AC WiFi Router Speed in the Real World

When trying to determine AC WiFi router speed, its not enough to simply go off the numbers of the box. The advertised numbers are always the best case scenario in lab conditions – not what you’ll experience in your home.

AC WiFi Router SpeedReal World Speed Factors

  • Distance: The farther each device is from the router, the slower the connection gets.
  • Obstacles: Walls, windows, doors, ceilings, and large objects will block the signals and shorten the Wi-Fi range.
  • Interference: The more devices of the same radio frequencies being used in the same area, even if they are on your neighbor’s wifi, the slower they get.
  • Compatibility: When devices of different Wi-Fi speed specifications, standards, and manufacturers are used together, they must adhere to a lower speed standard in order for all to function together properly. The weakest device will determine the fastest speed of the network.

Internet Speeds versus Network Speeds

The numbers on your router refer to throughput – basically, the amount of data that can be transferred between all your devices at once. The internet speed you are paying a monthly fee for determines how fast your incoming download and upload connections are. In a simplified explanation, your router’s throughput speeds spread out the speeds, allocate who needs it the most, and can let devices talk to each other without using the internet speed/connection as much.

Increase Home Network Speed

cat6 ethernet cableRun network cables when possible: Hardwired CAT5e/CAT6 connections will always be faster than WiFi when running multiple devices on your network.  Setting up CAT5e/CAT6 cables is a one-time time-consuming investment that pays off big in the long run, allows all stationary devices (servers, network media streamer, game consoles, etc.) to connect via wired Gigabit connections, giving them the fastest network speed possible.

Use extra access points (or routers running in access point mode): Access points connected to the main router via Ethernet cables is the best way to extend your Wi-Fi network while maintaining the best Wi-Fi speed. You can name the access point’s Wi-Fi network the same as that of the main router (with the same password and other settings) if you want devices to move from one network to another automatically. If you’ve run network cables (given each room a super-fast wired connection,) adding access points is super easy.

Get a router and access point of the just-right standard: Currently AC1900 is the sweet spot for Wi-Fi. AC1900 routers are affordable and support the speed of the fastest Wi-Fi clients on the market, which is 1,300Mbps. If you have many Wi-Fi clients being used at a time, a tri-band AC3200 router will do, since you can can have multiple devices connected to each of its bands without adversely affecting performance too much. While it doesn’t hurt to get a router with a higher ceiling speed (AC5300, AC2600, and so on) that won’t result in faster Wi-Fi speeds. Routers with a ceiling speed faster than 1,300Mbps might be appealing thanks to new features (such as extra network ports, security and so on), but their Wi-Fi speeds are only for future-proof purposes.

AC Wifi Router Speed Chart

Device name Advertised speed Max ceiling speed Max real-world speed (tested by CNET Labs using optimal settings)
Wired Gigabit Ethernet 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps 1,000 Mbps
Linskys EA9500 5,400 Mbps 2,167 Mbps 685.2 Mbps
Asus RT-AC88U 3,100 Mbps 2,167Mbps 643.6 Mbps
Linskys EA8500 2,533 Mbps 1733 Mbps 437.8 Mbps
Asus RT-AC87U 2,400 Mbps 1,733 Mbps 504.4 Mbps
Asus RT-AC68U 1,900 Mbps 1,300 Mbps 521.4 Mbps
D-Link DIR-890L/R 3,200 Mbps 1,300 Mbps 601.7 Mbps
Netgear R8000 3,200 Mbps 1,300 Mbps 482.2 Mbps
Netgear R7500 2,350 Mbps 1,733 Mbps 381.7 Mbps
Linksys WRT1900 1,900 Mbps 1,300 Mbps 520 Mbps
Asus RT-N66U 900Mbps 450 Mbps 131.9 Mbps

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