Imagine a scenario where you’ve assembled your crew and are ready to get on some serious FPS action.
You are right in the thick of things playing overwatch or CS or whatever you like, and you notice your ping is pretty high or your WiFi is a bit laggy.
This is never a good feeling.
Throw in your housemate streaming a movie into the mix and the ensuing frustration can result in some broken screens or keyboards.
Fear not! All these scenarios and more are avoidable when you have one of the best gaming routers in the market.
Cutting edge performance aside, a great router needs to cater to multiple devices and excel at functional aspects like WiFi range and the likes.
A simple browse would have alerted you to N number of similar routers around, and we’ve narrowed down the suspects on our list to make your life a little more simple. Let’s jump in!
Best Wireless Gaming Router
The AC88U by Asus is our pick for the best gaming router in the market today. This gen 2 router offer cutting-edge performance and was run quite close by the nighthawk x6 and TP link AD7200.
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Asus is pretty well known for making use of colorful designs on their ROG products, and one glance at this router might make you feel like this certainly belongs in that category. The design is quite sleek with four transmit & receive antennas. We were quite pleased with the ease with which we could install & setup the AC88U. For gaming, keeping your ping low & stable is important especially if you are into FPS gaming and this router performs extremely well. The Wifi speeds through the 5G or traditional 2.4G band which is quite impressive. Through the 5G bands, you can consistently see speeds well over the 350 Mbps mark. The speeds over the 2.4G band are comparable to the Nighthawk.
The MU-MIMO feature might not be as widely adopted yet but is pretty cool to have when you consider the price tag of the AC88U. MIMO tech allows any 802.11 routers to reach much higher speeds. Another feature we liked is the availability of the 8 LAN ports which is a good number to have if you are in the habit of hosting LAN parties.
You might be wondering by now what downsides there are to the AC88U, well for starters it does get quite hot. So making an extra effort to keep it cool can go a long way in increasing its life. Other users also pointed out that the 5G does tend to drop along with hardware durability issues when used rigorously for an extended period.
So how much different is this when compared to the AC5300. Well not very different considering that the other model is a triband and has two 5GHz bands which will only make a difference if you have multiple devices active on the network. The AC88U otherwise performs just as good as the 5300 and has a 1.4 dual-core process along with 512MB of RAM. Unless you have a bunch of other devices, you need to cater to it can be worth saving a few bucks and sticking with the AC88U over the 5300.
A close runner-up to the AC88U, the TP-link sets the bar high when it comes to ultimate performance.
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The TP link is the very first 802.11AD router. This next-gen Tri-band dwarfs most others out there concerning wifi speeds. You get up to 800mbps and 1733mbps over the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. Where the TP-link really excels is that you get up to a whopping 4600Mbps through its 60GHz band. This router like the ASUS has the ever-growing multi-user MIMO tech for effective communication with multiple devices. Both the AC88U and the AD7200 have a dual-core CPU which is common.
We’d also like to mention at this point that this router is in a similar class to that of the Netgear Nighthawk X10 rather than the AC88U. With the earlier option a dual band and this current one a tri-band.
The price and functionality are where the TP-link really has the edge over the Nighthawk 10. Even though you are spending a lot on the TP-link, you get an appropriate bang for your buck. Physically, the AD7200 is quite massive coming in with 9”x9”x1.7” dimensions. It has 4 Gigabit LAN ports and 2 YSB 3.0 slots.
Right about now, you are probably thinking… okay, great so why isn’t this at the top of your list? Well, the amount of devices that support the 802.11AD standard is quite small. The 802.11 AC standard is relatively standard as it can penetrate brick walls since low-frequency waves have a high wavelength. The AD standard, on the other hand, is the opposite since it has a much shorter wavelength and higher frequency. So even a single wall will disrupt its performance.
So essentially, the edge it provides regarding WiFi speeds is negated (if you leave the room otherwise this router is an absolute beast) and the comparison to the others on our list was solely through the 2.4 and 5 GHz networks and the LAN speed of course.
You have to be in the same room to get the extra performance that the AD tech provides. However, you will get a high-end performance regardless of what room you are in, you just don’t reap the benefits of the AD technology.
