Because of the epidemic, most of us are staying at home, which means that home routers now also work routers. However, for some, this creates a dilemma because transporting work-related traffic with dial tone-like dependability might be a challenging task for that outdated router that’s been collecting dust under your television.
If your network is wheezing under the strain of handling your work-at-home data traffic on top of its usual gaming and entertainment duties, it’s time to upgrade to something more current. However, with the epidemic straining budgets as well as bandwidth, you’re most certainly searching for something more cost-effective to use. Let us introduce you to this slew of network deals.
Higher-end wireless routers make use of the most recent Wi-Fi technology to offer blistering data speeds and innovative capabilities, but they may cost upwards of $300 or more in some cases. You’re seeking a speed increase, but you don’t necessarily need the most up-to-date and expensive technology to get it.
A budget-class router may save you a bundle on network connectivity for small homes or apartments with only a handful of devices connected. You’ll still get good throughput speed and even some of today’s more sophisticated capabilities with a budget-class router, but they won’t be as feature-rich. Continue reading to learn what to look for (and what to expect) with a desktop router that costs less than $150.
Read more: Best Wifi Router
1. TP-Link Archer AX21
Many individuals do not have gigabit internet connections in their homes, and even if they have, they do not require all of that bandwidth on their wireless devices, according to the study. The TP-Link Archer AX21 is an excellent pick for most individuals who want a wireless router that provides excellent speed for mobile devices that support Wi-Fi 6 without having to pay for features they won’t use. It is also reasonably priced. This router provides 574Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1201Mbps at 5GHz when connected through an AX1800 connection. You may also connect your connected devices to the network using the four Ethernet ports.
While it may be tempting to upgrade to a faster router, it is important to remember that with Wi-Fi 6, this router can accomplish more with less in terms of spectrum and speed. According to Wi-Fi 5, an Android phone will connect at the maximum speed of 867Mbps, but an identical WI-Fi 6 device will connect at the maximum speed of 1201Mbps.
The software developed by TP-Link has advanced significantly in recent years, and this router has basic parental controls, QoS settings, and support for OneMesh technology. OneMesh enables you to utilize a compatible TP-Link Wi-Fi extender to increase the coverage of your network while maintaining the same Wi-Fi name and password. This router offers an excellent combination of features, as well as sufficient speed for most people’s needs at home.
2. TP-Link AC1750
This router, also known as the Archer C7, provides high-speed internet up to 1.75Gbps across a radius of 2,500 square feet, which is sufficient to feed around 50 internet-hungry mobile devices. It is most renowned for its 4K streaming capabilities, but it will not leave a player out in the cold.
The dual-band capabilities of Archer C7 allow it to differentiate between users’ needs based on the intensity of their traffic. When utilizing the Wi-Fi 4 standard, the 2.4GHz band is reserved for emailing, chatting, and surfing. When using the Wi-Fi 5 standard, however, streaming and gaming are handled by the 5GHz band.
The three external antennas and high-power amplifiers guarantee that all operations within a wide coverage area are carried out at exceptional speeds. Devices that require physical connections have four LAN ports at their disposal, whilst your printer or storage device connects via the USB 2.0 port on your computer.
If you want to keep your home or work life distinct from that of your visitors, you may do so with Archer C7 by creating a separate network for them.
3. Nighthawk AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router (R6700)
At any one time, a typical home with a monthly Wi-Fi budget has a minimum of four gadgets that are clamoring for access to the internet. With some members owning more than one of these devices, as well as the potential of a visitor staying a bit longer than expected, the total number of devices reaches more than ten.
How do you keep this clan happy when you don’t have access to a fast enough internet connection?
The Nighthawk AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router can provide high-speed internet access to up to 25 devices, each of which can access a separate service at up to 1.75Gbps dual-band speed. The router, which is powered by a 1GHz Dual-core Processor and 256MB RAM, employs three removable antennae to distribute Internet service to devices within 1,500 square feet of your home.
Because of Beamforming+ technology, the Wi-Fi signal is delivered to particular devices on an individual basis rather than broadcasting and the devices catching up with it. With one USB 3.0 port for connecting your printer or accessing a shared storage device, five gigabit Ethernet ports (1 WAN, 4 LAN), and support for wireless protocols ranging from 802.11a to Wi-Fi 5 shared across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, it is a great choice for small businesses.
By selecting the Nighthawk AC1750 router, you can protect your network against potential cyber threats and Denial-of-Service assaults with the NETGEAR Amor by Bitdefender security software. Aside from that, you have the option of creating a guest network for your pals that is different from your primary network.
