If you’re cruising the “interwebz” looking for the best router for gaming but you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, you’ve landed in the right place, because we don’t know either. Joke aside, the first question to be asked is if you really need a router for gaming. We know, dedicated gamers always look for the best gear to achieve the best performance and all that, but the truth is, sometimes you may go over the line and buy stuff you don’t really need.
For example, your gaming skills will be just the same whether you play Mortal Kombat 11 on Play Station or on a $3000 gaming PC, provided you’re using the same controller; 64 GB of RAM won’t get you more headshots in CS:GO, and the same goes for a crazy expensive gaming keyboard compared to a “vanilla” one. You see where this is going, right? Now, if you’ve already decided you need a fancy router for gaming, keep reading, and we’ll try to help you sort things out.
How to Choose the Best Router for Gaming
The main reason for which people buy expensive gaming-centric routers is to improve latency. The best router for gaming is supposed to improve latency, though the main factor to be considered in online-gaming is one’s internet bandwidth or the raw speed delivered by your ISP. Speaking of latency, this is also known as Ping, and if you’re a gamer, you know what we’re talking about.
A top-notch gaming router can only improve the connection between your PC or console and the ISP’s modem or what have you, over Ethernet or Wi-Fi, provided you’re using a USB Wi-Fi adapter on your PC or whatever. Moreover, gaming routers have more Ethernet ports (which means you won’t require switches), and also better antennas for improving Wi-Fi coverage, or even additional radios which come handy on high-speed wireless bands. Now, if you’re frequently hosting LAN parties, a high-quality gaming router will make everybody happy. So here are the basics for choosing the right router to suit your specific needs and budget.
The acronym above stands for Quality of Service and it makes for a cool feature on gaming-routers which prioritizes certain data packets for certain connected devices, i.e. if there are multiple people using your home network, thus hogging your precious bandwidth and giving you lag and headaches while you’re binge-gaming online, using the QOS thing you can prioritize (your) gaming data over whatever the others are doing (torrent downloads, Netflix, Skype etc.). Basically, with QOS enabled, you’ll benefit from “the lion’s share” in terms of bandwidth.
Go for Gigabit Ethernet Ports
In terms of lag/latency, Ethernet always trumps Wi-Fi, as the latter sacrifices both speed and latency for the convenience of being “cable free” while gaming. Hence, you should always go for gaming routers with Gigabit Ethernet ports, for maximum performance and to ensure future proofing. What do we mean by that? Provided you have a “first world” ISP, a gigabit Ethernet port can support data speeds of up to 1,000 Mbit/s (or 125 MB/s). There’s also gigabit Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t work as well due to interference among other things.
And don’t worry if your PC/console and your router are in different rooms, as you can get Ethernet across rooms by using powerline adapters, which transfer internet data through power outlets, rendering Wi-Fi obsolete.
Wireless AC and Dual-Band Support
Wireless AC is a standard that introduces a 5 GHZ band; the point being, if Ethernet is not really an option, you should look for wireless AC, which is more reliable and way faster than the older 2.4 GHZ band. There’s a flipside to that coin, as the AC standard has a shorter range compared to old school 2.4 GHZ. To make a long story short, a proper gaming router should support both standards.
The MU-MIMO Extravaganza
This funny looking acronym stands for Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output, and as its name suggests, it makes for a very important feature to have on your gaming router in a multiple-user environment, i.e. if there are other people using your home network as you’re gaming online. With MIMO, you’ll benefit from improved network speed in terms of both latency and ping as you’re gaming online, and that’s all there is to know for now.
A gaming router must be able to handle massive amounts of data every single second, so take a closer look at the hardware specs, the CPU and RAM/memory respectively. Modern gaming routers are essentially speaking mini PCs, and even if they don’t have to run apps like Photoshop, they must be able to keep up with tons of network data from multiple users.
The point being, a router with a weak CPU will not be able to handle properly heavy network demand, hence data packages will be lost, lag/latency will become an issue and so on and so forth. A gaming router with a fast CPU is preferable, especially in multiple-users environments.
With all these in mind, let’s take a look at the best gaming routers currently available, right after a short commercial break.
1. D-Link DIR-879 AC1900 EXO
Last but not least, we have yet another router under $100 which plays in the “best bang for the buck” category. The entry-level D-Link DIR-879 AC1900 EXO may be affordable, but it comes with a powerful dual-core CPU and dual-band wireless, and also features built-in gigabit Ethernet ports for a lag-free and smooth gaming experience. Even if this router is not built specifically for gaming, it ticks all the right boxes if you’re a gaming enthusiast: reliable connections, decent wireless speeds, solid coverage, top-notch signal strength and throughput, and also supports smart beamforming.
