When you're looking for a new Virtual Private Network (VPN) setup, there is a choice to make: software that will need to be individually installed on PCs, mobile devices, and TVs, or you can choose to install a VPN directly on your router for blanket coverage.
VPNs provide encrypted tunnels to protect your communication online. Encryption, combined with networks of servers designed to hide your IP address, can mask your online identity and prevent your data from being intercepted or decoded, making it more difficult to track you or steal your information.
Setting up a VPN environment via your router can take the legwork out of protecting the multitude of devices we tend to run these days, and it can be far easier to do than you think -- as long as you have a compatible router to start with and are comfortable with undergoing the VPN installation process.
With many router models, once you've gone through setup and ensured the connection is stable, all you will need to do is enable the VPN function. Furthermore, some routers come with inbuilt VPNs, so you only need to click a button to stay protected.
Also: The best VPN services (and tips to choose the right one for you)
ZDNET's top VPN router is the ExpressVPN Aircove. This router has a VPN already installed, saving you the work of setting up and configuring the software. It has impressive speeds and coverage. Below, you will find our recommendations for the best VPN routers on the market that provide great VPN compatibility, speed, and coverage.
The best VPN routers of 2023
- Built-in VPN
- Easy setup
- Up to 1,600 sq. ft. coverage
ExpressVPN Aircove features: Wi-Fi 6 | Built-in VPN | 802.11ax, 802.11ac | Diverse server locations | Includes free trial
The ExpressVPN Aircove is our top pick based on the router's speed, ease of setup, and security. The router offers users dual-band connectivity for homes or offices, providing coverage of up to 1,600 sq. ft.
When you pick a VPN-ready router, you still need to consider stability and speed. The Aircove manages speeds of up to 1,200Mbps (600Mbps/2.4GHz) when the VPN is not in use, although, as we should expect, speeds will drop when you are connected to VPN servers.
An interesting feature is an option to diversify what servers are used by what devices connected to the router. For example, you might want a gaming PC to be disconnected from the VPN, whereas you want an office laptop to run through a US or UK VPN server.
However, in any case, you will also need an ExpressVPN subscription. A free trial is included with the router purchase.
Read the review: ExpressVPN review: A fine VPN service, but is it worth the price?
- Requires configuration
- Bulky design
Archer GX90 features: Tri-band | High speeds | 1.5 GHz Quad-Core CPU | Game Accelerator
The TP-Link AX6600 WiFi 6 gaming router (Archer GX90) is a piece of kit that should be considered if you want speed and power first, a VPN second.
The tri-band Archer offers users speeds of up to 4804Mbps (5GHz) / 1201Mbps (5GHz) / 574 Mbps (2.4GHz) and has been designed with gamers in mind, combining a plethora of WAN and LAN ports with a 1.5GHz processor.
However, to set up this router with a VPN service, you must configure either OpenVPN or PPTP VPN, so be prepared to spend some time tuning the router to your needs.
This router is currently on sale with a discount of $30.
- VPN flexibility
- Mesh capabilities
Synology RT2600ac features: Multi VPN-compatibility | Smart Connect speed, control management | 1.7GHz processor | parental controls
The Synology RT2600ac is another top option if you want flexibility in your VPN choice, with productivity and home life in mind. The powerful router comes equipped with a 1.7GHz processor, dual-band connectivity and speeds of up to 2.53Gbps, traffic monitoring, a Smart Connect feature for balancing speed and range, and optional parental controls.
When it comes to VPNs, the router offers VPN implementation options with WebVPN, Synology SSL VPN, and SSTP VPN. Servers can also be set up for remote work and office purposes.
Read the review: Why I replaced Google Wifi with Synology's mesh networking gear (and why you might, too)
While this router is not exactly stellar in terms of design, the $169 price tag is certainly affordable.
- Lightweight, portable
- High initial cost
- May not be suitable for every streaming service
InvizBox Go features: Traffic encryption | 10-hour battery life | Dual-core processor | Ad blocker| Up to 300 Mbps speed | Device charging
The InvizBox Go is an interesting mobile-first VPN solution best suited for those who want a quick, easy way to use a pre-configured VPN and have to rely on public internet hotspots, which are inherently insecure.
The real benefit is the compact system's plug-and-play functionality. You connect the InvizBox to your mobile device, and that's it. You can choose from over 200 servers in 60 countries.
While the network isn't exactly expansive, you can also double up its purpose as a battery pack for your devices and there are dedicated streaming servers to help you access geo-blocked content.
The InvizBox Go comes with three purchase options, all of which are on sale at the time of writing. You can pick up the product and a one-month subscription to the InvizBox VPN for $99 (VPN subscription $7/month), a one-year subscription for $129 ($5/month), or a two-year subscription for $199 ($4.16/month).
- Gaming port
- Instant Guard security
ASUS ROG Strix AX5400 features: Wi-Fi 6 | Dual-band | ASUS AiMesh support | VPN Fusion | Speeds of up to 5400 Mbps
For a more stylish option, you may want to consider the ASUS ROG Strix AX5400.
This VPN-ready router is designed in and outwardly for gamers, first, but there is an interesting feature called VPN Fusion.
