I hate shopping for wireless routers. Not that I shop for them often, mind you, but when I do it’s always a nightmare to some degree or other. There are too many important features to consider and I want one that will last a few years at least.
Indeed, my biggest fear is buying one that won’t last, and unfortunately the ratio of high-to-low-quality routers has plummeted over the past decade. Sure, the features and speeds might have improved, but we’ve paid the price in other areas.
Then again, some brands care about their reputations and the products they put out, and those are the brands I look to when I need a wireless router.
What Makes a Good Router Brand?
Note that routers from a good brand don’t necessarily have to be advanced. We aren’t talking about individual router models or individual features like tri-band Wi-Fi or Quality of Service prioritization. We’re talking overall quality across all of their offerings. Here’s what we mean by “good” brand.
Price and value. Do you get what you pay for? Do you get more than what you paid for? Are the routers priced competitively and are the prices in line with the features offered?
Quality and reliability. Are the products built to last? Are choice materials used in manufacturing or does the brand skimp on build quality just to knock a few dollars off the price tag? What’s the average lifespan of one of their routers?
Customer support. Are people happy with the products they bought from a brand? If not, how does the brand respond? How far will they go to help you solve potential issues? And if a product is defective or doesn’t meet expectations, what will they do to rectify?
At the end of the day, the brand is only one of several factors you should consider before buying a router, but it’s an important one. Few things are worse than spending $100 on a router that breaks in six months and is backed by horrible customer support.
Recommended Wireless Router Brands
A quick note up front: no brand is perfect. That’s the nature of business, but it’s especially true in the realm of gadgets and devices. On the whole these brands have a track record of producing good stuff, but you may run into a dud now and again. Just know that that’s normal.
The OnHub comes in two versions — one by Asus and one by TP-Link (UK), both brands which we recommend — but they’re pretty much the same: the TP-Link has a stronger Wi-Fi signal while the Asus lets you set device network priorities with the wave of a hand.
It’s the coolest home router currently available so if you’re in the market for anything other than a budget router, check it out. Google has done well with things like phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. Why not routers, too?
TP-Link has become one of my favorite brands for networking-related accessories over the past few years. Despite being a Chinese company, its products don’t have the same issues of quality that other “Made in China” gadgets might have.
The TP-Link Archer C3200 (UK) is a phenomenal choice with its six antennas that can support up to three wireless networks (and it’s very reasonably priced at $200). The TP-Link Archer C9 (UK) and the TP-Link TL-WR940N (UK) are also solid as mid-tier and budget-tier options, respectively.
In short, TP-Link is for value buyers. You won’t find anything as flashy as a Netgear Nighthawk, for example, but you will find robust devices that provide bang for your buck.
Whether you lean towards the high end or the low end, Asus routers are some of the best on the market — but especially so if you have the budget to go for one of the higher-end models. My only gripe is that they tend to be gaudy and too “gamer-ish”.
The Asus RT-AC88U (UK) is arguably the best consumer-oriented router as of this writing. At close to $300 it’s going to hurt the wallet, but there aren’t too many others that can compete on its feature set.
There’s a big caveat that goes with our recommendation of Netgear: the higher-budget models are fantastic but the bottom-budget models are close to terrible. As long as you keep this in mind when shopping Netgear, you’ll most likely be fine.
The Netgear Nighthawk X8 (UK) is the biggest, baddest consumer-oriented router out right now — and we mean that in the best way possible — but if the $400 price tag turns you off, the Netgear R6400 (UK) is a more reasonable option for most home users.
Again, Netgear can be hit-or-miss with its router selection, so when in doubt, check the user reviews and do your due research.
Linksys used to be my go-to router brand back when I was a kid who didn’t know any better (to be fair, Linksys was pretty awesome back then). I’m not saying the brand is terrible now, but you do have to exercise some caution.
The thing about Linksys is that it starts getting good around the $150 mark. For budget shoppers, the only sensible option is the Linksys WRT54GL (UK) which is cheap but dependable. On the other hand, the Linksys WRT1900ACS (UK) is perfect if you have fast internet and a busy home.
Take care to stay above the $150 models because you wouldn’t be the first person, nor would you be the last, who has to deal with a budget Linksys router that overheats, drops connections, or restarts at will.
Which Wireless Router Do You Have?
Feel free to get a router that doesn’t belong to any of the brands mentioned above. By no means am I saying that those five are the only ones worth buying! However, you’ll find a few brands that you may want to consider twice:
- Amped Wireless
These brands don’t score well with user ratings on sites like Amazon and Newegg, mainly because they lack durability and longevity. In other words, positive reviews exist but are harder to come by. (Synology does make fantastic NAS data storage devices, though.)
Which brand(s) do you trust most when it comes to wireless routers? Which router are you using right now? Which router brand(s) will you never buy again? Share with us in a comment below!
Image Credit: TP-Link Router by ??? via Flickr