Every American household has an average of 11 internet-connected gadgets.
Imagine the typical number of linked gadgets in a “smart house” at this point.
My 1150-square-foot “smart” house, for example, is a great illustration of this. Compared to the typical American family, this one has more than twice as many linked gadgets (23).
You need a WiFi signal that is dependable, efficient, and quick in order to ensure that all of these devices are working at their best and do not interfere with each other.
When it comes to your smart home, the proper router is essential.
For smart home automation, which router is best?
After 2022, these routers will be among the most effective for automating your house.
- Best affordable smart home router: TP-Link Archer A9 Smart WiFi Router
- Best mid-range smart home router: Amazon Eero Mesh WiFi Router
- Best mid-to-high smart home router is the NETGEAR Orbi Compact WiFi System.
- Dream Machine by Ubiquiti UniFi (Best high-end router for smart homes)
|TP-Link Archer A9||Amazon Eero||NETGEAR Orbi||UniFi Dream Machine|
|Winner||Best budget||Best mid-range||Best mid-to-high||Best high-end|
|Dual band (2.4 & 5 GHz)||Yes||Yes||Tri-band!||Yes|
|Max Speed||1900 Mbps||1200 Mbps||2200 Mbps||2033 Mbps|
|Integrations||Alexa||Alexa||Alexa & Google Assistant||None|
Must meet the specs of the router
In order to discover the finest router for our smart home, let’s first speak about what to look for while comparing different routers.
For a smart home router, performance and pricing are two of the most important aspects.
We also want to make sure that our purchase will survive for at least the next 5 years by future-proofing it as much as possible (hopefully longer).
It’s recommended to make sure that your router matches the following basic requirements:
- Wave 2 or above of the 802.11ac wireless standard
- a radio with two distinct bands of frequency operation (2.4 & 5.0 GHz)
- a download speed of at least 1200 MBps
There is no need to worry, since all of the smart home routers listed above fulfill these minimal requirements.
802.11ac wireless standard, Wave 2 (MU-MIMO)
802.11ac Wave 2 is only a wireless internet protocol.
The naming scheme is abysmal, isn’t it? Fortunately, this has been renamed “WiFi 5” in recent years, making it much simpler to keep track of.
MU-MIMO, or “Multi-User – Multiple Input, Multiple Output,” is what 802.11ac Wave 2 is all about.
When using MU-MIMO, your router may sustain many connections at the same time. In order to maximize the bandwidth you have, this is a must!
Unless you have this, your network’s highest WiFi speed would be limited to the speed of the slowest device on it. Why? Because 802.11 works on a “first-come, first-serve” basis in older versions of the standard.
There is a “waiting list” effect when numerous devices or users begin contacting the router at the same time, resulting in congestion.
With MU-MIMO, you won’t have to deal with any of that.
This becomes more critical as your network grows in size.
802.11ax, or WiFi 6, is the most current iteration of the 802.11 standard. A lot more will follow, but for now, just know that I don’t expect it to be genuinely important to the typical customer for at least a few years.
Dual-band radio (2.4 & 5.0 GHz)
Dual-band routers are becoming more commonplace, and this is a good thing.
This allows you to connect your home’s equipment to two distinct networks at the same time (either the 5.0 GHz or 2.4 GHz network).
Two independent networks provide for better speeds and more flexibility. There are less concerns with connectivity and interference because to the dual-band design.
It’s possible to have routers that have three independent network bands, but unless you expect to have a lot of concurrent users, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Speed of 1200 MBps
Whenever you see a router speed, you’re really looking at the sum total of the speed supplied by each band, which is the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands.
Admittedly, the promised speed of 1200MBps is only 350 MBps on the 2.5Ghz frequency, and 875MBps on the 5Ghz radio.
So, in actuality, you can only get a maximum speed of 850 MBps (since the 5.0 GHz band is the fastest).
It’s also worth noting that internet speeds vary greatly from location to location.
For two persons using the same router, the internet speeds might be vastly different based on factors such as the design of their room, the materials used to construct their house, and more.
