The best Netgear routers consistently top product recommendation lists for their quality, technology, and ease of use. Whether you’re looking for a mesh system or a single router for gaming or work, there’s a Netgear model waiting for you. They’ve got you covered in square footage and in the latest technology and speed. But which one is right for you?
Luckily (and brilliantly), Netgear makes it easy to sort through their models to narrow down your choices by speeds, technology, range, and the number of connected devices. For the lowdown on their standout models, we’ve put together a list of the best Netgear routers, including basic routers for small homes that want to stream in peace and top-of-the-line models for gaming or smart homes.
— Best Overall: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh WiFi 6 System (RBK852)
— Best for Gaming: Netgear Nighthawk XR500
— Best 6E Pick: Netgear Orbi Quad-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System (RBKE963)
— Most Portable: Netgear Nighthawk M5
— Best Range: Netgear Nighthawk 12-Stream WiFi 6E Router (RAXE500)
— Best Budget: Netgear WiFi Router (R6080)
How We Picked the Best Netgear Routers
When evaluating Netgear routers, we looked at setup ease, bands and band control, speed, and range.
Setup Ease: We looked for app or web interfaces that walk you through the setup process as well as troubleshooting help.
Bands and Device Control: Dual, tri-, and quad-band routers made our list because not everyone needs four bands. We also looked for models that allocate devices on the bands for greater efficiency or let you assign devices to a specific band for added control.
Speed: We looked for models that took full advantage of available internet packages with multiple bands, link aggregation, or band allocation. Learn more about WiFi standards.
Range: While range can vary based on the home layout and construction materials, we looked for models in a variety of ranges. However, models that could penetrate floors and ceilings provide better coverage even if their base range is on the smaller side.
Best Netgear Routers: Reviews and Recommendations
Why It Made The Cut: The Orbi RBK852 provides fast speeds, expandability, and easy setup, making it the best Netgear router for most homes.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ax
— Range: Approximately 5,000 square feet (expandable)
— Number of Bands: 3
— Fast, easy setup
— Simple control through the Orbi app
— Expandable system
— Three bands with control over connected devices on each band
— Limited security without a Bitdefender subscription
— Limited parental controls
The Netgear Orbi RBK852 isn’t perfect, and it’s pricey. But for the majority of households, it’s the best mesh system around, Netgear or not. We tested the two-tower kit, but it also comes in three and four-tower kits, each covering greater square footage while also getting progressively more expensive.
We appreciated the easy setup done through the Orbi app, which guides you step-by-step. The tri-band router uses one band strictly to maintain a connection to the satellites, leaving the other two free for devices.
Our tester doesn’t have a super-fast internet package, but the Orbi RBK852 performed at top speeds for up and downloading, streaming, and light gaming of the available package. However, the home in which it was tested proved challenging due to the layout and extra insulation in the walls. This model can cover up to 5,000 square feet, but you have to make sure the router and satellite are placed in locations that fully expand the range.
There are a few built-in security measures with this Orbi. For example, we set up notifications when a new device is connected to the router and two-factor authentication. You can also create a guest network, so you don’t have to grant access to everything when a visitor connects.
However, the security is not robust. For more detailed security, you have to purchase a Bitdefender subscription for more thorough protection. Considering the already high price, that’s a bit of a disappointment. This particular unit also lacks robust parental controls. You can turn off certain devices, but more in-depth parental controls require a third-party app.
Best for Gaming: Netgear Nighthawk XR500
Why It Made the Cut: With speeds of up to 2.6 gigabytes per second, the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 is designed to help you optimize your gaming experience.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ax
— Range: Whole home
— Number of Bands: 2
— Incredibly fast
— Cuts down on latency by 84 percent
— Allows for geofiltering
Ready to play with the pros? If you’re serious about VR games and video streaming, the Netgear Nighthawk XR500 is designed to help you optimize your performance. Capable of wireless speeds of up to 2.6 gigabytes per second, the XR500 comes with a powerful dual-core 1.7 gigahertz processor. It's designed with five ports (one WAN and four Ethernet), plus two USB 3.0 ports, and the multi-user MIMO setup allows streaming simultaneously to mobile devices.
In addition to the increased speed from its DumaOS Gaming Software, the XR500 comes with 256MB of flash and 512MB of RAM, plenty of memory for graphics. It’s also equipped with a gaming dashboard that lets users use geofiltering, cut down on network traffic, and monitor bandwidth by device. Finally, the XR500 comes with a security system that allows users to protect their network identity with a secure gaming VPN.
