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Best Wi-Fi 5 routers 2022

Synology RT2600ac
(Image credit: Android Central)

Wi-Fi 6 has taken over as the primary standard for the best new Wi-Fi routers, but Wi-Fi 5 still has plenty of speed for many people. Commonly known as 802.11ac routers, Wi-Fi 5 routers still have plenty of speed for most people and if you have an internet connection of 500Mbps or under, you may not even see a difference with Wi-Fi 6 tech. Even so, the Synology RT2600ac offers software features matching some of the best in the industry, even compared to Wi-Fi 6 routers.

These routers make the most of Wi-fi 5

Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac routers on a table

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)
Fantastic user experience

Reasons to buy

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Fast AC2600 connection
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MU-MIMO support
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Support for 160MHz 2x2 connection
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Web filtering and parental controls
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Mesh expansion available

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive for Wi-Fi 5

Synology is well-known for its NAS systems, but it also has a dedicated following when it comes to Wi-Fi routers. While it also makes a more modern RT6600AX model with Wi-Fi 6, there's still a lot to love about the Wi-Fi 5 model. In our RT2600AC review, we were fond of the software and the mesh capabilities. Speaking of the software, Synology makes some of the best with an easy-to-use control panel and some nice web filters, parental controls, and VPN options.

This router is one of the best when it comes to Wi-Fi 5, with a dual-band AC2600 connection with MU-MIMO support, and even 160MHz on 5GHz. Its coverage can be expanded with Synology's MR2200ac mesh router so you can keep Synology's great software features with the coverage of a mesh system. You get four LAN Ethernet ports and two USB ports, one of which is 3.0, for your devices.

While the Synology RT2600ac still commands a rather high price compared to other Wi-Fi 5 routers, its software is the main draw and very few other Wi-Fi 5 options offer the same level of software support.

TP-Link Archer AC1750 router with a mug

(Image credit: Android Central)
Plenty of speed for most families

Reasons to buy

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Fast AC1750 connection
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4x Gigabit Ethernet ports
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Easy setup with Tether app
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OneMesh expansion support

Reasons to avoid

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No MU-MIMO
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Unattractive design

TP-Link's Archer A7 is a bit of a legend in the value router space, with solid power at AC1750 and frequent discounts making it a great bargain. The dual-band connection supports a 1,300Mbps connection at 5GHz and 450Mbps at 2.4GHz, so even if you're using it with a fast internet connection, you won't need to give up much, if any, performance. Around the back, you've got four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired devices and a USB 2.0 port for network storage.

As you might expect, software features are a bit basic, but with easy setup and management with TP-Link's Tether app, you've got easy access to all the most essential options. This router even supports OneMesh expansion. If you add in OneMesh-supported TP-Link Wi-Fi extenders, you can expand your coverage without changing a single setting on your wireless devices.

eero (3rd gen) with Ethernet ports shown

(Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)
Simple to set up and manage

Reasons to buy

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Compact design
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Easy setup in the Eero app
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Works with other Eeros
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Software extras like Eero Secure are available

Reasons to avoid

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No web browser controls
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Speeds are a bit low
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Only two Ethernet ports

As we saw in our eero review, this is one of the easiest and most reliable Wi-Fi solutions we've ever used. It has an excellent app to use for setup, network management, and enough speed for most people. This third-generation Eero router has a dual-band connection with AC1300 rates. That breaks down to 866.7Mbps at 5GHz and 400MBps at 2.4GHz. Eero officially recommends this router for internet connection up to 350Mbps, but speeds were a bit stronger in our review.

This router can be purchased alone for a small apartment or home or bundled with another to build a mesh system. You can also expand your Eero mesh down the line with any other Eero router, including faster, newer models. If you are mixing models, it's good to make your fastest Eero the primary node. Overall, Eero is a great place to start if you were thinking about building a mesh, and even with its limited speeds, it should be fine for HD streaming and browsing on multiple devices.

Nest Wifi router held in one hand

(Image credit: Android Central)
Easy to build and manage mesh system

Reasons to buy

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Solid AC2200 Wi-Fi speeds
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Compact routers
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Easy setup and management
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Easy expansion with Nest Wifi points and Google Wifi

Reasons to avoid

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Only dual-band Wi-Fi
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Limited wired connectivity
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Expensive for the speed

The Nest Wifi from Google is one of our favorite mesh systems with easy setup and plenty of speed for most people. The dual-band AC2200 Nest Wifi routers have plenty of speed for most home internet connections, even when sharing the connection in a mesh deployment. Google's setup and management app are also simple and easy to use, including extra security with Google Safe Search filtering.

The routers have a simple, rounded, clean design with two Ethernet ports on the bottom with one port used by the incoming internet connection on the primary router. Google allows you to expand your mesh in a few ways, including more Nest Wifi routers. Using a Nest WiFi router is the fastest option, but you could also use a slower but adequate Nest Wifi point or Google Wifi for expansion.

