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-sized 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 marked the time when the latest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6, became commercially available. That doesn’t mean Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters are no longer relevant. Quite to the contrary, it makes them become an excellent deal since the standard will last for years to come.
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.
Table of Contents
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 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 many 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's Rating
Built-in UniFi Controller with lots of useful features
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
Beautiful design, responsive web user interface, excellent mobile app
Threat Management feature reduces Wi-Fi speeds
The many settings and features, some still in beta/alpha state at review, can be overwhelming for home users
Requires an account with UniFi
No Wi-Fi 6, not mountable
7. Asus RT-AC88U: The most fun router with lots of ports and features
The Asus RT-AC88U, not to be confused with the RT-AC3100, is my favorite Wi-Fi 5 router – I’ve personally used it for years.
It’s one of a few on the market with 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's Rating
Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage
Tons of valuable 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
Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports
Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive
6. Synology RT2600ac: One of the best routers 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 an interest in Linux, you’ll love it. And the fact it supports Synology’s mesh feature doesn’t hurt either.
Synology RT2600ac's Rating
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
Can't work as a mesh satellite
Slow network storage speed when hosting an external drive
No link aggregation
5. Synology MR2200ac: A pro mesh ready 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 only one Gigabit LAN port.
Synology MR2200ac's Rating
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 accompanying mobile apps
Ability to import settings from other Synology routers
Only one LAN port
4. TP-Link Archer C5400X: A powerful router that pretends to be a gamer
The TP-Link Archer C5400X is an awesome-looking router with tons of raw power. It’s a second on this list with eight Gigabit LAN ports but fewer features than the RT-AX88U.
It’s an all-around great router, despite the fact it’s not exactly a gaming router TP-Link wants you to believe.
TP-Link Archer C5400X's Rating
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
No advanced gaming-specific features
Bulky physical size
2.4GHz Wi-Fi speed could be better
3. Asus Blue Cave: A peculiarly excellent router
The Blue Cave looks odd with a huge and purposeless hole in the middle. But it’s an excellent router with lots of features. If you intend to build yourself an AiMesh system, you can use it as a node or the primary router.
Asus Blue Cave's Rating
Generous feature set including the ability to protect the home network against online threats
Unique design with a small footprint
Easy to set up and use
Not as feature-rich as other Asus routers
Unable to block secure websites
USB-based storage’s performance could be faster
2. Asus RT-AC86U: A well-rounded router for everyone
The RT-AC86U was released at the same time as 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 valuable features doesn’t hurt.
Asus RT-AC86U's Rating
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 using backup files of other Asus routers
No extra network ports like other high-end Asus routers
Not wall mountable
1. Netgear XR500: A new type of gaming router
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 ensure every computer and game console within the network gets the best connection possible.
Netgear Nighthawk XR500's Rating
DumaOS delivers comprehensive and effective QoS and online gaming features with a robust web interface
Excellent overall performance
Easy to set up and fun to use
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
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.
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 vary greatly depending on the environment. Generally, this band performs the same with any tier of Wi-Fi 5 (or newer) clients.
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107 thoughts on “Best Wi-Fi 5 Routers: On a Budget? You Should Get One of These”
What a great article Dong, and great advice and pointers. I do have a few questions. I’m still using my 2013 NightHawk R7000 due to having Merlin wrt support 3rd party. I wanted to increase my 2.4/5ghz speed and range. I just ordered a R7800 to use with Voxel 3rd party firmware in hopes I get better speeds than 420mb @ 10ft and 320mb @ 30ft on 5ghz and 102mb @ 10ft 2.4ghz. Im on a budget so I would like to hear your thoughts on the RT-AC3100 if the R7800 does not work out. Also is it true that Aimesh is better than reapter mode due to the fact that is does not sacrifice speed or bandwidth? Do you know if theres any true in that?
The RT-AC3100 is very old and I’ve never tested it, JJ, but it’s similar to the RT-AC88U. As for your expectations and hopes, that depends on many variants. More about AiMesh in this post, and more about routers in this post (don’t miss the section bout Wi-Fi ranges!) Good luck!
Hi , I just wanted to point out that, Netgear R7800 was and is still the best 4×4 MU-MIMO router as far as I know till date.
This was qualcomm based router which could do 160 MHZ while also offering 4×4 MU-MIMO Streams. Some people did have some issues with it, but it was the only router for me which was rock stable for all these years. I was never impressed with signal strength with both the ASUS’s I had owned previously including the AC88U and the AC68U.
Both the ASUS AC88U & the AC68U had terrible range for my clients in the room, but the NETGEAR R7800 during that time had useable singnal strength that I could watch 1080p videos without much buffer.
Netgear wins for RAW performance on wireless, while the ASUS wins if you want OPEN VPN support i.e on ASUS router one can easily load an OPEN VPN config and use it so that all the clients get instant VPN instead of clients trying to connect to a vpn individually.
The 160MHz notion of this router is pretty much useless since practically no Wi-Fi 5 client supports it. I have two R7800 units in storage, gathering dust. They are both OK. The only advantage is this model supports DDWRT, which was cool at one point.
This list includes only those I reviewed for this website, so generally, it doesn’t include most routers released before 2018. The R7800 came out in early 2016. If you Google it with my name, you’ll see that I already reviewed it then (and many others.)
Thanks for the input, though. 🙂
Have u compared the asus rt-ac86u to the tplink archer c2600 ??
which one has better range ? i know now r the days of ax and all but, i dont have ANY wifi 6 equipment and just want to connect my old equipment and newer mobiles to a good router. currently using tenda ac23 (THE BEST RANGE and speed of any router i tested till now, except the asus ac3100 or others which cost above Rs 10,000 [usd 125]). Thus was looking on ebay and found many used archer c2600; BUT only 3 ac86u. the ac86u i still get in india but is costly (Rs 18,000 or 225 usd). how come this OLD router still costs double of what a new Asus RT-AX55 costs ????? maybe the old 86u has more power (speed and range) ???
