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Published Jun 27, 2022 12:00 PM

If you work from home—and you’re a Charter Communications customer—you know there’s a huge difference between a bad router and the best routers for Spectrum internet. A bad router means long wait times talking to customer service, annoyingly slow load speeds, and a pixelated presence on work video calls. Choosing the best router for work, play, and just surfing the web makes life easier—and reduces the amount of low to no bandwidth-induced headaches you might get. 

How we chose the best routers for Spectrum

We know how important a strong Wi-Fi connection is to effortless, lag-free gaming and streaming high-quality lossless audio. I personally have made the mistake of not doing my research before buying a router—would not recommend spending a few days Wi-Fi-less and with my own thoughts. To prevent you from facing a similar situation, we looked to personal testing, peer recommendations, critical reviews, and user impressions to find the best Spectrum routers.

What to consider when buying the best routers for Spectrum

Routers are not one-size-fits-all. Here is what you need to know when shopping for the best routers for Spectrum:

Modem vs. router

A modem connects you to a wide area network, or WAN—the internet that Spectrum provides. A router connects your devices to a local area network, or LAN—your own little piece of the internet that Spectrum provides. You can’t connect to a router without a modem. Spectrum customers are required to use an authorized modem, and the company provides a preconfigured Wi-Fi router for a monthly fee. However, that adds up, and purchasing your own can save money in the long run. If you buy your own router, you don’t have to give it back if you cancel your service—you can use it with your new internet provider.

Compatibility with Spectrum

Make sure that the router your purchase is compatible with Spectrum. Otherwise, you’ll have to return it. You can find a list of Spectrum-compliant routers on the company’s site. Although buying the correct modem is more important, it never hurts to double-check. Also, the router can only run as fast as your internet plan provides. For example, if you have a router that can only reach speeds of 300 Mbps and have an internet plan for 200 Mbps, you’ll only max out at 200 Mbps.

Wireless protocol

The wireless protocol, or Wi-Fi standard, determines your router’s throughput and range. You can determine the protocol by finding the number 802.11 and a certain letter combination:

  • 11ax (Wi-Fi 6): Wi-Fi 6 is the newest standard and delivers speeds up to 10 Gbps. However, not all devices and internet connections support Wi-Fi 6. You may not need to upgrade just yet, but switching to Wi-Fi 6 will help futureproof your internet connection. This standard is the fastest.  
  • 11ac (Wi-Fi 5): This standard appears on most routers, and supports speeds up to 3.5 Gbps. 
  • 11n (Wi-Fi 4): This standard supports speeds up to 600 Mbps and was the first to allow both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. This standard, compared to Wi-Fi 5 and 6, is the slowest. 

Range and signal strength

Wi-Fi range is determined by the kind of router you’re using, the wireless protocol the router follows, and the space you’re in. Wi-Fi signals have a harder time permeating through concrete, compared to wood, stucco, and other building materials. For example, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi routers can reach up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors and should be used if you’re looking for long-distance Wi-Fi. Routers running on 5 GHz bands can reach around one-third of these distances since it uses narrower wavelengths—because of this, you should choose a 5 GHz router for speed but only if your devices can be located nearer to your internet access point. Newer routers operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands to reach greater distances and achieve maximum throughput for devices in closer proximity.

Budget

The best routers range from $50 up to $500. The best Wi-Fi extenders can help with spotty internet, but Consumer Reports recommends using a mesh router system that relies on multiple systems to spread strong Wi-Fi signals. However, a mesh router system can be pricey. On the flip side, Wi-Fi extenders are cheaper and can be a perfect solution if you’re looking for more reliable coverage in certain areas of your home. However, poor placement of your extender won’t help your Wi-Fi woes and can cause more connectivity problems if your Wi-Fi extender creates a separate network that your device has to switch between.

Extra features

Many newer routers are compatible with voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, have parental controls, and provide separate networks for guests. Built-in VPNs and routers with multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology—also known as MU-MIMO—can help with security and network speed, respectively. However, if you would not benefit from the bells and whistles—and the added costs associated with them—then there’s no shame in going for a basic router.

The best routers for Spectrum: Reviews & Recommendations

The best routers for Spectrum can handle everything, whether it’s a day full of video meetings, nights scrolling TikTok, intense gaming sessions, or streaming lengthy explainer videos on YouTube. These are our top picks.

Best overall: Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem Wi-Fi Router Combo

Why it made the cut: You don’t have to worry about purchasing a separate modem with this trusted combination device.

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 1,900 Mbps
  • Coverage: 1,800 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: Up to 400 Mbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: Four 1-gigabit Ethernet ports; one USB 2.0 port

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • Independent channels for 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz
  • Warrants fast, reliable internet. 

