How does this mix of 4G and 5G routers from leading manufacturers compare, from budget to high end models?
Models from D-Link, Huawei, Oppo, ZTE, and TP-Link shortlisted into three categories depending on whether you need a no-frills basic model, a state of the art 5G, or the sweet spot of price and performance in between.
|Model||4G down/up||LTE Cat||Aerial||Wi-Fi||LAN|
|D-Link DWR-921||150/50||4||SMA||Wi-Fi 4||4x 100|
|TP-Link TL-MR6400||150/50||4||SMA||Wi-Fi 4||4x 100|
|Huawei B311||150/50||4||SMA||Wi-Fi 4||1x 1000|
|D-Link DWR-953||150/50||4||SMA||Wi-Fi 5||4x 1000|
|Huawei B525||300/50||6||SMA||Wi-Fi 5||4x 1000|
|Huawei B535||300/100||7||SMA||Wi-Fi 5||4x 1000|
|TP-Link AC1200||300/50||6||SMA||Wi-Fi 5||4x 1000|
|Huawei B628||600/100||12||TS9||Wi-Fi 5||2x 1000|
|Huawei B818||1566/150||19||TS9||Wi-Fi 5||2x 1000|
|Huawei 5G CPE Pro 3||1800/250||5G||n/a||Wi-Fi 6 AX1800||2x 1000|
|ZTE 5G CPE MC801A||3800/500||5G||TS9||Wi-Fi 6 AX1800||2x 1000|
|Oppo 5G CPE T1a||4070/ -||5G||n/a||Wi-Fi 6 AX1800||2x 1000|
1) Entry Level
If you’ve landed on this page because you’re just looking for the best way to get online without needing a home phone line, these entry level models are the best place to start.
The higher priced models may offer more in the way of home networking performance and a wider range of configuration options, but many people won’t actually need these features. In the real world the 4G performance will probably be very close to all but the very high end models.
For basic mobile internet access you could instead consider a battery powered mobile dongle, or a smartphone providing a shared internet hotspot. However, these methods have limitations that make them better suited for temporary or backup internet access only.
The models on this page are all mains powered and are far better suited for full time use. They also allow you to fit an external 4G antenna which can be helpful if you only get low signal strength where you live.
These entry level models should be available for under £100.
The routers in the mid range category have higher performance and features than the basic models above. They have higher maximum download speeds (4G signal permitting). You also get much faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Gigabit wired Ethernet.
Usually the differences between entry level and mid range models come down to features and wired and wi-fi networking performance, rather than 4G speed.
They generally range between £100 – £200.
These premium routers represent the current state of the art for 4G and 5G internet routers. Pricing is secondary in this section – it’s about assessing the best performance options available.
As these router are usually the top of the range from each manufacturer, they tend to also include the latest specifications for local networking and features.
|D-Link DWR-921||TP-Link TL-MR6400||Huawei B311||D-Link DWR-953|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 4||Wi-Fi 4||Wi-Fi 4||Wi-Fi 5|
|LAN||4x 100||4x 100||1x 1000||4x 1000|
Affiliate links / prices updated 2023-09-22
The DWR-921 dates from several years back and this is reflected in the limited wired and wireless transfer speeds. However it is one of the cheapest routers here and if you just want mobile internet access it could still serve you very well.
The MR6400 is TP-Link’s entry level 4G router. As with the D-Link DWR-921 it only offers 100Mbps wired networking and WiFi4 wireless. Wi-Fi4 is slower than the newer standards to begin with, and also it’s more likely to suffer with interference from neighbouring wireless networks which can reduce speed even further.
TP-Link are a respected brand though and if you are only need a device to connect to and share an internet connection this model should have everything needed at a budget price point.
Supplied by Three in the UK under the name “HomeFi”, the Huawei 311 is also available to be bought online without having to sign up to a contract.
It’s a fairly basic Cat4 router meaning a maximum download of 150Mbps and 50Mbps upload. It’s available for around the £60 mark though and is the only router at this price that comes with 1,000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet. Only one port though compared to the others that have four.
