A wireless network is an essential part of every digital home. Without one, spouses will be left sobbing on their disconnected iPads, children will curse their lack of multiplayer mayhem, and you'll be left refreshing TechRadar wondering where all the stories have gone.

Choosing a new router isn't easy. Modern routers offer a lot of high-end features including DLNA media streaming, NAS capabilities, remote sharing features, guest networks, IPv6, and more besides. That's on top of the more straightforward 802.11n wireless connectivity, Ethernet ports and broadband capabilities. So what exactly should you be looking for?

Currently 802.11n is the base wireless standard and it will run at least a 2.4GHz 2x2 300Mbps antenna. That last part is important - more advanced router models provide a 3x3 antenna array and a faster 450Mbps throughput

Are you 802.11ac compatible?

To complicate things further, a second 5GHz wireless band is now available, which can technically improve wireless speeds under the right conditions. Around the techno-corner, a newer and much faster wireless standard known as 802.11ac is being finalised. It is already widely available in routers despite only being available in a few laptop models.

Besides core wireless networking, many routers offer an integrated broadband connection. Basic models provide a cable DSL port, which will plug into an existing broadband modem. More expensive models can offer an ADSL2+ modem or for new fibre services a VDSL modem up to 100Mbps.

If you're hoping to replace an existing ISP supplied model either because it's broken and out of warranty, or it only offers poor wireless support, then ensure that you replace it with a model that supports your current broadband connection. Perhaps one of these clever routers will catch your eye…

1. Asus RT-N66U

£100/AU$188/US$149

Asus RT-N66U Dark Knight

The RT-N66U 'Dark Knight' is Asus' first N900 router and it's the feature-rich follow up to the highly popular and award-winning Asus RT-N56U, which can still be picked up for a lower price. This update comes with increased Wi-Fi speeds of up to 450Mbps on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands concurrently - hence the N900 name.

This makes it ideal for bandwidth hungry tasks like 3D HD video streaming and multiplayer gaming, while at the same time still enabling you to surf the web and download/share files. It's also jam-packed with features such as a built in VPN server, a firewall that you can customise, QoS and IPv6 support.

Read our Asus RT-N66U review

2. Linksys EA6500

£149/AU$260/US$160

Linksys EA6500

What is the Linksys EA6500 packing? It has six antenna, so it's a full 3x3 450Mbps 802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band router with the added ability for 1300Mbps 5GHz 802.11ac. There are also four Gigabit LAN ports, plus WAN and two USB 2.0 ports with printer, DLNA and NAS capabilities.

The Linksys aced all of our speed tests but it also fell foul of a highly irritating cloud registration system - you'll see people protesting this at length online. But thankfully, since we first looked at the EA6500, this annoyance has been removed. So you can just get on and enjoy unprecedented speed!

Read our Linksys EA6500 review

3. Netgear D6300

£168/AU$249/US$N/A

Netgear D6300

Wireless 802.11ac draft routers are coming out thick and fast, and the Netgear D6300 802.11ac dual band gigabit Wi-Fi modem router is in fact an ADSL2+ equipped version of the Netgear R6300, which is equally well-worth checking out.

For UK and European countries that largely use copper-based ADSL, rather than cable DSL, this represents the first all-in-one device that can provide a complete communication solution from a single unit. It's the stuff of dreams for the purist and for people who hate cables.

Read our Netgear D6300 review