The Best Routers of 2020: Achieve the Fastest & Most Secure Wireless Internet at Home

How much effort did you actually make in choosing your current internet router? If you’re like many residential wireless users, you likely opted for whichever router was available as an internet service rental – or you purchased the most affordable option with little thought about its security or performance. If you’re ready for an upgrade, however, you’ll want to place a bit more consideration into your next router purchase. Luckily, there are a variety of options that can meet your unique needs.

While wired connections are nearly always preferable in business settings, it’s possible to improve home Wi-Fi speed and security with help from today’s advanced wireless routers. If you know which qualities are most important in a modern router, you can easily find a model that meets your specifications. Below, we’re highlighting a few of the most important factors to take into account as you make this key decision.

Wireless Standards

Wireless standards should form one of the first and most important considerations as you select a new router. Your router’s standard will impact its speed, security, and a variety of other critical characteristics. It may also determine how long your router is capable of providing quality service. As new standards are unrolled, previously prominent options become far less functional.

Most of today’s wireless routers are 802.1ac-compliant. When combined with a Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) system, this standard is capable of supporting speeds of up to 3.46 gigabits per second (Gbps). It’s found not only in top routers, but also in most of the smartphones, desktops, and laptop computers currently on the market. This makes it a versatile option that’s capable of meeting the needs of most home wireless users.

The 802.11n standard is also common but may not be an ideal choice for forward-thinking tech users. Released in 2007, this standard may soon become obsolete. That being said, if you’re currently on a limited budget and primarily use devices compatible with 802.11n, you might be able to forgo 802.1ac-compliant options for now – just be aware that your ability to do so might not last forever.

WiFi Speed Specifications

While speed is worth considering, you’ll also want to take any specs highlighted by router manufacturers with a grain of salt. Many simply echo the top speed available via the router’s standard. Unfortunately, such speeds are notoriously difficult for routers to actually achieve, even in the best of circumstances. From interference to the number of users on the network, a variety of factors can impact the actual speeds that your router is able to deliver.

Rather than focus on specs exclusively, it’s best to seek other signs of fast and reliable internet access. Reviews and word of mouth may prove most helpful, especially if you want to know how a particular router might behave under a specific set of circumstances.

Hardware – Which Router to Choose?

Router manufacturers tend to focus on speed and other specifications while neglecting to highlight the hardware that underlies each system. However, given the current prevalence of smart homes with dozens of connected devices, it’s more important than ever to consider processors and their operating frequency.

When in doubt, dual-core processors are vastly preferable to their single-core counterparts. Some homes can currently get by on single-core processors that run at 800 MHz, but this approach may not be sufficient to meet the increased computing demands of the future. Quad-core processors, although initially more expensive, are well worth considering for internet users who anticipate high workloads.

In addition to examining your router’s processor, take a close look at random access memory (RAM). This will allow you to make the most of whichever processor actually exists on your router. At a minimum, you should look for 128 megabytes (MB). In many cases, however, this won’t be enough. An early investment in a 256 MB router may serve you better down the road.

Quality of Service to Improve Router Performance

No matter your router’s hardware or specs, the devices connected to it are likely to battle for bandwidth. This fight can influence the general speed and quality of your connection. It can also prompt considerable frustration when you attempt to download large files and stream content at the same time. If Quality of Service (QoS) is enabled on your wireless router, however, you can optimize distribution based on your personal priorities.

The presence of QoS technology is valuable in and of itself, but this can vary dramatically from one router to the next. Some take a simplistic approach and prioritize one device over another. Others focus on the types of services worth prioritizing. Meanwhile, a few provide extensive control over every aspect of your internet connection.

Firewalls and Other Security Measures

Data breaches occur with alarming regularity these days, making it more important than ever to build security into every element of your technological setup. This often begins with your wireless router. Responsible for directing traffic between your local network and the broader internet, your router stands as the first line of defense against cyber-attacks.

First, look at each router’s Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol. While WPA2 should suffice for most current networks, it could be worth your while to consider its successor, WPA3, which implements a variety of features to address today’s most urgent security concerns. Internet router customers will likely be most intrigued by WPA3’s updates for adding Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart speakers or advanced thermostats. Under WPA3, these devices can be connected via QR codes.

Whether you select a router certified under WPA2 or WPA3, plan to invest in a model that’s equipped with a built-in firewall. However, the mere presence of this feature may not be enough. Many of today’s routers include firewalls, but not all are capable of providing the advanced security your home requires. Keep an eye out for stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewalls, which provide robust protection against a variety of threats.

Another oft-forgotten security consideration? The potential for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which networks are flooded with traffic. While these attacks are typically cited in the context of business networks, they’re just as concerning for home setups. A few gaming-oriented routers offer dedicated virtual private networks (VPNs) to reduce the risk of DDoS attacks.

Routers Worth Considering

The factors outlined above may seem overwhelming at first glance, but they can make a real difference in terms of security and performance. That being said, sometimes it’s easier to choose a router based on expert recommendations.

None of the following routers are ideal in every situation, but they’re worth examining as you determine the best setup for your home:

  • Asus RT-AC66U B1 Dual-Band Gigabit – Affordable and easy to install, this is a great entry-level model for users with basic wireless needs and a desire to avoid additional upgrades.
  • Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 – Gamers adore this router due to its powerful processor and abundance of local-area network (LAN) ports. Additionally, multi-stage protection fends off a variety of external threats.
  • Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 – Another top option for gamers, this router delivers impressive latency rates and access to a secure gaming VPN server.
  • TP-Link Archer C5400 v2 – Don’t be put off by this router’s odd appearance. It combines a user-friendly interface with cutting-edge technologies (such as multi-user MIMO beamforming) to provide exceptional versatility.

NerdsToGo – Your Top Choice for Residential and Business Networking Services

Choosing a router can be tricky – and it’s only the first step for securing your home network. Don’t leave your home Wi-Fi security up to chance; with a dedicated tech team in your corner, you can find a Wi-Fi solution that protects your most sensitive data while remaining within your budget.

Our Nerds offer extensive guidance as you select the best router for gaming, streaming, and large houses with multiple devices. To learn more about our home Wi-Fi security, smart home device setup, and business network servicescontact us today!