|Best overall||Linksys WRT3200ACM|| |
It’s a great mix of performance and price.
|Best for gaming||ASUS RT-AC5300|| |
Lots of bandwidth makes for lag-free gaming.
|Best for streaming||Netgear R7000 Nighthawk DD-WRT|| |
Many devices get the bandwidth they need.
If you’re worried about internet security and keeping your online identity more private, then getting one of the best VPN routers might be the solution. You may be familiar with both of these terms but surprised to see them together. A router is an essential part of your home internet, it communicates with your internet-enabled devices and ”routes” information and network traffic with your internet service.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that encrypts your data to protect your online identity by hiding your IP address (internet protocol) which is a unique list of characters that identifies the computer and can leave a trail of information, like your address, around the internet. A VPN routes your information into different locations to hide your IP address and online identity to allow you to browse the internet more privately, leaving fewer clues of who you are.
Even if you’re someone who thinks, well I have nothing to hide, a VPN is still a good measure to ensure your privacy and keep you from being watched and tracked online. Governments, service providers, and marketers all often track internet users to better know them and sell goods to them. If you’re a gamer, a VPN can protect you from DDoS attacks, where competing gamers try to overwhelm your home network, and a VPN can help protect your sensitive information like banking numbers from any prying eyes. Most of the time using a VPN requires subscribing to a VPN service.
Many VPN users log on to a VPN through a device like a computer or a smartphone, but a VPN router gives all of your devices connected through the router the security and privacy of a VPN. All of your at-home online interactions are encrypted.
Of course, there are some downsides. Using a VPN will prevent websites from remembering who you are, so you’ll have to do a lot more logging in, and the extra layer of protection can slow your internet, which may be more noticeable if you are doing internet heavy activities like streaming. This list of the best VPN routers offers something for every kind of person from the casual surfer to the serious security stickler.
- Best overall: Linksys WRT3200ACM
- Best for gaming: Asus RT-AC5300
- Best for streaming: Netgear R7000 Nighthawk DD-WRT
- Best for beginners: Synology RT2600ac
- Best budget: TP-LINK Archer A7
- Best budget upgrade: ASUS RT-AC86U
How we chose the best VPN routers
We started with a wide list of options from a number of trusted manufacturers with well-established reputations. Then, we extensively scoured the internet for roundups, reviews, and rankings of VPN routers from trusted sources and crowd-sourced user feedback. We also carefully compared specs and features to choose models that best fit the categories listed here. We emphasized a mixture of performance, features, and prices that would address specific needs.
Things to look for when shopping for the best VPN routers
Here are a few features to keep in mind when it comes to selecting the right VPN router for you:
Dual- or tri-band routers
Look for a router that is at least dual-band. That means it has at least two antennas and offers both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This will allow older devices that aren’t capable of using 5GHz to still use your router. If you do a lot of streaming, gaming, or other internet activities consider a tri-band router that adds an additional 5GHz to accommodate faster speeds and more data transfer.
Routers have a hard job to do, handling all of your internet traffic, but VPN routers have the extra work of encryption. To ensure good performance, look for a VPN router with a more powerful CPU. Look for at least dual-core processors, but if you can afford a router with something even more robust, like a quad-core, you can count on better performance.
Your router can limit your internet speed. If you pay for 1,000 Mbps from your internet provider, but only have a router that can handle 800 Mbps, you’ll be limited to the router’s speed. Consider your speed needs, including gaming and streaming, and what levels you pay for from your provider, to know what speeds you need, and can even take advantage of.
How far are you hoping to get coverage with this router? The needs of a 5,000-square-foot home are far different from a one-bedroom apartment. Know the space you need to cover and look for routers that can reach your needed range. Some routers will give you a square foot estimate of their coverage, but also look for the number of antennae a router has, and if it has any additional technology to target devices in specific areas of your house.
Additional hardware like range extenders or a mesh network can often improve these numbers.
LAN ports allow you to wire a computer or TV to your router, often you can share things like files between these devices connected through the LAN port to your router. These connect with ethernet cords.
WAN ports are what give you access to the internet. Some advanced routers have multiple WAN ports that allow you to connect multiple ISPs to the same router. This allows continued service if one fails, or can balance bigger internet loads across the two ISPs.
