In this guide you’ll find our top picks for this year’s best gaming routers. If you want some help on what to look for, skip on down to our buying guide where we walk through all the important features and aspects of a what makes a gaming router great.
If you know your use-case, jump to it from the list below:
You can learn something new, make an informed purchase, and finally answer those burning questions you didn’t know you had. Read on to pick out your dream router and finally get that beautiful, crisp, uninterrupted Wi-Fi or skip to our buying guide if you need to know a bit more!
Here are the top gaming routers of 2019:
- 1Nighthawk X6 - Best Overall Gaming Router
- 2Linksys WRT AC3200 - Most Flexible Gaming Router
- 3Asus RT-AC5300 - Best Gaming Router for Multiple Devices
- 4Nighthawk X6S - Runner Up
- 5D-link DIR-890L/R - Best Quality of Service Gaming Router
- 6Asus RT-AC88U - Best Gaming Router for Overall Coverage
- 7Netgear NightHawk X10 - Best Gaming Router for 4K Streaming
Yes (DD-WRT Enabled)
Our Overall Favorite Gaming Router
1. The Netgear Nighthawk X6 - Best Gaming Router of 2019
Best Gaming Router
Netgear Nighthawk X6
A great price for top-of-the-line quality makes the Nighthawk our favorite going into 2019.
We love the Nighthawk X6. Coming from one of the most well-known producers of cheap routers, Netgear has a firm grasp on what makes high-end networking technology work. The Nighthawk X6 is the perfect blend of price and performance. Nearly any consumer level setup will hit top speeds with the X6. Tri-Band Wi-Fi and six antennae make the X6 a formidable piece of tech.
The six antennae mean that you can comfortable connect over a dozen devices to the X6 without suffering a loss of speed. The coverage is also particularly broad for this model. Most modern two-story homes will easily have full signal throughout the house and even a bit outside as long as the house isn’t constructed from signal blocking material. If range is an issue, you can easily solve that using the Netgear Mesh technology. Mesh easily connects to other Netgear products in seconds and can turn an older (Or newer!) Netgear router into a signal extender for areas needing less signal strength. There’s a lot to love about the X6.
The X6 doesn’t shy away from gaming either. Rather the X6 offers one our favorite router technologies, QoS (All routers we selected have some form of this tech). QoS or Quality of service allows you to pick and choose where bandwidth is allocated down to the program. Whether it’s gaming, streaming, or other forms of internet usage. With QoS it’s easy to prioritize gaming. QoS varies widely from router to router. Netgear offers great dynamic QoS meaning it’ll change to work with your devices accordingly.
The benefit to this is that with the correct setup, programs won’t download in the background sucking out bandwidth while you play or streaming from others in the house won’t steal the precious data going to your console. All QoS systems are a little different but they’re an amazing additional step in making your gaming experience smooth. Overall, it’s a sleek, modern, powerful router. Netgear equipped the X6 with enough RAM and a strong enough processor to handle all the devices that connect. This is an oft-overlooked breaking point on cheaper routers. So, what’s the downside?
The only con to the X6 is that it isn’t the best technology on the market. In fact, a superior model, the X6S is available and has a lot more oomph under the hood. There is also the X8 and X10. The reality though is that this model will do everything most users need at a level of excellence that exceeds other products. And it’ll do that at a cheaper price.
So, while other upgraded models exist and are important to consider, most will find a minor difference at a much higher price. That’s why we selected the X6 over newer models with shiny features but a hefty price tag. It does what you need as a gamer quite well. Some users will want a more specific focus for streaming or other usages though. In that case we’d recommend some of the following router options.
The Best Budget Gaming Routers
1. The Nighthawk X6 - Best Budget Gaming Router 2019
Best Budget Gaming Router
Netgear Nighthawk X6
Netgear has been making routers for a long time and have created an affordable option with great performance.
Not only is it an amazing router. When it comes to router technology, the X6 is the best cheap gaming router you’ll find. Going significantly cheaper cuts quality down dramatically and makes the upgrade from standard router to gaming router moot.
2. Linksys WRT AC3200 - The Most Flexible Router
Most Flexible Gaming Router
Linksys WRT AC3200
The WRT54G++ is an upgrade of the iconic router by Linksys. It has plenty of features and performance to do everything you need.
