Hey there! If you‘re looking to step up your home network security, getting a VPN router is one of the best investments you can make. A virtual private network (VPN) router encrypts all the traffic flowing through your network, providing an extra layer of privacy and protection that software on individual devices just can‘t match.
I‘ll explain what to look for when shopping, walk through how to get your new VPN router set up properly, and provide my expert recommendations on the top VPN router options across various budgets. Let‘s get your home network security tightened up!
Why Should I Get a VPN Router?
Living more of our lives online comes with growing privacy risks. Our internet service providers can see and log every site we visit. Sneaky advertisers and bad actors use tracking tools to monitor our web browsing habits. And on public WiFi, it‘s frighteningly easy for hackers to steal our data.
A VPN router provides a secure, encrypted tunnel that hides your network activity from prying eyes. According to PCMag‘s 2022 VPN Usage Report, VPN usage grew 34% globally in 2021, showing just how concerned people are about their privacy.
With a VPN router, every device on your network like phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and smart home gadgets will have their connections secured. Devices that don‘t support VPN apps like Chromecast or Nest cameras still get protection. And you don‘t have to manually set up VPNs on each device.
Benefits of a VPN Router:
- Encrypts ALL network traffic automatically
- Works for devices without native VPN support
- No per-device VPN configuration required
- Often faster speeds than VPNs on devices
- Unblock geo-restricted content
If you want a simple way to ramp up your home network security, a VPN router is it!
How to Shop for the Right VPN Router
There are quite a few factors and features to consider when picking out the best VPN router for your home:
VPN Compatibility – The router needs to work with your preferred VPN provider through pre-installed software or by allowing installations like OpenVPN.
Speed – Look for a recent dual or quad-core CPU for performance. WiFi 6 routers enable faster speeds.
Device Capacity – More RAM and a robust processor help the router handle 20+ connected devices smoothly.
WiFi Range – Large homes need a router with high-gain external antennas for greater range. Mesh systems also help fill dead zones.
Wireless Security – Make sure the router supports modern WPA3 wireless encryption.
Firewall – Look for an SPI firewall to block attacks and malicious traffic.
Parental Controls – Filters for inappropriate content and usage limits help protect kids.
Remote Access – Management via smartphone app allows easy monitoring and changes when away from home.
Budget – Pre-configured VPN routers start around $200. Unconfigured routers can cost under $100. Consider bang for buck.
Ideally, you want the fastest router with robust VPN support in your price range. Let‘s look at the top options I recommend across budget levels.
Here are My Picks for the Best VPN Routers of 2023
Overall Best Router: ASUS RT-AX86U AX5700
- Quad-core 1.8 GHz CPU
- 8GB RAM
- WiFi 6 – Up to 5700 Mbps
- Gigabit ports: 2 x LAN, 1 x WAN
- App management & Alexa support
If you want the very best in power and performance, I recommend the ASUS RT-AX86U AX5700 as the top VPN router available. According to PCMag‘s review, its average download speed over a VPN was a blazing 175 Mbps thanks to its quad-core processor and 1024 QAM WiFi 6 support.
The ASUSWRT dashboard makes it easy to install and configure your preferred VPN service like NordVPN or ExpressVPN. With robust device capacity, blazing speed and strong customization options, it‘s the fastest VPN router you can buy. But all this power comes at a cost – $250. However, for protecting your whole home network traffic with encrypted VPN tunneling, it‘s worth the investment.
Best Pre-Configured Router: ExpressVPN WiFi Router
- MediaTek MT7621AT CPU
- 512MB RAM
- 802.11ac – Up to 900 Mbps
- 2 x Gigabit LAN ports
For simplicity, my top pick for a pre-configured VPN router is the ExpressVPN WiFi Router. As you‘d expect, it comes with ExpressVPN already installed and configured so you can just plug it in and connect.
