WiFi Router Recommendations 2021

I’ve been very happy with my ASUS AC1900, but it’s starting to struggle. Whether it’s the 35-ish clients or the 5-6 years in age, I’m not sure, but I figure it’s time to check options. 1500 sq ft home, so distance isn’t a big deal. What are some of y’all using these days?

I have Ubiquiti Unifi

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this was just discussed in the forum a couple of months ago, Here’s that link:

But if I recall, that particular thread didn’t bring up some of the other issues that people care about these days. For example, if you will be using HomeKit, it’s definitely worth considering getting a HomeKit – compatible router.

But then there’s the whole issue of Matter and whether you want a Wi-Fi router that also has thread support. We probably won’t know more about this until November or December.

Some routers are also much better at handling presence detection as a trigger for home automation than others. so if you wanted to run automations based on a particular device being connected to the home Wi-Fi or not, that’s yet another consideration.

Some models have Ifttt integration, which is pretty cool if you already have an Ifttt subscription. I know asus and TP Link have some models with this, I’m sure there are more.

https://ifttt.com/search/query/router?tab=services

And of course there’s the issue of parental controls. And guest networks, another feature which can be useful if you want to isolate your home automation from your other applications.

And then there’s the whole Wi-Fi six question. Do you want to pay an extra $200 for a router now given that the standard isn’t complete yet? Some will say yes, some will say no, so that’s another “just depends“ category.

So I would say specific to 2021 there are a bunch of router features that have only been introduced in the last two or three years which can specifically impact home automation, so you may need to be a little more specific about what you’re looking for beyond just Wi-Fi.

Two examples in this category:

A) quite a few IOT devices only run on the 2.4 band and require that you initially set them up with a phone that is also on that band. But then there are a lot of routers which give the 2.4 band and the 5 GHz band the same SS ID and want to automatically switch you. Which quite often means you end up with, say, your new video doorbell trying to initialize on 2.4 while your phone is on 5.0 and you end up having to walk down the street until you are out of range of your 5.0 band just to get the doorbell set up the first time. :rage: Once it is set up, everything works fine with your phone on one band and the doorbell on the other, but the set up can be very annoying if your router doesn’t at least let you temporarily disable the 5.0 band. Some people don’t care about that, but if you intend to have a lot of Wi-Fi devices, it’s something to consider.

B) most routers will keep running the Wi-Fi even if the Internet is out, and that’s what you want for home automation. However much you have running locally, you want it to be able to run locally when possible.

But there are a few routers (cough Samsung SmartThings WiFi mesh) which require an active cloud connection or you get no Wi-Fi at all. I do not recommend getting these for any home which wants as much continuity of service as possible for their home automation. :wink:

So… different things work for different people, especially these days. :sunglasses:

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More on WiFi 6:

Also, I forgot to mention that if you have even one serious gamer in the house, you should definitely consider a router designed for that use case.

At our house we are three adult housemates, and one of us is a very serious player. Ultimately, he ended up getting his own Internet account with his own router. At least he’s not blaming our one Wi-Fi smart plug for his losses anymore. :wink: and he definitely improved his play, for games, you have to focus on upload quality as well as the download you need for most streaming functions.

Oh, and as far as WiFi 6E… no reason to get it yet.

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@JDRoberts I am not familiar with this…

Will you please explain and give some router examples?

I’m going to leave my previous post up, but here’s a checklist format if it’s simpler:

  1. size of area to cover? Do you currently get good coverage, no dead spots?

  2. Will you be using HomeKit and want to take advantage of their advanced security/privacy features?

  3. do you want to wait until we know more about how the new Matter Standard is going to work? We will probably know a lot more about that by November or December.

  4. if you don’t want to wait, but you are interested in matter, you might consider getting a router with thread support, although technically that probably won’t be necessary. you could add a different Thread border router.

  5. do you need parental controls?

  6. do you need guest networks? Do you want a separate guest network just for your home automation devices?