Linksys is well-known for creating the iconic router. Nearly any small business or home at some point has had the old WRT54G model sitting around. The WRT AC3200 expands upon this design but keeps that familiar reliable aesthetic. Typically, many businesses employ a variety of Linksys routers because they work hard, take minimal effort to set up, and have serious power at a low cost.
Despite the similar look though the WRT AC3200 has much more strength than the old school Linksys model. The WRT AC3200 is a solid router at a price point that won’t break the bank while offering features found on the best routers around. Where the WRT AC3200 shines most is in customizability. This is the perfect router for the networking junky, those who want a bit more adaptability in a router and want a unique device that they can tinker around with.
Before we jump to that though, some of you might be terrified of dealing with the old Linksys software. It must be mentioned that Linksys greatly improved the classic onboard router software. It’s no longer slow, clunky, and obnoxious to use. Rather, Linksys has adapted to modern routing trends by producing an excellent Wi-Fi portal and mobile app. This is a huge boon to those who hate dealing with the old finicky router sites of yesterday. Despite all the effort to fix the old software, Linksys is absolutely ok with others adding in unique router software!
Where Linksys stands apart from the competition is making the WRT AC3200 very open-source friendly. That means techies who want to tinker and push networking gear to the edge can install open-source programs like OpenWRT and DD-WRT. For techies and network professionals, usability can skyrocket, and new firmware opens all sorts of unique avenues for success. For instance, one can change the strength of a signal by boosting it, use unique security configurations such as VPN’s, and even overclock the router. For a power user, the WRT AC3200 gives a playground of possibilities.
The biggest con of the WRT AC3200 is simply that there are routers that can overpower this pretty quickly. That’s not to say the WRT AC3200 isn’t a beast in its own right (In fact it’s probably the most powerful dual-band router around). It’s just that this router isn’t as powerful as the more high-end models. It might struggle once you start adding over a dozen devices and the dual-band set up leaves something to desire for a gaming router. Yet the WRT AC3200 is still one of the cheapest gaming routers around though and definitely worth a look for gamers and networking pros.
The Best Router for Multiple Devices
1. Asus RT-AC5300 - The Best Gaming Router for Multiple Devices
Best Gaming Router for Multiple Devices
Packed with MU-MMIO and 8 antennas, the AC5300 will handle multiple devices with ease.
The AC5300 is one of the most well-known Gaming Routers on the market. While often mocked for its upside down spider style, the AC5300 is one of those legendary pieces of gear that you’ll hear about years from now. That’s because the AC5300 offers cutting-edge technology with an ease of use few networking products have.
For instance, unlike most in-home routers, the AC5300 offers amazingly intuitive sleek router software. ASUS went even further by offering a beautiful App chock full of features. That means you can change router settings anywhere in the house and do that on the fly. You can even monitor traffic and make sure pesky neighbors (Or relatives) aren’t stealing free bandwidth. It’s not just software though. The ASUS AC5300 has some killer parts inside.
Obviously the most important aspect of a gaming router is how it actually performs. The bandwidth of the AC5300 is extremely high meaning that you’ll never clog this router even when streaming high-cost content such as 4K UHD video (Although it doesn’t do justice compared to the X10 at 4K!) With MU-MIMO and 8 antennae you can expect this router to perform comfortably with sixteen or more devices. That means this device is great for house-parties and homes with many devices.
The AC5300 doesn’t sacrifice range either for all that power. Most houses can centralize this bad boy and cover the entire property and then some. That means no more lag-spikes when gaming on the go, a boon to those who use laptops or get down on Nintendo 3DS. Obviously, walls made from dense materials can block Wi-Fi waves so results vary but the average house will be just fine. The AC5300 is part of the current strategy at ASUS to use AiMesh. Basically, an easy to use and intuitive form of Wi-Fi Mesh software, ASUS makes it simple to connect any ASUS device with another ASUS device for use as a node or separate router.
If you already have a cheap ASUS router lying around, you don’t have to discard it, rather you can turn it into a toned down signal extender as long as it’s AiMesh compatible. A lot of the features that sell this are software, but it has top-notch parts as well with one of the highest overall Data Transfer Rates on the market. You’ll love this router the moment you start it up.
