Networking

Best Routers of 2017

gaming router

On this guide, we will be exploring the world of gaming routers – covering router technology, gaming router requirements, and our top picks. Being knowledgeable about routers is essential in buying a router that fits your network’s needs.

Without a suitable wireless router, activities like gaming and streaming are severely restricted no matter how much bandwidth you have or how good your wireless devices are. An old 802.11n router now will only work in a small household with light internet use today.

Routers are at the center of the your home’s wifi network – don’t overlook it!

Today’s modern router technology has kept up to increasing performance needs by increasing bandwidth by creating routers with double or triple bands, 802.11ac, MU-MINO, and Quality of Service (QoS) settings. QoS, which allows you to set the prioritize certain processes, is especially helpful for gaming routers.

Here is our list of the six best routers for gaming, which is divided into three price groups: budget, mid-range, and high-end.

Products
ASUS RT-ACRH13
Linksys AC1750
ASUS RT-AC88U
NETGEAR X4S
ASUS RT-AC5300
NETGEAR X8
Picture
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Editor's Rating
Category
Budget
Budget
Mid-Range
Mid-Range
High-End
High-End
Bands
Dual-Band
Dual-Band
Dual-Band
Dual-Band
Tri-Band
Tri-Band
Ports
4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0
4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0
8 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0
4 LAN + 1 WAN + 2 USB 3.0 + 1 eSATA
4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0
6 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0
Speeds
5GHz/2.4GHz
867+400Mbps
1300+450Mbps
2100+1000Mbps
1733+800Mbps
2,167+2,167+
1000Mbps
2,167+2,167+
1000Mbps
MU-MINO
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Price
$
$
$$
$$
$$$
$$$

 

Budget Wireless Routers

ASUS RT-ACRH13 | Dual-Band

Type: Budget Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 1x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 867+400Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 | Weight0.87 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • Very Affordable
  • MU-MINO support
  • Modern, compact design

Cons

  • Lowest bandwidth of any router on this list
  • Not a “powerful” router

Most people simply aren’t willing to spend hundreds on something as seemingly frivolous as a router, though routers are extremely important. Thankfully there are many low-priced, but high performing routers available today. Priced at far under $100, the newly released ASUS RT-ACRH13 is by far the best choice for a cheap gaming router. Sporting a dual-band AC1300 Wifi with combined 2.4GHz and 5.0 GHz speeds of up to 1,267 Mbps and 2×2 MU-MINO, the ASUS RT-ACRH13 has some seriously strong specs.

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

From a design standpoint, the ASUS RT-ACRH13 is a nicely made compact router, weighing in at only 0.87 pounds. Despite it being by far the cheapest router in this roundup, it does not have a cheap design. Instead of a standard glossy plastic shell, the router has a nice brushed matte pattern. One the case, there are six blue LEDs indicating power, LAN, WAN, and the dual-bands. Unlike other ASUS routers, the RT-ACRH13 can only sit flat – as it has no stand. There are two antennas on each side of the router. On the back panel there are four LAN ports, one WAN port, a power button, and a small reset button. The USB 3.0 port is located on the opposite side, in the front.

The ASUS RT-ACRH13 is powered by a Qualcomm Atheros quad-core 717 mHz processor, 128 MB of flash memory, and 128 MB of RAM.

CONNECTIVITY:

The router has a standard AC1300 dual band configuration with one 2.4 GHz band at 400 Mbps and one 5.0 GHz band at 867 Mbps. Combined, the speeds add up to a theoretical 1367 Mbps. This speed is by far the lowest of any router on this list, but then again there is only one router here that costs less than 2x the price of the RT-ACRH13. Probably the feature that brought the RT-ACRH13 is it’s 2×2 MU-MINO (multi-user, multiple-input and multiple-output), allows up to two compatible devices to be served by the router at the same time, instead of the old SU-MINO in which the router had to constantly hop back between multiple devices. Normally, MU-MINO isn’t seen on routers priced lower than $150, but this premium feature has appeared on the RT-ACRH13.

SETUP:

Asus has long prided itself with having great user interface, and the ease of installation is seen with the RT-ACRH13. The AsusWRT installing interface can be accessed by going to http://router.asus.com. After logging in (the default username and pass are both “admin”), you will be prompted to quickly set up your connection. After the initial set up, you can set up additional guest SSIDs, set up parental controls, among other actions. The router also includes QoS (quality of service) options, which allows you to prioritize certain devices – this is especially helpful for gaming.