A minimum router speed rating of 1200 MBps is required.
It is possible to perform almost anything at this pace, with few or no interruptions.
Having router specs is a nice-to-have.
Specifications that aren’t required for excellent performance or future-proofing your router purchase include the following:
- WiFi in a mesh network
- Constructed-in safety measures
- Smart speakers may be integrated into the system.
Larger houses (above 3000 square feet) and homes with “dead areas” are ideal for mesh WiFi.
Satellite WiFi networks enable you to expand your home’s WiFi coverage by adding more routers, which are linked to a modem as normal.
Wi-Fi signals may travel a longer distance thanks to these satellites.
Strength and quality of coverage increase as you add additional satellites.
Cost is a problem since more equipment is required to support additional satellites, which raises the overall cost.
However, if you have a large house, or if your home is shaped irregularly, you may want to check to see whether your router supports mesh networking.
firewall protection and/or Anti-virus are now included with many routers, which is fantastic.
Nevertheless, some companies go a step farther and provide direct connections with McAfee or Trend Micro.
All of your home’s protection is handled by these companies, allowing you to relax.
Again, this is a nice-to-have rather than a must.
Integration with smart speakers
This is a nice one for those of us who are into smart home technology.
Google’s Home Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are becoming more and more integrated into routers as more and more devices are being released.
Using these connections, you no longer have to remember and login into a separate router interface in order to operate your WiFi network by speech.
You may tell Alexa to “activate the Guest network,” for example, if you want a buddy to be able to connect to your Guest network.
It’s also possible to tell Alexa to disconnect your child’s WiFi access if you have more than one network and don’t want them to have access to it any more.
You can even use your voice to restart your router.
Obviously, this isn’t a must-have feature, but the integrations are rather nice anyway.
Specifications for the new routers
Every day, routers are becoming better and better, and this is true in the world of technology as well.
Some of the most recent and intriguing additions:
- 6th Generation Wireless Internet Protocol (802.11ax)
- An FM, AM, and OTA
WiFi 6 (802.11ax)
No mistake about it, WiFi 6 will be the standard for WiFi in the future.
It enables several wireless devices to transmit or upload data to the router at the same time.
As a result, WiFi 6 is able to simultaneously communicate with several devices, rather than one at a time.
As with most new technologies, routers that support WiFi 6 have already started shipping.
WiFi 6 routers aren’t necessary if you’re a house owner and want to utilize your network on a regular basis.
High-density public spaces like railway stations, stadiums, and airports were key inspirations for the development of this new protocol.
Remember that dual-band technology allows you to connect your home’s equipment to two separate networks simultaneously (either the 5.0 GHz or 2.4 GHz network)
Tri-band simply adds a third radio band to the mix. The third band might be compared as a second 5.0 GHz network in this context.
When using tri-band, you may connect to two different frequencies at the same time, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
As with dual band, the extra advantage is that more devices may connect and use your WiFi without interfering with each other.
There’s no need to concern about tri-band unless you have an absurd number of WiFi-connected devices, as is the case with WiFi 6.
The 802.15.4 wireless standard is simply one among several. In actuality, it’s the ZigBee protocol.
Z-wave and ZigBee are the two most common smart home protocols; if you’re not acquainted with them, you can read about them in this article.
That this protocol has been included into millions of smart home items is, of course, critical.
As the protocol continues to gain traction, routers are beginning to support the 802.15.4 language.
Your smart home gadgets won’t have to compete for bandwidth on the 2.4 or 5.0 GHz bands if your router uses a protocol other than WiFi.
Instead, the 802.15.4 protocol may be used to directly connect and interact with these smart devices.
Not a need for now, but it’s something to keep an eye out for in the future.
We now get at the more in-depth examinations of smart home routers.
The TP-Link Archer A9 is the most cost-effective option.
Some claim that if you purchase inexpensively, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run.
There are no genuinely cheap routers on my list because of this. The truth is that if you want the finest, you’ll have to pay for it.
As a result, I believe the TP-Link Archer A9 is the best smart home router you can purchase for the money.
