You probably already know how a router hosts a home network and delivers Wi-Fi to multiple devices at a time. But a USB-endable Wi-Fi router can work as a mini NAS server, too. All you need is an external drive.
So, if you want to dabble into network-attached storage, using a good Wi-Fi router is the best way to start. I detailed the process in this post on how to get the most out of a Wi-Fi router’s USB port.
In this piece, you’ll find the list of the best candidates for the job. I’ll update as I review more.
- Popular Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features in numbers
- Best Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features: The list
- Best Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features: The performance
Popular Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features, in numbers
Almost all Wi-Fi routers that have a USB port can work as a mini NAS server, at least for simple file sharing. What decides if one is good at this job, however, is the performance of this port. In other words, when it comes to network storage, the throughput speed is the king.
That said, below is the chart of NAS performance of (almost) all of those I’ve tested. They are popular routers — you might find yours here. This chart will be updated each time I review a new USB-enabled router, even when it doesn’t make it to the top list below.
I tested each using a wired Gigabit connection. With those that feature a multi-gig port, I tried that out, too.
As for storage devices, I’ve always used SSD-based portable drives for the testing. The actual drive used for each router might vary, but they all are much faster than the router’s wired network port.
Note that the scores on the chart are in megabyte per second (MB/s), which is eight times the megabit per second (Mbps) measurement generally used for network connection speed.
Best Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features: The list
Again, any routers on the chart above will work as a mini NAS server. But you’re on the market for a new USB-enabled router; find my recommendations below.
These are routers that deliver the best performance or have a great feature set when hosting external storage or both. I’ve personally used them all.
This list is sorted based on the NAS read performance using the fastest wired connection each router supports. In my opinion is the read throughput is more most important than the write one when it comes to network-attached storage.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how their NAS numbers stack against one another’s.
The RT-AX89X is the top-tier dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router from Asus, and it’s the very first router on the market that has not one but two 10Gbps network ports. That plus two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports means it can deliver ultra-high-speed NAS performance.
Like all Asus router, including the RT-AX86U and the GT-AX11000 below, the RT-AX89X can deliver all storage-related applications you can think of, including local and cloud-based data sharing, PC-less download app, Time Machine backup and a lot more.
By the way, the storage-based feature set is the same across all Asus routers released in the past few years. And that also applies to other Asus routers on this list.
ASUS RT-AX89X AX6000 Dual Band WiFi 6 Router
- Excellent Wi-Fi performance
- Uniquely cool design with two 10Gbps network ports
- Eight Gigabit network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
- Super-fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive
- Tons of useful features, including free-for-life real-time online protection, and AiMesh
- A bit buggy at launch, relatively expensive
- Smart Connect setting not available at launch
- Tweaking required to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speeds
- Bulky physical size with internal fan
- Web interface needs work
- Not wall-mountable, no universal backup restoration
This router is the latest from Netgear and has the fastest network storage speed, by far, thanks to its 5Gbps port. But even when you use its regular Gigabit connection, the NAS performance is still outstanding.
Like most Netgear routers, when hosting an external drive, the RAX120 is all about sharing that storage space in as may way as possible. You can share that locally or via the Internet using Netgear’s ReadyShare software. The router also supports local backup for Windows and Mac’s Time Machine.
[P_Review post_id=8189 visual=”full”]
The RAX200 is a tri-band router that shares the same storage feature set as that of the dual-band RAX120 above. It also has a multi-gig network port, but it caps at just 2.5 Gbps, so it’s not as fast as its cousin, but it’s still speedy.
Netgear Nighthawk AX12 12-Stream AX11000 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router (RAX200)$499.99
- Reliable and fast performance
- Eye-catching design
- Helpful mobile app, robust web UI
- Multi-Gig support (2.5Gbps)
- Comparatively super-expensive with nothing extra
- Shallow Wi-Fi customization, spartan feature set
- Comparatively low CPU clock speed
- No 5Gbps or 10Gbps LAN port, not wall-mountable
The Asus RT-AX86U is currently the best Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 router on the market. There are many things about this router but the stellar NAS performance when hosting a portable drive sure helps elevate it to this status.
As for features, like other Asus routers, it delivers all you can ask for in terms of what you want to do with the USB ports.
