The Best VPN Routers 2024

Using a VPN-protected router encrypts the traffic coming from all your devices, including ones where a VPN can’t be installed manually. Here are the best VPN routers we recommend.
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Having a virtual private network (VPN) on your router means protecting every internet-connected device in your home. Some smart home devices and gaming consoles may not be able to install a VPN server, but a router enabled with the software can still protect those devices. This is especially important for gamers and families with kids online who want added security.

The three VPN choices below were chosen for their speed, features, capabilities, performance, bandwidth, and VPN accessibility for your home network. We have the more expensive ASUS RT-AX86U router, the mid-range and preloaded ExpressVPN Aircove router, and the powerful budget TP-Link Archer AX21. All three are Wi-Fi 6-capable, pair well with mesh systems, can handle multiple devices, and have solid options for VPN providers.

If you’re still wondering about what router to choose, check out what we’ve rounded up.

In this article
The best VPN routers 2024
Before you shop: Pre-flashed vs. unflashed routers
ASUS RT-AX86U: Best overall
ExpressVPN Aircove: Best for pre-installed VPN
TP-Link Archer AX21: Best for performance on a budget
Alternative routers for VPNs
Best VPN routers FAQs
Bottom line: The best VPN routers
How to pick a router with a VPN

The best VPN routers 2024

Top 3 routers for VPNs compared

Router
Best Overall
ASUS RT-AX86U
ExpressVPN Aircove TP-Link Archer AX21
Price $229.99 on Amazon $189.90 on Amazon $74.99 on Amazon
Built-in VPN Yes — Express VPN
Wi-Fi 6
Notable features Free lifetime ASUS AiProtection Pro security, mobile game mode, AiMesh compatible 1,600 square-foot coverage, Wi-Fi 6 capable, multi-screen 4k streaming support Improves device battery life, OneMesh technology, easy-to-use app
Details Learn More at ASUS Learn More at ExpressVPN Learn More at TP-LInk
Prices as of 4/6/2023.

Before you shop: Pre-flashed vs. unflashed routers

There are two options when it comes to a VPN on your router. Pre-flashed and unflashed routers are both readily available for purchase, but there are some key differences.

A pre-flashed router comes with a VPN already installed while an unflashed router does not. Whether you know what VPN software and security features you want or are just shopping for a compatible router, you’ll have different options to consider. There are drawbacks and benefits to both.

Pre-flashed routers

If you know what VPN encryption you want, you can purchase a pre-flashed router. This is also a great option if you know you want a VPN on your router, but aren’t completely confident in setting it up.

Unflashed routers

If you want a specific VPN protocol, you can purchase an unflashed router with the capabilities to install your preferred VPN and also the ability to change VPNs if the one you choose doesn’t have the features you’d like. If your VPN choice is unsupported, you’ll have to replace your router’s firmware to install the VPN protocol of your choice.

An unsupported VPN protocol can still be installed on an unflashed router by replacing the firmware. Open-source firmware such as DD-WRT or OpenWRT will both allow you to install the VPN. Another popular open-source firmware option is Tomato.

ASUS RT-AX86U: Best overall

The ASUS RT-AX86U VPN-enabled router
Source: ASUS.com

ASUS RT-AX86U pros and cons

Pros
  • Easy-to-use app for installation and control
  • Lots of speed and power
  • Mesh-ready
  • Parental controls
  • Good for gamers
Cons
  • No pre-installed VPN
  • Must use proprietary firmware
  • Expensive

In addition to the ASUS RT-AX86U looking like a Sith lord, it’s as powerful as one, too. With its Wi-Fi 6 capabilities and AiMesh compatibility, this device is in charge.

The Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, Ethernet wired and wireless options, as well as being AiMesh ready means you can set up a dead-zone-free system throughout your space.

The ASUS RT-AX86U isn’t really compatible with DD-WRT and Tomato if you’re looking to do a firmware update for a VPN configuration. It does, however, come with proprietary ASUSWRT-Merlin firmware that supports a lot of different VPN options.

What this means is that you won’t have to figure out how to install the firmware update. The AX86U comes with that already done so you can follow the instructions provided to install your chosen VPN.

This is the priciest router on our list, and if you’re uncomfortable with installing your own VPN, it may not be the best choice for you. If you’re partial to using a firmware upgrade you’re familiar with, you won’t be able to with this router.

But if you’re looking for a powerful router that allows you to stream video while another family member is streaming a 4k game, you’ll be happy with this choice.

ASUS RT-AX86U specs

Price $229.99 on Amazon
Built-in VPN No
Speed Up to 5,700 Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 Yes
Number of ports 6
Wi-Fi standards 802.11ax
Notable features Free lifetime ASUS AiProtection Pro security, mobile game mode, AiMesh-compatible
Details Learn More at ASUS
Price as of 4/6/2023.