The 300MBps Wi-Fi networking is normal on these lower end devices.
The D-Link DWR-953 is only a Cat4 device which gives the same 4G upload and download as the other models. For day to day browsing this should be perfectly fine, unless you want to download large amounts on a regular basis and so went with an unlimited 4G contract. Generally most 4G contracts still have much lower monthly data caps than fixed-line services (usually 15GB – 50GB a month).
The DWR-953 stands out in this category with four Gigabit ports and much better 802.11ac Wi-Fi5 wireless. If you want a proper router for a more serious home network but perhaps only use the internet data fairly lightly, then it offers everything the more expensive mid and high end models here, but at a significantly lower price.
Recommendations – Entry Level
If you want the best technology, the D-Link DWR-953 offers much better networking abilities with it’s Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5. However, it is also the highest priced router in the entry level category, and is equalled on 4G performance by all the other models.
The runner up is Huawei B311. Usually the cheapest of the four, it also benefits from a Gigabit wired network port.
Affiliate links / prices updated 2023-09-22
The B525 offers a good spec with no weak points at a great price. With real world 4G speeds still only in double figures, the solid 300/50 Mbps download/upload is unlikely to be a limitation any time soon.
On the networking front, it’s great to have four proper Gigabit (1,000Mbps) wired network ports, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi5.
The B535 is provided by the Three network in the UK under the a name “HomeFi Plus“. It’s also available unlocked as a stand-alone purchase from Amazon for use on the network of your choice. It stands out as the only 4G router here that offers 100Mbps upload speeds. Downloads speeds are the usual “up to” 300Mbps.
The B535 offers the newer Wi-Fi5 standard (802.11ac) wireless networking and four Gigabit wired network ports. Up to 64 devices can be connected on Wi-Fi. This level of networking performance should be all that you’ll need for at least the next couple of years.
A recent addition to Huawei’s router line-up, the B628 offers a welcome increase in 4G download speed for very little additional cost.
Huawei brand this router as the 4G CPE Pro 2, indicating it to be a companion to their top of the range 5G CPE model. It’s missing the 5G and top end Wi-Fi 6Plus of the 5G model, but still leads the way in the 4G mid range class.
Similar in appearance to Huawei’s more expensive B818 and their 5G router range, the B628 offers maximum 4G speeds of 600Mbps (down) and 100Mbps (up). This design is limited to just two Gigabit ports, but does still offer TS9 external antenna connectors.
The clear winner in the 4G mid range class, however some compromise has been made on its Wi-Fi spec, which limits it to a maximum 1,200Mbps 802.11ac from Wi-Fi5.
TP-Link Deco X50-4G
TP-Link are a long established and well respected manufacturer of a wide range of networking equipment. They’ve recently introduced a range of Wi-Fi access points and extenders to their catalogue – the “Deco Mesh” family.
I’m personally very impressed with these products. They can breath new life into old Wi-Fi4 equipment by bypassing the slow and horribly congested 150Mbps 2.4GHz bottleneck and allowing newer devices to transfer data ten or more times faster, without the need for a new and more expensive Wi-Fi 5 or 6 router.
The Deco range starts with the fairly modest “Deco E3” with AC1200 Wi-Fi 5, but at the top end includes the incredible Wi-Fi 7 “Deco BE95” with 10 Gigabit/second wired Ethernet and up to 33 Gigabit Wi-Fi 7 wireless speeds.(3)
Most models in the Deco range are aimed at upgrading home and business wireless networks by providing high speed Wi-Fi access points that can be combined to form a “mesh” that covers are larger area.
However if you look for a “-4G” or “-5G” designation in the model name, this means the access point also features a 4G sim slot and modem which could be used as a fail-over backup of a fibre internet connection, or as a completely standalone 4G router like the other models on this page.
We recommend adding the Deco X20-4G and X50-4G models to your shortlist. The X20 has AX1800 Wi-Fi and the X50 has AX3000.
