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Best Overall: TP-Link Archer A7 AC1750 at Amazon
"The TP-Link AC1750 is built with three antennas for long-range coverage of up to 2,500 square feet."
Best for Expandability: Eero Mesh at Amazon
"A great way to get started with mesh networking without spending a lot of money up front."
Best Range: Medialink MLWR-AC1200R at Amazon
"The Medialink AC1200 covers up to 2,000 square feet of space with dual-band Wi-Fi and beamforming antennas."
Best for Streaming: Linksys EA6350 at Amazon
"A USB 3.0 port and built-in DLNA server lets you easily share and stream media around your home."
Best for Gaming: Portal Wi-Fi at Amazon
"A budget-friendly router that's surprisingly great for gaming and also offers support for mesh networking."
Best High End: Asus RT-AC66U at Amazon
"Features dual-band 3x3 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology that lets you multitask with ease."
Best Parental Controls: Netgear R6230 at Amazon
"Features a clean dashboard that can be hooked up with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands."
Best Price: TP-Link TL-WR841N at Amazon
"TP-Link’s N300 is one of the most affordable routers available, but don’t let that low price tag fool you."
Best for Versatility: Asus RT-N12 at Amazon
"A versatile and inexpensive router that can also be used as a Wi-Fi range extender and VPN server"
Best Value: TP-Link Archer A6 at Amazon
"Dual-band Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO technology and a simple set up makes this little router a great value."
Courtesy of Amazon
Two USB ports
USB 2.0 only
Limited wireless settings
The TP-Link Archer A7 AC1750 router is one of the best routers you'll find under $100. This award-winning wireless router is easy to set up and ready to stream 4K UHD videos with up to 1.75 Gbps of bandwidth over its dual-band connectivity.
The TP-Link Archer A7 is built with three antennas for long-range coverage of up to 2,500 square feet and provides stable Wi-Fi performance to more than 50 devices with 802.11ac connections or older. Its built-in CPU ensures stable wireless connectivity using its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and its four Gigabit LAN ports for direct wired connections are ideal for gamers needing even higher speeds. Two USB 2.0 ports make it easy for your home network to share printers, files, and other media with multiple devices whether you’re at home or away. The Archer A7 comes with a two-year warranty and free 24/7 technical support.
Expandable to up to 5,000 square feet of coverage
Simple and easy to set up
Low cost of entry
Advanced features require a subscription
Requires app for setup
Although modern mesh networking systems can get pricey, they don’t necessarily have to be, especially when you can start with only a single unit and decide to add more later if you end up needing them. This is the case with Eero, which is a pure mesh system that works just fine as a standard router until you’re ready to expand it.
Sporting a dual-band Wi-Fi radio, the Eero offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, with wireless speeds of up to 550Mbps. A single Eero unit can easily cover 1,500 square feet by itself, but if that ends up not being enough you can easily add more units later on to expand your coverage to up to 5,000 square feet without having to worry about replacing your original router.
It’s also really easy to set up, thanks to the Eero smartphone app that’s available for both iOS and Android devices, and offers parental controls and malware protection, and even VPN and password management tools, although you’ll need to pay for an Eero Secure subscription for some of these features.
"Although some older routers support their own version of mesh technology, that's often implemented as an afterthought. On the other hand, modern "pure mesh" Wi-Fi systems generally offer better coverage and reliability, since they're engineered from the ground up to work in sync with each other, and are often sold in kits of two or three units." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Doubles as a range extender
Advanced settings are limited
The small and tidy Medialink MLWR-AC1200R delivers fast speeds and coverage while emphasizing user-friendliness, compatibility, control, and management. It features a strong firewall and wireless security that keeps out Wi-Fi thieves and also doubles as a range extender if you have another router.
The AC1200R covers up to 2,000 square feet of space using its dual-band frequencies with beamforming, which focuses stronger signals to your devices that need it most. A full set of access controls gives you the power to manage up to 20 Wi-Fi devices on your network, keep out untrusted connections, turn off router lights during the night if they’re too bright, and restrict access at certain time periods for kids or adults. It’s compatible with any modem and Internet service provider with an easy set up right out of the box that has you plugging it in, logging into it on your computer, and making connections immediately.
