CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. How we test routers

Give the gift of a better and faster Wi-Fi router for 2021

May all your streaming be swift and your downloads merry.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
5 min read
$250 at Amazon
Asus RT-AX86U
The best gaming router for the money
$199 at Amazon
Eero 6 (2-pack)
A brand-new mesh bargain that supports Wi-Fi 6
$700 at Best Buy
Netgear Orbi AX6000 (2-pack)
A muscle car among mesh routers
$310 at Amazon
Asus ZenWiFi AX
The mesh Wi-Fi sweet spot
$25 at Walmart
tp-link re220 wi-fi range extender
TP-Link RE220 Wi-Fi Range Extender
An excellent, value-priced range extender

The coronavirus has highlighted the importance of the internet in most households, and if your family is struggling with spotty Wi-Fi, it might be time to consider giving the gift of a faster router for the holidays.

Between a surge of options in the mesh category and the debut of speedy new Wi-Fi 6 routers, there are plenty of options to consider, but we can help you narrow your search with our picks for a router gift. We update this list periodically.

Read more: The best Wi-Fi routers in 2020 

Last year, the Asus RT-AC86U finished right at the top of the pack in our gaming router tests, even beating out fancier, flashier, more expensive competitors. Now, in 2020, the brand is back with a follow-up called the Asus RT-AX86U -- and as the switch from "AC" to "AX" indicates, it supports Wi-Fi 6, the newest, fastest and most efficient version of Wi-Fi.

OK, so the uninspired white plastic is about as generic as it gets, but it was Eero that first brought mesh to the masses several years ago -- and when it comes to the software and algorithms that make multi-point mesh networking possible, Eero does it better than just about everyone else. Now, a year after getting acquired by Amazon, Eero is back with brand new mesh systems just in time for the holiday buying season -- and they add in support for Wi-Fi 6 (sensing a theme here?)

Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 6Speed Rating AX6000Range Up to 5,000 sq. ft.Wireless Networking Security WPA, WPA2Bands Tri-Band (2.4 and two 5GHz)

If you want the ultimate Wi Fi router upgrade, then you should look for a couple of things. You want speed, obviously -- but you'll notice the biggest difference if you make the jump to a mesh system designed to keep those speeds consistent for connected devices throughout your entire home from your iPad or tablet to your smartphone. And, among mesh routers, the feature that makes the biggest impact on performance is triband design, where you get the standard 2.4 and 5GHz bands plus an additional 5GHz band that you can dedicate to local network traffic between the router and the satellites. That speeds everything up.

If the $199 Eero 6 is your entry-level Wi-Fi 6 mesh router, and the $699 Netgear Orbi AX6000 is your top-of-the-line splurge, then the $449 Asus ZenWiFi AX is the sensible middle-ground pick that's probably the easiest to justify buying. The system flat-out aced our tests earlier this year, and finished in a close second to Netgear in terms of overall performance. That's exceptional given that the two-piece Asus system costs about $250 less than the two-piece Orbi AX6000 setup.

Not looking to spend hundreds on an entire new router? You can expand the range of your wireless network for a lot less by going with a simple, plug-in range extender instead. I tested several out earlier this year, and the best of the bunch was the TP-Link RE220, available for just $25.

More networking recommendations