Due to the ongoing pandemic, online gaming has seen a huge rise in popularity over the last year. This means that gaming has now become more competitive than ever before. Where victory was once memorialized by listing your initials on an arcade machine, the latest competitive games are earning some gamers a serious living, and rewards are often predicated solely on how well you can compete with others online. But if your router isn’t up to snuff, you might have to deal with the frustrating realization that a game of skill suddenly degrades into a game of competing download speeds.
Choosing the right gaming router can help with that. They can provide you with the most reliable connection possible and even provide you with some in-depth tools to better tune your online experience. Each product on our list is a contender for the best gaming router in 2021, and we’ll help you understand why with our in-depth guide below.
TL;DR - 10 Best Gaming Routers for 2021:
- TP-Link AC5400 Tri Band Gaming Router
- NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700
- Portal Mesh Gaming Ready Wi-Fi Router
- D-Link DIR-882-US Gaming Wi-Fi Router
- Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 MU-MIMO Wireless Router
- ASUS RT-AC86U WiFi Dual-band Gigabit Ethernet Wireless Router
- NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 Wi-Fi Router
- ASUS ROG GT-AC2900 Wi-Fi Gaming Router
- ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
- Linksys (WRT32XB) WRT Gaming Wi-Fi Router
1. TP-Link AC5400 Tri Band Gaming Router
If you're looking for one of the best gaming routers but you're a little nervous about more advanced configurations, the AC5400 by TP-Link is a great option. This gaming router can be easily configured in just a matter of minutes, but the smart design of the user interface clearly labels all of the configuration features to make them easy to understand.
This gaming router performs particularly well, especially when working on a 5GHz band. Four streams are each dedicated to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so homes with fewer devices can feel confident that they're getting the best speeds possible. It comes with a ton of cool smart features, too. Whether your home is set up with Alexa or you use the more in-depth IFTTT interface to automate your devices, it's equipped to handle them both natively.
2. NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700
If you thought the TP-Link AC5400 was expensive, get a load of the Netgear Nighthawk XR700. This pro gaming router is a powerhouse with a slick, low-profile design and an eminently easy installation process. Keep in mind that you'll really need a great modem to make the most of what this router has to offer, promising speeds of up to 7.2 Gbps over its quad-band signals.
Where the Netgear Nighthawk really shines is through the inclusion of some of the best gaming features around. It's designed to easily filter your connection through a gaming VPN to protect your privacy and provides real-time ping rates so you can see exactly which devices are eating up the most traffic from your modem. The Nighthawk will even automatically provide you with geolocation services so you can find the closest server to you and ensure the best speeds possible.
3. Portal Mesh Gaming Ready Wi-Fi Router
Not every gaming router costs a few hundred dollars. The Portal is proof that you can get a capable router for gaming for less than $75. Despite the fact that it only runs on a double band, this gaming router can still achieve fast speeds and reach the farthest corners of even a larger-sized house. That said, the relatively small number of direct ports means that you should probably reserve it for households without a whole lot of devices in play at once.
The interface for controlling your game performance is one of the best around. You don't even need to create an account or log in to get access to your internet settings, and the router portal can be accessed via either a mobile app or through your internet browser. The secure administrative controls are also further bolstered by the inclusion of some solid security features.
4. D-Link DIR-882-US Gaming Wi-Fi Router
The EXO DIR-882 from D-Link does a great job of bridging the gap between the best gaming routers in terms of performance and the best in terms of speed. While it only slightly beats the speeds of the Portal Wi-Fi router without quite matching its maximum range, it does offer native compatibility with any connected 5GHz device and a decent selection of features that will especially appeal to gamers.
Some of the best features here are fully automated. This Wi-Fi router will automatically shift your devices over to the right band depending on their prioritization and needs, making it a great choice for mixed households where multiple people might be streaming movies or gaming at the same time. It can support a generous number of devices at the same time, too. This router also offers an AC Smart Beam connection to help bring dead spots in your house back to life.
5. Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 MU-MIMO Wireless Router
If you want an AC2600 Wi-Fi router, the Zyxel Armor Z2 is one of the cheapest options you'll find for gaming. Its wireless range makes it a good choice for medium-sized houses, although it can't meet the top speeds of some of the top gaming routers on our list. The Easy 123 setup system means you can get your Wi-Fi router up and going in a matter of minutes even if you don't have any experience with router configuration.
While there isn't any hardware specifically catered to the needs of gamers, there are quite a few customization options that can help with gaming. That includes stream boosting optimization and beamforming antenna designs for maximizing both the distance and the speed of your Wi-Fi connection. The customization menu itself is neat and orderly too, so you shouldn't have trouble finding the settings you want to configure.
6. ASUS RT-AC86U WiFi Dual-band Gigabit Ethernet Wireless Router
The RT-AC86U from ASUS won the readers' choice award from PCMag.com in 2017, and it's still one of the best gaming routers on the market three years later. Big houses will really benefit here, because speeds actually get better the further away you go (although connecting directly by ethernet will still be ideal for gaming PCs and consoles). It employs the latest MU-MIMO technology for houses that use a lot of devices and provides adaptive quality of service to ensure that each device gets the bandwidth they deserve.
Setting up the Wi-Fi router can be handled through either your browser or the compatible app, but once you get it up and running, you'll realize that you have a ton of customization options at your disposal. These include both services specifically tailored to gaming and some more general-purpose functions that can assist with business or streaming movies or TV.
7. NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 Wi-Fi Router
When looking at gaming routers, " the best" is sometimes a subjective term. While the Netgear Nighthawk Pro XR700 is one of the best in terms of raw performance, the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 offers many of the same features at a discounted price, and it's arguably the best Wi-Fi router for console gamers thanks to the decent speeds and the wealth of gaming functions featured here.
While many Wi-Fi routers offer the option to customize a PC gaming experience, there are fewer available options for console gamers. Yet the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 gives you the option to maximize your ping stability, tighten up local connections, and minimize the amount of lag you experience. Since pop-up menus on the Netgear Nighthawk make all of the options clear and understandable, even novices should have little difficulty learning how they can get the best gaming experience.
8. ASUS ROG GT-AC2900 Wi-Fi Gaming Router
When you see the ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) name, you can rest easy knowing that you're going to get a product that's meticulously designed with the needs of gamers in mind. The GT-AC2900 sports a triple-level game accelerator for optimal gaming performance, and it can connect with other ASUS AiMesh supported Wi-Fi routers.
As the future of gaming moves towards streaming services like Playstation Now and Microsoft Game Pass, this Wi-Fi router is well-suited for the associated traffic. It's one of the recommended WiFi routers for use with the NVIDIA GeForce Now service. It even comes with lifetime network security so that you don't have to worry about your information being compromised.
9. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
The ROG Rapture sports a design that looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie, and it's underlined by some pretty serious performance. You can dedicate an entire 5GHz band on the ROG Rapture to gaming alone so you can play your favorite online games without the risk of interruption.
The gaming-specific features on the ROG Rapture are on point, too. The Gaming Center interface here is truly impressive - providing you with access to a staggering number of metrics and quality of service options, as well as providing you with the means to track everyone on your ROG Rapture network. It even lets you run a VPN and normal Wi-Fi network simultaneously.
10. Linksys (WRT32XB) WRT Gaming Wi-Fi Router
Few routers are designed specifically with the needs of console gamers in mind, but that's one thing that makes the Linksys WRT32XB such a special router. It's optimized for use with Xbox One, and if you'd rather not spend too much time messing around with the configuration settings, you can count on it to work pretty well with your Microsoft console without even digging into the advanced settings.
This is possible because of the inclusion of the Killer Prioritization Engine. It can recognize Xbox One data going either way over the network and will automatically prioritize it to prevent slowdown when you're playing online. And if you want to dig deeper, you'll find some of the most extensive features available for a console gaming router.
Best Gaming Router Buyer’s Guide
What makes a gaming router different from any other router? In basic terms, not that much. The best routers for gaming exist to help you get the most reliable and fastest wireless connection your modem can handle, but gaming routers often come with their own special features. We’ll cover the more general specs and features you should pay attention to when shopping for a router and then dig deeper into the features that are unique to the best gaming routers.