Speeds in the real world will probably be fairly close, but at the time of writing the X50-4G is on sale for the same price as the X20, making it the best choice (prices subject to change).
TP-Link AC1200 4G+ Cat6
Having recently dropped in price, the TP-Link AC1200 offers good value and 4G performance.
In 2023 it’s eclipsed by the new TP-Link Deco X20 and X50 4G routers, but these are both significantly more expensive.
If your other devices don’t support the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, or you just don’t require super fast wireless network transfer speeds, then the AC1200 4G+ is definitely still worth considering as it equals all but the Huawei B628 when it comes to 4G speed.
Aside from the Cat 12 Huawei B628 with its max of 600Mbps, it’s too close to call between all the other mid range 4G routers here and often the choice comes down to current pricing (which changes regularly!).
All offer 300/50 4G speeds, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and four Gigabit ports. These slightly older TP-Link routers can be excellent value and are sometimes discounted to around £100 on Amazon UK.
Recommendations – Mid Range
The 4G performance of the Huawei B628 makes it stand out, and is an excellent choice. The TP-Link Deco X50-4G trails it in 4G but offers massively improved wireless networking which could be more important depending the environment it’ll operate in.
Affiliate links / prices updated 2023-09-22
TP-Link X50-5G Deco
The stand out features of the Deco X50-5G from TP-Link are it’s 2.5Gbps wired Ethernet network port and AX3000 Wi-Fi 6.
Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 provides a Wi-Fi network with maximum speeds of 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz channel, and 2,402Mbps on the 5GHz channel. When combined these give up to 3,000Mbps Wi-Fi network speeds.
All the other 5G routers here equal this speed on the 2.4GHz frequency, but can only offer 1,200 Mbps on 5Ghz (down from 2,400 Mbps on the Deco X50), so can only offer up to a total of 1,800Mbps Wi-Fi network transfer speeds.
TP-Links top of the range 5G Deco router in fact doubles the above speeds again, on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi channels, giving AX6000 speeds. Price also double though!
Note: The Deco models have connectors for external antennae but some are SMB, not SMA. The routers often include converters in the box where applicable, but if not they can be bought separately for only a few extra pounds.
Huawei 4G Router 3 Prime B818
The B818 was released by Huawei in 2019 and is still probably the fastest 4G-only router available.
It’s the only router in this Premium section that is not 5G. While that makes it less future proof than the 5G models, in 4G only areas it should be able to match them for speed, and at a lower price.
Classed as LTE Cat 19, it offers theoretical 4G downloads of up to 1,600 Mbps and uploads of 150 Mbps – both around three times higher than most other 4G models here.
For an idea of real world speeds, Vodafone in Germany chose the B818 to use for their high end 4G service where it goes by the name “GigaCube CAT19”. Vodafone offers up to 500Mbps download on their 4G LTE network and real world 4G tests have shown download speeds around 300Mbps.
On the networking side the two Gigabit ports and 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 should be sufficient, although Wi-Fi 6 is now becoming common at this price point and does offer noticeably higher speeds.
The B818’s selling point is it’s top of the range 4G specification. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be used to completely replace a fixed-line broadband service, and unless you live in an area with very poor 4G reception, it may in fact be faster than some FTTC cable connections.
Huawei 5G CPE Pro 3
Since the first 5G router models released back in 2019, Huawei’s 5G CPE Pro range has always offered high performance levels for those willing to pay a premium price.
Updated in early 2022 this newest (version 3) router has a lower theoretical maximum 1,800 Mbps download in 5G mode, compared to the 3,600 Mbps of the previous model (v2).
Wireless networking is still Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax on both models, but the version 3 maxes out at 1,800Mbps (AX1800) compared to 3,000Mbps of the earlier, more expensive AX3000 model.
In locations where 5G isn’t yet available, the Huawei 5G CPE Pro 3 should still match the fastest 4G router here with downloads up to 1,600 Mbps and upload of 150 Mbps.
While the upload seems low in comparison, it should be noted that previous gen 4G routers usually only manage 50Mbps, so this 5G-ready device is still quite an improvement.