There is one aspect that consumers should be aware of with the AC5300. The AC5300 has eight antennas and takes up a pretty large footprint for a router. We mean huge. It’s large enough that you’ll want to consider where it’ll go before picking one up. The antennae do detach for unique setups that require a slightly smaller footprint, but you basically have to dedicate a UPS box sized space for the AC5300. We really urge you to consider the size before a purchase. Eyeballing this router doesn’t do justice to its goliath proportions. Routers generally aren’t show-pieces though so most homes will have enough room.
Runner Up (Multiple Devices)
This is the X6 on steroids. It has an upgraded processor and higher bandwidth potential to unlock all your gaming needs.
Nighthawk makes our list multiple times because they have done a phenomenal job with gaming routers. Netgear really sets a high bar and produces a wide range of solid, easy to use, purposeful devices. Whether you want top-notch quality or a decent mid-range router, the Nighthawk series by Netgear is overall a fantastic collection of networking hardware. The X6S in no exception.
Following on the heels of the widely beloved X6 (Our favorite Gaming Router this year) the X6S innovates with a much-improved processor, higher bandwidth speeds, and overall better quality. Capable of keeping fifteen devices running smoothly, the X6S is faster and stronger than its little brother. The processor is pretty powerful too meaning that you don’t feel the lag and drag that most routers give when making changes to settings. It’s another simple touch that makes this experience better and better.
Like all of the recent Nighthawk models, the X6S is stunningly simple to set up in a mesh configuration and quite user-friendly. The X6S also shares the same simple App that Netgear has continued to improve upon. That means you can make any compatible router into a wifi extender in a matter of minutes.
This is a huge boon to those with complex setups needing multiple routers or stringing connections across a large building. Chances are most won’t have to worry about that at all as the X6S possesses immense range for a home router. As an added note, we also love the size. Some routers on this list are so large they basically need a dedicated closet, but the X6S has a tiny footprint for all the power it packs.
So, what’s negative about the X6S? It’s a beast of a router and those with the cash to spend will find this an amazing investment. The negative to this is that the X6 is cheaper and the improvement isn’t such a huge revolution that a majority of setups will know the difference (Although if you expect more than a dozen devices, this is a go-to winner). It’s simply a return on investment issue. The X6S is obviously superior but those power users who need more strength from a router are the ones likely to get the most out of this router.
The Best Quality of Service (QoS) Routers
Best Quality of Service
Software-based QoS allows you to create dedicated bandwidth highways for your most important devices.
Just a few years ago Gaming Routers were relatively unknown. Routers were merely designed for business applications and gaming took a backseat. Routers were known simply as boring office rectangles. D-Link realized this though and made a sleek, modern, powerful router that boldly showed gamers that routers can be different.
D-Link decided to release one of the boldest and best routers on the market in an eye-popping Cherry Red. While we admit the bold color choice isn’t for everyone, the DIR-890 is a solid gaming router that offers all the modern features such as QoS, killer range, and six antennae. It still goes head-to-head with many modern pieces of tech and comes out on top.
The DIR-890 is not only colorful and bold, it was absolutely designed with gamers in mind. This is seen in the intuitive software as well as the very simple, yet powerful QoS options that are offered. The DIR-890 QoS system lists four different categories of focus, and you select the priority.
That means you can put Gaming in the front seat and web browsing in the backseat. With two bands you have the ability to keep a short-range network for all your gaming devices and a more open long-range 2.4 GHz signal for guests and friends. D-Link poured a lot of work into this router meaning it’s rated for 4K streaming and intensive tasks. You can’t go wrong with this item.
The largest drawback and that would have to be age. The router is nearing three years old and newer models do exist. This can be an advantage though as some cheaper models occasionally hit the market. It also lacks a third band which is fine but some users will want an additional wireless band for separating out devices. Still, the DIR-890 was released to instant acclaim. That still holds true, especially for those who want some legendary gear in Cherry Red.
2. Linksys WRT AC3200 - The Most Flexible Router
As we said earlier, the AC3200 has AMAZING flexibility due to the ability to load DD-WRT. If you want absolute control over where your bandwidth flows, the Linksys WRT AC3200 is your best bet. Be forewarned that to take full advantage of these features you’ll want to be familiar with DD-WRT which we cover in our guide to the best DD-WRT Routers.
