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2020 Best Wi-Fi Routers (including Parental Controls)

2020 Wireless Router Testing

2020 Best Wi-Fi Routers (including Parental Controls)

Most parents freeze up when you ask them about their Wi-Fi router. “Is that the same as a modem?” “Haven’t touched it since my internet provider gave us one last year.” “It’s behind the couch somewhere.”

In the age of COVID-19, your router is the social distancing champion. No one goes near it!

And yet, we believe it’s the MOST important digital device in any home. Here’s why.

Wi-Fi Routers At A Glance

PYE performed testing on four popular WiFi router solutions: Circle, Gryphon, Google WiFi, Bark Home, and Eero. We poked around like a curious teen. Spoke with their customer service. Loaded them up with 9+ devices and tried to use them just like you do.

There are others we could have tested. But these four tend to be the ones we hear parents mention the most. We also compared them to a FREE service like CleanBrowsing, which some parents really like, too (OpenDNS is similar to CleanBrowsing, but not as effective).

Related post: How to block porn on any device for free

We’re pretty good at testing stuff! (You should check out our 2020 parental control software testing! Excel spreadsheet explosion!)

Gryphon

In the end, the Gryphon router came out on top. It’s easy to install, looks good, has a strong safe search, and is tough to circumvent. It also has a really inexpensive VPN solution for using your home’s network controls on data plans and other networks (HomeBound).

Gryphon has the single Guardian unit at $99, which works for my family’s needs. For larger homes (>2,000 sq. ft.), you’ll want the tower shown in the picture below for just over $200.

Gryphon Router

Circle

Circle is by far the most popular device, and did well (we still recommend it), but its strength is screen time control – not content control. The sites that kids might visit end up in a bit of a jumbled mess and are hard to sort, especially if you have a lot of devices.

Remember, Circle isn’t a router. While there is a Netgear router that has Circle built into it, Circle usually connects to your existing router. Full disclosure, we didn’t test the Netgear router – we tested the separate Circle device like you see in the image below. We mention this so that you are aware of the cost. When we say that Circle costs $129, that’s just the Circle device and not a router cost.

Circle Parental Controls

Google WiFi

Google WiFi has a huge advantage, in that its Nest and voice assistant make it much more than just a Wi-Fi router. Although it blocks most known porn domains with SafeSearch, you can still browse explicit search results. I can’t click or tap through to anything, but when I can read the metadata (descriptions) attached to search results, it can get pretty nasty. When you see the yellow “URL” in the testing results below, you now know what it means.

Eero

Eero honestly just stunk at just about everything we tried – other than an easy set-up and it’s pretty. But as far as protecting my kids from online harm – I wouldn’t trust it with my kids (and everything has to work on my kids before I recommend it for your kids).

A few other considerations

  • Gryphon initially lost my support ticket and left me hanging for a few days. This is why they got a yellow on the spreadsheet with the “Fast – email” tag. Once they found my request, they were FAST with a response. My request, unfortunately, coincided with a support desk software change, and some tickets got lost – including mine!
  • We were truly shocked at how many holes there are in the Eero “safe search” option. Dare I say that their parental controls are a “mesh!”

Wi-Fi Router Testing Results

Bring on the spreadsheets! Excel is one of my love languages, so here are the testing results that support our Wi-Fi router conclusions.

When you see “URL’S” highlighted in yellow, that means you can’t click through to sites, but you can see search results in the URL listing. These site descriptions can be very graphic, even if there aren’t any pictures or videos.

Wireless Router Testing PYE 1

As you can see, Gryphon does the best job at just blocking most search engines in addition to blocking known porn domains. This avoids the URL’s from being seen at all.

Wireless Router Testing PYE 2

Gryphon, Circle, and Eero each have a service that can take your home’s network settings and use them anywhere – data, McDonald’s Wi-Fi, friend’s house.

It’s time to get your router under control!

