Recently, more and more internet providers have started offering internet at incredibly fast speeds. While most ultra-fast broadband (UFB) plans offer download/upload speeds of 100/20Mbps, some providers are offering deals with download speeds nearing 1Gbps (1000Mbps). However, if your router isn’t up to the task, you could well be suffering from broadband bottlenecks.
Routers play a key role in home network set-ups, so it’s important to ensure that you have a model that can handle the pace. Of course, many retailers include a router with their UFB plans, or may offer a limited selection of routers at an extra charge. So, as a starting point, it’s certainly worthwhile assessing these routers to determine whether they’re up to your needs.
But for some households, especially those with many users of data-heavy tech, it may be worthwhile exploring additional options. For, if you’re on the market for a super-fast modem to maximise your broadband experience, there are plenty of options available.
What is a router?
To begin with, it’s important to understand the difference between a router and a modem. Modems act as a bridge between households and external networks, allowing homes to connect to the internet. A router, meanwhile, is a device that manages local network traffic and streams the flow of data via wireless connections (wi-fi) and wired connections (ethernet).
Traditionally, routers have worked in conjunction with modems to create wi-fi and ethernet home networks. If you’re on either an ADSL or VDSL connection, you’ll need a modem and a router, or a two-in-one unit.
But rather than a modem, households with a UFB connection (what we often call fibre) are fitted out with an optical network terminal (ONT). This is a small box installed inside your home that, in turn, is connected to your router.
In recent years, mesh routers have emerged as a popular home networking option. These devices comprise a main router, and a number of additional access points (often referred to as nodes), which can be strategically positioned around a home to improve wi-fi coverage.
Router shopping: what to keep in mind?
If you’re suffering from broadband bottlenecks, it’s important to first determine the cause of the problem. As an initial step, it’s worthwhile getting in touch with your retailer to help identify any issues.
If a new and improved router is necessary to speed up and streamline your home network, it helps to compare the features on offer from different models and then match them to the unique requirements of your household.
When weighing up your router options, it’s also important to confirm UFB compatibility with your retailer.
Router features to keep in mind include:
- Wi-fi standard – refers to the router’s wireless performance capabilities; wi-fi 5 (also known as 802.11ac) is a commonly used standard, wi-fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) is the latest standard, and offers a range of performance upgrades over previous standards
- Bands – routers broadcast on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The 2.4GHz band offers better range, while the 5GHz band affords greater speed. Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) routers are commonly available.
- Speed – is measured in Mbps (megabits per second). Routers usually show their total maximum Mbps capacity across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
- Ports – a WAN port allows for connection to the internet (connecting via ethernet to a modem or ONT box). LAN ports provide for the wired connection of devices via ethernet on a home network, such as a desktop computer or smart TV. USB ports allow for the connection of devices to be accessed on a network, such as a printer
- Security – the WPA, WPA2 and WPA3 protocols provide varying levels of security
- Design – routers often sport a compact and flat design, with adjustable aerials, suitable for positioning on a flat surface, such as a bookshelf or desk, or wall-mounting. Some routers, such as Google’s Nest Wi-fi, feature a disc-shape design
- Set-up – many manufacturers provide app support to assist with the set-up process
Other valuable tech:
Across wi-fi 5 and wi-fi 6 routers, there are a number of additional technologies that may be incorporated, including:
- MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) – assists the router in communicating with multiple devices simultaneously, facilitating a faster network
- OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) – is a wi-fi 6 feature, designed to deliver improved data transmission, creating a more efficient network
- QoS (quality of service) – allows for network traffic control, assisting with the prioritisation of different applications on a network
- Band steering – automatically steers dual-band devices seeking to connect to a network to the less-congested 5GHz band
- Beamforming – detects the location of devices and directs a wi-fi signal towards them
Researching the fastest broadband plans
Ultimately, if you’re after the fastest broadband, it’s always worth doing a little research into the best and fastest broadband deals. To help you get a clearer picture of broadband providers in NZ, Canstar Blue rates all the big providers in the market annually. We survey thousands of broadband customers and ask them to score their providers across categories including Value for Money, Network Performance and Customer Service.
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ internet providers compares NOW, 2degrees, Bigpipe, Contact, MyRepublic, Nova Energy, Orcon, Slingshot, Spark, Stuff Fibre, Trustpower and Vodafone, and awards the best our 5 Star rating:
^ By clicking on a brand or 'details' button, you will leave Canstar Blue and be taken to either a product provider website or a Canstar Blue NZ brand page. You agree that Canstar Blue NZ’s terms and conditions apply (without limitation) to your use of this service,to any referral to a product provider from our website, and any transaction that follows. Canstar Blue may receive a fee for referring you to a product provider. See How we are funded for further details.
Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in March 2020, published in April 2020.
See Our Ratings Methodology
The table above is an abridged version of our full research, so to find out more about NZ’s best broadband providers, just click on the big button at the bottom of this story.