Some routers will also have USB ports or even SD card readers for hooking external storage devices for network-accessible storage.
Best VPN routers: Reviews & Recommendations
An important note as you look through our picks for best VPN routers: Some VPN routers come pre-installed with a VPN service but if you have a service you prefer, make sure it is compatible with your VPN router as not all routers and services are compatible.
Best overall: Linksys WRT3200ACM
Why it made the cut: Many tech lovers will appreciate the classic Linksys aesthetic of this VPN router, but beneath the fun exterior, this router is all business.
- Transfer rate: 2,600 Mbps
- Processing power: Dual-core 1.8GHz CPU
- Ethernet/USB: USB 3.0, 4 gigabit LAN ports, 1 gigabit WAN port
- Fast speeds and processing power
- High cost
- Have to restart if your VPN drops
Those looking to deep dive and customize their VPN performance will love the open-source firmware that is compatible with OpenWrt and DD-WRT. Once you dive in, you will not only be able to set up your VPN how you like it but you can also unleash other powerful features, including detecting unwanted attempts to gain access to your network and web server functionality.
MU-MIMO technology allows the router to talk to multiple devices at once to ensure fast performance for many in your household,
If you’re worried about any gaps in your security, you’ll love the global kill switch that automatically turns off the router if the VPN loses connection. You’ll never unknowingly surf unprotected, though you will have to restart your router after any blip in your VPN service.
Both advanced and more novice users love the smart Wi-Fi app, with a mobile app and desktop platform that gives easy access to basic, and advanced configuration settings like prioritizing your devices so your refrigerator doesn’t make your video game lag.
Best for gaming: ASUS RT-AC5300
Why it made the cut: This is the router for a gamer, or a house full of gamers.
- Transfer rate: Up to 5,300 Mbps.
- Processing power: 1.4GHz dual-core processor
- Ethernet/USB: 4 Gigabit LAN ,WAN, USB 2.0, USB 3.0
- Wide coverage
- Bonus services
- Some owners complained about customer service
- Aggressive design
- Slow file transfer speed
We love the coverage of its eight antennas that help this router reach an impressive 5,000 square feet. While this will be plenty for most users, if you want to get even further coverage, this router works with other ASUS products to create a mesh network known as AiMesh.
This router offers a tri-band antenna and MU-MIMO technology to allow multiple devices to connect at full speed. Asus goes a step further by giving buyers free access to the Gamers Private Network from WTFast that delivers lower ping time and optimized information transfer for frustration-free gaming.
We also enjoy that it comes with parental controls, so that no matter who is gaming in your house, they are doing it healthily with parental knowledge.
Best for streaming: Netgear R7000 Nighthawk DD-WRT
Why it made the cut: Netgear’s tech optimizes connectivity for specific devices on the network.
- Transfer rate: Up to 1,900 Mbps.
- Processing power: 1GHz dual-core CPU
- Ethernet/USB: 4 Gigabit LAN, 1 WAN, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
- Good coverage
- Supports a lot of devices
- Advanced customization abilities
- Need to download another firmware for VPN
- Can hear the fan
With three antennas, this dual-band router reaches a respectable 1,800 square feet. Included Beamforming+ helps optimize its coverage. This technology scans your wireless network to understand where devices are and then uses the three antennas to transmit focused directional radio signals.
Many users loved the easy setup thanks to the Nighthawk app, which also allows you to adjust performance once the system is running. You can also use the circle app to implement parental controls through the router including what content you can access, and time limits and schedules for devices connected to the network
The Nighthawk does have an easy to use online user interface, but to get the most out of our VPN, you’ll want to download your own custom VPN firmware with DD-WRT, so it may not be the best user friendly, entry-level option for those just starting to use VPN routers.
Best for beginners: Synology RT2600ac
Why it made the cut: User-friendly software makes this a great starting point for protecting your network.