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Linksys AC1750 | Dual-Band

Type: Budget Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 1x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 1300+450Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 | Weight1.40 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • Extremely well review and reliable
  • MU-MINO support
  • Fast

Cons

  • Visually lackluster
  • Small increase in on-paper performance compared to previous router

In the router market, there isn’t much at all of a correlation between price and quality once you get past cheap $25 routers. The newest $300 tri-band router might be just as unreliable as an old router from 2008. The Linksys AC1750 has received overwhelming positive feedback about it’s reliability and speed. Though it’s paper specs are very typical, the Linksys AC1750 makes for a great and reliable gaming router.

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

The Linksys AC1750 won’t win any router beauty contests – this trusty router is encased by a rather unassuming plastic shell. We’ll let this pass, as the router is aimed much more at functionality than just looks. There is an array of three detachable antennas mounted on the back panel of the router. This router places its LED use indicators in an unconventional location – the back. With the LEDs on the back panel, there are the standard four LAN ports, one WAN port, power and reset buttons, and one single USB 3.0 port. The router weighs approximately 1.4 pounds.

The router is powered by a dual-core CPU.

 

CONNECTIVITY:

This is the Linksys AC1750’s strong suit – the router delivers blazing fast performance. Tolly.com has rated the router to be by far the fastest AC1750 router. The router sends two signal bands, one 2.4 GHz band at 450 Mbps and one 5.0 GHz band at 1300 Mbps. Combined, this adds up to 1750 Mbps. Once you have reached this point, adding more bandwidth won’t have much effect on network speed unless more than eight or nine devices are on the network. The Linksys AC1750 includes MU-MINO (multi-user, multiple-input and multiple-output), which allows for the router to directly service multiple devices simultaneously without having to jump back and forth devices. Beamforming technology is also present on the router, allowing targeting service for higher efficiency, More information about these new technologies are at the bottom of this guide. In terms of performance, the Linksys AC1750 is superb.

SETUP:

The Linksys AC1750 includes parental controls, guest access, and QoS in its set up page. QoS (quality of service) settings are important for tasks that require high performance as they allow the router to prioritize certain tasks like gaming over others.The Linksys Smart WiFi mobile device app works with this router – you can use your phone to directly configure your all of your router’s settings, including QoS.

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Mid-Range Wireless Routers

ASUS RT-AC88U | Dual-Band

Type: Mid-Range Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 1x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 2100+1000Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 8 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0 | Weight2.6 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • One of the fastest dual-bands
  • MU-MINO support
  • Huge amount of features

Cons

  • Pricey

The ASUS RT-AC88U is the first router on this lineup to clearly be designed and used as a gaming router. It’s jam packed with features including the full Asus network management suite, MU-MINO, eight LAN ports, and fast performance. The price is probably on the high end of mid-range routers, but the features are truly quite impressive. It’s a big, showy router that is built to perform. 

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

The first gaming router specifically aimed at the gaming market, the RT-AC88U has a gaming themed stylization. With its red antenna highlights and sharp angles, the router does look nice. It’s also important to note that it’s also a rather large router, measuring 3.3′ x 11.8′ x 7.4′ and weighing two-and-a-half pounds. There are eight indicative LEDs on front of the router’s casing. On the sides an back the router, there are four large antennas. On the rear panel of the router, there are a whopping eight LAN ports, one WAN port, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 and a WPS button. That is the most you will find on virtually any router yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

The ASUS RT-AC88U has a powerful dual-core 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB of flash memory, and 512 MB of RAM under its hood.

 

CONNECTIVITY:
The ASUS RT-AC88U is likely one of the strongest dual-band routers ever. It has a huge signal range and industry leading speeds. The router’s 2.4 GHz band can clock up to 1000 mbps and its more used 5.0 GHz band can deliver up to 2133 mbps. This impressive combined output at over 3000 mbps is allowed by 1024-QAM technology. As to be expected, the router carries the highest level MU-MINO, at 4×4. Link aggregation (allows the first two Ethernet ports to be used on the same computer, doubling transfer speeds) and beamforming also exist within the router. Performance-wise, you probably won’t see much difference between the most premium gaming routers like the ASUS RT-AC5300 and the this. The ASUS RT-AC88U is a true beast – we can’t imagine how someone would find it inadequate.

SETUP:

The simple Asus router set up page can be reached through http://router.asus.com. It will ask you to preform a quick router set up, activiating creating the two bands. You can easily adjust all other router settings any time after you set it up. There are quality of service (QoS) settings that allow you to optimize your router usage but prioritizing certain tasks such as gaming. There are also a plethora of mostly security features including Asus AiProtection, an advanced firewall, and privacy options.

