Rounding up the Fastest 5 Routers: The Definitive Guide

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore gamer or the occasional online shopper; no one enjoys lag. There are plenty of things that cause internet lag, but cheap routers are often at the heart of the problem. That’s why we’re rounding up the fastest routers for 2018. We tested several routers in our search for the most rapid routers. Nothing under 200Mbps would make the fastest router list, but they also needed to operate or have the option at least, on the 5GHz spectrum. We tested each router at various distances for upload and download speed. They needed to be fast to make our list, but not if you have to sit next to the router to enjoy fast speeds. Making a list of the fastest routers for 2018 was our goal, so price and design were secondary concerns. The primary focus was on speed and coverage.

TP-Link Wireless Router AC1900 Smart WiFi Dual-Band Gigabit

TP-Link AC1900 Smart Wireless Router – Beamforming Dual Band Gigabit WiFi Internet Routers for Home, High Speed, Long Range, Ideal for Gaming (Archer C9)

  • 1 of wireless routers for Home which is compatible with all Wi Fi devices, 802.11ac and older
  • Gigabit router with 4 gigabit LAN ports, fast Access to Multiple connected wired devices, also ideal as gaming router
  • Long range Coverage by 3 external antennas; FCC less than 30dBm
  • Beamforming Technology makes the router Smart detecting where you need fast wi fi
  • Easily Share media with 1x USB 3.0 and 1x 2.0 ports to easily Share Printers, files, and media across Your network

This router is one of the fastest, most affordable routers tested. If you’re within 20 or 25 feet of this router, upload and download speeds are fast. If you stray too far outside that range, they can drop a little, so if you’re using this as your primary router in a large home, it may not be ideal. Walls and doors can limit coverage as well. Our favorite thing about this router was the price. It comes close to matching the other routers we tested at a more affordable price. Beyond price, the router firmware was intuitive and easy to use. It also includes an iOS app for easy configuring using a MAC. A few things we don’t like include the standup design and the LED lights. Standing routers aren’t any less useful than flat models, but they take up more space and are easier to knock off. The LED lights are bright, and in a dark room, they are a bit annoying. Neither of these issues is cause to ignore this excellent, speedy router. Let’s look at the technical specs:

  • WiFi type is 802.11ac
  • It works as a wireless router, bridge, or access point
  • 128-bit wireless encryption
  • Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums
  • It has a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port
  • It has 4 LAN ports and 1 WAN port

Sitting next to the router, it hit the maximum speeds possible on the 2.4GHz frequency. On the 5GHz spectrum, the AC1900 did not disappoint. It averaged 290Mbps download at 10 feet and almost 400Mbps upload at the same distance. Wired speeds exceeded 500Mbps for both upload and download tests. At $89.99 on Amazon, you just can’t beat this router for speed and price.

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Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD (High-Density) Home Wi-Fi System

AmpliFi HD WiFi System by Ubiquiti Labs, Seamless Whole Home Wireless Internet Coverage, HD WiFi Router, 2 Mesh Points, 4 Gigabit Ethernet, 1 WAN Port, Ethernet Cable, Replaces Router & WiFi Extenders

  • WHOLE HOME WiFi SYSTEM: Not Just a Wi-Fi router, it’s a Wi-Fi system. The AmpliFi HD Kit includes a Wi-Fi router with an easy-to-use touchscreen display, two MeshPoints to maximize coverage and eliminate dead zones in your home, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port, and an Ethernet cable. The AmpliFi HD WiFi system provides superior coverage with a range of up to 10,000 sq. ft.
  • 802.11AC TECHNOLOGY FOR FASTER SPEEDS AND BETTER COVERAGE: AmpliFi HD is more than a wireless router: it’s the ultimate Wi-Fi system. With turbocharged 802.11ac Wi-Fi, AmpliFi utilizes multiple self-configuring radios and WiFi super antenna technology to bring ubiquitous secure Wi-Fi coverage to any home network. Delivers connectivity needed in today’s modern home for 4k streaming, smart home products, gaming, vid chats, downloads, and working from home.
  • Wi-Fi RANGE EXTENDER REPLACEMENT: AmpliFi MeshPoints feature adjustable super antennas that can be placed discreetly in almost any location in your house, wherever dead spots need coverage. Signal strength LEDs are integrated into the design to provide immediate and continuous feedback ensuring system is positioned for optimal performance.
  • INSTANT SETUP: The intuitive, easy to use AmpliFi app allows you to setup your system in 5 minutes. It also features configuration options, powerful reporting metrics, parental controls, remote access, and easy guest access. The mobile app is available for Android and iOS smartphones.
  • Wi-Fi TECHNOLOGY EXPERTISE: The AmpliFi home wireless system is designed by Ubiquiti Labs, a division of Ubiquiti Networks, a global leader in developing Wi-Fi access points, Wi-Fi antennas, network switches, Internet gateways, security cameras, VoIP phones, smart home and outdoor Wi-Fi solutions.

