The best gaming routers

The best gaming routers
  • Gaming routers include all the extra hardware and features you need to keep your ping (and lag) as low as possible while playing real-time multiplayer games online.
  • NETGEAR's Nighthawk XR500 has gaming-specific network optimization features, an intuitive user experience, and all the bandwidth you need for a fair price - it's our overall best gaming router.

Nothing derails a gaming session like some hardcore lag, or a delay in time from when you press a button to when the corresponding action happens on-screen. Truly bad online lag sees your characters glitching throughout the game, teleporting them across the map and or forcing you to watching a practical slideshow of your match as attacks that are supposed to land simply aren't.

That's why you should consider investing in a gaming router. There are many standard routers out there which can handle gaming perfectly fine, but the ones we're talking about today have all the ingredients to maximize the potential of your network for online gaming.

An effective gaming router has multiple high-gain antennas, Gigabit speeds for both wireless and Ethernet connections, a fast chipset, extras like USB ports, network management tools such as traffic prioritization, and advanced wireless technologies, like beamforming (centering signals toward specific devices) and MU-MIMO (capacity for multiple data streams per connected device at once). Many of them strive to look the part, but aesthetics have no real bearing on performance.

Even if you're not a gamer, you'll probably want a gaming router. The quality of your connection is just as important for activities like 4K video streaming, video calls, and more. With more households wth multiple people doing multiples of these activities simultaneously, these advanced routers give you enough power to handle all of that, and then some.

Here are the best gaming routers you can buy:

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The best gaming router overall

The best gaming router overall
The Netgear Nighthawk Pro XR500 offers blazing speed and all the gaming optimization essentials you need for a fair price.

Netgear's Nighthawk XR500 has everything you need for lag-free gaming. There's enough networking bandwidth to support a full household of data-hungry electronics and gaming consoles.

Simultaneous dual-band AC2600 WiFi — capable of speeds up to 2.6 gigabits per second — gives you two separate channels for networking, while MU-MIMO makes it possible for multiple devices to receive multiple streams of data simultaneously. Quality of Service and Beamforming+ support round out the gamer's list of essential technology to keep the ping low.

With external antennas supporting the efforts, the XR500 shouldn't have a problem spreading signal throughout most moderately-sized houses. Four Ethernet Gigabit ports are there for those who want to dodge the pitfalls of wireless altogether, and two USB 3.0 ports allow easy sharing of printers and storage devices across your entire network.

One of the biggest draws here is DumaOS, Netgear's gamer-centric firmware that includes neat features like geo-filtering to limit the distance of the servers you connect to. It also makes it incredibly easy to monitor your network performance and manage the devices connected to it.

The Nighthawk XR500 is widely considered a top-tier gaming router that doesn't totally devastate your bank account. Its balance of power, features, and value helped critics like Tom's Guide writer Brian Nadel score the router highly among its peers. "Netgear's Nighthawk XR500 Pro Gaming Router is among the fastest systems we've seen, and our top pick for gaming routers," he says.

Pros: Great throughput speed and range, diverse optimization options, DumaOS makes network management a breeze, dual USB 3.0 ports

Cons: Geo-filtering only works with certain games

The best cheap gaming router

The best cheap gaming router
For an awfully low price, the TP-Link Archer A9 offers the bare necessities for a smooth and stable connection.

You won't get the same power, speed, features, or even the edgy design other gaming routers have, but the TP-Link Archer A9 offers just enough to keep you from lag-induced defeat.

The A9 is an AC1900 router that has punches well above its nearly two-figure price tag. MU-MIMO, Beamforming, and dual-band performance up to 1.9 Gigabits will keep your packets from dropping and stream buffering to a minimum.

Easy to set up and use, TP-Link includes native Alexa support and If This Then That (IFTTT) integration for controlling and automating simpler network needs. A smartphone app picks up the rest of the load when managing settings like your QoS configuration, parental controls, and VPN.

There's more than enough room for your hardwired devices with four Gigabit LAN ports. It's a bit disappointing that the USB port is one the dated 2.0 spec, but at least it's there.

The TP-Link Archer A9 is one of the most popular routers at Amazon. Nearly 5,000 customers have chimed in with opinions about it, and there were enough positive ones to land it a 4.1-star average rating. Most customers love the easy setup, and the consensus is that its radios are powerful enough to reach all the corners of even a big family home.

Pros: Very affordable, acceptable speed and power, easy setup, smart home capabilities

Cons: Lacks USB 3.0


The best gaming router for speed

The best gaming router for speed
With next-generation Wi-Fi capabilities and a high bandwidth ceiling, the ASUS ROG GT-AC5300 will serve your home or small business for years to come.

PCMag calls the ASUS ROG GT-AC5300 "overkill" for most home users in its 4.5-star review, but serious gamers who want all the speed and optimization they can get should give it real consideration. This 4x4 tri-band router was conceived solely for the destruction of lag.

