10 Best Routers 2021 | The Sun UK
IT DOESN'T matter how fast your broadband signal is, if you don’t have the best router to make the most of it, you’ll always be faced with buffering, lag and poor load times.
This is because web speeds are slowed down as they travel through, and are spread across, your home’s many devices.
Although it's worth bearing in mind that depending on how large your house is, or what your walls are made out of, you might be better served getting a wifi signal booster rather than a new router.
When choosing the best router, we’ve used a mix of customer reviews and expert opinion and looked for those which feature MU-MIMO, Beamforming, a high number of wifi bands and offer Quality of Service tools.
MU-MIMO stands for multi-user, multiple input, multiple output and is perfect if you have a large family or a lot of devices.
Beamforming tech helps boost the signal around your home, a range of wifi bands helps make the signal more reliable, and Quality of Service features help you prioritise speeds to devices that matter to you most.
Here's our selection of the top routers on the market in 2020:
1. TP-Link Archer AX6000
- TP-Link Archer AX6000 Next-Gen WiFi 6, £229.99 from Amazon – buy here
If you’re an online gamer or a Netflix addict, or you have a relatively large family all with their own devices, TP-Link Archer AX6000 ticks many boxes.
Its Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) technology builds upon the Wi-Fi 5 (or 802.11ac) standard and promises faster performances for modern devices such as the iPhone 12 or the Samsung Galaxy S21.
The Archer AX6000 also features remarkable port connectivity. The device has eight gigabit LAN ports, a 2.5-gigabit WAN port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port and a USB 3.0 Type-C port.
It also packs in some remarkable power, with a 1.8 GHz quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 128 MB of flash memory.
The dual-band eight-stream router also utilises the latest 802.11ax technology with 1024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), meaning it can potentially achieve speeds of up to 1,148 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 4,804 Mbps on the 5 GHz band.
Finally, the TP-Link Archer AX6000 supports direct-to-client signal beamforming, 160 MHz channel width, automatic band-steering and MU-MIMO data streaming.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (1,148 Mbps) and 5 GHz (4,804 Mbps)
- Ports: Eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB Type-A port, a 3.0 USB Type C port and eight external antennas
2. Netgear R7000 Nighthawk
- Netgear R7000 Nighthawk, £99.99 from Amazon – buy here
Netgear’s Nighthawk range offers some of the very best routers on the market, but they vary in price.
The best mid-range model, suitable for gamers as well as the average streamer, is the R7000 Nighthawk.
Ideal for larger homes, or homes with gardens and outside offices, this router has high-powered amplifiers, three external antennas and uses Beamforming+ to improve both range and reliability.
It then uses QoS to prioritise bandwidth for streaming videos and this helps reduce lag when gaming, too.
Like TP-Link, Netgear lets you control the settings of your router from your phone using the Nighthawk app, even letting you restrict web access to individual devices.
What’s more, thanks to support for Amazon Alexa, many of these settings can be controlled using voice commands.
If you’re after a souped-up version of the Nighthawk R7000; a router built almost exclusively with gaming in mind, check out the Netgear R9000 Nighthawk x10.
- Specs: Up to 1900 Mbps AC wifi speed, dual-band 2.4 GHz (600 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1300 Mbps)
- Ports: One WAN and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a 3.0 USB ports, one 2.0 USB port and three external antennas
3. Netgear Nighthawk X4S (R7800)
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S, £129.99 from Amazon – buy here
Whether you’re running a simple DSL connection or have an all-singing, all-dancing fibre network, Netgear's Nighthawk X4S has been built to optimise both your traffic and speeds.
With a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor and simultaneous transmission through Multi-User MIMO, the router allows for up to 45 devices to be connected at the same time.
Thanks to its four directional antennas, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S also has a very wide signal range, allowing for all devices connected to perform optimally within the router's effective range radius.
The Nighthawk’ Router app is also very good. Through it, you'll be able to manage network traffic, troubleshoot problems and update your firmware.
