When it comes to online gaming, ping is the most important thing. Even more important than your hardware itself.
To have a stable and lower ping, you need a 'gaming router'.
But before starting this post, let's start from the basics.
A WiFi router is the central hub in your home network. And since the number of devices in our home networks is increasing day by day, this scenario isn't going to change anytime soon.
I used the term 'wifi router' above, because routers used to come in two ways: wireless and wired routers. Since wired routers have now discontinued, both users and companies now mean only a wifi/wireless router, whenever they discuss routers.
Technically speaking, a WiFi router acts as two different devices at the same time.
In order to make a WiFi router work, you should need to plug your Ethernet cable into it, and you're done.
In case you're using a cable or DSL internet, you need to connect your Cable/DSL modem with your router first, through an Ethernet cable.
Why a Gaming Router is Different Than a Normal Router
So far we have discussed some technical aspects about routers.
Now comes the real part: What is a gaming router and how it's different than a traditional WiFi router.
So here's the answer.
PC gaming means your home network would be under heavy traffic load for a number of hours. On top of that, your home network shouldn't have too much latency while you're gaming online.
That's why gaming routers are the ones that can handle a lot of devices, do things like Twitch streaming and 4K LAN gaming etc, as well as giving you a stable internet connection.
Best Gaming Router 2019 Buying Guide
OK, so let's start this guide without any ado.
4. TP-Link Archer C9
Best Gaming Router Under 100
Many people think that they can't have a good gaming router in a budget.
Fortunately, it's not true in most cases but for this to happen, (as I said earlier in this review) you have to quit obsession with the gaming tag on a router.
If a router is good, more often than not, it'll be enough for gaming. Many companies put a gaming tag on their products, and demand a high price. On top of that, the top speeds of these high-end routers can't be matched by majority of ISPs around the world.
The point I'm trying to make is that you shouldn't skip a router for you gaming rig, just because it hasn't come with a gaming tag.
More often than not, these routers will cost less than their gaming siblings, (which is a bonus if you're on a tight budget) and you may fight some hidden gems too.
One among such routers is the Archer C9 by TP-Link.
Unlike most routers in the market, it has an elegant design with flat-white finish on the surface. There is a silver-color stand which blends well with the 3 antennas on the top side.
It has a vertical orientation, which ensures maximum signal strength but also means that you can't place it horizontally or even mount on a wall.
Its three antennas are removable but not flimsy and definitely stays in place.
All buttons and ports are present on the back side. Speaking of which, there's a USB 2.0 port, a WPS button, and a WAN port alongside 4 Ethernet ports. There's a port on one of its sides too, and luckily, it's a USB 3.0 port port for faster file sharing.
It's an AC1900 router which means you can have 1300 Mbps speed on 5 GHz band, and 600 Mbps speed on 2.4 GHz.
While it's performance can't match more-expensive dedicated gaming routers, it was good enough for an AC1900 router. Only at 30 ft distance, we started to get some connectivity issues, but still signals didn't went down completely.
On 5 GHz close-distance testing, it performed only slightly worse than Nighthawk X6 - An AC3200 router and way more expensive than Archer C9. On wired connection, it actually beat X6 - not bad for an under-100 WiFi router.
Overall, we were pretty satisfied with it, considering its price. It means if you're on a budget, it's good to have a nice look at it.
3. Zyxel Armor Z2
Best Gaming Router Under 150
Zyxel isn't as well-known as some of the other brands in this roundup review.
The usually make extenders, powerline adapters as well a some other products geared towards enterprise users.
So, this router, Z2, is the most high-end router Zyxel has even produced. Let's see how it turned out.
This router comes with slightly fancy looks. Unlike many other routers, this one is not uni-color, and has some portions of yellow color along with the black that has covered the rest of it.
Coming with four non-removable antennas, it looks surprisingly smaller than should be. There are four Ethernet ports on the back side, along with a WAN port, a USB 2.0, as well as a single USB 3.0 port.
Setting it up is really easy. You just need to connect it with your modem and then connect your PC to your WiFi Router. After this, type http://myrouter in your browser windows and the process will start. In normal scenario, it should take less than 5 minutes.
For beginners, there's an easy mode. You can change you password, create guest network, and other easy tasks like that.
For other slightly complex tasks, such as enabling advanced parental controls, you have to go to expert mode. Here you can also find other settings like QoS, security, memory usage and network monitoring etc.
Overall, this is one of the most noob-friendly web interfaces I have every seen. The only drawback is that if you have made some changes and haven't saved them, there won't be any pop-up to remind you, and your changes will be lost.
