obrBy Joel Tope — Last Updated: 24 Mar'18 2018-01-27T21:14:42+00:00

The Best VPN Router of 2018

In these days of online traffic monitoring, targeted marketing and cybercrime, subscribing to a VPN service that will hide your identity and location makes more sense than ever. In fact, it’s a good idea to protect your entire home WiFi network.

While many of the best VPN services support simultaneous connections for multiple devices, usually that won’t be more than three to five. (Read our NordVPN review for a VPN that supports six). Those limitations don’t mean you have to spend more money on VPN subscriptions though, if you buy a VPN-capable router.

During this guide, we’ll be touching on the five best VPN routers available today. We’ll consider both compatibility and power in our analysis. By selecting a quality VPN service from our VPN reviews library and pairing it with one of these routers, you’ll not only be able to protect your computers and smartphones, but your game consoles, smart TVs and other IoT devices and appliances, too.

What Makes the Best VPN Router

Before we get to our best router selections, let’s explore what makes a router particularly good for working with a VPN service. Knowing what to look and why to look for it will help you understand the considerations we took into account when making our selections and help you spearhead your own search in case our suggestions don’t meet your needs.

Ask just about anyone what’s most important to them in a router and “speed” will probably be the answer. When you’re shopping for a wireless router with intentions use it with a VPN, speed often becomes even more critical.

That’s because VPNs reroute network traffic through a VPN server in order to safeguard your privacy. Even if you spend on one of the fastest VPN services available today, expect at least a small drop in speed.

Wireless AC Routers

One of the key speed considerations when router shopping is making sure you’re buying a router that uses the fastest wireless standard your devices can run. Right now, for most devices, that’s 802.11ac, which replaced the 802.11n standard. Routers running 802.11ac are often termed Wireless AC; those running 802.11n are Wireless N.

Make sure you get this part right, because many routers sold still use 802.11n despite being six times slower.

Wireless AD routers, which use the 802.11ad standard, are starting to hit the market, too. If you tend to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to electronic devices, you may want to go ahead and future-proof your home WiFi network by going with Wireless AD. Unfortunately, many of those available don’t support VPN installation.

Dual-Band Routers and Tri-Band Routers

Also, look for at least a dual-band router. Most devices connect using the 2.4GHz band by default. So do most of the devices your neighbors are probably using. The result is lots of signal congestion that can result in slower data speeds.

Dual-band routers can also transmit using the 5GHz band, which is less commonly used. All 802.11ac routers are dual band, while the same isn’t true of 802.11n. Your connecting device, such as your laptop, will also need to have a network adaptor that supports 5Ghz.

Better yet are so-called “tri-band routers.” Tri-band routers broadcast three separate signals, which if properly divided up between your devices, is kind of like running three separate routers. With these routers, you’ll get one 2.4GHz and two 5Ghz frequencies.

Wireless AD routers, mentioned above, can also transmit on a 60GHz band. In theory this band can run at 7Gbps. However, theoretical speeds are rarely achieved in practice. Also, higher frequency bands don’t have as long a range. Still, faster is better, particularly when you’re dealing with VPNs.

MIMO Routers

Number of antennas matter, too. A router with two antennas uses one of those for sending and one for receiving. This is the basic configuration of most low-end routers and is called SISO, which stands for “single input, single output.”

Routers configured for multiple input and multiple output are called MIMO routers. The fastest routers today use a MIMO configuration. A router with four antennas uses two for sending and two for receiving; two data streams means double the data rates.

Multiple antennas also help ensure connection reliability because each antenna receives a different signal, which the router can merge to create a stronger one. This approach to antenna configuration in wireless systems is called spatial diversity.

Be careful about just counting antennas when you router shop, because some of those with more than two can still only communicate with one device at a time. Those are what are known as single-user MIMO (SU-MIMO) routers). Multiple-user MIMOs (MU-MIMOs) can talk to several devices simultaneously, reducing that dreaded lag and averting sibling fistfights in the process.

DD-WRT and Tomato VPN Routers

Most routers you’ll find on store shelves don’t come already running VPN. More importantly, many of them don’t even support VPN service.

While some VPN services offer downloadable apps designed to work with specific routers (ExpressVPN, for example, has apps for a few Linksys models), generally you’re going to have to make some software changes to your router, first. That generally means installing either DD-WRT or Tomato firmware, both of which are open source and free.

In addition to allowing you to run most of the best VPN services available, both firmware options also let you tweak some other things like extending the range of your router and managing how bandwidth is allocated between devices. Both also improve router security, removing things like manufacturer backdoors. That’s likely a big reason many brands lock up their routers to prevent firmware upgrades.

The installation of either firmware requires flashing the firmware to your router. The steps aren’t exceptionally complex, but missteps could lead to bricking your router. Because DD-WRT and Tomato are open source and not officially supported by VPNs or router manufacturers, nobody will be covering the cost of your bricked device, either.

Many VPN services provide detailed instructions for flashing firmware, and we’d recommend using those for the most updated instructions. With that caveat understood, if you want a glimpse of what the process looks like, check our article on how to install DD-WRT on your router.

