Best WiFi Routers and Extenders: TP-Link vs Netgear vs Linksys vs D-Link

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WiFi Router and Extender and phoneThere’s nothing worse than losing your WiFi connection. Whether you’re in the middle of a project or streaming your favorite TV show, when the WiFi stalls, the claws come out. (And by claws we mean a frustrated household.)

Time to upgrade your home network? Whole-home WiFi is a must for many families, and these solutions deliver fantastic performance and peace-of-mind to your entire home.

Article Overview

Understanding Router Tech Terms

Unless you’re a tech person, you’ll probably need a quick explanation of these terms so you can make the smartest decision when choosing a router.

  • Dual or tri-band router. By default, most devices connect using the 2.4GHz band (including your neighbors), so you can run into signal congestion. Dual-band routers, however, can also transmit using the less common 5GHz band. Tri-band routers broadcast three signals, one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz frequencies.
  • MU-MIMO technology allows a WiFi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. MU-MIMO routers are either 2×2, 3×3, or 4×4, referring to the number of streams that they can create for each device in your household. MU-MIMO vastly improves speed and performance.
  • Wireless-AC technology. Wireless-AC (802.11ac) is generally considered the gold standard for wireless networking and can transmit at rates more than 6x the best Wireless-N devices and 100x the best Wireless-G devices. It’s a must for gaming, streaming and other heavy-duty online activities. NOTE: Wireless-AD technology (another step up) has recently been released but is available in a very limited number of routers at this time.

Best Standalone WiFi Routers

Are you looking for a single router that can handle your all of your home’s WiFi needs? Here are “best-of” picks for a variety of needs.

Best For: Home | Large Homes | Streaming | Gaming | A Limited Budget

Best Router For Home: Linksys AC1900 Review

Linksys AC1900 RouterView on Amazon

The Linksys AC1900 is one of the best dual-band routers in its price range and is ideal for medium-sized homes. Armed with MU-MIMO, this router can handle multiple high-bandwidth activities, like gaming and streaming. It also uses Beamforming technology, which strengthens the WiFi signal to specific devices, rather than simply sending out WiFi in a general direction.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent value
  • MU-MIMO stabilizes WiFi connections and speeds on multiple devices
  • Fast data transfer speeds
  • Easy to set up and manage WiFi via mobile app
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa
  • 1-year warranty
  • Tech support can be inconsistent
  • Some users report dropped connections
  • Only dual band
  • Doesn’t support Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

Price & Tech Specs

  • Price: $116.00
  • Speeds up to 1.9Gbps (600Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1,300Mbps at 5GHz)
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • 1 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0 ports
  • 3 antennas
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11 ac

Best Router For A Large Home: NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Review

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200View on Amazon

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 is one of the fastest routers on the market with an excellent range, making it a perfect choice for large homes with multiple devices. This tri-band router can accommodate up to 20 devices at once. The Nighthawk 10K also has Adaptive QoS, which prioritizes for activities with higher bandwidth needs.

Pros

Cons

  • Wireless-AD (latest wireless standard) uses the 60GHz spectrum plus 2 other bands
  • MU-MIMO technology
  • Plex Media Server lets you enjoy all your tv shows, movies, videos, etc. on all devices
  • Supports VPN
  • You can set up router and manage internet access via mobile app
  • Compatible with Alexa and Amazon Cloud backup
  • 1-year warranty
  • Free tech support only available for 90 days
  • Expensive

Price & Tech Specs

  • $449.99 on Amazon
  • Combined speeds up to 7.2 Gbps
  • 6 Gigabit LAN Ports
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • 4 antennas
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11ac and 802.11ad

Best Router For Streaming: TP-Link Archer AC5400

TP-Link AC5400 RouterView on Amazon

Do you have several Netflix and Hulu junkies at home? This tri band router is ideal for streaming HD video and running multiple applications simultaneously. It also comes with parental controls, added security, and Quality of Service (QoS) controls that let you choose which devices and activities have priority when everyone is online at the same time.