The Routers with The Best Coverage
1. Asus RT-AC88U - The Best Gaming Router for Overall Coverage
Best Gaming Router for Coverage
The AiMesh feature allows you to connect multiple devices together in a wireless fabric for maximum coverage.
The RT-AC88U is simple in design but mighty. Despite having only four antennae and an inconspicuous design, the AC88U has one of the largest square foot coverage of any router on the market. At 5000 square feet you get enough coverage for nearly any home with just one router. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. Like all coverage estimates, a wise setup will make sure you get the most out that range, but it’s near impossible to get a bad signal with this router. It’s all about coverage with this model. You can find other routers with more features or powerful hardware but the RT-AC88U is simply unbeatable in range.
We love the power of the RT-AC88U. And despite being quite powerful for its size the AC-88U runs for a long time with numerous devices without getting too hot due to some great internal components. As we’ve pointed out before, ASUS makes setting up a home network particularly easy by use of the AiMesh. This feature helps mix various ASUS routers together to expand the coverage in a home. Instead of spending hours trying to get two different routers to play nicely together, you can simply connect to them and use them in seconds. No more tossing out old routers, just add more to the collection. This also uses the same router app we covered in our AC5300 review meaning that you can make changes to the router particularly easy.
The biggest con of the AC-88U is simply the lack of antennae. Despite a huge range, the Achilles tendon of the AC-88U is that a simple change could have made this router shine so much more. The more antennae, the less a signal needs to split as one antenna can beam to multiple devices. So that means you can use eight devices before experiences the first start of symptoms from splitting. Even at twelve devices it’ll run fine but eventually you’ll start to feel the lack of speed. This is fine for most routers but additional antennae would have pushed this router even further toward greatness.
2. Asus RT-AC5300 - The Best Quality Router
If your budget can afford it, the AC5300 has a much higher ceiling for coverage and devices.
While it’s a bit more expensive, the RT-AC5300 improves upon the AC88U in many ways. It’s also got fantastic coverage and can handle far more devices if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
The Best Router for Consoles
Consoles have some unique set up situations so we selected these routers as our favorites for those who love to play a variety of console games.
Best Gaming Router for Consoles
Netgear Nighthawk X6
The tri-band feature allows you to connect each console to a dedicated wifi band to increase performance and reduce congestion.
Not only is the X6 our favorite router but it wins for console-setup because of the Tri-Band feature. With three wi-fi bands you can dedicate one to a specific console (Or split up multiple consoles into multiple bands). This is very useful for multi-console households that may be running a Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in the same space. You’ll easily be able to dedicate your gaming to a specific band while simultaneously keeping a band open for computers and another band for Smartphones.
Runner Up (Best for Consoles)
Coverage is everything with wireless networks and the AC88U is one of the best.
Coverage is huge for console gamers because it’s common that your router is in an office or closet situated far from the living room or bedroom with a console. So coverage matters! The RT-AC88U is our favorite for large homes that have console gaming, especially with mobile consoles such as the Switch. You’ll never feel chained to a specific location in order to play your games.
The Best Router for Streaming
1. Netgear NightHawk X10 - Best for 4K
Best Router for 4K Streaming
Netgear NightHawk X10
The top model in the NightHawk series from Netgear gives unprecedented performance and a ton of software-level features.
Netgear keeps popping up on our list because they really have been killing it with the NightHawk series. Unlike most of the other routers on this list that are dedicated to gaming, streamers may need a little more strength from a router. The X10 is perfect for streamers who plan on using a ton of bandwidth. Whether receiving or sending a 4K signal, the X10 is designed to take heavy loads and remain stable as well as uses all the other features we love from a gaming router.
Powerful QoS software helps the X10 stay competitive and allow you to control your bandwidth well. We also love the additional DFS channels on the X10. Basically having extra DFS options allows the router to maintain optimum performance without being interrupted by neighbors Wi-Fi signals. This is very useful for those who live in a city setting and don’t want to be sharing signals with 10-20 neighbors.
The Media Server feature is unique in that you can actually use a USB or NAS drive to stream media around your house. This is useful for those who want to watch a movie or send information around to multiple devices. The only negative to this router is that it is pricier. It lacks the six to eight antennae of some of our favorite devices for multiple users but this isn’t a huge deal as the extra antennae are more than made up for with the insane speeds of the X10.
Runner Up (Best for Streaming)
If you can't afford the X10, the AC5800 is still amazing for streaming at a lighter price tag.
