If you spend as much time as we do playing online games like Apex Legends, you’ll know just how important it is to pick up one of the best gaming routers. Without a solid network connection, you could start running into some serious lag from something as innocuous as a roommate going on a late night Netflix binge. Nobody wants to deal with that. So, what should you look for in a gaming router these days? Well, there are a couple gaming-centric features you need to look out for. Chief among these is Quality of Service, or QoS. This will prioritize network traffic for certain devices or applications, meaning your gaming rig won’t get held back by an errant tablet.
Also, you’re going to want a router with MU-MIMO (Multi user, multi input, multi output). This means that your router won’t get clogged up when trying to provide bandwidth to multiple devices at the same time. Everyone on your network can do their thing without getting in each other’s way. You can’t forget about connectivity, though. Ideally, the best gaming routers will have plenty of wired LAN ports—gaming is best on a wired connection, after all—but, having great wireless performance is a must. Keep an eye open for any gaming routers that boast a rated speed of at least AC1900.
This is a lot to absorb, but don’t worry: we've picked out some of the best gaming routers you can buy today.
1. Asus RT-AX88U
The best gaming router of 2019
Speed: AX6000 | LAN Ports: 8 | Antennas: 4 | Processor: Quad-core 1.8GHz | Dimensions: 4.65 x 2.91 x 1.3 in | Weight: 6.76 lb (801 g)
The Asus RT-AX88U is the best choice for a higher end router. It features next generation 802.11ax technology, and an impressive 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports, which even supports link aggregation. Backing this up is the usual excellent AsusWRT interface, which allows granular control of every imaginable setting. There is also class leading Adaptive QoS, along with Trend Micro antivirus and the WTFast GPN—all with subscriptions included for the lifetime of the router—which are standouts among competing routers.
While the 2.4 GHz speeds are adequate, the 5 GHz speeds are where the RT-AX88U shines. Furthermore, for gaming in a congested environment, this router outdistances the competition with the highest FPS seen to date, and a very low dropped frame rate when simultaneously streaming videos. Sure, next generation ‘Super router’ performance comes at a price of $346, but given these benchmarks, it can be easily justified.
2. Netgear Nighthawk XR500
Last year's top model, at falling prices
Speed: AC2600 | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 4 | Processor: Dual-core 1.7GHz | Dimensions: 12.7 x 9.6 x 2.2 in (321.9 x 243.7 x 55.0 mm) | Weight: 1.77 lb (801 g)
The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 is a great gaming router for most users. It features AC2600 speeds (N800/AC1733), a dual core 1.7 GHz processor, dual USB 3.0 ports, Beamforming and MU-MIMO. It also uses Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS), which adds fifteen additional unlicensed channels on the 5 GHz frequency to minimize interference. The only real deficiency hardware-wise is the router has only four Gigabit LAN ports while some competing products have eight.
The Netduma OS in the XR500 offers a number of innovations which help make this router our top pick, including Geo-filtering—which allows a radius to be set (typically <3000 km), after which the router will preferentially connect to the closest gaming server—as well as Bandwidth Allocation that allows for granular control of prioritization of gaming devices. Finally, there is robust QoS for prioritization of gaming traffic.
The performance increase of the Netduma OS really shines through in our 2.4 GHz tests which put the XR500 well above the competition. Although the 5 GHz speeds weren't nearly as impressive, the XR500 is still a top pick because it performs so well right out of the box and is truly optimized for gaming.
3. ASUS RT-AC68U
Custom firmware for power users on a budget
Speed: AC1900 | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 3 | Processor: Dual-core 1GHz | Dimensions: 6.3 x 3.3 x 8.6 in (160 x 84 x 218 mm) | Weight: 1.4 lbs (635 g)
The Asus RT-AC68U features AC1900 speeds (N600/AC1300) that are fairly standard in this segment. It takes a fairly business approach to the router design, with matte black plastic in a vertical design, with three antennas that can be positioned. The router features a 3 x 3 antenna design and a dual core 1GHz processor inside, with 256 MB of RAM with 128 MB of flash memory. With wide support for custom firmware such as Merlin, Tomato, DD-WRT and OpenWrt, functionality on the RT-AC68U can be exponentially upgraded with a simple firmware flash.
While several others have struggled on the 2.4 GHz frequency, the RT-AC68U hardly breaks a sweat. The only real problem for this otherwise capable router is that it got bested on the streaming video tests and falls short in 5 GHz performance. However, priced at $160 with support for just about every custom firmware the RT-AC68U is great for power users on a budget.
4. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
Serious hardware for serious gamers
Speed: AX11000 (Tri-band 2.4 GHz - 1148 Mbps x 1, 5 GHz - 4,804Mbps x 2) | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 8 | Processor: Quad-core 1.8GHz | Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.5 x 2.4 ~ inch (Without Bezel) | Weight: 3.8 lb
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is designed to be the class leading, ‘Best of the best’ gaming router, and looking at the hardware specs, it delivers- big time. Building on the prior routers of this series, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, and adding in 802.11ax technology promise to be the best thing since ‘Peanut butter in my chocolate.’ This router uses a dedicated 2.5GBase -T port for higher wired bandwidth along with four Gigabit LAN ports, although we prefer the eight ports that other Asus routers offer. On the wireless side, it is tri-band with 802.11ax, for over 10 Gigabits of wireless bandwidth, along with DFS bands to avoid interference. Additional gaming centric features include integrated WTFast, VPN Fusion to segregate gaming traffic from VPN for maximum throughput, Dynamic QoS to prioritize gaming traffic, Games Radar to check the ping times to different game servers to minimize latency, and for those that prefer a more colorful surrounding, Aura RGB.
