The best gaming routers of 2020 – CNET

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If you get shot again and again, if you try your luck at Fortnite, or if you score when you play rocket League, well … maybe you're just not that good at online gaming. On the other hand, if you are plagued persistent delay During these critical split-second decisions that make the difference between winning and losing, it may be because of your internet connection. In this case, you may be tempted to update your WiFi router.

Before buying anything I would recommend reading about it The Beginner's Guide to Game Delays to see if there's anything else you can do to lower your ringtone. In many cases, moving your WiFi router to another location can be critical. But if you've tried it all and are ready to upgrade, you've come to the right place.

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You have many options that promise to improve your gaming experience – but which should you buy? And is it worth it to find great support? the fast new Wi-Fi 6 standard? I wanted to know, so I started testing things out. Here's everything I've found so far, starting with the models that I think you should look at first.

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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

After months of testing, the Asus RT-AC86U is the best router for games that I would recommend first. This dual-band WiFi router with a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor is currently priced at around $ 150 and offers great performance and features for the price. In fact, it was the best overall finisher in our latency tests, and thanks to its dual-core CPU, it achieved the highest speeds in the 5 GHz band of all wireless routers outside of the superfast Wi-Fi 6 models we tested.

It also has an excellent app and web control interface, including a helpful quality-of-service engine and many other ways to optimize your connection, and the design is player-friendly without being over the top. If you want a gaming-oriented upgrade to a WiFi router but want to buy more than you need, look no further – this router is for you.

One final note: Asus launched a new version of this router in 2020 that will support Wi-Fi 6. We don't know much about it yet, but we'll be keeping an eye out for this summer and try it out from the first chance we get.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

OK, so technically it's not a gaming router – it's a Wi-Fi 6-enabled router TP-Link AX6000 is the fastest router we have ever tested. It has also surpassed our latency tests and is as good as gaming-oriented TP-Link routers like the Archer C5400X. In the TP-Link tether app you will also find numerous useful network functions.

It's still early for Wi-Fi 6, but if you want to make your home network future-proof for a new generation of connected devices (for the gaming experience or otherwise), this is the router I want to point out to you. At $ 300, it's definitely not cheap, but it's a lot easier to endure than Wi-Fi 6 gaming routers that cost $ 400 or more.

Chris Monroe / CNET

If you are looking for a router with playful main features and design, but are also interested in multipoint mesh networks, take a look at this Amplifi HD Gamer & # 39; s Edition from Ubiquiti. It wasn't an outstanding result in our laboratory-based top speed tests, but with plug-in range extenders that are as easy to use as possible, it can transmit a stable, fast WiFi signal from room to room.

In addition, the unique, attractive design doesn't take up too much space – and with a touchscreen on the front and LED lights around the base, you want it to actually stand outdoors, it works better. You'll also appreciate the app's user-friendly features, including a dedicated, low-latency mode that helps you optimize your connection and avoid delays on multiple devices.

At $ 380, this is certainly an expensive option, but it is more or less equivalent to other high-end mesh networks with two range extenders (for comparison, the Nest wifi mesh system costs $ 349 for a three-part one Configuration).

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Regularly sell for less than $ 100 that D-Link DIR-867 was the cheapest router I tested for this summary – and it went surprisingly well, showing the fastest average speeds in the 2.4 GHz band in both our lab-based top speed tests and our house-based real speed tests. It also held its own in the faster 5 GHz band and beat several WiFi routers that cost significantly more.

Hard players will likely want more features that focus on their gaming experience and performance, but the DIR-867 includes at least one quality-of-service engine that allows you to prioritize gaming traffic over other types of network traffic can. That's enough for most – especially if you don't want to break the bank for something fancier.

Read our D-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi router review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

It doesn't offer the same top speeds you can get with the Asus GT-AX11000 with Wi-Fi 6, but that didn't stop there Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC2900 Dual band router that has surpassed it in several rounds of testing in my home. In fact, the GT-AC2900 was a leader in terms of average download speed, latency, and range. It offers the same great gaming features as other Asus gaming routers, including a customizable Quality of Service engine and game and platform-specific routing rules for open NAT ports.

