Will an awesome premium router make you a better gamer? To be honest, no. But if you’re playing over Wi-Fi connection a rock solid connection with low latency couldn’t hurt. Here are the best routers for wireless gaming.
Plain old general use Wi-Fi routers are typically concerned with overall sustained data speed and wireless coverage. Gaming routers have to take both of those into consideration, but are also concerned with absolutely minimal latency—the time it takes a single bit of data to go from the local game client on your computer to the multiplayer server you’re gaming on.
This is a particularly vital statistic for online multiplayer games with a fast pace, like shooters, MOBAs, and fighters, where a hundredth of a second can be the difference between victory and defeat. To be perfectly honest, your ISP’s network management and connection to your home might be a bigger factor in latency than your modem or router. But if you’re lucky enough to have an excellent connection to hook it up to, a router made with gaming in mind might make that small, crucial difference on a regular basis.
We’ve selected the best routers that include gaming features for individual gamers, the best for a house full of video game fans or LAN parties, and a cheaper option if you’re on a budget.
The Best Overall Gaming Wi-Fi Router: Asus RT-AC86U ($195)
If your household is only going to be using one internet-intensive gaming PC or console at a time, and perhaps another concurrent high-bandwidth activity (like HD video streaming), the Asus RT-AC86U should meet your needs. It’s a standard dual-band 5GHz/2.4GHz router that hits all the feature check marks, and includes a built-in gaming accelerator. Asus calls this “Adaptive Quality of Service” (QoS).” Essentially it allows you to define programs or devices that get priority for the fastest connection with the least latency. So for example, a Netflix stream that doesn’t require a huge chunk of a 100mbps connection or any particularly intensive latency reduction can take a backseat to an active game of Overwatch on another PC or game console.
The RT-AC86U also has built-in compatibly with the WTFast gamer VPN and free optimization for once device (others will need a subscription). Its three generous antenna will be able to give ideal connections for an apartment or small house, but anything larger will probably need a mesh network, which is supported via the proprietary Asus AiMesh system. Four gigabit Ethernet connections are par for the course, but the router does include support for USB 2.0 and 3.1 for either storage expansion or a cellular tether. There’s even a handy button to quickly turn off the Wi-Fi radio if you need to quickly dedicate all your available bandwidth to the LAN. If you do need maximum data over Wi-Fi, the system supports multiple MIMO connections simultaneously.
The Best Gaming Wi-Fi Router Upgrade: Asus AC5300 Series ($280-350)
Those who demand nothing but the absolute fastest router with the most features possible (or those who live in a household full of gamers who constantly strain the network) should check out the Asus AC5300 series. The standard RT model for “just” $280 has all of the gaming features of the cheaper model above, plus a second 5GHz wireless band for less congestion and better coverage. For devices that don’t require Ludicrous Speed, the Smart Connect feature will dynamically switch them between 5GHz and 2.4GHz for the best sustained connection and coverage. Eight antennas around the central router make the thing look like a prop from Lord of the Rings, but help to cover a massive area with reliable wireless signals.
The standard model comes with four Ethernet connections and a USB 3.1 port, but if you want even more, the newer and even more over-the-top Rapture GT-AC5300 (complete with Asus’ Republic of Gamers branding) doubles up both, with two Ethernet ports dedicated as “Gaming Ports” that always receive network priority for speed and latency. The Rapture model can also run simultaneous VPN and open Internet connections from its gaming-branded management interface.
The Best Budget Gaming Wi-Fi Router: Netgear Nighthawk R6700 ($98)
If you want dedicated network management but you can’t spend a car payment on a new router, the Netgear Nighthawk R6700 is the best solution. It doesn’t feature any gaming-specific traffic management—you’ll have to spend quite a bit more for that—but it supports the fastest home internet connections and uses triple antennas for much better Wi-Fi signal range than routers in a similar price bracket. It also includes QoS for dynamically managing connections between low-intensity and high-intensity applications; basically, it knows your Xbox needs more bandwidth and lower latency than your Kindle.
This model features a dual-core 1GHz processor on its main board, which results in much better performance under load from multiple wired and wired connections than cheaper routers. Netgear’s mobile setup app is of particular note: this is also a good model to pick for a novice user who might be intimidated by more complex browser-based interfaces.
Image credit: Newegg