Pros

Cons

  • 24/7 tech support
  • MU-MIMO stabilizes WiFi connections and speeds on multiple devices
  • Uses 8 antennas for a long range
  • Built-in antivirus protection for every WiFi device in your home
  • Supports VPN
  • Can manage WiFi via mobile app
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and IFTTT
  • 2-year warranty
  • Customer service isn’t as good as others
  • On the pricey side
  • Can be difficult to setup if you aren’t tech savvy
  • Some complaints about unstable firmware

Price & Tech Specs

  • Price: $256.99
  • Combined speeds up to 5400Mbps (1,000Mbps at 2.4GHz + 2,167Mbps at 5GHz + 2,167Mbps at 5GHz)
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • 1x 3.0 USB, 1x 2.0 USB
  • 8 antennas
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Best Router For Gaming: Asus RT-AC86U Review

Asus RT-AC86UView on Amazon

The Asus RT-AC86U router is a powerhouse for gaming at an attractive price point. This router has what it takes to handle all your high-bandwidth, low-latency needs for gaming and streaming and also includes Asus’ Aiprotection feature that provides built-in 24/7 protection from external attacks and threats.

As an added bonus, this router comes with WTFast built-in game acceleration, which automatically performs route optimization by choosing the most efficient route for game packets, resulting in consistently-lower ping time and minimal packet loss.

Pros

Cons

  • 24/7 tech support
  • Excellent value
  • MU-MIMO technology
  • Adaptive QoS, added security, and Gamers Private Network features
  • AiMesh feature connects to other compatible ASUS routers for a whole-home WiFi network
  • Supports VPN (and Tomato, DD-WRT & third-party firmware)
  • Mobile app lets you set up your network, manage usage and get instant notifications about important network-based events
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Only dual-band
  • Design isn’t as appealing as many other routers
  • Some user complaints that the router frequently loses your settings and configurations

Price & Tech Specs

  • $194.00
  • Combined WiFi speeds up to 2,900 Mbps
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • 1 USB 2.0 port and 1 USB 3.0 port
  • 3 antennas
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Best Router Under $100: D-Link AC1750

D-Link AC1750 RouterView on Amazon

The dual-band D-Link AC1750 is an excellent budget-friendly choice for small to medium-sized homes. Sure, you’re not going to get the speed and range you can with more expensive routers, but this model is as good as it gets in this price range and is suitable for streaming and gaming.

Pros

Cons

  • Good performance for a low-end router
  • MU-MIMO technology
  • Supports 3 x 3 data streams
  • Smartbeam tracks your connected devices for enhanced WiFi speed and range
  • Easy to set up
  • Parental controls
  • 1-year warranty
  • Not nearly as fast as more expensive routers
  • Not ideal for hardcore gamers
  • Only dual band
  • Must purchase modem separately
  • Doesn’t support VPN
  • Some user complaints about signal dropping 

Price & Tech Specs

  • Price: $89.99
  • Combined speeds  up to 1750Mbps (450 Mbps in 2.4GHz + 1300 Mbps in 5GHz)
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11 a/g/n/ac

Best Mesh WiFi Router Systems

Back in the old days (we’re talking a couple of years ago), your only router options were standalone. In many cases one will still suffice, but we now have another option with mesh router systems. What is a mesh WiFi router system?

Mesh WiFi router systems typically use a base router that you connect to your modem and one or more satellite devices that extend the router’s signal to the rest of your home. Some systems even offer additional indoor and outdoor expansion devices.

NETGEAR Orbi | Google WiFi

NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 Review

NETGEAR ORBIView on Amazon

NETGEAR Orbi is the king of wireless mesh systems. Not only is it the first mesh system to offer tri-band technology, NETGEAR Orbi also optimizes the signal with your home ISP for top-notch performance. With excellent speeds and range, this router system can handle tons of devices simultaneously.

The base package comes with one base router and one satellite that covers up to 5,000 square feet, and you can add additional satellite units, each extending your signal another 2,000 feet. You can even purchase an outdoor extension.

Pros

Cons

  • MU-MIMO technology
  • Easy to install
  • Supports VPN
  • Compatible with Alexa
  • Includes Circle with Disney Smart Parental Controls
  • Can manage your WiFi from each device, mobile apps or via website
  • 1-year warranty
  • Free tech support only available for 90 days
  • Must purchase modem separately
  • Some users report unstable connections

Price & Tech Specs

  • $302.70 for NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 system
  • $289.99 for outdoor expansion
  • Speeds up to 3.0Gbps
  • 8 (4 + 4) Gigabit LAN ports
  • 1 USB port
  • 6 high-performance antennas in each device
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11bgn, 2.4 GHz Radio Frequency, 802.11 a/g/n/ac

Google WiFi Review

Google WiFiView on Amazon

Google WiFi makes whole-home WiFi coverage as easy as it gets. This system allows you to place WiFi satellite devices (called points) throughout your home to maximize your WiFi range. The 3-pack covers 4,500 square feet, and each individual pod covers 1,500 feet. You can purchase a single point for smaller spaces.