At a price of $ 200, you don't pay a painful premium for it – and it even includes RGB lighting effects if that's your thing.

What we tested

Not only did I want to see how today's gaming routers compete against each other, I also wanted to get a feel for how they compare to the standard routers you may want to upgrade from. Since some of these gaming routers use next generation Wi-Fi 6 technology, I have also tested some other Wi-Fi 6 routers.

In total we had 14 routers left. Here is the full list of the cheapest to the most expensive (prices as of January 17th, 2020):

  • TP-Link Archer A9 AC1900: $ 72
  • D-Link DIR-867 AC1750: $ 100
  • D-Link EXO AC2600: $ 129
  • Linksys EA8300 AC2200: $ 140
  • Asus RT-AC86U: $ 160
  • TP-Link Archer C3150: $ 168
  • Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600: $ 170
  • Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC2900: $ 200
  • TP-Link Archer C5400X: $ 240
  • Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500: $ 249
  • TP-Link Archer AX6000: $ 300
  • Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000: $ 343
  • Amplifi HD Gamer & # 39; s Edition: $ 380
  • Netgear Nighthawk AX12: $ 400

We're testing a few more models, including some additional Wi-Fi 6 routers like that TP-Link AX11000 and the Asus RT-AX92U mesh system. We also expect a number of new gaming routers to be launched in 2020. If we have data on these models, I will update this post.

How we tested it

Testing routers is a tricky business. Wi-Fi connections are difficult, with many, many variables and key features that affect your speed. We do our best to consider these variables in our tests, but some factors are beyond our control – and also beyond your router's control.

For example, your home's specific ISP connection is like a speed limit for your router. For example, if you pay for speeds of 50 megabits per second, your router will not transfer data from the cloud faster than this. The average ISP download speed in the U.S. is around 100Mbps, while those who live in areas with access to fiber optic connections can reach speeds of 200, 500 or, if they're really lucky, even 1,000Mbps ,

This raises an obvious question: How do you test the top speed of a router like the TP-Link AX6000, which promises Wi-Fi 6 data transfer rates of up to 5,652 Mbit / s?

netgear-nighthawk-AX12-wi-fi-6-router

Wi-Fi 6 routers such as the TP-Link Archer AX6000, the Asus ROG Rapture AX11000 and the Netgear Nighthawk AX6000 shown here achieved top speeds of well over 1 Gbit / s (1,000 Mbit / s).

Ry Crist / CNET

Top speed tests

Our approach completely bypasses the ISP. Instead of using a modem to retrieve data from the cloud, data is retrieved from a local server over a wired connection. Our local server of choice is a MacBook Pro. We connect it to the router with a CAT 7 ethernet cable to keep interference to a minimum and we use an adapter to connect to the Thunderbolt 3 port on the MacBook as it supports data transfer speeds that ours Purposes are very fast.

From there we take a second laptop and connect to the router's wireless network. Then we clock the speeds as we download the data that the router fetches from the MacBook over this cable connection. We run this test several times on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands of each router and at different distances. In the end, we see exactly how quickly each router can transfer data to a client device such as a phone, laptop, or game console of your choice.

And yes, you will find much faster speeds if you connect this game console directly to the router using an ethernet cable. We also tested these wired speeds and found no noticeable difference between the routers we measured. Each came within a megapit or two of 940 Mbps, which you would expect from a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Ry Crist / CNET

The graph above shows the maximum speeds for each router in both the 2.4 GHz band (blue) and the faster 5 GHz band (red) at distances of 5, 37.5 and 75 feet.

What strikes me from these results: First, it's easy to spot the three Wi-Fi 6 routers we've tested above – they each have top speeds in the 5 GHz band that were much, much faster than all other routers we tested. And understand that we're doing these speed tests on a laptop that supports Wi-Fi 6. Otherwise, these bars would likely be much shorter.

