Remote work and home offices are becoming common fixtures in our careers, with either permanent work-from-home options available or hybrid flextime models. What was once a rapid response to a global pandemic may lead to permanent, long-term changes in how we work and what we will expect our employers to offer in the future.

According to a Salesforce survey on the future of work, 64% of employees still want to spend some time in a traditional workplace environment, and 74% of Generation Z — soon to become the majority of the labor pool — is interested in hybrid work practices, splitting time between home and the office. However, such a change in the foundation of our workday will create a tradeoff: some of the resource requirements will move from employer to employee.

If you want to take advantage of the quality of service that any potential future hybrid work offers, companies may require you to show you have the equipment at home to work. While a microphone for remote meetings and a space to work on your laptop are necessary, hybrid and fully remote roles also demand one critical component: connectivity.

You might already have internet connectivity and a wireless router good enough to support mobile devices, smart home products, and content streaming services like Netflix. But you may also need to add work-related systems, Wi-Fi extenders, and software to the mix to make a high-end network with minimal dead spots. If this sounds like what you are looking for, then think about getting a new router or modem to keep up with the square footage of your home.

The more connections there are, the greater the risk of bottlenecks and connectivity drops. Basic routers supplied by your ISP and older models may not be enough now that you spend more time at home and connect even more devices. So without a quality Wi-Fi router, your work productivity and performance can be impacted.

Some of you may only need a Wi-Fi router able to generate a strong signal in one or two areas of your home to prevent dead zones. Others may opt for mesh Wi-Fi, which while often a more expensive option, can improve coverage over larger areas and extend connectivity to home offices located away from your actual home.

ZDNet has listed our top picks for Wi-Fi routers suitable for different budgets and needs. Here are a few of the best Wi-Fi routers and best wireless routers on the market today:

Google Nest Wi-Fi

Best Wi-Fi router

Pros & Cons

pros

  • Blanket coverage for small and medium-sized homes
  • Scalable with additional routers
  • Bluetooth and voice compatibility

cons

  • Cost can become pricey for larger properties
  • Some users report setup problems
More Details

Features:

  • Coverage of up to 2,200 sq ft
  • Network Assist selects best channels for devices
  • Manages up to 200 connections

One of the most suitable devices on the market for Google ecosystem users is Google Nest Wi-Fi. This router option aims to keep things easy to set up with “Network Assist,” a system that works in the background to automatically select the best channels for your connected devices.

The Wi-Fi router offers coverage of up to 2,200 sq ft. As a mesh Wi-Fi device, however, the more access points you add to the router system, the better the blanket coverage on your home network. You can select a single pack that comes with one router and one additional Wi-Fi access point, or Google also offers a two-pack option, with an estimated coverage area of up to 4,400 sq ft.

Google Nest Wi-Fi is capable of managing roughly 200 connections per access point and also two Gigabit Ethernet ports are included with each router. Each point has an integrated smart speaker with Google Assistant.

 

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

Best Wi-Fi router for gamers

Pros & Cons

pros

  • Automatic boosts for 2.4Ghz and 5.0GHz connections
  • Up to 11,000 Mbps transfer rates
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard

cons

  • Expensive
  • The design won’t appeal to everyone
More Details

If Google’s Nest Wi-Fi router does not provide enough streaming power for you — whether for gaming or online work systems that require quick and stable connectivity — the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 could be your solution. It is a tri-band router for heavy use, which is optimal for gamers who require high levels of bandwidth.

The Asus ROG Rapture AX11000 is a 10-gigabit, Wi-Fi 6 router. It comes with a 1.8Ghz quad-core processor, 2.5G gaming port, port forwarding, 256MB NAND flash, 1GB RAM, and a range of up to 2,500 sq ft. It is possible to select an option to prioritize gaming traffic, which may be a useful feature for those employed in the gaming or review sector.

Asus has also implemented dynamic frequency selection (DFS) to automatically select the least-congested 5GHz bands for streaming. A VPN and support for ASUS AiMesh are included for expanded home coverage.

 

Synology RT2600ac

Best VPN Wi-Fi router

Pros & Cons

pros

  • VPN option — VPN plus — acts as a VPN server or client
  • Upgradeable with mesh options
  • Up to 3,000 sq ft coverage

cons

  • Mesh upgrades for larger homes can be expensive
More Details

If your employer requires a Virtual Private Network (VPN) while you work remotely, the Synology RT2600 Wi-Fi router may be a suitable option. A VPN makes internet connections more secure by encrypting communication between browser sessions and servers — and can also be used to mask your original IP address. So if workers are asked to connect to corporate resources, a VPN can keep access secure.

To take the guesswork out, the Synology RT2600 is a dual-band, MU-MIMO router already equipped with a VPN option, VPN Plus, to act as a VPN server or client. Support is also available for Synology SSL VPN, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec. To facilitate the use of VPN servers and clients, the router is powered by a 1.7Ghz dual-core processor, as well as 4×4 802.11ac wave 2 radios.

The router is capable of speeds of up to 2.53Gbps. In addition, this product has a useful feature for streaming. It has the option to connect SD cards or USB 3.0 attached storage to stream content to TVs and other devices.

 

Netgear Orbi

Best mesh long range Wi-Fi router

Pros & Cons

pros

  • An excellent option for home setups
  • Scalable
  • Modern, clean design

cons

  • Add-on satellites are expensive
  • Netgear Armor is subscription service
More Details

Mesh home Wi-Fi networks are increasing in popularity as we adopt smart, connected devices and streaming services in our homes. Mesh topologies can increase the stability and interconnections between IoT devices by working with “nodes” placed around the home, reducing blind spots and buffering issues.