In addition to the Asus router web control panel, which is arguably the best there is, Asus also has a router app which can be downloaded on mobile devices.

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NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S | Dual-Band

Type: Mid-Range Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 1x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 1733+800Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 4 LAN + 1 WAN + 2 USB 3.0 + 1 eSATA | Weight1.65 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • Great performance
  • MU-MINO support
  • Fast

Cons

  • Software is difficult to use
  • Small increase in on-paper performance compared to previous router

Don’t mistake the NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S for the X4, 1900, or 2300 – it’s the newest and best performing dual-band gaming router NETGEAR has. It’s two 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands combined put out maximum of 2533 mbps, MU-MINO, and 4×4 data streaming makes the router a sweet spot at the mid price range level. It still won’t beat the ASUS RT-AC88U in a 1v1 contest, but recent price slashes to the Nighthawk X4S puts it well under the price range of the Asus router and gives it a huge price advantage. 

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

For the past few years, all the Nighthawk routers from NETGEAR have had the same design – a sharp all-black design with a stealthy vibe. On the back are four large detachable antennas. Again, the router is a relatively big one, measuring 11.22 x 7.26 x 1.97 inches and weighing 1.65 pounds. On the back panel, there are four LAN ports, one WAN port, the power & reset button, and an LED on/off switch. There are dual USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the router and one eSata port on the opposite side. On the front, there are a huge amount of LEDs – around dozen of them. You can turn them off if you find them to be a nuisance.

Inside the router there is a 1.7 GHz CPU, 128 MB of Flash, and 512 MB of RAM.
CONNECTIVITY:
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S does not dominate in any performance metric – pricier routers like the ASUS RT-AC88U inch out the X4S in areas like speed and range. Still, the Nighthawk X4S is a high performance router that will satisfy any gamer. The two bands, 2.4 GHz (800 mbps) and 5.0 GHz (1733), add up to more than 2.5 GHz. There is also support for 160 MHz bandwidth, beamforming+, and Dyanmic QoS (quality of service) on the router. Dynamic QoS prioritizes certain applications and beamforming increases range and connectivity by concentrating WiFi signals. Finally, the X4S includes MU-MINO, which will increase speeds on compatible devices in the network.

SETUP:

The NETGEAR installation process is very easy and straightforward. Connect the router to your computer and opening any brower should take you to the installation wizard. If you aren’t automaticalyl redirected, go to www.routerlogin.net. Once you have set up your home internet network, you go on to adjust other settings like QoS, security, and other more advanced settings. The interface beyond initial installation is pretty antiquated and hard to use, but everything works once you get passed the set up period.

NETGEAR also offers their Genie app that is compatible with the X4S which allows you to monitor and adjust your router easily through your computer, tablet, or phone.

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High-End Wireless Routers

We start this off with a huge disclaimer – you certainly do not need a high-end AC5300 gaming router! Currently, virtually no client will receive any increase in performance from these routers and nobody will until technology catches up. If you want to do some insane future-proofing, we suppose you can try these routers, but AC5300 is not worth while in the current time. 

AC5300 routers aren’t actually super expensive; they only cost around 1/4 more than the highest-end dual-band gaming routers, but we feel that they simply aren’t worth that much more. 

The bottom line is that AC5300 routers are limited in their capability because they are too ahead of its time, at least for now.

ASUS RT-AC5300 | Triple-Band

Type: High-End Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 2x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 2167+2167+1000Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 4 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0 | Weight: 3.99 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • The latest in router technology – AC5300
  • MU-MINO support
  • Huge amount of features

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No difference in performance vs other routers in current situation
  • Less LAN ports than the ASUS RT-AC88U

Designed for the most demanding users and gamers, the ASUS RT-AC5300, operates the latest and greatest speed standard, AC5300. It operates three WiFi bands, one 2.4 GHz and two 5.0 GHz, adding up to an mind boggling 5.3 Gbps. For all intents and purposes, its a beefed up ASUS RT-AC88U that costs more. 

