Apple AirPort Extreme
Apple AirPort Extreme

Best wireless router for Mac

If you have an all-Mac or mixed Mac/PC network, the Apple AirPort Extreme is the best 802.11ac router you can buy, reviewers say. Updated to support the latest Wi-Fi standards, the AirPort Extreme offers speedy throughput, excellent range and great reliability, and is simple for novice users to set up and use.
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Est. $200 Estimated Price
Netgear WNDR3700
Netgear WNDR3700

Best wireless-N router

The Netgear WNDR3700 is a wireless-N router that simultaneously works on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands at speeds of 300 Mbps each. It comes packed with features, is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs, and allows wireless external hard-drive sharing.
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Cisco Linksys E1200
Cisco Linksys E1200

Cheap wireless router

If you want a cheap but reliable wireless router, the Cisco Linksys E1200 is a no-frills choice that's simple to set up and use. This single-band wireless-N router is a great starter unit for novices and non-techies, with performance and features that make it appropriate for basic home use.
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Cisco Linksys WRT54GL
Cisco Linksys WRT54GL

Wireless-G router

The Cisco Linksys WRT54GL is based on the older 802.11g wireless networking standard, so it's not as fast as 802.11n or 802.11ac routers. If you have old equipment on your network that isn't compatible with today's newer technologies and you don't plan to upgrade it, experts say you might be better off using a wireless-G router for the time being.
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Asus RT-AC66U
Asus RT-AC66U

Wireless AC router

The Asus RT-AC66U is a simultaneous dual-band router that reviewers say is one of the best 802.11ac models available. Experts and users praise its excellent performance on the 5 GHz band, business-class features, connectivity and style. The RT-AC66U is suitable for advanced and bandwidth-heavy use but is relatively easy to set up, even for novices.
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Routers range from simple to complex

To build a computer network in your home or office without running wires everywhere, you need a wireless router to create a Wi-Fi access point. Wi-Fi clients such as laptops, tablets and smartphones can connect via radio signals from anywhere within the router's range to share data. Attach the router to a modem, and those same clients can also wirelessly access the Internet. Wireless routers usually have Ethernet ports, so they can simultaneously support hard-wired networking, and some have USB ports for sharing a printer or an external hard drive over the network.

Wireless routers use two frequency bands, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band is more crowded, so consider a dual-band router for better performance. These are typically more expensive than single-band routers, but are faster and more reliable because they can work on both bands. Simultaneous or "true" dual-band routers, which work on both bands at the same time, offer the best performance. Some dual-band routers aren't simultaneous, so check a router's specs carefully.

Many factors can interfere with your wireless network, including nearby electronic devices, other Wi-Fi networks and even the layout of your house. Manufacturers don't take these real-world scenarios into account when claiming a router's performance, and experts say the best routers deliver about half of their claimed throughput.

Wireless routers follow communications standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Up until relatively recently, IEEE 802.11n was the most advanced Wi-Fi standard. Routers that support this, sometimes called wireless-N models, offer better performance and security than older wireless-G routers. However, some wireless-G routers are still popular with advanced users, thanks in part to their hackability. Many use open-source firmware.

The latest wireless standard is 802.11.ac, or wireless-AC. Dual-band wireless-N routers claim throughput of up to 900 Mbps (megabits per second), or 450 Mbps on each band, while wireless-AC theoretically offers up to 1.3 Gbps or 1,300 Mbps. The catch? Wireless-AC isn't currently certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance; available models are considered "draft" 802.11ac routers.

Relatively few devices currently support 802.11ac, but that should change quickly. For starters, Apple includes 802.11ac support in MacBook Air models released in mid-2013, as well as in its AirPort Extreme wireless router released simultaneously. Note that 802.11ac routers are backward compatible with devices that support earlier Wi-Fi standards (802.11a/b/g/n), so opting for one won't render other devices obsolete. You won't, however, get wireless-AC performance with those.

Because wireless routers can get quite technical, finding the right one can be an arduous task. The good news is that many of the routers reviewed here are fairly easy to set up and use, even for a beginner. To help narrow your choices, we look at expert and owner evaluations to find the very best models overall. We name the top wireless routers for Windows and Mac users, as well as 802.11ac, hackable and budget options. Reviews break down models by ease of use, performance and features, and those that rate the highest earn Best Reviewed status in our report.

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