ASUS RT-AX86U AX5700 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router
- Fast performance, excellent range, reliable
- Tons of helpful networking features and settings
- Useful settings for online gaming
- Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
- Multi-gig, WAN/LAN Link Aggregation support
- Excellent NAS performance and features when hosting a storage device
- Comparatively affordable
- No support for WTFast Gamer VPN
- Not wall-mountable
- Gaming features turn Adaptive QoS off
- Multi-gig port caps at only 2.5 Gbps
The GT-AX11000 is the tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router from Asus. It’s also a powerful router, and like its cousins above, it has everything when it comes to network storage.
Again, like other Asus routers, its USB ports can host printers, storage devices, or cellular modem, and deliver a ton of storage-based features. On top of that, it also has a 2.5Gbps network connection to deliver fast NAS performance.
ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Gaming Router
- Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance with excellent range
- Lots of useful features for home users
- Unique and effective settings for online gaming
- Multi-Gig network port, Dual-WAN, Link Aggregation
- Mesh ready
- Bulky design, loose antennas, non-wall-mountable
- Fewer LAN ports than previous model
- Long boot-up time, buggy firmware, fluctuating Wi-Fi throughputs
This massive and ostentatious Wi-Fi router is quite impressive in terms of USB-based NAS performance. Despite having no multi-gig network port, it delivers fast NAS performance via its regular Gigabit ports.
The router supports sharing storage locally as well as over the Internet. It can also work as a media server, casting content to network streamers, and an Apple Time Capsule alternative.
TP-Link Archer C5400X Tri Band Gaming Router$300.60
- 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
The Linksys MX5 is the latest Wi-Fi router of Belkin’s Linksys Velop mesh family. It’s part of the Linksys MX10 mesh system, but you can also get it as a standalone router.
Unlike some other Wi-Fi 6 routers below, the MX5 doesn’t have a multi-gig port, so its NAS performs caps at 1Gbps. And that was almost the speed it delivered in my testing.
The router’s USB port doesn’t offer anything more than local storage sharing — there’s no personal cloud, streaming features. Interestingly, it does support Time Machine backup despite the fact TP-Link says it doesn’t.
By the way, if you get the MX10 mesh system, keep in mind that you can also use the USB port of the satellite unit, meaning you can host more than one drive in your network.
Linksys MX10 Velop AX WiFi 6 Mesh System
- Reliable and relatively fast Wi-Fi performance
- Helpful mobile app, full web interface
- Effective backhaul that delivers Wi-Fi 6 throughout in a mesh setup
- Fast NAS speeds when hosting an external drive
- Expensive with comparatively low Wi-Fi specs
- No support for 160MHz channel bandwidth
- Mobile app and login account required for initial setup
- Spartan Wi-Fi settings, modest feature set
- No multi-gig network ports, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
- USB port awkwardly place, not mountable
The MR2200ac‘s NAS feature isn’t exactly fast, as you can see on the chart above. However, thanks to the advanced firmware, it has, by far, the best NAS feature set, similar to that of a Synology server.
Hopefully, Synology will release a more powerful Wi-Fi router in the future with similar storage functions. For now, the RT2600ac also offers the same NAS feature set. Other than storage, you can also use the MR2200ac’s USB port to host a cellular modem.
Synology MR2200ac Mesh Wi-Fi Router
- 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
- Only one LAN port
- Not wall-mountable
The TP-Link Archer AX11000 is the Wi-Fi 6 of the C5400X above. It’s a newer and much better router overall. But in terms of NAS performance, it’s behind its older cousin. The two share the same storage feature set, however.
Despite other advanced networking features of a Wi-Fi router, the comparatively slow read NAS speed when hosting a storage device lands it at the bottom in this post.
TP-Link Archer AX11000 Next-Gen Tri-Band Gaming Router
- Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
- 2.5 Gbps WAN port with eight Gigabit LAN ports
- 160 MHz channel bandwidth support
- Excellent, Antivirus, QoS and Parental Control features
- Robust full web user interface, helpful mobile app
- Eye-catching and convenient hardware design
- USB-C ready, wall-mountable
- Misleading gaming veneer, no actual gaming-specific features
- No multi-gig LAN port, bulky design
- Not mesh-ready
- Artificial "Game" items make the interface unnecessarily confusing
- Mobile app require a login account
Best Wi-Fi routers with built-in NAS features: The performance
Find below the NAS performance charts of my recommended routers above. Again, I test them all using a weird Gigabit connection. And for those with a multi-gig port, I also tested them using that with my 10 Gbps adapter.
It’s important to note that I performed the tests with just one client connected to the Wi-Fi router. When you have multiple clients writing or reading from the router’s connected storage, the speed will reduce accordingly. But that’s the case of all NAS servers.