There are a lot of great routers launching these days, and now, many of them are coming equipped with VPN (Virtual Private Network) technologies. Using VPNs are a great way to encrypt a connection over a public network; however, they can be difficult to setup. But, with services like OpenVPN being built into many routers, they’ve become just a little more friendly for the layman to setup.
Follow along below and we’ll show you the best VPN routers of 2017.
How do they work?
Using ASUS routers as an example, many of these models have the OpenVPN client installed. This is great for privacy advocates because it funnels all of your network traffic through the VPN. Other brands might have DD-WRT, OpenWRT and pfSense clients installed, too.
On the other hand, it’s fairly rare that these routers are equipped with a VPN server. If there is a VPN server on-board, this is generally so that you can have remote access to your home network — you’re not really getting any anonymity through that.
Either way, setting up a VPN server can be a complicated matter. We’ve shown you how to set one up step-by-step, but for many, getting a router with the client already installed will be enough. This can be fairly easy to setup — once you have your new router plugged in, you can mess with the device’s VPN settings (and many other settings) in its dashboard or Access Panel.
Here are some of our favorite router options:
Netgear Nighthawk R7000 AC1900
If you want to revolutionize your home network, Netgear’s Nighthawk R7000 AC1900 is the best way to go. With dual-core processing at 1GHz, you’re getting one of the fastest routers on the market. It’s equipped with 802.11ac, so it supports the modern wireless-AC standard.
There’s not a whole lot of wireless-AC devices out yet, but they’re coming, and this router will make sure you’re all set for that. In the meantime, you can take full advantage of this router’s legacy support for Wireless-G and Wireless-N standards.
This is also a unit ideal for larger homes, as it’ll provide you a very good amount of reliable wireless range in many larger buildings. It has the OpenVPN client you can take advantage of, but unfortunately, its VPN functions and features are pretty basic. However, for a router that sits at $180 (often can be found for much, much less), this is a pretty high-powered model.
Buy it now: Amazon
Netgear Nighthawk X4S
If you don’t mind dropping some money on your home network, the Nighthawk X4S from Netgear is a much more superior option to the Nighthawk R7000. The Nighthawk R7000 has a lot of great hardware and power on the cheap and has more than you would ever need in capabilities. However, if you’re looking for something with better VPN functions and all-around better features, the Nighthawk X4S is the way to go.
This router has a lot going for it — you get a 1.7GHz dual-core processor for better performance. It comes with Gigabit Ethernet ports and can work with the Amazon Echo, giving you the ability to control your home network with voice commands. It’s network storage-ready and has the OpenVPN client ready to use. It also has the four external antennas, giving you plenty of range — perfect for larger homes (and even in some commercial applications).
There’s a lot of other great things packed in this router, such as four-stream (4×4) Wi-Fi architecture, MIMO technology, dynamic QoS (Quality of Service) and even has 160MHz channel bandwidth — perfect for top speeds on mobile devices.
The Nighthawk X4S is super expensive at $200, but if you’re looking for great VPN features and to be able to future-proof your home, the X4S is entirely worth it. It goes without saying, it’s one of the best VPN routers on the market right now.
Buy it now: Amazon
The ASUS RT-AC56U is a little different than Netgear’s Nighthawk’s in that you have four internal antennas instead of the external ones. Because of this, speed and range aren’t nearly as good, but it’s still a formidable router for home networks with plenty of features.
This router comes with a lot — it has support for all sorts of encryption standards and the ASUSWRT dashboard for a quick and easy advertised 30 second setup. You’ll also find support for things like WPS, a VPN client, intelligent QoS, anti-malware protection, remote access, cloud storage and more. The neat thing about ASUS’ RT-AC56U is that it automatically checks for security holes and firmware updates, too. This router can actually double as an Access Point, too.
This is another gigabit-ready router, too. So, if you have something like Verizon’s Gigabit Connection in your home, this router will ensure you’re taking full advantage of those speeds. ASUS advertises that you’ll see up to 1.2Gbps in speed. That being said, this is another router that supports the current 802.11ac wireless standard as well.
ASUS’ RT-AC56U is on the cheaper side of things, too. On Amazon, you can pick it up for $125, but you’ll also get a post-purchase rebate, bringing it down to around $105. So, if you’re looking to set yourself up with a good VPN router that’s gigabit-ready, the RT-AC56U won’t disappoint.
Buy it now: Amazon
Linksys E2500 and ASUS RT-N66W
Most of the routers on this list are going to cost you upwards of $100 (or a lot more). But, for those on a budget, Linksys’ E2500 isn’t a bad option. However, you’re going to have to be willing to settle for much less power and features if you’re going to go the budget route.
For $55, the Linksys E2500 isn’t bad. With it, you can expect wireless speeds as high as 300Mbps, decent range, and dual-band technology for better performance. It’s certainly not ideal for large homes or commercial environments, but it’s still a great option for those on a budget.
Again, this is a budget router, so you’re not going to get all the features you’ll see in a, say, $100 router. There’s no real VPN service here, aside from Cisco Connect. It’s not the best option, but could get you by if you can fine tune it right. The other downside: there’s no wireless-AC support. You do get wireless-N, which is what many devices support, but since there is no wireless-AC standard here, you can’t expect the Linksys E2500 to future-proof your home network.
On the other hand, it’s super easy to setup. Linksys says they can have you up and running in just three quick and easy steps.
If you can manage to squeeze another $30 into your budget, the ASUS RT-N66W is leagues better. It’s similar in many ways, but has some notable improvements. It sits at around $85, has VPN server support, better range (advertised at covering 4,000 square feet) and is a gigabit-ready router, claiming speeds of up to 900Mbps. Another great aspect is that the antennas are external, which is what helps gives you that better range and speed.
This is another one that doesn’t have wireless-AC support, but again, you’d be hard pressed snagging that on a budget.
If you’re looking to modernize and/or future-proof your home network while having access to some great VPN settings, these are some of the best routers you can get on the market. Most of the routers on this list are a huge upgrade — a good portion of them support the newer modern wireless-AC standard, so no matter what, you’re future-proofing your home network with those specifically. VPN features vary from router-to-router, so what it really comes down to is how much money you want to spend on a router and if you want more than just the basic VPN features.
That, of course, is only a question you can answer. After all, when you start spending $200 or more on a router, you’re starting to get into commercial-level technology there. And while that’s not a problem, it’s just best to do some research and see what you want out of a router before pulling out the big bucks.