Count the number of internet-connected devices in your home. ComScore estimates that the average household has 8.5 internet-connected devices, but a quick count in my own home brought me to over 25 devices: smartphones, tablets, ereaders, computers, smart TVs, streaming devices, smart speakers, smart thermostats, smart bulbs, and more.

None of these devices is very useful when the internet isn’t available. You need an internet service provider (ISP) providing a consistent, fast broadband connection and a wireless (Wi-Fi) router to reliably share that signal with all your devices.

In our latest PCMag Readers’ Choice Award survey, we asked you about the wireless router you use in your home, so we can identify which brands provide the most reliable connections. We also asked about network attached storage (NAS) devices, which are helpful for storing and streaming videos, music, and other files within your home and across the internet, as well as for backing up your devices.

Our survey about ISPs is coming soon, but for many of us, we don’t have a choice of internet providers. We do, however, have a choice of routers. The first choice for most is whether to use the Wi-Fi router that many broadband providers build into their cable modems or to buy a separate router (smart customers prefer the latter).

In the past few years, a new choice has emerged for those who buy their own: whole home Wi-Fi systems, which uses two or more devices to create a single network that blankets a home with wireless coverage. Whole home, or mesh, systems tend to be more expensive and currently represent a niche but growing segment of the router market.

Almost half of our survey respondents say they use some sort of NAS device. Many routers include NAS functionality, allowing you to plug a hard drive directly into the router; while this was a popular option, most respondents use a standalone device. Many come with built-in hard drives, others have one or more empty drive bays so you can add as much storage as you need. Most are optimized for streaming video and music over your home network. If you prefer to maintain your own video and music library rather than relying on services like Netflix and Spotify, a NAS makes a lot of sense.

Our PCMag Readers’ Choice Award surveys focus on end-user satisfaction with the routers and NAS devices they purchase. We ask our respondents about their overall satisfaction with the devices as well as other aspects of usage including initial setup, support, and reliability. These ratings help provide a picture of which companies make products designed to please their customers for the long run, and serve as valuable complements to our labs-based reviews. Read on to see whose products provide your devices with the best internet connectivity.

The PCMag Readers’ Choice survey for Routers and NAS Devices was in the field from March 12, 2018, through April 2, 2018. For more information on how the survey is conducted, read the survey methodology. Each person who completed the survey was entered into a drawing to win an Amazon.com gift card valued at $350.

You can win! Sign up for the Readers’ Choice Survey mailing list to receive invitations for future sweepstakes.

Looking for expert opinion? Read PCMag’s roundups of the Best Wireless Routers and The Best NAS (Network Attached Storage) Devices.

Routers

You can go a few ways when you set up a wireless network in your home. You can use the Wi-Fi built into your broadband ISP’s cable modem and never buy any new hardware yourself. While that may be the most expedient and inexpensive option, it’s not your best choice, according to our survey respondents. Hybrid routers/modems have consistently received the lowest satisfaction ratings in our survey, by far. As a group, these devices had an average overall satisfaction rating of 7.2 on a scale from 0 (extremely dissatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied).

The group satisfaction rating for standalone routers, on the other hand, was 8.4. Mesh networks received an overall satisfaction rating of 8.5.

Unless you know you need a whole home Wi-Fi system, start with a standalone router, and consider one from Asus, which wins our Readers’ Choice Award for the seventh straight year. Asus’ overall satisfaction rating of 8.9 is the same it received last year and far better than its competitors. In fact, the company that comes closest is Apple (8.7), which is reportedly no longer in the router business.

Readers' Choice 2018 - Routers -- Overall

Asus also had the highest rating for satisfaction with setup (9.0) and likelihood to recommend (8.9). The company’s satisfaction with reliability rating of 9.0 was only behind Apple’s 9.1, but still excellent.