A little cheaper than the X10. This beast of a router is perfect for streamers and those who need a strong device and very consistent signal. We keep recommending the RT-AC5300 for those who have a little more in the budget for router technology.
Buying Guide for Gaming Routers
Why exactly does switching my router help me at all?
A few reasons! We’ll get into more details in our buying guide but briefly consider these factors. Routers are designed to handle a specific amount of devices and most cheap routers can’t handle all the traffic we give them. It’s not unreasonable for a home to have two consoles, a PC or laptop, a tablet, a few cell-phones, a smart TV, several smart devices in the home, and guests popping in and out. Cheap routers aren’t designed to handle more than a few devices before noticeable speed dips occur or they prioritize one device over another. You’ll notice this in an office or home that starts to have slow internet after a few hours. The overworked router is juggling many devices and possibly even overheating just to keep up! Higher quality routers can handle larger data streams, more devices, and prioritize devices better. They generally have a much better range and modern routers often use new software called MU-MIMO that revolutionizes how signal is divided (We’ll explain that below!). Whether it’s overuse, too many connected devices, or just poor quality components, a router switch may be the exact thing you need!
Is it really a miracle option?
To be absolutely clear, a new router will not make your internet faster. That may seem counterintuitive after we just encouraged you to pick up a new fast Gaming router, but there is a very good reason. Your ISP sends internet to your house at a specific speed and rate. By the time it reaches you, it may have lost strength due to faulty wires, shared neighborhood setups, or much more. Then this internet signal is sent through your personal system (Modem and router) to your house. Along this way, anything that causes the signal to lessen or be slower will ultimately play out until it gets to your device. Chances are that a budget router isn’t cutting the mustard in the modern household. So while your ISP may be part of the problem with a bad wifi signal in the home, the router is a huge contributing factor and often the largest problem.
What should I look for in a gaming router?
Gaming Routers come with a bevy of features that most consumers hardly know how to use. That’s why a little education will go a long way toward helping you pick up a router offering blazing fast speeds and keeping ping as low as possible. Setting up your router correctly can change the quality of your experience significantly, especially since unique features unlock the potential for games to run flawlessly and faster online.
What about branding?
Brands are an interesting thing in the Networking world. Because a bad brand may become the black sheep of a specific company, routers often have different lines with different names. For instance, Netgear is known for cheap, affordable routers that you find in many homes. Few realize that Nighthawk routers are just a rebranding from Netgear. Before hitting the panic button and writing the Nighthawk off as a sham, consider that nearly every company will have bottom-tier and top-tier products. A cheap router provided for free from your ISP probably is a low-tier option mass produced for the average consumer. So knowledge of one brand or company as “Bad” isn’t a good indication of the actual products they produce. It’s best to disassociate the low-quality routers from the major router brands as they are merely offering a bottom barrel option for cheap and it in no way indicates the quality of the brand. Trusted brands such as ASUS, Netgear, Linksys, Google, TP-Link, D-Link and others produce high-quality routers that highly trained business professionals trust and use.
What features are best to consider in a gaming router?
Understanding the features you encounter with a router is pretty important. While most users will never encounter a need to use exotic onboard features, everyone needs to understand the basics. We cover the features that matter here and a bit more of the optional ones as well so you can get a feel for why one router would be better over another.
Data Transfer Rate
Routers can only process so much data and send it back and forth between devices. This generally isn’t as much of a problem as most people believe because few people have internet connections that’ll need the speeds that routers work at. The problem comes when you connect many devices to one router. Often the speed is split or lessened for several of the devices. A good high data transfer rate keeps information flowing as it should. Also consider that your devices may be hard capped by internal hardware, so a 1Gbps stream to a laptop may in fact only be received at 300Mbps. Make sure that your hardware has an internal wireless card strong enough to make a new high-quality stream worth it.
Routers come in Dual-Band and Tri-Band options meaning that they can project several different signals in different bandwidths (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). These bands are designed for different uses and having more than one band means that you can password protect one band and keep its bandwidth dedicated to gaming. The 2.4 GHz band has a longer range at the cost of speed while the 5 GHz band is blazing fast but not nearly as far-reaching. Multiple bands are great because you can make a password protected and dedicated band for your gaming gear while family and guests use the other bands without a hitch. In modern routers even if too many users sign onto one band, the other bands will be just fine.
