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Consumer Reports: Best Wireless Routers of 2022

Say goodbye to WiFi dead zones and hello to an easier setup and stronger security
John Walsh / Consumer Reports
/ Source: Consumer Reports

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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 while the best routers in Consumer Reports’ ratings keep things humming along, relaying content from Netflix, Disney+, and Xbox Game Pass 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?” asks 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.

There are more than 100 models in our ratings, split across two categories: multi-unit mesh routers and single-unit wireless routers.

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A single-unit router plugs directly into your modem.

Mesh routers feature one unit that plugs into the modem, plus one or two additional units, sometimes referred to as “satellites” or “beacons,” that can be stationed in other parts of your home. The units “talk” to one another, creating what’s known as a mesh network.

A single router is generally fine for apartments and smaller houses, but if you live in a larger home, say, larger than 2,000 square feet, a mesh router might be a better fit. That’s especially true if you work from home; nobody likes dealing with dropped Zoom or Google Hangouts calls! The satellite units of a mesh router can be moved around to maximize coverage, steering the WiFi signal around obstacles such as doors, walls, and appliances.

On the other hand, if you’re merely trying to get better WiFi coverage in a single room as opposed to your whole home, an inexpensive WiFi extender may be a better alternative.

While you may find some WiFi 5 routers on store shelves, unless you’re getting an incredible deal, it makes more sense to go with a model that supports the current WiFi 6 standard, which can handle faster speeds and more connected devices. In our ratings, we refer to WiFi 6 by its technical name 802.11ax.

Given the big role WiFi now plays in our lives, we recently refined our testing methodology to reflect real-world conditions better. Our goal remains the same: to provide accurate, scientifically rigorous data so you can make informed buying decisions.

While a majority of the routers in our ratings do quite well in our labs, the ones here stand out with strong Overall Scores, offering solid performance at a range of distances and decent privacy and security protections.

Mesh Routers

Asus ZennWiFi

This model—sold in a two-pack—aced all three of our distance tests, which measure a router’s throughput (“speed”) from distances of 8, 20, and 55 feet. That means you’ll likely get a stable and speedy connection in the typical home environment.

It supports WiFi 6, so you shouldn’t have to worry about upgrading for a while.

And it earns admirable scores for data security (thanks to automatic firmware updates), ease of setup (via a mobile app and a web-based wizard), and versatility. It features four built-in Ethernet ports and two built-in USB ports, handy for connecting devices like game consoles (so mammoth-sized games can be downloaded more quickly) and peripherals like printers.

Netgear Orbi

This model comes in a pack of three and combines speedy performance with a price that’s among the lowest in our ratings, making it worth a look even though it’s not WiFi 6-compatible.

Our testers give it high marks for throughput, ease of setup, and data security. You’ll also find handy features like smartphone-based setup and management, automatic firmware updating (which helps keep your data safe), and a single built-in Ethernet jack.

There are, however, no built-in USB ports, which can be useful for connecting and more easily sharing peripherals such as printers and external hard drives among the various devices in your home.

TP-Link Deco

TP-Link’s Deco line of mesh routers frequently do well in our tests, and this latest version continues that trend. It’s a WiFi 6 model that comes in a two-pack.

It scores well, if not quite as high as the above two, in most of our tests, including throughput, data security, and versatility. There are automatic firmware updates, a smartphone app-based setup, and four built-in Ethernet ports. We would have liked to have seen at least one built-in USB port, however.

Single-Unit Routers

Netgear Nighthawk

The high-end routers in Netgear’s Nighthawk series frequently do well in our ratings, too.

This WiFi 6 model should work well, even in a larger home, given the way it performs in our throughput tests across the full range of distances we measure. It has plenty of built-in ports—five Ethernet and two USB—for connecting external devices, along with a solid array of nice-to-have features like automatic firmware updates and a smartphone-based setup.

Asus ROG Rapture

Marketed as a gaming router (complete with slick styling), this high-end WiFi 6 model scores very well in our tests, earning top marks for throughput, ease of setup, data security, and versatility.

Beyond fast speeds at a range of distances, you’ll find useful features like a smartphone app-based setup and multiple Ethernet (five) and USB (two) ports. It even supports WiFi 6E, which is an extension of WiFi 6 that enables even better performance in areas with lots of competing devices, such as dense apartment buildings.

Linksys AX5400

Here’s a WiFi 6 model you can regularly nab for less than $100, a price that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

The AXE 5400 scores well in our throughout tests, has automatic firmware updates, and has a decent amount of Ethernet (four) and USB (one) ports to extend its versatility.

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