Best Wi-Fi 5 Routers: You Should Be Using One of These

READ NOW:  Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems
After three years, my RT-AC88U still looks like new.
After years of working non-stop, my RT-AC88U still looks like new.

The Wi-Fi router is the heart of your digital home. Among other things, it provides wireless Internet to all of your devices. Generally, if you live in a small or medium-size house, a single Wi-Fi router will suffice. You’ll find here my list of the best Wi-Fi 5 routers. Any of these will at least get the job done.

The year 2019 marks the time when the latest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6, becomes commercially available. That’s exciting, but it also means it’s the best time right now to look into Wi-Fi 5 routers, which are now fully developed and cheaper in pricing.

READ NOW:  Why It's (Still) OK to Delay Upgrading Your Home to Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 will take at least a few years ready for the mass and currently, there are very few clients on the market. And years in the future, Wi-Fi 5 will still be relevant, the way Wi-Fi 4 is today.

By the way, if you think you need more than just one hardware unit to cover your sprawling home, check out this list of best Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems instead.

A. Best Wi-Fi 5 routers: The list

All routers on this list are those I’ve reviewed on Dong Knows Tech. You’ll find them in the reviewed order with the latest review on top. In some cases, for one reason or another, I re-visited routers that had come out a few years earlier. So the order doesn’t reflect the release dates.

I’ll update this list as I review more. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how their performance stacks up against one another.

8. Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine: An advanced router for all

The UniFi Dream Machine is a compact yet powerful router.

The UniFi Dream Machine is the latest from Ubiquiti and it knocks all other Wi-Fi 5 routers out of the park in terms of hardware specs. It’s a powerful Wi-Fi machine with lots and lots of settings and features, including the ability to host an advanced mesh/security system. Ultimately, the UDM is a router for pro/business users, but its beautiful design and easy-to-use mobile app make it fit anywhere.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine

8.9

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Built-in UniFi Controller with lots of useful features
  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • Beautiful design, responsive web user interface, excellent mobile app
  • Mesh ready

Cons

  • Threat Management feature reduces Wi-Fi speeds
  • Many features still in beta/alpha state
  • Requires an account with UniFi
  • No Wi-Fi 6, not mountable
READ NOW:  Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine: The Ultimate Wi-Fi 5 Router

7. Asus RT-AC88U: The most fun router with lots of ports and features

The Asus RT-AC88U my most favorite Wi-Fi 5 router.

The Asus RT-AC88U, not to be confused with the RT-AC3100, is my most favorite Wi-Fi 5 router – I’ve personally used it for years. It’s one of a few on the market that has eight Gigabit LAN ports with Link Aggregation and Dual-WAN options. It has a ton of features, including the support for AiMesh.

Asus RT-AC88U Wi-Fi Router

9

Performance

9.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage
  • Tons of useful features including the ability to guard the network against online threats
  • Eight LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Excellent support for Asus's AiMesh
  • Merlin firmware support

Cons

  • Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports
  • Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive
READ NOW:  Asus RT-AC88U Revisited: Even Better Three Years Later

6. Synology RT2600ac: One of the best routers for a home office

The Synology RT2600ac router is excellent for a home office.

The RT2600ac is a router that has the best firmware by far. It’s somewhat like a NAS server and has a lot of network storage-related features, too. If you’re a savvy user, especially one with interest in Linux, you’ll love it. And the fact it supports Synology’s mesh feature doesn’t hurt either.

Synology RT2600ac Mesh Router

8.7

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.9/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Advanced firmware with a vast amount of network settings and features
  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • Ability to host a robust mesh system
  • Can turn one of its LAN ports into a second WAN port
  • Powerful online protection features

Cons

  • Can't work as a mesh satellite
  • Slow network storage speed when hosting an external drive
  • No link aggregation
READ NOW:  Synology RT2600ac Revisited: Still the Flagship

5. Synology MR2200ac: A pro mesh ready router

The Synology MR2200ac is a relatively compact Wi-Fi router.
The Synology MR2200ac is a relatively compact Wi-Fi router.

The MR2200ac is the latest router from Synology, and for the most part, it’s built to work with the older cousin to form a mesh network. It’s also quite fantastic as a standalone router, even though it has just one Gigabit LAN port.

Synology MR2200ac Mesh Wi-Fi Router

8.6

Performance

9.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • Powerful mesh system when two or more units are used together
  • Sophisticated yet easy-to-use firmware
  • Lots of useful and effective features with accompanied mobile apps
  • Ability to import settings from other Synology routers

Cons

  • Only one LAN port
  • Not wall-mountable
READ NOW:  Synology MR2200ac Review: A Fantastic Mesh Router

TP Link Archer C5400X 9
The TP-Link Archer C5400X is one gigantic router.

The TP-Link Archer C5400X is an awesome-looking router with tons of raw power. It’s a second on this list that also has eight Gigabit LAN ports, though with fewer features than the RT-AX88U. It’s a great all-around router, despite the fact it’s not exactly a gaming router TP-Link wants you to believe.

