Having a solid home Wi-Fi network has been important for years now. There are just so many devices that rely on Wi-Fi — PCs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, smart home devices, media streamers — that having poor Wi-Fi is a nightmare.
A Very Good Wi-Fi Router is Even More Critical for Gamers
If you’re in the middle of a Star Wars Battlefront II Starfighter Assault, maneuvering your A-Wing for a kill, then your PC’s Wi-Fi connection suddenly slows to a crawl because someone in the house fired up a 4K Netflix stream? That expected kill celebration can quickly turn into your ship exploding because your glitchy connection meant you smacked into the side of a Star Destroyer before you had time to see it, let alone react.
Before getting too deeply into any conversation about Wi-Fi routers for gamers (whether they prefer to use a gaming PC or a console), there are two factors that should be spiked out.
First, many hardcore gamers will skip the convenience of Wi-Fi altogether and go for a hardwired connection. This uses an Ethernet cable between their router and PC or console. If this is you, the rest of this post may still be worth reading, because the routers featured are going to make for better Wi-Fi all round, not just for gaming.
The second factor is your ISP. Whether you use Wi-Fi or Ethernet, the speed of your internet connection is ultimately limited by the service of your ISP. if you have a low tier of service, adding a high-powered Wi-Fi router to the equation isn’t going to be an instant fix because the low speed of your ISP’s connection will remain a limiting factor.
What to Look for in a Wi-Fi Router for Gaming
When it comes to gaming, there are several key requirements. Gaming can require high bandwidth, with large amounts of data being transferred. This is a big factor in online gaming, and also when downloading games and patches — especially with 4K gaming and virtual reality going mainstream. A stable connection is also a requirement. Having connectivity go up and down, or throughput speeds vary is not good. You also want as little latency as possible with the lowest possible ping times to a game’s servers.
With these requirements in mind, here are several features to watch for when choosing a Wi-Fi router for gaming:
- 802.11ac, with the highest possible overall data throughput
- Dual or tri-band Wi-Fi
- QoS (Quality of Service) setting to prioritize gaming traffic over other network traffic
- Specialized gaming-specific features such as a private network
What about mesh Wi-Fi? Whole home mesh routers are a hot category, but at this point they are focused more on ensuring every nook and cranny of a home has Wi-Fi, along with ease of use and automated performance optimization. A more traditional Wi-Fi router remains the better gaming choice, at least for now.
And with that intro out of the way, here are three Wi-Fi routers that should fit the bill for any gamer.
ASUS ROG Rapture
The ASUS ROG brand is synonymous with PC gaming, so it makes sense that the ASUS ROG Rapture Wi-Fi router is a top pick for gaming.
It’s a tri-band router with a total of 5.3Gbps of Wi-Fi throughput. A 1.8GHz CPU manages traffic and it includes the latest 802.11ac technology including 4×4 AC (four streams), Beamforming and MU-MIMO. There are eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for LAN connections. Integrated Game IPS security protects against external attacks on your system without impacting performance.
Being designed specifically for gaming, the ASUS ROG Rapture also offers what the company describes as “triple level game acceleration.” This includes two LAN ports that are optimized for gaming, Game Boost that prioritizes gaming packets and support for the Gamers Private Network that provides optimized connections to game servers to minimize lag and latency.
If you’re a gamer and you demand the ultimate in performance from your Wi-Fi router, the ASUS ROG Rapture is going to be tough to beat.
Linksys Max-Stream EA9500
I have three teenage gamers in a house that’s pretty packed full of smart technology and has a half-dozen Apple TVs streaming video on three different floors to add to the load. When my home Wi-Fi network bogged down under the demand (despite a newer 802.11ac router), I turned to the Linksys Max-Stream EA9500.
It’s a lot of router. Three bands delivering a combined 5.3Gbps of Wi-Fi, a 1.4GHz CPU managing the bandwidth demand, eight adjustable high power external antennas, and the latest Wi-Fi technology including MU-MIMO support, 4×4 AC and Beamforming. Naturally, QoS with game prioritization is part of the package (you can prioritize specific devices like a PC or game console, or an online game regardless of platform), and there are eight Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Since the Max-Stream EA9500 was installed, video streaming has been lag free and the complaints from the Xbox One crew in the basement have completely disappeared. It also delivers strong, reliable Wi-Fi all the way to my back yard. Plug-in’s Shelly Wutke reviewed this router in detail last year if you’d like to learn more about it.
TP Link Archer C3200
There’s no getting around the fact that Wi-Fi routers suitable for gaming tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum. But the TP Link Archer C3200 is an affordable option that still includes key features gamers look for. It’s a tri-band router, with 3200Mbps combined throughput. A dual-core CPU and three co-processors offer performance under load including Smart Connect load balancing, while six high powered antennas with Beamforming support blast Wi-Fi throughout the home. QoS capability is included. It also has four Gigabit Ethernet ports for an ultra-fast, hardwired connection. Best Buy customers really like the TP Link Archer C3200, with 57 reviewers giving it an impressive 4.4-star rating.
While gaming demands the best Wi-Fi possible, everyone benefits from great Wi-Fi. If your home network isn’t living up to expectations, Best Buy has a huge selection of the latest Wi-Fi routers, including high performance models, affordable 802.11ac models, and whole home mesh Wi-Fi systems.