The ultrafast full-fibre or cable broadband connection you signed up for and the elaborate gaming rig you assembled to accommodate your Fortnite sessions aren’t worth much if your router isn’t up to scratch.
An out of date, underpowered or over-trafficked router won’t be able to broadcast a consistent, robust WiFi network. That means crucial data packets might be lost in transit, ping and jitter might eat crucial shots, and you won't achieve the internet speed you need for gaming
. And if you’re sharing that router with other devices in your household, you’ll also be sharing bandwidth, slowing your broadband and likely your speed runs.
Many routers have Quality of Service (QoS) settings that allow you to prioritise devices using lots of bandwidth, such as any gaming computer or console. But specialised gaming routers, with settings tailored to your playing style and favourite types of games, can give you even more of a competitive edge. Below we’ll consider what you should look for in a gaming router and the best gaming routers available in 2021.
What to look for in a gaming router
- Quality of Service (QoS): Nearly all routers offer some sort of bandwidth prioritisation. With gaming routers, you can customise this prioritisation even more precisely, giving certain gaming systems and applications—not just devices—a bigger share of your connection’s bandwidth. You can also predetermine how much bandwidth a client is entitled to, essential if you’re competing with your gaming fanatic roommates not just on the field but for bandwidth. Modified management consoles with user-friendly interfaces allow you to adjust these settings quickly and during play, if you find your connection lagging.
- WiFi Bands: Nearly all recent routers will broadcast on two bands: 2.4 and 5GHz. The 2.4Ghz band has better range and penetrates thick walls better, but the 5Ghz band delivers faster speeds and has less traffic. A dual-band router toggles between the two for maximum performance. If your gaming rig is located next to your router, it will run over the GHz band, which delivers the best throughput speed. But tri-band routers are even better for gamers, adding a second 5Ghz band that you can dedicate to certain devices or applications, such as gaming.
- wider channels: With most routers, these bands are 40Hz or 80Hz wide. The best gaming routers on the market expand these bands to 160Hz, reducing traffic and improving speed.
- Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO): The very latest gaming routers come equipped with Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology, enabling simultaneous data streaming to multiple devices as opposed to sequential streaming. This means all connected devices receive better speeds. Your devices have to support MU-MIMO to benefit from this technology but most are expected to within a few years. A gaming router with MU-MIMO capability is future-proofed for these developments and the expanding data requirements of online games.
- Ports: Sometimes you’ll want to bypass your WiFi network altogether and hardwire your gaming gear directly into your router, for better performance. Ports allow you to do this. The best gaming routers come with up to eight.
- WiFi 6 protocol: WiFi 6, or in less catchy parlance, 802.11ax, is the newest WiFi protocol for routers, promising increased throughput speeds, less network congestion, greater capacity for devices and better range. Not many gaming routers support it yet but stay tuned.
Best gaming router for speed: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500
For speed runs, consider the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500, supporting blistering throughput speeds of 2.6Gbps. QoS and location-based connection filtering mean your rig can get nearly all of those speeds, no matter how many of your housemates are watching Netflix.
- Speed: 2.6Gbps
- Bands: dual
- Ports: 4 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x WAN, 2 x USB 3.0
- Features: MU-MIMO support, QoS, Geo Filter
- Price: £249.99
Best gaming router on a budget: Asus RT-AC86U
You can easily spend several hundred pounds on a gaming router. But the Asus RT-AC86U delivers comprehensive QoS settings, 2900Mbps throughput speed, and MU-MIMO capability for just £156.99.
- Speed: 1,734Mbps
- Bands: dual
- Ports: 4 x Ethernet, 1 x WAN, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0
- Features: MU-MIMO, Adaptive QoS, WTFast game accelerator
- Price: £156.99
Best high-end gaming router: Asus RT-AC5300
If price is no object in your gaming, consider the Asus RT-AC5300. It’ll set you back £488 but comes with 2,167Mbps throughout speed, eight antennas for projecting signal around the house, seven ports for hardwiring gear if that’s not enough, MU-MIMO support, endlessly and effortlessly customisable QoS and a traffic analyser to keep tabs on where your bandwidth is going.
- Speed: 2,167Mbps
- Bands: tri
- Ports: 4 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x WAN, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0
- Features: MU-MIMO support, traffic analyser, 8 external antenna
- Price: £488