Between DD-WRT and Tomato, Tomato is easier to install and generally more user friendly. Sadly, it’s not compatible with as many devices as DD-WRT, so your shopping options are severely limited. If you’re going to go it alone, we’d still recommend Tomato over DD-WRT for its ease of use.

However, the easiest approach is to simply buy a router with your firmware of choice already flashed. While you won’t find many manufacturers that sell routers ready to go, the online router store FlashRouters.com has a decent selection of flashed routers for sale.

Several VPN services have partnerships with FlashRouters.com, too. You can buy a router already setup to work with your VPN subscription, saving you even more work. VPN services that FlashRouters.com sells routers configured for include:

Fair warning, going with FlashRouters.com will cost more money than buying your router from Amazon.com. To take those costs into consideration, we included both in our VPN router selections, if available.

The Five Best VPN Routers Available

Now that we’ve got some router basics out of the way, it’s time to talk specifics: namely, which routers options are best suited to pairing with your VPN? There are many router options available, so this was no easy task. However, thanks to some impressive specs and generally positive user experiences, we’re fairly confident the selections below will not disappoint.

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200

Picking the Nighthawk X10 for the number one spot in this roundup was probably the easiest decision we had to make, and not just because it looks cool: it’s one of the fastest routers on the market today for a variety of reasons.

First, we should point out that it’s actually one of the few Wireless AD routers available. Most of the others don’t support firmware changes, either. If you have devices capable of 60GHz connections, that means you could be looking at a serious speed advantage perfect for solving Kodi buffering issues and online gaming.

The X10 has four antennas for input and output, too, and runs MU-MIMO technology to sustain multiple data streams. To assist, NETGEAR routers make use of proprietary dynamic quality of service (QoS) software to give priority to activity with higher bandwidth needs, like gaming and 4K video streaming.

The icing on the cake is Nighthawk X10’s 1.7GHz quad core processor. Most routers take the cheap route when it comes to processors. However, if you’re managing multiple streams or have aspirations of VR gaming and 4K streaming, a fast processor can make a world of difference.


Nighthawk X10 AD7200Price:
AmazonAround $450
FlashRouters.comDD-WRTAround $600
FlashRouters.com Tomaton/a

The downside is that the Nighthawk X10 isn’t exactly cheap. However, the fact that it runs Wireless AD means you’ll be getting a router that you can use for years to come, so it may be more justifiable than spending less on a router that will be obsolete sooner rather than later.

The other downside is that it doesn’t support Tomato firmware. Hopefully, that’ll change down the road, but for now you’re stuck with DD-WRT.

Other Reasons We Like the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10

In addition to six antennas, you can take advantage of six gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.0 ports to directly connect your devices for even faster Internet speeds. Those USB ports in particular make the Nighthawk X10 a perfect compliment to a home media center if you’re using a NAS device.

Read our article on the best personal cloud storage devices for home media for some tips there. Amazon Echo and Alexa compatibility is another perk of this router if you want to control your home network using voice commands.

Linksys WRT AC3200

Linksys produces a broad lineup of reliable routers. Unfortunately, one of the company’s more otherwise drool-worthy models, the Max-Stream AC5400, doesn’t support third-party firmware.

With no option for Tomato or even DD-WRT with any of the Max-Stream lineup of routers (as of this writing), in fact, the best Linksys router with VPN support is the WRT AC3200. Tomato support isn’t an option, but DD-WRT is if you’re looking to spend quite a bit less than the Nighthawk X10 and don’t mind a bit of an inferior product.

That’s not to say that the AC3200 is weak. It’s four-antenna configuration is still capable of MU-MIMO communications and it’s a tri-band router, having one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands to select from.

The device also has four gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port. That That all makes it perfect for supporting multiple devices.


Linksys AC3200:Price:
AmazonAround $200
FlashRouters.com DD-WRTAround $350
FlashRouters.com Tomaton/a

However, while the AC3200’s dual core 1.8GHz processor is better than what you’ll find in most routers, it doesn’t match speeds with the X10. Also, it isn’t Wireless AD, so there’s no 60GHz band.

Other Reasons We Like the Linksys WRT AC3200

Linksys packages it’s WRT series with a handy tool called Smart-WiFi. You can use it to monitor your home WiFi network from your smartphone, set device priorities, manage parental controls and send others passwords to login.

Asus RT-AC3200

The RT-AC3200’s biggest allure is that it’s probably the best Tomato-supported router on the market right now. Granted, that will probably change fast, but the AC3200 should be at the top of the shopping list for those looking for a friendlier user experience than what you’ll get with a DD-WRT router like our first two entries.

The RT-AC3200 has six adjustable antennas (two more than our top two picks) and it’s a tri-band router. It also has four gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports, including one for USB 3.0 if you want to hook up to a NAS device.

The CPU could be better: it’s a dual-core 1GHz processor. When it hit the market two years ago, that might have been impressive for a router.