  7. do you want to be able to use Wi-Fi even if the Internet is not available? (The answer for most people should be yes)

  8. do you care how many ethernet ports are on the router or are you just going to add a multi port bridge anyway?

  9. do you need to be able to support speeds of a gig or more?

  10. is anyone in the household a heavy gamer and if so do you want to look at routers that have features specific to that use case?

  11. choose a generation: Wi-Fi five, Wi-Fi six, or Wi-Fi 6E. There are only two or three routers currently available for 6E and hardly any devices that attached to it, so most people should skip that one for another 12 months at least.

Wi-Fi 5 is OK for most people and will be significantly less expensive than a Wi-Fi six router, but the Wi-Fi six router is technically better. See the links above for more details.

  1. just to be sure, check with your Internet provider to see what their approved Modems and Wi-Fi routers are.

  2. Will you be adding a lot of Wi-Fi IOT devices and if so, how much do you care about the 2.4/5 issue described in the previous post. If you want to make adding Devices as easy as possible, you need a router that lets you at least disable the 5 GHz band temporarily. Otherwise you need to do one of the workarounds discussed previously

  3. do you need a router with thread support? This is actually different than the matter question.

  4. some routers have a hard limit on how many devices you can add, and sometimes that limit is pretty low, like 32. Just find out for sure what it is for the models you are considering.

  5. do you want to be able to trigger a home automation rule based on specific individual devices connecting to the Wi-Fi? Some routers can do this natively, others can do it through IFTTT (which will probably be the easiest way, especially if you already have an IFTTT account).

  6. most of these features will add additional cost, and some require an ongoing paid subscription. You can find a decent WiFi 5 router for under $200, but if you want one that does all of the above, you may be looking at closer to $600 plus a monthly subscription. So if you have a specific budget in mind, let us know.

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I recently discovered that my eero WiFi has a new feature to help with this. In the Troubleshooting menu there is an option that will disable the 5GHz band for 10 minutes.

A couple of my Nest outdoor cams keep connecting to 5Ghz but due to stucco exterior get a very low signal strength. I’ve been using this new option to force them onto 2.4GHz.

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Sure. If the Internet goes out at my house, the Wi-Fi keeps running. That means all of my HomeKit devices (which are using native Homekit, not homebridge) continue to work just fine except they don’t have voice control. But the app works and the automations work.

My Phillips hue bridge continues to work and works with its app even without the Internet, as long as I still have Wi-Fi.

My Amazon echoes still work in a very limited way, but since one of them does have a zigbee hub inside and I did connect a couple of light switches to it, I do still have voice control of those specific switches.

Also… this one is more technical, but if you have a DLNA server in your home you can still stream music or video that you’ve previously downloaded to one of your devices to your other devices on the same Wi-Fi network even if the Internet is out.

https://www.techradar.com/news/digital-home/home-networking/dlna-what-it-is-and-what-you-need-to-know-1079015

Basically Wi-Fi devices that need the cloud need the Internet. But Wi-Fi devices that can run locally don’t need the Internet, they just need Wi-Fi.

Oh, and your Wi-Fi printers can still print something from your tablet or laptop.

And if you happen to be running Homekit, it’s all super easy, because HomeKit requires that all devices that connect natively be able to run without a cloud.

Obviously which specific use cases will work depend on the exact details, but there’s no reason for the Wi-Fi not to work just because the Internet is down. Not being able to get to the Internet is not being able to get to the Internet. But Wi-Fi is a radio used for communication between the devices in your own home as well, and that ought to keep working.

As far as which Wi-Fi routers this is true for, to be honest, it’s hard to think of one that it isn’t true for except for Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi mesh routers. (It used to also be an issue with Eero mesh, but they fix that back in 2018.) Your smartthings system is so cloud dependent that even the Wi-Fi mesh doesn’t work without the Internet. :disappointed_relieved:

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I use eero routers