**Special note for AT&T U-verse families (and anyone else with a router from an Internet Service Provider who won’t let you change the DNS settings). Unfortunately, those darn 2-Wire routers from AT&T and others are NOT configurable. This great article from CleanBrowsing explains how you can purchase another router, like the Gryphon Guardian, and use it in tandem with the U-Verse router.

Next Steps!

  1. Do something about the router in your home. If you don’t know how, then ask a nearby teenager! Setting up the router and talking about why certain controls are in place for both the kids and the adults is a GREAT way to have a TRUST-BUILDING conversation with your child, giving them agency in the process.
  2. Did you know that PYE is creating an app for parents? The pandemic has robbed us of our ability to meet with parent and student groups, so we’re bringing our best content right to your purse/pocket. Like the router set-up example in #1 above, the entire app shows families how to learn technology together. Would you like to join the PROTECT launch team? We’d love to have you!

Join the PROTECT launch team!

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40 thoughts on “2020 Best Wi-Fi Routers (including Parental Controls)”

  1. Hey Chris, just purchased a Deco mesh wifi router (3 pack) and am curious how they hold up to the tests. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there seems to be no way to “auto” designate settings (if someone has your password and logs into your wifi it is completely open until you use the app to assign them to a user group with restrictions in place). Curious if I should be considering a return and look more into Gryphon.

    1. Hi, Toran – I don’t know anything about the Deco mesh router that you purchased. Looking at the description, it appears to have parental controls, but you would have to poke around yourself, using some of the searches that are on our testing spreadsheets and see how it measures up. What you describe with no “auto-designating” is fairly common, as none of the routers that I tested have that either (although I’m now going to check the Gryphon just to be sure). Instead, Gryphon tells me when a new device starts using the WiFi and then sticks it in the “unmanaged devices” category in my app.

      Chris

  2. Hi Chris,
    We currently have Spectrum(was Time Warner) as our internet provider. In the past we have tried to put open DNS on our router and have been unsuccessful. We have even tried replacing the router. We think that Spectrum may not allow us to change the DNS . How do we find that out for sure? And would it be better to just change internet providers?
    Sorry for all the questions. We just found your website. It is answering a lot of questions and giving us great direction but also leaving us with some questions!
    So lastly, would the Gryphon router replace our existing router or used with it?

    Thanks so much, Sue Ellis

    1. Hello, Sue! I’d keep what you have with Spectrum. It’s probably what will ensure the best service with them. But, you can just plug a Gryphon Guardian ($99) into the back of their router and use the Gryphon as the access point (WiFi) for your children. Just don’t give them WiFi access to the Spectrum router. Does that make sense? Here’s a link to Gryphon: https://amzn.to/3345RfJ

      Best, Chris

      1. Hi Chris,

        We ended up just replacing the spectrum router with a Gryphon router. Although, recently we think we are having trouble with there being some conflict between the gryphon filter and the covenant eyes filter we have on our computers. Did we not set them up correctly to be compatible?

        Thanks for your response, Sue

        1. Hi, Sue – I don’t think Gryphon and CE are compatible. You might call CE Member Care to find out for sure. There’s likely something in the use of the CE VPN that isn’t working well with Gryphon’s settings. Amended! CE and Gryphon should work together.

          Chris

          1. I am confused. In the article on “Best Parental Control Software” you stated that ” I use a combination of Covenant Eyes + a Gryphon Router + Family Link (Android tablet) + iOS Screen Time to manager all devices in my own home.” Here, you say CE and Gryphon aren’t compatible. Can you please clarify this as we are trying to find the right combination for us. Thank you!

        2. Hi Chris & Sue,
          We have Spectrum as well. Did you have any issues when you replace their router with Gryphon? Is it important to also use Covenant Eyes if you are already using Gryphon?

          1. Hi, Nicole – I don’t use Spectrum, so I can’t speak to this specific situation. A good, first step is to call their customer service and just tell them that you’d like to use a different router and ask for complications. Make sure you let them know that you understand they are trained to convince you to use theirs but that you’d like something with stronger protections, just so you can cut through their sales talk. Covenant Eyes serves a different purpose. It IS important to have software on the device so that it’s protected even when it’s not using your WiFi with Gryphon. So, yes, using CE is also a good idea!