I haven’t tested the TP-Link, Ajinkya, but I’d recommend the Asus. The RT-AC86U is a top-tier Wi-Fi 5 router. It’s much faster than the entry-level RT-AX55, among other things.
I was going to buy the RT-AC86U for a small home with very modest internet speed (100 down/10 up). Then I noticed that the Asus ROG GT-AC2900 is cheaper but seems to be the same performance. I don’t need gaming features but I’m sure I can just not use those settings on the GT. Is there an upside to the RT-AC86U that would make it worth a higher price compared to the GT-AC2900? Maybe better firmware support/updates, better range, or something else?
No, Jerry. Considering your Internet speed, I’d go with whichever that’s more affordable.
Would you recommend a pair of Asus AC88U or a Synology RT2600AC + MR2200AC?
4 ports are enough for me. I find the Asus UI a bit dated and maybe even confusing (I wish they modernized it) but Synology is trailing in terms of updates and releasing new models.
It’s your call, Ken. You’re on top of it.
Ok, thanks. I take it that for you they are comparable enough that it doesn’t matter and both would work fine.
Yeap. They are just quite different and I like them both equally.
Hey Dong, i was reading the above reviews and have a few questions.
You mentioned that the [ Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 ] had No built in security. Is that correct? I thought all routers came with security features?
I have the The [Netgear Nighthawk 6 Stream AX4300] and opted NOT to sign up for the [Netgear Armor-$69.99 / year]. Was this a wise decision?
I didn’t purchase it because, I was under the belief that Netgear routers were the best when it came to security. Your thoughts?
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?
China, I believe, Pat. The 88 has more ports, etc. Read the reviews. 🙂
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.
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?
Hi Fred, your situation is quite unique. I take that you need a router with internal antennas. That said I’d recommend the Asus ZenWiFi AX, Linksys MX5, or the Synology MR2200ac. All of them have better NAS performance than the Blue Cave. But you can look at more options in terms of performance in this post. Hope the kids will get stuff that works out for them.
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?
I don’t know but it’s similar to the Asus Blue Cave, Allen. And no, it won’t give you Gigabit via Wi-Fi for sure. More on in this post. https://dongknows.com/gigabit-internet-and-you/
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.
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?
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 works with Wi-Fi 5 clients, it’s the same as Wi-Fi 5. So generally, if you have a dual-stream (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.
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?
Considering the size and router location, I think one router can handle it, Ryan. Get a the Asus RT-AX88U (or RT-AC88U) if you want extra LAN ports. After then you can get another dual-band router for an AiMesh mesh if need be.
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.
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.
Yes, Garrett. Considering what you described, the RT-AC86U is an excellent fit. Go for it!
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!
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.
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!
I prolly missed it, Matt. Can you repost?
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!
Thanks for the coffee, Matt. I’d go with the 68u or a set of Lyra Trio. Have fun!
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!
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.
Thanks! Not able to run network cables throughout the house, I wish :). I’ll look into the Mesh.
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.
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! 🙂
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!
You can get any 3×3 or faster Wi-Fi 5 router (like the Asus Blue Cave, or the Synology RT2600AC) or any of the Wi-Fi 6 router. The good news is your place is relatively small, if you place the router in the middle, chances are it’ll take care of it.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
Get the RT-AC86U.
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!
Basically all on this list will have a similar range, Jason. I’d say the same for the Wi-Fi 6 routers (except for the TP-Link AX3000).
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!
That’s correct. You won’t see any difference at all if you just care about internet speed.
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!
Sure, David. If you don’t need network ports, get two mr2200ac. Have fun setting them up! 🙂
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!
It was my mistake when making the charts, Bryan. Corrected. 🙂
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!
Sure, David. You can try a single unit of the Asus Blue Cave or the Synology MR2200ac first (make sure you place it at as close the center of your home as possible). If that’s not enough, get another unit of the same router and link them up via AiMesh or Synology Mesh. That sure will do it.
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!
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! 🙂
Hey, Dong I was just wondering what you think the best gaming router is on the market right now under $500.
Get the Asus GT-AX11000, Cliff.
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.
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. 🙂
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?
Thanks, Phat. I’m still figuring things out and videos are not out of the question. 🙂
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–
No, Scott, still buggy. I’d recommend a Wi-Fi 5 router. For your situation, the Blue Cave is a great fit.
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.
Orbi rbk 52
Orbi rbk 13
Eero Pro Mesh
Google WiFi system
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.
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.
Hey Dong, any idea when Linksys may be releasing a wifi 6 router? thanks
Prolly later this year.
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?
I’d say no. Get the GT-AX11000 instead. Or the RT-AC88u.
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?
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.
Thanks for all of you excellent reviews! What are your thoughts on the new AiMesh AX6100 now that it is available for purchase?
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. 🙂
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
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.
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?
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.
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)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I’d aggree. Thanks for the update.
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
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.
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 🙂
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
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.
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?
Most mesh system can use wiring, too. The wireless setup is just an option.
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?
Hi Kirsten. This post will help you understand better what a mesh is: https://dongknows.com/mesh-wi-fi-system-explained/
If you still have questions, feel free to reach out after! 🙂
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)
I always go with wiring which I did for my home. Go with CAT6.
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.
Thanks, Earl. The Asus RT-AC86U will likely do it. Considering how large our home is, you might want to consider an AiMesh by adding another router at a later time.
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.
Haha! Thanks for sharing! Glad noone was hurt and you didn’t have to call the fire department. Enjoy the new router!
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.
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!
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.
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.