Best Wireless Routers for Streaming

Best overall
  • Check
    Bandwidth allocation control
  • X
    App has limited controls
Best mesh Wi-Fi
  • Check
    Cheaper than similar mesh systems
  • X
    Google account required
Best for speed
  • Check
    Excellent range and speed
  • X
    Expensive
Best budget pick
  • Check
    Good range and solid speed
  • X
    Only USB 2.0 ports
Best for gaming
  • Check
    Ping stabilization option
  • X
    Speeds lag behind other routers
Catherine McNally
Editorial Lead, Internet & Gaming
Read More
Published on January 05, 2020
5 min read

You’ve got your internet set up and your computer turned on, and now you’re free to binge-watch all day long. Right?

Not quite. Before you stream the latest season of Westworld on HBO, you’ll want to shop around to figure out which is the best router for the money. Otherwise, you could be faced with choppy video—or worse, that horrible buffering icon.

Here are our recommendations for routers that will kick that buffering icon to the curb.

What is the best Wi-Fi router for streaming?
Amazon price*
Wireless protocol
Gigabit ports
Learn more

NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500

$286.98

802.11ac

5

Google Wi-Fi

$99.79

802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible

2

NETGEAR Orbi

$329.99 (2-pack)

802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible

4

TP-Link Archer AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

$69.99

802.11ac

4

Linksys WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router

$179

802.11a/b/g/n compatible

5

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

How much speed do you need to stream?
Light Bulb

Find out which internet plan is best for streaming Netflix and YouTube—or even livestreaming on Twitch—in our Best ISPs for Streaming guide.

Compare internet provider options in your area.

NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500—best overall

This top-of-the-line NETGEAR router gives you full control.
NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500

Amazon price*

$286.98

Gigabit ports

5 (4 LAN, 1 WAN)

Wireless protocol

802.11ac

Bands

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

W-Fi coverage

Medium-to-large home

Learn more

View on Amazon

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

Pros
  • Lots of customization
  • Bandwidth allocation control
Cons
  • App has limited controls

NETGEAR teamed up with NetDumas to bring every customization option under the sun to your desktop—but don’t worry, it’s still beginner-friendly. Gamers will love the geofiltering option, which allows you to target only servers and players from your local area. These extensive customizations plus top speeds and coverage make the NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro our favorite router.

Google Wi-Fi—best mesh Wi-Fi

Google Wi-Fi’s points provide seamless coverage throughout your house.
Google Wi-Fi

Amazon price*

$99.79 (1 Wi-Fi pt.)

Gigabit ports

2 per Wi-Fi pt. (1 WAN, 1 LAN)

Wireless protocol

Compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Bands

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Wi-Fi coverage

One point covers 500–1,500 sq. ft.

Learn more

View on Amazon

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

Pros
  • Easy to set up
  • Cheaper than similar mesh systems
Cons
  • Google account required
  • Limited controls

If you don’t mind logging into your Google account to control your router settings through the app, the Google mesh Wi-Fi system is hard to beat. By placing multiple units around your house, you’ll be able to connect to Wi-Fi pretty much anywhere. Plus, the price is right.

Which is better, Sling TV or Hulu?
Bullhorn

Ready to put your new router to the test and stream your favorite TV shows? Find out which service you should get in our Best Live TV Streaming Services review.

NETGEAR Orbi—best for speed

This beastly router gets you speedy Wi-Fi over a few thousand square feet—or more.
NETGEAR Orbi

Amazon price*

$329.99 (2-pack)

Gigabit ports

4 (3 LAN, 1 WAN)

Wireless protocol

Compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Bands

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Wi-Fi coverage

Up to 5,000 sq. ft.

Learn more

View on Amazon

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

Pros
  • Excellent range and speed
Cons
  • Expensive

If you’ve got a large home that needs a zippy Wi-Fi connection in all its nooks and crannies, the NETGEAR Orbi is well worth the price. Of course, this is one beast of a router—it measures in at 6 by 3 by 8 inches. So make sure there’s room on your shelf or desk for it.

Which streaming service has the most channels?
Pin

We’ll give it to you straight—find out which TV streaming service has the channels you’re looking for. *Jedi mind trick hand wave.* Check out our TV Streaming Channel Comparison here.

TP-Link Archer AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router—best budget pick

A budget router with performance to match the $200 competition.
TP-Link Archer AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Amazon price*

$69.99

Gigabit ports

4 LAN

Wireless protocol

802.11ac

Bands

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Wi-Fi coverage

Up to 2,500 sq. ft.

Learn more

View on Amazon

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

Pros
  • Low price
  • Good range and speed
Cons
  • Only USB 2.0 ports

Going on vacation and don’t want to risk someone hijacking your Wi-Fi? Just flip a switch on the back of this TP-Link router to switch to a wired connection. Though it lacks Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) support, it packs a real punch in terms of speed and range. And that price is music to our ears.

What is “MU-MIMO”?
Heads Up

That multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO) technology is a must-have if you’ve got at least a few internet power users in your home. If your router uses MU-MIMO, it gives all your web-enabled devices bandwidth at the same time. So you can stream while you game while you download files.