TP-Link Archer C5400X Tri Band Gaming Router

$300.60
8

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.5/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • Solid design with responsive and well-organized interface
  • Useful HomeCare features
  • Extra LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Fast NAS performance when coupled with an external hard drive

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No advanced gaming-specific features
  • Bulky physical size
  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi speed could be better
READ NOW:  TP-Link Archer C5400X Review: A Formidable Misnomer

3. Asus Blue Cave: A peculiarly excellent router

The Asus Blue Cave has a big hole right in the middle.
The Asus Blue Cave has a big mysterious hole right in the middle.

The Blue Cave looks odd with a huge, and purpose-less, hole in the middle. But it’s an excellent router with lots of features. If you intend to build yourself an AiMesh system, you should consider it as a node or the main router.

Asus Blue Cave

8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Generous feature set including the ability to protect the home network against online threats
  • Unique design with small footprint
  • Easy to setup and use

Cons

  • Not as feature rich as other Asus routers
  • Unable to block secure websites
  • USB-based storage’s performance could be faster
READ NOW:  Asus Blue Cave Router Review: A Hole Lot of Wi-Fi

2. Asus RT-AC86U: A well-rounded router for everyone

The Asus RT-AC86U is a typical Wi-Fi broadcaster.
The Asus RT-AC86U looks like typical Wi-Fi broadcaster.

The RT-AC86U was released at the same time when Asus made AiMesh available. For this reason, it’s a default router for these features. However, as a standalone router, it performed formidably in my testing, and its long list of useful features doesn’t hurt.

Asus RT-AC86U

8.4

Performance

9.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Setup and Design

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance both as a single router and as part of an AiMesh system
  • AiProtection security for the entire network
  • Plenty of useful features for home users as well as gamers
  • Can be restored with setting backup files of other Asus routers

Cons

  • No extra network ports like other high-end Asus routers
  • Not wall mountable
READ NOW:  Asus RT-AC86U Review: A Path to the Wi-Fi Holy Grail

1. Netgear XR500: A new type of gaming router

The XR500 has a cool design that looks like a spaceship.

The Netgear XR500 is a router built for gaming from the ground up, thanks to its game-specific DumaOS. Via its web interface, gamers have lots of information and customization to make sure every computer and game consoles within the network get the best connection possible.

Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500

7.9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Setup and Design

7.5/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • DumaOS delivers comprehensive and effective QoS and online gaming features with a robust web interface
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Easy to setup and fun to use

Cons

  • No built-in security to protect the entire network from online threats
  • Content filtering can't block secure website sites such as Facebook or Youtube
  • Limited Wi-Fi settings
READ NOW:  Netgear XR500 Review: A Cool Wi-Fi Router for Gamers

B. Best Wi-Fi 5 routers: The performance

I tested these routers at the review time and with the latest firmware then. For more information on how I test Wi-Fi routers, check out this post.

Note that I used a 4×4 (fastest) Wi-Fi 5 client — a PCIe card installed inside a desktop –, for close range and a 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 client for the long-range. The reason is there’s no 4×4 client for laptops and I can’t move my desktop around.

The 5GHz performance is generally more indicative of a router’s performance since this frequency band enjoys better signal quality.


Due to interference and band saturation, the 2.4GHz scores tend to vary a great deal depending on the environment. Generally, this band performs the same with any tiers of Wi-Fi 5 (or newer) clients.

Found a typo? Please report by highlighting it and pressing Ctrl Enter Thank you! ❤️

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94 thoughts on “Best Wi-Fi 5 Routers: You Should Be Using One of These”

  1. Hi,
    Can you tell me where the Asus AC88U and AC86U are manufactured? I prefer not to but a router made in China.

    Also, what are the difference between those 2 routers? I see the 86 performed better than the 88 in your testing, but why did it rank somewhat lower?

    Reply
  2. That’s super helpful, thanks! I might not *need* a router with internal antennas, but this isn’t going into a particularly controlled environment and the fewer things that can accidentally be snapped off, the better.

    Looking at that list, I think I might spring for the Linksys MX5. It’s pricier, but the NAS performance is going to be important, and a boring, reliable router with fewer features is probably a better fit.

    Reply
  3. I’m putting together a computer lab for a school on the island of Taumako, which is about as remote as you can get. It can take several months to ship hardware there. I’ve got a satellite Internet provider lined up, and we’re working on getting a solar installation, but power is at a premium, too. I have a dozen 11″ MacBook Airs from 2015 that the kids will work with.

    To save power and minimize the amount of hardware I send, I’d like to use the router as the NAS as well with a rugged USB disk. I like the Asus Blue Cave’s form factor because the network performance is decent there are few things to break off or get caught on something, and I can afford to send two, one to be installed, one as a backup. But the NAS performance of it worries me. Is there another router you would suggest for this instead?

    Reply
  4. Hi Dong, how does the tp-link archer c2300 compare to the routers above? Can you confirm that the tp-link archer c2300 can attain gigabit speeds?

    Thank you,
    Allen

    Reply
  5. Perfect. The AX88U should future proof a little in case I start getting more WiFi 6 devices, and provide good coverage for everything I already have plus offer the LAN ports to provide direct access to the rooms if I need that. Thanks for the suggestion! I have a little time so I’ll keep an eye out for sales.

