Making the Choice
There are two approaches to buying a router: buying what you need and trying to future-proof your purchase. If you're in the latter camp, read 5 Tips For Buying A Future Proof Router and see if that changes your mind. If it doesn't, then just head on over to the Router Ranker, set the class type for AC1750 or AC1900 and choose away.
If you're a buy-what-you-need kinda person, here are the basic choices:
- If you don't want to spend a lot and don't have any dual-band devices, N300 class products are for you
- If you have dual-band devices, but don't care about AC right now, then go for an N600 router
- If you have dual-band devices, want AC and want to stay under $100, look at AC1200 routers
Note that you can always move up in class if you find a bargain or like a router's performance ranking better than the model you were considering.
A final bit of advice for those of you with a lot of devices, especially a lot of tablets and smart phones and/or old G devices. Whenever there are G and N devices connected to the same N type router, they both will operate at slower speed, but only when both are active. So if you do a lot of long wireless downloads, file transfers or backups or watch a lot of online video via wireless connections, you will want to segregate G and N clients onto separate wireless networks, for optimum performance of both types.
This means buying a second router, converting it to an access point and setting it to a legacy mode. Or you can buy an access point, but consumer versions are hard to find and business versions tend to be expensive. See Add, Don't Replace When Upgrading to 802.11n, How To Convert a Wireless Router into an Access Point and How To Add an Access Point to a Wireless Router for more info.
If you don't plan on using the N devices much, most of your wireless traffic is web browsing, email, or other traffic that consists of short data transmissions, or you won't often use the N and G devices at the same time, then you can leave the devices mixed and not add the access point.
Note that the mixed network caveat doesn't apply as much to networks with mixed N and AC clients. See How Well Do AC Routers Handle Mixed Networks? for more on this.
The main thrust of this article has been to point you to the right class of router. Once you determine that, there is still a world of choice out there.
In the end, the only real way to know how a wireless router will perform is to try it. The SNB Forums are full of people agonizing over choosing the best router, getting confused by all the conflicting reviews and advice. All for something that's going to cost them maybe $200 tops if they go all in and more typically under $100 for something that will probably suit them just fine.
The better way to go is determine the class of router you need, hit the Router Charts routing benchmarks to make sure it has enough wired routing throughput to handle your Internet connection speed. Then use the Router Ranker to quickly find the best performing products. If you want to drill down into feature details, use the Router Finder and if you need to wallow in the performance benchmark data, check the Router Charts.
Once you've made your choice, buy from a retailer with a liberal return policy. Amazon does and you'll get all your money back (minus shipping) as long as you return the product in the same condition as you received it. Linksys' Home Store has 90 day (!) no-hassle returns for new and 30 days for refurbed products and they pay shipping. There are other options out there. Use them to make sure that you're getting something that works for you!
Good luck and happy hunting!