A wireless router is the hub of your home’s or business’ network. At its most basic, a router delivers a single Internet connection to other devices on the network either through wired Ethernet or wireless connectivity. In addition, routers often provide additional capabilities such as a USB port for attaching an external drive or printer and then sharing those devices on a network, built-in firewall to protect against Internet threats from invading a network, and services such as UPnP and DLNA to allow streaming multimedia content throughout the network.
Wi-Fi routers can also perform other useful tasks, such as allowing you to set up access for guests to connect to your wireless network and use your Internet service (without giving them access to resources like files and printers, or you can at least limit that access). You can also use a router’s Quality of Service (QoS) feature to give priority to the type of network traffic most important to you, be it Voice over IP (VoIP), video, or even file-sharing.
So although a Wi-Fi router’s main function is delivering Internet (or WAN) access to your private network devices and gives those device wireless access, it can do much more; some can police what your children access on the Internet, (like the Cisco Linksys EA3500) and just about all can restrict which devices can connect to your network via a feature called MAC filtering (such as the Netgear N750).
Routers can vary from very feature-heavy to bare-bones. Some routers, targeted at novice users, are very easy to set up, while others take a little more know-how. Routers vary in the throughput they can crank out depending often on the antenna configuration and hardware components inside. You can get more information on the type of router you need in the “How to Buy a Wireless Router” guide.
When testing routers we look at a couple of key features: throughput speeds, how well the device keeps decent throughput as you move a wireless client further from it, how easy or difficult the router is to set up, its manageability, its feature set, and pricing. The ten routers that follow strike the best balance among all our criteria. Read the quick recaps below and then click through to the full reviews for more details on our favorite routers.