4. TP-Link Archer AX10
If you want to add Wi-Fi 6 functionality to your network for the least amount of money feasible, the TP-Link Archer AX10 is the only device that can compete. The AX1500 router offers AX1500 speeds, with 300Mbps accessible at 2.4GHz and 1201Mbps available at 5GHz on the 2.4GHz band. The fact that a 2.4GHz signal will go further than a 5GHz signal means that devices at the extreme edge of your network may not be able to access the full speed of your router. Even so, for a smaller home, this should not be a problem, and a 5GHz connection should provide more than enough speed.
Before getting too excited about the router’s raw speed possibilities, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of people do not have internet connections that are anywhere near fast enough to make use of the router’s maximum speed. Additionally, just about 25Mbps is required to broadcast 4K video over the internet.
Along with all of the other excellent features that come with Wi-Fi 6, like more consistent coverage and the ability to connect with far more devices than Wi-Fi 5, you also receive all of the other benefits of Wi-Fi 6. Four Ethernet ports are included on the rear of the Archer AX10, allowing you to connect all of your wired devices without the need for any extra equipment. If you’re wanting to add Wi-Fi 6 to your home but don’t require a lot of speed, this is one of your finest options.
5. Linksys MAX-STREAM MR7350
Linksys is putting greater emphasis on Wi-Fi 6 with the release of a well-balanced and reasonably priced router. The MR7350, housed in a subdued chassis that should last for years, provides speeds that are comparable to other AX1800 models, which means they are sufficient for the majority of users. Linksys claims that the 5GHz channel has a potential speed of 1201Mbps while the 2.4GHz channel has a potential speed of 574Mbps. On the rear, there are four Ethernet connections for connecting wired devices, as well as a USB 3.0 port.
Because it provides coverage up to 1,700 sq ft, this router alone is an excellent choice for many houses and flats. If you discover that you require additional coverage or if you live in a house that is difficult to cover completely, you may increase your coverage by adding another Linksys Velop capable mesh router. This also covers the complete Velop mesh range, providing you with a plethora of options in terms of speed and protection.
Given the fact that our Wi-Fi requirements are increasing all the time, and that when local traffic and congestion increase, the ability to patch in extra coverage will be worthwhile, having a mesh-capable router can be a significant advantage.
6. Asus RT-AX86
For hardcore competitive gamers, a cable connection should be used whenever feasible, and the Asus RT-AX86 provides excellent support thanks to its fast 2.5Gbps Ethernet connector. If you must utilize wifi, this router nevertheless makes the most of it, providing a fast 2.4GHz connection capable of up to 861Mbps and a 5GHz connection capable of up to 4804Mbps. This additional speed at 2.4GHz allows you to maintain a fast connection even when you travel further away from your router. In addition, this router features four additional gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting lower-priority wired devices.
Asus offers a fantastic software suite that includes a number of gaming-specific features. A mobile gaming optimizer is a tool that helps you obtain an advantage when playing Android games. When a router is recommended by Nvidia GeForce NOW, it implies that it will maintain pings as low as possible, whether you are gaming locally or streaming. When many PCs or consoles are connected to the same game port, classic prioritization can be used. There is no need for any additional configuration.
Finally, Asus adds AiMesh compatibility for future coverage expansion that will be simple to implement. AiProtection Pro, which includes parental controls and antivirus protection for all of your connected devices, is also included as a free bonus with your purchase.
7. Eero 6
The earlier Eero was one of our favorite mesh routers, because of its very user-friendly UI and consistently high performance levels. Eero 6 takes it a step further by offering faster AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 speeds while being significantly smaller in size than the previous Eero. The rates are 574Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1201Mbps at 5GHz, according to the manufacturer. Eero suggests this router for use with a gigabit connection on its own or with a mesh network of up to 500Mbps connections.
The software provided by Eero is excellent, with everything being controlled through an app. Despite the fact that you don’t have as much control as you would with other routers, everything you need to get started is provided, from configuration to device management. From the app, you can also configure features like IPv6, WPA 3, and even port forwarding, among others. Although the Eero 6 does not provide as much coverage as comparable routers in this price range, its small size and ease of mesh extension make up for it. With regard to mesh networking, the Eero 6 is compatible with all previous Eero models, including the Wi-Fi 5 model, so if you need to increase your coverage, you have lots of alternatives.