Z2 is an AC2600 router, which means it can provide 800 Mbps speed on 2.4 GHz Band and 1733 Mbps speed on 5 GHz Band.
Apart from this, all the usual features of an 802.11ac router are present: such as MU-MIMO, beamforming, guest networking, 4*4 spatial steams, and remote access.
One standout feature of this router, is StreamBoost. To be honest, this feature isn't any new and has been used by other manufacturers like Netgear in past. So, it's good to see other manufacturers implementing it.
Basically, this feature manages traffic as well as allocates bandwidth to different applications. So, in future if any application changes its bandwidth requirements. this features acts according, to maintain fast connection and stabilize ping.
It also comes with different apps. These apps can do different tasks, such as copying your WiFi settings whenever you add a new extender or powerline adapter in your house.
There are some short comings though.
Like it doesn't come with by-default VPN capability. Also, unlike many other routers where you would have been connected to the most strong WiFi bands, here we have to manually choose between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections whenever you try to connect a new device.
As far as performance is concerned, it didn't performed as well as we expected, at least in 5 GHz Band. 2.4 GHz Band performance was very good and I managed to stay connected even at very large distance, but the 5 GHz Band performance was very mediocre for an AC2600 Band.
Its 5 GHz Band throughput was 25% slower than that of AC-86U which is only slightly expensive than Z2.
This router isn't without any cons. There are many - such as poor 5 GHz Band performance and manual selection for stronger WiFi bands - but there are equally good things in it.
I have never seen a more noob-friendly and well-organized admin panel and there are some gaming-centric features too.
All in all, this router can serve you well if you have a medium house with medium number of devices. If any of these conditions don't apply to you, keep reading this post.
2. ASUS RT- AC86U
Best Gaming Router Under 200
When it comes to gaming routers, Asus is one of the few brands who excel in this area. They are one of the first to produce dedicated gaming routers, with ROG rapture being their latest flagship.
This high-end beast offers everything a gamer can imagine, but it has a minor issue.
Unless you have a large house with a large family that needs to connect 20-30 wireless devices at the same time, it would be an overkill and the 400-buck price of ROG rapture would be hard to justify.
For the people who lie in above category, here is AC86U by Asus: a midrange cousin of ROG rapture.
Yes, it won't have as much features as its high-end siblings, but its only half as expensive as rapture router.
First of all, we'll talk about its design. Lately, routers are coming in all-black design, which can look cool but uninspiring too. This one also has a majority of black color, but there are two red streaks on its front side that blend well with the major black portion.
Other than this, it comes with three detachable antennas which make it look a lot smaller as compared to other bulkier routers out in the market.
There's no wall-mounting present (it's been built to stand vertically), but considering its size and design (also weighing less than two lbs) you shouldn't have a problem adjusting it around your gaming rig.
On the back side, there are four LAN ports (along with a WAN port), and a USB 2.0 port along with USB 3.1 Gen 1 port for high-speed file transfers. You can also use any one of its four LAN ports as a secondary WAN port. This essentially makes it a dual WAN router.
Apart from this, there are some other buttons available in this router. These buttons are used to perform functions that you would normally found in the web interfaces in other router. One button, for example, can used to disable WiFi radios.
Overall, its design is unique and refreshing, but not flawless (especially when you consider its orientation).
To make it run, all you need to do is plugging an Ethernet cable from your modem to the WAN port of this router. Connect it to your PC through an Ethernet cable, and power it on.
After this, you'll have to set the SSID and password for your network, and that's it.
More often than not, WiFi routers come with confusing interface on which you have difficulty to locate different settings. On top of that, you won't have any idea what these different settings mean. All of this makes a newbie pretty overwhelmed.
That's not the case here. Its interface is beginner-friendly as well as easy to use.
When you'll hover your mouse over any setting, such as adaptive QoS, a question mark will appear. And upon clicking on that question mark, a box will appear on your screen, describing what the feature is all about, and how to utilize it properly.
Being an AC2900 router, AC-86U offers 750 Mbps theoretical top speed on its 2.4 GHz Band, and 2167 Mbps speed on 5 GHz. To handle all this power, it comes with a 1.8 GHz processor + 512 MB RAM combo.
Thanks to NitroQAM technology, it provides 4*4 stream (4 antennas and 4 receivers) on 5 GHz Band, and 3*3 stream on 2.4 GHz, which means AC-86U can provide 1.25 times more speed than routers like AC-87U.
MU-MIMO enables this router to provide its maximum speed to more than one device simultaneously but those client should have MU-MIMO capability on their end too.