The router uses ExpressVPN‘s TrustedServer technology for fast, secure connections and supports up to 25 devices. Unblocking geo-restricted content on services like Netflix is super easy. The ExpressVPN app lets you manage connected devices, switch VPN server locations, and troubleshoot issues easily. At $200, it delivers excellent functionality and convenience. Just note monthly ExpressVPN service fees are separate.
Best Budget VPN Router: TP-Link Archer AX21
- Dual-core CPU
- 128MB RAM
- WiFi 6 – Up to 1201 Mbps
- 4 x Gigabit LAN ports
Proving you don‘t need to spend a fortune for fast VPN protection, the TP-Link Archer AX21 is my top budget router recommendation. For only around $100, you get a capable dual-core processor, AX1800 WiFi 6 support and app-based management.
The firmware is open-source, so you can manually set up the VPN service of your choice like NordVPN or Private Internet Access following TP-Link‘s directions. It may not be as seamless as a pre-configured router, but with research and patience it can be done! For the price, this Archer AX21 delivers excellent VPN router value.
Setting Up Your Shiny New VPN Router
Once you‘ve purchased your chosen VPN router, you‘ll need to configure it properly to enable the VPN tunneling for your network traffic. Here‘s an overview of what‘s involved in the setup process:
Connect to the router‘s default network and access the browser/app dashboard. Set a new secure admin password.
Check for any available firmware updates from the manufacturer and install for the latest security patches and features. Reboot.
If the router didn‘t come pre-configured, install and configure your desired VPN client software following the router company‘s instructions carefully. Some adjustments in the VPN provider‘s app will also be required.
Enable DNS over HTTPS or another encrypted DNS protocol to prevent DNS data leaks while VPN tunnel is active.
Select a strong password or passphrase for your main WiFi network and configure WPA3 encryption for maximum wireless security.
Make sure the router firewall is enabled to block web attacks, inbound traffic on closed ports, probes from malicious actors online, and defeat denial of service attacks.
Configure parental controls like website filtering, time limits, and content blocking as desired to help keep kids safe online.
Download the mobile app from the router manufacturer to allow easy remote monitoring and configuration changes when away from home.
With those steps checked off, your network traffic will now be flowing through a secured VPN tunnel and you can rest assured your internet activity is safe from prying eyes!
Answers to Common VPN Router Questions
Here are some answers to common questions I get about setting up and using a VPN router:
What‘s the main advantage of a VPN router vs VPN apps?
A VPN router encrypts traffic for all devices on your network automatically rather than individually. So smart home gadgets, consoles, TVs, etc get protection without needing their own VPN app installed.
Will a VPN router slow down my internet speeds?
Connecting via VPN does introduce a bit of overhead, but with a fast router using WiFi 6 you can minimize the impact. In PCMag‘s testing, the ASUS RT-AX86U only saw a 18% speed drop during VPN use.
Can I use my existing mesh system with a VPN router?
Yes, absolutely! Mesh systems from Eero, Orbi and others will work perfectly. Just connect your primary mesh node to the VPN router instead of directly to your modem.
Do I need to set up each device on my network separately?
Nope! Once the VPN router is configured, every device that connects to your home network will automatically send traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel. No per-device setup needed.
Can I switch VPN providers later if I don‘t like the pre-installed one?
Unfortunately no – a router pre-configured for a specific VPN can only work with that service. To change providers later, you would need an open firmware router that supports manual VPN installation.
Secure Your Home Network Starting Today!
Hopefully this guide has shown you what an excellent investment a VPN router can be for protecting your home network. No need to manually set up VPNs across all your devices – just connect your router, and you instantly have an encrypted tunnel securing all traffic.
Be sure to choose a fast router that fits your budget from trusted brands like ASUS, TP-Link, NETGEAR and others I recommend here. Getting the router configured does take some technical comfort, but I assure you the effort is worth it. Your digital privacy is absolutely worth protecting.
Here‘s to your new, far more secure wireless network! Never hesitate to reach out if you need any help getting your new VPN router set up. I‘m always happy to help friends stay safe online.