Best VPN Routers: Reviews of Our Top Picks for 2020
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Table of Contents
Extending your VPN to your router can help you provide security and privacy to your entire home network. However, not every router has the features necessary to support a VPN – in fact, a lot of router models either don’t support VPNs or make VPN firmware updates feel like rocket science (i.e. make the process incredibly complex).
That’s why it’s important to find a router that’s compatible with VPNs and features simpler firmware updates. Plus, you’ll want a router that can maintain a fast and dependable connection despite the occasional drops that a VPN can cause. So – where can you find a good VPN router? The answer is right here.
We carefully selected and reviewed the best VPN routers on the market. Our top recommendations offer excellent performance, good security features, and most important of all, are VPN-optimized. If you haven’t already picked a VPN provider to go with your best VPN router, you can check out our showdown of the 5 most popular VPN providers today.
Our four favorite VPN routers come with versatile specs and features, so that you can choose one that’s just right for you. Whether you’re looking for something affordable or something high-end, you’ll find it amongst our recommendations. If you’re having trouble choosing, make sure to read the buying guide at the end of this article, where we go over the main factors you should consider when choosing.
Why Do I Need A VPN Router?
Before we get to the reviews of the best VPN routers, this is an important question we ought to answer. You have a VPN that already covers all your smart devices like PCs and smartphones, so why should you connect your router to the VPN as well?
First of all, VPNs, from the get-go, are only compatible with certain types of software. Most VPNs will have native apps for Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS (some also for Linux). This leaves other devices in your home – like gaming consoles and smart TVs – vulnerable to privacy and security attacks. So the best way to secure all devices in your home is by connecting your router to a VPN, which will provide network-wide security.
Another reason you should use a VPN for your router is that most VPN providers allow a limited number of simultaneous connections. This means that depending on your VPN, you’ll be able to secure 5 – 10 devices from a single VPN account (a notable exception here is SurfShark, which allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections). As people are “drowning” in technology these days, chances are there are a lot more than 5 devices in your household – especially if you live with others. A router counts as a single device (single simultaneous connection) for VPNs, so you can use it to extend the service to more devices in your home.
Overall, getting a VPN for your router can help you add a layer of security, and allow all the devices in your home to enjoy access to geo-restricted websites and streaming services. If you’re really serious about privacy and security, you can purchase two VPN accounts, and use one for devices and the other for your router, or network-wide security.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best VPN routers for 2020.
Best VPN Router Reviews
1. Best Overall: Asus RT-AC86U
Our favorite VPN router is the Asus RT-AC86U. It’s the best choice for most users as it combines excellent performance with an affordable price. This dual-band router is packed with numerous security features that enable fast and easy VPN use. Additionally, its performance is speedy and dependable. The router has broad area coverage, so it’s a suitable choice for large homes.
The Asus RT-AC86U offers fast and dependable wireless speeds. The maximum data transfer speed of the two bands combined goes up to 2,900Mbps, which is quite sufficient for most users – even those that do heavy-duty downloading, streaming, and gaming. It also comes with one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port, so you can connect different peripherals to it.
When it comes to VPN use, the RT-AC86U is one of the best choices on the market. It comes with built-in firmware support for VPN client mode, and includes a wide array of settings that you can use to manage your VPN and install third-party firmware, if needed, without fuss or confusion. As this router is VPN-optimized, you won’t see speed dropping too much when you connect it to your VPN.
In fact, the Asus RT-AC86U is very easy to use and set up thanks to the intuitive, user-friendly interface of the app that comes with this router. After installing it from the Asus website, the ASUSWRT app will allow you to fine-tune lots of general and granular settings. You’ll be able to play with the VPN options, set up the network, adjust parental controls, control the data usage, assign traffic prioritization, and so on.
Additionally, there are lots of security settings that you can adjust to improve the safety of your home network. The router itself includes a built-in Trend Micro for protection from online attacks. You can also use the ASUSWRT app to get security notifications and other updates.
Gamers will especially love this router. Plus, as some gamers prefer to use a VPN for gaming, this router can be a good addition to a VPN-protected network of devices. The RT-AC86U is packed with settings and functions that optimize gaming. This includes Adaptive QoS to prioritize gaming packets, connection to WTFast game accelerators, and four GB LAN ports for a hardwired, stable connection.
Lastly, we also recommend the RT-AC86U for large homes, as it has broad wireless coverage that eliminates wireless dead zones. It’s also a great choice for households with multiple members. This is because this router features MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input/multiple output) technology, which allows multiple users to stream simultaneously without affecting each others’ connections. Additionally, the LAN and USB ports will allow you to hook up multiple devices directly to the router (like PCs, gaming consoles, or smart TVs), simultaneously.
One possible drawback of the RT-AC86U is that it only allows for vertical mounting. While this may be limiting, it’s also a smart way to be space-efficient.
Best Quality: Asus ROG Rapture AC5300
The VPN router with the best quality is once again an Asus model – in this case, the Asus ROG Rapture AC5300. This beast of a machine offers the highest maximum data transfer speed on our list, has a powerful quad-core CPU, three bands, and comes with 8 Ethernet ports, for multiple hardwired connections. This is another gaming-optimized router that also comes with lots of advanced security and VPN features.
