7 Wi-Fi Router Features You Need for a Fast Home Network
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If you aren’t using a Wi-Fi router, then you should get one ASAP — even if you only have one connected device Why You Should Use a Router Even With Only One PC Why You Should Use a Router Even With Only One PC Every household with internet access should be using a router, even if there's only one PC connected to the network. Here are a few compelling reasons why. Read More ! Today’s routers offer useful features that you need to be taking advantage of. They’re so useful, in fact, that if you have one but it’s old, that qualifies as a major reason to consider upgrading your router 6 Reasons to Upgrade Your Wireless Router 6 Reasons to Upgrade Your Wireless Router Is your wireless router old and outdated? You may be missing out on several newer features that can improve your connection quality and make your life easier. Read More .

In this article, we’ll explore the essential features to look for in a Wi-Fi router, the unnecessary features you may or may not need, and three recommendations for all budgets.

Essential Router Features

7 Wi-Fi Router Features You Need for a Fast Home Network netgear router ethernet clutter

For us, an essential router feature is one that benefits everyone no matter who you are or what you use internet for. Not only are these standard features widely available, but you’ll sorely miss them if you buy a cheap or outdated router that lacks any of these.

  1. Dual-band: A dual-band router can transmit data on two frequencies: 2.4GHz (older) and 5.0GHz (newer). The 2.4GHz band is compatible with older devices, has longer range, uses less power, but is slower and prone to wireless congestion. Not all devices support the 5.0GHz band, and it has shorter range but is faster and more reliable. Learn more about how dual-band routers can improve your internet How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes Using a router that supports the dual-band standard can significantly boost your Wi-Fi speeds in many circumstances. Read More .
  2. 802.11ac: This is the latest mainstream Wi-Fi standard (compared to 802.11n, 802.11g, and 802.11b), which brings faster Wi-Fi speed, longer Wi-Fi range, and backward compatibility. That means an 802.11ac router will work fine with older devices that don’t support 802.11ac! Learn more about wireless AC routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers While wireless standards lack a logical progression in terms of letters, the technology under the hood is notable, and with each new release we get one step closer to painless connectivity. Read More .
  3. MU-MIMO: A router without MU-MIMO can get bottlenecked because it has to serve data to connected devices one at a time (like a dealer who deals cards to a table). With MU-MIMO, the router can serve connected devices simultaneously, which improves data transfer speeds. Learn more in our overview of wireless MU-MIMO Why Your Next Wi-Fi Router Must Have MU-MIMO Why Your Next Wi-Fi Router Must Have MU-MIMO Looking for a new router? Give your home network a boost with MU-MIMO, a new Wi-Fi technology. But what is MU-MIMO, and will it increase your wireless performance? Let's find out. Read More .
  4. Quality of service: Sometimes called Bandwidth Control, quality of service is a feature that allows the router to prioritize certain devices (e.g. your PC) or certain kinds of traffic (e.g. Netflix streams) over other internet traffic. This comes in handy when someone on the network is hogging bandwidth. Learn more in our quick guide to quality of service on routers How to Fix Gaming & Video Lag With an Easy Router Tweak How to Fix Gaming & Video Lag With an Easy Router Tweak Tired of network lag when other people are watching videos and downloading torrents? Here's how to reclaim your network performance without any third-party tools. Read More .
  5. Guest networks: Don’t want to give out your Wi-Fi password to one-time guests? Modern routers can create a separate “guest” network with a separate name and password, and it won’t interfere with the router’s “main” network.
  6. Gigabit Ethernet ports: For maximum performance, switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: Which Should You Use and Why? Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: Which Should You Use and Why? The world is going wireless. Does that mean it's all over for Ethernet? Read More . But don’t settle for a router with Fast Ethernet ports, which caps out at 100Mbps. Opt for Gigabit Ethernet ports, which support speeds up to 1,000Mbps.
  7. External antennas: Generally speaking, external antennas provide a more reliable Wi-Fi connection than internal antennas, which means farther range and stronger signals.