In terms of overall value, the Archer A9 is an excellent choice for homes of any size (around 2500 sq ft).
Due of its lack of mesh capabilities, you won’t be able to extend your network with this router on my list. Remember that.
- A user-friendly interface makes it simple to set up and operate.
- Coverage for a medium-sized house is adequate.
- High performance / Fast connection
- Well-suited for high volumes of traffic
- Despite the router’s size, it can’t be mounted on a wall.
- Cannot expand the range since it is not a mesh router.
Mid-range Amazon Eero is the finest.
Amazon’s acquisition of Eero in 2016 was a major catalyst for the Mesh router resurgence.
Eero is at the forefront of a new revolution in WiFi coverage that allows you to deploy numerous satellite devices throughout your house.
Eero’s stand-alone router will set you back around $100.
Aside from the fact that you’ll likely need to purchase more satellites if you plan on using Eero throughout your house, this is my top pick for a mid-range smart home router.
- Intuitive tool
- Connectivity through a mesh network
- This is a fantastic concept.
- Good speed but not mind-bogglingly quick.
- Spotty coverage is expected for bigger properties.
- Concerns about Amazon’s purchase of data privacy
NETGEAR Orbi – best mid-high range
This router, the Orbi, is a monster.
In terms of speed, it’s nearly twice as fast as the Eero, but the price is almost twice as high.
Tri-band technology means that you may connect to three distinct networks at once. As a gaming enthusiast, this is an excellent option. An whole network might be devoted just to gaming.
That way, you won’t have to deal with any extra network slowdown or other issues.
Your Orbi mesh network will automatically link you to the optimal network depending on your current location, regardless of how far away it may be.
For those times when you need to expand your WiFi network outside, there’s even a weatherproof external satellite available.
- Exceptional work.
- There are a number of sophisticated system options.
- An excellent, well-maintained signal (with three bands!).
- Coverage of a wide range of topics
- The app provides parental controls.
- Use YouTube instead of the instructions if you find it difficult to set up.
Dream Machine — the greatest high-end UniFi device
If you’ve got the money and a medium to big house, the Dream Machine is your best bet.
This router is made by Ubiquity, which has a reputation for producing high-quality goods.
If you want to get a punch like the Dream Machine does, you’ll need four distinct devices.
This router was meticulously crafted by Ubiquity.
With its UniFi technology, this router stands out from the rest of the pack.
You may be wondering, what exactly is UniFi?
This is a complex topic, but in a nutshell, the Dream Machine comes with a free wireless network management software called UniFi.
A web browser may be used to manage several wireless networks, and the feature set it provides is amazing. The following are a few of the most notable points:
- More than one Wi-Fi network Two independent routers are like that. For example, you may use this to connect all your smart home gadgets to one network, while simultaneously allowing you to access your computer or smartphone from any of the other networks.
- A kind of packet inspection known as “deep packet inspection” (DPI). This gives you the ability to monitor all of your network’s devices in real time. As an example, it will show you exactly what you’re looking at right now.
- It stands for quality of service (QOS). The Dream Machine performs a speed test during setup to determine its maximum speed. So that no one device or devices take up too much of your network’s resources.
- In the event that you need to expand your WiFi coverage, you can simply add a Ubiquity access point to your network.
- Effortless style
- Intuitive and customizable
- The security gateway is built in.
- Intuitive and simple to use
- Astonishing acceleration
- Management software for the UniFi wireless network
- Small router with a full-fledged enterprise system within.
- Requires a UniFi account (I’m getting close…)
With these basic requirements, the finest smart home routers will run the 802.11ac wifi standard (WiFi 5) or greater, include Dual band radio (2.4 & 5.0GHz) and have at least 1200MBps of bandwidth.
Smart speakers (like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa) and mesh WiFi routers are lovely to have, but they aren’t essential.
Tri-band routers with WiFi 6 and ZigBee 802.15.4 will become increasingly common in the future. However, it will be at least five to ten years before these capabilities are really worth the extra expense.