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What are the best wireless routers?

From the different wireless routers available to how to shop around, here’s everything you need to know about the best Wi-Fi routers.

people at home with wifi router in front

A wireless router – also known as a Wi-Fi router – is an electronic device supplied by broadband providers to connect you to the internet. A wireless router is what powers wireless broadband.

Switching to a better router comes with many positives:

  • It could handle faster speeds, letting you enjoy the full benefits of gigabit speed internet.
  • It may have a longer signal range, which means a stronger internet connection for everyone in the house.
  • Many come with at least four Ethernet ports so that you can connect PCs, TVs and game consoles to the internet.

Different wireless routers use different generations of Wi-Fi, including Wi-Fi 5, 6, and 7. And different Wi-Fi protocols support different frequencies or channel bandwidths (explained in the FAQs). This all impacts the Wi-Fi speed.

Wi-Fi 5 Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 6E Wi-Fi 7
"A widely supported generation of Wi-Fi. , ,Up to 3.5Gbps (Gigabits per second). , ,Uses the 80MHz (Megahertz) and 160MHz channel bandwidth."
"Today’s generation of Wi-Fi. , ,Uses the 2.4GHz (Gigahertz) and 5GHz bandwidth. Based on the 802.11ax wireless standard."
"6GHz bandwidth. , ,Faster speeds. , ,Less interference than Wi-Fi 6."
"Upcoming generation of Wi-Fi. , ,Supports data rates of up to 30Gbps."

Table showing the different types of wireless routers.

When choosing the best router, you need to decide between a dual-band and a tri-band router. The main difference is the amount of traffic they support and the speeds they are capable of.

  • Dual-band routers support the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
  • Tri-band routers support an extra 5GHz band that allows for more bandwidth and faster speeds. Ideal for busy households with many connected devices.

You can also get regular routers and mesh routers:

  • A regular router is one router placed in the house that connects you to the internet.
  • Mesh routers connect you to the internet via a network of sources, not just one router. Your devices will automatically connect to the nearest node to get the best speeds.

Five things to consider when shopping for the best home router:

  1. The Wi-Fi standard – what wireless standard is being used? E.g. 802.11ax. You can find out which standard is used by looking at the letters at the end. The “n” protocol is also known as Wi-Fi 4, “ac” is Wi-Fi 5, “ax” is Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, and Wi-Fi 7 is “be”
  2. Wi-Fi bands – e.g. does it use 2.4GHz or 5GHz (gigahertz)?
  3. Security – make sure the router offers great security
  4. Speed – check the upload and download speed
  5. The size of your house – if you live in a big place with a few dead Wi-Fi zones, a mesh router might be best

BT Smart Hub 2

Available to customers who sign up for a BT Superfast Fibre Broadband package.

  • Built-in Smart Scan technology that automatically reboots connection
  • Uses one or more discs to give you better Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home
  • Seven antennas to access a bigger range of Wi-Fi signals than any other ISP's router
  • Uses both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands

Virgin Media Hub 5

Available for those who take Virgin Media's fastest Gig1 plan.

  • Supports dual-band wireless channels
  • Supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 protocol (802.11ax)
  • Fast speeds and large capacity
  • Can handle up to 2.5Gbps of bandwidth with an ethernet port
  • Made from '100% post-consumer recycled plastic'

Sky’s Broadband Hub and Max Hub

Sky’s broadband hub is the standard router you get with any Sky Broadband deal, while the Max Hub is the add-on.

  • Supports Wi-Fi 6 protocol (802.11ax)
  • Sky Wi-Fi Max offers up to three Sky Max Pods to boost Wi-Fi signal
  • Guaranteed speeds of at least 25Mbps throughout your home

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub

  • Seven antennas allowing for greater connectivity
  • Smart Wi-Fi tech to continually check your network connection
  • USB port and four Ethernet ports
  • AC standard Wi-Fi
  • Sleek design

What's a Wi-Fi channel?

A Wi-Fi channel is the frequency at which your router sends and receives signals. Wi-Fi typically operates at two bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

What do WEP, WPA and WPA2 mean?

These are different types of security keys for your wireless connection. WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy and is the weakest type of security. WPA stands for Wireless Protected Access, which is adequate, and WPA2 is the most secure.

What's MAC address filtering?

A MAC address is a unique code that identifies your network adapter (it looks something like 00:4F:6G:00:EE, and it will be 100% unique to you). Anything that connects to the internet must have a MAC address.

MAC address filtering allows you to block traffic coming from certain machines or devices. The router uses the MAC address of a computer or device on the network to identify it and block or allow access.

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