The best gaming routers act as a junction for all your network traffic, including sending and receiving packages to ensure smooth online gaming. That’s why we only want the best to take on the role in our homes—Wi-Fi shouldn’t be a laggy mess in 2022.
Even if a wired connection is still ideal for your PC, gaming over wireless shouldn’t be an issue today. For this to work, you can not afford to have spotty coverage or a lousy router that can’t accommodate all those wireless devices one household can accumulate. The router you want needs to deliver the fastest speeds and a stable connection regardless of what’s connected to it.
While a wired connection will always be faster, the latest wireless kits can easily match the speed and latency of being hard-wired. If your motherboard lacks wireless networking capabilities, you can rely on a USB Wi-Fi adapter (opens in new tab) as a decent stopgap.
If you’re playing on one of the best gaming laptops (opens in new tab), you should focus a little more on your Wi-Fi, since some gaming laptops’ only option is a wireless connection. Getting your network up to speed is paramount for a modern smart home to boost the connection to your Smart TV, consoles, tablets, smartphones, and everything else that needs a decent internet connection. And if your home is spread over many long hallways, a Wi-Fi range extender (opens in new tab) can be a lifesaver.
The Asus RT-AX88U (opens in new tab) is the best choice for a high-end router. It features Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology and an impressive eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, enough to connect a whole gaggle of devices without resorting to an external switch, and two of which support link aggregation.
Overall the specs for the RT-AX88U are quite top notch, which sees it top our list of the best. The hardware ingredients for this router include a quad core 1.8GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM and 256MB of flash storage.
5 GHz speeds are where the RT-AX88U shines.
Backing this up is the usual excellent AsusWRT interface, which allows granular control of every imaginable setting. Such as support for VPN client and server, parental controls, port forwarding, personal cloud networking, and guest networking. It is primarily web-based, though it can also be used via an iOS or Android app.
There is also class-leading Adaptive QoS, along with Trend Micro antivirus and the WTFast GPN—all with subscriptions included for the lifetime of the router—which are standouts among competing routers.
Now onto the wireless, which is the real story of an 802.11ax router. Here, the RT-AX88U claims a total throughput of 6000 Mbps, with the 2.4 GHz topping out at 1148 Mbps, and the 5 GHz offering 4804 Mbps. For those keeping score, we have had routers from the previous 802.11ac generation that could get close to that total throughput before, such as the Asus GT-AC5300- but they were tri-band with dual 5 GHz signals. Here, the RT-AX88U offers greater throughput while being only dual band, which is quite impressive—although this is again theoretic due to available client adapters.
While the 2.4 GHz speeds are adequate, the 5 GHz speeds are where the RT-AX88U shines. Furthermore, for gaming in a congested environment, this router outdistances the competition. Sure, next-generation ‘super router’ performance comes in at a shocking $346, but given these benchmarks, at least it’s justifiable.
The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700 is a strong follow-up to the XR500, which impressed us as it was the fastest router we had tested to date (opens in new tab). Both are part of the company’s ‘Nighthawk Pro Gaming’ networking line of products—but the XR700 is even faster than its predecessor.
The XR700 has plenty of the right ingredients, with one WAN and six LAN ports for enough wired connections, support for link aggregation (opens in new tab), and even a 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port for ridiculous Ethernet bandwidth. Let’s get it out of the way. With all the attention on the wireless market heading to 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 (opens in new tab), this XR700 uses a combination of the last generation 802.11ac/Wi-Fi 5 wireless and 802.11ad technology (opens in new tab) (that’s the 60 GHz frequency one), which unfortunately has not gone mainstream. It also supports Beamforming via four active antennas.
The XR700 is a strong all-around performer in our tests.
Another highlight of the XR700 is the gaming-centric Duma OS, which boasts Geo-Filter tech to connect to the closest server when gaming. The XR700 has granular control of the bandwidth, prioritizes throughput by each device for both the upload and download separately, and assigns a specific percentage for each device to balance the load, thereby preventing any single device from becoming a bandwidth hog.
The XR700 is a strong all-around performer in our tests, starting with the 2.4 GHz frequency with some of the fastest scores to date of 284 Mbps at close range and 225 Mbps on our far test. This continued on our 5 GHz testing with strong 325 Mbps and 332 Mbps scores at close and far ranges, respectively.
(Image credit: Asus)
3. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
Serious hardware for serious gamers
Speed: AX11000 (Tri-band 2.4 GHz – 1148 Mbps x 1, 5 GHz – 4,804Mbps x 2)
On the wireless side of things, this is a Wi-Fi 6 tri-band solution offering more than 10 Gigabits of wireless bandwidth, along with DFS bands to avoid interference. Additional gaming-centric features include integrated WTFast, VPN Fusion to segregate gaming traffic from VPN for maximum throughput, Dynamic QoS to prioritize gaming traffic, Games Radar (no, not that one) to check the ping times (opens in new tab) to different game servers to minimize latency, and for those that prefer a more colorful surrounding, Aura RGB.