Linksys WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router—best for gaming

If you’ve got Killer-enabled hardware, this Linksys router is a gamer’s dream come true.
Linksys WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router

Amazon price*

$179

Gigabit ports

5 (4 LAN, 1 WAN)

Wireless protocol

Compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n

Bands

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Wi-Fi coverage

Medium-to-large home

Learn more

View on Amazon

*Price as of 10/1/2018.

Pros
  • Killer Networks Prioritization stabilizes ping
  • Easy install and configuration
Cons
  • Speeds lag behind other routers
  • Need Killer-enabled hardware to benefit from best features

The Linksys WRT32X router boasts Killer Networks Prioritization, meaning you can worry less about lag and more about landing those skill shots. (If your devices use Killer hardware, that is.) Don’t have Killer-enabled hardware? Then we recommend our top pick, the NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro.

Which ISP is best for gaming?
Megaphone

Find out the winners in our Best Internet for Gaming review. GG.

Recap—which router is best for streaming?

The NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro has our vote as the best router for streaming Netflix, Hulu, and more.

Here’s the TL;DR on which wireless router you should grab for the ultimate streaming experience.

  • NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500: With exceptional customization options and full control over your bandwidth allocation, this NETGEAR router pulls out all the stops and earns our top pick.
  • Google Wi-Fi: Get a Wi-Fi signal even in the most remote corners of your home with Google’s mesh Wi-Fi system. Coming in at less than the competition, it’s a value-packed way to hop on the internet anywhere.
  • NETGEAR Orbi: Though pricey, the NETGEAR Orbi delivers pro-level speed—even at long distances. While it is a bit bulkier than other models, the design is more modern than traditional routers.
  • TP-Link Archer AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router: If you’re looking for a budget option, you can’t go wrong with this TP-Link router. While it costs at least a hundred dollars less than most high-performing competitors, it still gets you bang for your buck with high speed and great range.
  • Linksys WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router: If you game and use Killer-enabled devices, this Linksys router lets you stabilize your ping through the Killer Networks Prioritization option. If that’s not wild enough, the entire design revolves around getting you the lowest latency possible.

Haven’t decided on a TV streaming service yet? Check out our reviews:

Have a router recommendation? Share it with us in the comments below.

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How to choose a router

Finding the right router is similar to finding the right internet plan: you’ll want to consider the number of people using the internet, plus how many devices you’ll have connected.

You’ll also want to consider how much of your home you want blanketed in that glorious Wi-Fi signal.

Price

Four out of five of our top router picks will run you a couple hundred bucks at least. But if it’s just you connecting to the web and watching YouTube videos, you’ll be fine spending less.

If you’re a gamer, if you’ve got multiple family members or roommates streaming at the same time, or if you’ve got multiple devices all connected simultaneously, paying extra may well be worth it.

A higher price tag usually means more features—not to mention better performance.

Features

We recommend looking out for these features when shopping for a new router.

  • At least four gigabit Ethernet ports
  • At least one USB port (preferably USB 3.0)
  • Parental controls to limit network access at certain times or days
  • Guest network to keep your network secure
  • Network priority settings to decide which users or devices get priority

FAQs

What’s a “dual-band” router?

You may notice that some routers are labeled as “dual-band.” This is a good thing, and it means it’s not limited to operating on just the 2.4 GHz frequency like routers of old.

The 2.4 GHz band can be pretty crowded, since your Bluetooth headphones, smartphone, and even microwave likely use that same band. But dual-band routers can also hop on the 5 GHz band, which tends to be less crowded.

Less competition for space on the 5 GHz band means you’ll have less signal interference and fewer disconnects. Let the streaming begin!

What are wireless protocols?

Ever wondered what those “802.11” numbers and letters mean? They refer to your router’s wireless protocol, which is how it sends and receives data.

Older protocols, like 802.11b and 802.11g, have limited data transfer rates—up to 11 Mbps for 802.11b and 54 Mbps for 802.11g.  They also operate only on the 2.4 GHz frequency.

By comparison, the newer protocols, 802.11n and 802.11ac, have faster data transfer rates, plus extra features that put some oomph in those data transfer rates.

802.11n

This is the most commonly used protocol, and it cranks out data transfer rates of up to 600 Mbps. This protocol operates on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and uses Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) tech to boost performance.

A router with 802.11n protocol should work perfectly if your family likes to surf the web on a few laptops, desktops, and smartphones.

802.11ac

The newest wireless protocol, 802.11ac also operates on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, but it brings a little more to the table.

It one-ups 802.11n routers with its Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology, which means it provides bandwidth to all your devices at the same time. (MIMO technology, on the other hand, provides bandwidth to one device at a time. So you may be waiting your turn to stream Marvel’s Agents of Shield on your laptop.)

Catherine McNally
Written by
Catherine McNally
Catherine has a degree in journalism and an MBA, and has spent the last 10+ years writing everything from Okinawa travel guides to stories on Medium. She’s been online since AOL CDs were a thing and is an unapologetic PC gamer. She believes the internet is a necessity, not a luxury, and writes reviews and guides to help everyone stay connected. You can also find her on Twitter: @CMReviewsIt.

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