While we take our online resources and applications seriously, the hardware that connects them to the web is just as important.
Wireless routers are our gateway to the internet and play a big role in our online experience. They deserve a closer look!
We’re zooming in on the qualities and characteristics of today’s best Wi-Fi routers. Stay up-to-date on which router features are essential, which are overrated, and which ones are just nice to have while you choose the right router for you.
Essential Router Features
Let’s start with the most important qualities of a router you should never go without: speed, coverage, configuration, and more.
Internet connections are faster than ever, and even the most basic services allow for speeds up to 550 Mbps. Gigabit-speed service is increasingly common, too.
To get the best performance from your web connection, your router has to be up for the task! If you’re using a sub-par router, you’re leaving megabits on the table every time you connect to the web.
Be sure to test your internet speeds regularly on every device to see whether your current router is getting the job done. If you find slow spots, you’re due for an upgrade.
How much ground does your router cover? Is the signal strong throughout your entire home? These might be the most important questions when shopping for routers.
Sadly, most routers fall short in terms of coverage with weakened signals in hard-to-reach areas of your home or workplace. You may even experience dead zones where your router’s signal is nowhere to be found.
Before buying your next router, make sure you know exactly how much coverage you need and account for obstacles that may impact signal strength in your environment, such as overloaded networks and physical obstructions.
Simple Setup and Configuration
Setting up a router should not require an advanced degree in network engineering. Thankfully, most of today’s routers are designed for quick plug-and-play functionality.
The setup process should be simple as plugging in your router, accessing a control panel, setting your password, and making key configurations that suit your network needs.
From there, connecting devices should be quick and seamless, with no extra steps getting in your way.
When reading reviews for routers, try to learn more about the setup process from people who have done it themselves. If they share stories of frustration and confusion, it’s a sign to steer clear!
Mesh Network Capabilities
You’ve probably heard of mesh Wi-Fi by now, but should it influence your decision when buying a router? If your network has to cover more than 3,000 square feet, a mesh Wi-Fi system is absolutely the way to go.
Mesh Wi-Fi has the benefit of multiple router units rather than a single piece of hardware. This feature allows you to position nodes anywhere in your house, eliminating dead zones and weak signal areas once and for all.
Additionally, the best mesh Wi-Fi routers benefit from tri-band technology, meaning they communicate flawlessly with one another and all other devices in their vicinity. You’ll never have to compromise on network performance, no matter where you wander or which internet service provider you choose.
The same cannot be said for network extenders you may have used in the past. Extenders might increase coverage, but they do so at the cost of connection speed and stability.
Mesh Wi-Fi networks are powerful, configurable, and adaptable, so you’ll finally have wireless internet that you can rely on.
Smart Device Management
The average US household has 12 devices connected to its Wi-Fi network at a time—and you may have way more!
While juggling so many connections at once, bandwidth and traffic issues may occur. You need a router with intelligent, automated device management.
The best routers are like traffic control centers with minds of their own. They can help make sure you avoid bottlenecks like data traffic jams over the airwaves! The more devices you add to the network, the more important device management becomes for performance.
So, how do you find a router with superior device management abilities?
Look for hardware featuring multi-user multiple-input multiple-output technology (MU-MIMO) and mesh network functionality with tri-band radios rather than the typical dual-band setup.
Remove the need for a gaming router, a guest network, or other connectivity workarounds. Even if you don’t need a mesh system for your home, a standalone router with these features is always better when managing many devices at once.
Bonus Features for Your Router
There's no denying that the quality of service (QoS) is a top priority for routers and modems. Still, you may need more from your router than a speedy and stable connection. Here are some extra features you may want to prioritize in your search.
Many parental controls applications exist online, but router-based parental controls provide all the benefits of smart digital parenting built into your hardware.
The internet has its fair share of no-go zones that should be blocked from kids. As a parent, you’re the one making the rules!
Monitor the frequency at which your kids visit certain sites, suspend internet service when it’s time for homework, or simply prevent the use of certain apps at certain times like mealtimes, homework time, and bedtime.
Meanwhile, you can customize the controls for different user profiles, so guests can happily browse while teen gamers get some much-needed time offline.
Security and Protection
Internet security is essential, especially now; nearly every piece of private information lives on our computers and phones.
Protect your most important digital assets at the network level with a router that detects and prevents intrusions 24/7. The top routers even feature machine learning security systems that outwit attackers to keep your network safe.
Dedicated Control Panel App
Accessing settings and controls can be a hassle unless the router manufacturer offers a dedicated desktop or phone application out of the box.
This sounds like a feature that would be standardized across the board by router manufacturers, but it’s not! Instead, users are often required to enter a specific URL address for the router and navigate a control panel that may not be intuitive.
If you want to manage your network and all connected devices with ease, make sure your next router includes an application devoted to these settings and controls.
Prepare for Next-Gen Internet
When shopping for a router, think several steps ahead! The internet is constantly evolving and improving, and you need hardware that won’t become obsolete before your eyes.
Below, you’ll find the internet trends you should consider when looking for a new router.
Wi-Fi 6 Has Arrived
Believe it or not, the next generation of Wi-Fi is already here.
Remember gigabit ethernet ports, USB ports, non-removable antennas, or even desktop PCs? Just like the tech advancements of our recent past, the current features we consider cutting edge will soon be old news.
Wi-Fi 6 protocol will eventually be the standard for networks everywhere. It’s focused on higher speeds, lower latency, better device management, and much more.
Wi-Fi 6 is not a requirement for fast and secure wireless internet at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time before Wi-Fi 6 is the only protocol for networks everywhere.
Smart Homes and the Internet of Things
Your home is about to get a lot more connected, with everything from light fixtures, fridges, washing units, and security systems joining the internet of things.
This is the way of the future, and you need a router that can handle these heavy workloads. Even if you are waiting to jump into the IoT, it won’t be long until you realize the benefits and make the leap.
Upgrades, Improvements, and More
The world of Wi-Fi is always moving forward, but you don’t want to be constantly tinkering with your home network to get the most from your technology.
Instead, you want your software and firmware upgrades to happen automatically behind the scenes so that you can freely use the web at home with no obstacles and speed bumps.
The best routers are engineered for fast, automatic upgrades and improvements directly from the manufacturer, taking all the fuss and guesswork out of the equation for you and your family.
The Best Wireless Routers Already Exist
There has never been a better time to find a fast, reliable router with tons of extra features.
Without even getting into the benefits of a 5GHz band over 6 GHz bands, dual-band routers vs. tri-band routers, or the best routers for your favorite game console, there is so much to look for when trying to find the best mesh Wi-Fi system.
Mesh topology, smart device management, strong security, and even parental controls – you can have it all if you know what to look for.
Keep this guide close so you can find the perfect mesh routers and create the Wi-Fi network you’ve always wanted in your home.
How to Choose the Best Router | Windows Central
Choosing a Router | Reviews.org
Things to Consider When Buying a Router | CNET