- Transfer rate: 2,530 Mbps
- Processing power: 1.7GHz dual-core processor
- Ethernet/USB: 4 Gigabit LAN, 1 Gigabit WAN, USB 3.0, SD card reader
- Large coverage
- Easy for new VPN users
- Works as VPN Server
- Can be tough to mount
This router is great for those new to using a VPN. Synology Router Manager, the operating system makes it easy for even inexperienced users to set up a VPN. That’s a big relief for those not prepared to buy a router and install new firmware.
The accompanying app also allows you to access that VPN from your phone so that you can protect your online identity from your cell, even when you are out in the world and can’t access your home network.
The router also has a solid range of 3,000 square feet with four antennas you can direct where you need them, and if you need more coverage, it will work with other Synology products to create a mesh network. Within that coverage, MU-MIMO will allow more than one product to talk to your router simultaneously helping to create lag-free gaming or streaming for multiple users.
Plus, USB and SD card reader allows for a variety of network storage solutions. It’s a great overall router for newbies and experienced gamers and VPNers alike.
Best budget: TP-LINK Archer A7
Why it made the cut: This is a highly affordable VPN router that is great for general use with the added benefit of a few nice features.
- Transfer rate: Up to 1,750 Mbps.
- Processing power: 750MHz Qualcomm processor
- Ethernet/USB: USB 2.0, Gigabit WAN port, 4 Gigabit LAN ports
- Works with Alexa
- Fast affordable performance
- Reliability and good interface
- Web UI needs to be upgraded for high-end users
- Limited range
The TP-Link web user interface is great and makes it easy to set the router up and access added features. Many loved that it’s possible to share Wi-Fi access with a QR code from the router, as well as set up parental controls and guest networks. You can even use an app to manage your network from far away from home.
TP-Link states it is great for a three-bedroom house with coverage of about 2,500 square feet, but we found some customers complained about the actual reach and speeds at the limits of the reach.
With the affordability, you do get a couple of hurdles for effective VPN use. You’ll need to install DD-WRT firmware for optimal tinkering with your VPN. And some users might be disappointed that there is no beamforming or MU-MIMO. But at this price, it’s hard to complain about a fast, reliable, and simple router that can work with your VPN.
Best budget upgrade: ASUS RT-AC86U
Why it made the cut: This is a lot of router for the money. It has the performance and features you might expect from a more expensive router.
- Transfer rate: 2,900 Mbps
- Processing power: 1.8GHz 64bit dual-core processor
- Ethernet/USB: USB 3.1 Gen1, 4 Gigabit LAN ports, WAN port
- Supports ASUS AiMesh technology
- Strong gaming performance
- Complex software, not for the casual
- Can’t mount it
This ASUS model offers impressive power and speed when you consider its price. It is ready to support your streaming or gaming needs, and that performance is only amplified by MU-MIMO technology, as well as QoS, technology that lets you prioritize devices on your network. This lets your router know to give the fastest speeds and best performance to your computer or gaming console so the Wi-Fi thermostat doesn’t cause you to lag.
The accompanying app is robust, though the depth and ability to fine-tune things like your VPN service can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. You will, however, get AiProtection, network security for all your devices, even the IoT devices that might be otherwise vulnerable.
It’s a great value router with speeds that will keep it working for years. Though, think carefully about where you want to put it as many consumers complained of a lack of mounting options.
Q: Are VPNs legal for me?
VPN services are legal in the US and UK, but the laws vary in other countries, so make sure you do your research to avoid a costly snafu. Just because they provide some anonymity, doesn’t mean they are a free pass to cyberbully, or commit crimes. Use the benefit of privacy for good.
Q: How do I sign up for a VPN?
Many VPN services are sold online as subscriptions that then give you access to set your VPN up with your VPN router. Again, make sure your router and VPN provider are compatible. And a tip, try a VPN service provider for a few months before signing a long-term contract, always best to know you like what you’re buying.
Q: Do routers have VPN built in?
Some do, but many don’t. Some will offer the ability to work with a VPN, but you’ll want to make sure to do your research before making a purchase. All the routers on this list will work well with a VPN, however, so you can feel good about any of those.
Final thoughts on the best VPN routers
A VPN router is a great solution for whole-home security and privacy. Finding the right one will not only get you moving quickly across the internet but will do so with the confidence that no one is watching you as you do.
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