Cons 

  • Slow return on investment
  • No support for Wi-Fi 6

The Netgear Nighthawk proves that two is better than one: This router also features a built-in modem, meaning you don’t have to shop for a Spectrum-compatible modem. This router covers 1,800 square feet for up to 30 devices and is compatible with Spectrum speed plans up to 400 Mbps. It includes separate networks for 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands, meaning you can organize your devices based on band level. You can plug in gaming consoles and computers to Ethernet thanks to four one-gigabit Ethernet ports, and can share storage with a connected device using the USB port. The router supports Wi-Fi 4 and 5 but does not support Wi-Fi 6. It features a WPA2-PSK security protocol, which is secure enough to protect your home without an enterprise authentication server—simply provide an 8- to 62-character long passphrase to encrypt your network. However, it will take some time to see a return on your investment with the Nighthawk. Multiple reviews note that owners’ internet speed and performance were improved after setup, making the purchase worth it.

Best gaming: ASUS AX5700 Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

Why it made the cut: Reduced lag and latency is a tap away thanks to the router’s game mode and support for Wi-Fi 6. 

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 5700 Mbps
  • Coverage: 2,500 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: 1 Gbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: two 3.2 USB ports; one 2.5 G WAN/LAN port; one WAN port; four Ethernet ports

Pros

  • Fiber internet compatible
  • Easy installation
  • Plenty of LAN ports for devices if need be

Cons 

  • Upright design can hinder placement 

We are no strangers to the ASUS AX5700—we’ve previously named it the best all-purpose gaming router. And it is compatible with Spectrum’s Internet Gig plan, which can handle up to 1 Gpbs, making it a perfect addition to this list. It’s Wi-Fi 6 compatible and includes MU-MIMO functionality for increased speed and security. Download the ASUS Router app to turn on the mobile game mode, which reduces lag and latency for back-to-back Victory Royales. AiMesh support allows you to bring seamless, interruption-free coverage to your home—and, considering the price of mesh routers, that makes this one a steal. Hackers will be KO’d thanks to free lifetime access to ASUS AiProtection Pro, which includes WPA3 protection—the latest Wi-Fi security protocol—powered by Trend Micro, a cyber security software company. However, you can only set the router vertically, which could pose a problem if you need a horizontal router. 

Best for streaming: Linksys – Dual-Band AX5400 Wi-Fi 6 Router

Bestbuy

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Why it made the cut: Between the wide coverage range, support for more than 30-plus devices, and splittable price, this router means the only thing your roommates will lag on is doing their dishes. 

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 5.4 Gbps
  • Coverage: 2,800 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: 1 Gbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: 4 Ethernet ports; 1 internet port; 1 USB port

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Separate guest access
  • Easy device connection thanks to a WPS button

Cons 

  • Reviews note trouble connecting the router to the Linksys app

We’ve all had the problem of the internet slowing because it’s slogged down by everyone’s respective phone, laptop, and gaming system streaming at once. This problem is exacerbated if your roommates like Internet-of-Things smart devices that connect to the network. Expect the slog to stop with this dual-band router, which can connect to more than 30 devices. Additionally, this router is Wi-Fi 6 compatible, meaning it’s fast and futureproof. This router includes four Ethernet ports, one internet port to connect the router to the modem, and one USB port. Also, the router can create a guest access network so your roommates’ siblings or frequent callers don’t cause security problems or snag too much bandwidth when they add their binge-watching to what’s pulling down all the data. A WPS button makes device connection easy, and you can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer browser for quick set-up. The second biggest problem with this router is deciding who will take it at the end of the lease. The largest problem is connecting it to the Linksys app.

Best mesh: NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System

NETGEAR

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Why it made the cut: Up to 5,000 square feet of coverage and an included satellite extender means you can take meetings almost everywhere in your home without lag.

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 4.2 Gbps
  • Coverage: 5,000 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: 1 Gbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: 1 Ethernet WAN port; 3 Ethernet ports; 2 Ethernet ports on satellite extender

Pros

  • No dead zones
  • Wide coverage area
  • Tri-band Wi-Fi

Cons 

  • Must pay Netgear to service software issues
  • Expensive
  • App capabilities only free for 30 days

We’ve all experienced the pain of being laggy and pixelated on a video call, either from weak signals or dead spots in the home. Say goodbye to all that with the Netgear Orbi, which covers 5,000 square feet and includes a satellite extender for more reach. This router, our pick for working from home, can support up to 40 devices and has a crazy-fast data transfer rate of 4.2 Gbps, plus support for Wi-Fi 6 for futureproofing. Unlike other routers, this one supports a tri-band frequency: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band for connecting your devices, and a separate 5 GHz band so the router and included satellite can communicate with each other. Netgear Armor Antivirus and data theft protection powered by Bitdefender means business secrets will stay secret. However, there is a catch: this capability, along with others in the Orbi app like parental controls, are only free for 30 days. Afterward, you’ll need a subscription. And you’ll have to pay Netgear for software troubleshooting—that can be a lot of money to spend after purchasing an already-expensive router.