The following is a selection of wi-fi 5, wi-fi 6 and mesh routers. When choosing a router, it’s worthwhile not only weighing up your current requirements but also looking ahead. Consider what your home network may look like in a few years’ time, and choose a router that will be able to deliver on those needs. Also keep in mind that while wi-fi 6 is backwards compatible with previous wi-fi standards, wi-fi 5 devices connecting to a wi-fi 6 router will run at wi-fi 5 speeds.
Google Nest Wi-fi
Google’s Nest Wi-fi is a mesh router that is expandable via the addition of Nest Wi-fi points, which are designed to enhance wi-fi coverage throughout a home. In addition, each Nest Wi-fi point is also a smart speaker, equipped with Google Assistant. This provides users with fast wifi, plenty of coverage, and the convenience of smart google home devices throughout their house. The router also features a stylish and minimalist white disc design, ditching the techy look of other modems.
The Nest Wi-fi router is powered by a quad-core processor and is equipped with MU-MIMO, beamforming and band steering. The router is typically available for purchase on its own, or as a pack, with either one or two points.
Nest Wi-fi features:
- Wi-fi – wi-fi 5, 802.11ac mesh
- Bands – dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Speed – AC2200 router, up to 2200Mbps; AC1200 points, up to 1200Mbps
- Ports – the router is equipped with dual gigabit ports
- Security – WPA3
- Set-up – set-up and manage wi-fi via the Google Home app
- Design – the router and points are disc-shaped. The router has a diameter of 110mm, a height of 90.4mm and weighs 380g. The points have a diameter of 102.2mm, a height of 87.2mm and weigh 350g
Price: the Nest Wi-fi router (one pack) can be found online priced at $299*; the Nest Wi-fi router (two pack – router and one point) priced around $549*, and the Nest Wi-fi router (three pack – router and two points) priced around $799*.
TP-Link Archer AX11000 Next-Gen Wi-fi Router
This is about the fastest gaming router money can buy. Armed with Wi-Fi 6, Archer AX11000 becomes the next-level speed machine that offers astonishing Wi-Fi speeds up to 10756 Mbps with an extended range.
It sports eight removable non-adjustable high performance antennas, numerous ports, multi-gig WAN support, and anti-malware tools.
Archer AX11000 features:
- Wi-fi – wi-fi 6, 802.11ax
- Bands – tri-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Speed – 4804 Mbps (5 GHz Gaming) + 4804 Mbps(5 GHz) + 1148 Mbps (2.4 GHz)
- Ports – 1× 2.5 Gbps WAN Port + 8× Gigabit LAN Ports, USB-C 3.0 Port + USB-A 3.0 Port
- Security – HomeCare anti-malware (WPA3)
- Set-up – Tether mobile app or via its web interface.
- Design – Larger than most routers at 288mm x 288mm x 184 mm; 1.2 Kilograms
Price – the Archer AX11000 can be found online priced around $798.00*.
Netgear Nighthawk AX4 4-Stream Wi-fi 6 Router
Netgear’s Nighthawk AX4 4-Stream Wi-fi 6 Router is designed to cater for a greater network capacity. Netgear states it provides reliable smart home connectivity and smoother UHD 4K/8K streaming, delivering faster and further coverage.
Powered by a dual-core processor, the Nighthawk AX4 is equipped with OFDMA and Beamforming+ (Netgear’s beamforming technology), with a wi-fi range suitable for use in small-to-medium homes.
Nighthawk AX4 features:
- Wi-fi – wi-fi 6, 802.11ax
- Bands – dual-band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Speed – AX3000, up to 3000Mbps (2.4GHz – 600Mbps; 5GHz – 2400Mbps)
- Ports – one gigabit WAN port; four gigabit LAN ports; one USB 3.0 port
- Security – WPA3
- Set-up – the Nighthawk app is designed to help users install the router in a few steps
- Design – a classic router design, measuring 340 x 206 x 57mm, and weighing 600g
Price – the Nighthawk AX4 can be found online priced around $348.99*.
Asus RT-AX55 AX1800 Dual Band Wi-fi 6 Router
Not the top Asus model money can buy, but an excellent, budget-friendly, Wi-fi6 router. The RT-AX55 is an AX1800 dual core router. It is great for large homes, providing up to 3000sq foot of coverage according to ASUS, and is compatible with its AiMesh network.
Asus RT-AX55 features:
- Wi-fi – wi-fi 6, 802.11ax
- Bands – dual-band, 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Speed – 1800Ax router up to 574mbps (2.4GHZ) and 1201mbps (5GHz)
- Ports – one gigabit WAN port; four gigabit LAN ports
- Security – WPA, WPA 2, WPA3
- Set-up – Set-up wizard, WPS button
- Design – a classic router design, measuring 230mm x 134mm x 56mm, and weighing 374g
Price – the ASUS RT-AX55 can be found online priced around $299*.