Asus Blue Cave router on a table

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus Blue Cave

Great software with plenty of style

Reasons to buy

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Fast AC2600 speeds with MU-MIMO
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Attractive design
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AiProtection Pro is free
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AiMesh expansion supported

Reasons to avoid

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Coverage isn't great

When Asus released the Blue Cave in 2018, the company went all out with a stylish new design, solid specs, and a great software package, including AiMesh expansion and AiProtection Security. The router also packs top Wi-Fi specs with dual-band AC2600 speeds, MU-MIMO, and support for 4x4 Wi-Fi 5 device speeds. Simply put, it's a maximum of 1733Mbps on the 5GHz band for high-end gaming PCs. Rates at 2.4GHz are strong, too, with up to 600Mbps supported. The AC2600 spec comes from turboQAM 800Mbps 2.4GHz support.

The standout feature of this router is its design. When it came out, nearly every other router was a flat black box with antennas sticking out from behind. The sort of thing that would fail the spouse test. Asus shook things up with a sleek white housing featuring a blue cave-like accent in the middle. With all the antennas inside, it could fit right in with the rest of your living room decor, giving it optimal positioning. Even with this design, it still packs in four gigabit LAN ports and USB 2.0.

On the software side, it got the entire suite. Asus' AiProtection Pro is included for improved network security with no subscription fee required. It also has advanced parental controls with profile support, content filtering, time scheduling, and easy management in the Asus router app. This router also supports AIMesh, including node support, so if you wanted to, you could buy several Blue Caves and create a solid mesh network at home.

Netgear Nighthawk modem by a TV

(Image credit: Netgear)

Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem C7000

One device for your whole network

Reasons to buy

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Up to 800Mbps download speeds with DOCSIS 3.0
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No separate router required
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Certified for Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox

Reasons to avoid

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Coverage is lacking
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No MU-MIMO support

One of the nicest things about renting a router from your ISP is the simplicity of a do-it-all gateway. This Netgear Nighthawk C7000 cable modem supports internet packages up to 800Mbps and a dual-band AC1900 wireless router built-in. First, the modem is a 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 unit, meaning you can get up to 800Mbps download on Xfinity, 400Mbps on Spectrum, and 500Mbps on Cox. If you have a different cable provider, check with customer support before buying.

The router portion is a reasonably standard dual-band AC1900 setup. It breaks down to 600Mbps for 2.4GHz devices and 1,300Mbps for 5GHz devices. So while most phones and tablets will only connect at 867Mbps on 5GHz, some devices like premium laptops will support the full 1,300Mbps connection speed.

This router can be set up with the Nighthawk app for easy Wi-Fi setting management, and it also has four Ethernet ports for wired devices. You will need to be in contact with your ISP to activate it on your service. This process varies by provider. A combo unit like this one doesn't offer as much flexibility as a standalone router and modem, but with its compact size, it's a good solution for many.

Wi-Fi 5 still has a lot to give, but it's worth considering Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 5 routers still pack a punch, and unless you've upgraded to the latest and greatest gigabit connection from your ISP, it could be all you need. However, one thing to remember when you buy an older standard is to make sure you're up to date. Some systems will update automatically on setup, but it's always worth a trip to the support site for your router to be sure. This is due to patches released to address any security flaws found as time goes on.

If you're searching for a bargain, buying one of the best cheap Wi-Fi 6 routers could be a better option. These routers could lead to higher performance, especially in congested areas, even if their overall top speed seems to be lower. These routers will also be newer in general meaning they'll likely receive more software updates in the future.

If you're looking for a Wi-Fi 5 router that still competes with newer Wi-Fi 6 options, Synology's RT2600ac is worth a look. While it's not the greatest value when it comes to hardware, if you're after the software features, it's still quite a bit cheaper than the RT600ax model. It's also nice that you can expand the system with the MR2200ac mesh router.

How is Wi-Fi 6 better than Wi-Fi 5?

While Wi-Fi 5 is still a solid choice, if you're looking for more speed, better reliability with heavy traffic, and a longer run of software updates, it's a good idea to go with Wi-Fi 6 instead. Wi-Fi 6 increases the base speeds of your router with the same amount of spectrum Wi-Fi 5 needs to give your 867Mbps, giving you up to 1,201Mbps on Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 can also use more modern standards like 1024 QAM, allowing for more consistent operation in congested areas like apartment buildings. MU-MIMO is also included in many more Wi-Fi 6 routers, though many Wi-Fi 5 routers support it as well. The Wi-Fi 5 standard also supported additional DFS channels and 160MHz bands, but this feature is much more common in Wi-Fi 6 devices.

The most significant benefit of Wi-Fi 6 routers is that they're fully backward compatible with older devices still using Wi-Fi 5, 802.11n, and 802.11g.

The faster connection can also be a game-changer for the best Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems, with the upgraded wireless speeds enabling a faster backhaul connection between nodes. These things make Wi-Fi 6 the ideal connection for fast home Wi-Fi even if you haven't upgraded your devices to Wi-Fi-compatible models.