As the Asus ROG Rapture is designed as a gaming router, it comes with numerous advanced features that make working, gaming, and streaming online fast and lag-free. This also makes it an excellent VPN router. VPNs can cause drops in connection and speed, so having a speed-optimized router can neutralize these drawbacks to a good degree. The VPN Fusion function of the Rapture will enable you to run your VPN alongside your internet connection without speed bumps. This means that when you game, you won’t experience lag. It also supports the PPTP and L2TP VPN protocols, and PPPoE and MPPE encryption protocols. The user-friendly interface of this router’s app offers an Advanced Settings menu, where you can adjust the VPN Server and Client settings.
Security-wise, the ROG Rapture has a lot to offer, too. From the settings menu, you can choose to hide the SSID and even pick a security authentication method like WPA2 Enterprise and Auto-Enterprise or WPA2 Personal or Auto-Personal. You can also upgrade the firmware, or install firmware for your VPN, if the appropriate option isn’t already available on your router. As this router is aimed at gamers, it comes with additional security for gaming in the form of Game IPS (Intrusion Prevention System). Game IPS works to protect your entire home network from malware and viruses before they reach the devices.
This high-quality router comes with lots of additional settings you can configure to your liking. You can use it as a router, an access point, or even a bridge, Additionally, you can use the prioritized LAN port for gaming (to get the lion’s share of the bandwidth), play with LAN routing, Port Forwarding and Triggering, and adjust URL/keyword filtering. Plus, this router comes with MU-MIMO technology for simultaneous streaming.
We especially recommend the Asus ROG for gamers, as it offers excellent gaming features. In addition to the prioritized LAN ports, the AC5300 comes with Asus’s patented QoS called Game Boost, which gives priority to gaming packets. Plus, like with our other Asus recommendation, you get access to GPN’s (Gamers Private Network) WTFast gaming servers, to minimize lag and improve speed and security.
Last but not least, the eight powerful antennas on this router make it a good choice for large homes. They’re not just there for decoration – they will improve your wireless range and coverage, enabling a speedy connection in all rooms and floors, and eliminating wireless dead zones. It’s suitable for homes up to 5,000 square feet in size.
“Best quality” comes at a price, and the ROG is the most expensive VPN router on our list, so it’s not really a budget-friendly pick.
Best On A Budget: TP-Link Archer A7
The TP-Link Archer A7 is customer-favorite and a testament that you don’t have to pay a lot of money to get a fast, well-performing router. It’s also a great VPN router choice, as it comes with VPN server settings. The granular settings will give you full control over your bandwidth and the internet access of various devices in your home. It can support up to 50 simultaneously connected devices, and has a wireless range that makes it suitable for homes up to 2,500 square feet in size. This router has versatile Parental Control settings, so it’s a good choice for families with kids.
First things first – VPN capabilities. The Archer A7 has a VPN Passthrough feature, which allows VPN traffic to pass through your router. In other words, it’s VPN-friendly. This one and all other TP-Link routers are compatible with VPNs that use the PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec security protocols. Although you can adjust this feature from the security settings of the router, it’s usually already enabled when you start using the Archer A7.
Overall, the Archer A7 comes with a wide range of security and access settings that you can configure. You can create a separate, limited guest access network, control bandwidth limits, and distribution, use a Firewall, and create network schedules. Plus, it comes with Parental Controls and Access Controls, which give you full despotic dominion over the rules and regulations of the internet use in your home (you don’t want your kids stumbling across unwanted content, after all). The Parental Controls allow you to whitelist websites for specific devices and clients, while the Access Controls allow you to create and enforce internet access rules for the whole network.
Performance is another category in which you won’t find the TP-Link Archer A7 lacking. While it does have a lower maximum speed limit than other router options (the maximum is 1,750Mbps of internet speed divided across two bands), it’s still more than sufficient for light to heavier online activities. The buffer-reducing features on the Archer A7 will allow you to stream in 4K seamlessly and game thanks to the intelligent QoS and bandwidth prioritization function. The router comes with 4 Gigabit LAN ports for a hardwired, dependable connection. The Archer A7 is also Alexa-compatible, so it’s a good choice for a smart home.
The Archer A7 is easy to set up and operate. Once you install the TP-Link tether app, you can control the network settings from home or remotely.
Lastly, in addition to being our most affordable recommendation, the TP-Link offers 2-year free technical support, which will make operations even easier for less tech-savvy users.
One drawback of the Archer A7 is that you can’t disable WPS protocols, which aren’t that secure. They only work to automate the initial WiFi connection setup.
Best for Long-Range WiFi: NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S is a powerful tri-band router that enables fast data transfer speeds of up to 4,000Mbps in total. It has excellent wireless coverage of up to 3,500 square feet, so we especially recommend it for those in need of long-range WiFi. If you have a large, multi-story home or a backyard that you want your wireless to reach, this is your router. Plus, it can support up to 55 devices simultaneously, so it’s also great for households with multiple members.