There are two types of QoS in this router. There's traditional QoS which can be used to limit bandwidth. More interesting however is the adaptive QoS. It automatically prioritize some traffic (gaming, streaming etc.) over other types, and you can also manually prioritize (or de-prioritize) certain devices and traffic type.
In normal circumstances, it's the VoIP that has most priority, but gamers can utilize GameBoost feature, and prioritize games over anything else. This router also comes with a GPN (Gaming Private Network) by WTFast.
This is basically a service that gives your gaming data packets fastest routes. You can have 1 week of this service for free, after which there's a $10 subscription every month. But you can opt out of it if you want to do so.
Nowadays, with so much emphasis related to speed-related features, people tend to easily forget that wireless network are very vulnerable when it comes to security.
So, it's good to see Asus working on that front too, and adding AiProtection (a joint venture with TrendMicro) here. This feature constantly scans you whole network and alert against any type of malware, viruses and malicious attacks.
Rest of the features are pretty usual for any modern router. You will get guest networking capability, DDNS, beamforming, advance parental controls as well as a companion app. That app is robust and without bugs, but not as powerful as it should be.
There are many critical functions that can be only performed via web admin panel.
When it comes to performance, AC-86U is simple excellent. On 5 GHz band, it's simply heads and shoulders above any router in its price range. In our testing, it showed 120% more speed as compared to Linksys WRT32X, which is slightly more expensive.
On 2.4 GHz, it performed above average (but not so awesome) but WRT32X was slightly better in that regard.
In file transfer, AC-86U was better than most routers (again) but was out-performed by many such as Synology AC2600 and Amped R2 etc.
Apart from Tri-band capability (which won't be useful for many people anyway), average file transfer speed, and weird (read inflexible) orientation, you can't find many flaws in this router.
It has everything a gamer can ask for: Adaptove QoS, GameBoost, USB 3.1, MU-MIMO and Dual-WAN, solid performance, you name it.
That too in a mid-range price. Considering all this, it's our top recommendation as best gaming router under 200 bucks.
1. NETGEAR XR500
Best Gaming Router 2019 Overall
OK, here is the last (and the best) WiFi router of this round up review - the Netgear XR500.
I personally fell in love with Netgear back in 2014 when they released nighthawk R7000 AC1900 router. And two years later, I bought their R8000, which was an update for R7000 and an AC3200 router.
Both of those routers were excellent in their time period, but were targeted for general home usage, rather than being gaming centric.
That's the reason it's good to see popular companies like Netgear joining the party and producing dedicated routers for gaming.
As been the case with most gaming routers, this one features a slightly futuristic design. Like many other Nighthawk routers, it's design from the top is flat and wide (and black), while the rest of the body has many angular edges.
There are four external antennas on the back side, and they are numbered too - 2 antennas have number 1 while they other two have the number 2 and 3. That's why you have to attach them correctly in their respective slots. Otherwise you may have some connectivity issues.
There are two USB 3.0 ports on its left side, while the backside has 4 LAN ports, along with a single WAN port. The rest of buttons are usual for any router, like WPS button, DC button, power button, and different status lights etc.
Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the design.
Despite having four external antennas, it doesn't look large, and you can place it in any open area of your house.
Setting up XR500 was a breeze. You just have to connect with your WiFi network for the first time and the setup will start.
From there, you'll be able to change your password and name both 2.4 and 5 GHz Band. If you aren't too much into networking, you can give both of them a same name. This way your router will auto-detect the best available network for every connected device in your home.
You can also do setup using Netgear genie app, but it's pretty basic, you will need to access web admin panel to do any task beyond password-changing, and guest networking etc.
The most interesting feature in XR500 router is perhaps its DumaOS. Unlike all other router-OS, this one has been specifically made for the gamers, and you can actually see the difference in its layout as well as features.
When you open the menu for the first time, you'll be asked for a tutorial.
Take that tutorial. It's really short and will make you able to understand what all these settings mean. If you still feel confused about any particular setting, you can click on the question mark above that. Upon clicking that mark, you'll be further explained about these settings.
There are seven main settings, also called Router Apps. while majority of these apps are related to gaming and QoS, you can find standard settings under the "setting" app.
One of such gaming apps, is Geo-filter. Using it, you can set up a radius around your location, and it will detect the best server for your games - so that you can have lowest possible ping. It supports every game for PlayStation and Xbox, but all PC games aren't supported by default.
There is a work-around for those un-supported games though. You have to turn-on a spectating mode and it will allow you to see servers and their respective pings. Then you can go into your game, and select that server. Yes, it's less awesome this way but works fine.