VPN Fusion allows you to run a VPN alongside a standard internet connection simultaneously. So, for example, you can keep the typical connection free of a VPN for gaming, whilst also protecting your other connection when you are browsing or working. You will need to set up the clients yourself, though.
ZDNET's top VPN router in August 2023 is the ExpressVPN Aircove. This router has a VPN already installed, saving you the work of setting up and configuring the software. It has impressive speeds and coverage.
However, its ExpressVPN exclusivity might not appeal to you, so you could also select another option, as below.
Up to 1,200Mbps (disconnected) | 180Mbps
Up to 300Mbps
TP-Link Archer GX90
ASUS ROG Strix AX5400
Up to 5400Mbps
Choose this VPN router…
If you want…
A user-friendly VPN router with strong coverage and speed. While the router is exclusive to ExpressVPN usage, it is one of our favorites due to its price, reliability, and easy setup.
A mobile-first VPN solution. The speeds aren't amazing but this is a great solution if you want to encrypt your traffic and you have to rely on public Wi-Fi hotspots.
TP-Link Archer GX90
A heavy-duty, powerful router. This gaming router offers tri-band connectivity and while it does require configuration, the Archer is a future-proof router offering excellent speeds.
VPN versatility at work, whether in-office or remote. You can set up different servers and select WebVPN, Synology SSL VPN, or SSTP VPN.
ASUS ROG Strix AX5400
To run a VPN and a standard connection simultaneously. If you need flexibility in your use of a VPN, this router is for you.
While we were deciding on the best VPN routers of 2023, we wanted to provide a variety of options suitable for different budgets, but our priorities were security, speed, and reliability. There's no point investing in a new router capable of handling VPN environments unless it serves its core purpose, of course, which is to provide solid and stable connections to the internet.
We have also examined customer reviews in-depth, including both positive and negative experiences. Furthermore, we have kept in mind the reputation of router manufacturers, considering popularity, variety, and product accessibility.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network of nodes -- or servers -- that reroute internet traffic to mask its original IP address. VPNs also add a layer of encryption to protect data packets and online communication.
As the internet was not designed to be inherently secure, VPNs were developed to bridge part of the security gap. While they are not a foolproof solution, a reliable and trustworthy VPN can help protect your online privacy.
If you want to understand how VPNs work in more detail, check out our guide on everything you need to know about VPNs.
If you want to install a VPN directly onto a router, the process can be more of a hassle than just signing up for an app. However, it can save you time in the long run as any device -- including PCs and smartphones -- that connects to your router will use the VPN and will be automatically protected. In particular, this can be useful if you have internet-connected devices, including TVs and IoT products, that cannot support a VPN on their own hardware.
You might want to consider setting up a VPN on your router if you have numerous devices which need protection and if you are working from home. However, if you are a remote worker, some organizations may require you to use their own VPN to access corporate resources.
A caveat, though: some online platforms, such as streaming services, will detect when you are using a VPN and may block you. If this is the case, you may have to disable your VPN service to resume watching, temporarily.
Many routers are now smart, intelligent devices capable of doing far more than just providing an internet connection. You can install VPN software on a range of routers today, and many tout VPN support as a feature.
However, a word of caution: if you are installing third-party software on your router, you might end up voiding its warranty -- just as jailbreaking mobile devices or changing the firmware of a gaming console can result in a warranty becoming invalid.
A VPN can be a great tool for protecting your privacy. VPNs should be used when you are taking advantage of public Wi-Fi hotspots, at the least, but using them while you're online as default is the better option to consistently protect yourself and your information. VPNs are also beneficial in circumventing geolocation blocks and censorship.
You should keep in mind, however, that some countries either ban VPN usage entirely or heavily discourage their use. If using a VPN is illegal, you may be subject to fines or prosecution. According to NordVPN's country guide, countries that ban VPNs include Belarus and Iraq, among others, whereas governments in China and Russia only permit specific VPNs to operate.
You can put VPN software on a myriad of devices, ranging from PCs to mobile devices and routers. While we have showcased what we consider to be the best VPN-supporting routers in 2023, we can't highlight every worthy option -- and so you can check out alternative products below, including subscriptions:
Best alternative with an inbuilt VPN
Amazon eero 6+ mesh Wi-Fi
Amazon's eero 6+ mesh Wi-Fi system includes an eero Security subscription and inbuilt Encrypt.me VPN.
Best alternative for travel
Slate Wi-Fi 6 AXT1800 VPN travel router (save $25)
The Slate Wi-Fi 6 AXT1800 VPN travel router is an excellent choice if you want a solution you can take on the road with you.
Best alternative for affordability
GL.iNet GL-MT300N-V2 mini travel wireless pocket VPN router (save $9)
If you want a router for travel but you don't want to spend a fortune, this GL.iNet model is a solid option.
Best alternative Wi-Fi 6 router
TP-Link AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 router
The TP-Link AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 router is an excellent alternative if you want a Wi-Fi 6 model.
Best alternative for gaming
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 Wi-Fi 6E router (save $70)
The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 Wi-Fi 6E router is a great alternative if you want tri-band speeds.