When you're completing your gaming set-up, the last thing you probably consider is having the best gaming router. After all, how different can a router be from one to the next? And is it really worth spending money on a new one? Our pick for the absolute best gaming router - the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 - is nearly $400 from the likes of Amazon, so what kind of difference does that make? What are you really getting for your money?
The main things to look out for in the best gaming routers is QoS, which is Quality of Service. A good router will allow you to control your internet bandwidth to prioritize certain activities and devices, like gaming. So, if you live in a shared household, you'll be able to keep a stable connection while you're playing Black Ops 4, even if your housemates or family start streaming HD movies or downloading stuff on their laptops. What's more, most allow you to prioritize different types of usage, giving you even more control over who gets what bandwidth.
Many gaming routers will also have things that help enhance your connection, keep it secure, and give you complete control over devices that can access your broadband. They have strong, reliable wireless connections, and plenty of ports for wired devices. On top of that... well, they look cool too. What follows is a list of the best options, for any budget and need. Expect many of these routers to go on sale during the Black Friday game deals later this month, and there will inevitably be some in our Black Friday PC deals guide.
1. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
The best gaming router you can buy
Speed: AC5300 | Processor: Quad-core 1.8Ghz | Features: Network ping tracking, WTFast utilization, suite of gaming-focused enhancements
For those seeking the Cadillac of gaming routers who have no qualms about dropping some serious cash (and making serious space), the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is a pricey, yet powerful option that looks absolutely ridiculous. With 8 antennas, a quad-core processor, USB 3.0 ports, and 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connectivity, it's the luxury choice for the discerning gamer. This router will offer some unbelievable lag-free speeds, with an extensive selection of gamer-centric features, such as network ping tracking, a meaty interface, and excellent hardware that offers a veritable treasure trove of customization options. At nearly $400, it's a splurge, but it's also a massive beast of a router that delivers on all its promises.
2. TP-Link Archer C5400X
The best gaming router for ease of use and control
Speed: AC5400 | Processor: Quad-core 1.8Ghz | Features: Intelligent Traffic Prioritization, Trend Micro Homecare, MIMO and Airtime Fairness
The TP Link Archer c5400X is a gaming version of the recent c5400, and it's a damn good gaming router. While it doesn't quite match the ASUS Rapture, because it doesn't have any in-built tech to actually enhance your gaming connection, the TP Link wins out on ease of use. You can control everything via a simple menu, and it's packed with features to help you tweak your set-up, including those all-important QoS options. In terms of wireless performance, the C5400X manages very impressive speeds over the 5GHz range - some of the best available today - but is merely above average when it comes to 2.4GHz. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you operate most of your devices further away from the router, you should consider one that performs better at 2.4GHz, especially considering the cost of this one. If you're serious about gaming, though, you should be fine (and delighted) with the 5GHz speeds you get. Overall, this is a great piece of kit, and only misses out on the top spot by a whisker.
3. Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500
A sophisticated pick for lower budgets
Speed: AC2600 | Processor: Dual-core 1.7GHz | Features: Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS), Netduma OS software, excellent optimization
Let's face it: Most users won't be in need of the Rolls-Royce of gaming routers. But many will be in the market for the next best thing. That is, by far, the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router. It's sleek, with an understated appearance that requires much less space than the aforementioned ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, but it still packs most of the punch. One of its most alluring features is its Netduma OS software, which allows for a long list of settings to optimize that comes perfectly tuned out of the box, with options to allow you to connect to the quickest and closest servers, and Dynamic Frequency Selection to help you cut down on any noise or potential interruptions. This pick is excellent in its own right, and certainly capable of keeping you afloat in any game.
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4. Asus RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 Dual Band
Lightning-fast wireless in a deluxe package
Speed: 2167Mbps/1000Mbps | Processor: Dual-core 1.4GHz | Features: NitroQAM, MU-MIMO, Gamers Private Network access
Sometimes, you need the best speeds money can buy. If that's what you're most concerned with, then Asus's premiere RT-AC88U router can absolutely deliver. With four antennas and a dual-core 1.4GHz processor, it can hang with the big boys in terms of performance, but where it truly shines is its lightning-fast wireless speeds, the highest out of any of the other routers on this list. If you choose, you can purchase a NitroQAM adapter to push it even further to its limits. Otherwise, this router with four antennas, a wide selection of management features, and advanced settings that allow you to painlessly install just about any form of custom firmware imaginable is an absolutely fantastic choice. It's hardly the best option for anyone on a budget, but its utilitarian design and nature should rein in buyers looking for less flash and more performance.
5. Linksys WRT32X
'Killer' performance at a great price
Speed: AC3200 | Processor: Dual-core 1.8GHz | Features: Killer Prioritization Engine, MU-MIMO, detachable antennas
Linksys is a familiar name in the router ecosystem, but don't let its pedestrian reputation fool you – this is a formidable contender in the realm of gaming routers. This particular model's Killer Prioritization Engine (for use with PCs with Killer networking cards) is a winner for sure, as it helps prioritize your own network traffic to and from the internet. Beyond that, this dual-band router is a small package with four gigabit LAN ports and four detachable antennas. The menu interface leaves a little to be desired, but that's hardly an issue when it's rocking a powerful 1.8Ghz processor, beam forming, and MU-MIMO. It's also one of the more affordable routers on this list, which makes it perfect for the hardcore gamer on a budget.
6. D-Link DIR-879 EXO
A great budget choice
Speed: AC1900 | Processor: Dual-core 1GHz | Features: Glossy orange exterior, four antennas, budget price
Still subscribed to the notion that gaming routers have to cost you an arm and a leg? You'll change your mind quickly when it comes to D-Link's budget DIR-879 EXO, which looks and feels like one of its premiere brethren. It certainly plays the part the best it can for its extremely low price tag, offering serviceable performance and fantastic 5GHz range. While there are no USB ports and you won't get the most formidable speeds out of this particular model, you've got to hand it to D-Link: this router is more than capable of putting you on the map if you're thinking of testing the online gaming and streaming waters. It's a great way to dip your toes into the water without breaking the bank, and if you're no power user, could even potentially work as a reliable router for months to come.
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