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Before you call the cable company the next time your internet goes out, consider checking your router. Even if you’ve got a decent connection going, a spotty router can sometimes make you think otherwise, dropping the signal from your modem or not having enough power to send coverage to every room in your house. Your router creates the network that your devices use to log into your WiFi, and if it’s not working, you won’t be able to get online. There’s nothing worse than experiencing lag while watching live sports, or seeing the dreaded buffering icon show up on your screen while trying to upload or download a file. Think a dropped call is bad? Try experiencing a dropped signal in the middle of an important work call, or while you’re trying to record a track.
If you want faster, more reliable internet, it may be time to upgrade the router you’re using (keep in mind: a router and a modem are two different things, though some modems now have a router built in – I know, it’s confusing). Either way, the basic router from your cable provider won’t cut it. Most basic routers only cover a small space, while others can only handle a couple of devices per channel; if you’re trying to get online from more than two or three devices, you’re out of luck.
In addition to booster WiFi speed and coverage, a router can also make your internet connection more secure, helping to encrypt sensitive information and providing you with a public-facing IP address that doesn’t expose the contents of your computer.
We’ve rounded up some solid options that work intelligently to find faster, more efficient ways to get you online. From mesh routers, which can be placed around the house to build a full WiFi network, to traditional point-to-point routers, consisting of a single router set in a central point in the home, these units deliver reliable coverage whether you’re streaming a movie, sending out emails or playing a game and need to speed towards the finish line.
1. NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router
NETGEAR’s best-in-class “Nighthawk” router connects up to 35 devices for seamless, simultaneous streaming, with less lag and less buffering.
One of the most powerful and intelligent routers on the market, the “Nighthawk” gets up to 2300Mbps wireless speed, more than enough to maximize your video streaming and online gaming. Three antennas and built-in amplifiers mean your WiFi reaches more corners of the house — and more devices. Users say the wireless range and signal strength stays consistent, even when you’re on different floors and away from the router itself.
Use the gigabit ethernet ports to plug in your computer, gaming console and other devices. Two USB ports let you connect a storage drive or printer across your network.
PROS: The three-step installation gets you online in minutes.
CONS: Users say the customer support leaves something to be desired.
2. ASUS RT-ACRH13 Router
Four antennas and dual-band capabilities make this ASUS router an easy pick-up to improve your internet connection at home, in your studio or at the office.
With combined speeds of up to 1267 Mbps and MU-MIMO technology (which basically divides bandwidth across multiple devices), this is a reliable router with solid signal strength.
The router gets you on 5 GHz bands, though ASUS’ “Smart Connect” technology automatically switches between 2.4 and 5 GHz bands to find the best coverage, so you’re never kicked offline.
PROS: Internet going out? Manage your network and see what’s happening even if you’re not at home by downloading the ASUS Router App.
CONS: Not as fast as some of the other models on our list.
3. eero Home WiFi System
Why just pick up a solo router when you can pick up a whole WiFI system designed to boost coverage and speed across your home?
One of the pioneers of the mesh networking trend, eero’s WiFi kit includes one “eero Pro” and one “eero Beacon” device. Together, the two replace your traditional router, and there’s no need to buy a WiFi extender or internet booster either. Instead, the Pro acts as the main hub for your modem and any other devices, while the Beacon is a WiFi access point that adds coverage. Mesh networks let you get around walls, doors or other physical objects that might impede your internet signal.
Plug in the Pro in an accessible location, then add units as necessary to extend the range of your WiFi throughout your space. Eero’s mesh WiFi network leverages the multiple wireless access points to create a fast, consistent and easy-to-manage system. The company says each additional Pro that you connect adds an additional 1,500 sq. ft. of coverage.
PROS: The Beacon can also act as a nightlight thanks to its built-in LED. With an ambient light sensor and automatic dimmer, it intelligently adjusts brightness depending on the time of day.
CONS: Mesh routers are generally less powerful than point-to-point routers, though if you connect multiple ones together (like this eero set) they can be a great option for a large house or office space.