The Nighthawk X6S supports VPNs and allows them to run fast. From the get-go, this router comes with OpenVPN. Just plug in your VPN provider’s settings and away you go!
The Nighthawks X6S is the second router on our list when it comes to total maximum speed. With the potential of reaching 1,625 on the 5GHz bands and 750Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, there’s plenty of bandwidth to go around for all the devices and folks in your home. You can even dedicate one of the 5GHz bands to a single device if needed. It’s equipped with MU-MIMO technology for simultaneous streaming and is ideal for gaming and 4K streaming.
The X6S comes with 6 amplified antennas, which allow for a strong wireless range. Additionally, the X6S comes with beamforming technology. Beamforming focuses the wireless signal to connected devices to improve connection and decrease interference, as opposed to broadcasting the signal all over the place and diluting it.
The Nighthawk X6S comes with 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports for a hardwired connection, and one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 ports. You can use these ports to create cloud storage (ReadyCLOUD) from your router, which you can access from home and remotely. The ports can also be used to connect to printer and vault through the ReadySHARE feature.
Setting up the X6S is quite simple. All you have to do is install the intuitive NETGEAR app. You can use it to adjust settings such as Guest WiFi access and Parental Controls, which are available for an additional $5/month. The Parental Controls allow you to blacklist/whitelist websites, schedule internet access for certain devices, and configure time limitations.
Security-wise, the Nighthawk has plenty to offer. It supports the WPA2 security protocol, which is one of the preferred options used today. It also comes with a pre-configured firewall.
You may experience some packet loss when you’re gaming using the WiFi. The best solution to this is basically using a hardwired connection through one of the Ethernet ports.
Getting one of the best VPN routers can help your network’s privacy and security. All our top picks possess the necessary features to run VPN off them without sacrificing speed. Additionally, they are pre-configured for relatively simple VPN firmware updates and setup.
That being said, firmware updates are no joke. If you don’t feel too comfortable setting up third-party firmware that’s compatible with your VPN of choice on your router, make sure to read the necessary how-to guides or ask for help from a tech-savvy friend or a tech representative.
Onto our top picks:
The Asus RT-AC86U is our overall best VPN router recommendation, as it combines versatile VPN features, excellent performance, and an affordable price. Some Asus routers that are great for VPN use come with AsusWRT (as do our recommendations). This stock firmware makes it easy to set up external VPNs, and it supports OpenVPN. The Asus RT-AC86U costs $189.99, so it’s priced somewhere in the middle of our recommended routers.
The Asus ROG Rapture is the best high-end VPN router. It supports a number of security VPN protocols, which makes it the ideal choice for running just about any VPN off it. This powerful router is also a great choice for gaming and boasts a powerful signal that’s ideal for large homes. However, all this quality comes at a price – which is $342.53 in this case.
But just because you don’t have that much money lying around, doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great VPN router, as is showcased by our top budget-friendly choice, the TP-Link Archer A7. The Archer A7 offers adjustable VPN server settings, and features VPN Passthrough, supporting VPNs that use the PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec security protocols. The Archer A7 also has versatile security and parental control settings. It costs only $62.13 while offering some of the best value for money you’ll find.
Lastly, our top recommendation for long-range WiFi is the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S. This router offers a powerful wireless range further strengthened by amplified antennas and beamforming technology. It’s ideal for homes up to 3,500 square feet in size and can support up to 55 simultaneously connected devices. Plus, it boasts excellent performance, speeds, and security features. Although NETGEAR routers don’t usually support OpenVPN out of the box, they can easily be updated with firmware that does support OpenVPN. That’s why they are one of the preferred router brands for use with VPN.
How To Choose The Right VPN Router
Here are some of the main factors you should consider when choosing the best VPN router for your home:
Even the best VPNs can cause speed drops in your connection. This is why it’s a good idea to get a fast, speed-optimized router, which can easily make up for any potential lag caused by your VPN.
Make sure that your router can support the firmware required to use your VPN provider. In most cases, you’ll want a router that already supports OpenVPN or can be updated to support OpenVPN.
In addition to VPN features, think over what else you want in a router. Long-range wireless? Gaming-optimized features? Multiple LAN ports? Then, look over the options and see which one matches best.
3. The Number of Devices In Your Home
Make sure that the router of your choosing can support the number of devices you have in your household. While all our recommended routers are quite powerful, the number of devices you can connect at a given time does change. Additionally, keep in mind that the number of simultaneous streams is lower than the number of connections. So while you can have a total of 50 connections, simultaneous streams would be limited at 10-12.
A Few Words Before You Go…
Hopefully, our reviews and buying guide of the best VPN routers have been helpful in your search. Getting a VPN for your router will help you keep your entire home network secure and private.
Plus, as a VPN counts as a single connection by VPN providers, you can use it to secure the other smart devices in your home which aren’t directly compatible with VPNs.
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Last updated on September 24, 2020. Pricing Information and Product Images obtained from Amazon Product Advertising API.
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