Asus RT-AC3200:Price:
AmazonAround $200
FlashRouters.com DD-WRTAround $400
FlashRouters.com TomatoAround $400

Today, not so much. However, it’s still capable of managing multiple devices simultaneously, so for most users it‘ll be a great option for building a home VPN WiFi network.

Other Reasons We Like the Asus RT-AC3200

The RT-AC3200 sets up easily thanks to a great software package. The GUI is user friendly and the ASUS Smart Connect feature automatically detects the best optimal band for each device instead of forcing you to manually choose.

Some users will also get a lot out of the ASUS AiCloud 2.0 software, which lets you remotely access USB storage devices connected to the router. You can opt for browser access or download an app for your Android or iOS smartphone.

Asus RT-AC5300

If you’re looking for a more high-powered Asus router and don’t mind DD-WRT, the Asus RT-AC5300 will carry you a bit further into the future than the RT-3200. It’s also better suited to larger homes, with an impressive eight antennas capable of covering 5,000 square feet.

Of course, it’s also capable of sending and receiving data from multiple devices simultaneously.  Plus, it’s a tri-band router, so you shouldn’t have any issues with network congestion. Like the RT-3200, the RT-AC5300 uses Asus’s Smart Connect feature to automatically manage device bands so you don’t have to.

This includes switching between 5GHz bands to level out the load.

You also get eight gigabit Ethernet ports with the device — two more than you get with the Nighthawk X10. That makes it a great option for gamers, which is backed by built-in support for WTFast Gamers Private Network (GPN), a service that optimizes server routes for online gameplay.


Asus RT-AC5300:Price:
Amazon:Around $300
FlashRouters.com DD-WRTAround $600
FlashRouters.com Tomaton/a

A port each for USB 3.0 and 2.0 are included, too. The CPU is a 1.4GHz dual-core and the device comes with 512MB of memory. That’s not quite as powerful as the X10, plus the RT-AC5300 isn’t Wireless AD. It does have twice the antennas though, so should be able to handle more devices.

Other Reasons We Like the Asus RT-AC5300

It looks like a dead robot spider, which is our favorite kind of robot spider. 

NETGEAR Nighthawk R7000 (AC1900)

If you’re looking for a more affordable NETGEAR router than the X10, the Nighthawk R7000 is the droid you’re looking for. Actually, it’s the most lowest priced router in this roundup.

In addition to a palatable price tag, another big upside to the R7000 is that it supports Tomato firmware, so you have that as an option if DD-WRT isn’t your thing.

The downside is a big one: the R7000 doesn’t have MU-MIMO technology, as you might guess from its three antennas. It’s also only a dual-band router rather than a tri-band. All of that makes it more suited to users in smaller homes with fewer devices requiring VPN protection.

That said, for limited use, it really does the job thanks to its 1GHz dual-core processor. It also comes with four Ethernet ports, one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port.


NETGEAR Nighthawk R7000Price:
AmazonAround $150
FlashRouters.com DD-WRTAround $300
FlashRouters.com TomatoAround $300

The R7000 utilizes NETGEAR’s Genie software, which lets you set dynamic quality of service (QoS). Dynamic QoS prioritizes Internet traffic for that with the greatest need, like 4K video streaming and online gaming

Other Reasons We Like the Asus RT-AC5300

We can spend the money we save on a better VPN service.

Honorable Mention — Roqos Core

There are a handful on routers available that actually support connecting to VPN services without having to mess with firmware. The best example right now is the Roqos Core router, which can be used with the following VPN services:

That covers most of our favorite VPNs, including four of the five best VPN for porn. It also comes with one year of Roqos VPN service. On top of all of that, the device sports a 2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and 8GB of storage.

The reason we didn’t include the Roqos Core in the top five above is because it doesn’t have any adjustable external antennas and can’t communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. It’s also only a dual-band router, and an expensive one at that.


Roqos Core:Price:
AmazonAround $300

We do like the idea, however, of routers being made VPN-ready by manufacturers, and hope to see some copycat options in the future.

Final Thoughts

traffic is a big money business, whether for marketing or for more nefarious purposes like identity theft. Somebody wants your data and there are many ways to get it, both legal and illegal. While there are plenty of tools out there to help people maintain privacy, one of the easiest to implement is to subscribe to a VPN service, such as one of those listed in our best VPN roundup.

While there are some good low-cost VPNs like Private Internet Access, modern families tend to have many devices to protect. The easiest and potentially most cost-effective approach is to invest in a router capable running your VPN service directly.

Doing so will let you overcome connection limitations imposed by VPN services and protect devices that aren’t commonly supported with VPN apps.

Hopefully, this roundup gave you some good ideas for VPN routers. Just remember, if VPN protection is your goal, the most important thing is to make sure that the router you select is capable of hosting a VPN service in the first place. If you’re running a VPN router yourself and have some suggestions, let us know in the comments below. We’re happy to answer questions, too. Thanks for reading!   

One thought on “The Best VPN Router of 2018”

  1. do you have an tutorials, or know where i can get a tutorial that would take me step-by-step to configure the DD-WRT to work through a surfboard Cable modem

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