The Best Wireless Networking Buyer’s Guide – Spring 2024

By Ari Altman | Published March 13, 2024 | Updated March 13, 2024

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With so many devices relying on wireless networking these days, having an up-to-date home network is a must. That’s because many previous-gen routers simply aren’t up to the task of supporting multiple high-speed devices. While it may be tempting to leave well enough alone once a network is up and running, a lot has changed in terms of broadband service and home WiFi demands over the past few years.

Simply put, if you have high-bandwidth requirements, such as 4K streaming, video conferencing, or game streaming, it’s probably time for an upgrade. The same is true if you have multiple smart devices in the home, such as smart speakers or a security system. In short, there’s plenty of new networking technology to take advantage of, and it will be put to good use in the modern home environment.

What’s the Latest WiFi Standard?

For the Spring 2024 edition of this guide, we list plenty of great WiFi 6 products, which have reset expectations for what WiFi can deliver. Technically known as 802.11ax, it was given the friendlier WiFi 6, and a later iteration was called 802.11axe (which sounded really cool, but went by 6E most of the time). The simplified numerical branding was intended to help consumers know what they were getting. It was hard enough for the average consumer to keep track of whether 802.11n or 802.11ac was faster, and while 802.11ax and 11axe sound cool and all, they doesn’t tell us much about performance. In case you’re wondering, WiFi 6E unlocks extra performance by using the 6GHz band (all previous WiFi standards used 2.4GHz or 5GHz). It’s a bit confusing that WiFi 6 doesn’t use 6GHz and only WiFi 6E does, and that 6E didn’t get a new number, just after the big marketing push to dump the letter codes… but we digress!

Ultimately, while we love WiFi 6 for most users, we can’t really recommend 6E, because as a mid-generation upgrade, it wasn’t embraced fully by manufacturers, and most routers that feature it don’t have the fastest implementation of 6E, or are too expensive. At this point, if you want serious speed, you go next-gen: WiFi 7 (aka, 802.11be – which honestly doesn’t sound as cool as 11axe, so let’s just call it 7, OK?). It adds the 320MHz channel on top of the 6GHz band, which translates to… speed! How much speed do you ask? Well, while 6E topped out at 4800Mbps, 7 can hit 11500Mbps, or nearly 2.5x faster. That is simply mind-blowing, and you know you want it. But… be forewarned: WiFi 7 is strictly for early adopters, given the cost and the fact that very few client devices (i.e., your wireless gear) use WiFi 7. But if building a network for the future is your goal, WiFi 7 is what you need.

Speaking of client devices, if you’re a desktop PC user as many of our readers are, you have the option of upgrading your WiFi, including to WiFi 6 or 6E with a PCIe-based adapter, which we list in this guide. There’s now even a USB option, which means you can update older laptops, although it is a bit bulky. You can learn more later in this guide.

One last thing: you’ll need a fast Internet service to take advantage of the speed of any of the offerings in our guide, and that means cable or fiberoptic. The latter always has proprietary modems, but for cable you can buy your own cable modem, and we offer our recommendation in this guide, getting you out of paying monthly rental fees, while getting you into true Gigabit broadband service!

What If I’m On a Budget?

There’s still a place for 802.11ac devices (now rebranded as WiFi 5). For mainstream users, these still very-fast products will be more than sufficient… heck, consumers were happy with them for a decade! Given that many older client devices (i.e., any PCs, TVs, phones, or Smart Home devices that are more than a few years old) still don’t use WiFi 6, the budget-conscious shopper may want to stick with WiFi 5, and we list one very affordable WiFi 5 router for those folks.

What If I’m Tired of Dropping the Signal Across My Home?

If you have a medium to larger home (say, over 2000 sq. ft.), speed ratings won’t tell you all you need to know about network performance. This is when it’s time to think beyond a single router (or node) sitting on one side of your house, and move to multi-node “mesh” network!