    Reply
  6. Dong, for WiFi 6 routers, how does that work exactly with primarily WiFi 5 clients? I assume most of what I have (iPhone, iPads, smart tv’s, etc.) are 5’s. When I look at the specs of something like the AX88U it says the 3 bands it transmits are 5 ac, 2.4 ax and 5ax. Does that mean I wouldn’t have a 2.4ac band? I know 5 is better performance, but worse range, so do I need something that also has 2.4 ac? Or will a Wifi 5 device use an ax channel, just not to it’s full capacity?

    Reply
    • There’s no such thing as a 2.4 GHz 802.11ac band, Ryan. AC only exists in 5 GHz. All AC routers use Wi-Fi 4 on its 2.4 GHz band. More on that in this post.

      As for how Wi-Fi 6 work with Wi-Fi 5 clients, it’s the same as Wi-Fi 5. So generally, if you have a dual-stram (2×2) Wi-Fi 6, it’s also a dual-stream Wi-Fi 5 router. etc. The detail can vary depending on the router, but that’s a general idea. Note though, many Wi-Fi 5 client only support 80 MHz channels, or narrower, so when you mix Wi-Fi 5 with Wi-Fi 6 clients, the latter might not get to work at their highest speed, though it’s NOT always the case but depends on the clients, too. More on that here.

      Reply
  7. Hey, Dong. I appreciate all the support you offer through here, as I’m sure others do as well.

    I’m moving to a 3 story town house that measures about 1,400 sq/ft. The house is hardwired with cat5 running to each of the rooms, and the cable ends in a closet on the middle floor, which is convenient since it’s pretty centrally located. I have an option of Xfinity 250 or ATT gig Fiber, but I’m leaning towards Xfinity because some of the other neighbors have complained about downtime with their ATT service. Assuming I go with the Xfinity 250 package, what’s my best bet for the network set up? I do play video games online and I have two kids who are always watching something online. I’ve considered options from a consumer router, to something like a Dream Machine or Alien (I don’t have much or any WiFi 6 devices, though, but I’d pay the price if it was better coverage or consistent speeds) all the way to an Edgerouter with a pair of Ubiquiti AP’s.

    What is your opinion?

    Reply
  8. Hi Dong,
    Thank you for the quick answer. I had been thinking of the RT-AC86U for the upgrade and then I saw the GT-AC2900 which looked like an upgrade to the RT-AC86U. Is the GT-AC2900 specs worth picking it over the RT-AC86U or would you still go for the 86U? Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Hi Dong,
    I’m hoping you can help me with upgrading to a new router from my current Asus RT-N66U. I’ve had it for a pretty long time and it’s still working great, but looking to upgrade it to something more current and just as stable. I was looking at the Asus RT-AC86U or the Asus Rog Rapture GT-AC2900. Sorry this is long, but wanted to give details to get best recommendation. My current Internet speed I subscribe to is 400mbps. We have an open concept ranch house of around 1600 sq ft. Also will have 1/2 the basement finished off soon. We have a Desktop, Laptop, 2 Chromebooks, 3 Tablets, PS4, 2 Fire TV boxes for streaming, and 2 Cell phones. Everything is hardwired except for the Chromebooks, Tablets, and cell phones. What would you recommend. Would the AC86U still be a good option to get me many years out of or would the GT-AC2900 be better option? What would be the benefits regarding both of these? I should definitely notice a difference going from the N66U to one of these though right? In terms of being able to handle more devices without any slowdowns or lags. Surprisingly the N66U still does a great job with the devices I have now, but I do want to upgrade it.

    Reply
  10. Hi Dong, re-asking my previous comment as requested…

    Hi Dong, just wanted to circle back with an update… I know that many people get great advice here, but figured you’d appreciate knowing what I chose and how it turned out. In the end, I went with 3x ASUS RT-AC1900P. There were on sale at B&H for $139 each, which is the best price I have seen. These are basically something between the RT-AC68U and the RT-AC86U made specifically for large ASUS retailers – think Best Buy, B&H, Microcenter, etc. I installed all three routers with AIMesh and a wired backhaul. So far, the results have been outstanding. On 2.4GHz, I now have good coverage everywhere in my home. On 5GHz I have coverage everywhere I need it. The directional antennas really help, and I feel like the router is “learning” and improving the more I use it. When close to the router I can now get nearly all of my 600Mbps connection ove Wifi. In the worst blackspots of my home I’m getting 300+Mbps. I’m extremely happy… Thanks for this site and your advice. I really appreciate it. The improvement over my Google Wifi is noticeable. I do have a couple of questions, if that’s OK. 1) What is this Merlin firmware I read so much about? Is it good? What does it do? Do I need it? 2) Should I enable QoS on my network? Currently it is turned off and I have no issues with streaming or surfing the web. What will it do if I turn it on? I am not using VoIP currently, although I do use collaboration tools like Teams, Meet, Zoom, etc. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the input, Matt.

      1. It is a third-party firmware. It’s not available in all Asus routers but for those it supports it seems to work pretty well, including for AiMesh.
      2. If things are working fine, there’s no need to turn it on. It’s mostly to prevent file downloading from hogging all the bandwidth and generally applies to those with a modest Internet connection. More on that here.

