A good router can speed up your connection instantly — likewise, a bad one can drag your browsing down, no matter how fast your internet connection or your computer. And whether your network is fast or not doesn’t matter if your router is too weak to beam the connection to where it’s needed. As such, it’s important to ensure that you have a router fast and powerful enough to serve up the internet and network that everyone in your house is asking for. Here’s our pick of the best.
When buying a router, the big number to look out for is how many gigabits per second (Gbps) it can transfer – that tells you how fast data will be sent over the network, showing how quickly websites will load and data will transfer. If you’re not expecting to be watching huge videos or playing intensive games, then it might be less important to get a higher number, but quicker is always better, and the speed of internet connections is getting ever more important. Another thing to check is whether the router has a modem in it, or will need a separate one. You might have already been given a modem, which is needed to get internet into your house, and so only need the router itself, or you might be looking to replace both, and get them in the same box.
1. Apple Airport Extreme: £169, store.apple.com/uk
With easy set-up, fast and wide-ranging network connection and Apple’s unique brand of slick design, this is the perfect router if you use the company’s computers and want to be able to connect them and forget about it.
2. Linksys WRT1900AC: £189.99, currys.co.uk
This is fast and smart – with features such as a computer chip that portions out the internet efficiently. It also has clever fast ports to connect hard drives to it so that you can get information from them from anywhere and is easy to set up.
3. Asus RT-N56U: £65.16, amazon.co.uk
This is small, not as ugly as other routers (though that’s not a difficult achievement) and relatively cheap. Despite all that, it manages to get a powerful connection over a very wide range.
4. BT Home Hub: £129 or free with broadband, shop.bt.com
Easily the best of the network-made routers, the BT Home Hub doesn’t need a BT internet connection to work and is easy to set up either way. It’s super-fast, ensures a strong connection and conveniently fits through your letterbox. BT makes a cheaper version for those without BT Infinity or fibre-optic.
5. D-Link Wireless AC1900: £95.99, amazon.co.uk
This packs in much of the speed and power of more expensive routers but comes in at less than £100. The colour’s a little redolent of 1990s PC beige, but it’s likely that you’re going to be hiding it on a shelf, anyway.
6. Netgear R8000 Nighthawk: £214.99, amazon.co.uk
Looking like a cross between a killer robot and a stealth bomber, the Nighthawk is the router equivalent of both. It has super-fast speed – up to 3.2Gbps – and its strange look hides efficient antennae that ensure you can get a connection even far away.
7. Netgear D6400: £154.99, pcworld.co.uk
This has a modem built in, which means that it can be plugged straight into your phone line and will start working instantly. It can take any kind of connection, including fibre-optic, and beam it powerfully around the house, and it comes with special software for easy set-up.
8. Netgear DGN1000: £34.99, currys.co.uk
Another router with an in-built modem, ensuring that you won’t need a separate one sitting alongside it. Cheap, but still efficient, this has four ethernet ports for plenty of connections, and security features such as parental controls to keep an eye on your network.
9. Apple Airport Express: £79, store.apple.com/uk
This is the smaller version of the Extreme. It works as a router on its own in a small house or flat, or for extending the network across bigger spaces. Its size means that it can’t throw a signal as far as competitors and it has only one ethernet port, but it also allows it to be hidden away discreetly.
10. Linksys EA6900: £124.99, pcworld.co.uk
If you’re looking to stream high-quality video, or need your network to take the load of a big family, this will give you a fast enough connection. It's likely that you won’t be able to make the most of this router’s blazing speed, but it’ll ensure you’re future-proofed and won’t have to shell out for a router all over again.
The Linksys EA6900 is powerful, well-built and not too expensive — enough to power a houseful of people, with all the connections they’ll need, and more. If you’re looking for something cheap but still powerful, the Asus RT-N56U will do the job with no complaints. And if you’re looking for something elite, the stealthy Netgear R8000 Nighthawk will handle super-HD films, fast gaming or multiple connections without breaking a sweat.
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