Best Wireless Routers of 2021
Say goodbye to WiFi dead zones and hello to easier setup and stronger security
Your wireless router is responsible for handling all the data that flows into and out of your home through your internet service provider (ISP).
And though the best routers in Consumer Reports’ ratings keep things humming along, relaying content from the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and Xbox Live without a hitch, some models do a better job than others.
“If I’m paying for a 200-megabit internet connection, can I actually get data that fast with my wireless router?” says Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing at Consumer Reports. A good router can help you make sure the answer is yes. But if you experience problems with dead spots or slow connections, Fisco says, it could be time to go shopping.
Right now there are 56 models in our ratings, split across two categories: wireless (aka single-unit) and multi-unit mesh WiFi models.
A single-unit router plugs directly into your modem. Mesh WiFi routers feature one unit that plugs into the modem, plus one or two satellites that can be stationed throughout your home. The units then “talk” to each other, creating a mesh network.
Netgear Nighthawk AX1800 (3-Pack)
This Netgear model is a good choice for consumers with demanding needs, frequently needing to do things like stream multiple high-resolution video streams and play fast-paced online games throughout their homes.
This is among the very best-performing routers in our ratings, and includes support for WiFi 6, automatic firmware updates, and four built-in Ethernet ports to directly plug in nearby devices like printers and smart-home hubs or bridges. It also supports app-based setup, which lets you use your smartphone to do the initial installation.
This is a three-pack, including one main unit that you plug into your modem and two satellite units that you place throughout your home to evenly distribute WiFi signals. It’s also available as a two-pack, with one base station and one satellite unit.
TP Link Deco Whole Home
This TP-Link three-pack is a CR Best Buy, which means it not only scores well in our tests but also is quite affordable compared with other options in this category. The model offers six Ethernet ports that provide a wired internet connection for products such as a smart home hub or bridge, for example.
Our testers note that you have to manually update the firmware; other routers now do this automatically, helping ensure that you always have the latest security improvements. It also uses the older WiFi 5 standard, which may not be ideal for early adopters who routinely buy the latest smartphone and gadgets, since those are increasingly designed to reap the benefits of WiFi 6.
Netgear Orbi AC1200
This WiFi 5-compatible three pack performed well in our tests, but didn’t rate quite as highly as the two models ahead of it when it comes to speed at midrange and far distances.
Given the relatively low price, however, there’s a lot to like here, including an easy app-based setup, a single built-in Ethernet port, and automatic firmware updates, which protect you from hackers, malware, and other security vulnerabilities.
Eero offers various models, but this entry-level option makes the most sense for everyday consumers. We tested the second-generation version, but there’s a new WiFi 6 option working its way through our labs.
The second-generation Eero provides strong speeds even at long distances, offers easy, app-based setup, and has a couple of built-in Ethernet ports for connecting nearby devices. On paper the more advanced Eero Pro model ($400) should perform even better (in part thanks to its support of a third frequency band), but that might not be worth the extra money for most consumers.
Synology may not be as well known to consumers as other wireless router manufacturers, but this model is a clear standout in our ratings. It delivers strong performance at a range of distances, has two built-in USB ports so that you can plug in and share peripherals like printers, and supports easy setup using a mobile app.
Our testers also appreciate the automatic software updates, which means the router will routinely run the most secure software without you having to lift a finger. If there’s one knock against it, and even this is a stretch, it’s that it only supports WiFi 5, which means you’ll miss out on the benefits of WiFi 6 as you add new, WiFi 6 devices to your home in the coming years.
Netgear Nighthawk AX6
This Netgear model is a strong performer even in larger homes, with four built-in Ethernet ports, one built-in USB port, and support for WiFi 6. It even supports some of the nice-to-haves we like to see, including smartphone-based initial setup and automatic firmware updating. As such, it’s a versatile router that should serve you well as WiFi 6 devices become widely available.
Somewhat strangely for a model this powerful, it doesn’t support quality of service (QoS), a feature that helps ensure you have a smooth connection by allowing you to choose which apps have priority access to WiFi so that, for example, your Zoom call stays stutter-free while your kids are playing Xbox. You can read more about QoS in our dedicated guide about getting the most out of your WiFi while working at home.
This CR Best Buy provides strong performance across the full range of distances that we test. Other handy features include app-based setup, four built-in Ethernet ports, and two built-in USB ports.
This model is also compatible with an Asus technology called AiMesh, which lets you use additional satellite units (sold separately) to create a mesh WiFi network if you want to expand the range of your signal down the line.
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900
This solid, inexpensive WiFi 5 model will do a good job for many consumers. It’s fast across short, medium, and long-range distances, has four built-in Ethernet ports and one built-in USB port, and supports app-based initial setup and automatic firmware updating.
Home WiFi Mesh Networks
Can’t get a decent wireless internet connection in your home? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Nicholas De Leon explains to show host Jack Rico how mesh networks provide faster speeds and better coverage.