MU-MIMO is an absolute must for routers that will get heavy traffic from multiple devices at the same time. Routers that have MU-MIMO do an exceptional job at making a multi-device WiFi signal function as fast and consistently as possible by sending a signal out to multiple devices in real-time. Without MU-MIMO routers literally switch the internet signal between devices to simulate real-time connections. With only a couple devices, it isn't an issue, but add too many and you are going to see huge slowdown!
Router range is usually rated in Square Feet and often not entirely accurate in real life. That’s because real-life environments affect Wifi signals tremendously. Projecting through a wall will dampen a signal, odd materials may affect the strength of wifi waves, and router quality truthfully may not hit the rated range as conditions are rarely ideal. Almost every router is tested in an ideal situation so it's hard to trust this number as exact. Companies generally are being truthful though and it could be reproduced in a better environment. Signal range is very important to consider because you want to be able to use your router without feeling too restricted when it comes to movement. Lack of coverage is one of the chief complaints in larger homes and often requires another router or two or a signal extender.
Gaming routers are a bit larger than the tiny routers most homes have. In fact, top models can be as large as 2ft x 2ft. Most of us don’t think of this as important because of our association with tiny consumer routers, so make sure to check the size and weight before picking up new gear.
Routers can also act as a hub/switch allowing you to plug multiple computers into them directly. This is doubly important in wiring a home correctly as each room may have an individual Ethernet port needed to allow access. Other important ports such as USB ports and power supply jacks are important to consider as well, especially if your device is also a modem.
It can be a bit confusing at first for those of us who grew up with 56k modems in our desktop computers to see the Modem as separate from the router. A router distributes internet and does this in a fantastic way, while a modem receives the internet and makes it sendable from the ISP to the router. Some routers will also include a modem while others will be a separate device. Generally either setup is fine but you do need both a modem and router of some sorts to even use the internet.
Routers are rather hard to set up without decent software. Cheap routers are not intuitive and can be a massive headache to work with. Common software seen today is clunky and poorly designed for a non-technical user. Modern Gaming Routers have taken note and now offer streamlined easy to use websites and actual apps that you can put on your phone and quickly edit settings with on the fly. When selecting a router, make sure to consider your technical expertise and how important easy to use software is. Otherwise you may spend years unable to make simple changes to your network such as password protection.
QoS or Quality of service indicates the priority you give to specific applications in regards to your router. QoS is not offered on every router but allows you to choose if games or downloads are prioritized on your network. This is part of the router software and usually comes with a specific QoS section. Some QoS is simple and merely categorizes device usage into broad categories such as “Gaming” or “Browsing.” The best QoS will give immense freedom to select specific devices and even programs to be given priority bandwidth.
Mesh is another important router technology that helps multiple devices connect together to spread a wireless signal. For instance, two mesh enabled routers may seamlessly connect to each other and extend the wifi signal from one modem. This is done quickly and with minimal setup. We’ll explain more below but know that most Mesh setups require a device from the same company to work properly.
DD-WRT is an open-source firmware program that allows you to take a normal router and give it insane enterprise-level capabilities. Power users who love to install VPN’s on routers, overclock routers, and play with those sorts of settings will want a router that offers DD-WRT Compatibility. We wrote an exhaustive guide on DD-WRT routers and included our recent favorite for those gamers that want something a little more.
Most products for modern tech setups are somewhat plug and play. Even the fanciest GPU is just an installation away from being highly effective. Networking products are different and a required conversation between the consumer, hardware company, and ISP can be migraine inducing. Always take a moment to think through the technical support options of modern Router companies because there is a good chance that you’ll be communicating with them if something goes wrong. With networking there is a good chance something small and hard to catch will go wrong as well.
Should I buy name brand?
We aren’t big on recommending gear purely based on brand. Some small players in the tech industry make fantastic products. That being said, a cheap, no-name router, will be absolutely terrible compared to high-end options. Networking is complex and often messy so before you dash out and buy a cheap product on Amazon, consider how important having functioning WiFi is for your situation. We don’t recommend going cheap or buying something from an unknown company as even the best wireless technology can have problems. So worst routers much more so.
Shouldn’t I always use an Ethernet port for gaming?