Best cyber secure: Gryphon AC3000

Gryphon

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Why it made the cut: This router does not use a web browser for configuration, making it less likely that a hacker will jack your info. 

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 3 Gbps 
  • Coverage: 3,000 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: 1 Gbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: 1 WAN port; 3 Ethernet ports with backhaul capabilities

Pros

  • Easy installation with Gryphon app
  • Free intrusion detection in the first year
  • Responsive support team

Cons 

  • No advanced customization options

You won’t need to worry about hackers and internet thieves with the Gryphon AC3000, which offers advanced security thanks to its Wi-Fi 6 functionality, vulnerability scans, and app configuration that prevents hackers from accessing your network via the web. It also secures connected devices and sends alerts when it detects vulnerabilities, weak passwords, or infected devices. The router has fantastic basic security and you also get one year of intrusion detection for free with purchase. Afterward, it’s $89 per year. It covers 3,000 square feet—an average 2-3 bedroom home—at lightning-fast speeds thanks to its 3 Gbps data transfer rate. If you purchase multiple Gryphon routers, you can create a mesh network for even stronger, wider coverage. The Gryphon Connect app includes robust parental controls, including content filtering, screen time, and usage monitoring. Its user interface is incredibly streamlined and simple. However, reviews note that there could be more advanced customization options, like more device categories and fields for categories that should be blocked.

Best budget: TP-Link AC1750

TP-Link

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Why it made the cut: The TP-Link AC1750 features high-end capabilities at a fraction of the cost. 

Specs

  • Data transfer rate: 1750 Mbps
  • Coverage: 2,500 square feet
  • Plan speed compatibility: 400 Mbps
  • Parental controls: Yes
  • Ports: 1 USB port; 1 WAN port; 4 Ethernet ports

Pros

  • VPN Server
  • Alexa compatibility
  • Bandwidth prioritization (QoS)

Cons 

  • Not compatible with Wi-Fi 6

The TP-Link AC1750 tops Amazon’s list of computer routers for a reason: it includes a VPN server, bandwidth prioritization, parental controls, Alexa compatibility, and can connect up to 50 devices—all for under $100. A 2,500-square-foot range means you can take video calls outside and bandwidth prioritization allows you to assign devices to either of the dual bands to prevent congestion and slow internet speeds. Connect it to Alexa to turn the guest Wi-Fi on or off using your voice, or use the TP-Link Tether app to set up and manage your network. WPA/WPA2 wireless encryption keeps the entire family protected from hackers, and parental controls protect your kids from looking up mature content on the internet. The only downside of this router? It’s not Wi-Fi 6 compatible, which means it could become obsolete as new Wi-Fi protocols come out.

FAQs

Q: How do I use my own router with Spectrum?

Per Spectrum’s website, you should first connect the coax cable and power cord to the internet modem. Plug one end of the Ethernet cable into the modem. Plug the other end into the Internet, Uplink, WAN, or WLAN port on the router. Wait 2-3 minutes for the router to light up. You can then either connect an Ethernet cable from the router to a computer or laptop or open a browser and enter the IP address on the router to configure it. You can also configure your router using an app if the router has that feature. Contact the manufacturer if you have any problems with setup.

Q: Does any routers work with Spectrum?

Technically, yes. It’s really the modem that matters, as that will connect you to Spectrum’s internet. However, make sure the router is compatible with your plan. If you have a router that only reaches speeds up to 200 Mbps and a 1 Gbps internet plan, your devices will only be able to reach internet speeds of 200 Mbps.

Q: What’s the difference between a router and a modem for Spectrum?

A router will not work without a modem. The modem is the entire pie that Spectrum has baked: A modem connects you to all the internet that Spectrum provides. Well, at least the slice of Spectrum’s pie you pay for. Your plan determines how large your slice is. The only way you can access that slice of pie is through a modem. Connecting a router to the modem lets you give bites of the pie you’ve bought to your phone, laptop, gaming console, and/or smart devices.

Final thoughts on the best routers for Spectrum

Whether you decide on a router that helps you jumpstart your streaming career, keeps your new battlestation in sync with the rest of the squad, or feeds your OLED TV buttery-smooth 4K video, the best routers for Spectrum will be suited to your lifestyle and internet needs. It doesn’t matter if you go ham-handed on the features or keep it simple—the best routers will get you streaming, web surfing, online gaming, and working with ease.

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