Where 5G is available the 5G CPE Pro 3 offers the following performance potential:-
- Download – up to 1,800 Mbps *
- Upload – up to 250 Mbps
* “Data from HUAWEI laboratories. The actual speed may vary depending on network conditions and internet data plans.”
Wi-Fi is the latest 802.11 AX1800 sometimes called Wi-Fi 6 Plus. This offers speeds up to three times that of Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac along with lower latency. Huawei claim a maximum transmission rate of 1,800 Mbps, and the ability to connect up to 128 devices.
As with the 4G Huawei B818 and previous 5G CPE Pro models, Gigabit Ethernet networking is included but limited to just two ports at the back.
ZTE 5G CPE MC801A
A relative newcomer to the 5G router market, the ZTE has coming crashing straight in and knocked the Huawei 5G CPE Pro 3 from the top spot!
It equals or betters the spec of Huawei’s 5G CPE Pro 3, at a price currently over £100 cheaper.
In addition, for only a slight price premium over the 4G-only Huawei B818, it offers improved, 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi networking.
Its Qualcomm® SDX55 5G chipset has a maximum download of 3.8Gbps and 542Mbps upload (* theoretical). It also has top of the range 4G performance with LTE Cat 22 (2500/300 Mbps).
The wired Ethernet setup is the same as the other routers in the Premium class, with a pair of Gigabit RJ45 ports.
In wireless mode it equals the other 5G routers here with 1,800Mbps 801.11 Wi-Fi6 – AX1800. These are all a significant jump up from the Wi-Fi 5 (1,200Mbps) on the 4G Huawei B818.
Finally, it’s also the only 5G router that allows the connection of an external antenna via a pair of TS9 ports.
Oppo 5G CPE T1a
Another newly released 5G router, the Oppo 5G CPE T1a offers top-end 5G performance at a price that undercuts some better known rivals.
Despite both having the same modem chipset (Snapdragon X55) Oppo and ZTE claim slightly different maximum download and upload speeds. It’s very likely that in reality they will both perform the same.
In 4G mode the Oppo is classed as 4G Cat20 and the ZTE is Cat22.
- Oppo 5G CPE T1a (Cat20) – 2000 / 300 (down/up)
- ZTE 5G CPE MC801A (Cat22) – 2500 / 300 (down/up)
They are also equal on the local networking front. Two Gigabit wired Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi 6 AX1800 wireless.
The Oppo lacks any connections for an external antenna, unlike the ZTE which has TS9 sockets.
Unless being able to connect an outdoor 4G or 5G antenna is a priority, our recommendation would be to select either the Oppo or ZTE based on whichever is priced lower.
At the time of writing (April 2023) the ZTE has the advantage of TS9 antenna connections, plus on paper better 4G performance, and at a lower price.
Were the pricing differences reversed the Oppo would likely become the best buy.
Real Word Speed Differences
While maximum theoretical 5G speeds approach 4Gbps (Gigabits per second) 5G speeds, it’s unrealistic to expect to reach even close to these kind of figures in the real world. Your 5G providers network will mostly likely be the limiting factor rather than 5G modem hardware.
The UK average for 5G when surveyed across a range of devices in early 2022 was between 100 – 200 Mbps.(1) However, some users with high end routers are reporting in excess of 500Mbps download speeds.(2)
Recommendations – Premium
The ZTE 5G CPE MC801A and TP-Link Deco X50 5G stand out here. The TP-Link has the best Wi-Fi but is more expensive and slower in 4G mode.
The Huawei B818 is a good alternative 4G-only router if you don’t yet need 5G.
4G Download / Upload Speed
All 4G devices are assigned an LTE UE category between 0 and 19, depending on their specification.
The budget models here are generally category 4 which means they all have a maximum download speed of 150Mbps and 50Mbps upload.
As the price increases you’ll find models higher up in the LTE category table. Download speeds here increase to the range of 300Mbps – 600Mbps, but uploads are still usually limited to 50Mbps.