A system like the Netgear Orbi pictured here will fill those dead spots faster than you can say “where’s my signal?!?” With that said, gamers and streamers living in apartments and small homes should probably go with a single high-powered router at the same pricepoint. You get more straight-line speed at the expense of range. And anyone who wants the best of all worlds can actually pair two Asus-branded routers using the innovative Asus AIMesh system to create a truly out-of-this-world mesh network that has extreme speed and extreme range!

One last thing: we utilize Amazon links throughout this guide, and your use of these links helps support future development of the guide!


  • The High-End 802.11ac Router

    TP-Link Archer A7

    If you want to get the most from your fleet of older 802.11ac devices, this is the perfect option. It’s a cost-conscious choice for a multi-user household that isn’t using bleeding-edge PCs or smart TVs. And TP-Link offers one of the best prices on an AC1750-rated model, which offers up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band, and 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

    The Guru’s Tip

    This router includes a USB 2.0 port that allows you to set up file sharing via a USB drive.

  • The Mainstream 802.11ax Router

    TP-Link AX55

    Ready for next-gen speeds? Then jump on board with the AX55 from TP-Link, which offers speeds up to 2400Mbps on the 5GHz band, while still being backwards-compatible with the old 802.11n standard that legacy devices require. At this point, unless you’re on a very serious budget, there’s no reason to not to get 802.11ax (WiFi 6) tech.

    The Guru’s Tip

    This is a fantastic pick for an apartment of a smaller home, and will have amazing performance over shorter distances. For larger homes, we suggest the mesh system below, which while not any faster over short distances, can cover a much larger area.

  • The Mainstream Mesh System

    TP-Link Deco X55 3-Pack

    Back in 2016, a few small players entered the WiFi market with a unique solution: bundling multiple routers into a single, sleek package, branded as “wireless mesh networking.” But those early devices were rough around the edges, being hard to set up and somewhat unreliable. Wow, how far we’ve come, and TP-Link is the undisputed leader in value. This model will provide access across your entire home (3 nodes are good enough for 6500 sq. ft and an amazing 150 devices), allow you to manage your whole home’s network via your smartphone, and set limits on individual users (i.e., kids!) by device, so all their connected products are cut off at dinner time or bed time. And thanks to its use of WiFi 6 (802.11ax), it can provide speeds of up to 2400Mbps to the latest devices.

    The Guru’s Tip

    A lot of readers have asked us over the years about WiFi extenders, and whether mesh is the same thing. It most definitely is not, and at this point we no longer recommend extenders, which provided more range at the expense of vastly-reduced performance. If you need more range today, simply replace your old router with a new mesh system like this one.

  • The High-End 802.11ax Router

    Asus RT-AX86U AX5700

    No, it’s not cheap, but honestly, given the performance the Asus RT-AX86U provides versus previous-gen routers, it’s an absolute bargain. With maximum speeds of 4800Mbps on the 5GHz band and 900Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, for the rated total of 5700Mbps, it’s the real deal. We particularly like that this model is unique among nearly all high-end routers in being vertical, giving it a much smaller footprint then competing models.

    The Guru’s Tip

    As with other Asus models, the AX86U allows you to pair additional Asus routers together using the AIMesh system to create a powerful mesh network in your home. They don't even have to be the same model of router, although two AX86U models will work great together, and it's the exact setup that TBG uses to power its network!

  • The Ultra-High-End Mesh Network

    Netgear Orbi RBK852

    What if you absolutely must have it all? The very latest, fastest solution with the longest range, the most features, the works?!? Then you get the Orbi RBK852 from Netgear. It is simply the pinnacle of home networking. It offers up insane AX6000 speed thanks to its 4×4 radios and dedicated backhaul between nodes. It’s rated up to a range of 5,000 sq ft and 60+ simultaneous device connections. What more could you ask for?

    The Guru’s Tip

    This is a massive step up from other WiFi 6 mesh offerings, thanks to its dedicated backhaul and 4x4 streams. Most others get by with 2x2 and no dedicated backhaul. This is the reference device for serious mesh performance out of the box! And if you have a really large home (up to 7,500sf) or more than two floors, you can add a third node, available on the same product page.