Google WiFi does have its limitations if you like control over your hardware. You can’t choose your band or customize your firmware, and this system doesn’t support VPN. For most people, however, Google WiFi works like a charm.

Pros

Cons

  • 24/7 tech support
  • MU-MIMO technology
  • Uses beaming technology to automatically route devices to the strongest signal
  • Easy to install
  • Compatible with IFTTT so you can control your smart home devices
  • Allows you to pause WiFi on kids devices and block websites
  • You can set up, manage your WiFi, prioritize devices and more via mobile app
  • 1-year warranty
  • Lacks USB ports
  • Combines 2.4GHz and 5GHz into a single band so you can’t choose your band
  • Must purchase modem separately
  • Doesn’t support VPN

Price & Tech Specs

  • $99.79 for 1 or $256.00 for 3-pack
  • Speeds up to 1.2Gbps
  • 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports per point
  • 4 WiFi and 1 Bluetooth antenna in each point
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Best WiFi Range Extenders

If you’re on a limited budget and can’t afford a mesh system or multiple routers in your home, another option to extend your WiFi range is to use a WiFi extender. Here are our top picks.

NETGEAR N300 | Securifi

NETGEAR N300 WiFi Range Extender, Essentials Edition (EX3700) Review

Netgear N300 WiFi Range ExtenderView on Amazon

Do you get a poor internet connection in one part of your house? You’re probably too far from the router. That’s why a WiFi booster can be so helpful. This dual-band internet speed.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable
  • Wall-plug design
  • Works with any WiFi router
  • Uses external antennas for better performance
  • Access Point mode creates a WiFi hotspot using a wired Ethernet connection
  • NETGEAR’s WiFi Analytics App tests WiFi strength in rooms throughout your home
  • 1-year warranty
  • Free tech support only available for 90 days
  • Several users complain that it drops connection frequently and won’t connect to 5GHz band

Price & Tech Specs

  • $35.00
  • Speeds up to 750Mbps
  • 1 port Fast Ethernet
  • 2 antennas
  • Wireless compatibility: 802.11ac & b/g/n

Securifi Almond Touchscreen Wireless Range Extender/Router Review

Securifi Almond Router/Range ExtenderView on Amazon

This router does it all; it’s insane. You can use it as a router, WiFi signal booster or wireless bridge. It is compatible with other routers like Netgear, Linksys and Belkin.

The touchscreen allows for a quick and painless installation. We recommend this as one of the best wireless routers only if your needs are small, but it makes an excellent extender. The major drawback, however, is that it’s not compatible with AC technology.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable
  • Can be used as a router or range extender or wireless bridge
  • Compatible with most existing routers
  • 95% of users set it up in 3 minutes
  • Users report excellent customer support
  • 1-year warranty
  • Not compatible with wireless AC technology
  • No built-in DSL modem

Price & Tech Specs

  • Price: $89.99
  • Speeds up to 300Mbps
  • Ports: 2 LAN + 1 WAN Ports
  • 2 antennas
  • Wireless Compatibility: 802.11bgn

Where Should I Put My WiFi Router?

The location of your router can make or break your home WiFi network’s performance. Check out this video for some excellent tips.

WiFi Routers In A Smart Home

There’s a lot you can do with your home internet besides browsing the web, streaming tv and gaming. You can use your router to turn your house into a smart home. Using a smart home hub you can program everything from your lights to your locks, sprinklers and more!

What solutions would you recommend to improve home WiFi performance?

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Kimberly researches everything before she buys. She wants to make sure she is getting the best bang for her buck by purchasing the best product/service, which is why she loves her work. She has a degree in Multimedia Journalism and has been researching and writing professionally since 2013 to help consumers make more educated decisions.

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Rafael Ulloque
Thanks for this article, it helped me a lot.