- four gigabit Ethernet ports
- intelligent QoS
- dual-core CPU
- supports smart connect
- great coverage
- nice design
- great value for money
- easy to set up
- no USB ports
2. TP-Link AC1900 (Archer A9)
If you’re looking for a low-cost solution to your gaming addiction (just kidding), the Archer A9 is the answer to your prayers. If you’re on a limited budget or you just don’t want to break the piggy bank, this baby retails for less than $100, yet it doesn’t skimp on hardware or features. For example, you’ll get beamforming, dual-band wireless, MU-MIMO and gigabit Ethernet. And it even works with Alexa Echo, provided that’s your cup of tea.
To make a long story short, as far as budget routers go, the TP-Link AC1900 is hard to beat and delivers great value for money.
- works great
- feature rich
- high speeds and strong signal
- nice design
- reliable and stable
- easy set-up
- amazing value for money
- none really at this price
3. Razer Sila
The Razer Sila, also known as the mystery box due to its unique design, is a gaming grade multi-channel Wi-Fi mesh router with DFS technology and dedicated backhaul channel, built and designed for lag-free performance and maximum coverage. Marketing lingo aside, the Razer Sila is a really interesting router for gaming, coming from a gaming-centric company, and it looks very promising both in terms of price and features.
To begin with, the Razer Sila comes with all the Wi-Fi protocols you’ll ever need, including MU-MIMO with 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, 802.11a/n/ac 5GHz, has no less than 9 internal antennas and four gigabit Ethernet plus 1 WAN, along with USB 3.0/2.0. Being a router specially designed for gaming pros, the Razer Sila excels in terms of advanced device prioritization (QoS), dynamic load balancing and congestion free Wi-Fi channels, everything aimed at delivering a lag free and flawless gaming experience.
- great minimalist design
- supports MU-MIMO/beamforming
- fantastic backhaul via a separate 4:4 radio
- excellent Android/iOS app
- gaming-centric QoS implementation
- easy to install
- gamer friendly
- phenomenal 802.11ac throughput at up to 11 yards
- supports mesh networking
- solid tri-band gaming router
- 802.11n performance could be better
4. NETGEAR Nighthawk AX4 WiFi 6 Next-Gen Router AX3000
With the NETGEAR Nighthawk AX4 finally available on Amazon, we can safely say that Wi-Fi 6 routers are finally affordable. To describe the Nighthawk AX4 in a few words, this router makes Wi-Fi 6 speeds affordable for the “unwashed masses”. We’re only kidding, but this next-gen router is less than half the price of the Asus ROG, which is nothing short of amazing.
Under the hood, you’ll find a dual-core CPU, 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports and the cherry on top: data transmission speeds of up to 3 GB. However, what makes this router to stand out from the crowd is its Wi-Fi 6 support, which translates into better performance on multi-user networks, a feature that makes it any gamer’s wet dream.
- looks and performs like a pro
- Wi-Fi 6 support
- dual-core CPU
- flawless connectivity for 20+ devices
- excellent signal strength and wireless range on all bands
- supports DFS (dynamic free selection)
- supports MU-MIMO
- easy to set up
- zero stuttering/buffering
- sub-par customer support
5. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
ASUS ROG is pretty much synonymous with hardcore gaming, and considering the fact that ASUS chose to put their ROG brand on the GT-AX11000 router speaks volumes. And then, you take a look at it and you’ll get it: as far as gaming-centric routers go, this ASUS ROG is the king of the hill. The same goes about the price-tag, as this baby is one of the most expensive routers for gaming out there, but let that go. So, what do you get for s bucket of money?
To begin with, you’ll take a bite of history, as the Rapture GT-AX11000 is the first 802.11ax router made by ASUS (and world’s first if memory serves). Then, you’ll get a premium product from one of the world’s biggest tech companies. But what about the juicy details? Well, besides its alien-like design and premium price-tag, the Rapture GT-AX11000 really has it where it counts: a quad-core CPU clocked at 1.8 GHZ, 1 GB of RAM and 256 MB of memory for firmware and custom settings. Hardware wise, this ROG product is as good as it gets.
Oh, and you’ll also get 8 X Giga ports, a state of the art 2.5 GBS wired connector, amazing Wi-Fi performance which actually improves with distance and all the customization options in the world. Finally, after registering the router, you’ll get access to Asus’ Gamers Private Network, which means no more lost packets and lower latency. Bottom line: if money is no object, just go for it and thank us later.
- world’s first Wi-Fi 6 (802.11AX) router
- designed for gamers
- supports Wi-Fi 6 aka tri-band 802.11ax
- supports Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)
- crazy fast 5 GHZ Wi-Fi
- 1x WAN/4x gigabit Ethernet ports
- 95 feet range
- excellent Quality of Service (QOS) implementation
- 8 antennas
- excellent speed, low latency
- plenty customization options
- weird looking and crazy expensive
6. D-Link EXO AC2600 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense (as in affordable and simple) router that does a great job in gaming, this D-Link machine may fit the bill. The main selling point of the D-Link EXO AC2600 from a gamer’s point of view is two-prong: first, you won’t have to pay through the nose, and second, you’ll get Advanced AC Smartbeam and MU-MIMO, which in laymen’s terms means you’ll benefit from the strongest bandwidth for your online gaming, along with maximum signal for the locked-in device, every time, 24/7.