Best Mid-tier Router
It’s almost as if no top router list is complete without a Netgear and the Nighthawk AC1900 fits the bill perfectly for our mid-tier category. This dual-band gigabit router is perfect for everyday use, compatible with devices like Echo & Alexa and best of all is optimized for gaming.
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As you can tell from the model number, this makes use of dual-band 2.4 & 5Ghz band wifi with speeds of up to 600 & 1300 Mbps respectively.
It comes with Dynamic QoS which makes it a perfect fit for gaming on consoles like Xbox. The router also helps you stream without buffering and offers you a chance to back-up all your data with the USB 3.0 slot for externals. The device has 4 LAN & 1 WAN ports, 2 USB ports, and three antennas. Coming in at 11.22” x 7.26” x 1.97” its footprint is much lesser than the nighthawk X10 or the AC88U we touched on earlier.
Signal strength wise the router is excellent. Wifi connection speeds are a big positive too with no dropouts experienced. The speed and range are what makes this router a real force to be reckoned with. We were quite impressed with how well this performs even in a large-sized home. The device also automatically selects the best wifi bands for different devices. Parental controls are pretty easy to use when compared to the Linksys we’ve touched on below.
Some users did report dropouts associated with wireless printers online. The Nighthawks main issues primarily lie with the firmware. Despite the occasional glitch, the newest firmware does solve most issues out there. Another downside as such is that the customer service of Netgear has a sort of reputation for being a bit all over the place. So if you happen to know some technical aspects, it would be a huge help. The AC1900 Nighthawk might not be the newest around, but its speed and range are still some of the best around in the price bracket.
When we look for a great gaming router, we tend to look for something that offers great value for money which in essence is a mixture of great performance/price. The AC1900 by Linksys excels at this and is our runner-up in the mid-tier category for the everyday gamer.
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The AC1900 in direct comparison might fall short of the Nighthawk, AD7200 or the Asus concerning raw WIFI capacity but the quality of the connection is right up there.
Ideal for gaming in a big family environment, one can easily stream videos and play on a laptop or Xbox and experience no lag. Signal strength is pretty essential, especially if you tend to be away from your router. The 802.11 AC dual band system will help, but we also noticed that this router has outstanding signal strength even over 15 feet. One can efficiently direct the 5.0 GHz channel to their gaming devices and the 2.4 for everyday appliances.
The Linksys is an exceptional investment for the moderate/heavy gamer or internet user in general. This is another on our list that employs MIMO tech, so when you factor in the price, it’s a pretty sweet buy. The Linksys also sets you up well for the future when more IOT devices kick in, and MIMO tech is maximized to the fullest extent.
The downsides for the AC1900 are primarily centered on there being dropouts. The WiFi can dropout from time to time on mobile devices and laptops which makes this device almost perfect. Better quality control would make this near perfect in our opinion.
Best Wireless Router on a Budget
The Medialink AC1200 is our pick for a great budget gaming & high functional general purpose router. It has 1 WAN and 4LAN gigabit ports that offer good performance.
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This router has all tangential upsides and is a great budget option must have. The customer service is fantastic for starters along with a very simple interface. Range is another important factor if you want to connect multiple devices and this also comes with a range extender capability. The 5 GHz band performance was surprisingly good which we really liked. You can definitely experience speeds north of 200 Mbps on this band.
This router only comes with 1 USB 2.0 slot which we thought definitely needs to be upgraded to a 3.0. It doesn’t come with any backup capabilities comparable to the Linksys or Nighthawk. MIMO tech is also lacking which means you can feel the effect when many devices are utilizing the wifi. This is the main trade-off when your budget is restrictive.
Despite there being a number of AC1200 routers on the market the Medialink we feel performs better than most and has standard features like the ability to turn off router lights etc. This makes it a superb choice for your basic gaming, 4K streaming needs.
How we Tested
Variable environments held the key to our testing process. Many hours of rigorous gaming is the best way to test LAN speed, ping deviations, and the likes. For the WiFi capabilities, we examined the routers in a medium sized home with at least two walls present in each direction.
Like we mentioned earlier, the easiest way to measure a device’s performance is to put it to the test in a real-world environment. The AC88U and the TP-Link had the low pings and good signal strength when we switched over to WIFI.
