You may think that getting a high-speed plan at an affordable rate from your internet provider would guarantee you consistent and fast speeds. However, that’s just half the battle. To get the most out of your internet connection, you’ll need a router that can access the speeds you’re paying for. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to buy the best Wi-Fi routers though.
For instance, the TP-Link Archer AX21 is enough for most homes. It is the best router choice based on our testing — and it’s a Wi-Fi 6 model that costs less than $100. But the best fit for your network depends on a few factors, from the size and layout of your home to the content you stream. We’ve tested dozens of the latest models to help find options for every situation.
It’s a particularly good time to upgrade your internet equipment. Routers have come a long way in the past few years, with a number of today’s best Wi-Fi router options boasting impressive speeds and features worth investing in. Over the past few years, the new and improved version of the Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ax — or Wi-Fi 6 — has grown more ubiquitous, boasting faster, more efficient home network performance. On top of that, there’s a growing number of mesh router options that are well worth considering too, particularly since many of them are far less expensive than the router combo systems that came before them.
Shop around, and you’ll also find new Wi-Fi 6E routers capable of sending signals using newly opened bandwidth in the 6GHz band. Just don’t expect routers like those to come cheap.
All of that means that you’ve got a lot to think about if you’re currently in the market for an upgrade. That’s where we come in. Whether you’re interested in gaming routers, mesh systems, Wi-Fi 6 routers or just want something decent that won’t break the bank, we’re here to simplify things and point you in the right direction so that you can find the best Wi-Fi router to manage your needs.
Expect regular updates to this post as we continue testing networking devices periodically. When we find a new router that merits strong consideration, we’ll add it to this list with links to our most recent test data so that you can always find the best router.
Read more: Best Internet Providers for 2023
Best Wi-Fi routers of 2023
How to shop for a Wi-Fi router in 2023
At this point, Wi-Fi 6 is well-entrenched as the de facto standard for the latest Wi-Fi gadgets, so it’s worth getting a Wi-Fi 6 router if you’re looking for something new. Wi-Fi 5 routers will continue to get the job done, and there are a few that stand out as worthwhile budget picks, but you’ll want Wi-Fi 6 for the latest features and fastest speeds.
For smaller homes and apartments with internet speeds of 500Mbps and less, an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 router like the TP-Link Archer AX21 will do a fine job handling your everyday network traffic. If you live in a home with faster, gigabit level speeds, or if you have multiple power users on your network, then it’s worth stepping up to a more powerful midrange model like the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 or the Asus RT-AX86U.
If you live in a larger home or one with multiple stories, then stepping up to a mesh router that can offer better reliability at range makes a lot of sense. You can find a full slate of top picks in my mesh router rundown, but the TP-Link Deco W7200 stands out as an affordable option that tested well. Meanwhile, the Eero Pro 6E is my top mesh pick for homes with a gigabit connection.
That Eero Pro 6E system is one of a growing number of routers that support Wi-Fi 6E, which adds in access to the ultrawide 6GHz band. The only devices that can connect over that band are other Wi-Fi 6E devices, which means that it’s largely free from interference. Wi-Fi 6E is more than most homes probably need, but it’s worth considering if you’re looking for something future-oriented, as the number of home Wi-Fi devices that can connect over 6GHz is expected to grow.
That said, at this point, the smarter play for future-focused shoppers might be to hold out until 2024, when we expect to see the full ratification of Wi-Fi 7, the next big generational update for Wi-Fi. Some manufacturers like TP-Link are jumping the gun with Wi-Fi 7 router releases in 2023, but buying in now seems premature given that the standard isn’t fully ratified yet and there isn’t a Wi-Fi 7 device certification process yet.
How we test Wi-Fi routers
Like a lot of people, I spent the majority of 2020 and 2021 working from home, and that included my router tests. Last year, in 2022, I relocated my home test setup back to our product testing facility in Louisville, Kentucky.
My operating procedure is largely unchanged — I start by setting each router up in a fixed location in our lab, and once it’s up and running, I run a multitude of speed tests from five different rooms nearby. I start in the same room as the router, I run multiple speed tests on a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop with full support for Wi-Fi 6, I log the results in a spreadsheet, then I move to the next room and repeat. Once I’ve run tests in all five rooms, I repeat the entire process, but this time, I start with a fresh connection in the room farthest from the router. Your distance from the router when you first connect will make a difference in how the router handles your connection, so running a split of front-to-back and back-to-front tests helps to keep my averages rooted in real-world results.
I run the entire process detailed above (a front-to-back round of speed tests, followed by a back-to-front round) three separate times: once during morning hours, again in the early afternoon, and once again during evening hours. I also run a separate round of tests to a Wi-Fi 6E device (a Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone). If the router allows me to separate each band into a separate connection, then I’ll run separate rounds of tests for each band to see how they perform when isolated.
After all of that, I’m left with a comprehensive look at how the router’s speeds hold up to different devices across different distances, as well as how the router handles other considerations, like latency. From there, I make sure to evaluate each router’s features and its ease of use, as well as considerations like security standards, smart home compatibility, and overall value relative to the competition.
I’ll post the answer to commonly asked router questions below — if you have any others, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@rycrist), or by clicking the little envelope icon on my CNET profile page. Doing so will let you send a message straight to my inbox.
Wi-Fi router FAQs
More gaming PC and internet guides