The router comes with 4 powerful antennas and a dual-core CPU, along with multi-user MIMO technology, which means gaming and/or streaming on multiple devices will be a child’s play, without compromising performance (speed and ping) in the process. On top of that, the D-Link EXO AC2600 boasts intelligent QoS, i.e. this baby ticks all the important boxes of a proper gaming router. The only downside is that you’ll get 256MB of RAM and 128MB of flash storage.
- dual band Wi-Fi with multi-user MIMO
- smooth gaming performance
- dual-core CPU (Broadcom BCM4709C0 1.5GHz)
- smart and well implemented QoS technology
- great coverage via smart beamforming
- supports DD-WRT (open source software)
- clean and simple OS
- 2 USB ports (2.0/3.0)
- 4 huge antennas
- 4 gigabit LAN ports and 1 gigabit WAN port
- top notch build quality
- amazing value for money
- not enough flash memory
7. NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR300
If you’re the kind of “play hard, go pro” gamer, the NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR300 may very well have your name on it. Why? The main selling point of this gaming-centric router is arguably its Quality of Service feature, which is fine-tuned to meet and exceed anyone’s gaming needs. As we already explained you, the QoS thing prioritizes internet traffic for gaming devices, a feature that comes handy in a multi-user environment.
And in this regard Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR300 does a great job, i.e. you’ll get the best bandwidth allocation for your gaming needs. Moreover, the router comes with a lag-free gigabit Ethernet port, as basically everything is designed to minimize lag and maximize bandwidth. And then we have another cool feature, the NETGEAR’s DumaOS respectively, which looks just like a game HUD, i.e. it’s designed to win the hearts and minds of gamers, unlike the boring interface used by other so-called gaming routers.
- a true gaming-centric router
- compatible with Xbox®, PlayStation®, Nintendo® Switch, PC
- built for low latency/low ping
- comes with four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
- great for gaming and video streaming
- good value for money
- AC1750 rated (tons of bandwidth)
- 3 external antennas
- supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- supports beamforming on both 2.4 GHZ and 5 GHZ
- built-in VPN support
- excellent Wi-Fi range
- very stable (no reboots required)
- easy to set up
- no mobile app for DumaOS
8. TP-Link Archer C5400X
Even if this little monster looks like an alien artifact, the TP-Link Archer C5400X is actually a superb dedicated gaming router, big and expensive, yet perfect for hardcore gamers looking for the best gear money can buy. Oh, and it even works with Alexa Echo, but that’s another story. To begin with the basics, the TP-Link Archer C5400X is powered by a quad-core 64 bit 1.8 GHZ CPU, which makes it incredibly fast, as expected from a gaming router focused on high performance.
On top of that, you’ll get 3 auxiliary co-processors (this is the mother-ship of gaming routers), 512 MB of storage space and 1 GB of RAM. To make a long story short, the TP-Link’s Archer C5400X is essentially a big and expensive gaming router which combines top performance with built-in security and range to rule over any gamer’s mansion. And speaking of design, this router is an absolute unit, i.e. it’s really big, heavy and power-hungry. Yet, if you can live with the price tag, it doesn’t get much better than this one.
- crazy fast in 5 GHZ
- high-end hardware
- dual 2167Mbps 5 GHZ radios for excellent coverage
- can beamform for maximum throughput
- MU-MIMO support
- easy to use interface
- excellent QoS shaping capability
- multi-device QoS via ‘Airtime Fairness’
- comes with security software
- 1 WAN/8 LAN Gigabit, 2x USB 3.0
- tri-band design
- great for both gaming and streaming
- never succumbs to lag
- few gaming centered features
9. Linksys WRT AC3200ACM
The Linksys WRT AC3200ACM can be best described as an enterprise-grade high-end machine which would make for the ideal gaming-router provided you can live with the price tag. To begin with the obvious, the Linksys WRT AC3200ACM has it all and then some, everything in a very balanced all-round package: excellent performance, classic design and great software. The cherry on top is that you can even install 3rd party software on this machine, which is as good as it gets.
And speaking of hardware, this open-source machine ticks all the important boxes we’ve told you in the preamble of the article: Tri-Stream 160 technology, which literally doubles the bandwidth on network streams, a powerful dual-core CPU clocked at 1.8 GHZ for handling heavy traffic, 512 MB of RAM, and 256 MB of flash memory. There’s also dual-band Wi-Fi support for speeds of up to 2.6 GBPS (2.4 GHz / 600 Mbps) + (5 GHz / 2600 Mbps), MU-MIMO, an USB 3.0 plus an eSATA/USB 2.0 hybrid port plus gigabit Ethernet.
- excellent performance
- solid hardware
- open source firmware support via WRT
- all the features in the world
- dual-band Wi-Fi
- stellar performance at 5 GHZ
- MU-MIMO support
- easy to use interface
- wired connectivity via gigabit Ethernet ports
- kind of expensive
- Wi-Fi coverage could be better