Best 6E Pick: Netgear Orbi Quad-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System (RBKE963)
Why It Made The Cut: The RBKE963 provides the speed, range, and connection options for the largest of smart homes.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ax
— Range: Approximately 9,000 square feet
— Number of Bands: 4
— Simple, fast setup
— Fast throughput, downloads, and uploads
— Impressive coverage
— Top-of-the-line router technology
— Manage everything through sleek app
— Contains technology you don’t need unless you have upgraded devices
You’re not going to find a mesh system much better than the Netgear Orbi RBKE963. This powerful router and satellites cover a mind-boggling 9,000 square feet with the latest (as of this writing) 6E technology. It provides access to the 6GHz (gigahertz) band as well as the standard 2.4GHz and two 5GHz bands, one of which is dedicated to maintaining the connection between the router and satellites. In total, (and in ideal conditions which don’t exist in the real world), it can reach a blazing fast 10.8Gbps for data transfer.
We tested this model in a 3,500-square-foot house. Between the router and the two satellites, it covered nearly every square inch. An older Orbi system was already in place, but this model (virtually) punched through walls to deliver incredibly fast speeds.
Unfortunately, there weren’t any 8K or 6E devices to test (because who has those at home just yet?), but it delivered top speeds for the internet package, whether downloading, uploading, gaming, or streaming from several devices. During testing, we especially loved being able to connect directly to a satellite when on different floors for faster download speeds. However, this system isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t in a large house nor do you own the latest 8K and 6E devices and have the internet package to support them, this pricey mesh system isn’t worth the high price. But, if those devices are in the near future, you can get set up for the fastest speeds in a large space.
Most Portable: NETGEAR Nighthawk M5
Why It Made The Cut: The Nighthawk M5 provides excellent speed for up to 32 devices, whether you’re at home and need an extender or traveling for work and don’t want to use public WiFi.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ac
— Range: Varies
— Number of Bands: 2
— Incredibly small, lightweight, and portable
— Connects to up to 32 devices
— Can use a mobile phone as a hotspot
— Touchscreen display
— Requires SIM card
— Works best on AT&T and T-Mobile
The Nighthawk M5 is almost a pocket-size router. You can carry it in a backpack, suitcase, or briefcase and easily pull it out anytime you need a connection. It can function as an extender on your home network if getting a signal is difficult in certain locations. When you’re away from home, it can directly connect to your mobile phone and be used as a hotspot.
The M5 can connect to and manage up to 32 devices. We especially like the touchscreen digital display. It’s large for the size of the router and makes it easy to input information like passwords and check on data used.
There are some downsides to the M5. It requires a SIM card from your carrier and a bring your own devices (BYOD) data plan. It works best with AT&T and T-Mobile. However, if you’re techy enough, you might be able to find a workaround around to connect to other carriers, but it’s not easy.
Why It Made The Cut: Users get incredible range despite layout and building materials with a single-unit router, making the RAXE500 the best Netgear router for range.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ax
— Range: Approximately 3,500 square feet
— Number of Bands: 3
— Simple setup with the Netgear app
— Excellent range through walls and ceilings
— Offers a connection to the less crowded 6GHz band
— Slow to download games
The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 looks like a spaceship and performs like it’s from the future too. That’s in part because it contains the latest 6E technology, including access to the 6GHz band. However, you have to have devices that can access that band to take advantage of the added speed and efficiency this 6E router offers.
We tested this model in a 2,700-square-foot, two-story house. The router was located in the front and center of the house, and it reached every corner with ease. Our tester had an older Orbi mesh system in place that left a few dead spots throughout the house. The RAXE500 reached rooms the Orbi could never penetrate despite having two satellites. At the furthest range, the RAXE500 still provided optimum speeds for the internet package. While our tester didn’t have any 6E-compatible devices, this router maxed out available speed and kept latency low.
We used the RAXE500 router for streaming, downloads, uploads, and gaming throughout testing. Oddly, the only place it didn’t shine was downloading games. Downloading documents and photos was fast, but when it came time to download a new game, the speeds dropped from 25 Mbps to around 8 Mbps.
However, if you’re looking for range and speed from a single router (no satellites), the RAXE500 can do it.
Best Budget: Netgear WiFi Router (R6080)
Why It Made The Cut: The R6080 isn’t fancy, but it offers good speed and range for basic internet use for under $100.
— WiFi Protocol: 802.11ac
— Range: 1,000 square feet
— Number of Bands: 2
— Affordable price
— Manages up to 15 devices
— Fast, simple setup
— Parental controls
— Limited range
The Netgear R6080 is an affordable router that offers access to the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with a range of up to 1,000 square feet. Setup is simple through the Netgear app, where you can also adjust parental controls and set up a guest WiFi for better control of your network.
This model can manage up to 15 devices. Using the app, you can manage devices on the 2.4GHz, but you’ll need to access the web interface to set up devices on the 5GHz band. If you’re the kind of person who likes to tinker with the router, the web interface provides some customization.
