What’s the best wireless router around? Find out in our roundup
The wireless router is your gateway to the internet, and the hub of your home network, yet it’s probably also the most ignored piece of kit in most people’s homes.
If you’re struggling for wireless speed, the likelihood is you’ll be able to give it a significant boost by upgrading your router. We’ve rounded up a list of our favourites below.
In our recent wireless routers Labs, Asus’ flagship router proved the best all-rounder. Designed for use with ADSL connections, it’s a concurrent dual-band model offering maximum throughput of 300Mbits/sec in each band. It has two USB sockets for sharing storage and printers, and when it comes to managing and setting up the device, it’s one of the friendliest user interfaces around.
All-round performance is this router’s strongest suit, though. It scored highly in both our long- and short-range speed tests. With USB storage speeds fast enough to turn it into a basic NAS drive and a very reasonable price, it’s an excellent all-rounder.
The Netgear D6300 is one of the most feature-packed consumer routers we’ve ever reviewed. On the wireless front, it sports the latest 802.11ac standard, rated at up to 1,300Mbits/sec in the 5GHz band, so it’s right at the bleeding edge. It also caters for both ADSL and cable connections, so you don’t have to buy a new router if you switch broadband providers from BT to Virgin.
There’s Gigabit all-round for wired connections, and the web user interface gives access to an impressive array of tools, including Netgear’s excellent parental controls, which make it child’s play to set up category-based website filtering.
With superb all-round performance from both wireless and USB file transfers, it’s the fastest all-round router we’ve seen. However, that performance comes at a high cost – especially as you’ll need to purchase an adapter to make the most of its 802.11ac speeds.
Runner-up in our last wireless routers Labs test, the Netgear DGND4400 offers a similar feature set to its big brother, the D6300, but without the cutting edge 802.11ac technology.
It has both ADSL and cable connections for future-proofing, it offers three-stream wireless connectivity over 5GHz for a top theoretical throughput of 450Mbits/sec, and there are twin USB ports for storage or printer sharing.
We found all-round performance to be sound, with only long-range performance disappointing, and we also liked that Netgear makes it so easy to set up OpenDNS-based parental controls, via its Live Parental Controls system.
The price has gone up since our initial review to around £115 inc VAT, but that’s still reasonable for such a top-spec router.
There can be no better way of getting on the 802.11ac bandwagon than the Edimax BR-6478AC. Since we first reviewed it, the price has dropped dramatically, to the point at which it’s now only £111 inc VAT for both the router and the USB 3 adapter you need to make the most of its top 867Mbits/sec speed.
On our test laptop, which has a fast 3×3 spatial stream adapter, we didn’t find the new tech made much of a difference, but for more common 2×2 adapters, it will be a bigger leap. We found that performance over 802.11n connections was strong, too, the router’s large exterior antennae undoubtedly helping in this regard.
There’s currently no cheaper way of migrating to 802.11ac, but that comes at the cost of a limited feature set, with no USB ports for sharing storage or printers anywhere to be seen, and only a WAN port for cable connections.
If you can find a more unusually shaped router than the D-Link DIR-845L, then we’d like to see it. This cable router looks more like an elongated baked bean tin than a traditional router, with its ports all arranged in a vertical stack at the rear. The reason for the shape is the multi-directional antenna array, which sits snugly inside the plastic body at the top.
The D-Link DIR-845L uses beam-forming technology, which is supposed to focus the signal in the direction of connected devices, wherever they’re situated. In our tests we didn’t see evidence this made much difference, however, with middling wireless performance in the 2.4GHz band and poor long-range performance in the 5GHz band.
The D-Link DIR-845L’s strength is its feature set, which is as broad as they come. It offers concurrent dual-band wireless, and is rated at up to 300Mbits/sec connections across both bands. There’s Gigabit all round, a USB socket for sharing storage, and decent parental controls – all at a reasonable price.