            Hope that helps!
            Chris

          2. Hi All,

            This is a follow up to our issues with Spectrum. We did end up connecting the Gryphon router to Spectrums . However, we just found out CE is not working properly. I guess it has to do with Spectrum not being willing to let us make changes to its DNS so it is in conflict with Gryphon? We are at the point were we wither need to get rid of Gryphon or change internet providers.

  3. I just purchased a eero mesh system (yes before I read this article ). Is there anything I can do to to make it more secure?

    1. Hello, Rachel – I’m afraid that there’s not much. You might try putting CleanBrowsing’s Family DNS in as a manual DNS on the app. I might try that first as a more effective porn-blocker on the EERO.

  4. We have AT&T Uverse and are considering doing the tandem option with the Gryphon. Will this tandem slow down our internet? If so, are there any solutions to help with this? Thank you for all the work you guys do! It is so helpful!!

  5. Can you please post an article/tutorial on your recommendations for and how to set up the parental controls for Gryphon? Thank you for all you do. Amazing work. Well done.

  6. Great article write up Chris.

    To all the parents who have router provided by their carrier (AT&T/Verizon/Spectrum/Comcast), regardless if you are unable to change the default/system DNS on their equipment. I recommend purchasing your own wireless router (per recommendations above) for everyone.

    Also, for those who are a little more tech savvy, some carrier routers allow you to modify the LAN side DHCP/DNS settings for devices, so that you aren’t restricted to the carrier’s default DNS settings. (I did this on our Comcast wireless router) even though we have a separate wireless router behind Comcast. Just incase anyone tried to “get around”.

    For those who do install a second router behind the carrier, you might also want to go in and turn off the Wifi.. There is no sense in broadcasting the wireless network, and I can guarantee that if your kid is smart enough, he’ll try to connect to it to get around the family (safe) router).

    Keep up the great work Chris, much appreciated.
    -Tim

  7. Hi! Thank you so much for all your research. My question is can I pair CleanBrowsing dns with my gryphon router, or is this not necessary?
    I am currently using circle with my att router. We have terrible wifi coverage I our home and neighborhood, and when I pair clean dns it sooooo slow. I am looking to purchase a new router like gryphon and getting rid of circle , but wondering if the CleanBrowsing dns should be coupled with it…

    1. Also, what about asus and net gear for parental controls…? When I read the reviews on the gryphon app they are unfavorable and it makes me skeptical. Thank u again

      1. Hello! I’ve not had any issues over the past year using it. I’ve also had really good feedback from people who have taken our recommendation. Routers are fickle. But, I would give the Gryphon a shot and let me know how it goes.
        Chris

  8. I am reading and learning and have become a bit confused. We have been using Qustodio for some time now. We are about to change over to the Gryphon router mentioned above. We also are going to try to figure out the clean DNS stuff as well. Does this mean we can ditch Qustodio? Do we still need some type of Parental Control software? It sounds like layers are the key to any of this. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi, Marie – Gryphon and Qustodio have some overlap but are also very different. The answer to your questions depends on your goals, your devices, and your kids. Gryphon is for your WiFi – for anyone who might connect to your home network. You can use Gryphon’s Homebound service to use the router’s parental controls even when a smartphone is using data. That Homebound aspect of Gryphon has some similarities with what Qustodio is trying to do at the DEVICE level. For some parents, Gryphon might be enough. Qustodio has more features than Gryphon’s homebound and works on more device types.

      What I would do is also read this: https://protectyoungeyes.com/the-best-parental-control-software-for-2020/
      Best to you!
      Chris

  9. I’m looking at the Gryphon Mesh router. I am currently using Circle. Is there any reason to use both of them or will the Gryphon Mesh router be enough?

