-MiMo modes. These are great for small business offices or even larger workspaces. That's because they are designed to use their smart capability to spread traffic evenly between devices on the network, and nodes if it's a mesh system.
Lastly, we have gaming mode routers – the most selfish of the lot, but definitely one for professional gamers or streamers. These routers automatically detect when you're playing a game and take a bunch of steps to ensure a smooth experience, such as prioritising your bandwidth or disabling updates or other automatic downloads.
So, now you know what specifications to look out for (plus a little bit of router jargon), let's get into our top ten. From ultra high-spec gaming beasts to super-secure network centrepieces or smart nodes to extend an existing connection, there's almost certainly a new router to fit your needs here.
|Type||Mesh, 120 m2 coverage|
|Features||Minimal design, simple set up, parental controls|
|Connections||8 Ethernet ports, 1 x USB.30|
|Features||Gaming Mode, MU-MiMo, eight antennas|
|Connections||4 x ethernet|
|Features||MU-MiMo, Four antennas|
|Type||Standard, 130 m2 coverage|
|Connections||2 x Ethernet|
|Features||MU-MiMo, Linksys app, parental settings|
|Connections||2 x ethernet|
|Features||Quick installation, optional Huawei mobile broadband|
|Type||Mesh, 550 m2 cogerage|
|Connections||3 modules, 2 x Ethernet each, 1 x WAN|
|Features||MU-MiMo, guest WiFi, trial security package, two satellite modules included|
|Connections||8 Ethernet ports, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0|
|Features||Smart sleep, MU-MiMo, lifetime security package, mesh expansion potential, QoS, 4G mobile mode|
|Connections||4 x Ethernet, 1 x dedicated LAN, 2 x USB 3.0|
|Features||Inbuilt VPN and security, guest network, MU-MiMo, dedicated Nighthawk mobile app|
|Connections||1 x WAN, 1 x LAN, 1 x USB 2.0|
|Features||Portable design, inbuilt VPN, smart reconfiguring, Cloudflare DNS protection|
|Connections||3 Ethernet, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0|
|Features||MU-MiMo, Antivirus bundle, VPN, QoS|
Archer MU-MIMO Dual Band Wireless Gigabit Cable Gaming Router
Slate Gigabit Travel AC VPN Router
Nighthawk 12-Stream Wifi 6 Router
WIFI 6 AX3000 Dual-Band Mesh WiFi System Router
Orbi Tri-band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
Dual-Band Max-Stream Wi-Fi Router for Home
Dual Band Wireless AC1900 MU-MIMO Wave 2 Wi-Fi Router
Archer MU-MIMO Gaming Router
Nest Wi-Fi Router
The Best Value Router With Security Features Included
A Compact and Portable Device for Travel or Boosting Connections
High-Speed Future-Proof Router With a Striking Design
Super Powerful With Tonnes of Features Including Great Parental Controls
Incredibly Powerful but Sleek Mesh Router Kit to Eliminate Dead Spots
The Budget Option With WiFi 6 Capability
Utilitarian Looking but Powerful Mid-Price Router
Solid All Rounder for a Low Price
Super High-End Technology in an Interesting Sci-Fi-Style Package
Tiny Smart Node Paired With Google Home
|Type||Standard||Standard||WiFi 6||WiFi 6||Mesh, 550 m2 cogerage||WiFi 6||Standard, 130 m2 coverage||Standard||WiFi 6||Mesh, 120 m2 coverage|
|Connections||3 Ethernet, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0||1 x WAN, 1 x LAN, 1 x USB 2.0||4 x Ethernet, 1 x dedicated LAN, 2 x USB 3.0||8 Ethernet ports, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0||3 modules, 2 x Ethernet each, 1 x WAN||2 x ethernet||2 x Ethernet||4 x ethernet||8 Ethernet ports, 1 x USB.30||0|
|Features||MU-MiMo, Antivirus bundle, VPN, QoS||Portable design, inbuilt VPN, smart reconfiguring, Cloudflare DNS protection||Inbuilt VPN and security, guest network, MU-MiMo, dedicated Nighthawk mobile app||Smart sleep, MU-MiMo, lifetime security package, mesh expansion potential, QoS, 4G mobile mode||MU-MiMo, guest WiFi, trial security package, two satellite modules included||Quick installation, optional Huawei mobile broadband||MU-MiMo, Linksys app, parental settings||MU-MiMo, Four antennas||Gaming Mode, MU-MiMo, eight antennas||Minimal design, simple set up, parental controls|
Whether you've been working from the comfort of your home for years or you're just discovering the joys of loungewear (or let's face it, pyjamas), you will know how important it is to get the right set up. Check out three more of our guides on WFH essentials below.
So there you go! From £300 router beasts that will fire out incredible speeds on dozens of devices at once to budget WiFi 6 connections that will handle three people on Netflix, we've shown you a range of routers that will hopefully fit your needs. And even if none of these are quite right, at least you'll have a better idea of what you are looking for!
Author: David Weir
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