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The best Wi-Fi routers in 2020

Your router is the unsung hero holding your smart home together. From mesh to gaming to Wi-Fi 6, here are the best we've tested, for every budget.

Thanks to the arrival of Wi-Fi 6 and its promise of faster, more efficient Wi-Fi performance, 2019 was a particularly interesting year for wireless networking and Wi-Fi technology. Now, in 2020, the advent of new, second-gen mesh network options is worth paying attention to, as well -- particularly since so many of them are significantly less expensive than the systems that preceded them.

All of that has given us a nice, long list of new Wi-Fi router models to test out. We're still dutifully working through them, but we've already found plenty of great picks that are easy to recommend. Whether you're interested in mesh systems, gaming routers, Wi-Fi 6 routers -- or if you just want something decent that won't break the bank -- we're here to point you in the right direction.

Expect regular updates to this post as we continue our tests on multiple devices. When we find a Wi-Fi router that merits strong consideration, we'll add it to this list with links back to our most recent test data.

Read more: Best internet providers in 2020 | Best gaming PCs for 2020 | Best smart plugs for 2020 Best mesh Wi-Fi system of 2020 | The best gaming laptop performers of 2020 | Best gaming chairs we've sat in for 2020: DXRacer, Secretlab and more 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest, fastest version of Wi-Fi, and we're expecting to see lots of new models that support it in 2020. And, if you want, you can upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router right now to get faster, more efficient Wi-Fi performance from connected devices that support the new standard, like the iPhone 11 or the Samsung Galaxy S10. Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible, so your older devices will still be able to connect, too -- but your new wireless router won't do anything to speed them up.

All of which is to say that it's probably still too early for most of us to get a new Wi-Fi 6 router (and don't forget that you'll need a really, really fast internet connection in order to notice the difference in the first place).

That said, if you're looking to make the upgrade now, or if you need a new wireless router and you want something future-proofed for the next generation of devices, then go for the TP-Link Archer AX6000. It basically aced our performance tests, delivering the fastest top transfer speeds we've ever recorded, plus excellent range and low latency.

The AX6000 debuted at a price of $350, but we've seen it marked down as low as $270. It definitely isn't cheap even at that price, but if you can catch it on sale, it's a worthy way to upgrade to a robust Wi-Fi 6 network. And if you can, consider waiting a few months, because TP-Link has two new AX6600 routers coming later this year: the $300 AX90 in April and the gaming-centric GX90, which will cost $330 this summer. If nothing else, that'll probably mean a price cut for the 2019 model. Read more on CNET.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you need a new wireless router that feels like an upgrade -- but you don't want to spend hundreds on it -- then make sure the D-Link DIR-867 is on your list. It impressed us with steady Wi-Fi speeds and decent features for the price when we first tested it out in 2018. After that, it held its own against top-of-the-line gaming routers when we tested it again in late 2019.

In fact, of all the routers we tested, the DIR-867 clocked the fastest average download speeds on the 2.4 GHz band in both our top-speed tests and our real-world speed tests. This Wi-Fi router also held its own on the 5 GHz band, beating out several routers that cost significantly more. It wasn't the best performer at range, so it's probably best suited for small homes, but you're still getting strong performance for the price at $100 or less.

That said, keep in mind that D-Link just announced its new lineup of routers for 2020 at CES. They include Wi-Fi 6 models starting at $120 which should start to arrive in stores in the coming months -- we'll keep an eye out for those as they arrive and let you know if they're worth the extra cash over the DIR-867. Read CNET's D-Link DIR-867 review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

With fast speeds, simple setup and helpful, easy-to-use app controls, Google Wifi was our top mesh router pick for the past three years. Its second-gen follow-up, Nest Wifi, is faster, more affordable and just as easy to set up and use. Plus, the range-extending Points double as Google Assistant smart speakers now. That, coupled with a new design that comes in multiple colors, is aimed at getting you to keep these things out in the open, where they'll perform better.

It doesn't support Wi-Fi 6 (and those Wi-Fi extenders to boost the range of your Wi-Fi signal don't have Ethernet jacks, which means you can't wire them back to the Wi-Fi router), but Nest Wifi does add in a couple of nice, current-gen upgrades, including support for new WPA3 security standards and also 4X4 MU-MIMO connections, which means that it can provide faster top speeds to devices that use multiple Wi-Fi antennas. At $269 for a two-device setup capable of covering up to 3,800 square feet (a claim that checked out when we tested it in both a small home and the 5,800 square foot CNET Smart Home), the dual band Nest Wifi is the most well-rounded mesh router on the market right now, and the first one I'd recommend.

That said, with lots of new mesh systems just announced at CES 2020 -- including a few that support Wi-Fi 6 for less than Nest Wifi costs -- it's shaping up to be a very interesting (and busy) year for the mesh beat. If any of those new systems manage to dethrone Nest in our eyes, we'll be sure to update this space. Read CNET's Nest Wifi review.

Ry Crist/CNET

It isn't as fully featured as systems like Nest Wifi, and the app controls you'll use to set everything up aren't nearly as slick -- but aside from that, the new, budget-friendly Netgear Orbi system stands out as a clear value pick in the mesh category. At just $150 for a two-device setup with the Wi-Fi router and a single range WiFi extender, it's about as inexpensive as a mesh network gets, and it kept up with both Nest and Eero in our speed tests. As of right now, it's on sale for even less -- just $130.

In fact, of those three systems, Netgear Orbi clocked in with the fastest average top speed at close range -- and when we put that range to the test at the CNET Smart Home, it edged those two Wi-Fi systems out once again. I even like the new design, with clever contours on top that vent out heat in style.

So what's next for Netgear? Interestingly enough, there's a new, Nighthawk-branded mesh system coming out this month. It looks just like this Orbi system, except it's black -- and it supports Wi-Fi 6. That one costs just $230 for a two-piece setup, and is one of the next mesh systems we hope to test. Stay tuned for more info. Read CNET's Netgear Orbi review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Gaming routers promise high performance and low latency for die-hard gamers, and it isn't uncommon to find them selling for $200 or even $300. At about $150, the Asus RT-AC86U dual-band router isn't inexpensive either, but it's a strong value relative to routers like those -- and this wireless router offers excellent performance, too. 

Specifically, the RT-AC86U dual-band router registered the fastest average top speeds on the 5 GHz band of any Wi-Fi 5 router we tested. It was also the best gaming router in our latency tests, with lower average ping across dozens of speed tests than any other router we looked at. That includes fancier gaming routers that cost more and even a couple of Wi-Fi 6 models. Meanwhile, you'll control the wireless router using a terrific, full-featured app that offers lots of advanced network controls, including parental controls for your Wi-Fi network, and options for device prioritization.

That checks off all of the boxes that most people want from a good gaming router and a dual-band router, and it gets you there at a price that isn't too painful for us to recommend. You might consider waiting until later this year, when Asus plans to release the RT-AX86U, which adds in support for Wi-Fi 6, but we don't know how much that router will cost or when it will hit stores. Read more on CNET.

Originally published in 2019 and updated regularly.