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9 best wifi routers for a speedy connection throughout your home

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<p>Wifi 6 is the latest standard, which can offer fast speeds to more devices at the same time</p> (The Independent/Istock)

Wifi 6 is the latest standard, which can offer fast speeds to more devices at the same time

(The Independent/Istock)

Good internet is something everybody needs. A fast connection is just acceptable while a slow one is a disaster. The right router can ensure that speeds are good and spread right to the edges of your home, even if you are on multiple floors or have old, solid walls between rooms.

Mesh routers come in multiple units so you can place them in the best places to eke out every megabit of speed. The devices wirelessly pass the signal between each other for the strongest signal, which is better than all connecting back to the first one.

If you have super-fast broadband, you may need a faster mesh router to push the signal at top speed around your rooms. Wifi 6 is the latest standard, which can offer fast speeds to more devices at the same time.

In most cases, your internet provider will give you a modem and router – they may be the same device or two separate boxes. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick with the one you’re given. Most of the routers here require you to connect to the provider’s modem, which will be connected to the wall socket. Though some routers from providers have OK reach, the systems below should be more effective, especially in bigger homes.

We tested for speed and resilience of signal, and how much the speed dropped as you moved away from the router.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best wifi routers for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Orbi tri-band RBK752 AX4200: £400, Netgear.co.uk

  • Best for flexibility – Google nest wifi: £149, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for simplicity – Eero mesh wifi system: £79, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for ease of installation – Vodafone 5G gigabube: £50, Vodafone.co.uk

  • Best for adding to an existing system – Netgear nighthawk AX8: £280, Netgear.co.uk

  • Best for ultimate performance – Orbi RBK852: £700, Netgear.co.uk

  • Best for portability – EE 5GEE wifi: £100, Ee.co.uk

  • Best for value – BT whole home wifi: £149.98, Bt.com

  • Best design – TP-Link deco M9 plus: £243.98, Currys.co.uk

Orbi tri-band RBK752 AX4200

Best: Overall

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: Yes

Number of satellites: 1

Speed: Wifi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax)

Frequencies: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, tri-band

This is a wifi 6 router, meaning that it can handle extremely fast data transfer, capable of matching or outpacing pretty much any domestic broadband. This means it offers very speedy connections with low latency and impressive range. If you have a lot of devices connecting at the same time (perhaps because you’re working from home while the family are doing their own thing), a router like this can manage it all easily.

Orbi’s software can alert you if a new device is connecting to your network and can troubleshoot any issues. Performance is strong and consistent, even with multiple gadgets accessing it at the same time. Tri-band means that as well as 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands there’s a dedicated 5GHz link between the router and satellite. This version comes with one router and one satellite, but there’s also a version with two satellites or you can add a satellite later.

Buy now £400.00, Netgear.co.uk

Google Nest wifi

Best: Flexibility

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: No

Number of satellites: 1

Speed: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz simultaneous dual-band

Google Nest’s cute little spaceships are small enough to be discreet and snazzy enough to suit any decor. There are two elements, the Nest wifi router and the Nest wifi point. Once you’ve got the router you can add as many points as you need

The standout of the Google Nest setup is its simplicity. Install the Google Home app on your smartphone and just follow the instructions. This app is also where you can run a speed test to check how your network is doing, see how many devices are connected and troubleshoot problems.

The Point is also a Google Home speaker, responding to commands of “Hey, Google”, to answer questions, play music and more. Other set-ups offer more control or detailed settings but the point here is simplicity and a system that works brilliantly. There are some refinements – it’s easy to set up a guest network for someone who comes to visit, for instance. The router on its own is £149, a point is £129 and the two as a pair sell for £239.

Buy now £134.99, Amazon.co.uk

Eero mesh wifi system

Best: For simplicity

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: No

Number of satellites: Up to 2

Speed: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

The eero is a cute white unit with a pleasing curved shape. This means you might want to leave it somewhere visible, which helps with signal strength. It connects to your modem and then you can add more around your home wirelessly. Like the Google Nest wifi, you can buy just one or several. A three-pack – which is meant to be enough for a decent-sized home – costs £219. Set-up is fast and extremely straightforward, and like the Google Nest wifi it has a highly useful app. Signal strength is solid and reliable, perhaps the easiest to use of all the routers here.

Buy now £79.00, Amazon.co.uk

Vodafone 5G gigacube

Best: For ease of installation

Modem included: Yes

Wifi 6: No

Number of satellites: N/A

Speed: 5G

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

If you don’t have a landline or home broadband, this solution saves cables, drills or the other complications of most installations. The gigacube has a 5G sim card in it, so you need to live somewhere where the 5G Vodafone signal is strong, though this network is growing fast. Once you’ve plugged it into the electrical socket, you’re done. All your devices connect wirelessly to the gigacube, or through ethernet.