If you have a big house with a lot of devices needing a reliable connection, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S is the router for you.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz WiFi speed (800 Mbps) and 5 GHz WiFi speed (1733 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two 3.0 USB ports and four external antennas
4. Linksys MR6350
- Linksys MR6350 Dual-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 5 Router, £99.91 from Amazon – buy here
The Linksys MR6350 dual-band Mesh Wi-Fi 5 Router is a more basic one than others in this list but it still offers the essentials at a slightly cheaper price.
Its signal is reliable and far-reaching, thanks to the use of Intelligent Mesh Technology, and it protects your network with WPA/WPA2 encryption and an SPI firewall.
It’s also easy to set up, using the dedicated Linksys app, which also allows for customisation of various settings.
One standout feature is that the router lets you create a dedicated network for guests and you can then easily share the password with your friends and family using the app.
- Specs: Up to 1300 Mbps AC wifi speed, dual-band 2.4 GHz (400 Mbps) and 5 GHz (867 Mbps)
- Ports: Four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one 3.0 USB port and two external antennas
5. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
- Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, £299.99 from Amazon – buy here
A beast of a router, both in specs and in looks, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is the one device you need if you are a pro-gamer.
This high-end tri-band router is designed exclusively for gamers and its features prove it.
Powered by a blazing fast quad-core processor, the GT-AC5300 offers both hardware- and software-based gaming acceleration and prioritisation, as well as robust protection against malware and viruses.
The device also has several other gaming features, easily managed through the ROG Gaming Center web console and mobile app.
These include two LAN ports that automatically get network priority (so you can connect your gaming devices to them) as well as GameBoost, a mode the automatically scans the network to prioritise the traffic coming from gaming consoles.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the Asus router counts eight LAN ports, two USB 3.0 ports and eight adjustable antenna stalks.
With 1 GB of RAM, and 256 MB of flash memory the router uses 1024QAM technology to achieve incredible speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and up to 2,167 Mbps on each of the 5 GHz bands.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (1,000 Mbps) and 5 GHz (2,167 Mbps)
- Ports: eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two 3.0 USB ports and eight antennas
6. TP-Link Archer AC4000
- TP-Link Archer AC4000 Smart Wi-Fi, £177.54 from Amazon – buy here
If you're concerned about security on your network but do not want to spend a fortune on a router, the TP-Link Archer AC4000 is the device for you.
For little over £150, you'll get a tri-band speeds router supporting all the latest 802.11ac technologies and featuring some interesting security options.
In fact, the TP-Link Archer AC4000's security is enhanced by the Trend Micro-powered P-Link Homecare system, which offers both parental controls and built-in antivirus free for three years.
You can access the router's security options by logging into the dedicated web control panel. From there, you'll be able to configure options like security type (WPA/WPA2 Mixed Enterprise, WPA/WPA2 Mixed Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA2 Personal, and WEP), as well as editing SSIDs and passwords.
You can also use the control panel to prevent access to social media, gaming, pay-to-surf, and file-sharing sites, and to monitor web activity and block internet access for specific client devices.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (750 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1,625 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a 3.0 USB port and six antennas
7. Google Wifi
- Google WiFi, £99.95 from Amazon – buy here
A mesh router provides you with maximum Wi-Fi coverage in your home by giving you multiple routers in one neat package.
Mesh router setups share the same network name (SSID) and passwords and they are essentially part of the same wireless network.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google is currently at the forefront of the mesh router race.
The Google WiFi is built for the Internet of Things era, and as such it is so easy to set up you won't have to break a sweat.
Install the app and plug in the two (or more) devices, and an easy how-to guide will help you through the intuitive and fast installation process.
Considering its beautiful design and bandwidth priority control feature, Google WiFi is truly a router built for the future.
Power users may find that the device lacks some finer hardware control, but if you're in need of a straightforward and future-looking device, Google WiFi is the one for you.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
- Ports: two Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, WAN and LAN on primary Wifi point; both act as LAN ports on additional Wifi points
8. D-Link DIR-X5460 EXO AX5400
- D-Link DIR X5460 EXO AX5400, £179.99 from Amazon – buy here
The D-Link DIR X5460 is extremely easy to set up and uses Wi-Fi 6 technology to provide faster speeds, greater capacity and less network congestion.