Fast 5GHz performance
Easy to set up
USB 3.0 DLNA server
Linksys is a popular name in Wi-Fi routers, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle to get one into your home, as the company offers some great entry-level models like the EA6350 that provide solid performance for smaller homes and apartments.
With dual-band AC1200 speeds, this little workhorse can provide throughput of up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 867Mbps over 802.11ac on the 5GHz side, which makes it a solid choice for streaming 4K video with almost no buffering. The two fixed beamforming antennas also help to focus your signal for fast performance over a 1,000+ square foot home, but if you need even more speed, there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can hardwire in a PC, game console, or set-top streaming box.
In addition to the five network jacks, around back you’ll also find a USB 3.0 port for connecting a shared printer or hard drive, and a built-in built-in DLNA server lets you easily share your media across your home network. Setting up the EA6350 is also a snap thanks to the Linksys Smart WiFi app, which not only walks you through the initial setup, but allows you to manage and monitor your network even when you’re away from home.
Inexpensive mesh solution
Optimized for gaming
Poor signal handoff
Some 5GHz issues
While it may not seem obvious from its appearance, Portal’s Wi-Fi is actually one of the more budget-friendly routers that gamers can buy, and as a bonus it also offers basic mesh networking features. Designed with low latency in mind, it actually handles serious game play quite well as long as you’re not trying to host a LAN party for a dozen of your closest friends.
In fact, the gaming-optimized features that Portal’s designers baked in actually attracted the attention of well-known gaming hardware maker Razer, leading to a partnership between the two companies to tweak the Portal even further for maximum gaming performance. Nine internal antennas include beamforming and MU-MIMO technology with solid dual-band AC2400 speeds, and since it supports mesh networking, you can add a second portal to blanket your home with up to 6,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage
There are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports here so you can hardwire in your PC or console if you find the Wi-Fi performance still isn’t up to your needs, although you may not need to with the patented FastLanes and SmartLanes technologies that ensure that your devices are using the best Wi-Fi channels and that your gaming traffic is always getting priority.
Mesh Network Support
Poor 2.4GHz performance
AiMesh can be complicated to set up
The high-end Asus RT-AC66U is loaded with useful features and yet it still manages to come in below $100. It eliminates performance drops with a dual-core 1Ghz CPU and high-powered antennae, ensuring stability with AC1750 speeds of up to 1750Mbps, and it can even mesh with other Asus routers in your home for a wide range of coverage.
The RT-AC66U also features dual-band 3x3 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology that lets you multitask with ease, from browsing the web to downloading files on its 2.4Ghz band or streaming HD movies and gaming online with its smooth 5GHz band. Its reliable firmware features and intuitive app navigation give you complete control to set advanced parental controls, use VPN services, manage network traffic and security, and diagnose connection issues, all without turning your computer on, and its lightning-fast USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports make it easy to connect to wireless printers and access files using the AiCloud 2.0 feature so you can watch movies, listen to music, or view photos from a shared hard drive.
Alexa and Google Assistant support
Smart parental controls
WAN port is only 100 Mbps
The Netgear R6230 comes with access to the Nighthawk app for both Android and iOS devices. Here, you can manage connected devices and enable remote access so you can control your router from virtually anywhere in the world. Packing in 802.11ac Wi-Fi dual-band technology and beamforming, the R6230 offers 300Mbps performance on the 2.4GHz band and 900Mbps of throughput on the 5GHz side, so it can handle multiple HD streams without interference.
The dedicated app also features a clean dashboard that can be hooked up with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands through cloud access. The app also allows you to find more info about the devices connected to your network, enable a guest network to keeps your Wi-Fi password private, pause your Internet, test your ISP provider’s speeds, and even use smart parental controls that integrate with Disney’s Circle app to filter content and limit when your kids can be online.