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

Asus has used a totally new and radical design approach for the ASUS RT-AC5300. The router has a ring of eight adjustable antennas surrounding its large main body. While retaining the classic Asus black and red gaming color scheme, the router doesn’t look like anything we’ve reviewed before apart from the defect ridden D-Link Ultra AC5300. The TP-Link AC5400, which is a lower priced alternative to the ASUS RT-AC5300, seems to have borrowed Asus’ design. The router is huge, weighing four pounds and at 9.6 x 9.6 x 2.6 inches. On one side of the router, there are four LAN ports, one WAN port, a power and reset button, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. The number of LAN ports is only half as much as the ASUS RT-AC88U, which is certainly a downgrade.

The ASUS RT-AC5300 has the same powerful dual-core 1.4 GHz processor, 128 MB of flash memory, and 512 MB of RAM as the ASUS RT-AC88U.


CONNECTIVITY:

Despite being a power tri-band router with powerful paper specs, the ASUS RT-AC5300 doesn’t have any meaningful difference in performance from lower priced dual-band gaming routers unless you are literally running dozens of wireless devices on your 5.0 GHz band. 

Moving away from all of that, the RT-AC5300 truly does have ground breaking performance. The single 2.4 GHz band goes up to 1000 mbps and the dual 5.0 GHz bands go up to 2167 mbps each. This adds up to 5334 mbps, approximately 12 times as much as a single-band 2.4 GHz router! As to be expected, the router also features the latest wireless technology, like MU-MINO, beamforming, QoS,  WTFast Gamers Private Network (GPN), and AiProtection.

SETUP:

The setup for the ASUS RT-AC5300 is the same as any other new Asus router. Open up your web browse when your computer is connected to the router and you will be prompted to set up your new network (You may have to manually go to http://router.asus.com if you are not automatically redirected). The Asus software is among the best out there so setting up security, privacy, and QoS is be easy and intuitive.

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Netgear AC5300 Nighthawk X8 | Triple-Band

Type: High-End Gaming Router | Bands: 1x 2.4GHz + 2x 5.0GHz | Speeds: 2167+2167+1000Mbps | MU-MINO: Yes | Ports: 6 LAN + 1 WAN + 1 USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0 | Weight3.7 lb. Wireless Protocol: 802.11ac

Pros

  • Tri-Band AC-5300 
  • MU-MINO support
  • Packed with the most advanced features

Cons

  • The costliest router in this lineup
  • Relatively low price to performance ratio
  • Outdated interface

Another overkill AC5300 router, the Netgear AC5300 Nighthawk X8 is a total powerhouse. It’s equipped with triple WiFi bands, 5.3 Gbps of data transfer speed, and all the latest router technologies. From a design perspective, its a huge change from the other routers in the Netgear Nighthawk routers, but the wireless technology is just another big step up. 

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DESIGN AND FEATURES:

The Netgear AC5300 Nighthawk X8 is not as flashy of a gaming router as one of the D-link or Asus gaming routers, but it has a very nice and modern feel to it. It has a very unique waved top panel texture and blue decorative LEDs on the tip of each of its four rear mounted. As with the few other AC5300 routers, the X8 is large, weighing nearly four pounds and measuring 12.44 x 10.39 x 2.40 in. On the back of the router, there are six LAN ports, one WAN port, a power and reset button. There is one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port on the side of the router, which can be closed off. Aseptically, the Nighthawk X8 offers a very refreshing and modern design without the gaudiness of a batman style gaming router. 

Powering the router are a dual-core 1.4, 128 MB of Flash, and of 512 MB RAM. 


CONNECTIVITY:

Simply put, the Nighthawk X8 has impressive technical specifications. With one 2.4 GHz band and two 5.0 GHz bands, the router has a huge theoretical data transfer rate of over 5.3 Gbps. The router is also quad-stream (4×4) and has MU-MINO as well as beamforming technology on all bands. The first two LAN ports support port aggregation, which allows you to combine two Gigabit network ports to one computer or server, potentially more than doubling data transfer speeds. Another small improvement on the X8 is its incorporation of active antennas, which is moving the amplifier from the router body to the antennas themselves. However, this improvement in signal quality comes at the cost of the antennas being fixed and not detachable. You won’t be able to fully enjoy the great specs of the Nighthawk X8 with today’s technology, but at least you will have a bad ass router.

SETUP:

To set up the router, connect it the your PC and open a web browser. You should be redirected to the Netgear Genie interface installation wizard or interface. Unfortunately, the user-interface is pretty overdue for an overhaul. The basic installation is easy, but setting up more advanced but still important features like QoS and security is a pain. For such an expensive router, the user-unfriendly UI is a disappointment.

There is also a limited-function mobile app for the router, NETGEAR Genie, which is very buggy but still useful.

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Bill Yang

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