As Covid-19 cases are rising, staying at home is increasingly the norm (again). To help you deal with the potential remote work in front of you, we’ve been shoring up guides and recommendations on staying focused, picking the right monitor, laptop, keyboard, chair and more. Of course, running all of your normal devices at home (and perhaps alongside colleagues or partners sporting their own) means an increased load on your home Wi-Fi network. And as your smart home gets smarter and smarter, your Wi-Fi network becomes more crucial. If you’re still using the dusty Wi-Fi router you bought when you first got broadband internet — or the basic unit your internet provider rents to you — it might be time to upgrade to something better (and in so doing eventually see savings on your internet bill).
Not all Wi-Fi routers are born equal, of course — having one doesn’t necessarily mean it can handle your smart devices. In our guide to buying a wireless router, we broke down how Wi-Fi routers work, whether you should buy your own router and how to choose the best router for you — including whether it’s time to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6. We also found ways to improve your existing wireless signal using mesh Wi-Fi system and range extenders, which could keep you from having to buy a new router in the first place. But if it’s time to upgrade to a new router, we found some solid options to consider. Below, we put together some of the fastest, most feature-filled routers — at different price points — to help you find your perfect fit.
Best affordable wireless router: TP-Link
You’d be surprised what less than $100 will get you in this day and age. TP-Link offers some of the best bang for your buck with their Archer A7 router, a budget-focused router with remarkably fast Wireless AC performance, offering theoretical top speeds of 1300Mbps for an individual device or 1750Mbps combined speed across multiple devices. (Most routers won’t actually reach their theoretical speeds, but Mbps is a halfway decent point of comparison.) The Archer A7 comes with all the basic features you’d expect, as well as Alexa support, meaning you can turn on guest Wi-Fi with your voice or trigger certain actions when a device connects to your network.
Best feature heavy (and relatively affordable) wireless router: Asus
If you want to take a more active role in managing your Wi-Fi network, Asus has one of the best routers in terms of its management interface — with extra features to make it worth your while. Apart from the usual parental controls, guest networking, and other basics, Asus’ RT-AC66U B1 also comes with Trend Micro’s AiProtection built-in to protect against malware, plus Asus’ AiMesh feature that lets you create a mesh network with other compatible Asus units.
Best entry Wi-Fi 6 wireless router: TP-Link
If you’ve got a house full of smart home devices, internet-connected TVs, and other Wi-Fi devices beyond your laptop and phone, congestion could become an issue. Wi-Fi 6, the latest Wi-Fi standard on the market, aims to fix that. There’s already an improved version called Wi-Fi 6E on the horizon, so I’d recommend waiting to upgrade, but if you need a new router now, Wi-Fi 6 devices can offer faster speeds, better handling of congestion and better battery life for phones and laptops on the network. TP-Link’s Archer A50 constitutes affordability for Wi-Fi 6 routers at this point. And while it isn’t the fastest Wi-Fi 6 router on the market, it’ll set you up for the future if your current router is busted and you need to upgrade right now.
Best midrange Wi-Fi 6 router: Asus
If you need a new router now and you’re willing to pay a bit extra for more bandwidth, Asus’ RT-AX88U combines the new improvements in Wi-Fi 6 with everything that makes the brand’s other routers great: a user-friendly interface, lots of features and super-fast speeds.
Best high-end Wi-Fi router for top performance: Netgear
This is the cream of the crop — one of the fastest, congestion-busting-est routers you can buy right now, thanks to its combination of Wi-Fi 6 and those tri-band antennas. It’s an investment — serious power users with a house full of wireless devices that need the fastest speeds possible should consider Netgear’s Nighthawk AX12, which packs an incredibly serious punch that’ll last for some time.
Best mesh Wi-Fi system for larger homes: Eero
There are a host of things that can impact your Wi-Fi speed, but if you live in a larger home, it’s likely your Wi-Fi just isn’t reaching far enough to the corners of the house. In those cases, a single router might not cut it, even if it’s high-end — in which case you should try a mesh Wi-Fi system like Amazon’s Eero Pro. Instead of a single router, you get multiple units equipped with Wi-Fi 6 that intelligently communicate with each other to blanket the whole house in a seamless signal. Learn more about mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for the perfect gift? Check out the Shop TODAY Holiday Plaza.