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The 5 Best VPN Routers

Gavin Phillips Updated 04-06-2020

Everyone should be using a VPN by now. The news is consistently awash with articles detailing the abject destruction of your privacy. And once gone, it is gone forever. The trouble is that using a single VPN requires you to set up each device in your house.

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Luckily, there is an alternative method. There are plenty of reasons to use a VPN. However, instead of painstakingly entering credentials on individual devices, why not upgrade to a VPN router and protect every device all at once?

Here’s what you need to know about VPN routers.

What Is a VPN Router?

Before we delve into the best VPN routers, let’s quickly establish the difference between the VPN on your laptop or smartphone and a VPN router:

  • VPN client: A VPN client on your computer protects data transmissions for that system alone. Once you sign-up and download a client, the VPN protects the individual device. Many services offer protection for multiple devices under the same subscription, but you have to download the software/app for each device.
  • VPN router: A VPN router provides the security and privacy of a regular VPN, but covers every device on the network. All of the devices in your home can simultaneously use and benefit from a VPN without fiddling around with masses of login credentials and app downloads. The tradeoff, however, is having to set up a VPN router.

VPN routers were once the sole reserve of security and network buffs. But as internet users seek to improve their privacy and security, VPN routers have become more accessible.

Different Types of VPN Router

VPN routers come in a few different flavors depending on your requirements. Almost all require you to run a custom router firmware, like DD-WRT or Tomato. These Linux-based custom router firmware projects offer far greater customization than a standard OEM setup. Support varies from router to router, depending on the manufacturer and device hardware.

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In that, you have two options: Purchase a router with your firmware choice preinstalled or buy a compatible router and take matters into your own hands.

The Best VPN Routers

Without further ado, here are the best VPN routers you can lay your hands on.

1. Asus RT-AC5300

ASUS RT-AC5300 ASUS RT-AC5300 Buy Now On Amazon $246.39

The Asus RT-AC5300 is a visually impressive router that will make your friends wonder about their inferior router choices. It has eight antennas and can blast wireless signals across 5,000 square feet, making it perfect for anyone with a large home or office.

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The RT-AC5300 is a tri-band router that uses Asus’s Smart Connect feature to level out demand. This means the router switches between 5GHz bands to make sure there is no network congestion.

In addition, the router packs a decent 1.4GHz dual-core CPU with a similarly decent 512MB RAM, has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for cable connections, and uses MU-MIMO for better speeds with multiple devices. Another bonus is the USB 3.0 port for external storage devices, as well as a USB 2.0 port too.

This VPN router is an excellent choice for network intensive environments, or even just large, bandwidth-hungry families, albeit at a high cost. The RT-AC5300 supports DD-WRT but not Tomato.

2. Netgear Nighthawk R7000

Netgear Nighthawk R7000 Netgear Nighthawk R7000 Buy Now On Amazon $109.00

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The Netgear Nighthawk R7000 is one of the cheapest options on this VPN router list. But cheap VPN router status aside, the Nighthawk R7000 is well worth your time. The R7000 features a 1GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port.

The Nighthawk R7000 is a dual-band router, allowing it to switch seamlessly between bands. Also, the router has several Quality of Service (QoS) features to boost streaming and data throughput. For instance, you can optimize traffic for video streaming or online gaming, and so on. You also get some NAS functionality through Netgear’s ReadyShare technology, allowing you to use a large external drive as a basic NAS.

This isn’t the fastest or most powerful router on the list (most models have 802.11ac mode, but some only have “b/g/n”—do not buy any router without at least “n”). But the Nighthawk R7000 provides a cheap entry-level VPN router experience, especially if you purchase the router and flash the firmware yourself. The Nighthawk R7000 supports DD-WRT and Tomato, as well as other custom firmware. It also looks cool.

3. Asus RT-AC86U

Asus RT-AC86U Asus RT-AC86U Buy Now On Amazon $149.95

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The Asus RT-AC86U is a powerful dual-band VPN router featuring 512MB RAM and a 1.8GHz dual-core processor. It comes with three high-power antennas that broadcast over a huge area, as well as packing in NitroQAM technology to boost your data transmission rates by utilizing extra wireless band capacity.

The RT-AC86U features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port. You can use Asus’s AiPlayer and AiDisk as a media server and file server in conjunction with an external hard-drive, doubling up as a NAS of sorts.

But best of all, the Asus RT-AC86U is easy to set up with your own custom VPN router firmware, with support for Asuswrt-Merlin (a customized version of Asus’s existing firmware), Tomato, and DD-WRT variants. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a retail option with a pre-installed VPN provider and custom firmware. However, there are several tutorials online that will guide you through.

  • Purchase without VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

4. Linksys WRT3200ACM

Linksys WRT3200ACM Linksys WRT3200ACM Buy Now On Amazon $169.99

The Linksys WRT3200ACM consistently features in roundups of the best VPN routers and for a good reason. Like the RT-AC86U, it features a powerful 1.8Ghz dual-core processor with 512MB RAM.

As well as this, the WRT3200ACM uses MU-MIMO to keep those speeds high. In addition to MU-MIMO, it utilitizes the Linksys Tri-Stream 160 technology to boost Wi-Fi speeds across wireless bands (somewhat similar to NitroQAM). The WRT3200ACM broadcasts using four antennas with an extensive range. You’ll also find a USB 3.0 port, along with a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port for plugging in peripherals.

Finally, the router supports OpenWrt and DD-WRT custom firmware, allowing you to customize your VPN router as you see fit. However, pre-installed WRT3200ACM VPN routers are available, with the ExpressVPN/OpenWrt combination one of the easiest to use. This VPN router really does have a considerable amount of support, allowing you to fine-tune your setup.