      Reply
  11. Hi Dong, just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss my previous comment/questions. You normally reply pretty fast, so just confirming! Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Hi Dong, I think I’m zeroing in on a setup for my house… A couple more questions if you don’t mind. I think I am set on the RT-AC86U as my main router. However for my two wired backhaul nodes, I’m wondering if I should go with 2x RT-AC68U or 2x RT-AC86U? The price difference is about $110 (total not each), if that helps quantify it. Lastly, is there any significant advantage of the RT-AC1900P (AC68P) over ether option? The price is close to the AC86U, so it would seem it’s better just to go to the AC86U, but would like to confirm. Now I’m off to buy you a cup of ko-fi for all your help!

    Reply
  13. Hi Dong, thanks for all the great info. I’m narrowing down my choice of wifi routers for my home, and will be looking to do a main router upstairs with two wired backhaul “satellites” at opposite ends of the first floor. I have a few questions
    1) I have a 600Mbps Xfinity connection. My modem (Arris SB8200) has two ethernet ports to enable link aggregation. Do I need a router that supports this feature to get better speeds? I’m not sure if it adds anything on a 600Mbps connection.
    2) Assuming I don’t need LAG, I am seriously considering getting 3x Asus RT-AC68U, but I am also considering 3 x Asus RT-AC86U (or some combination of the two), or a Ubiquiti UDM + 2 Ubiquity APs, or a Synology RT-2600ac + 2 x MR2200ac. Which of these setups would you chose and why if you have to balance cost, performance and reliability? Many thanks for the help!

    Reply
    • Sure, Matt. Since you have wired backhaul, you can get a combo of the any Asus routers you mentioned. The Lyra Trio (not Lyra) works, too. Among those you mentioned, I’d pick the 86u as the main router, though others will work. With the current internet speed, you can ignore WAN Link Agregation.

      Reply
  14. Hi Dong, Just found your site. The more I look at routers, the harder it gets to decide… I have a small 1900 sqft bilevel house with router downstairs on the west end of the house. Using spectrum Router atm as my Dark knight power button is finicky.. My entire family is complaining about wifi issues so I need to upgrade. We have 4 Hardwired PS4’s either through direct connection to the router or by Powerline Adapters. We(5 of us)Stream Hulu Live tv, Netflix etc. through our phones and also through wired devices like Apple TV. 4 PC’s, one is wireless across the house downstairs. The other 3 hardwired. I was initially gravitating towards the wifi 6 routers for future proof but then saw the wifi 5 reviews here. Between Wifi 5 and wifi 6 routers, what would be your #1 and #2 choice in my position? Price is not a huge factor.

    Thanks!
    Shay

    Reply
    • Glad you’re here, Shay. You have a great responsibility as I can see! A couple of things:

      1. Powerline adapters are OK but FAR inferior to network cables. In terms of linking hardware units, if I have to choose between Powerline and Wi-Fi 6, I’d pick the latter; between CAT5e (or CAT6) cable and Wi-Fi 6, I’d pick the former.
      2. For your home, I’d recommend a mesh. It’s best if you can link the hardware unit using network cables. If not, you can use the powerline if you go with Wi-Fi 5, or wireless if you go with Wi-Fi 6. More on mesh here.
      3. You need to place your Wi-Fi broadcaster strategically to make sure you get the best coverage out of the hardware units. To be sure, you can go with one of these Wi-Fi 6 solutions. Or if you can run network cable, a Wi-Fi 5 one will work out.

      Good luck! 🙂

      Reply
  15. Hi Dong! Thank you for all of your information. Your site is great! We live in a 1500 sq. foot home. We just upgraded our internet to the gigabit speed through our ISP. Can you please recommend best modem/router set up? We mainly stream Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, and do some very basic gaming. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Hi Dong..great site with lots of information! I have a 2300 sq. ft. house (one floor-no basement). My current router, Netgear AC1450, is acting up so I need to get another router. I have Suddenlink internet 200/20, and my router is in my den on one side of the house. The signal has to go through walls and I have devices on the other side of the house which tend to get a weaker signal from my current router. I need a router that provides a strong signal throughout my house. Any suggestions? Price range ~$150. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thanks, JP. For your situation, it’s best to run a network cable from the modem in the den into the middle of the house and place a router there. Then, any router on this list will do, I’d recommend the Asus Blue Cave considering your budget. If running a network cable is not an option, you can try a pair of powerline adapters, or you’ll need a mesh.

      Reply
  17. Excellent! Thank you Dong! Just placed the order on Amazon. I am a networking novice. Do you suggest using the Merlin firmware with it? Would it improve the performance simply by installing the Merlin firmware?

    What settings other than the default settings it comes with should I adjust using either the Asus firmware or the Merlin firmware to get the best performance out of this router? Thank you kindly!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, David. You can use either firmware, but if you intend to use Asus’s features I mentioned in the review, they are not available with Merlin. I’d recommend using Asus’s firmware.

      Reply
  18. Hi Dong, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 routers but I can’t decide! Which one would you suggest and why? How would you rank them? Thanks very much!

    Netgear Nighthawk R7800 X4S
    Asus RT-AC86U
    Synology RT2600ac

    Reply
  19. Hi Dong, which single wireless routers offer the best range/coverage? Would you please provide your top 2 for both wifi 5 and wifi 6 in order of best range/coverage? Thanks much!