- On a budget? Check out the best gaming router under $100
- Check out the best WiFi adapters for gaming
- See also the best modem router combo for gaming
If you want to get the best connection possible, we recommend connecting as many of your online gaming devices to gaming routers as possible. You’ll get a more stable and faster connection when connected over ethernet, but it can be hard to find a configuration that gets all your devices in one place. The number of ethernet ports on our list refers to ethernet-out ports (or LAN ports) and doesn’t account for the ethernet port used to link to your gaming modem. Gigabit ethernet ports are the standard, and you should look for these in particular if you want the fastest speeds.
USB ports are a secondary inclusion for Wi-Fi routers, but they’re one of the better features if you’re trying to put together a home office. USB ports allow you to connect external devices and are most commonly used for connecting printers or shareable storage devices. You’ll ideally want to look for USB 3.0 ports. USB 3.0 offers the fastest speeds currently available. Fortunately, you don’t need to hunt to find USB 3.0 compatibility. Most Wi-Fi routers that include USB make use of the USB 3.0 protocol.
The job of a router is to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal, but that doesn’t do you much good if your router doesn’t have much reach. At the same time, the best router in terms of speed won’t matter much at all if you can’t access it with your devices. Antennas help broadcast the signal, and while each one can vary in terms of quality, this is a case where more is usually better. If you need your Wi-Fi signal to broadcast across a larger house, you’ll want to pay attention to models that come with more antennas and a better transmission distance.
The most important feature you’ll want to pay attention to when buying a router for gaming (or for anything, at that) is how fast the transfer speeds are. Fortunately, these are laid out in pretty clear terms. The only thing to keep in mind is that transfer speeds are split along all the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. An AC2600 router will offer you transfer rates of up to 2600 Mbps, but you shouldn’t expect to hit those rates with any single device.
Take all of your internet usage into consideration when looking at transfer speeds. You’ll also want to be sure to check the transfer speed of your router against your internet plan. A fast router won’t do you much good if it outstrips the max speeds offered by your plan. This is especially true if you have multiple consoles and a computer in your house.
What separates gaming routers from any other run-of-the-mill routers is that gaming routers tend to offer high-speed and gigabit ethernet connections for more consistent online gaming, but the best WiFi routers for gaming are typically those that offer a lot of specialized features. We’ll cover the most important features to focus on when looking for the best gaming router for your needs below.
Quality of Service
Quality of service is a feature that allows you to control which devices in your Wi-Fi network are prioritized. Just because a router offers QoS doesn’t mean that all QoS is built the same, though. For example, more advanced routers tend to offer more granular controls. QoS isn’t about throttling the performance of other devices so much as it is about prioritizing bandwidth-heavy software like online games. One of the most common forms of Quality of Service is Airtime Fairness, which sacrifices the network speed of your slowest devices to boost the performance of high-priority devices.
If you have multiple people in your home all vying to use the internet, MU-MIMO is one of the most effective features to have. Connectivity is normally handled on a first-come, first-served basis, but that can cause serious congestion when you have multiple users trying to access the internet at the same time. MU-MIMO (short for multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) is part of the latest 802.11ac protocol and allows multiple users to connect while largely eliminating that slowdown.
A feature exclusive to TP-Link devices, RangeBoost can help you extend your signal further throughout your home. If you frequently experience dead spots in your home or have spotty connections from further away, RangeBoost can offer a significant improvement.
- You may also like our best WiFi extenders for gaming guide
- Got Xfinity? Check out our best Xfinity routers guide
- If you’re on the go, see the best travel routers you can buy
If you’re looking for the best router for gaming, we think you’ll be satisfied with one of the options above. That being said, just because these represent some of the best options, that doesn’t necessarily mean every router is the right fit for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a budget model or a top-of-the-line router, there’s something here that should suit you.
We’d love to hear your opinion, too. If you’ve tried any of the models on our list, we encourage you to scroll down and leave a review using the form below. We look forward to hearing your opinions and using them to help make our reviews and guides more authentic. Be sure to also check out our guides to other gaming gear if you’re looking to start playing like an esports pro.If you liked our article on gaming routers, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.