ExpressVPN Aircove: Best for pre-installed VPN

The ExpressVPN Aircove router
Source: ExpressVPN.com

ExpressVPN Aircove pros and cons

Pros
  • Covers 1,600 square feet on one device
  • Wi-Fi 6 ready
  • Multiple VPN connections for different devices
  • Ability to connect with existing mesh system
Cons
  • Separate subscription needed for ExpressVPN
  • No option for other VPN usage

The ExpressVPN Aircove is really the first of its kind to come pre-installed with a notable VPN service. ExpressVPN is considered one of the best VPN services available, and having it pre-installed on a Wi-Fi 6-capable router is just a bonus.

The biggest downside is that you’ll have to purchase an ExpressVPN subscription separately, but your Aircove works effectively with or without an active subscription. Additionally, if you already have a mesh Wi-Fi system in your home, Aircove has the ability to integrate with one node to cover devices using that node.

ExpressVPN is One of Our Top-Rated VPNs
4.6
Editorial Rating
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  • Hides intrusive display ads when browsing the web, improving page speed and easing data usage on mobile
  • Privacy and safety benefits of a VPN with best-in-class encryption and innovative server technology in 105 countries
  • Enjoy no activity logs, malicious sites and trackers protection, and more on up to 8 devices
  • More expensive than NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost

One of the most impressive features of the Aircove is the ability to configure up to five different VPN channels for different devices. This means if you want your gaming console running out of Japan while your laptop is pinging in the U.K., you can do that through the app on your smartphone (which you purposely connected to a Polish server to watch Twitch). Oh, and if you need to access the internet without a VPN, you can do that too.

This allows you to play a Japanese game on your console while watching different regional content on Netflix on your laptop. If you’re wondering whether any of this VPN use is legal, it is throughout most of the world.

You should note that internet speeds do have the potential to drop when ExpressVPN is active. Also, this router does lock you into having only one VPN option, and ExpressVPN is a little costlier than competitors such as NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost.

Lastly, this router isn’t the most expensive we’ve seen, but it isn’t the least expensive either. As with all tech equipment, you get what you pay for. If you’re not comfortable with any aspect of installing a VPN on a router, the Aircove may be the perfect choice for you.

ExpressVPN Aircove specs

Price $189.90 on Amazon
Built-in VPN Yes — ExpressVPN
Speed 1,200 Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 Yes
Number of ports 4
Wi-Fi standards 802.11ax, 802.11ac
Notable features 1,600 square-foot home coverage, Wi-Fi 6 capable, multi-screen 4k streaming support
Details Learn More at ExpressVPN
Price as of 4/6/2023.

The TP-Link Archer AX21 VPN-enabled router
Source: TP-Link.com

Archer AX21 pros and cons

Pros
  • Priced under $100
  • Wi-Fi 6-enabled
  • Compatible with multiple VPN protocols
  • Mesh capable
  • Tether app for changing settings
Cons
  • VPN can’t be configured through app
  • Slower speeds than competitors

Just because the Archer AX21 is our budget option, don’t think that means it isn’t powerful. The AX21 is Wi-Fi 6 capable and delivers speeds up to 1,200 Mbps, all for under $100. The AX21 also allows you to create a mesh system by connecting Wi-Fi extenders. This means your entire space is blanketed in Wi-Fi.

If you’ve looked at TP-Link routers and read they tend to overheat, don’t worry about that with this one. Its silicon feet keep enough airflow around the router to stop the overheating problem.

The Tether app, which you can use to control the Archer AX21 from your phone, is available on iOS and Android devices, and allows you to complete the setup, change parental controls and other settings, and check the status of added network devices such as Wi-Fi extenders.

The one real caveat to the Archer AX21 is that you can’t add the VPN protocol from the Tether app. You’ll need to access TP-Link’s web GUI to install a VPN. TP-Link does provide a walkthrough for anyone wanting to do this. Supported protocols listed for the AX21 are OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP over IPsec, and the site specifically names ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, Private Internet Access (PIA), and others as compatible.

Accessing the web GUI may be a hassle, but for a Wi-Fi router with fast connection speeds that costs less than $100, it’s a good trade-off.

TP-Link Archer AX21 specs

Price $74.99 on Amazon
Built-in VPN No
Speed 1,200 Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 Yes
Number of ports 4
Wi-Fi standards 802.11 g, 802.11n, 802.11b, 802.11ax, 802.11a, 802.11ac
Notable features Improves device battery life, OneMesh technology, easy-to-use app
Details Learn More at TP-LInk
Price as of 4/6/2023.

Alternative routers for VPNs

Our choices certainly aren’t the only VPN routers on the market. There’s so much information out there, though, we wanted to pick routers that might appeal to everyone.