    Reply
  20. Thank you Dong. Given that my ISP service is only 100mps, would there be any performance difference in terms of range or speed if I used 2 MR2200ac vs one RT2600ac and one MR2200ac? Both setups would be connected wirelessly if that makes any difference. Thank you!

    Reply
  21. Thanks again for your reply to my questions Dong! I think I am leaning towards the Synology Mesh because of the build quality and hardware inside. Would you suggest getting two MR2200ac, or one RT2600ac and one MR2200ac? As a reminder, I have a two story 2500 square foot home. Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Dong,

    I noticed in the body of your article that you list the Asus rt-ac88u as your most favorite router. But in part b: router performance, the graphics have the rt-ax88u listed. Do you have performance data for the rt-ac88u? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  23. Thank you very much for your reply Dong! If I wanted to stick with a wi-fi 5 router for now, what would be your top pick for my needs for a single router and also a mesh system? Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Hello Dong! Thank you for the very informative and excellent reviews! Would you kindly provide me your advice on the best wireless router for my needs? I have a 2 story, 2,500 square foot home. I have 100mps internet service with Xfinity. Cost is not an issue. Here are my priorities:

    1. Reliability – I want a wireless router that will last a long time. So internal hardware and build quality is of utmost importance.

    2. Stability – no dropped signals or connection issues.

    3. Range – Ideally, I would like a single wireless router capable of providing a full wifi signal in every room of my 2 story, 2,500 square foot home. (Maybe you can provide your top picks for both a single router and a mesh system based on my needs)

    4. Performance – I want to get the full 100mps performance that I am paying for with my ISP.

    Thank you so very much Dong!

    Reply
    • It’s the layout of the home and the placement of the router that matter, David. Since you have two stories, it’s ideal to place a single router in the middle of the 2nd floor (or mount it in the middle of the ceiling of the 1st). Only then only a single router can for sure cover the entire house. If not chances are you’d need a mesh system.

      That said, if money is not an issue, I’d recommend the Alien as a single router, or the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 as a system. Else, just pick one on this list of routers or one of this list of Wi-Fi 5 mesh.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

      Reply
  25. Hi Dong,

    I live in Hong Kong where apartments have thick concrete walls (so much so that I struggle to get decent and stable WiFi connections despite living in a 600 square foot 3 bedroom apartment. I am looking to upgrade my current Asus RT-AC1200G+ router. I am considering between an Asus RT-AC86U or RT-AC5300 or Netgear Nighthawk EX8000 range extender (so I don’t throw away my old gear).

    The price between the three is comparable so I am down to performance and coverage.

    Any recommendation?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Get the Asus RT-AC86U or the Blue Cave, Allan. Either will have a slightly better range and much faster speed than the RT-AC1200G+. However, if the walls are really thick, I’m a afraid no router can really overcome that. Extenders won’t help, either. You might want to run network cables and use the old RT-AC1200G+ as an access point on the other side. Hope this helps. 🙂

      Reply
  26. Hi Dong,

    Loved your video reviews when you were with CNET (they were hilarious and very informative). Will you be adding video reviews to this site in the near future?

    Reply
  27. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for all the great insights. I am looking to upgrade my ancient ASUS router (an RT-n66). (I’m a little embarrassed to tell you how old but I have only recently been able to get a fiber connection where I am which jumped up my speeds, and it was a real workhorse that never gave me trouble) I like to buy tech that will last through a few generations and not upgrade every year. I am looking at either the rt-ac88 or the rt-ax88u. I really want the eight ports as I have hardwired all my entertainment around the house and would just as soon have everything plugged into on box (I have five things I currently plug in).

    I had just about settled on the ac88u since it seems more stable and we didn’t have any wifi6 devices anyway, but then we recently found a deal to upgrade all our iphones to 11s, which have the latest standard. So my question is whether the firmware has stabilized over the past year enough to get the ax88u? I’d like it to last at least 5-6 years. In the balance between speed vs stability of connections, I’d lean toward stability since I like to set it up and not have to work on it every week.

    Thanks for your thoughts–

    Reply
  28. Hey Dong thanks for sharing your expertise. Still having a great deal of trouble choosing device to extend Wi-Fi signature to my upstairs bedroom. Have no signal there. Willing to spend up to 400. So many different reviews and observations.
    Considering
    Orbi rbk 52
    Orbi rbk 13
    Eero Pro Mesh
    Google WiFi system
    and
    NETGEAR WiFi Mesh Range Extender EX7500

    Would really appreciate your insight.

    Also do you know why when I don’t get internet on Nyc subway system I can often get Sirius radio.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Sure, Andrew. First off, I’d recommend against mesh from Google, Amazon (Eero) and alike since they will turn you into the vendor’s product. I’m testing the RBK13 and will post a review soon. For the budget, I think you should check out a Synology Mesh setup. You’ll love it. As for the NYC Subwoofer (I assumed that’s what you meant by subway), make sure the system connects to the same Wi-Fi network as the Sirius radio.

      Reply
  29. Hi Dong, The first best router you listed here, ASUS RT-AC88U is not available in my area. I just bought ASUS GT-AC5300. Is GT-AC5300 as good as RT-AC88U?