Running the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 through our testing left us seriously impressed. While the 2.4 GHz speeds are decent 171 Mbps on the far test, the 5 GHz speeds are exceptional, with one of the fastest throughput speeds of any router so far at 334 Mbps. Oh, and we don’t even have an 802.11ax USB Wi-Fi adapter yet, so this is using 802.11ac gear on the client-side. Yes, this router is really that good.
TP-Link’s latest high-end gaming router is a significant improvement over previous models and now ranks among the best gaming routers around—especially when it comes to the 5GHz range, at which it excels. We love how easy the C5400X is to set up and use while still offering strong features: the ability to manage QoS easily, the inclusion of network security (via Trend Micro), and options to not only blacklist but also allow certain devices.
In terms of the throughput speeds, our tests clocked the following for the Archer C5400X: at 2.4GHz, it delivers 117 Mbps near and 112 Mbps far, which is somewhat middling, while at 5GHz, it performs extremely well, clocking 344 Mbps near and 347 Mbps far. From this perspective, it’s market-leading.
What disappoints, if anything, is the lack of specific tech to decrease latency, which you see in competing models of the same price, like the Netgear XR500. In terms of ports and antennae, it’s near-identical to the superb Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 but doesn’t quite offer the same performance. It is, however, a cheaper alternative and a highly recommended gaming router that’s pleasingly easy to set up and manage.
Dimensions: 14.17 x 8.46 x 2.36 in (360 x 215 x 60 mm)
Weight: 1.36 lb (618 g)
Reasons to buy
Automatic firmware update
Reasons to avoid
Lacks granular control
Wi-Fi 6 is spreading across product lineups, and the Nighthawk AX4 is an excellent example of what this spec can accomplish, even on a more budget router. The Nighthawk AX4 does not have flashy colored stripes and LEDs of high-end gear. Rather it has a horizontal orientation, with two external antennas, four Gigabit LAN ports, a single USB port, and a row of green indicator LEDs.
The Nighthawk app handles the interface, although it can also be used via a web portal, this is also more generic, as you won’t find the DumaOS here, but the more familiar Netgear one. There is also QoS (which is a simple toggle on or off) for gaming. Still, there is no granular control to better balance gaming needs and video streaming across multiple connected devices to optimize the experience better.
In testing, the AX4 achieved some great performance numbers when it came to throughput, with a close testing speed of 344 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz frequency and 345 Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency. There was also no slouch on the far testing with 222 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 309 Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency, showing the Wi-Fi 6 spec value. For those who want the throughput that Wi-Fi 6 offers at a more affordable price than most, the Netgear AX4 is an attractive offering.
Gaming router FAQ
Is a gaming router worth it?
Gaming routers can prioritize traffic to your gaming PC and consoles—they’re built to be greedy. The best gaming router reduces lag during your online game sessions, even if other devices in your household are streaming or downloading. If you’ve had the same router for years, it might be the right time to consider an upgrade if you want to get the most of your internet.
Is wired better than Wi-Fi for gaming?
Given the potential for Wi-Fi connections to have hiccups, we would always suggest, where possible, to have your gaming PC wired into your router directly. Failing that, buy a Powerline connection. Wireless connections are getting more effective, and Wi-Fi 6 is good enough that wireless VR streaming is actually now possible. But if latency creeps in there, you might throw up.
The best gaming routers have multiple LAN ports for wired connections—which are preferred—but most differ from ISP-provided gear through the use of the latest Wi-Fi standards, such as 802.11ax, aka Wi-Fi 6. This means faster and more efficient wireless data throughput for a greater number of devices. That last bit is key to rock-solid wireless performance in an age of smart devices and appliances.
Can I use any gaming router with my provider?
Before you splash out on a new router, you will need to make sure that it is compatible with your current ISP. Some ISP-provided cable modems, for example, don’t offer pass-through connectivity to allow a high-performance router to be paired with it. So it’s important to make sure you’re not wasting your money.
What are Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E?
Wi-Fi 6, otherwise known as 802.11ax, is an improved generation of wireless communication between devices. Both client and router need to support Wi-Fi 6 to get its benefits, but these include faster throughput for a more stable and efficient connection, (ideally) less interference, and upgrades to MU-MIMO features.
Wi-Fi 6E delivers the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 with the 6GHz frequency in play to expose further congestion-free networking to your compatible devices. You probably need a good reason to buy a Wi-Fi 6E router today, but it could offer you some improvement with compatible devices.