Keep in mind that the limited range gets even more limited based on the layout and construction of the home.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Netgear Router
You want the same things in a Netgear router that you want from all of the best routers — speed with enough bands for your devices and room for a little growth. All of Netgear’s routers have at least two WiFi bands, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. These two standard bands serve different purposes, depending on the connected devices.
The 2.4GHz band has a wider range but slightly slower speeds. It’s also crowded and more prone to interruptions thanks to the numerous other home devices that use it, like mobile phones and microwaves.
The 5GHz band offers better speed but a shorter range. This band also tends to be less crowded, though as more smart devices enter the home, it quickly gets crowded.
Many of the more advanced Netgear routers let you assign devices to a specific band or have settings that choose the most efficient band for each device. The more powerful Netgear routers are tri or quad-band, with multiple 2.4 or 5GHz bands, while the latest Netgear routers have 6E technology that add the newly opened 6GHz band to the mix.
Signal Range and Strength
Netgear makes routers that cover smaller spaces (under 1,000 square feet), but also makes the best mesh WiFi systems that can cover 9,000 square feet with the option of expanding the coverage area by adding satellites. The company also sells single units like the Nighthawk AXE11000 that can cover 3,500 square feet without the help of satellites.
You have to think about signal strength, too. The AXE11000 may cover a huge area with a single device, but you might get better signal strength with one of Netgear’s Orbi mesh WiFi systems when used in a multi-story home. Mesh systems have a central router with one or more satellite towers to boost the signal. They’re a great option for large homes or ramblers with a sprawling layout. You can buy towers separately and add them to the mesh network as needed.
If any of your devices contain 6E technology, you need a router wired for 6E to take full advantage of your device. However, if you don’t have 6E technology, there’s no use paying more for a router that’s 6E.
Check the router’s protocol, whether it’s designed for WiFi 6E, 6, or 5. Models that have 6E technology are compatible with any device with previous technology. However, a model that’s WiFi 6 or 5 is not capable of providing WiFi 6E for 6E devices.
Number of Connected Devices
How many devices connect to your router? A home with a smart TV, dishwasher, washing machine, lights, and connected security system requires a router that can manage that many devices. The most basic Netgear routers can handle ten devices, with the most advanced model capable of taking on 100 devices at once. If you don’t have many smart devices and use the internet for browsing and a single stream, you may want to consider the best modem router combos to cut down on the number of devices in your home.
What kind of speeds do you need? If you’re working from home, you may need more speed than someone who only checks email and streams to a single device. Gamers, smart homes, and households where multiple streams run at once need more speed and a more advanced Netgear router.
Make sure your internet package has the speeds you need before investing in a new router. A router can only provide as much speed as your internet service provider (ISP) provides through your monthly subscription.
Q: How long will a Netgear router last?
You can expect a Netgear router to last at least three years, with most having a three to five-year operating window.
Q: Which router should I buy for my home?
Make your choice based on the size of your home, number of connected devices, internet package (speeds and bandwidth), and the technology of your devices (aka, you need 6E if you have 6E devices).
Q: What is a good router for high-speed internet?
The Netgear Orbi Whole Home Router and Netgear Nighthawk 6E Router are two of the best options for high-speed internet. Both can handle a high volume and give you control over which devices are on each band while providing blazing speeds.
Q: How often should you upgrade your router?
In general, a router should last about three to five years. In that time, it can still keep up with the latest technology unless you upgrade your devices or add a significant number of smart devices to the router. In that case, you may need to upgrade sooner.
Q: How do I know if I need a better router?
You probably need a new router if you’ve had it for five years or more. You may also need an upgrade if you’re increasingly having connection issues or your speeds and range begin to drop. Finally, if your router emits a significant amount of heat, it’s time for a new one.
Q: Does your router affect your internet speed?
A router affects your internet speeds because it facilitates data movement between your modem and devices as well as your devices and other networks. Your router can assign different devices to different bands to prevent one band from getting clogged and slowing down. Others may let you prioritize certain devices like a gaming system or mobile device to reduce latency.
Q: What is the best Netgear router?
The Netgear Nighthawk 6E Router is one of the best Netgear routers. It has a huge range, manages 12 streams, and provides access to the 6 GHz band for faster, more efficient connections.
Q: What is the best Netgear router for gaming?
Of the models we tested, the Netgear Orbi Whole Home Router and Netgear Nighthawk 6E Router offer excellent gaming options. However, if you’re looking for the best gaming router strictly designed for gaming, the NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming Router (XR1000) lets you allocate entire bands to gaming to reduce latency and prevent interruptions for other online activities for simultaneous bandwidth use.
The Netgear Orbi Whole Home Router has the speed and range to meet the needs of the average household. It’s easy to manage through the Orbi app, and the optional Bitdefender security lets you upgrade your security if needed for an added yearly subscription. If you’re on a tight budget and have a smaller home, the Netgear WiFi Router provides good speeds and connectivity for up to 15 devices.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.