    Reply
  30. Dong, thank you for all the detailed and insightful articles! I have a RT-AC68U router and after your reviews I was planning going with the AiMesh option (RT-AC86U or Blue Cave). After updating the firmware this evening, I received a concerning privacy warning regarding the use of AIProtection, QoS, and Traffic Analyzer and the sharing of data to Trend Micro. In this article you had privacy concerns with Eero and Google Wifi. Is this a new policy for ASUS? Do you have the same concerns with ASUS as you did with Eero and Google? Is there a mesh product you recommend that does not have privacy concerns and will support a 300mbps connection? Synology, Orbi, etc?

    Many Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jon,

      Your privacy concern is valid. You can decline and remain unaffected. In my XP, though, Asus routers are way less intrusive than others that you mentioned. I myself use AiMesh with Trend Micro-based protection.

      -Dong.

      Reply
  31. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for all of you excellent reviews! What are your thoughts on the new AiMesh AX6100 now that it is available for purchase?

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Chris. I’m waiting for my review units of the AX6100. And then, it’ll be a while before I’m done with testing it. That said, I’d recommend that you wait. 🙂

      Reply
  32. Hi Dong. Mississippi here. So i am about to cut cable (Cable One). I am currently renting their Hitron modem/router. And we have a Hitron extender (Moca) in our walkout basement for my husband’s laptops. We live in a post Katrina concrete medium sized house. So i bought an Arris surfboard sb6190 modem and a netgear ac1200 r6220 router. ( i might return it to best buy, since i didnt like the reviews) My question is, will the new products when activated give out a stronger signal and i might not need an extender? Thanks, Tracy

    Reply
    • Hi Tracy,

      Yes generally all of them have better signals than your current gateway (and the new Netgear you just got) but whether or not that’s enough depends on your home. How big is that? You can try getting a Synology RT2200ac or the Asus RT-AC86U, place it in the center of your home and see how it works out. If not, it’s best to replace the coaxial cable to the basement with a network cable and use two units of Synology Mesh or Asus’s AiMesh.

      -Dong.

      Reply
  33. Hi Dong,
    Nice article. I’m in the middle of upgrading my wireless setup and maybe you can offer an opinion. I currently have an ASUS RT-AC66U running tomato that is very out of date. I’m looking at redoing the whole gateway wireless setup and at the moment I have it down to either a new AC86U or an Edgerouter X with a couple of TP-Link AC1350 AP’s. I know that the 86U is very highly regarded and I could potentially set up AI Mesh with my older AC66U, but I like the idea of a dedicated router and true business-grade AP’s. Any opinions on which way I should go?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I’d recommend going with Asus’s AiMesh or Synology Mesh. Either will be much better than using a router and a few APs. Among other things you can manage the entire network at one place and the hand-off works much better. If your RT-AC66U is a B1 version, it’ll work with Aimesh, too.

      -Dong.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong,
        Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, my AC66U is hardware version A2 so it wont work with AIMesh. That would mean I’d need to buy another AP for full coverage of my house and they usually require a separate SSID no? What I’m after is seamless coverage with a Single 2.4GHz and a single 5GHz SSID with the clients being able to move about and being passed-off between the AP’s without any interruption on the client side. Is this possible with a single 86U and an AP (of whatever brand)?

        Reply
        • Generally, it’s hard to have seamless hand-off using a separate router and a separate AP. However, you can try using the RT-AC66U as an AP right now and see how it works out. Just set it up have the same SSID and password as that of the router, then change it to AP mode (in the Administration section). Or you can get an RT-AC68U unit.

          Reply
  34. Dong,thank you for your work. Have you by any chance tried the Plume Superpods? I am trying to decide whether to purchase them or the Synology 2200ac.

    Reply
    • Hi Doc,

      I tried the plum pods a while band and wasn’t a fan. They collect lots of browsing data and personal information, plus the speed is slow. And no, I’m pretty sure that they won’t work with the Synology (as part of a mesh that is). But chances are you can use them with another router as access points or a separate network.

      -Dong.

      Reply
  35. Hi Dong, I love your reviews and I am always tinkering with new products. I ordered the Synology RT2600 and the MR2200 to mesh in a wired backhaul setup, based on your reviews and recommendations, since I have several Synology NAS units and love the interface. I have used wireless mesh and just recently had my home ethernet-wired.

    One think I would like to see covered in the tech reviews is long-term reliability and compatibility. I have tried many systems from several of the companies you’ve reviewed, and while some, like the Orbi, offer fantastic performance, I had tons of issues with mine with satellites staying synced and losing internet. I admire Asus and find their products intriguing, but the reviews on Amazon with disappearing bands and units failing across multiple products concern me. Tried Zyxel Multy X, similar to Orbi spec-wise, but my Google Home devices caused issues and the end solution from the company was for me to not use those clients. I have >100 clients connected at any given time. You’re right, on paper Eero is nothing special, but its stability, reliability, and compatibility with clients has been spectacularly good. I haven’t used Google wifi, but it has a similar good reputation. I can say Eero just works for weeks on end without a reboot, and everything connects to it, all the time, without issues, even with a heavy client load, whether I mesh wirelessly or via wired backhaul. Usually I only reboot when they do a firmware update, which average once a month.