Running the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 through our testing left us seriously impressed. While the 2.4 GHz speeds are decent 170.81 Mbps on the far test, the 5 GHz speeds are exceptional, with the fastest throughput speed of any router so far at 333.54 Mbps. Oh, and we don’t even have an 802.11ax USB Wi-Fi adapter yet, so this is using 802.11ac gear on the client side. All the promises of this latest Wi-Fi 6 standard also get the job done as we had the highest ever seen FPS of 38.583 on our network congestion testing, along with the lowest latency to date on our PingPlotter test. Yes, this router is really that good.
5. TP-Link Archer C5400X
The easiest gaming router to set up and manage
Speed: AC5400 | LAN Ports: 8 | Antennas: 8 | Processor: quad-core 1.8GHz | Dimensions: 11.34 x 11.34 x 7.24 in (241 x 241 x 55 mm) | Weight: 3 lb (1160 g)
TP-Link’s latest entry into the high-end gaming router space is a significant improvement over previous models, and now ranks among the best gaming routers of 2019 - especially when it comes to the 5GHz range, at which it excels. Our review of the TP-Link Archer C5400X awarded it near-top marks. What we love about it is how easy the C5400X is to set-up and use, while still offering the features you’d expect like the ability to easily manage QoS, the inclusion of network security (via Trend Micro), and options to not only blacklist but also whitelist certain devices.
In terms of the throughput speeds, our tests clocked the following for the Archer C5400X: at 2.4GHz it delivers 117Mbps near / 112Mbps far, which is kinda middling, while at 5GHz the TP-Link performs extremely well, clocking 344Mbps near and 347Mbps far. From this perspective, it’s market-leading. What disappoints, if anything, is the lack of specific tech to decrease latency, which you see in competing models of the same price, like the Netgear XR500. In terms of ports and antennae it’s near identical to the superb Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, but doesn’t quite offer the same performance. It is, however, a cheaper alternative and a highly-recommended gaming router that’s pleasingly easy to set-up and manage.
6. Linksys WRT32X
A great mid-range gaming router
Speed: AC3200 | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 4 | Processor: Dual-core 1.8GHz | Dimensions: 9.68 x 7.63 x 2.04 in. (245.87 x 193.80 x 51.82 mm) | Weight: 1.76 lbs (798.32 g)
Take the already capable Linksys WRT3200M router, let Killer Networking redo the software including the KPE (Killer Prioritization Engine), and we get the Linksys WRT32X. This router takes prioritization of gaming to the next level, but the catch is that it really shines when the client is a Killer NIC, which are only integrated into motherboards or notebooks. With a Killer client, we can stream four simultaneous 4K videos, and still game at over 26 FPS- an impressive feat.
While the 2.4 GHz performance lagged behind some of our other mid-range choices, the WRT32X performed exceptionally well in our 5 GHz testing. At close range the 5 GHz speeds rivaled those of our top picks and even beat several in the far tests. Even without a Killer Networking adapter, the WRT32X performs very well. But if you're rocking a gaming laptop or motherboard with a Killer NIC, purchasing this router should be a no brainer.
7. TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900
The best budget option for gaming routers
Speed: AC1900 | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 3 | Processor: Dual-core 1GHz | Dimensions: 8.7 x 3.4 x 6.6 in (221 x 86 x 168.5 mm)
The design of the TP-Link Archer C9 can be described as ‘quirky.’ The exterior is a glossy white, and rather than the typical horizontal design, the Archer C9 heads in the other direction with a space saving vertical design, complete with a metal kickstand. Despite the price, this is no barebones model, as it has two USB ports, supports Beamforming, has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and has parental controls.
Going beyond the looks, the speeds are impressive across the board, dominating other budget routers, and seriously outperforming its price point, with throughput speeds that bested many other routers on the board, such as its 5 GHz speeds that we clocked at 311.1 Mbps on the close test, clearly punching above its weight. The downside of this router is on the network congestion test we measured FPS at 16.55, a slower score, and indicating room for improvement in the QoS.
The Archer C9 has a street price of $89 on Amazon making this router a solid choice for the budget crowd.
How we test gaming routers
All the routers in this guide were tested first hand using a variety of high bandwidth applications, including gaming, 4K video, file transfers, and general web surfing. The latest version of the router’s firmware was flashed onto the router at the onset of testing. All the client devices used were consistent throughout testing, running the latest drivers and software.
Testing was done for throughput using NetPerf software. A desktop with a Gigabit Ethernet port (10/100/1000) is used to send the data via a wired connection to the router via a CAT 5e cable.
Three test runs were done on each wireless adapter at each of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, at both the close and far distances, with the highest throughput of each parameter reported. The client used is the Trendnet TEW-809UB, our choice for the Best high-end USB Wi-Fi Adapter. The throughput is tested both at a “close” 8’ (2.4m) distance with direct line of sight, and also at a “far” 30’ (9.1m) distance with an obstructing floor and wall in the way, as well as some metal ductwork intervening. The “close” test indicates the peak throughput of the hardware, while the “far” test is a more realistic test of what the end user will experience when separated from the router by a wall or floor.
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