In QoS app, the first option is Anti-BufferBloat. This feature allows you to limit bandwidth (partially or completely) of all non-gaming devices in your house. There is a slider where you can set the exact amount of bandwidth you want to give to your non-gaming devices.
Next up in QoS menu is Bandwidth Allocation. Here, you can specify bandwidth allocation for any specific device for your network. There's a color chart in this menu that will help you visualizing the distribution of bandwidth.
Then, there is Traffic Prioritization section where you can set high priority to gaming traffic (above any other traffic) by a simple button click. There's even an option to prioritize any specific game over others. These settings are just tip of the ice-berg that this router offers you. There are many more that you'll find when you actually play with it.
All in all, this DumaOS can be the sole reason for you to buy this router. Asus AC-86U was closed in this regard and offered GPN by WTFast, and it's actually a subscription, rather than a free feature.
Now coming back to standard features, this one is a dual-band AC2600 router (800 Mbps on 2.4 GHz Band and 1733 Mbps on 5 GHz Band) with 4*4 streams for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Band. To handle all operations, it has a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor along with a 512 RAM and 256 MB flash memory.
Unlike AC-86U, there's not anti-malicious software monitoring your network, but content-filtering is still there. This way, you can block certain sites and keywords. Apart from this, there are other feature like parental controls, VPN support, as well as MU-MIMO.
Last good feature we found in this router, is its by-default AP mode. All you need to do is turning AP-mode on. Then you'll be able to connect your other router with one, and use this router as an access point. Remember though, that enabling this feature by turn off other gaming features we discussed earlier.
As you can expect from any router with this many features, XR500's performance level is just top class. 2.4 GHz performance was one of the best (but not the best) we have ever seen. Both coverage and speed were top-notch.
5 GHz performance was also good but not what you would expect from a $300 router. Actually AC-86U had better 5 GHz performance than XR 500. But this is the only chunk we were able to find in its armor.
Apart from relatively bad 5 GHz performance, very basic genie app, and not being a Tri-Band router, there's no big flaw in this router. On the counter side, you'll get a plethora of features to get rid of high ping during online games. This is the reason why XR-500 form Netgear is our recommendation for the best gaming router 2019.
Things To Look For In A WiFi Router For Gaming
Below are some key points you need to remember while looking for a gaming router.
1. Wi-Fi Standard/Speed
Not all wireless routers are equal, and if you've ever looked to buy one online, you may get confused by the number of options, and their respective types like N600, AC1750, and AC3100 etc.
In order to understand these terms, here's the quick recap of WiFi standards.
802.11 is the official name of the original WiFi standard. It used a single frequency band of 2.4 GHz, and was released in 1997. The next versions of this standard were 802.11 a, b, g and n, with the latest being 802.11ac.
Only 802.11n and 802.11ac routers are used nowadays. These routers used either two or three frequency bands (more than that later). These bands work on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.
So, an AC1900 router means that it has 802.11ac standard supported, plus a 1900 Mbps theoretical speed (600 Mbps + 1300 Mbps). Since this speed is only theoretical, you won't be able to achieve these results in real world scenarios.
Below is speed of some of the common types of WiFi routers.
2.4 GHz Speed (Mbps)
5 GHz Speed (Mbps)
Total Speed (Mbps)
**Note: Last two types are Tri-Band routers, the ones that have an extra 5GHz Band.
2. Dual-Band vs Tri-Band Gaming Routers
Apart from speed, there's another way through which routers can be differentiated from one another. And it's the number of frequency bands they operate on.
Dual-band routers are the ones that operate on two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. A dual-band router can broadcast signals on both of these frequency bands at same time.
It means that while devices connected with 5 GHz band can enjoy less-cluttered connection with more speed, older devices can connect through 2.4 GHz.
In short, you'll be able to have two home networks at the same time.
Compatible devices will enjoy high-speed 5 GHz network while older/distant devices (because 5 GHz Band has less range than 2.4 GHz band) will still be able to connect to 2.4 GHz network.
Next come the Tri-band routers.
These routers feature one 2.4 GHz Band and two 5 GHz Bands, hence called the Tri-Band routers. Now you may think that Tri-band routers are better than Dual-band routers, but that's not always the case.
If you connect a device to AC3200 router for example, the highest theoretical speed you can get is 1300 Mbps (600 + 1300 + 1300 = 3200), the same as in an AC1900 router.
So, don't let the numbers fool you, and do a proper research before going for any router.
That being said, the real strength of a Tri-band router is the handling of a large number of devices that you can connect to your home network, without putting heavy load on that network.