5. D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R

D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R Buy Now On Amazon $359.99

The D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R comes with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, broadcasting using eight antennas. The router is tri-band, using MU-MIMO to provide consistently high speeds to every device in your household or office, with a total theoretical combined throughput of 5,332Mbps (1,000 Mbps in 2.4GHz, plus 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz and 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz).

The DIR-985L/R also comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports, along with a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port. Like most of the other listed routers, the DIR-985L/R will function as a simple-but-effective NAS if you attach an external hard drive of sufficient size.

The AC5300 DIR-895L/R has extensive support for DD-WRT, with some support for other OpenWrt projects such as LEDE. This is a well-rounded VPN router that provides ample power for a large household with multiple devices (up to 20) or even a small office.

  • Purchase with VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

Which VPN Router Will You Choose?

You have five excellent VPN routers to choose from. But if these VPN routers don’t suit your requirements, there are plenty more on the market to check out.

Using a VPN router extends the protection and privacy of a regular VPN to your entire family. And with the range of online support available, setting up a VPN router How to Set Up a VPN on Your Router VPNs improve online privacy but running a VPN on every device is a pain. Here's how to install a VPN on your router and save time! Read More is no longer a daunting task that only network savants should attempt.

Related topics: Online Privacy, Router, VPN, Wireless Security.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Greg
    October 17, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    The asus routers are nice to flash yourself because they have recovery mode which makes it very hard to brick them and if you do have a bad flash put it in recovery mode and start again. Personally I prefer the merlin software.

  2. VPN solutions
    August 16, 2018 at 10:37 am

    There're a lot of other really good routers. Vendors that are care about users privacy and security can easily add VPN features to routers without any investments (free vpn sdk by leading providers). But unfortunately not everyone care about it

  3. Paul Gadsdon
    July 28, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    You forgot to mention that you need a VDSL modem as well. None of these routers have one

  4. Al Wilson
    May 21, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    If you want to purchase an actually pre-configured router (one you will not have to flash yourself), I recommend checking out FlashRouters. FlashRouters offers DD-WRT VPN ready routers with a warranty and an active support team.

  5. Mickey McD
    April 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    This is a truly terrible list. White paper specs with no mention of AES-NI or cipher performance per CPU core are absolutely pointless when determining 'The 5 Best VPN Routers'. I guess MUO if just looking for those affiliate clicks, at least wirecutter would provide cipher benchmarks. Number one on this list in terms of a VPN client as a router should start with pfSense on a machine w/ AES-NI, then move on to off the shelf neutered porcupine routers.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 27, 2018 at 9:18 am

      That's a fair point. I aimed to make this an easy jumping on point for users that might not have encountered the idea of a VPN router at all, let alone the more technical side of VPN routers.

    • Nodoze
      June 5, 2018 at 10:30 am

      If you have some recommendations for a small cost effective travel pfsense router that exceeds 200 Mbps on OpenVPN and easily supports a USB tether to Android for Internet access I would be interested in learning more.

      Both the RT-AC86U (BCM4906) and GT-AC5300 (BCM4908) have AES-NI support and are easily 400%+ faster with OpenVPN compared to routers without AES-NI. Asuswrt firmware works pretty well out of the box with regular updates pushed and can easily be upgraded to Asuswrt-Merlin if needed (though many users will not need to).

      Currently I plan to use an RT-AC86U for my travel router with a Samsung S9 as my ISP with everything going out over OpenVPN.

    • Nodoze
      June 5, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Both the RT-AC86U (BCM4906) and GT-AC5300 (BCM4908) have AES-NI support and will perform ~400% better for OpenVPN than routers without it.

      For $197 for the RT-AC86U with built in Asuswrt you a very functional and fast OpenVPN device which can be further enhanced via Asuswrt-Merlin if needed (though most will not need to). It is very user-friendly, works out of the box, and has updates pushed regularly.

      The RT-AC86U running OpenVPN over a USB tether to an LTE phone should may a very functional and powerful travel network.

      If you have a better, easier to setup/maintain, & more cost effective pfsense solution that can travel with you and securely provide Wifi to a traveling group via an advanced LTE phone I would be interested in hearing about it.

  6. Artem
    April 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Bullshoot, listed fancyrouters, not best.
    Look for cisco and mikrotik.

    • Mickey McD
      April 26, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      Neither of those options are ideal for the home user. Both will be drastically underpowered assuming pfsense. An Apollo lake dev board or 4th gen i5 desktop w/ dual ethernet intel nic would be much cheaper and offer 10x the performance.

      • Mickey McD
        April 26, 2018 at 7:44 pm

        Apologies, I meant to say 'assuming OpenVPN, pfsense on an apollo lake dev board'... I would suggest against IPsec

    • sash
      May 4, 2018 at 6:19 am

      I would suggest also Ubiquiti EdgeRouter variant. ER-4 for example. Great device imho

  7. Don Teal
    April 26, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Great article, more informative on the VPN subject than any I've seen. Thank you very much. I will be sharing with my skeptical friends.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 27, 2018 at 9:05 am

      Thanks, Don, glad to hear it!

  8. TonyC
    April 26, 2018 at 6:21 am

    VPNs can sometimes be hard to configure on routers, so I suggest using a dedicated VPN router app. I use ExpressVPN myself.

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 26, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Thanks, Tony, that's a good tip.

  9. dragonmouth
    April 25, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Is it possible to increase the amount of RAM in these routers?
    Would there be any point in increasing the RAM?

    • Gavin Phillips
      April 26, 2018 at 11:27 am

      By and large, router RAM upgrades aren't the done thing. As network requirements grow, extensively customizable routers might become a market. But at the moment, you don't really need any more than the 512MB RAM, and even that is at the very top of end of router RAM (there are very few routers offering 1GB RAM or more to regular consumers).