VPN Tips

What Is a VPN Router and Should You Use One?

Callum Tennent
Callum TennentUpdated

A VPN router is a wireless internet router that comes with a VPN pre-installed on it, which can be great for getting around restrictions of the software and keeping you safe at all times. Are they the right choice for you, though, and what should you look out for?

A VPN router

If you don’t want the hassle of installing a VPN at router level yourself, and want to eliminate the chance of you being ever caught without one, VPN routers are a fantastic idea.

They are exactly what their name suggests: WiFi hubs, just like the ones currently in your home or office, that come either with a VPN pre-installed or with the ability to have one installed. They will automatically encrypt and protect every device that connects to them, as well as all the information sent and received – a great way of getting around VPN simultaneous connection limits.

Read on to find out more about what to look out for in a VPN router and whether or not you should buy one.

Just want to see our highest-scoring VPNs? Click the link to see our Best VPN of 2019.

How Much Do VPN Routers Cost?

Like any gadget, the price can vary pretty wildly depending on your needs. There’s always options for hardcore techies to geek-out on, but we would recommend you go for an option that matches the size and demands of your network.

Bear in mind that, as inherently advanced pieces of equipment when compared to standard WiFi routers, they’re more expensive from the get-go.

The cheapest VPN router will cost around $130, while high-end models can cost upwards of $500.

Pre-Flashed or Unflashed?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is whether to buy a pre-flashed router or one that is unflashed.

The difference is simple: pre-flashed routers already have the VPN installed on them. Unflashed routers will require you to manually install the VPN upon it.

The first option will usually cost you a little more, but takes all of the work out of your hands – just plug it in and go.

The second option can save you money, but it will require a little bit of technical knowhow (or at least the ability to follow instructions posted by helpful forum users). This will also give you a choice in which VPN you install – ideal for those who already have a subscription to a service.

What Specs Should You Look For?

The ethernet port on the rear of a router

Before you go hunting for your next purchase, make sure you understand exactly what each model has to offer.

WiFi Standard

The so-called ‘WiFi standard’ of every router available right now will be an unintuitive, indecipherable codename beginning with 802.11 and followed by a letter.

What the 802.11 stands for isn’t important – what really matters to you is the letter that comes after it.

Older routers will only have a ‘b’ or ‘g’ there, and should widely be avoided as their age means they won’t be capable of the latest speeds.

Newer models have an ‘n’ – this means that they support a top speed of 300Mbps.

What you really want, though, is a router that supports 802.11ac. This is the latest consumer standard, allowing for transfer speeds of 1.3Gbps.

Even if your internet provider doesn’t offer speeds that great (and, realistically, it probably doesn’t) it means that you can get more devices connected to it at once, all delivering downloads that are as fast as your connection allows.

Wireless Frequency

With most new routers (or at least any advanced enough to come with a VPN pre-loaded) will offer a choice of either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies.

Put simply, 2.4GHz offers slower speeds over greater distances, while 5GHz offers faster speeds over shorter distances.

The 2.4GHz frequency can often suffer from interference due to overcrowding, too, as there are fewer wireless devices out there capable of using 5GHz.

Speed

The standard and frequency aren’t the only factors that will determine a router’s speed.

More often than not a router will state its maximum speed outright. Nothing technical to take in here – look for the highest number possible within your price range.

Ports

Just because your router is wireless doesn’t mean that you can’t still get online the old-fashioned way.

Most VPN routers will come with an abundance of ethernet ports for wired connections – the easiest way to guarantee reliability and the best speeds, if not always the most convenient one.

They’ll also usually have a USB port or two. You can use these to turn an otherwise wired printer into a WiFi one, or connect an external storage device to create a shared network drive.

Which VPNs Come Loaded on Pre-Configured VPN Routers?

A surprising number of big-name providers offer their VPNs on pre-configured routers. A far-from-exhaustive list includes:

If you already have a subscription to one of these services then you’re already at an advantage, as all that will be required of you once you purchase and connect it is to login to your account.

If your provider of choice doesn’t offer a pre-flashed router option that’s fine – all you need is to make sure it supports the OpenVPN protocol (our protocol of choice) and then purchase a VPN router that also supports it. You can set it up yourself from there.

What Are The Disadvantages to Using a VPN Router?

VPN routers may seems like a fantastic catch-all solution to internet privacy – and they are, to an extent. But it does come at a cost (and not just the substantial financial one).

The main drawback that we absolutely must stress is that a VPN router is not a solution for those who use their VPN primarily for geo-spoofing and content-unblocking.

VPN routers are for the privacy-minded: once it’s set up you can’t easily switch it on and off or change your location. You may even struggle to access content that would normally be available in your region, as many services outright block VPNs without caring where the traffic originates from.

Your speeds will be permanently lower, too. Even if you buy a high-end router equipped with one of the fastest VPNs on the market there will naturally be some slowdown versus an unfettered, and unprotected, connection.

About the Author


  • Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

    Callum Tennent

    Callum is our site editor and a member of the IAPP and the EC-Council's Knowledge Review Committee. He oversees all our VPN testing, reviews, guides and advice. Read full bio