8. Asus RT-AX55
The Asus RT-AX55 provides a comparable level of performance to the top-ranked model, with a few more software features thrown in to sweeten the bargain. There is an AX1800 connection on this router, which provides 574Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1201Mbps at 5GHz. This router features a straightforward design, with four Ethernet ports on the rear for connecting connected devices to the network. One item that is lacking is a USB port, which is something that most people would never use.
The software that comes pre-installed on this router makes it stand out from the crowd. TrendMicro’s antivirus program, AiProtection, is offered as a free bonus with the antivirus software. While this is a feature found on the majority of Asus routers, it’s good to see it extend to even the most basic Wi-Fi 6 models. Parental restrictions are also included in Ai Protection. AiMesh is still available, and it allows you to quickly increase your coverage by adding more Asus routers. This router also offers a pleasing appearance, thanks to its textured black chassis and red accents.
9. TP-Link N450
The TL-WR940N from TP-Link is one of the most reasonably priced routers available. While you are saving money by purchasing this router at this price, the strong 2.4GHz 802.11n WI-Fi 4 performance makes it a perfect pick for anyone who does not require support for 5GHz devices or who does not want a lot of bandwidth.
Despite the fact that this restricts the TL-2.4GHz WR940N’s band speeds to 450Mbps, this is typically all you can achieve on the 2.4GHz band with even more costly dual-band routers. Furthermore, it is more than sufficient for three or four devices to simultaneously stream in 4K and conduct Zoom calls. Furthermore, it offers basic Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities that let you regulate how much bandwidth each connected device may consume, allowing you to guarantee that your smart TVs and gaming consoles function to their full potential.
The greatest drawback is that, while you do get four Ethernet ports on the rear, they are only Fast Ethernet, which means that your wired connections will be restricted to a maximum speed of 100 Mbps. This provides the odd situation in which you may actually receive greater performance using your devices through Wi-Fi than you would if you connected them directly to the router, although this is not always the case.
Choosing the Perfect Budget WiFi Router
The capabilities and features of WiFi routers may be quite diverse, so it’s critical to have a clear understanding of how you want to use yours before you begin looking for one. Underestimating the amount of coverage or bandwidth required will result in interruptions and unnecessarily long loading times.
However, if you choose a router that has features and capacities that you do not want, you will be squandering your money. As a result, it is not always necessary to get the most costly model. Prior to selecting a router, you should take into consideration the following considerations.
Wi-Fi 5 vs. Wi-Fi 6
Nowadays, most budget routers are equipped with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) technology, however, there are still a few Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) routers available, so it’s still worth looking for them. The latter, on the other hand, are single-band routers that operate on the 2.4GHz frequency range and have extremely restricted throughput capabilities. Not quite a death sentence, but it does imply that they are unlikely to work effectively with today’s computers, mobile devices, and smart-home gadgets, all of which require at least a Wi-Fi 5 connection to function well. As well as multimedia duties such as video streaming and online gaming, they are ill-equipped to do these jobs.
Wi-Fi 5 routers, on the other hand, are dual-band devices that allow you to connect to the internet utilizing both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands at the same time. Additionally, they contain numerous other enhancements, including MU-MIMO technology, which sends data concurrently (rather than sequentially) to compatible client devices rather than sequentially. Another interesting feature to look for is beamforming, which transmits wireless signals directly to clients rather than over a wide range of frequency spectrum. The term “automated band-steering” appears on the spec sheet of your router, which indicates the router is capable of selecting the most efficient radio band depending on the current network traffic, the availability of bands, and the strength of the signal.
It’s important to understand that the 2.4GHz radio band, which is ideal for long-range transmissions but can be vulnerable to interference from other home equipment such as microwave ovens and cordless phones, is the most likely one to be used. This band offers significantly more bandwidth than the 2.4GHz band and is therefore ideal for video streaming, online gaming, and large file downloads. However, it has a limited range, which is why these systems are frequently supplemented with a wireless range extender, particularly in larger homes.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is the most recent generation of wireless technology, and it provides significantly enhanced throughput speeds of up to 4.8 gigabits per second (Gbps), making it a popular choice for both business-class networking and gamers searching for a fast gaming router. It is still possible to future-proof your home network without spending a fortune since there are a few Wi-Fi 6 routers available for around $150 that will meet all of your needs. To ease network congestion and minimize client power consumption, it makes use of a variety of innovative technologies, including Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Target Wake Time (TWT).