This isn’t a traditional router, but since speed is the goal we included it in this list. In tests, it pounded its way to the top five easily. It’s a mesh networking system. The router acts as a base with multiple extenders you can plug in around your home to improve coverage areas. You can buy extenders to use with any router, but this system comes with extenders to help create the mesh. It’s always a good idea to use products that are made for each other or designed for synergy. At first glance, the AmpliFi HD looks like a gimmick or something you’d find on the impulse purchase rack in your favorite department store. After testing it, all thoughts of tricks and gimmicks disappeared. We like the design in spite of it being a cube. It performs well at all ranges. The router firmware is easy to navigate, and there’s an app to manage settings. It’s a complete home WiFi solution. The price is a bit high, but it comes with extenders which offsets the cost. Setting up the router is easy whether you use the internal software or the app, but it lacks some core features we prefer to see in a router. There’s no way to change firewall settings or setup QoS rules. QoS rules help routers deal with everyday issues like latency, errors, and different traffic. Most routers have some way of changing firewall and QoS settings in case you need to allow specific software to use more, or less, bandwidth. About the technical specs:

  • WiFi type is 802.11ac
  • It works as a wireless router, access point, or bridge
  • 128-bit wireless encryption
  • Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums
  • It has a USB 2.0 port
  • It has 4 LAN ports and 1 WAN port
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Typical tests and benchmarks don’t apply to the AmpliFi HD. Since it has extenders, almost anywhere in your home can be right next to the router. Speed is the only test that applies in this case. On the 2.4GHz frequency, the AmpliFi HD performed well and hit the fastest rates you would expect from 2.4GHz. The 5GHz frequency performed at higher than expected speeds. Upload speeds hit 390Mbps, and download speeds averaged 540Mbps, even when tested from outside. The price on Amazon is $329.99. That’s a lot of money to spend on a router. To make up for the higher cost, the AmpliFi HD comes with two extenders you can plug in around your home to extend the coverage. It has a handy touch screen display which is an unusual feature in a router, but this is a unique router.

Linksys Max-Stream MU-MIMO Tri-Band AC5400 Wi-Fi Router

Linksys Tri-Band Wifi Router for Home (Max-Stream AC5400 MU-Mimo Fast Wireless Router), Black

  • Provides up to 3,000 square feet of WiFi coverage for 25+ wireless devices
  • Works with existing modem, simple setup through Linksys App
  • Enjoy 4K HD streaming, gaming and more in high quality without buffering
  • Tri band router delivers the fastest combined WiFi speeds to all your devices
  • Tri band WiFi speeds up to 5.3 Gbps (5 GHz / 1000 Mbps) + (5 GHz / 2166 Mbps) + (2.4 GHz / 2166 Mbps)

This router is pricey if you want to get the extenders with it. Extenders are a must have if you have a large home or need better WiFi upstairs. It’s $449.94 on Amazon if you buy the AC5400 bundle which includes an extender. When you consider the technology, range, and speed of this router, $449 if not a lot of money. If you’re a gamer or heavy streamer, the AC5400 will impress you compared to any budget router or stock router supplied by your ISP. We liked that the AC5400 has MU-MIMO technology. It lets us know Linksys wants this router to work anywhere in the house and continue to provide us with high-speed internet in the future. MU-MIMO helps ensure your router works anywhere and you always get the fastest connection possible by using multiple antennas, multiple inputs, and various outputs. The only things we didn’t like were the price and the design. It’s worth the money, but it’s still a high price for a router unless you plan to use it for gaming or streaming. The design is bulky, and it has antennas everywhere. The antennas are part of why this router works great anywhere in your home, but they also mean it will need its own location preferably in the open. Let’s dig into the technical specs:

  • WiFi type is 802.11ac
  • It works as a wireless router, access point, or bridge
  • 128-bit wireless encryption
  • Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums
  • It has a USB port
  • It has 8 LAN ports and 1 WAN port
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Speed tests left us thinking this router is for 5GHz only. On 2GHz it performed well enough but averaged only 100Mbps download speeds and 90Mbps upload speeds. However, using the 5GHz frequency, it downloaded at a blazing 300Mbps and uploaded at the same rate. The speeds were consistent if we tested next to the router or 20 feet away.

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 Smart WiFi Router (R8000) – AC3200 Tri-band Wireless Speed (up to 3200 Mbps) | Up to 3500 sq ft Coverage & 50 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 2 USB ports | Armor Security

  • Fast wifi performance: Get up to 3500 sq ft wireless coverage with AC3200 speed (Tri-band up to 600 + 1300 + 1300 Mbps).
  • Recommended for up to 50 devices: Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices.
  • Wired ethernet ports: plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 4 x 1 gigabit ethernet ports.
  • Loaded with advanced technology: Designed with a 1GHz dual core processor, 6 amplified antennas, Beamforming+, Dynamic QoS, Smart Connect, Amazon Alexa Voice Controls, and more.
  • Usb connections: Share a storage drive and printer with any connected device, and create a personal cloud storage to access from anywhere, using the 1×3.0 and 1×2.0 USB ports.