  10. Hi Chris,

    My ISP is Comcast and must use their XB6 modem/router. I cannot alter the DNS to point to CleanBrowsing, or don’t know the workaround to make it so. If I am able to get another modem/router to connect behind the Comcast one and use CleanBrowsing family filter…do you think that it would be on par with Gryphons router and parameters for family filtering?

      1. Thanks Chris. Follow-up question…on this comment from Sept. 29 @ 3:13 PM by Tim Mann (https://protectyoungeyes.com/2020-best-wi-fi-routers-including-parental-controls/#comment-20913), he states, “…for those who are a little more tech savvy, some carrier routers allow you to modify the LAN side DHCP/DNS settings for devices, so that you aren’t restricted to the carrier’s default DNS settings. (I did this on our Comcast wireless router).”

        Might you know the trick to get around Comcast’s restriction from changing their DNS? I would like to at least attempt changing my Comcast XB6 DNS to point to the Clean Browsing Family Filter and seeing if that would be sufficient, before purchasing a Gryphon. If you don’t know, might you be able to forward my question to Tim Mann?

        Point of clarification on the Gryphon…does it filter the Roku, Youtube, (Advertisements, apps, etc)?

        1. Good morning, Michael! I replied to you via email about the Comcast question. Gryphon doesn’t filter explicit movie content in Roku – you would need to do that via Roku’s parental controls (see our guide under Devices). Gryphon can force YouTube Restricted Mode across your home’s network.

          Chris

  11. I recently purchased the Gryphon. It dies but seen to work with my children’s Chromebooks. They are not school managed. I bought them for their online school use, but realizing how difficult they would be to manage. I use Family Link on the Chromebooks but it doesn’t work particularly well. There seem to be a lot of ways my more tech savvy chikd can find to get around the controls. I work from home but can’t supervise my childrens’ schoolwork at the same time, so I need parental controls that will effectively restrict my childrens’ chromebook usage to the sites they need for school. My child with ADHD in particular doesn’t get schoolwork done if she can navigate to other sites and apps. Sites and apps I block frequently become unblocked. I have followed all directions to set up Family Link correctly, gone back and reset it to make sure but my daughter stills gets around it I wish now that I had bought Windows devices instead. I was hoping that the Gryphon would help with the Chromebooks however they are not able to use the Chromebooks at all unless google com is enabled on and the mode is set to high school or adult. Otherwise the wifi gets disconnected due to the way the Chromebook works. I’ve communicated with Gryphon customer service about this multiple times and it does not appear there is anything they can do about it. So while the Gryphon can still provide filtering it does not appear any of their parental controls are possible on a Chromebook. I was really hoping the Gryphon would help but it doesn’t seem to.

  12. Chris,
    Could you take a look at the First Alert Onelink Secure Connect. They allow you to set up profiles per person, assign devices to each profile, and set bedtime, time limits, and content filters for those profiles.
    Thanks!

  13. Chris,
    Could you add a row to your comparison table to add which products allow you to set separate schedules for School/Work time vs Play time? Gryphon allows you to set different filters so children can’t get to gaming sites when they are supposed to be working on schoolwork.
    Thanks!

  14. Hi Chris,

    I was told by a tech savvy friend to use Cysco because it would protect any device in our house whether they’re using our wifi or their own cellular data. Do you know if that’s accurate? Any suggestions on how to protect our kids from seeing things on their friend’s phone when they’re in our home and not using our wifi?

    Thanks,
    Shannon

    1. Are you referring to Cisco software on devices or something else? There’s really no way to control a friend’s device that’s using cellular data other than to outlaw the usage of those devices with your kids. This is where good conversations with those parents is so important!

      Chris

  15. Hi Chris: In the first paragraph under Wifi Routers At a Glance, Bark Home is mentioned, but I don’t see it discussed in the article or on your comparison spreadsheet. What are your thoughts on Bark Home as a comprehensive solution for blocking inappropriate sites and content on multiple devices?

    1. Hi, Celia – Bark Home will be included in our 2021 router review, which is almost done! It’s a fine device, and for those who want to keep their current router, and pair it with Bark, it can work very well!
      Chris

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