If Wi-Fi 6 isn’t your game or you’re not married to the idea of a mesh system, you can look to one of these runners-up. The NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 and Synology RT2600ac can easily handle streaming services, a high number of devices, and other heavy internet traffic.

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10

The Nighthawk X10 has seven wired ports, covers 2,500 square feet of your space, and has speeds up to 4,600 Mbps. With all of this plus parental controls and a price that falls below what ASUS charges (it’s $250 on Amazon at the time of writing), you may wonder why we didn’t choose this router.

Although it does have the capability to install a VPN protocol, it isn’t Wi-Fi 6 enabled. If we’re moving into the future, we can’t look back. Eventually, Wi-Fi 5 (what we’re using) will be phased out. Why not purchase a product with Wi-Fi 6 now that will last you a while instead of one that will need to be retired in a few years?

With a price point so close to our ASUS choice, we decided to go with the ASUS for its Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. It’s also reported that the setup for this router can be laggy, and there are definite dead zones. The Nighthawk seems to respond well to one Wi-Fi extender but doesn’t seem to love multiple ones, which means no mesh system. If you have a large space or dense walls, this may not be for you.

Synology RT2600ac

Synology might not be a brand you’re familiar with, but this router can definitely hang with the more popular brand names. The RT2600ac is sleek with four ports, a ton of power, and comes in at about $150 on Amazon at the time of writing.

The RT2600ac has speeds up to 2,500 Mbps and supports multiple VPN options such as Open VPN, PPTP, SSTP, Synology SSL VPN, L2TP/IPSec, and WebVPN. You can create up to five separate networks, which is excellent for family, friends, and visitors. You can even restrict online time and block websites within specific categories such as online shopping if you really want a lot of controls to help with productivity.

Ultimately we went with a different choice because this one is a little bigger design-wise and doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. But for around $150, it’s a powerful router with a lot of potential.

Best VPN routers FAQs


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What’s the best router for VPNs?

If you’re looking for an unflashed router the ASUS RT-AX86U is Wi-Fi 6 capable, blazing fast, and great for gamers. If you prefer your VPN to come pre-installed, the ExpressVPN Aircove is also Wi-Fi 6-capable, has 1,600 square feet of range, and allows you to customize what connected devices run through the VPN and which ones don’t.


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What’s the fastest router for VPNs?

The ExpressVPN Aircove comes pre-installed with ExpressVPN and is a high-powered star while the ASUS RT-AX86U allows you to install your own VPN into its custom firmware for easy setup. The ExpressVPN Aircove reaches speeds of up to 1,200 Mbps while the ASUS RT-AX86U maxes out at 5,700, and both allow you to game and stream without interruptions.


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Do I need a special router for a VPN?

Yes, your router needs to be able to allow a firmware change to install a VPN or it needs to come with a VPN pre-installed. Most routers don’t come with the capability to install a VPN.


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Do you really need a VPN router?

Whether you need a VPN router depends on what you’re doing online. If you want your traffic to be encrypted, want to access a variety of regional catalogs on streaming services, or have a gamer living in your space, you should consider a VPN router.

Bottom line: The best VPN routers

We chose these routers based on speed, performance, VPN compatibility, and ease of use. The ASUS RT-AX86U is a beast that can handle all the online traffic your household can throw at it. Whether you have a family of gamers or four roommates each streaming 4K movies while working online and checking TikTok, the AX86U will keep everyone online seamlessly.

The ExpressVPN Aircove is one of the first of its kind preloaded with a notable VPN, and it still manages to be Wi-Fi 6 capable. If you already have an ExpressVPN subscription, you can log in and protect your network in a matter of minutes. Finally, our choice for the TP-Link Archer AX21 gives you all the controls you need for a fraction of the ASUS and Aircove routers.

3 best VPN routers for home 2024

Price Best for Details
ASUS RT-AX86U $229.99 on Amazon Best overall Learn More at ASUS
ExpressVPN Aircove $189.90 on Amazon Best for pre-installed VPN Learn More at ExpressVPN
TP-Link Archer AX21 $74.99 on Amazon Best for performance on a budget Learn More at TP-LInk
Prices as of 4/6/2023.

How to pick a router with a VPN

When you’re looking for a router that supports a VPN, you’ll want to make sure the router has the option to install the VPN you want. You’ll also need to make sure speed and range are prioritized. A high-speed router means nothing if the range doesn’t include all your devices. If you have a large home or living space, you’ll also want to consider a router that adapts easily to a mesh Wi-Fi setup.

Key router features and settings to look for include:

  • At least 1,200 Mbps max speeds so you can stream video and games
  • Firmware options that allow you to use the VPN you want
  • Ease of use
  • An app that controls the features and settings
  • A large area of Wi-Fi coverage
  • Wi-Fi 6 capabilities
  • Value for price

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.