Best WiFi routers: the Livingetc edit of the best ways to boost your browsing and speed up your surfing

The best WiFi routers to upgrade your home internet, as we review the the ones from Google, Netgear and more

best wifi router HONOR Router 3 on side table next to relaxing couple
(Image credit: Honor)

Mobile connectivity is king, and in order to ensure that your smartphone, laptop, or tablet isn't being held back, you need to make sure you've got the best WiFi router possible. If you're still using the standard box that your internet provider sent you, there's a good chance that you'll be able to get a significant speed boost by ditching it in favor of a newer and more advanced one.

The wireless world can be confusing, however, with a huge variety of choices and a range of different standards and connection types to try and get your head around. That's why we've assembled this range of different Wi-Fi routers to find the options that we think will suit you best. We've rated them based on connection speeds, signal strength, range, and coverage, as well as the ease of use, visual design, and any extra features.

Read on to find out our thoughts and, for more on how to get the finest speeds out of your internet, head on over to our guide to the best WiFi dongles.

The best WiFi routers in 2022

Google Nest Wifi Mesh Router (AC2200)

(Image credit: Google)

1. Google Nest Wifi Mesh Router (AC2200)

Best router for smart home enthusiasts

Specifications

WiFi speed: 2.2gb/s
Band: Dual
Networking standard: Wi-Fi 5
Encryption: WPA3
Dimensions: 3.5 x 4.3 x 4.3in
Weight: 0.84lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Unobtrusive design
+
User-friendly app
+
Built-in smart speaker

Reasons to avoid

-
Speeds could be better

Google’s unassuming little lozenge of WiFi goodness also graces our roundup of the best mesh WiFi systems. It works equally well as a standalone router, thanks to capable (if not outstanding) performance, and a heap of smart software features that make managing your network an absolute breeze. One of our favorite features is the one that sends a notification to your phone if your network goes offline. Allowing you to address the problem immediately, this function makes the Nest one of the best routers, for sure.

These software integrations are particularly handy if you’re invested in Google’s Nest ecosystem of smart home devices already - although be warned that if you’re just buying the main hub as a standalone unit without any satellite nodes, you won’t get the smart speaker functionality built into those smaller hubs.

NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Router (RAX80)

(Image credit: Netgear)

2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AX8 WiFi Router (RAX80)

Best router for speedy connections

Specifications

WiFi speed: 6gb/s
Band: Dual
Networking standard: Wi-Fi 6
Encryption: WPA2-PSK
Dimensions: 12 x 7.9 x 6.3in
Weight: 2.8lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding performance
+
Eye-catching design
+
Advanced features

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

You don’t necessarily need to spend vast sums of money to get good Wi-fi, but if only the very best will do, then you really do get what you pay for. Enter Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX80; a router whose blistering speed is matched only by its eye-watering price. On the other hand, however, you are getting a heap of advanced features for your cash, in addition to best-in-class performance.

We’re also rather taken by its design, which looks like a stealth bomber as designed by Apple’s Jony Ive. The large wings may make it rather conspicuous on a bookshelf, but it’s almost appealing enough to act as a conversation piece in and of itself.

HONOR Router 3

(Image credit: Honor)

3. HONOR Router 3

Best router for cheap Wi-Fi 6 connections

Specifications

Wi-Fi speed: 3gb/s
Band: Dual
Networking standard: Wi-Fi 6
Encryption: WPA3
Dimensions: 12.9 x 8.3 x 2.2in
Weight: 0.83lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely affordable
+
Wi-Fi 6 support
+
Capable speeds

Reasons to avoid

-
Uninspiring design
-
Minimal extra features

Honor may be best-known for making affordable mid-range smartphones (if you’ve heard of the company at all), but it also makes other forms of technology, such as this delightfully affordable Wi-Fi 6 router. The simplistic, blocky design may have a somewhat Fisher Price-esque look to it, don’t be fooled: the Honor Router 3 delivers where it counts.

The range is broad enough to comfortably cover an average-sized home, and the speeds are fast enough to support activities like 4K streaming or online gaming. It doesn’t lead the pack in any one technical area, and you won’t get a whole lot of extra features for your money - but when the price is this attractive, it’s hard to argue.

ASUS AX5400 Gaming Router (RT-AX82U)

(Image credit: ASUS)

4. ASUS AX5400 Gaming Router (RT-AX82U)

Best router for overall value

Specifications

WiFi speed: 5.4gb/s
Band: Dual
Networking standard: Wi-Fi 6
Encryption: WPA3
Dimensions: 10.9 x 7.2 x 6.5in
Weight: 1.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance for the price
+
Handy additional features

Reasons to avoid

-
Garish design

Router manufacturers often have a tendency to over-design their products, and that’s certainly the case here; in stark contrast to the discreet Google Nest Wifi above, the blue LEDs and sharp angles of this machine look like they’d be more at home in an episode of Battlestar Galactica. 