The fastest among them is the TP-Link Archer AX6000, where we measured an average speed of 1,523 Mbit / s in the 5 GHz band at a distance of 5 feet. When we increased the distance to 75 feet, the average speed dropped to 868 Mbps. This is still faster than any of the Wi-Fi 5 routers we tested that we could get up close to.

However, please note that these Wi-Fi 6 routers did not blow the competition in the 2.4 GHz band (again blue). In fact, the router with the fastest average speeds across all distances in the 2.4 GHz band was the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500, which does not support Wi-Fi 6 at all. Immediately behind is the D-Link DIR-867, which is also considered the cheapest router we tested for this summary. This, and the fact that it includes a Quality of Service engine that prioritizes game traffic has made it an easy choice for this area.

This Netgear model was also the fastest Wi-Fi 5 router in the 5 GHz band, which tells us that it is quite a powerful hardware. In the meantime, our top tip, the Asus RT-AC86U, was immediately behind with the second fastest WiFi 5 speed in the 5 GHz band, although the speed slowed somewhat with a medium range. The aforementioned DIR-867 and the Zyxel Armor Z2 also performed well in this speed test.

Realistic speeds

Measuring the maximum speeds in a controlled test environment gives us a clear overview of what these routers are technically capable of, but you will not be able to determine such high speeds in your home. Keep in mind that your router can only retrieve data from the cloud as fast as your ISP allows, and the signal strength from house to house depends on the layout and the number of obstacles in the way.

To take this into account, we conducted a second series of tests. This time I tested every router in my own house, a small shotgun-style house measuring around 1,200 square feet, in which I have an AT&T fiber optic internet speed of up to 300Mbps. I ran my speed tests on a Dell XPS 13 laptop that's a few years old and doesn't support Wi-Fi 6. The goal was to get a good overview of the speed types that most people would bring if they had one of these speeds routers into their homes.

With the Amplifi app you can choose between latency and throughput mode and use useful functions such as signal strength indicators for the plug-in extenders.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

To collect my data, I ran a variety of speed tests in five different locations in my house, from the living room where the router is located to a back bathroom at the other end of the house. During all my tests, I always watched a live TV streaming video from PlayStation Vue (REST IN PEACE) to simulate normal network traffic in the home in a controlled manner (so that my very patient roommate could at least watch TV while politely turning off the WiFi during my tests).

After performing several speed tests at each of these locations, I averaged everything together. ISP speeds can fluctuate throughout the day. To take this into account as much as possible, I would do the whole process again with each router at a later time. Then I would average this data with the first series of tests.

Fourteen routers, five locations in my home, three tests per location, at least two test rounds. Adding the additional tests I ran to check a result or measure the impact of certain features would result in about 1,000 speed tests. And increasing.

Ry Crist / CNET

These average values ​​proved to be meaningful. The top finisher in the 5 GHz band turned out to be the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500, which averaged more than 250 Mbit / s in all my speed tests, also in tests on the back of my house, where the signal strength is usually poor , The Amplifi HD Gamer & # 39; s Edition, which uses plug-in mesh extenders for signal transmission throughout the house, was number two – it was one of the worst performances when we measured the top speeds, unless you have a lightning fast internet connection of 500 Mbit / s or faster you will not notice it at all.

In the meantime, it was the reasonably priced D-Link DIR-867 that once again came out on top in the 2.4 GHz band. With an average speed of 85.9Mbps across my company, it was the top finisher, but I would find that the speeds in range have dropped significantly. In this bathroom that I mentioned, the average download speed was 32.3 Mbps, which is about 62% slower than the overall average, and a bigger drop than any other router I've tested. This tells me that the DIR-867 works best in small houses like mine – anything that's bigger and you want something with a better range.

The Asus RT-AC86U offers an elegant design and many helpful functions for games, including a Quality of Service engine. However, you need to log in to the web interface to optimize the QoS engine.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

On this front, our top choice, the Asus RT-AC86U recorded the least drop from the 5 GHz overall average to the average value in the rear bathroom. Overall, there was an average speed of 187.3 Mbit / s in the entire house, which only dropped to an average of 144.1 Mbit / s at the other end of the house. The walls and furniture in about four rooms separated my laptop from the router (in comparison, the average speed of the Nighthawk XR500 dropped from 310 Mbit / s near the router to 72 Mbit / s in the background). The RT-AC86U was similarly strong in the 2.4 GHz band.

