While they may get less attention than top gaming rigs with their premium parts, the best gaming routers are an essential ingredient when it comes to creating an optimal experience for play. The simple move is to connect your PC to the network via a wired connection, which is always going to be more direct, faster, more secure, and subject to less interference compared to any wireless solution. However, this is too often more easily said than done, and plenty of users end up connecting to their network via a wireless router or a mesh router kit.
Most of the best gaming routers are quite expensive but routers are—in essence—a computer, complete with a CPU, RAM, storage, and their own OS. Routers continue to evolve, adding features like Beamforming to direct the Wi-Fi to the client, and USB ports for connected network storage. The latest new feature has been Wi-Fi 6 that holds the promise of not only increasing the overall throughput, but also to increase the efficiency of transferring data throughout the network.
While some may argue that any router can be used for gaming purposes, there is truly a difference compared to a more basic router, but it won’t be found in the colorful red stripes, or flashy, dancing LEDs adorning the antennas. Rather, the true purpose of the best gaming routers is to give prioritization to gaming traffic, which means to ensure the uninterrupted flow of gaming data across the network, even when fully loaded down with other network traffic, such as 4K video streaming. So, the choice of router is critically important to the overall gaming experience, and don’t hesitate to upgrade as newer routers can handle the demands of today’s better than older gear.
Best gaming router 2019
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 XR700
The latest Nighthawk is a superb gaming router
Speed: AD7200 (Tri-band 4600(AD) + 1733(5GHz)+ 800(2.4GHz) Mbps wireless speed) | LAN Ports: 7 | Antennas: 4 | Processor: Quad-core 1.7GHz | Dimensions: 15.33 x 12.49 x 5.32 inch
The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700 is a strong follow up to the XR500, which impressed us last year as it was the fastest router we had tested to date. Both are part of their ‘Nighthawk Pro Gaming’ networking line of products- but stay tuned as the XR700 is even faster than its predecessor.
The XR700 has plenty of the right ingredients, starting with the more fluid and organic shape, with red accents. It then goes on to the inclusion of 1 WAN and 6 LAN ports (addressing a significant shortcoming of the XR500’s only 4 LAN ports) for enough wired connections, support for link aggregation, and even a 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port for ridiculous Ethernet bandwidth. Let’s just get it out of the way- with all the attention on the wireless market heading to 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6, this XR700 uses a combination of last generation 802.11ac/Wi-Fi 5 wireless, and 802.11ad technology (that’s the 60 GHz frequency one), which unfortunately has not gone mainstream. It also supports Beamforming via 4 active antennas.
Another highlight of the XR700 is the gaming-centric Duma OS. This enables some unique features such as Geo-Filter to connect to the closest server when gaming. The XR700 also has quite granular control of the bandwidth, and can prioritize throughput by each individual device, for both the upload and download separately, and can assign a specific percentage for each device to balance the load, thereby preventing any single device from becoming a ‘Bandwidth hog.’
On our test suite, the XR700 is a strong all around performer, starting with the 2.4 GHz frequency with some of the fastest scores to date of 284.43 Mbps at close range, and 225.36 Mbps on our far test. This continued on our 5 GHz testing with strong scores of 325.31 Mbps and 331.76 Mbps at close and far ranges, respectively. The DumaOS’ exceptional QoS also came through when gaming with our network congestion test with 37.317 FPS, the second highest score to date, but also with an exceedingly low dropped framerate of 6.47% on the video streams.
The Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700 is a great choice for its well rounded throughput (a significant upgrade from the XR500’s weakness), and seriously strong gaming performance. It is currently available for $490.
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. Netgear Nighthawk AX4 4-Stream Wi-Fi 6 Router
Wi-Fi 6 on a budget router
Speed: AX3000 (Dual-band 2400(5GHz)+ 600(2.4GHz) Mbps wireless speed) | LAN Ports: 4 | Antennas: 2 | Processor: Dual-core | Dimensions: 14.17 x 8.46 x 2.36 in (360 x 215 x 60 mm) | Weight: 1.36 lb (618 g) | Connections: One USB 3.0 port
Wi-Fi 6 is spreading across product line ups this year, and the Nighthawk AX4 is an excellent example of what this spec, that holds the promise of faster throughput to more devices, can accomplish- even on a more budget router.
The Nighthawk AX4 does not have the flashy colored stripes and LED’s of the higher end gear. Rather it has a horizontal orientation, with two external antennas, 4 Gigabit LAN ports, a single USB port, and a row of green indicator LED’s. If your impression is that this is fairly generic, and kind of a ‘Plain Jane’ router, than that would be totally correct.
The specs continue the budget theme, as it is limited to dual bands, a dual core processor, along with 512 MB of RAM, and 256 MB of flash memory. The interface is via the Nighthawk app, although it can also be used via a web interface, but this is also more generic, as you won’t find the DumaOS here, but the more familiar Netgear one. There is also the option for QoS (which is a simple toggle on or off) for gaming, but there is no granular control to better balance gaming needs, and video streaming across multiple connected devices to better optimize the experience.
In testing, the AX4 achieved some great performance numbers when it came to throughput- like the fastest we have seen to date- with a close testing speed of 343.69 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz frequency, and 345.16 Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency. It was also no slouch on the far testing with 222.32 Mbps on 2.4 GHz, and 308.75 Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency showing the value of the Wi-Fi 6 spec. When it came to the network congestion test, the gaming FPS are solid at 23.85 FPS, although the video streams showed a high 46.4% dropped frame rate leaving us wanting for more granular control to optimize the video experience better, but this router leaves us wanting on this particular feature. Still, for those that want the throughput that Wi-Fi 6 offers, at a more affordable price than most, then the Netgear AX4 is an attractive offering at $199.
7. 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.
8. 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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