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The best routers for gaming in 2021

10 months ago 37

A slow internet connection can cause online games to lag and become difficult to play. Upgrading your router can deliver a better gaming experience if you play online games or like to stream the games you play. A high-performing router will prevent lag and ensure that other users don’t experience any slowdowns when you play games.

It’s easy to find high-speed routers, but you might be wondering which are best for gaming. We selected six of the best routers designed for gaming and checked out their specs and features.

If you’re more concerned about overall Wi-Fi speeds than gaming, check out our guide to the best wireless routers.

At a glance

The best gaming router: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 The best MU-MIMO gaming router: TP-Link AC5400X Tri-Band Router The best gaming router for busy places: Asus RT-AX88U The top affordable router: Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 The best dorm model: TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 The best high-end gaming router: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000

Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500: The best

Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500

Netgear designed the XR500 for optimal gaming on a wireless network. This AC2600-class router supports speeds of up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. To reach those maximum speeds, you’ll need a device that supports four streams (4×4).

The XR500 includes a 1.7 GHz processor and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. It prioritizes gaming connections, optimizes connections for low-ping gaming on more twitchy shooters, and helps you connect with a gaming VPN for additional security or regional options. And that’s just the beginning!

The XR500 allows for more direction customization and connection monitoring. You can choose even more options, like geo-filtering to pick your favorite servers (where the VPN comes in handy again) and app options to monitor your ping and network status in real time, device by device. This is great if you like manual optimization, though not all gamers may get the most out of these in-depth features. The XR700 is a newer and better model, but at almost twice the price, it’s only really worth it for those with deep pockets.

TP-Link Archer C5400X: The best MU-MIMO gaming router

TP-Link Archer C5400X

The powerful tri-band router is easily one of the best MU-MIMO routers we’ve seen. MU-MIMO allows routers to communicate with devices simultaneously (multiple users) rather than sequentially, as seen with older MIMO-based routers. This greatly improves apparent speed and connection dependability, ideal for mobile gamers — especially if there’s more than one in the house.

TP-Link’s Archer C5400X is an AC5400-class router promising speeds up to 1,000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (4×4) and up to 2,187Mbps on the 5GHz band (4×4). What’s notable here is that it offers a second 5GHz connection, thus you can dedicate it to gaming while the other two 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands serve the network’s non-gaming devices.

This router features a quad-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz, three co-processors, 1GB of system memory, and 128MB of storage. It includes eight Gigabit Ethernet ports — two of which you can configure for link aggregation — along with a Gigabit WAN port and two USB-A ports (5Gbps).

TP-Link’s Archer C5400X includes built-in OpenVPN support along with VPN acceleration that promises a five times increase in VPN-based speed. You’ll also find HomeCare, a family-focused platform in the back end providing parental controls, QoS, and built-in antivirus. This router supports Amazon Alexa’s voice commands, too.

Asus RT-AX88U Dual-band Router: The best gaming router for busy places

Asus RT-AX88U Router

The dual-band RT-AX88U offers cutting-edge speeds of up to 1,000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (4×4) and up to 4,333Mbps on the 5GHz band (4×4). It’s powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz and backed by 1GB of system memory and 256GB of storage. It includes eight Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, and two USB-A ports (5Gbps).

This Wi-Fi 6 router is compatible with Aimesh, which allows you to pair it with other compatible Asus routers for whole-home coverage. You also get a lifetime of AiProtection via Trend Micro that blocks any noted threats from your network. Adaptive QoS prioritizes game data for the smoothest gameplay possible. Wtfast determines the shortest path between you and the game server for a lower ping.

All the latest features mean the RT-AX88U costs more than many on our list, but it’s also an excellent long-term router for busy places and gaming parties. You’ll also be at ease knowing this router is ready for new technologies for years to come.

Zyxel Armor Z2: The top affordable router

Zyxel Armor Z2 router

Zyxel’s Armor X2 is an AC2600-class router offering speeds of up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (4×4) and up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band (4×4). Under the hood, it’s powered by a dual-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz along with 512MB of system memory and 4GB of storage. It includes one Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit LAN ports, a USB-A port at 5Gbps, and an older USB-A port at 480Mbps.

Zyxel’s router targets “power users” requiring speed and reliability for smooth gaming and 4K content streaming. It uses MU-MIMO and beamforming technology to concentrate your Wi-Fi signals. It’s also based on Qualcomm’s StreamBoost technology, which is a step up from the typical QoS by analyzing all applications accessing the network and assigning their bandwidth accordingly.

While this router isn’t quite as feature-packed as other solutions on our list, there’s plenty for the price. It offers Denial of Service protection, remote management through Zyxel’s cloud, easy photo backups using a connected USB device, an easy-to-remember backend address, and more. Plus — and this may be particularly important if you’re on a budget — the Armor X2 is not as expensive as many other high-end routers.

TP-Link Archer C9: The best dorm model

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900

This AC1900-class model offers a different sort of solution. TP-Link suggests that you use the 5GHz band for clear, lag-free online gaming while reserving the 2.4GHz band for your other wireless connections. It reaches up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (3×3) and up to 1,300Mbps on the 5Ghz band (3×3).

Despite its size, this router offers four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, one USB-A port at 5Gbps, and another USB-A port at a slower 480Mbps. It supports storage and media sharing while providing integrated FTP and media servers. Beamforming technology and parental controls round out this elegant little router.

Overall, TP-Link’s Archer C9 is ideal for setting up wireless networks in dorms and small apartments. TP-Link also sells larger, sturdier versions of this model if your lifestyle is somewhat more permanent.

Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000: The best high-end gaming router

Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000

For the best Wi-Fi 6 router, this is the gaming router to get. Sure, it’s pricey, but Netgear’s latest packs a huge wireless punch.

Under the hood, the XR1000 features a three-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. It powers the fully-customizable, easy-to-read DumasOS 3.0 operating system designed specifically for gamers. They can view a Ping Heatmap to find servers with the lowest pings, filter servers, allocate bandwidth, and more.

Four removable antennas are beside six simultaneous wireless streams—two for 2 GHz reaching a maximum of 600 Mbps, plus four for 5 GHz with a combined optimum speed of 4.8 GHz. Four Gigabit LAN and one Gigabit WAN offer wired connections, and the USB-A port (5 Gbps) gives you local storage.

Other great features include internal security from Netgear Armor and BitDefender. OFDMA offers improved data management and frequency use. Netgear routers are used to Beamforming+, a fine-tuned edition of the technology made to optimize range and performance.

The XR1000 is a router that considers the future. You won’t need to waste money continually purchasing brand-new technology. Right now, not many devices are compatible with the AX5400, but that will change soon.

If you’re after more budget-friendly models, take a look at our curated deals page for Black Friday router deals.

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