Aside from that, Wi-Fi 6 makes use of previously underutilized radio frequency bands to deliver better 2.4GHz performance, provides WPA3 security, which guards against weak passwords, and employs 256-bit encryption to help keep your network secure from hackers. Finally, it enables both upstream and downstream MU-MIMO streaming (whereas 802.11ac only allows downlink MU-MIMO), as well as being backward compatible with earlier Wi-Fi standards.
And if you see a router promoted as being compliant with Wi-Fi 6E, keep in mind that this is simply the most recent iteration of the Wi-Fi 6 story. The software capabilities of the protocol are the same as those of Wi-Fi 6, which means you’ll receive all of the additional goodies associated with features like OFDMA and TWT while using 6E. As well as access to the newly released 6GHz band, routers that support 6E will have access to significantly more wireless bandwidth, which should provide significantly more room for those bandwidth-hogging work applications while also addressing issues such as difficult connections due to bandwidth congestion. 6E routers, on the other hand, are unlikely to appear in the budget router market for some time.
Speed on a Budget
In fact, the most costly Wi-Fi 5 routers, including the latest wireless mesh systems, may deliver “combined” download rates of up to 5,400 megabits per second (Mbps). That just refers to the combined maximum throughput of both bands, rather than the actual speed of the router itself. In order to distinguish them from other routers, they are branded as AC5400 routers, however many of these versions will cost close to $300 or more.
For less than $100, you can expect to get AC750 Wi-Fi 5 routers, which can deliver download speeds of up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and upload rates of up to 450Mbps on the 5GHz band, respectively. You may even get AC2200 routers for less than $100, which can provide download speeds of up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and upload rates of up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band.
In addition to this, the current generation of AX1500 Wi-Fi 6 routers, whether they are mesh or standalone, can handle data speeds of up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,200Mbps on the 5GHz band. It’s crucial to remember that these speed ratings are theoretical and pertain to the highest speeds that can be achieved. However, we extensively evaluate all of our competitors so that you can see all of the important real-world data, like throughput and signal strength, before making a final decision on which one to choose.
An interesting trend in the higher-end router market is that prices are starting to come down, which is encouraging. No, you will not find any Wi-Fi mesh systems in our budget roundup at this time, but we are seeing these devices becoming less expensive, so you may see them in the near future.
Should You Compromise on Key Features?
So far, it appears that you can find pretty much whatever you want in a router that costs less than $100. Unfortunately, it is not likely to be the case in this instance. To keep costs down, many routers do away with many of the functions that are included on more costly versions in order to achieve a lower price point. On the hardware side, you won’t find any sub-$100 routers that have more than four LAN ports, nor will you discover features such as multi-gigabit (2.5Gb) LAN connections that are fast.
Read more: Best Router for NAS
The capacity to do link aggregation will be absent, as will the presence of USB ports. External hard drives and other peripherals, like printers, can be connected directly to them via these connectors (a quick way to build your own network attached storage or NAS device).
The second characteristic of budget routers is that their external antennas are generally non-removable, which means that they cannot be changed with more powerful high-gain antennas to assist enhance performance and extend the range of the router’s signal.
Budget routers are operated using a web console or a mobile app, much like their more costly counterparts, but they will most likely miss some of the more complex features found on the more expensive models. Included in this will most likely be support for bandwidth allocation, also known as QoS (Quality of Service), dedicated online gaming presets, and VPN connectivity. There may also be support for DD-WRT firmware, a Linux-based firmware upgrade that replaces the manufacturer’s firmware and provides enhanced settings that allow you to customize the router to achieve maximum performance.
Apart from that, many midrange and high-end routers come with powerful parental controls with age-based settings that block out things like social media sites, gambling sites, online shopping, and violent or adult material, which are not available on many budget-class routers. You may, however, continue to utilize basic access scheduling and URL filtering tools to help you keep track of when your children are online and which websites they are allowed to view. Alternatively, you may purchase a parental control package that is tailored to the needs of your family.
Adding more functionality to your budget router is a smart idea since, unlike many mesh systems and midrange to high-end routers, budget routers often come equipped with just the most basic software capabilities, which may be expanded with third-party software.
The chances are that you will not come across one that includes things like name-brand security software that can protect your network and client devices from phishing, viruses, adware, and other malware, or real parental control solutions that can make it much more difficult for your children to find the potentially harmful areas of the internet.
Check out our Malware Protection and Removal roundup to discover which products are the most probable candidates for partnering with your router of choice.
No matter which router you end up selecting, keep in mind that once you’ve discovered one, you should review our instructions for configuring your router and improving your wireless network connection.