Also, ping increases, signal strengths and download speeds where monitored in a medium sized home with Nighthawk 1900 was the pick of the bunch in the range category showing much less drops in signal strength even when on a floor below. Bandwidth measurements we made mainly in 2 different setups. One which is <12 feet and another <30 feet. The <30 feet test had at least two walls separating our gaming laptop from the router. We feel this would be a pretty accurate representation of the speeds you get. Maybe not for gaming if you have the habit of being next to the router, but for other devices like your Xbox or TV.
We also left each of these routers on over an extended period to check out if there are any heating issues. The temperature variance will play a role in the life of the product. We would recommend having a 120MM fan for your AC88U or X10 for sure.
Your router needs to be able to handle every smartphone on the market. We tested the connectivity of our routers on multiple Android and Apple devices and are pleased to say the ones on this list indeed sailed through the experience with no drop-offs.
Open Source Firmware availability
This is not so much a test but more of something we looked for. Routers that have their firmware regularly updated were highly valued. We also know that it is sometimes not possible for companies to always be updating a router’s firmware. Hence, we looked favorably towards router options that had open source firmware solutions. This not only helps the user stay protected against network vulnerabilities this also allows you to maximize your router’s potential by extending the devices it can work with.
The quality of Service setting allows the router to pick and choose what data to prioritize. Like we have mentioned time and time again, having a low ping time is essential and having a router that allows you to customize this setting to a micro level can be super helpful. Gaming, 4K streaming and VR need high bandwidth, and a steady connection and this setting help the router achieve that.
Other gaming routers we liked
If you’re looking for a router that is purely gamer-centric and you find the Asus RT lacking, then the AC5300 is a must have. The design is eye-catching, and the device in some ways looks like an alien spaceship or lander. With beefed up hardware and multiple gigabit Ethernet ports, the AC5300 makes a strong claim to be one of the best gaming routers. The interface has features that track the network ping and any deviations in ping. Faster connections to game servers are also facilitated with the help of WTFast. Its 5GHZ band speed is notably exceptional when compared to any we have spoken about on our list. The AC5300 is for those looking for something that looks and performs like a beast, but it does come with quite a hefty price tag. The only reason it didn’t make it to the top of our list is the pricing. It does not offer equal value for money compared to our other top 2 picks.
“Monster router” One glance and it was the first thought that popped into our heads when we saw the X10. The features on hand are incredibly comparable to that of the TP-link. From the specs alone it might be hard to separate them. The X10 also employs the 802.11AD standard as well, in addition to the ac. Another thing in common between them is that the size is massive. The QoS is outstanding which provides very little packet loss while streaming and optimized gaming performance. 4K streaming and even VR streaming is a breeze. A real beast among high-end routers which gives the AC5300 & the AD7200 a real run for their money. Despite the impressive features on offers, Although money is probably the main reason why it doesn’t feature higher up on our list as it is quite expensive. The NAS functionality is also quite exceptional which is why the X10 is worth considering if your budget is flexible.
D-Link AC3200 Ultra
Another triband router that makes use of one 2.4 and two 5GHz bands instead of the 60 GHz band you see on the other models on the list. The overall, design is quirky in our opinion, but it does get the job done. It comes with 6, that’s right six beamforming antennas that will allow you to stream 4K and play online pretty much at the same time. The shortcomings of the D-link mainly lies with the range. The two 5GHz bands will not extend too far making the 2.4 the default option for medium-sized homes. The reason why we didn’t place this any higher up on our list is that it’s kind of in between a mid-tier & high-end model and we feel that at that price it’s probably worth making the jump to the 802.11AD models and gamble on a standard that is more widely adopted.
The Linksys AC3200 is another strong dual-band Wi-Fi gaming router. Its highlighting feature is its Killer prioritization engine which syncs well with Killer enabled laptops & PCs. It’s quite common as you all know to find Killer amongst brands like Alienware, MSI, Razer, etc. This router promotes explicitly gaming network traffic to ensure you experience a smooth gaming session. It comes with 4 LAN ports pretty much like every other one on our list except the AC88U. The WRT32X as its known can reduce the peak ping significantly as well. It also features a 1.8 GHz dual-core CPU which is a lot more juice than we typically see on other models. Its 2.4 GHz performance is not all that special and can get you about 40 mbps~ (this is on a 100Mbps internet connection) approx. On download which isn’t very good. The 5G performance is quite good almost matching your typical LAN connection.