The old wired solution is one of the best. It’s hard to beat the reliability of a simple CAT5 cord plugged into the back of a PC or Xbox. Years ago it would have been foolish to even attempt using another method for your gaming sessions. Today’s wireless technology though is fantastic and while you may have more stability with a corded setup, you ultimately lose the freedom to move your device anywhere and open the home up to unsightly cords strung about. WiFi is great for consoles, smart TVs, laptops, and cell phone gaming and really the difference will be minimal with consistent internet in today's age.
Router settings that I should know about
QoS: Does it matter?
QoS as we said earlier helps to filter bandwidth to the correct applications. Primarily this is what keeps your games from lagging if you live in a household with many devices. You can make sure that the router knows to give the maximum amount of effort into games. There are other things you focus on with QoS, such as streaming, downloads, television, and more. IT may seem superfluous to those who haven’t used it before but QoS can make a HUGE difference.
Why are there different frequency Wi-Fi bands?
It’s commonly seen in routers that they offer both a 5 GHz option and a 2.4 GHz option, but the average consumer has no idea why the different bandwidths would matter. There are actually a few reasons that different bands are useful on a router. The most common being that you can put less important devices such as smartphones on one band while keeping a dedicated second band for other tasks. These bands have a set speed and an allotted amount of devices that can use them. Making use of lesser devices on one band helps you out, especially when guests come over.
It’s common for a small business to keep one in-house band that is password protected and a generic band that is less secure or has a well-known password. That keeps Wi-Fi flowing for staff and the guests happy. The advantage for gamers is that they can do the same thing and satisfy guests, family members, and non-critical devices like phones while dedicated one whole band to gaming. The second reason for using bands is that 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz (The commonly accepted wireless signal ranges) have unique advantages for each band. 5 GHz is faster but has a shorter range while 2.4 GHz bands can transmit further at a lower speed. That means the 5 GHz band is best to reserve for gaming devices if they’re at a reasonable distance. The 2.4 GHz is great for phones and other devices that move often as they’ll be able to connect further out with less effort.
What is MU-MIMO?
Did you know that routers haven’t always been able to share devices on the same signal in real time? In fact, that’s a relatively new technology that has made huge improvements in how routers function. SU-MIMO (Single-User) and MU-MIMO (Multi-User) came around about a decade ago but MU-MIMO took a while to replace SU as it only functions at 5 GHz. Basically, before MIMO connections were one to one. SU-MIMO improved on this by allowing multiple users to be on the same connection simultaneously, only it wasn’t actually simultaneous in real-time. Instead SU-MIMO sends a burst of data to one device then moves onto the next device. This happens in real-time and so fast that you hardly notice. The problem comes in that connections with numerous devices can slow SU-MIMO down, more can go wrong technically, if you lose one feed you lose all of them. MU-MIMO solves this by literally streaming data to different devices with individual streams. That means you don’t get simulated real-time but actual real-time speed. In a dorm setting or business that means the router isn’t struggling to bounce between nine devices in real-time. It also means you need an antennae for every device that is supported (One reason so many antennae are on the average router you encounter).
Estimates Square Footage: Does it matter?
That would be a resounding yes. The strength of a router is quite important to ensure your home has good Wi-Fi. Routers that can’t project very far are cheap and simple. It may seem like an easy option and save a few bucks but ultimately it’ll become a nuisance. The ability to go anywhere in your home without losing signal is a pretty basic standard to have and greatly affects how useful your setup is. A poor router setup will cause even more of a headache.
Why use a Mesh set up?
Mesh Wi-Fi describes connecting wireless devices throughout a home without using wires. Since routers are already capable of sending and receiving signals they don’t require much more to be used as pieces of a network, or nodes. Many modern routers offer mesh compatibility.
Wi-Fi dead spots are just a reality in most homes. This is due to the large footprint of modern living spaces mixed with thick walls and furniture blocking those powerful Wifi signals. One device can rarely cover an entire two-story home and often wifi signals will weaken by the time they get across the home. Mesh is a simple and convenient way to set up wifi though a home. You install nodes which can be dedicated mesh devices such as those offered by Google or just a well-designed router. These routers take in signal and project it to a new device with minimal signal loss. Even good routers can get overworked or stretched thin so Mesh is a fantastic option for making sure your living room and office are getting the same quality wifi as bedrooms and gaming areas.