Above this, even higher speeds are available but they don’t come cheap.
Currently 5G devices are not included under the UE-LTE categories. Generally though they should match Cat19 speeds when on 4G and nearly double this where 5G is available.
Of course these “theoretical” internet speeds are higher than you’ll usually reach in real world use. However, as long as you are not affected by a large number of people overloading the same cell tower, then a higher category device should still run faster than the lower category models.
All the routers here have at least 1 and usually 4 wired network (LAN) ports for connecting Ethernet network cables. The cheaper models only offer “Fast Ethernet” which limits the connection to around 100Mbps (11MB/sec megabytes a second).
If you only need a router for internet access the above should be sufficient. However if you want to transfer files across multiple devices or perhaps store some files centrally on a NAS, then 100 Mbps Ethernet will be a major bottleneck.
In these scenarios either pay the extra for a router with Gigabit ports, or as an alternative a separate Gigabit switch can give full 1,000 Mbps transfers between devices while at the same time sharing access to the 4G router as an internet access point.
In 2023, 1 Gbps Ethernet is still more than sufficient for internet access using 4G or 5G, but there could now be small business or even home environments where there are high-end wired devices equipped with 2.5Gb or even 10Gb Ethernet ports.
These higher bandwidth devices are most likely to be found on network-attached hard drives (NAS) or possibly advanced Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 mesh wireless access points capable of transmitting data at speeds exceeding 1,000Mbps.
If your work regularly involves accessing data at full speed on these devices, then a router with 1Gb ports will become a restriction. Some of the latest high end 5G models now include 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports such as the TP-Link 5G+”Deco” range.
This column shows the Wi-Fi standard (802.11) and capabilities of the router. The best standard here is 802.11ac or 11ax – now renamed to Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6. All standards are backward compatible so older equipment can still connect to an 802.11ac network, but it will only run at the slower speed.
All routers here offer at least 802.11n on the 2.4GHz spectrum. This should give “up to” 144Mbps or 300Mbps depending on the channel width setting, distance from the router and possible interference from overlapping signals nearby. They are shown in the table as Wi-Fi 4.
All of the mid and high end routers have 802.11ac. Going forward this is named Wi-Fi 5. This is a newer standard and combines both 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels and can give speeds that theoretically match wired Gigabit Ethernet at close range. For maximum real word performance though I’d still go with wired Gigabit were possible.
Many of the top end models now come with Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6 Plus. Combined with the growing number of smartphones, laptops and PC wireless cards that are also Wi-Fi 6 this provides some excellent networking performance that can in some circumstances beat even a fully wired Gigabit connection.
Wi-Fi 4 is more likely to suffer from interference from neighbouring wi-fi networks and also sometimes from electrical equipment. If Wi-Fi transfer speeds are important to you, avoid Wi-Fi 4 and go for a model with Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6.
- 802.11n is Wi-Fi 4, max 300 Mbps
- 802.11ac is Wi-Fi 5, max 1200 Mbps
- 802.11ax is Wi-Fi 6, generally 1700 – 3000 Mbps
One factor to bear in mind is whether the devices you’ll connect to your router support the faster standards. There’s little point (other than future proofing) in paying extra for 1800Mbps 802.11ac if your PC / laptop / phone only work at 300Mbps 802.11g for example.
The inSSIDer software can be very helpful in displaying your networks signal strength and detecting other nearby networks which may be causing interference.
External Antenna Connection Type
Depending on your location, using your routers built in antenna may work fine. In lower signal areas though, attaching an external antenna can often make a big difference.
There are generally two types of connector for attaching an external antenna. SMA and TS9. Adapters are also available to convert between the two sizes of connectors.
We’ve gone into a little more detail on choosing an external 4G antenna here.
 Open Signal, April 2022 – https://www.opensignal.com/reports/2022/04/uk/mobile-network-experience
 Deco ¦ TP-Link – https://www.tp-link.com/uk/home-networking/deco
Prices updated on 2023-09-22. Affiliate links & images from Amazon Product Advertising API