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What are the best wireless routers?

Nick Baker, Broadband and TV expert
Written by Nick Baker, Content Editor - Telecoms

27 June 2022

Which is the best wireless router in the UK? We look at the routers major providers offer, including BT, Virgin Media and Sky.
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With the exception of mobile internet, when people talk about 'wireless broadband', they're usually referring to internet with Wi-Fi. In other words, broadband packages that allow you to connect to the internet wirelessly.

Most broadband providers nowadays include wireless routers in broadband packages as standard. However, it could be worth buying a new one if it offers better security than your existing wireless model or has a better range.

The new generation of wireless routers are also sleeker, easier to install and better designed than previous iterations. They also look a lot nicer than older versions, so they shouldn't be too much of an eyesore in your home.

You can compare broadband deals here, then read on to find the best broadband router for your needs.

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Is the best broadband router worth it?

Do you live with lots of internet users? Are lots of electronic devices like computers, smartphones, laptops or tablets usually connected to the Wi-Fi? Is your house big or multi-storey? Depending on your answers, getting the best router may be a waste of money, or it may improve your connection.

But if the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then a good wireless router is a smart idea.

Plus, if you need to connect a wired internet cable for any of your devices, most of them have a few ethernet ports in the back to get you online.

However, keep in mind that seeking the best wireless router will likely involve paying for a third-party one, rather than any of the routers a broadband provider supplies for free.

What are the best wireless routers?

As is often the case with technology, a lot of jargon is involved with wireless broadband, which can be very off-putting for people new to it.

We've made a list of the most common terms, best practices and wireless standards to help clear things up.

What is the best broadband router for me?

Your home's type of broadband connection might come up, but that shouldn't affect the type of router you'll receive, except if you go for a copper ADSL deal.

Routers for these connections usually have fewer features than for faster broadband packages.

Best router for fibre broadband

If you choose fibre broadband, full fibre broadband or Virgin Media's cable broadband, the router your provider gives you will usually be of the highest standard that a free one supplied by a provider can be.

You could pay extra for a third-party one that performs a lot better, but it would only really make a difference if you're an extremely heavy internet user, a competitive gamer, or knowledgeable of the technology enough to get the most out of it.

What are the different types of wireless routers?

The first ever wireless standard was called 802.11, but this needed to be revised as they got better, and the letter added refer to the speed they max out at.

B routers can handle download speeds of up to 11Mbps, G routers can take speeds of up to 54Mbps and an N router can hit over 100Mbps. For example, a router that says 802.11n can support speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Most new wireless routers nowadays are 801.11ac, also known as Wi-Fi 5. This is capable of withstanding broadband speeds much higher than most UK households can currently get (around 866Mbps).

But we're also starting to see the introduction of 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6. Not only can it allow download speeds up to 3.5Gbps, but it will also allow for many more devices to connect to it without clogging up the channels. As a result it's set to be a game-changer for large venues like stadiums and airports.

What's a channel?

On your router configuration page, you may see something that talks about wireless channels. Each channel has a spectrum, and it's what the signal broadcasts on. If lots of people are using the same channel, it can get congested.

Channels 1, 6 and 11 can be reached through the 2.4GHz band on your router. They are usually the best for the UK because they have the highest frequency ranges, which makes them very popular and more likely to get congested. If you notice slow download speeds, you can try to change it to something that fewer people use.

Most modern routers also offer a 5GHz band now, which contain a much wider range of channels from 36 all the way to 165. You could switch to this band if you're noticing your Wi-Fi speeds are lagging due to demand.

What do WEP, WPA and WPA2 mean?

These are different types of security keys for your wireless connection, but some are better than others. WEP is the weakest, and you should avoid using it. Always use the highest security possible. WPA is okay but WPA2 is much, much better. If you can, add MAC address filtering.

What's MAC address filtering?

A MAC address is a unique code that identifies your network adapter. It is NOT the same thing as a MAC code, which you used to need when switching your broadband provider.

A MAC address will look something like 00:4F:6G:00:EE, and it will be 100% unique to you. No other device in the world will have it, and anything that connects to the internet has to have one.

When you set up your router, you can tell it to only allow connections from specified MAC addresses, meaning that you have to add them individually otherwise the device can't connect, even if it has the password.

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Which broadband provider has the best wireless router in 2022?

Every broadband provider will send a Wi-Fi router to all of its new customers. If you get a basic ADSL package, you can expect a simple router that does the job of connecting you to the internet and very little else.

However, if you sign up for fibre-optic broadband, you can expect a better model with more features. Here are the routers some providers are offering.

BT Smart Hub 2

The second generation of the BT Smart Hub is available to customers who sign up for a BT Superfast Fibre Broadband package.

Like its predecessor, the BT Smart Hub 2 is one of the most advanced Wi-Fi hubs available, featuring seven antennae to access a bigger range of Wi-Fi signals than any other ISP's router.

The Smart Hub 2 also has built-in Smart Scan technology, meaning that it will constantly monitor your hub’s connection and switch channels or reboot the connection automatically if it detects a problem.

The same firewall and BT Parental Controls from the company's previous models are also included, so you can restrict web access if needed. There is also a USB port for connecting printers or creating a network by using a USB dongle.

Virgin Media Hub 5

Virgin Media has recently launched its new Hub 5 router, which is free to replace for existing customers, and will roll out with all of its broadband packages in 2022.

The latest Virgin Wi-Fi router is a Wi-Fi 6 one, which means it can provide much faster speeds and handle many more devices than most other top-end routers in use right now. In fact, using an ethernet port, it can handle up to 2.5Gbps of bandwidth.

The router is also made from '100% post-consumer recycled plastic', so is a more sustainable option made from previous customers' old routers.

Sky Broadband Hub and Q Hub

Sky continues to impress with upgrades to the technology in both its set-top boxes and its Wi-Fi hubs. The original and already-impressive Sky Q Hub comes with the same 5Ghz band as its competitors and, according to Sky, can handle having up to 64 devices at once.

The newer Sky Broadband Hub has a total of eight antennae for even better connectivity, as well as four Ethernet ports –– as opposed to just two on the Sky Q Hub –– and is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) enabled, allowing you to make calls directly over the internet.

The Sky Q Hub has special powerline networking, which means signals can be sent from your router to a connected Sky Q TV box. This means that you'll be able to stream TV easily without having to worry about the Sky Q Hub's range.

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub

TalkTalk has invested heavily in their Wi-Fi Hub, ensuring that their service is just as good as the other major broadband providers.

Like BT, TalkTalk’s Wi-Fi Hub has seven antennae allowing for greater connectivity even at busier times, switching signals between 5GHz and 2.4GHz to get you the most reliable connection.

It does this by using AC standard Wi-Fi and checking where your AC–compatible tablet, smartphone or laptop is. It can then switch to a faster signal without you noticing any loss of service.

TalkTalk has also included a handy USB port for connecting dongles and other web-connected devices such as printers and hard drives, as well as four Ethernet ports.

One of the biggest appeals of the TalkTalk Hub is that its sleek design will mean you won’t have to hide it behind furniture or in cupboards. Having it proudly on display will also mean that its signal will be less interrupted and should reach throughout your home with ease.

Visit the Uswitch wireless broadband comparison page for our best deals from UK providers.

See our wireless broadband deals

For more information on wireless routers see our guide entitled what is a wireless router?

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