While mesh Wi-Fi devices do not always offer the same advanced settings or features as some traditional routers, mesh devices can suit those who have a home office in an area with a weak Wi-Fi signal, for example, or who are competing for streaming capacity.

The Orbi’s strength is its coverage: up to 5,000 sq ft, with support for up to 25 devices. The tri-band, MU-MIMO router offers decent Wi-Fi speeds on the 2.4GHz (400Mbps) + 5GHz (866Mbps) bands. It’s powered by a quad-core ARM processor and comes with 512MB RAM on Wi-Fi 6. The included Ethernet port provides 1GB connectivity.

The Netgear Orbi can be picked up with standard specifications or you can upgrade to the premium “Ultra Performance” range, which extends coverage and the number of devices connected via satellite bolt-ons; each of which expands coverage by up to 2,500 sq ft.

Netgear Orbi should be considered when more than one person is fighting for broadband resources, such as when multiple occupants are working from home or children need stable connections for learning.

Parental controls and the option to adopt Netgear Armor are included.

 

TP-Link Archer AX6000

Best Wi-Fi 6 Router

Pros & Cons

pros

  • 8 Ethernet ports, 1 WAN port
  • Works with Amazon Alexa
  • Simple user interface

cons

  • Bulky design
More Details

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is a high-performance router that shines as a Wi-Fi 6 model. Picking up a Wi-Fi 6 device now is an investment for future-proofing your home connectivity, as this standard provides the capacity for devices to send more data during transmissions, increasing speed.

For those working from home for the foreseeable future, the TP-Link Archer AX6000 is a worthwhile option. The dual-band device supports 2.4GHz/5.0GHz frequency and is equipped with 128MB flash memory, 1GB RAM, and a 1.8GHz CPU. In speed tests conducted by CNET, it was top of the class, coming in at an average wireless network download speed of 1,523 Mbps at 5ft, with a strong performance recorded even at distances of up to 75ft.

WPA2 encryption, Ethernet connectivity, and parental controls are also included.

What is the best Wi-Fi router?

Based on our analysis, the Google Nest Wi-Fi is the best Wi-Fi router. This table shows how each of the best Wi-Fi routers compare based on pricing, range, and Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

Best Wi-Fi routers Price Range Wi-Fi6 capable?
Google Nest Wi-Fi $99 (for one unit) Up to 2,200 sq. ft. per unit No
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 $329 2,500 sq. ft. Yes
Synology RT2600ac $180 3,000 sq. ft. No
Netgear Orbi $143 5,000 sq. ft. Yes
TP-Link Archer AX6000 $267 2,500 sq. ft. Yes

Which is the right Wi-Fi router for you?

When you decide to either upgrade your existing router setup or replace the bog-standard device your ISP gave you — which are often poor and don’t allow consumers to enjoy the full potential of the speed they are paying for — you first need to decide what your connection priorities are.

If you’re at home with multiple occupants and many devices, a mesh network is probably the best way to go, especially if you are on a large property. However, if it is more important to you to have speed and reliability over coverage potential, then a traditional router might be the best option.

Choose this best Wi-Fi router If you want or are…
Google Nest Wi-Fi Best overall
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Best for gaming
Synology RT2600ac Best VPN router
Netgear Orbi Best long-range mesh
TP-Link Archer AX6000 Best Wi-Fi 6 router

How did we choose these Wi-Fi routers?

ZDNet examined popular and new options on the market, selecting products with budgets and intended use in mind. With hybrid and remote working practices now becoming a permanent feature of day-to-day activities for many of us, dedicated and solid routers are now a necessity for both business use and home life.

We also chose to include both traditional and mesh products. Despite the recent changes in work environments, we can’t forget that family and friends also need stable connections for entertainment, education, and gaming.

What is the difference between a traditional router and mesh Wi-Fi?

Traditional Wi-Fi routers provide a single access point for your broadband/fiber connections. However, if there are too many connections made at the same time, this can cause bottlenecks and may impact the reliability of a connection.

It is often the case that standard routers offer improved power and speed when the number of connections is manageable in comparison to mesh, but mesh offers extended, blanket coverage and more access points. As a result, wired and traditional routers are often better for gaming and streaming, whereas mesh is a solid option when you have multiple people and connections in a home.

Is it worth upgrading from Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)?

Yes, if you are willing to front the expense for a better connection. With our world now dominated by smartphones, IoT devices, and streaming services, an upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 gives you access to more streams and potentially faster services.

What is the best Wi-Fi router for gaming?

Our pick for the best Wi-Fi router for gaming is the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000. It provides 10-gigabit Wi-Fi 6 speeds as well as tri-band Wi-Fi to give you the option of a dedicated gaming band.

With a range of up to 2,500 square feet, this gaming router provides enough coverage to let you game throughout your entire home.

Where should I place my Wi-Fi router?

To get the best range and coverage from your Wi-Fi router, you’ll want to choose a somewhat central location in your home. Along with ensuring better coverage, a central location reduces the number of walls and obstacles it has to send the Wi-Fi signal through.

You’ll also want to avoid placing it next to other electronics, as their signals can interfere with one another; so avoid putting your router in the kitchen or your home theater.

Are there alternative Wi-Fi routers worth considering?

There are lots of options out there if you’re shopping for a new Wi-Fi router. Here’s a short list of alternative choices that we think were great:

TP-Link AX1800

$69.99 at Amazon

Asus RT-AX86U

$261.16 at Amazon
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