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Best secure router of 2021: keep your router and devices safe at home or work

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PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Keep your network and files protected with the best secure router. These days, we're filling our homes and offices with an increasing number of smart devices that are connected to the internet, and due to their connectivity, they can pose a security risk. But, these routers can ensure there’s no data breach.

When it comes to security, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures. This is where the best secure routers come in. There’s a variety to choose from as well, as there’s been an expansion in the number of small business routers now on the market, including dedicated VPN routers for safer internet access for your workstation, as well as network switches for increased control. Even the best Wi-Fi 6 routers tend to be more secure thanks to Wi-Fi 6's better security protocols.

Take your network security seriously, whether it’s in your home, business, or home office. One of the best secure routers, many of which feature built-in security controls and services that monitor your network around the clock, should do the job. With it protecting your area of coverage, your devices and your network safe.


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TP-Link Archer C5400 v2

(Image credit: TP-Link)

Comes protected by TP-Link's HomeCare service

Specifications
Speed: 802.11ac 5GHz down: up to 2,167 Mbps, 2.4GHz down: up to 1,000 Mbps
Connectivity: 4 x LAN, WAN, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Features: MU-MIMO, Tri-band Wi-Fi, 8 external antennas, Alexa voice control
Reasons to buy
+Fast and powerful+Alexa and IFTTT support
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Are you in the market for one of the best wireless routers and don’t mind a quirky design? If a ‘90s-inspired sci-fi design sounds like it will fit right in your home, then the TP-Link Archer C5400 v2 might be the best secure router for you. It’s not exactly the most modern-looking mesh router out there, but it’s unique in that it can bridge consumer and enterprise users by offering high-end functionality at a reasonable price point and with a relaxed setup. Its security credentials are boosted by TP-Link Homecare which offers parental controls and built-in antivirus. Free for the first three years, it lets you manage network access and protects from malicious attacks. Security settings can be fine-tuned by logging into the router, where it's possible to configure security type (such as WPA/WPA2 Mixed Enterprise, WPA/WPA2 Mixed Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA2 Personal, and WEP), and edit SSIDs and passwords.

Read the full review: TP-Link Archer C5400 v2

(Image credit: Netgear)

2. NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router AC1900 (R7000)

Fast router is protected by armor

Specifications
Speed: 1.9Gbps
Connectivity: 4 x ethernet; 1 x USB 2.0
Features: 802.11ac; dual-band; QoS packet scheduling; Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant compatibility; 1GHz dual-core CPU; Smart parental controls; DDoS Prevention
Reasons to buy
+Sleek and stealthy design+Brilliant performance
Reasons to avoid
-Dated interface-Pricey

Featuring fast Wi-Fi performance, the R7000 is still one of the best secure routers you can get even a few years after being released – and you stand a good chance of picking it up in the sale. Nighthawk is one of the most established router brands, and this model from Netgear features the security features we’ve come to expect – including built DoS attack protection, and options for setting parental controls in addition to filtering unwarned domains.

Read the full review: NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart Wi-Fi Router

(Image credit: ASUS)

3. Asus RT-AX88U Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router

Wi-Fi 6 brings cutting-edge speeds

Specifications
Speed: 802.11ax 5GHz: 4,804 Mbps, 2.4GHz: 1,148 Mbps, 802.11ac 5GHz: 4,333 Mbps
Connectivity: 8 x Gigabit LAN, 1 x WAN, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
Features: MU-MIMO, Link Aggregation, Traffic Analyzer, Adaptive QoS, 1GB RAM
Reasons to buy
+ Wi-Fi 6 offers amazing speeds+AiProtection network security
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Few devices support Wi-Fi 6

If you’re seeking the fastest possible router for your home network, this model from Asus flies thanks to its Dual Band 802.11ax (or Wi-Fi 6) connectivity, and it also supports MU-MIMO and OFDMA. If you have a recent smartphone such as the Galaxy S10, you’ll benefit from blisteringly fast file transfer speeds – and even those that are still running on the older 802.11ac connectivity band will benefit. The Asus also features AiProtection network security powered by Trend Micro, a commercial-grade security feature that blocks internet security threats for any device connected to the network.

(Image credit: Netgear)

4. Netgear BR500 VPN router

A router with an integrated firewall and VPN

Specifications
Speed: N/A
Connectivity: Gigabit Ports WAN/LAN: 1/4, DMZ interfaces: 1
Features: One-step VPN, Netgear Insight app and Cloud Portal, Stateful Packet Inspection Firewall, Support for QoS and 802.1q VLANs
Reasons to buy
+Secure VPN-in-a-box+Easy to set up and manage
Reasons to avoid
-Will lack flexibility for some-Some features cost more

With the BR500, Netgear has handily baked a VPN into the router itself to give small-and-medium businesses (or SMBs) a secure and affordable way to safeguard their privacy. Easy to deploy and manage, it's suitable for lesser experienced IT professionals and would sit pretty in any office thanks to its minimalistic white styling. On the downside, it might not offer enough control for more experienced admins and there is a cost overhead for adding more devices that, once past the initial limit, can be purchased on a subscription plan.