Look past the somewhat garish design, however, and you’ll find an outstanding router that combines phenomenal speed and range with a number of useful (albeit nonessential) software features. Best of all, while not quite as pocket-friendly as Honor’s Router 3, the Asus RT-AX82U is ridiculously good value considering the performance. If you can stomach the design, you won’t be disappointed.

D-Link DIR-X1860 EXO AX1800 Router

(Image credit: D-Link)
Best all-round router

Specifications

Wi-Fi speed: 1.8gb/s
Band: Dual
Networking standard: Wi-Fi 6
Encryption: WPA2-PSK
Dimensions: 6.5 x 8.8 x 2.5in
Weight: 1.1lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Strong Wi-Fi 5 performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic design

Occupying something of a halfway-house between the flashy exuberance of top-end Wi-Fi 6 routers and comparatively understated examples like the Honor Router 3, D-Link’s DIR-X1860 nonetheless offers a happy medium across the board. At just over £100, it comes in at the lower end of the price range, but its speeds are sufficient to keep up with an average household’s demands - especially on older devices that can’t take advantage of the very latest connection standards.

Similarly, its visual design also occupies a middle ground, with a few aesthetic flourishes that liven up an otherwise plain-looking plastic blob without veering into the kind of tackiness that leads to gleefully gluing fins and LEDs to every square inch. There are a handful of software features to add a little more flexibility, but for those wanting a fuss-free device that comfortably covers the basics, this reliable little router is an excellent choice.

Choosing the best router for your home

Google Nest WiFi router on dark wood sideboard next to green and blue decorative jars

(Image credit: Google)

How many Ethernet ports should my router have?

Although wireless connections have (for obvious reasons) become the most popular form of getting online in recent years, it’s worth remembering that for both speed and stability, there really is no substitute for a physical connection. For this reason, routers still come with a number of Ethernet ports to allow for hard-wired connections between devices, but the amount on offer can vary depending on the specific model. 

Chances are, you probably already know whether this is something that will factor into your eventual decision, but if you haven’t given it any thought up to now, then this might be a good time. If your router sits in the living room, running cables between it and any games consoles you may have can ensure smoother online gaming and more bandwidth for large downloads. 

If it’s in a home office, meanwhile, connecting your laptop or desktop PC will make patchy video calls a thing of the past. You can also connect a compatible printer over ethernet to enable wireless printing from anywhere in the house. Four ports are generally all you’ll get on a mainstream router, but if you want to connect more physical connections, you can explore more advanced routers with eight ports, or invest in a standalone ethernet switch.

The ethernet ports on most modern routers support Gigabit speeds, which are more than fast enough to meet the requirements of the average user, but on the off-chance that you have particularly exacting needs, it’s worth checking to make sure.

Where should I place my router?

When people are trying to diagnose problems with their Wi-Fi networks, one of the most commonly-overlooked factors is the physical placement of the router. Wi-Fi’s clever, but it isn’t magic; it relies on radio waves to transmit signals from the router to your device. 

This means that if your router is hidden away in a cupboard or tucked behind a bookcase, the signal has more obstacles to get through before it reaches your phone or laptop, resulting in shorter ranges and slower speeds. If at all possible, you should try and place your router high up, and out in the open, minimizing the obstructions the radio waves will need to get through. 

Placing your router as close as possible to the center of your home will also give the best results, although, for broadband connections, you’ll almost certainly be constrained by wherever your provider has located the access point for your main connection. 

One important point to remember is that other wireless devices in your home - particularly microwaves, cordless phones, and Bluetooth peripherals - commonly use the same 2.4GHz band that Wi-Fi uses (in addition to the 5GHz channel). When choosing where to put your router, try and avoid placing it near any other devices that might conflict with it.

How can I improve my Wi-Fi speed?

Poor-quality Wi-Fi connections can be endlessly frustrating, and it can be tempting to blame your router if your speeds are suffering. However, there’s a reasonably good chance that there’s a different culprit for slow connections, so before you buy a new router, you should take the time to make sure that it’s actually going to make a difference. 

The first thing to check is whether or not your broadband package actually allows you to get better speeds than you currently are, as you may need to seek an upgrade from your provider before any improvements can be unlocked. If you call up your internet company and tell them you’re thinking of leaving, they may be prepared to offer you a deal on your bundle.

Assuming you’re not at the speed limits of your internet package, however, the issue may lie with the device you’re connecting to the router with, rather than the router itself. Wi-Fi technology is constantly evolving, and a phone that came out three or four years ago will likely be limited to a lower maximum connection speed than one which is more modern. The latest standard is Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax, or 11ax for short), and the one before that was 802.11ac. If your current router supports a more advanced connection standard than your devices, then it may be those that are holding your browsing back.

Adam is a technology journalist with a passion for devices, networking and gadgets of all kinds. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.  When not serving as reviews editor for one of the UK’s leading business technology publications, he is on a never-ending quest to make his home as smart as possible, and to build the ultimate home cinema system, along with spending far too much time on Twitter and obsessing about his broadband speed.