The 5 best gaming routers of 2021

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Collage of gaming routers, including Netgear, D-Link, and TP-link on blue background 4x3
  • Having a solid wireless router is one of the most important aspects of online gaming.
  • Some of the best gaming routers offer support for the latest version of Wi-Fi, multiple bands, and more.
  • Embracing these new technologies can give you the edge in just about any online game.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Most people are content to use the routers provided by their internet service providers. Those devices rarely support the most advanced networking technologies, such as tri-band mesh and more powerful processing, however, and some can barely keep up with everyday activities such as streaming video. Anyone looking to improve their online gaming experience should probably start by replacing that ISP-provided equipment with their own gaming router.

But it can be hard to figure out what router to buy. Does it have to support the latest version of Wi-Fi? What is the most recent version of Wi-Fi, anyway? How important is the number of Ethernet ports, wireless bands, or antennas? It’s no wonder so many people end up using whatever router their ISP provides when answering all these questions can be so overwhelming.

Preference also comes into play. Someone who wants to be on the leading edge of wireless networking has very different needs from someone who just wants to have a better time gaming online without breaking the bank in the process. There is some good news, though, and it’s that there are many routers capable of serving a wide variety of needs. These are some of the best wireless routers for gaming.

Here are the best gaming routers of 2021

The best gaming router overall

Netgear Nighthawk Pro AX5400 WiFi Gaming Router (XR1000)

The Netgear NightHawk XR1000 offers high speeds, great bandwidth, and a variety of customization tools.

Pros: High data transfer speeds, extensive controls

Cons: Tedious setup, companion apps are slow to load

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 boasts a variety of features—Wi-Fi 6 support, Quality of Service (QoS) controls, and a companion mobile app—that should allow it to appeal to PC, console, and mobile gamers alike. It’s not the most powerful router on the market, but it’s a versatile device that offers an affordable way to improve your network’s performance.

Wi-Fi 6 offers several improvements over previous generations of Wi-Fi, including longer ranges, increased bandwidth, and improved transfer speeds. In my tests, the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 stays close to the maximum 100 Mbps download speed afforded by my network from up to 45 feet away despite multiple obstructions. (It offers better Wi-Fi 5 performance than my existing router, too, which would be worth the upgrade by itself.)

Many of the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000‘s features are enabled via the DumaOS 3.0 software. The QoS controls allow you to prioritize the performance of specific devices on the network, which means you could automatically limit the bandwidth someone else is using to stream Netflix while preserving the quality of your gaming PC’s connection, for example.

Netgear also offers details about connections between the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 and other devices on its network via the Netgear Nighthawk mobile app. Unfortunately that app is more of a necessary evil than a valued companion. I find it slow to load, occasionally unresponsive, and somewhat vexing, but it is also the easiest way to update the router’s firmware. 

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 does have a few shortcomings, however, such as the inclusion of just four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one USB 3.0 port. This should be fine for predominantly wireless setups, but the limited number of wired connections might prove frustrating for some.

Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 (button)
The best budget gaming router

D-Link DIR-867-US

The D-Link DIR-867-US is a step up from ISP-provided routers that doesn’t break the bank.

Pros: Affordable, offers basic quality-of-life features such as MU-MIMO support

Cons: Doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, lacks USB input

The D-Link DIR-867-US is an affordable router said to offer speeds up to 1,750 Mbps when a device is connected to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It also boasts multi-user, multi-input, multi-output (MU-MIMO) support and Quality of Service (QoS) controls. The former provides better transfer speeds when connecting to many devices, and the latter offers controls to prioritize the traffic of some devices over others.

The DIR-867-US‘s wireless connectivity is complemented by four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports that can offer a stable wired connection to compatible devices. The router doesn’t feature any USB ports, however, which means peripherals such as printers and other office equipment will have to rely on Wi-Fi or Ethernet to join the network. That means those four Ethernet ports could fill up faster than you might have expected.

There’s no denying that other routers offer many benefits over the DIR-867-US. It doesn’t support the latest version of Wi-Fi, it’s limited to just two bands, and its wired connectivity is lacking compared to other options. But it still offers better performance than many ISP-provided routers, and its low price makes it more accessible to people who are gaming on a budget.