Read the full review: Netgear BR500 router

(Image credit: Future)

5. Eero Home Wi-Fi System

Impressively secure mesh units

Specifications
Speed: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, tri-band expandable mesh
Connectivity: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports (1 WAN and 1 LAN port each; router unit only)
Features: Mesh WiFi technology; WiFi Extender; Band steering, Internet pausing
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful design+Tri-band system
Reasons to avoid
-Satellite units aren’t versatile-Relatively small coverage area

One way to get around Wi-Fi dead spots that routers can’t reach is to switch to a Wi-FI mesh setup to wrap your home in wireless internet – and Eero’s Home Wi-Fi is a pricey, yet security-conscious option. Its free app provides fine control over network and devices, including guest user and parental controls. An optional expanded security service can be subscribed to for less than a tenner a month that offers enterprise-grade network security powered by AI that detects threats on normal browsing habits and traffic sources. Subscriptions to Encrypt.me VPN, 1Password and Malwarebytes are also included.

Read the full review: Eero Home Wi-Fi System

(Image credit: Netgear)

6. Netgear Nighthawk AX8

Brings next-gen speeds and DoS attack prevention

Reasons to buy
+Speedy throughput+Stellar file transfer performance
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Not many compatible Wi-Fi 6 devices

This winged model from Netgear, which looks like something Batman might use to secure the Batcave’s wireless network, sports four antennas for covering large buildings and other areas. Not only is the router capable of fast file transfer speeds of up to 6Gbs, it’s also equipped with eight Wi-Fi streams to provide capacity for more than 30 devices to connect at once. On the network security front, it offers WPA2 encryption, DoS attack protection and double firewall capability. Plus, Netgear’s accompanying Nighthawk App lets you set up parental controls, access the network remotely and pause the internet. 

(Image credit: Synology)

7. Synology RT2600ac

‘App’ support provides additional security-based functionality

Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use web interface+Supports WPA3 security standard
Reasons to avoid
-Not the fastest at 2.4GHz-Still expensive

If a router and a NAS box had a baby, the Synology router might be the end product. While it doesn’t deliver the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in its class, the RT2600ac’s software capabilities mean it stands out from the crowd. Most interesting is its ‘app’ support, which includes a built-in VPN client and server, a passable DNLA media server and per-device parental controls. They include two preset blocklists which let you choose to block either ‘malicious’ or ‘malicious and adult’ sites – and you can also black or whitelist additional domains beyond that preset. Handily for Mac owners, there’s even support for backing up using Apple’s Time Machine software.

Read the full review: Synology RT2600ac

(Image credit: Linksys)

8. Linksys WRT AC3200 Dual-Band Open Source Router for Home (Tri-Stream Fast Wireless WiFi Router)

A fast performer at 5GHz with flexible source code

Specifications
Speed: 802.11a/11g/11n/11ac 2.5GHz and 5GHz (dual-band)
Connectivity: 1 x Gigabit WAN port, 4 x Gigabit LAN ports, 1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x Combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port
Features: Tri-Stream 160, 1.8GHz Dual-Core CPU, Open-source ready; MU-MIMO
Reasons to buy
+Fast 5GHz Wi-Fi+Supports Tri-Stream tech
Reasons to avoid
-Average 2.4GHz performance-No 160MHz clients available

As with other WRT routers in Linksys range, the AC3200 lets you swap out the router’s stock firmware with open-source code from third parties. This allows further tweaking of settings and the ability to set up advanced network monitoring functionality if you have the technical chops. Even if you don’t want to go there, this router provides easy access to firewall and VPN Passthrough, port forwarding triggering and internet filtering settings. Its 5GHz throughout speeds are very fast resulting in outstanding file transfer speeds on the back of its MU-MIMO and Tri-Stream 160MHz tech. And who doesn’t love that classic two-tone blue and black design?

(Image credit: Gryphon)

9. Gryphon Advance Security & Parental Control Mesh WiFi Router

Mesh system builds in malware protection for the home

Specifications
Speed: 802.11bgn/ac 2.4GHz, 2x 5GHz
Connectivity: 1 x WAN, 3 x Gigabit LAN (w/Ethernet Backhaul)
Features: Mesh WiFI, Internet Security System, Parental Control System, Simple Setup & Management
Reasons to buy
+Smart design+Built-in anti-malware protection
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Like the Eero Home Wi-Fi System, this Gryphon model is a mesh system designed to cover the whole home with a wireless signal. Featuring an eye-catching design, it comes with a cloud-based security service that defends the network in addition to any connected devices from virus attacks and malware. 

Other features include a tri-band system that dedicates one 5GHz band to backhaul while using the remaining two bands to cover homes of up to 6,000 square feet. It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for.

(Image credit: Future)

10. NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700

A pricey gaming router that just about does it all

Specifications
Speed: 60GHz 802.11ad WiFi
Connectivity: 6 x 1-Gigabit Ethernet Ports, 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ Ports
Features: Anti-buffer bloat (ABB), Advanced Quality of Service (QoS), Device Manager, Active Antennas
Reasons to buy
+Huge feature set+User-friendly
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Huge unit

Described in our review as ‘the mother of all gaming routers’, the XR700 offers a slew of features that run on top of the gaming-optimised DumaOS. One of the niftiest is a geo-filter which blocks connections based on physical proximity, putting an end to gaming sessions with laggy foes who are based thousands of miles away. In the security department, a VPN module lets users fine-tune traffic types of an OpenVPN-compatible service, allowing them to use a VPN to fake a location for gaming while allowing the rest of the traffic to go direct to the ISP, or channel web traffic from a particular device over a VPN. It’s smart stuff, and you’ll need to shell out for it, not to mention clear some space for a router that’s as big as its bold ambitions.

Read the full review: Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology in a career spanning four decades. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.