Gaming Router Myths and Truths (F.A.Q.)
Myth #1: I can’t win my games because of my ping
Ping is the measurement of… In actuality ping is pretty complex and it isn’t always a good indicator of performance. By and large the biggest contributor to success in gaming is user ability. Ping is often blamed but someone who has played CS:GO for thousands of hours while simultaneously studying how to get better won’t be very intimidated by a regular player with low ping. When ping gets to a certain level though it can be too high for reasonable gaming. This is different for every game and every platform but it’s important to note. Ping can cause you to lose a match, especially if it gets too high. The problem is that some gamers believe a difference of 40-50 ping to be responsible for losing an online match. In reality these are mere microfractions of a second and while still important, what really matters is skill at that level.
Myth #2: Online star reviews for routers are accurate
Online reviews for routers are a complex and touchy subject. This is mainly due to the fact that few things anger a consumer more than bad internet. It can cause you to lose a job, bad communication, lose matches in games, be unable to download. Bad internet is painful and people get really passionate about this. Add to the reality of bad internet that few consumers know the necessary steps for good networking setups and you have a recipe for disaster. Many consumers simply can’t set a network up and then get angry so they write a bad review when in fact it was an ISP problem. Others rave about a router because it solves a problem they encountered simply because the original router had a poor setup. This original router isn’t any worse. Rather the newer router might have just nailed the settings better. We recommend reading wide and going deep if you want to be sure about a router AND making sure that you don’t throw out a purchase without educating yourself enough on why a connection may be slow or function poorly.
Myth #3: My ISP/Router is the problem
It can be challenging to find out why you are struggling with signal or speed. To understand this deeper we need to take a step back and understand various aspects of networks that can go wrong. First the ISP itself may have a physical defect that is unaccounted for. If you live in an area affected by storms or with above ground wiring, it’s possible that years of exposure can cause physical problems with your wireless signal. When data arrives at your house or business, the old cords in your wall may be responsible for packet or signal loss. Afterwards internet is sent from the modem into a router. More problems can be found there. Networking is complex which is why people go to school for years to study it. A new router may fix your problems and make the internet scream or it may be a moot point because you have faulty wiring, a bad ISP, or an uncontrollable problem such as a bad internet connection outside of your property. With all this going on it’s important to communicate with your ISP, run a free online speed test, and find out if the speeds you achieve are similar to what the ISP would expect for your location.
Security and Customizability
One final thing to consider when selecting a router is whether or not you’ll want to use a VPN or unlocked router firmware such as DD-WRT. Routers are pretty powerful devices but most users will never encounter a reason to use the abundance of features available. Some users may need to though, whether to protect privacy with a VPN or set up a unique network configuration with specialized firmware.
What is a VPN?
VPN’s or Virtual Private Networks entail private software that helps you keep your IP (Internet address) anonymous or masked. Most VPN’s work by using a network of servers that make your computer appear as if it is coming from a different location. In an age of Swatting and Doxxing, a VPN is useful for those who need an added dose of security
Are VPN’s safe to use?
Good VPN products though give you immense security online so that you don’t have to worry about getting hacked or targeted by someone online for harassment. A VPN can help you stay secure and safe online. Some VPN companies are shady though and shouldn’t be trusted. Also, certain companies may frown upon VPN usage. It’s common knowledge that EA’s Origin may shut an account over VPN usage and some programs may trigger a scam alert. That’s due to VPN’s being used to mask user internet addresses from country to country.
What is DD-WRT and should I use it?
DD-WRT is unique firmware that operates on compatible routers. Basically, if you want the extensive features router hardware has unlocked, DD-WRT is an excellent option. It allows unique network configurations and is easy to set-up with a VPN. You can expand signal strength and do complex things including increasing security options. We’ve written an extensive guide on DD-WRT and compatible routers that you should browse if you want the most powerful router software possible.
Thanks for joining us!
Thank you for reading our ultimate guide on routers for gaming! We hope you learned something new and now can talk with confidence about the difference between MU-MIMO or Tri-Band routers. It’s not easy information but it’s important for those of us who want to game at the best speeds with least lag. Keep coming back to GameAuthority for more articles on today's most important gaming devices. We love bringing top-notch reviews and guides to those who want to know a bit more about gaming.
Until next time, play on.