The Best Routers 2018
We’ve been long term testing Google Wifi for over a year in a number of different conditions, in buildings with concrete walls and so on, and we’re convinced that if seamless wireless coverage is what want first and foremost, mesh systems are the way to go, and Google’s offering is a top candidate to make it your own.
Unlike single, powerful routers, mesh networks use two or more devices that wirelessly communicate with each other, blanketing your home with a single, reliable network. They’re an excellent option for those with a medium or large space who don’t want the cost or rigmarole of setting up multiple devices.
Simplicity is the key word here: download the Google Wifi app to your phone or tablet, plug the devices into a power source (USB Type-C), attach your existing modem to one of the satellites via the Gigabit Ethernet port, and following the on-screen instructions. But that’s just set up and one of the many conveniences offered by this mesh wireless system. Another particularly great thing about Google Wifi is that it will automatically download and install the firmware updates.These arrive quite often, meaning your network performance and security is regularly improved.
Google’s system is one of the cheaper mesh networks, costing around $250 for a pack of three or $100 for a single unit, thereby offering good value should you want to add extra points to your home. Google says its 3-pack covers up to 4,500 sq. ft, so that should be enough for most people.
The feature-packed Google Wifi app is another of the highlights here. It allows users to see what devices are connected and how much bandwidth each one is using. You can prioritize traffic to specific devices for certain lengths of time, which is helpful if you’re streaming the latest 4K Netflix show or participating in a Fortnite: Battle Royale session. Concerned parents, meanwhile, can pause internet access for groups of devices, thereby making sure kids don’t stay online too long, and it’s also possible to automatically block adult websites from children’s eyes. Network stability is maintained as the units constantly check the best channel and Wi-Fi band for a client to connect to, and you can even create separate guest networks.
On formal testing, Google Wifi tests well for a dual-stream AC1200 router, achieving a top sustained Wi-Fi speed of more than 470 megabits per second at close range, falling to 201 megabits when at a greater distance. There is a performance drop when adding extra units, but that’s the case with all mesh systems. It is not the fastest mesh, in fact, raw throughput may be its biggest drawback today, but it’s the most convenient system for most households given the price.
Ultimately, for ease of use, competitive pricing, and a sleek design, Google Wifi is hard to beat, especially if you have a large home and want better coverage.
The Performance Option
While Netgear’s Tri-band Orbi RBK50 is a lot larger than Google’s nodes and less easy on the eye, they do offer more. You get a complete web interface containing all the same features as Netgear’s Nighthawk routers, including static routing, advanced port mapping, firewall rules, and backups. There’s even MU-MIMO support, a three-port gigabit ethernet switch on the router, and a four-port switch on the satellite.
The $320 base package includes two units instead of the usual three, but they still cover 5,000 square feet. You might be losing out on the easy-to-use app (though Netgear is also updating and improving its software continuously) and subtle stylings of Google WiFi, but Orbi offers the best wireless performance of all mesh routers.