Wireless routers today may all seem to be the same, but they actually vary quite a lot in performance, reliability, price, and other features. The wireless router you choose will make a huge difference in how well you can work from home and enjoy your Wi-Fi network. Below is a list of top-rated Wi-Fi routers in a range of prices, so you can select the best one for your budget and needs. ~ September 17, 2012
The Asus RT-N66U dual-band wireless-n router, a.k.a. "The Dark Knight," is my router of choice, after reading countless router reviews from trusted tech sites (such as SmallNetBuilder, CNET, and Wirecutter) and testing the router out myself. I upgraded my old Netgear N600 Wireless Dual-Band WNDR3700 router with the Dark Knight, and found network speeds to be two to three times faster over Wi-Fi with the Asus router. Even more important, I'm able to use the router at farther distances; upstairs (about 30 feet away), I couldn't get a wireless-n signal on the WNDR3700, but the Asus RT-N66U signal is strong and reliable.
This dual-band router works on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands concurrently (which would help reduce traffic interference), four Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB ports for printer and external drive sharing, and VPN and IPv6 support. One interesting feature is the Download Master, which can download items to your external drive while your computer is off. The Asus RT-N66U also is compatible with custom firmware such as DD-WRT and Tomato. MSRP: $179.99, retailing for $159.99 (and worth the investment)
Apple's wireless router is both compact and capable, able to serve as both a home wireless router and a travel router
. The dual-band AirPort Express supports fast wireless-n
over 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands simultaneously. Home users will appreciate the easy setup, wireless printer sharing, and iTunes music streaming, as well as the ability to create a guest network. When traveling, you can pack this 3-inch thick, palm-sized device and share a single Ethernet connection wirelessly with other devices. There's only one Ethernet port, but you can share the Wi-Fi with up to 10 wireless devices simultaneously. MSRP: $99.
If you're looking for a budget router that still performs well, consider the Cisco Linksys E3200. This dual band wireless router is both easy to set up for beginners and packed with enough advanced features for technical users. The E3200 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB port for printer or external hard drive sharing. Both CNET
and PC Magazine
gave the E3200 high marks for performance (especially over 2.4GHz) and easy management. MSRP: $160, retailing for: $65.
If you want to take advantage of the latest wireless standard, 802.11ac (a.k.a. 5G Wi-Fi), the Asus RT-AC66U router is an excellent pick. 5G Wi-Fi is said to work three times faster than current 802.11n devices, and the Asus RT-AC66U has been benchmarked
as outperforming other 802.11ac routers in its class. The dual-and router features three removable antennas, two USB ports, and four Ethernet ports. In addition to VPN support, Asus has added some interesting capabilities, including AiCloud for syncing and remotely accessing an attached drive. Note that because 802.11ac isn't widely used in most devoces. this is an early adopter router. MSRP: $199.99, retailing for $189.
If you're on a tight budget but want a decent router, the Cisco Linksys E1200 is a great entry-level router. This wireless-n router comes with four Ethernet ports (10/100 Mbps, so not Gigabit, though) and supports WPA2 and SPI firewall protection. Although it's a single-band router with average wireless performance, for under $50, it's not a bad deal. It also includes guest access and Cisco parental controls. MSRP: $59.99, retailing for $24.99.