With the increasing popularity of bandwidth-intensive activities like online gaming and HD video streaming, it's important to have hardware that can handle such demands. Premium wireless routers are deigned to offer the fastest possible throughput for home wireless networks. This means internet speeds are fast enough to stream HD video content without incessant buffering.
In homes with large numbers of Wi-Fi enabled devices, your wireless signals can become congested and ineffective. To combat this issue, the top premium wireless routers are often dual-band devices. This means that rather than sharing one wireless band across all of your devices, you have two, to better balance the load on your wireless network.
In addition to these features, devices like the Linksys WRT1900AC, the Asus RT-AC68U and the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 offer excellent security and deep configuration settings. Using these settings allows you to create a home network that meets your unique needs. For more information on how to improve the performance of your home network, read our other articles about premium wireless routers.
The best premium wireless routers provide industry-leading performance and security as well as an easy-to-use interface for set-up and adjusting settings. Whichever of these is most important to you will determine the wireless router that suits you best. Since there are many different aspects to performance, security and ease of use, we've broken them down to help you decide.
Wi-Fi has undergone several evolutions since its introduction. These evolutions are often marked by the introduction of a new Wi-Fi standard. Whether your Wi-Fi is 802.11b, g or n, each successive advancement has brought new features and faster speeds to consumers. The latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, offers a series of important features including increased speed and stronger connections.
The 802.11ac standard is only usable on 5GHz networks. Premium wireless routers built around this standard, however, are often dual band, meaning they simultaneously broadcast both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This is important because many older devices aren't compatible with 5GHz and would therefore be unusable on an 802.11ac network.
Speed is a primary concern when it comes to internet access, and the new 802.11ac standard delivers a significant increase. While previous incarnations of the Wi-Fi standard boasted theoretical speeds of up to 450 Mbps, 802.11ac now allows for speeds of up to 1300 Mbps. While it's unlikely that you'll reach these speeds in the real world due to interference and other factors, these theoretical speeds are a good indicator of the kind of improvement you should expect from a new 802.11ac router.
Signal strength is another important benefit of purchasing an 802.11ac router. Older routers broadcast Wi-Fi signals somewhat haphazardly in the general area of the router. 802.11ac routers use a technology known as beamforming to focus the signal in the direction of a connected device. With this technology, connections will not only be faster, but more stable and reliable.
Over the years, the numbers of devices that utilize the 2.4GHz band have multiplied, and getting a clear signal in densely populated areas can be difficult. The obvious solution to this problem is using a different frequency, namely 5GHz, and that's exactly what 802.11ac routers do. Because there's less interference, modern devices that are equipped for use on 5GHz networks will benefit from a cleaner signal while using an 802.11ac router.
Although they are more expensive than the typical 802.11n variety, 802.11ac routers offer a substantial improvement in speed and connection stability. New laptops, tablets and phones are now shipping with this technology, and while they are still compatible with older Wi-Fi standards, upgrading to an 802.11ac router is the best way to get the most out of your Wi-Fi enabled devices.
When looking at a premium wireless router it's also important to take note of the connection points that it offers. The best routers typically have four gigabit LAN ports, a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. The LAN ports allow you wired access to the internet, while the USB ports let you connect network devices like printers or external hard drives for sharing.
To help protect you and your personal information, premium wireless routers should include a high level of security. The routers with the best security include the basics such as WEP and WPA2 protection as well as media access control.
They also often include firewalls based on Network Address Translation (NAT) technology, the more advanced stateful packet inspection (SPI) or both. SPI detects traffic patterns that appear to be from hackers. NAT hides all of the devices on your wireless network behind a single IP address.
Different routers also offer varying levels of parental controls. The best parental controls offer blocking based on content, keywords or specific URLs. Most premium wireless routers should also be able to schedule internet access times for specific devices to help keep youngsters from browsing the web all day.
Ease of Use
As a rule, most premium wireless routers are going to be fairly easy to set up. Some, however, are easier than others. The best routers come with a preconfigured wireless network. This allows you to connect to the internet by simply plugging your router in and using the included network name and password to connect a computer to it. Using this method, there's no need for a wired connection or a set-up disk.
Once your router is set up, you have the option of configuring your network further. You can change the name of the network, the password, parental settings and more. If you're a power user, you'll want to make sure that the router you choose has adequate options for customizing your network and that the menus themselves are easy to navigate.
Help & Support
Most premium wireless routers come with a warranty of at least one year. This warranty will protect you against any defects in the workmanship or materials of the router. Most companies offer extensive support on their websites with links to FAQs, tutorials and more. If these options fail to answer your questions, you can also contact manufactures by phone, email and often live chat.
Premium wireless routers use the latest Wi-Fi technologies to afford the fastest speeds, strongest connections and deepest configuration options available. In purchasing a device that makes use of these technologies, you're not only improving your wireless speeds, but also preparing your home network for the future.