DIR-867-US (button)
The best gaming router for enthusiasts

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 on a white background

The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 is a next-gen router with support for Wi-Fi 6E, 2.5GbE, and a variety of tools meant to improve in-game performance.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, optional 2.5GbE connectivity, many features

Cons: Expensive, not as many Ethernet ports as some models

The ASUS GT-AXE11000 is the best gaming router for enthusiasts because it includes support for Wi-Fi 6E, which allows the router to offer faster speeds (up to 11,000 Mbps), improved bandwidth, and increased security compared to its predecessors. The router will have to be paired with other devices that support Wi-Fi 6E to provide all these benefits, of course, but anyone looking to experience the future of wireless connectivity should appreciate this offering.

In addition to Wi-Fi 6E, the ASUS GT-AXE11000 includes four Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports for local networking and two options for connecting to the internet. The first option is a 2.5GbE port that’s said to unlock Wi-Fi 6E’s full potential. The second option is to use two GbE WAN ports with WAN Aggregation to achieve a similar result. (Which option is right for a given network mostly depends on the ISP.) There are also two USB 3.0 ports that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

ASUS crammed many quality-of-life features into the GT-AXE11000 as well. It supports Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, offers similar Quality of Service (QoS) features as other routers, and includes parental control settings. ASUS claims the router also offers “triple-level game acceleration,” which gives priority to devices connected via the dedicated gaming port, favors those devices over others on the network using adaptive QoS, and includes a 90-day free trial to the Outfox gaming network that claims to offer the fastest connection to many game servers.

ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 (button)
The best gaming router for wired gaming

TP-Link Archer AX6000

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because of its bevy of Ethernet ports and 2.5GbE WAN connection.

Pros: Offers many Ethernet ports, supports Wi-Fi 6, includes common quality-of-life features

Cons: Somewhat expensive

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because it offers eight GbE (LAN) ports in addition to Wi-Fi 6 connectivity enabled by a 2.5GbE (WAN) port. Having that many Ethernet ports should make it easy to provide a wired connection – which is generally more stable than even the best wireless connection – to almost every gaming device nearby. (To say nothing of improved streaming on set-top boxes, a better Wi-Fi network enabled by multiple wireless access points, and other benefits enabled by setting up a wired connection.)

TP-Link says the Archer AX6000 offers maximum transfer speeds of up to 4,804 Mbps via the 5GHz band and 1,148 Mbps via the 2.4GHz band for a combined total of nearly 6,000 Mbps. Those are under ideal conditions, of course, and you’ll only enjoy those speeds outside your home network if your internet service provider supports them. Performance will also vary based on how many devices are connected to the network, but integrated Quality of Service (QoS) settings should make it easier to prioritize gaming hardware over other devices.

The Archer AX6000‘s other handy features include a mobile companion app called Tether that can be used to set up the router, parental control software, the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant, and built-in security tools. The router also features two USB 3.0 ports (one Type-A port and one Type-C port)that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

All of those features, combined with the multitude of GbE ports and Wi-Fi 6 support, should make the Archer AX6000 a compelling option for people seeking reliable performance who don’t necessarily want to break the bank to buy a router with leading-edge technologies.

Archer AX6000 (button)
The best gaming router for wireless gaming

Linksys Hydra Pro

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it offers Wi-Fi 6E support as well as mesh networking enabled by the company’s Velop technology.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, 5GbE (WAN), mesh networking support

Cons: Expensive, limited wired connectivity

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it complements its support for Wi-Fi 6E with a 5GbE port that should make it easy to take full advantage of the most powerful internet connections. Linksys says it can handle more than 55 connected devices at once with a maximum coverage area of 2,700 square feet and transfer speeds up to 6.6 Gbps. You probably won’t enjoy those speeds at the edge of the router’s coverage area, but Linksys says its Velop Intelligent Mesh technology is “designed to deliver gigabit WiFi speeds to every corner of your home or business,” so even far-flung devices should have fast connections — assuming you’ve built a network of Wi-Fi satellites.

This router’s main downside is its limited wired connections. It only offers four GbE (LAN) ports and a single USB 3.0 Type-A port. That should be enough to connect a few devices  — presumably the PC or console you’re planning to play games on — but it does mean you’ll have to be strategic about which devices will enjoy the full benefits of a wired connection. The same goes for the single USB port; whichever peripheral is connected to that slot better earn its spot. If you aren’t planning to connect very many devices to this router via Ethernet, however, its support for Wi-Fi 6E and mesh networking should more than make up for its lack of ports.

Linksys also offers a companion mobile app to manage the Hydra Pro, and the router’s security features can be used to automatically install firmware updates, manage parental control settings, and establish a guest network. With just four external antennas, the router is also less ostentatious than some of the other members of this list, which could be an added benefit for people who don’t want their networking equipment to detract from their decor.