The router comes with enhanced parental controls' capabilities, enabling age restriction options, access schedule logs and separate profiles' creation.
All features can be managed via the D-Link app, which is truly simple to use, even for more advanced options.
The DIR X5460 also offers supports voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, making it ideal for users with a need for smart devices.
In terms of performance, this dual-band router is capable of delivering fast speeds across the spectrum.
With 600 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 4,800 Mbps on the 5GHz band, the D-Link DIR X5460 is one of the fastest mid-range routers in this list, and at a good price too.
If you're looking for a solid router with fast speeds, sturdy security features and voice command options, the D-Link DIR X5460 is surely one to keep in mind.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (600 Mbps), 5 GHz (4,800 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a 3.0 USB port, a USB 2.0 port and six antennas
9. Trendnet AC2600
- Trendnet AC2600, £120.60 from Amazon – buy here
Another mid-range option, the Trendnet AC2600 is designed for use in homes with many Wi-Fi devices.
This routes packs in several new technologies, including beamforming capabilities to focus Wi-Fi signals to specific devices and Qualcomm's StreamBoost bandwidth-management to make sure all clients receive the correct amount of signal strength.
The Trendnet AC2600 also features Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) streaming technology, making the overall network speed much faster.
Powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, the AC2600 can reach speeds of 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band.
Unlike many routers today, the Trendnet AC2600 setting up process is done not through a smartphone app but via a Web-based Setup Wizard.
Still, the process is quite straightforward, with the most advanced options being just a little too technical to explore without a manual.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (800 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1,733 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, two 3.0 USB ports, a USB 2.0 port, a WAN port and four antennas
10. ASUS RT-AC86U
- ASUS RT-AC86U, £153.35 from Amazon – buy here
A solid mid-range router, the ASUS RT-AC86U comes with good performance as well as interesting features for both gaming and everyday use.
Packing in a lot of tech, the RT-AC86U features MU-MIMO capabilities and can reach speeds that are typically found only in top-tier routers.
ASUS also did a great job with the router menu here.
The ASUSWRT user interface is highly customisable and has a lot of options to make your network truly tuned to your needs.
It is accessible both through a web interface and the ASUS dedicated app on iOS or Android.
If you're into gaming, you'll find the GameBoost feature and one-click LAN boost useful, both prioritising bandwidth use on gaming consoles and PCs.
And if you want to choose manually what clients should get more bandwidth, you can use the router's adaptive QoS capabilities.
Finally, for enhanced security on your network, the RT-AC86U comes with ASUS AiProtection, the company's own network security platform powered by Trend Micro.
- Specs: dual-band 2.4 GHz (750 Mbps) and 5 GHz (2,167 Mbps)
- Ports: four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a 3.1 Gen 1 USB port, a USB 2.0 port, a WAN port and three antennas
How long should a router last?
Because technology moves on so quickly, once you've had the same router for three years, it's probably time for an upgrade to make sure you're getting the best possible performance.
After extensive testing, The Wirecutter (via the New York Times) says: 'If your current router is at least three years old, there is no reason not to upgrade to a new router.'
How do I choose a router?
To make sure you get the best performance from your router, you want to make sure you buy as new a model as possible to make sure the hardware is all up to date.
With new phones, tablets and computers being released every year, you're going to want a recently-released router to make sure it pairs up efficiently with all the new devices.
You also definitely want a router that broadcasts over two bandwidths: 2.4 GHz (600 Mbps) and 5 GHz (1625 Mbps).
The former is good for long-range connectivity, whereas the latter performs better at short range, boosting your download times.
Enjoyed our selection of the best routers in 2021? We've created Sun Selects to help you find the best products at the best prices, whatever it is you're looking for.
If you're keen to read more Technology round-ups, find our latest picks and recommendations in Sun Selects Tech.
Consider yourself a bit of a gamer? Then you'll want to check out our selection of the best gaming chairs.
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