If you can't use Ethernet, the GT-AC5300 offers three different wireless bands working at the much more capable 1024-QAM spec to keep network congestion low. You get your standard cocktail of 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands supporting speeds up to 1 and 2.1 Gigabits, respectively. A third dedicated 5GHz band — also supporting up to 2.1 gigabits — is there for your most important connections.

Wireless signals are moved along with the help of eight dedicated antennas, as well as the latest wireless transmission technologies, like MU-MIMO and Beamforming. A 1.8GHz quad-core processor ensures it has enough power to handle all of this.

Of course, the best performance comes through Gigabit Ethernet, and the GT-AC5300 offers eight of those ports, two of which can be combined for 2-Gigabit performance. Two of the ports get automatic bandwidth priority over the others, allowing you to ensure your gaming consoles will always be in the express lane. Joined by them on the rear of the router are two USB 3.0 ports.

Being part of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand, ASUS has done a job and a half to help you fine-tune and optimize your network with ease. The "ROG Gaming Center" gives you browser- and app-based access to your dashboard that makes it easy to analyze and optimize traffic, manage QoS, use smart home automation capabilities, secure your network, and a whole lot more.

Pros: Tri-band 1024-QAM wireless, abundance of Ethernet, truly prioritizes gaming devices, great network management features

Cons: Can be costly, big footprint

The best gaming router for custom firmware

The best gaming router for custom firmware
The Linksys WRT AC3200 keeps the classic nerd's brand and look alive with modern wireless capabilities managed via traditional methods.

Back in the early days of Wi-Fi, Linksys emerged as a pioneer who dared to help rid you of Internet Service Provider-controlled hardware. The WRT brand allows the technically savvy to replace its open-source firmware with any custom and compatible installation they want.

While many routers of today offer this functionality, the Linksys WRT AC3200 is still one of the best for the job. In fact, the most popular custom firmware distributions out there share namesakes with the thing, such as OpenWrt and DD-WRT.

The functional hardware bits should satisfy any gamer, including dual-band MU-MIMO wireless, four dedicated Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and even the unusual inclusion of a USB 2.0 and eSATA combo port. It doesn't have that attractive gamer aesthetic some of the other featured routers do, but it's what's on the inside that counts, and the WRT AC3200 houses everything you need under its unassuming shell.

Even if you don't need to load up custom firmware, the included dashboard makes it easy to manage your network. It comes complete with a smartphone app that allows you to prioritize devices, manage parental controls, setup guest access, and tinker with pretty much all parts of your network.

TechRadar rates the Linksys WRT AC3200 4 stars out of 5. Reviewer Matt Hanson loves the power and flexibility afforded here, though raw performance doesn't quite match some of the more specialized models. It's also pretty popular at Amazon, with scores of buyers agreeing with the critics' conclusions. Some of the early reviews there tell of nasty stability issues, but those have since been addressed with a series of firmware updates.

Pros: Perfect for custom firmware, eSATA and USB ports, tri-stream 5GHz band offers double bandwidth, easy setup for casual users

Cons: Looks like it belongs in an office


The best WiFi 6 gaming router

The best WiFi 6 gaming router
Some people need to stay ahead of the curve, and the Netgear Nighthawk AX12's Wi-Fi 6 capabilities ensure you won't fall behind.

You future proofers out there will want to pay attention to the Netgear Nighthawk AX12. This is one of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market, and you'll want one in your home when the industry begins catching onto the tech. Wi-Fi 6 brings the fastest theoretical and real-world throughput speeds we've ever seen. The standard maximum is 9.6 Gigabits per second, up from the 3.5-Gigabit maximum of the previous generation.

Plus, Wi-Fi 6 will drastically improve the performance and reliability of Wi-Fi networks that have many devices connected to it. Improvements to MU-MIMO and other wireless technologies are making it possible for far more simultaneous data streams than previous implementations, so every device on your network will perform to its best potential.

Wi-Fi 6 adoption is growing slowly but steadily. In the meantime, the Nighthawk AX12 is fully backward compatible with all your current devices and you'll enjoy substantial improvements in general. It's rated for up to 6 Gigabits (1.2 Gigabits on 2.4GHz and 4.8 Gigabits for you 5GHz folks), has eight maximum range antennas, and a 2.2GHz quad-core processor. It's all secured by WPA3.

There are six Ethernet LAN ports in all on the device, two of which can be used in a combo state to improve file transfer speeds, and one of which supports speeds ranging all the way up to 5 Gigabits. Two USB 3.0 ports are included for network-connected devices.

Folks reviewing the router on Amazon are mostly pleased, though some feel they paid too much for something that wasn't a huge improvement over their existing routers. This response makes total sense when you consider Wi-Fi 6 benefits don't kick in unless the client devices support it too, many of which currently don't. Expect that to change within the next year.

Pros: Ready for Wi-Fi 6, insanely fast, easy setup with smartphone app, advanced ethernet options, backwards compatible with your existing devices

Cons: Expensive, looks like a spaceship