If you’re looking for a whole home Wi-Fi system, Google, with its Google Wifi system, is our new Readers’ Choice Award Winner. Google Wifi can be purchased as a single node or three nodes, each of which looks like two stacked white hockey pucks. Google Wifi’s overall satisfaction rating was 9.0. Netgear, with its Orbi-branded mesh devices, received an 8.6 for overall satisfaction, the same score it had in 2017. (Last year’s whole home Wi-Fi system Readers’ Choice, Linksys, didn’t get the required minimum number of responses to be included in this year’s results.)

Readers' Choice 2018 - Whole Home Routers -- Overall

Google Wifi’s ratings for satisfaction with reliability (9.3) and likelihood to recommend (9.2) were even better than Asus. In addition, not a single respondent reported needing repairs for their Google Wifi system in the past year. One of the goals of whole home systems is to make home networking easy, but 11 percent of Google respondents reported needing tech support compared to only 8 percent of Asus respondents. D-Link was the only company with a lower percentage needing support (7 percent). Clearly, this is a statistic that doesn’t directly correlate to satisfaction given D-Link’s low overall satisfaction rating.

Asus offers two solutions for whole home networking. There’s the Lyra Home Wi-Fi System, which is similar to Google Wifi and Netgear Orbi, but it’s a new product and didn’t receive enough responses to get a rating. Asus also offers AiMesh for its standard routers, which can turn them into a mesh system. This could be a good solution for someone who already has an Asus router, considering how well loved its standalone routers are with readers.

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WINNERS: ROUTERS

Readers' Choice 2010 Award Standalone Routers: Asus
Year in and year out, Asus is the preferred brand of router for PCMag readers. No other company comes close to Asus’ satisfaction ratings; 2018 marks the seventh straight year the company has won our Readers’ Choice Award.

Readers' Choice 2010 AwardWhole Home Wi-Fi Systems: Google
Google is always trying to make it easier for people to get what they need online. We’re more used to thinking of that in terms of its search engine, but the Google Wifi system is making it easier for people to connect at home and our readers like the way they’re doing it.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) Devices

If you have a large number of media files—videos, music, photos—that you want to make available to any device on your network, or even access across the internet, definitely consider a network attached storage (NAS) device. According to our readers, choose one from Synology, which this year wins its eighth consecutive PCMag Readers’ Choice Award.

Readers' Choice 2018 - Network Attached Storage (NAS) -- Overall

Last year, Synology’s overall satisfaction rating was 9.4, followed most closely by QNAP at 8.8. The two companies shared the Readers’ Choice Award in 2015 and 2016. This year, Synology’s overall satisfaction rating dipped somewhat to a still excellent 9.1 while QNAP improved to 9.0, nipping at Synology’s heels. No one else came close. Western Digital fell from an 8.3 in 2017 to an 8.0, the same rating as Netgear, while Seagate was even further behind at 7.7.

Synology received a higher likelihood to recommend rating (9.3) than QNAP (9.1). Both are excellent ratings on this very important measure of customer satisfaction.

Rather than purchasing a standalone NAS, some of our readers take advantage of the NAS capabilities built into their home networking router, many of which have USB ports for connecting hard drives. This is certainly an option worth considering but none of the routers received satisfaction ratings for their NAS capabilities that came close to Synology or QNAP. Asus was the highest rated at 7.8, followed by Netgear (7.7) and Linksys (7.6).

Ninety-three percent of respondents mainly use their NAS devices for sharing videos, music, and other files on their home network and backing up their computers; 51 percent also use their devices so friends/family can access shared media and data across the internet.

QNAP rated slightly higher than Synology for storing and accessing photos, music and video on the respondent’s home network (9.4 for QNAP to Synology’s 9.3). The two companies had identical scores for storing and accessing other types of files on the network (9.4) and backing up computers (9.1). Synology had the highest ratings for accessing files across the internet (8.9) and sharing files (8.4); QNAP did not have enough respondents answering these questions.

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WINNERS: NETWORK ATTACHED STORAGE DEVICES

Readers' Choice 2010 AwardSynology
Synology has been setting the standard in NAS for years. The company has won our Readers’ Choice award every year since 2011. So far only QNAP represents a real threat to Synology’s dominance.



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