"Netgear's partnership with Circle proves that just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you can't get a router with great parental controls." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Good for small spaces
No Gigabit Ethernet
Not ideal for crowded networks
TP-Link’s N300 is one of the most affordable routers available, but don’t let that low price tag fool you, as it’s a very capable router if all you need is basic coverage for a small apartment or condo. It only runs on the 2.4GHz band, but it provides dual-stream 2x2 support for better throughput, and offers solid performance for 802.11n clients. It’s more than enough to stream even 4K UHD video.
There are four Ethernet ports on the back, and although you’ll be limited to fast Ethernet at 100Mbps speeds, that’s really not surprising at this price. This router isn’t really ideally suited for higher-speed Internet connections anyway, so the only real limit will be on data transfer between your own PCs, but you can easily add a network hub or switch if you really need faster speeds on your LAN.
The major downside is that with only a 2.4GHz band, it’s not an ideal choice if you have a lot of Wi-Fi devices in your home, as that frequency range can get pretty congested, but it should be more than fine for a single user or small family with one or two computers and a couple of smartphones, and even if you’re a smart home user, this can be a handy way to offload some of your internet of things devices from your main router.
Works as a router or repeater
Multiple wireless accounts
PPTP VPN support
No 5GHz support
Not suitable for very fast internet plans
This little Asus router has very few frills, but it gets the job done if you simply need to share access to a basic internet connection or you want to set up a guest network in your home or cottage. It only supports the 2.4GHz band, but when used as a secondary router this can also make it a handy way to create a dedicated network for your internet-of-things devices to keep them from cluttering up your main Wi-Fi network.
That said, the range is fairly limited as well, so it’s best suited for an apartment, condo, or a single floor of your home. However it’s affordable enough that you could buy an additional one if you needed more coverage, and in fact the RT-N12 can not only work as a router but can also be configured to function as a range extender, letting you add another one to get more coverage without the need to run an Ethernet cable to it.
You can also configure it to broadcast four separate network SSIDs with different passwords to help control internet access, meaning you could use one SSID for yourself, one for your kids, and one for your guests, all with different levels of access, and you can even choose how much bandwidth each one is able to use. Plus it includes basic PPTP VPN support to let you securely connect to your home network when you’re away, which is a somewhat rare feature in a budget router.
“Inexpensive routers don’t usually offer an especially long range, but they’re affordable enough that you can buy two or three if you need to cover a large home, which can be a great way to extend coverage if you’re willing to run your own Ethernet cables or use a Powerline adapter.” — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Good value for the price
No USB ports
One of the most affordable dual-band routers you can buy, TP-Link’s Archer A6 AC1200 router offers 802.11ac support so that you can get your newer Wi-Fi devices online at speeds of up to 867Mbps, while the 2.4GHz channel provides solid 300Mbps performance for older 802.11n devices.
This should give you more than enough speed to stream 4K UHD video onto newer devices as long as they’re within a reasonable distance; like most budget routers this isn’t going to provide enough range for a large home, but it’s cheap enough that you can afford to add a Wi-Fi extender if you need to, or even just buy another one of these and connect it to your main router via Ethernet.
Four Gigabit Ethernet ports let you hardwire in your devices that need more speed than the Wi-Fi offers, but you may not need to, considering that this model also offers advanced MU-MIMO technology on the 5GHz band that ensures that multiple devices can always get the fastest speeds possible.
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings.
Coverage - Just because you're not looking to spend a lot of money doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on coverage. While you probably won't find a router under $100 that can span a large home, many can still provide over 2,000 square feet by themselves, while even some of the most inexpensive ones can also work as range extenders, allowing you to cover a large home simply by purchasing two or three units—often for less than the cost of a single long-range router.
Single- or Dual-Band - If you're only looking to support one or two computers and a couple of smartphones, you can save a few bucks by going with a single-band router, which can still provide speeds of up to 300Mbps and usually offers decent range. If you're a smart home user or a gamer, however, a dual-band 802.11ac router will be a much better buy.
Advanced Features - While additional technologies like MU-MIMO and beamforming were once the exclusive domain of more expensive routers, they're becoming more common on budget routers, and if you have more than a few devices or a larger home, you'll definitely notice the performance improvement if you can pick up a router that includes these features.