Best VPN Routers Windows Central 2021
One of the first steps in making sure your connection is secure and protecting your privacy online is using a virtual private network (VPN). You can set up a VPN on each device individually with support in new versions of Android and iOS as well as Mac, Windows, and Linux — and there are a ton of great VPN deals out there. The main problem is that it has to be set up on each device individually. The Asus RT-AC68U solves this by allowing you to program a VPN directly into the router with support for OpenVPN configurations. Currently, only Asus builds this functionality into its software out of the box but many router manufacturers like Linksys allow for custom firmware like DD-WRT, which is open source and adds OpenVPN support.
- Best Overall: Asus RT-AC68U
- Best with custom software: Linksys WRT3200ACM
- Best Value: Asus RT-AC66U
- Best with Wi-Fi 6: Asus RT-AX88U
Best Overall: Asus RT-AC68U
With a unique stand up design, the Asus RT-AC68U is not afraid to stand out. Three powerful antennas on top push the router's full AC1900 speed on Wi-Fi with 1300Mpbs at 5GHz and 600Mbps on 2.4Ghz. It also has a full host of connections on the back with a 4-port Ethernet switch, a USB 2.0, and a USB 3.0 port. The USB ports can be used with USB storage drives to provide fast access to files on your network.
After obtaining a VPN configuration file or the specific configuration details from your VPN provider, you can add it to the router's configuration software with a PC to get online securely. However, it's important to remember that while VPNs are getting faster all the time and speeds can vary between providers, connecting through a VPN will never be as fast as a direct connection.
Regardless, the RT-AC68U should be able to keep up with most of your online activity with Wi-Fi speeds fast enough for most everyday computing and video streaming. File transfers from a home server or synchronizing wireless devices could hit some buffering with a lot of simultaneous connections due to a lack of multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) support but should hold up fine for most home networks.
- AC1900 wireless speeds
- 600Mbps on 2.4Ghz
- NVIDIA GameStream Ready
- USB storage support
- Native VPN support
- No MU-MIMO
A balance of speed
The Asus RT-AC68U brings out-of-the-box software support for use with a VPN service. It provides those features with AC1900 Wi-Fi speeds and four Ethernet ports. This should be the only networking equipment most people need.
Best with custom software: Linksys WRT3200ACM
First and foremost, this router will not work with your VPN service out of the box. If you are the type of person that would be comfortable installing and testing custom software on your router, the Linksys WRT3200ACM is a compelling product when you install something like DD-WRT. To be clear, it's possible to install this software on a lot of different routers but this Linksys router is open-source ready and has a processor powerful enough to not get bogged down.
Once the software is taken care of, the WRT3200ACM's 1.8Ghz dual-core CPU pushes high Wi-Fi 5 speeds at AC3200 and four gigabit Ethernet connections. With four antennas and MU-MIMO management, consistency is kept high and buffering is minimized. The classic blue and black design brings back memories of the popular WRT54G and feels at home in any computer room.
It has to be stressed that custom software on the router will not be supported by Linksys' customer support and the user will be responsible for troubleshooting problems. Please be sure you are comfortable with this before choosing this as your VPN router.
- AC3200 wireless speeds
- USB 3.0 and ESATA for storage
- Classic design
- Custom software required
- No customer support for software
Best with custom software
Classic appeal, custom feel
With the sort of power you would expect in enterprise equipment, the Linksys WRT3200ACM compromises very little in pursuit of speed. AC3200 speeds and MU-MIMO support seek to put an end to buffering.
Best Value: Asus RT-AC66U
Don't let its lower price fool you. This router can keep up.
Setting up a VPN asks more of your router's CPU than most tasks. At 1Ghz, you can be sure the Asus RT-AC66U has the power you'll need to push its AC1750 speeds and keep things fast while connected. This router has a traditional layout with a USB 3.0 port on the front and a USB 2.0 port and four gigabit Ethernet ports on the back. Placing the faster USB port on the front of the router means you'll have to have a cable running out of the front of the router if you want USB 3.0 speeds for your storage drives. Swapping the USB placement or making both support 3.0 speed would have been more useful.
The RT-AC66U can be set up like other Asus routers to take advantage of your VPN service out of the box. It sacrifices top speed and NVIDIA GameStream support when compared to its big brothers and provides an adequate experience for the majority of users, only slowing down with 4K streams or large file transfers. It also keeps the three antennas on the back to make sure your signal strength stays high throughout your home.
- AC1750 speed
- USB storage
- Native VPN support
- No MU-MIMO
- No USB 3.0 speed on back
- NVIDIA GameStream is absent
Good enough for most of us
When it comes down to it, most people will be well served by a router with this feature set. The Asus RT-AC66U brings a touch of subtlety in its design but still delivers with specs that are good enough for most.
Best with Wi-Fi 6: Asus RT-AX88U
If Lamborghini designed a router it would look a lot like the Asus RT-AX88U. The AX in the model name refers to 802.11ax, which has recently been renamed Wi-Fi 6. It's a huge leap in speed and efficiency making this device one of the fastest consumer routers on the market. It keeps up the high-end specs with a 1.8Ghz quad-core CPU, eight gigabit Ethernet ports, and two USB 3.1 ports.
Supporting VPN service out of the box, this router is capable of delivering top Wi-Fi speeds to your Wi-Fi 5 devices and future Wi-Fi 6 devices. That means approximately 6Gbps on Wi-Fi 6. This router does have a large footprint to go with its powerful hardware but this isn't the sort of device you buy to hide behind a picture frame.
This is really a zero compromise router if you want or need to get online with a VPN. This product will be an upgrade for pretty much anyone and you would be hard pressed to get this router to bottleneck anything for years.
- Ultimate Wi-Fi 6 speeds
- Eight Ethernet ports
- Native VPN support
- Fast quad-core CPU
- Very large
- Very expensive
Best with Wi-Fi 6
When there is no room for compromise in your network the Asus RT-AX88U has all of the new features you expect and cuts no corners. The designers have chosen to show off those corners from every angle as well.
If you are willing to install custom firmware on your router, you can get a VPN running on nearly any model. If you want something to work out of the box, you are going to want to go with one of these Asus routers. The Asus RT-AC68U provides a great balance of speed and features to get your network running smoothly with a VPN for internet access. A VPN is easily set up in the setting menu once you get configuration details from your VPN provider. Thanks to these Asus routers, the flexibility from Linksys, and the people making the open source software, protecting your privacy online has never been easier.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking at Windows Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.
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