Another considerable downside of the Linksys Hydra Pro is its price. It doesn’t cost quite as much as the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000, but it’s pretty close, and both routers cost hundreds of dollars more than the rest of the entries on this list. Whether or not Wi-Fi 6E is currently worth the premium over Wi-Fi 6 will likely be a matter of the Wi-Fi 6E-supporting devices you have or plan to connect to the network in the near future. If you want the best wireless performance possible, however, there’s no denying that Wi-Fi 6E is the way to go.

Hydra Pro (button)

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Is Ethernet faster than Wi-Fi? Yes, and a hardwired connection offers other benefits as well

couple unpacking hooking up internet ethernet cable
Though they can be less convenient, Ethernet cables are typically much faster than Wi-Fi.

  • Ethernet is typically faster than a Wi-Fi connection, and it offers other advantages as well. 
  • A hardwired Ethernet cable connection is more secure and stable than Wi-Fi.
  • You can test your computer’s speeds on Wi-Fi versus an Ethernet connection easily.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The advent of Wi-Fi was a great thing. It has granted easier internet access in harder-to-reach areas, made connecting new devices a breeze – and not to mention, reduced the amount of cables on our floors.

However, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent connection possible, you should still stick with an Ethernet cable. It’s less convenient, but boasts all sorts of advantages.

Ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi

If you want a fast connection, you should consider connecting as many of your devices as possible to Ethernet. This is because Ethernet is nearly always faster than a Wi-Fi connection from the same router.

It’s true that radio waves are incredibly fast. But an Ethernet cable lets your devices send and receive data almost instantaneously. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic connection.

This also means that it doesn’t matter how close or far you are from your router. As long as your Ethernet cable reaches, you’ll see little to no loss in speed.

You can compare Wi-Fi and Ethernet speeds by running a quick speed test using both connections. You’ll almost certainly find the Ethernet connection to be faster.

speed tes
According to testmy.net, internet download speed is almost doubled on this device when using an Ethernet cable, at 310.2 Mbps, compared to 164 Mbps without.

Our own quick test showed an Ethernet download speed almost double that of Wi-Fi.

Ethernet is more stable than a Wi-Fi signal

To use an analogy, an Ethernet cable is to Wi-Fi what a landline is to a cell phone. Rather than transmitting the signal wirelessly, an Ethernet cable carries your data via a cable electronically.

ethernet cable connected to laptop internet
Some laptops have an Ethernet port built in, while others – especially Macs – require a special adapter.

In short, this means that the data is less likely to get lost or degrade along the way. You also don’t have to worry about the signal being blocked or slowed down by nearby electronics or barriers.

Unless your Ethernet cable physically breaks, there’s not much that can disrupt it, short of a power outage. 

Ethernet connections are likely more secure than Wi-Fi

Although a clever Wi-Fi network name like “FBI Surveillance Van” might dissuade some neighbors from trying to hack your network, you’re still more secure with an Ethernet connection.

Any Wi-Fi password can be hacked with enough effort, and since Wi-Fi signals pass through the open air, they can be intercepted. But to gain access to an Ethernet connection, you need to have the cable and the router. There’s no way to hack into Ethernet without a physical connection.

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10 ways to troubleshoot and fix any Wi-Fi problems you’re encountering

teen checking wifi internet connection
If your Wi-Fi isn’t working, follow these troubleshooting tips before calling your service provider.

  • When you encounter Wi-Fi problems, you can try troubleshooting your network or devices, check with your internet service provider, and more.
  • Start by eliminating obvious problems and making sure you know whether it’s related to the Wi-Fi network, internet connection, one device or all devices. 
  • Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve Wi-Fi problems.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

It can be hard to imagine or remember the days before Wi-Fi, when you had to run Ethernet cables throughout the house to connect computers to the internet and carry files around on CDs and portable hard drives (affectionately known as “sneakernet”). 

These days, we take Wi-Fi for granted – right up until it stops working and brings our modern connected household to a complete stop. 

How to fix Wi-Fi problems

Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve common Wi-Fi problems. 

Basic check: Is the Wi-Fi router running?

It’s not out of the question for the plug to have been accidentally pulled or the cat to have stepped on the power button. Make sure the Wi-Fi router’s lights are on. 

Is the issue related to one device or all devices?