    So, in a nut shell, specs and features are great, but not worth much if the unit fails, rejects clients, or won’t stay connected to the internet. Synology seems to have a pretty good reputation so hopefully this setup with work well. I have lots of Macs so the 4×4 dual-band router should be beneficial since most Macs have 3×3 wireless cards and I will be able to connect on more streams as opposed to the 2×2 on Eero.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Steven. I totally agree with you. In fact, I’ve always tried to have a long-term experience with devices I review by using them myself and/or getting them for my family members, friends, clients and so on. Also, I always test routers for at least a week before publishing a review. But yes, long-term reliability and compatibility are always a challenge and there’s only so much one can do.

      Reply
    • Reply to a very old message at this point but I did want to say that I had chronic stability problems with several highly rated Asus routers through multiple FW updates and my experience with the Synology RT2600 has been very good in comparison. I had a few issues with early Synology FW but it’s been performing like a champ for several years now. I just hope that Synology is selling enough of them that they’ll stay in the router business.

      Reply
  36. Hey there Dong,

    I’m having a few problems right now. I currently have an Asus N-66U but I’m looking to upgrade cause it can’t handle my devices anymore. I live in a three story house which is fully concrete and I’m slowly adding more and more smart home devices to it. I recently bought a Nighthawk X4S but the range on that thing was worse than my Asus N-66U and the speeds were mediocre for longer ranges.

    Now I’m looking for something that has tons of range. So I’ve made a list of routers that could potentially fix my issue within my budget.

    TP-Link Archer C5400X
    Asus RT-AC5300
    Asus RT-AC86U

    I want to hang the router up on a wall. I know the Archer has this option. I’ll need to come up with a DIY for the other two. Which is fine.

    Which one would you recommend? They’re almost the same price where I live.

    Reply
    • Hi EJ,

      Considering how large your place is, I’d recommend getting either:

      – 02 Asus RT-AC86Us (or one and another RT-AC68U if you want to stay on a budget). OR
      – One Synology RT2500ac and one MR2200ac (or two MR2200acs for less).

      Basically, you need an AiMesh (Asus) or a Synology Mesh. Best if you could link the units together using a network cable but a wireless setup should work, too. Go with Synology if wall-mount is a must.

      More on AiMesh: https://dongknows.com/asus-aimesh-overview/
      More on Synology Mesh: https://dongknows.com/synology-mesh-review/

      Hope this helps 🙂

      -Dong.

      Reply
  37. Hi Dong. Where I live, all I can get is DSL at about 5 to 6 meg. With that slow of a speed will any of these routers do much for me? I do realize the mesh network would probably help a lot with WiFi coverage around the home but other than that, is it worth it? We do use 2 TVs with Netflix and other internet based TV aps and my grandson uses wifi for his Xbox and I have a outside metal workshop that it would help to boost the wifi on that but like I said, with a 5 meg bottleneck, is any of this new hardware worth it? Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Doc. Considering your Internet speed, any router or mesh system will be able to deliver it in full. So your need here is just the reliability and the size of Wi-Fi coverage, and in that regard, the hardware will help.

      Reply
  38. Dong, Sorry I wasn’t clear. If pulling new wire isn’t an option do your still prefer powerline/moca with an access point to WIFI mesh systems?

    Reply
  39. Dong, I read your networking guide on CNET. Bless you for the clarity! I was all set to get a powerline system (orMoca) to connect my upstairs router to my downstairs tivo and add a Access point because my kids use their tablets mostly in the living room.

    Then I started reading about Mesh systems and I’m confused again. Sometimes I get the sense they are just easy to configure fast extenders (which you have not been a fan of) and sometimes I think they are doing something higher end than that to provide better speeds. If I’ve got the time and willingness to do the first set up (powerline) and wifi access point) is there any reason to get a Mesh system?

    Reply
      • Dong, Thanks for answering me. So I’ve got a better understanding after reading that. But to make sure I’ve got this right, Mesh has good for wifi speeds, easy set up, easy use, and Is more expensive. Setting up moca/powerline adapters and adding an access point would have better speeds, less interference problems, and be more work to set up?

        So my two questions is will the wired set up be any harder for the end user? And what would you do if it was your home? (assuming an not unlimited budget)

        Reply
  40. Dong I loved your videos on CNET and I’m glad I found your new website. I have a 3,800 sq foot home. Router will not be in the middle of the house but not at the far end either. I am interested in purchasing only 1 router to cover the house. Which router would you recommend without having to build a Mesh system. Thank you.

    Reply
  41. Thanks for the response. I’d like to share my Asus Router experience. Today the AC88U arrived. I peeked in the Amazon box saw it was the router, which I put a one-day rush on….but seeing what was in the box I said to myself, “Well there goes my evening….”
    It could not have been easier to set-up. Brilliantly simple. Fifteen minutes, and most of that time was spent opening the box, and writing down all the information.
    And I’ve just figured out that the grounded outlets in my old rental house are not grounded. This might be causing my Surge Protectors to not work correctly.
    I need to take care of this ASAP. Their surges during power switch overs might’ve fried my routers, and some LED bulbs.
    I was in an artist’s studio when he was trying out $40,000 in digital camera gear. The power did something funny. DWP (in Los Angeles) had just sent 500 volts through the studio. A few light bulbs died. The cheap surge protector made a snap, died and started smoking, the more expensive Tripp died without smoke. No harm to the expensive gear. So that’s the difference between cheap and expensive surge protectors.

