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Best 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) wireless routers

We’re now at an important landmark in Wi-Fi routers. The new Wi-Fi 6 standard, 802.11ax, is here and available in many of the latest routers. But while Wi-Fi 6 offers a lot of benefits, it still isn’t right for everyone.

Why? Many people aren’t using Wi-Fi 6-ready devices. Others may be put off by higher Wi-Fi 6 router prices when all they really want is a cheaper router replacement. Some businesses may rely on devices that can’t be upgraded to Wi-Fi 6 at this time and just need a dependable Wi-Fi 5 router instead.

For these situations, we have our list of excellent Wi-Fi 5 routers, starting with the all-around great Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 model.

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 R6900P

There are many excellent Wi-Fi 5 Nighthawk models — it’s one of the most diverse lines of Wi-Fi routers around. But this AC1900 model in particular is a top choice for those who need a great new 802.11ac router that provides speedy performance without a high cost.

In addition to its max AC1900 speeds, this dual-band router (600 + 1,300Mbps) comes with four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections and antennas that can broadcast over a 1,800 square foot area. It’s also MU-MIMO compatible for more direct connections with a select few compatible devices.

Other smart tech includes beamforming, dynamic switching, and support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. For security, it includes a parental control app along with the ability to easily set up a guest network, firewall, or VPN.

All in all, this fully featured router has everything you could want in a Wi-Fi 5 model without costing an arm and a leg.

Asus AC2900 RT-AC86U

If you’re looking for more speed than AC1900, this AC2900 (750 + 2,167Mbps) has higher potential speed options and a faster 1.8GHz processor inside for managing network traffic as effectively as possible.

This router provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports, both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connectivity, and security that can extend to your Internet of Things devices. There’s also MU-MIMO support and a great gaming mode that automatically prioritizes game-related data packets.

Overall, this Asus router is a great pick for those looking to boost their favorite gaming devices while still ensuring data security — albeit at a higher price than our top pick.

Linksys Max-Stream AC5400

Suitable for businesses or homes that really need room for data-heavy services and devices, this tri-band router (1,000 + 2,166 + 2,166Mbps) has excellent speed and can cover up to 3,000 square feet and over 25 devices. It supports MU-MIMO and seamless roaming with range extenders.

Powering this router is a dual-core processor that manages bands and direct Wi-Fi signals for optimal performance. This router also includes eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and a couple of USB ports for external storage devices.

This Linksys router is a great choice if you have a lot of important mobile devices that need connections they can get.

D-Link AC2600 DIR-882-US

D-Link’s router is a more affordable option for those who want the latest features like MU-MIMO and beamforming tech without paying too much for a replacement router. This two-band device (800 + 1,733Mbps) also offers traffic optimization for data-intensive applications like gaming and can move devices between bands to avoid network traffic congestion. The ports include four Gigabit Ethernet, a single USB-A 2.0 connection on the back, and a USB-A 3.1 port on the front.

Synology RT2600ac

This powerful dual-band router can offer up to 2.53Gbps combined wireless speeds (1.73Gbps + 800Mbps), making it a great choice for homes. It includes beamforming and MU-MIMO along with some excellent multimedia managing tools. In addition to four Gigabit Ethernet ports for LAN connections, there are also three Dual WAN Gigabit ports, a couple of USB connections, and an SD card reader for storage.

Those who want to dig a little deeper will love the file sharing and cloud server options, as well as the “VPN Plus” mode that makes turning on a VPN nearly effortless. There are also some great customizable security options for parental control and related needs.

Linksys AC1000 E5350

If you’re looking for a Wi-Fi 5 router that’s an inexpensive replacement and helps get your Wi-Fi network back up fast, this is the one for you. Under $40, the dual-band router offers combined speeds of up to 1,000Mbps (300 + 400Mbps), four Ethernet ports, and the ability to set up guest networks.

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles included, but you get the Wi-Fi service you want at an extra-low cost, with easy setup and management. Note that there aren’t any Gigabit Ethernet ports for this model, although there are four Fast Ethernet ports for wired connections.