Fixing computer problems like Wi-Fi connection issues often comes down to the process of elimination. That’s why technical support technicians often start by asking silly and obvious questions like “is the computer plugged in?” Once you know the Wi-Fi is running, check to see if the problem happens on just one device or on all of them. If you can’t connect on your laptop, for example, check your phone to see if you can see Wi-Fi signal strength bars.  

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 1
Can’t connect to Wi-Fi with your computer? Make sure you have a solid connection on your phone – or vice-versa.

Send a ping to Google

One other easy thing you can check for: is the connection problem related to your Wi-Fi network or to your internet service provider’s internet signal? Your Wi-Fi network might be fine, for example, but the ISP’s internet may be out. To find out, run a ping test using a computer. 

1. On your PC, click the Start button search box and type “CMD,” then press Enter. 

2. In the Command Prompt window, type “ping Google.com.”

3. Wait for the result. 

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 2
If you can see a ping from Google, your internet is working and the problem is with your Wi-Fi network.

If you see an error message, you might not have a working internet connection; continue troubleshooting in the next section. If you see a reply from Google, then you have a working internet connection and the problem lies elsewhere. 

You can also log into your account for your internet service provider to check if there’s an outage in your area. With many providers, a banner will appear at the top of your account page notifying you of an outage, or you can search for an outage map on the site.

Troubleshooting no service at all

This is unfortunately one of the more common problems people run into – the internet simply doesn’t work at all. If none of the devices or computers on your Wi-Fi network can connect, reset both the internet router and Wi-Fi (this might be one device or two different ones). Unplug them, wait two minutes, and plug them back in. If your Wi-Fi doesn’t start working again, the problem might be with your internet service provider – call customer service and let them troubleshoot. 

Resolving slow or spotty internet in certain rooms

If your Wi-Fi drops out in certain parts of the house on a regular basis, the problem is almost certainly a “dead zone” caused by a router that can’t reach everywhere. If possible, move the router to a more central location in the house. Alternatively, you can add a Wi-Fi extender to increase the range of your router. 

Troubleshooting slow or spotty internet at certain times of day

If your connection problem isn’t related to where you are in the house but is an intermittent problem at certain times of the day, the issue is likely related to a lack of bandwidth; too many devices are connected to the Wi-Fi network and using too much data. If three people are streaming Netflix on different devices at the same time, for example, there’s your culprit. If possible, connect devices with an Ethernet cable so they aren’t using Wi-Fi, or better yet, take one or more bandwidth hogs offline entirely. 

Is your connection slow because of the Wi-Fi network or the ISP?

If you have a connection that’s noticeably slow, it can also be helpful to figure out if your poor performance is being caused by a slow internet connection provided by your ISP or if the Wi-Fi network in your home is not working properly. You can do this by running an internet speed test. Run the test at speedtest.net in any browser (on a computer or mobile device). If the internet speed seems normal (at least 10Mbps, for example) the issue is related to your Wi-Fi network, not the internet. Read our detailed guide on how to check the strength of your Wi-Fi for more information.

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 3
Run a speed test to make sure your internet is working properly.

How to resolve issues with your router

It can be challenging to know exactly what is causing a problem with your Wi-Fi connection, and the router itself has some settings and configurations that might be “breaking” your Wi-Fi network. If possible, check on and update your router’s firmware. Most modern routers work with a simple mobile app you can use to check on the firmware and install any available updates. This can resolve issues with your connection reliability and speed. In addition, you can probably use the app to change the channels your router is using to broadcast on its various bands. If your connection is slow or intermittent, changing the channels might significantly improve your Wi-Fi service. For more information, read our article on how to boost your internet connection.

What to do if one device has trouble connecting

Make sure the device’s software is up to date. And if your router is a dual-band or tri-band device, try connecting to one of the other Wi-Fi bands. There are any number of reasons why a laptop might connect more easily to one of the 5GHz radios rather than the other, for example. 

What to do if your game console can’t connect to Wi-Fi

Occasionally, consoles like the Xbox and PS4 can run into trouble connecting to Wi-Fi. Consoles can be affected by the same kind of glitches that affect PCs and mobile devices, but they generally only need to go to one internet location, so troubleshooting can be easier. Open a site like Downdetector in a web browser on your computer or a mobile device and use it to see if the Playstation Network or Xbox Live is down. If so, just wait for the site to come back up. Otherwise, reboot both the router and the console and move them closer together, if possible. 

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 5
Downdetector will reveal if the problem with your console’s Wi-Fi connection is actually at the server.

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