Note – unlike most home broadband tariffs, some of the monthly subscriptions from Vodafone come with data limits, either 100gb or 200gb a month, though an unlimited data option is available, for £60 a month. If you live in the right coverage area, this is a simple and compelling option, though it can be more expensive than a conventional solution.

Buy now £50.00, Vodafone.co.uk

Netgear nighthawk AX8

Best: For adding to an existing system

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: Yes

Number of satellites: N/A

Speed: 802.11 a/n/ac/ax

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

The Nighthawk works to powerfully extend an existing set-up and promises to work with any router, though it’s designed to make the most of other wifi 6 machines, which is where you’ll see the fastest speeds. It’s designed to work efficiently with multiple devices thanks to a system where it’s streaming to them at the same time rather than one after the other. You just need to plug the Nighthawk in where the signal from your router can reach it and it offers a wide area of connectivity after that. The idea is that signal blackspots in your home should be defeated. Reach is strong and worked well when it was on a different floor from the router itself.

Buy now £280.00, Netgear.co.uk

Orbi RBK852

Best: For ultimate performance

Modem included:No

Wifi 6: Yes

Number of satellites: 1

Speed: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax

Frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz

This is Orbi’s top-of-the-range model, with greater capacity than the RBK752 above: this model can handle more than 100 simultaneous streams. And the throughput speeds are also extremely high. Such capabilities may be overkill for many situations but it has benefits in other ways, such as strong coverage across greater areas, even through walls and ceilings. If you have dead spots in corners, this can fix that extremely well, not least thanks to eight internal antennae. There are also multiple wired ports on each unit, so you can get the benefits of a wired connection on more gadgets.

The design is similar to Orbi’s other wifi 6 device (£400, Netgear.co.uk), but with a slightly more refined finish. It also matches the tri-band set-up of the RBK752, designed to ensure super-fast connections between devices in the home. This is a spectacular set-up but it’s far from cheap.

Buy now £700.00, Netgear.co.uk

EE 5GEE wifi

Best: For portability

Modem included: Yes

Wifi 6: Yes

Number of satellites: N/A

Speed: 802.11 a/b/ac/g/n/ax

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

This is the smallest device on test and is another 5G router like the Vodafone gigacube (£50, Vodafone.co.uk). So, if you don’t live in a place with Vodafone 5G signal, maybe you can access EE’s network.

The cute white router is very easy to set up, mostly just inserting the sim card and switching it on. This is EE’s latest mobile broadband device, it has a battery built in so you’re not even limited to placing it where there’s a power socket, so it’s great for the bottom of the garden, for instance. Note that the various plans max out at 200GB per month and costs £100 per month. The data limit is more than enough for most people, but this system can work out much more expensive than a conventional router.

Buy now £75.00, Ee.co.uk

BT whole home wifi

Best: For value

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: No

Number of satellites: 1

Speed: 802.11 a/b/ac/g/n

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

BT’s system consists of a pair of elegant discs which look neat and offer fast performance. Although built by BT, they are compatible with all broadband providers. If your home is too big, you can add extra discs when you need them. Set-up means downloading the relevant smartphone app and following instructions from there. Like with Google’s device, the app confirms if the second disc is near enough to work. The BT system was strong on speed and performance, even in furthest corners of the home. This is a solid, good-looking and strong-performing mesh router.

Buy now £149.98, bt.com

TP-Link deco M9 plus

Best: Design

Modem included: No

Wifi 6: No

Number of satellites: 1

Speed: 802.11 ac/n/a

Frequencies: Dual band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

The deco M9 plus is designed so it looks good enough that you won’t need to squirrel it away behind things – this is a good thing because that reduces the effectiveness of the signal, too. Coverage is very strong, wider with one router and one satellite than some systems with more than satellites can manage. It can also work as a smart home hub so that devices that would ordinarily require their own bridge unit can connect direct to the router.

One extra feature: lights that indicate correct performance can be set to go off at night, for instance, on a timer. You can add extra units if you move to a larger home, for instance.

Buy now £243.98, Currys.co.uk

The verdict: Wifi routers

The Orbi tri-band RBK752 AX4200 is remarkable, offering great performance and a handsome design. The simplest system of all is the Vodafone 5G gigacube which requires no wiring or digging of roads. While Google Nest wifi offers solid reliability and easy set-up, plus great versatility.

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