    Reply
  42. I just found you through your reviews of WiFi Routers on CNET. Smart guy. Here’s how I bought my WiFi Router. I googled “Best routers 2018” waded through all the generic name sites that came up. So many of them just seemed to exist to vaguely discuss 6-10 products with links to Amazon. I guess they make a little money if you buy after going to that link. I don’t mind reviewers making money, so long as they don’t just steer me to whatever company pays them the most–that is corrupt. If the return is the same amount, same percentage — okay, no problem. I want reviewers to get rich helping me.
    So I watched your review on CNET, then went to Amazon to look at the Asus RT-AC68… 3 stars. Hmmmmm. I read more reviews before CNET and more after. Then I googled “Best WiFi Router for MacBook Pro” here I learned that my 2017 MBP benefits from 3×3 mimo, so I looked for routers that had that. Only Netgear came up. hmmmm. I kept noticing Mu-Mimo. Ahhh…. Well Mu could mean 2×2, 3×3 or 4×4, so which is it? Around and around. The endless buzzing noise of model numbers and features…. Also on Amazon I kept running into a rave review by an experienced Linux guy for the Asus 3200 (>$300), but his review was wallpapered on multiple different Asus models….hmmmm… but it wasn’t on all Asus models. Is that because the ones the review is included are basically the same model, just with different add-ons and features? Or did Amazon or Asus corrupt the reviewing process by doing this?
    All this is modern marketing. Used to be Consumer Reports would say, get the Maytag Model 54 washer and that’s what everybody got and were happy with it for the next 25 years. But about 30 years ago you go into Costco and theres the model 5522, at Bestbuy its 5522DX, on Amazon… All slightly different….none of them quite matching the model number listed in Consumer Reports. In home appliances the current trend seems to be, last year’s best model, amazing!, but it dies as soon as the warranty is up. Sure it worked great, but for 13 months?
    People like features. So we’re bombarded with features! And promises! We’re afraid to miss something important…. I noticed that some routers had speeds of 1900mbps and others said 3.6G bps. Well, more is better, right? hm….. the fasest speed of the MacBook Pro using 3×3 was about 560mbps, so…
    I closed my eyes, selected the next more expensive Asus model and ordered a AC3100/RT-AC88U.
    Am I an idiot? I’m not a gamer, I do have $250 to spend. I have a MacBookPro 2017, I don’t mind spending a bit more just to make sure, and for future needs.. I probably could’ve bought one for half the price, but I don’t mind spending more, so long as it works, isn’t missing something critical, is reliable (the Linsys WRT3200 lasted only 16 months) and can be set up by a human being who doesn’t measure his worth by how much obscure technical crap he balance on the top of his head while gaming with his toes. If I’ve accomplished that. No problem. If I’ve missed something important? If so, then functionally in the world of WiFi routers I’m an idiot.

    None of the product descriptions really addressed whether or not it will meet my specific needs, and there never seems to be a way to find out. Does the product I’ve purchased really better security? Does “supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro” mean it’s included? or is this the equivalent of: “Your new unattached garage 2.0 ”supporting Ferrari Testarossa,” With my new router am I running around the side of the house to check which color the Ferrari is?
    Tip: When reviewing tech. What are the basic categories of how people going to actually use a product? 1-2 people in an apartment, small house; 1-2 adults and 5-8 teenagers in a large suburban MacMansion? Small business? Tech? Coffee shop? Laundromat?
    Also a lot of this stuff starts out great and then fails a lot sooner than it should. Old Linksys WiFi 2007-17, new Linksys WRT3200? 16 months. I think the companies like this because then you buy new stuff from them, and we consumers who are screwed are not organized enough to spread the word, and consumer protection is a joke (at least in the US and in war zones in the developing world).
    Also is there a way to filter my house AC current? Both routers died after the utility had odd outages. Two of my LED house bulbs are blinking on and off. The routers were connected to Tripp surge protectors. (I’ve complained to the utility, I don’t think they’re capable of either truth or responsibility.)
    Hope this wasn’t too long and is interesting.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Will, for the long and entertaining comment. And your tip noted!

      I hear you! Finding a Wi-Fi device can be as frustrating finding a date (networking is hard, I guess!). I’ve always tried to be as clear and detailed as possible, though, and I don’t do click baits…But there’s always room for improvement. If you have any specific questions about any of the products I mention here or any other suggestions, feel free to reach out. Thanks, again!

      Reply
  43. Dong, you are amazing great detail always. So We have an extremely large home and I have three ac5300 routers ~ one GT and two RT’S. The main is the Gt connected to the feeder Ethernet plug. The other one is plugged into the Ethernet plug in the media room. How to I attach the switch on both routers?

    I have two of the Netgear s8000’s.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • I assume you’re using AiMesh. In this case you can connect the switches to any of the available ports of any of the router/nodes involved.

      Reply

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