Just a couple decades ago, people didn’t go online for much more than email, news, and shopping. Now, the internet is often used for highly demanding applications, such as HD streaming video and live multiplayer video games.
More people work from home now as well, and their livelihood depends on a fast and reliable internet connection.
This is what makes your router selection so important. If you don’t make the right choice, it can have an enormous impact on your daily life.
Why You Shouldn’t Rent a Router
Like most internet service providers (ISPs), Spectrum allows customers to rent a router from them.
Technically, Spectrum doesn’t charge a “rental” fee anymore. They previously rented out modems at a rate of $10 per month, but this service was discontinued after the company was acquired by Time Warner Cable.
Instead, Spectrum includes a combination modem/router (gateway) at no cost with your contract, but they charge a $5 per month “Wi-Fi service” fee if you use it for wireless internet.
A $5 per month fee doesn’t seem like a large expense. It’s clearly not a good deal, though, when you consider that there are wireless routers available for as low as $20. In just a handful of months, buying a router can prove to be a better investment than renting from Spectrum.
Before you commit to buying your own router, pull up your online account or call Spectrum to confirm that you are currently paying $5 per month for Wi-Fi. That’s their standard rate, but they may have waived the fee as part of a promotion or personalized offer. If the fee stills stands, you’ll be better off buying your own router.
What is a Router?
Unless you have firsthand experience with information technology, shopping for a router can be confusing.
For example, when comparing two router options, you may notice that one is dual band while another is tri band. Will that difference actually affect how you use the internet? What does “dual band” or “tri band” even mean, anyway?
You can’t make an informed decision regarding your router selection until you familiarize yourself with the terminology associated with routers. Here’s a crash course on what you need to know:
Modem: A device that connects to the internet provided by your ISP. You can access the internet directly through a modem by connecting it to a computer with an ethernet cable.
Router: A device that connects to a modem and establishes a wireless network.
802.11ac: The current standard for wireless networking.
802.11n: The wireless networking standard before 802.11ac. Routers of this generation are still functional, but 802.11ac routers are significantly faster.
Local Area Network (LAN) Port: A socket that allows you to establish a wired connection to the internet. Also known as an ethernet port.
Single Band: Wifi works on two frequency bands, 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz. 2.4 Ghz has more range and worse performance, while 5 Ghz has less range and better performance. Single band routers can only use the 2.4 Ghz frequency band, making them vulnerable to interference from other devices (cellphones, televisions, etc.).
Dual Band: A dual band router supports both the 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz frequency bands, which results in a faster and more reliable connection compared to single band routers.
Tri Band: A tri band router uses one 2.4 Ghz frequency band and two 5 Ghz frequency bands, making it the best-performing type of router.
Megabits per second (Mbps): The standard unit for measuring internet speed. 1,000 Mbps is equal to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
How much speed do you need?
To put Mbps figures into context, consider the following:
- The average download speed in the United States is 94 Mbps.
- The FCC defines “broadband” internet as having 25 Mbps or higher download speeds.
- Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for HD video streaming on a single device.
- It only takes a few seconds to test your current speed for reference.
Top 6 Routers for Spectrum
The right router for you, of course, depends on your situation. If you’re only paying for 100 Mbps internet, there’s no reason to invest in a router that can go up to 1.5 Gbps. Conversely, if you’re paying for 1.5 Gbps internet, buying a router with a max speed lower than that will slow down your service.
Budget is another concern. Generally, you get what you pay for. Faster speeds and extra features come at the cost of higher prices.
Keep these factors in mind while reviewing the best available Spectrum routers listed below:
Most Affordable: Tenda N301
You won’t find a Spectrum-compatible router at a lower price than $18.99. A quick look at the specs of this device shows that you can expect relatively low performance as well. But if you’re only anticipating light use from your internet connection (300 Mbps, single band, and 802.11n is still good enough for normal web browsing on one device), there might not be any need to invest in high-end hardware.
Affordable yet Functional: Cudy WR1000
This router represents an extraordinary blend of affordability and functionality, featuring the specs you usually only see for routers listed at three or four times this price. The Cudy WR1000 also comes with a guest network, a built-in firewall, and other useful features.
It’s worth noting that the Cudy WR1000’s range is unlisted, and this is one area that some reviewers have complained about. So, if you’re not planning to be near your router when using your internet connection, you should consider other options.
Amazon's Choice: Netgear R6080
There’s good reason why, out of all the 554 entries listed on Amazon for the search term “spectrum router”, the Netgear R6080 has received the coveted “Amazon’s choice” label. It is moderately priced, features impressive specs, and is produced by one of the most trusted brands in the information technology industry.
Like the Cudy WR1000, the Netgear R6080 gives you everything you need for strong internet performance. Unlike the Cudy WR1000, the Netgear R6080 provides some peace of mind by listing its range (1,000 sq. ft.), and it’s better reviewed as well.
Value Play: Linksys EA6250
Another mid-priced option, the Linksys EA6250 is equipped with beamforming technology. That means it connects directly to devices instead of sending signals in a general direction, producing more speed, improved range, and stronger connections.
Need for Speed: Netgear Nighthawk (R6700)
Are you willing to spend more than $100 on your router? If so, direct your attention to Netgear’s exceptional Nighthawk series of routers.
The R6700 is the basic version of the Nighthawk, and it’s powerful enough to provide high-speed connections to 25 devices within a range of 1,500 sq. ft. Its advanced capabilities include:
A USB 3.0 port that allows you to share physical storage or a printer between multiple devices on the network.
Circle Parental Controls give you the ability to freeze internet access for selected devices, block websites, and view web browsing history over the network. Those features are available for free, and there’s a premium version of Circle ($4.99 per month) that lets you set time limits and schedule when the internet can be used.
Access to Netgear Armor, which protects against viruses, malware, fraud, and ransomware (free 30-day trial, then $69.99 per month).
Give me everything: Netgear Nighthawk X6S (R8000P)
The R8000P version of the Nighthawk has all the features of the R6700, plus more than double the max speed, tri band wifi, and a range of 3,500 sq. ft.
This router is a perfect fit for the most demanding of environments, such as an office where dozens of employees are regularly working with intensive applications and downloading large files.
Finding a router that fits your needs is essential for seamless internet service. We hope the information in this article helps you find the best router for your Spectrum internet connection. Happy browsing!