Despite the complete lack of Wi-Fi 6 client devices in my home, the Wi-Fi 6-equipped TP-Link Archer AX6000 was another outstanding test with strong average speeds in both the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands and an excellent range from room to room. The drop in speed was lowest in this rear bathroom in the 2.4 GHz band, and it was also a top five finisher in the 5 GHz band.

I can't say the same for the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 or the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000. Despite the high top speeds in our first round of testing in the laboratory, none of these Wi-Fi 6 routers performed good tests in my home. In fact, they were the two worst performers in terms of average overall download speed in the 5 GHz band. Both currently cost around $ 400 – for my money, the TP-Link Archer AX6000, which you can currently purchase for $ 269, is a much better upgrade option for anyone willing to use Wi-Fi 6 too kick off. And if you just want Thanks to the game-centered features of the Asus ROG series, you have other options that cost less, like the GT-AC2900.

Ry Crist / CNET

latency

One last point – my flood of speed tests at home allowed me to examine latency too. As mentioned earlier, your router can only do so much to reduce the delay, especially if you connect to an overloaded server that is thousands of miles away. Still, a good gaming router should help minimize the occasional latency spikes that can be a real killer if they hit your network at a critical moment in an online match.

Asus-Rog-GT-App-Shots 5482-4e84-8de3-da8197c763bc / asus-rog-gt-app-shots.jpg

With Asus ROG rapture routers like the GT-AC2900, you can easily set Open NAT port forwarding settings for each game. This makes it easier to celebrate with your friends.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

With that in mind, I made sure that each of my dozens of speed tests for each router ran on the same server that was a few hundred miles away, and logged the ping on that server each time. In most cases this ping arrived at around 15 ms, but I also saw many peaks that were much higher.

The worst culprit was the Linksys EA8300, which had average latencies of 37.5 ms in the 2.4 GHz band and 35.4 ms in the 5 GHz band – the last fatalities on both fronts. The TP-Link Archer A9 AC1900 also fought in the 2.4 GHz band with an average latency of 34.8, but was able to improve somewhat in the 5 GHz band with an average ping of just under 20 ms.

The best of the bunch? This is our top choice, the Asus RT-AC86U, which delivers an average of 13.1 ms in the 2.4 GHz band and 12.9 ms in the 5 GHz band. In both cases, that was good enough for first place. The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC2900 and our budget pick, the D-Link DIR-867, were the only other routers that ended up in the top 5 of both bands.

One last point about latency. For example, most of these and similar gaming routers route your gaming traffic to the nearest server or prevent you from entering public spaces with particularly weak competitors. Features like this can help avoid common latency issues, but they don't do much on their own to improve your latency across the board.

The Asus RT-AX92U is a two-part mesh system that uses Wi-Fi 6 for a faster connection between the nodes. This could mean better and faster WiFi coverage throughout your home.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

What to look out for

The TP-Link AX11000 has the same design as the older generation C5400X, but promises top speeds that are much, much faster.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

As already mentioned, we are still testing a few models, including the TP-Link AX11000 and the Asus RT-AX92U. The latter is a two-part Wi-Fi 6-mesh system that uses the next generation functions for faster data transfer between the two new nodes. This can lead to higher speeds throughout your home, even if you are not yet using Wi-Fi 6 devices.

The AX11000 has the same embroidery pattern as the TP-Link C5400X, but promises top speeds that are much faster. The C5400X did well in our latency tests, so an improved model that complements the Wi-Fi 6's fast settings and top speeds should be pretty interesting.

We will continue to test all of this together with affordable routers, mesh routers and other next-generation high-end routers. Expect regular updates for this post as we test new hardware that may be suitable for gamers, and let us know in the comments if there are specific models or features that we should investigate.