Netgear’s Nighthawk routers tend to be more budget friendly when compared to similar routers on the market. The Nighthawk X6 is $255.67 on Amazon if you get the bundle that includes a WiFi extender. If possible, and you live in a large house, always get an extender made by the same company as your router. There’s no technical reason, but we find they work better than aftermarket extenders. We liked all the bonus features this router incorporated. Netgear’s Genie software makes setup easy and future changes less difficult as well. The slimmer design is refreshing. Many routers that feature multiple antennas are bulky with some being larger than a modern gaming laptop. It met expectations for speed and reliability. There are flaws with this router, but none of the flaws are critical flaws. The antennas are fragile, so they could break off if you aren’t careful. They fold into the top of the router, but the hinged area isn’t sturdy enough for our tastes. Most routers are quiet, but the Nighthawk X6 make noises similar to an older, external USB drive when it was booting up. On to the technical specs:

  • WiFi type is 802.11ac
  • It works as a wireless router, access point, or bridge
  • 128-bit wireless encryption
  • Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums
  • It has 2 USB ports
  • It has 4 LAN ports

The Nighthawk X6 performed well on the 2.4GHz frequency. Upload speeds were faster than download speeds at 85Mbps and 60Mbps respectively. These speeds aren’t high for 2.4GHz, but most users won’t notice. Gamers and streamers will find 2.4GHz speeds limiting on the Nighthawk X6. If you usually have more than one person streaming or gaming at any point, you’ll get some lag. Switched to the 5GHz frequency, the NightHawk X6 proved itself worthy of the fastest routers for 2018 list. It averaged 220Mbps download speeds and 270Mbps upload speeds. Those speeds would allow for almost any gaming or streaming needs with very little chance of lag becoming an issue. Oddly, the wired speeds for this router were slower than the wireless speeds, but only by a few Mbps.

Linksys WRT AC3200 Open Source Dual-Band Gigabit Smart Wireless Router

Linksys WRT AC3200 Dual-Band Open Source Router for Home (Tri-Stream Fast Wireless WiFi Router, MU-MIMO Gigabit Wireless Router)

  • Fast wireless router provides WiFi coverage for your home (works with existing modem)
  • Open source firmware offers advanced customization; Certified Operating Systems: MacOS (10.X or higher), Windows 7, Windows 8.1 (Works with Windows 10)
  • Tri Stream 160 technology doubles bandwidth from 80 MHz to 160 MHz
  • Enjoy 4K HD streaming, gaming and more in high quality without buffering
  • Dual band WiFi speeds up to 2.6 Gbps (2.4 GHz / 600 Mbps) + (5 GHz / 2600 Mbps).Operating Temperature: 32 to 104 F (0 to 40 C)

Linksys makes a wide range of routers from budget-friendly routers to high-end, less budget-friendly routers. The AC3200 falls in the middle on price but climbs high on the list of features and performance. At $229.97 on Amazon, this router is budget friendly. It performs like a router you’d expect to cost $500 or more. We realize it’s technically not a feature, but the router is blue and black. That’s a plus in a sea of black or white routers. Linksys includes software called Smart WiFi which makes everything you do with the router easier. Setup is comfortable, and the router is lighter than most highspeed routers. Netgear also manages to include a dual-core processor in this budget-friendly router. There are a few things we didn’t find appealing. The antennas tend to become loose over time and may not perform well if they are loose. It’s not paired with any extender made for this specific router which limits coverage in larger homes especially those with an upstairs or basement than needs wireless internet. On to the technical specs:

  • WiFi type is 802.11ac
  • It works as a wireless router, access point, or bridge
  • 128-bit wireless encryption
  • Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums
  • It has 4 LAN ports and a WAN port

As expected, on the 2.4GHz frequency this router hit download speeds up to 75Mbps and upload speeds that were faster than download speeds. Upload speeds averaged 100Mbps which is fast for the 2.4GHz spectrum. The speeds dropped about 5 percent when tested at 20+ feet and fell another 30 percent at 30+ feet. An extender would make this router more appealing, and there are multiple aftermarket extenders help performance at longer distances. Test on the 5GHz frequency made up for the slower 2.4GHz tests. This router performed at speeds averaging 460Mbps for downloads and 490Mbps for uploads. That was a lot faster than we expected after the slower 2.4GHz tests. Speeds suffered similarly to the 2.4GHz results as we increased the distance between us and the router.

The Final Results

Listed in order:

  • Linksys Max-Stream MU-MIMO Tri-Band AC5400 Wi-Fi Router
  • Linksys WRT AC3200 Open Source Dual-Band Gigabit Smart Wireless Router
  • NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
  • Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD (High-Density) Home Wi-Fi System
  • TP-Link Wireless Router AC1900 Smart WiFi Dual-Band Gigabit

The only reason the Linksys Max-stream beat out the Linksys WRT AC3200 Open Source Dual-Band Gigabit Smart Wireless Router for the top spot was the poor performance on the 2.4GHz frequency. Either router would work great for anyone from households with massive streaming needs to the average internet user looking for better movie streaming on weekends.