With all of that said, we recommend sticking to a select number of reputable router brands Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router? Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router? Not all wireless routers are made equal -- and the same is true for router brands. Here are some of the more reliable brands along with a few that aren't so much. Read More when shopping for a Wi-Fi router.

Unnecessary Router Features

7 Wi-Fi Router Features You Need for a Fast Home Network wireless router antenna
Image Credit: Ksander via Shutterstock

For us, an unnecessary router feature is one that’s either situationally useful, risky, or downright negligible. It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not you want these features in your router, but we think most people will do just fine without them.

To help you decide, be sure to check out these key questions to ask before buying a Wi-Fi router 8 Key Questions You Must Ask When Buying A New Wireless Router 8 Key Questions You Must Ask When Buying A New Wireless Router Here are eight questions you should ask when buying a new wireless router. Read More . We also recommend ignoring the so-called “gaming router” label What Do Gaming Routers Do And Does It Really Matter What Do Gaming Routers Do And Does It Really Matter Hardware companies target gamers with all kinds of special gaming hardware. There are gaming mice, keyboards, headsets, sound cards, and more. There are now even "gaming routers" -- routers specially marketed towards gamers offering an... Read More as they tend to be unnecessarily marked up in price. A non-gaming router works at least as good for gaming online.

Best Router for Most Users: Linksys AC1900

Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA7500) Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA7500) Works with Amazon Alexa Buy Now At Amazon $125.00

The Linksys AC1900 is a solid router for any home. It comes with MU-MIMO support so it provides unimpeded performance for multi-device households, supports dual-band Wi-Fi (up to 1,300Mbps on the 5.0GHz band), and comes equipped with four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port.

Other notable features include bandwidth control and prioritization, a separate guest network, and parental controls. Its three external antennas give it enough range for medium-sized homes. Plus, it’s robust and reliable. You can’t beat it for the price.

Best Netgear Router for Performance: Netgear Nighthawk X6S

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S AC4000 Tri-band Gigabit WiFi Router with MU-MIMO, Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa (R8000P) NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S AC4000 Tri-band Gigabit WiFi Router with MU-MIMO, Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa (R8000P) Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa/Google Assistant - Control your home network using voice commands Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

The Netgear Nighthawk series consists of top-shelf consumer routers on the market. The Nighthawk X6S isn’t the most expensive, but it is the highest you’ll want to go because the value-per-dollar plummets if you spend any more than this.

Notable features include MU-MIMO for performance, tri-band support (which means one 2.4GHz band and two 5.0GHz bands), a blazingly fast 1.8GHz CPU so traffic processing never becomes a bottleneck, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, six external antennas, and voice commands with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Best Router on a Budget: TP-Link Archer C7

If you can’t stomach spending more than $100 on a router, consider the TP-Link Archer C7. You get plenty for your money: dual-band support, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports, three external antennas, bandwidth control and prioritization, support for a guest network, and parental controls.

What’s missing? MU-MIMO. That’s a downer for households with lots of internet-connected devices, but that’s the cost you pay for such an affordable option. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a quality router in this price range that also offers MU-MIMO.

Having Trouble With Your Wi-Fi Router?

After buying and setting up your new router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router Whether you just bought your first ever router or upgraded your old one to a new one, there are several crucial first steps that you should take right away to set up properly. Read More , you need to configure it. Because sometimes routers don’t work properly at first.

We recommend checking out our tips on why your Wi-Fi is slow 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them) 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them) When you rely on Wi-Fi, speed issues can hurt -- and Wi-Fi speed issues aren't always easy to diagnose. Here are some things you ought to check. Read More and ways to boost router speed 10 Ways To Improve The Speed of Your Current Router 10 Ways To Improve The Speed of Your Current Router Here are a few simple router tweaks that could make a world of difference on your home Wi-Fi network. Read More . And while performance is important, don’t forget about security! It takes less than 10 minutes to secure your router and prevent disaster 7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes 7 Tips to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps. Read More .

What are your favorite router features? Which router are you using right now? Share with us down in the comments below!

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