So, if you've a lot of other gadgets you want to connect (20+ let's say), go for a Tri-Band router.
3. MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output)
Before talking what MU-MIMO actually is, let's consider a particular scenario.
Your home network is packed with all of your devices (as well as your parents'/siblings') connected to the internet. On top of that, you're playing pubg.
Now suddenly some guests come to your house and connect their smartphones/laptops. Adding 5-10 more devices to an already packed network can make it slower.
In order to solve this problem, many 802.11ac routers now come with MU-MIMO feature.
Under normal circumstances, more connected devices mean every device have to wait for its turn to communicate with your router.
An MU-MIMO enabled router however, can communicate with all devices connected to the network, simultaneously. This way each device has to wait for a very little time comparatively, and speed of your whole network increases.
One good thing about MU-MIMO feature is that both MU-MIMO and Non MU-MIMO clients can benefit from this feature. Also, since this feature improves efficiency of your router, it's recommended for heavy duty tasks like 4K streaming and gaming.
What's worse, after all, than losing an online game only because of your network load?
All in all, this feature should be in any router you intend to use for gaming.
Like MU-MIMO, beamforming is another feature found in 'wave 2' 802.11ac routers.
In normal routers, when a signal is broadcast, it broadcasts in all directions. With beamforming enabled, a router locates your device - such as your PC, laptop, or smartphone - and projects stronger and longer signals in that direction.
This results in an overall stable internet connection for all of your devices.
To have a better idea of this feature, look at the above picture.
As useful as this feature is, there's one thing you need to remember though.
To gain full benefits from this feature, both client and the router must support beamforming.
5. Open Source Firmwares
A firmware is a software that helps a router to operate. You can think of it as the OS for your router.
Most routers come with stock firmware that, more often than not, is limited in terms of functionality and customization.
So, if you want to truly test the performance limits of your router, go for one that supports any open source firmwares such as Open WRT, DD-WRT, and Tomato Firmware etc.
Not only these firmwares give you advance features such as real-time network monitoring, and dynamic DNS, but also makes your router more secure.
There is a word of caution though.
Installing open source firmware on your router is just like rooting your Android phone That's why, in case of any damage during this process, company won't compensate you.
6. QoS (Quality of Service)
QoS is perhaps the most important feature of these high end routers. Using this feature, you can prioritize one type of traffic over another. This allow bandwidth to be used more effectively.
Let's say you're playing an online game, and one of you sibling is streaming 4K videos, or downloading some big-size torrent. In this situation, you can set low ping for your games and less priority to other tasks.
The picture above will help you understand QoS better.
Some routers go even further and allow you to set priority for certain websites. Needless to say, QoS is an extremely useful tool to get the most out of your internet bandwidth.
7. Smartphone Integration
All wireless routers have an admin panel that can be usually accessed by typing an IP address given by the manufacturer (such as 192.168.0.1) on your browser. This admin panel can be used to change different settings such as changing WiFi password, adding a guest network, or analyzing your home network etc.
But in recent times, different companies have tried to implement a better system alongside the traditional web interface. That is the smartphone app to control your router.
There are a couple of big advantages these apps (such as Netgear Genie) have over web interfaces.
First, you don't need to enter your username and password every time you want to make any changes. Second, unlike the web interface which only works if you're connected to your WiFi network, these apps can be used from anywhere around the world.
These apps don't give you full control over the network though. So if you want to do some advanced functions, you would need the web interface of your router.
8. Traditional Routers vs Mesh Kit Solutions
In recent times, many companies have come with mesh WiFi solutions. These solutions, like google WiFi, are useful if you're not a tech savvy and have a big home that a single WiFi router can't recover.
These kits aren't as good as top-rated WiFi routers in terms of speed and performance though. Also, you can't customize them like the way you do with wifi routers.
Therefore, we don't recommend these kits for gaming.
9. Quit Obsession with 'Gaming' tag
Now this is serious. You DO NOT need a 'for gaming' tag on any accessory to make it useful for gaming.
Take the example of our post about gaming earbuds. None of them was labelled as 'gaming earbuds' by their manufacturers. But we still enjoyed playing games while wearing them. That's why reviewed them later.
The point is, don't go only for 'gaming' routers. If any router has all the above features, plus solid range and reasonable price, then it's good to be a part of your gaming rig.
Latest posts by William Johnson (see all)
- How To Control Your CPU Fan Speed For An Improved Performance - October 18, 2018
- How to Apply Thermal Paste - October 16, 2018
- What is VulkanRT & Should I Remove it? - October 14, 2018