  • The Extreme WiFi 7 Router

    Asus ROG Rapture GT-BE98 Pro

    With the ROG Rapture BE98 Pro, Asus takes everything that made its previous AXE models great and gives them the WiFi 7 treatment. This is seriously the ultimate router! It offers a shocking 30Gbps of total wireless bandwidth, including a 5GHz radio at up to 5764 Mbps and dual 6GHz radios pumping out 11529 Mbps each. To support legacy devices, it also has a 2.4GHz radio that runs at up to 1376Mbps. This allows you to run three extreme-bandwidth devices on the same network, each with their own dedicated radio, while all your older devices connect on the 2.4GHz band.

    The Guru’s Tip

    So here's the deal: while there are pre-boxed slimline mesh systems that sell for more than this router, we don't recommend them. If you want the fastest, you have to go big literally and figuratively - pair two of these beasts up with Asus AIMesh, and run the fastest mesh network on the planet!


  • The 802.11ac USB 3.0 Adapter

    TP-Link Archer T3U

    If you want to easily connect to your 802.11ac router, then the T4U AC1200 is a strong contender for your next wireless adapter. It features dual-band operation, giving you the option of using the faster 5GHz AC band for modern devices, and its USB 3.0 interface will make the most of that capability!

    The Guru’s Tip

    We've found that wireless adapters that use only internal antennas typically don't have quite the same range as adapters with external antennas, but they're much more convenient to use with a laptop. Also, anything stuck on USB 2.0 will actually be a bottleneck to the average home wireless system, so be careful about off-brand options.

  • The High-End WiFi/Bluetooth Card

    TP-Link Archer TX55E

    The future is here! If you’re a high-end PC user, it’s time to step up to a modern WiFi adapter, and the TX55E is the one! It offers true next-gen WiFi 6 speeds (hitting 2400Mbps) in a robust PCIe x1 expansion card form factor, with two attached high-gain antennas. And as a bonus, it has Bluetooth built in!

    The Guru’s Tip

    By adding Bluetooth capability to this card, TP-Link has made it a true 2-in-1 solution!

  • The High-End WiFi/Bluetooth Card

    TP-Link Archer TXE75E

    Folks, the future is here! With this card, you can have it all: blazing-fast WiFi 6E that hits up to 2400Mbps on both the 6GHz and 5GHz bands, legacy WiFi at 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, plus Bluetooth 5.3.

    The Guru’s Tip

    If you have the extra cash to spare, we definitely suggest you go with this option over the AC-based model above for the sake of future-proofing!

  • The WiFi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter

    Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 WiFi 6E USB 3.0 Adapter

    Access the absolute fastest speeds available via a USB adapter with Netgear’s Nighthawk AXE3000. Netgear has a long history of making blazing-fast USB adapters, and this is among the only WiFi 6E USB adapters on the market, and certainly the best. Note that the AXE3000 requires a USB 3.0 port to hit its maximum speeds, and is also fairly bulky, so it may block other ports. It does come with a handy cradle, which makes it a great option for a desktop PC, or a laptop that doesn’t get moved around too much.

    The Guru’s Tip

    It's no mean feat to pack this much speed into a compact adapter, so don't trust off brands to get the job done.

  • Cable Modem

    Netgear Nighthawk CM2000 Cable Modem

    If you’re on cable Internet, then do yourself a favor and stop paying your cable provider a monthly rental fee for an old modem. Instead, buy yourself one with the latest upgrades and start saving money! This model uses the fastest iteration of DOCSIS 3.1, 32×8, which will be able to keep up with plans up to 2.5Gbps. And just as importantly, it has a true 2.5Gpbs Ethernet port, allowing you to actually use that speed, unlike most cable modems that are capped at 1Gbps by their ports, regardless of what they are “rated” at. That means you’ll be future-proofed for a long time to come, and cable providers won’t be able to blame your “slow” modem every time their service goes down!

    The Guru’s Tip

    Note that there is a newer CM3000 model, but it's essentially the same modem with a slightly different configuration, and both sell for the same price, at least as of our latest update.

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