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Best Overall: TP-Link Archer A6 at Amazon
"Offers surprisingly good performance for its lower price, with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and MU-MIMO."
Best Range: TP-Link Archer C50 at Amazon
"With 802.11ac support, you’re future-proofed alongside far more expensive routers."
Best for Home Office: Asus RT-N12 at Amazon
"Designed specifically for small businesses and home office networks."
Best Design: Linksys E1200 at Amazon
"Services a slightly more demanding network arrangement."
Best Price: TP-Link TL-WR841N at Amazon
"This router is designed for smaller spaces, such as a studio or small apartment."
Best for Older Devices: Netgear WNDR3400 at Amazon
"A classic router that provides excellent speeds for older 2.4GHz devices."
Best for Travel: TP-Link TL-WR902AC at Amazon
"An affordable and pocketable router that lets you set up a bubble of Wi-Fi wherever you go."
Good value for the price
Easy to set up
No USB ports
TP-Link's Archer A6 AC1200 is one of the most inexpensive dual-band routers you can buy, but it offers surprisingly good performance for its low price. AC1200 Wi-Fi specs give you up to 867Mbps of throughput on the 5GHz 802.11ac side, while lower-end 802.11n clients can still enjoy solid 300Mbps performance.
This makes it more than ample for handling 4K video as long as you keep them close by—like many budget routers it doesn't offer the kind of range that will cover a large home, and performance will fall off as you get farther away from the router. However, at this price you can also easily afford to add a Wi-Fi extender if you find you need that extra bit of coverage.
The Archer A6 also offers four Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can hardwire in any devices that need more speed, but thanks to MU-MIMO support we don't think many users will find that necessary unless you simply don't have the 802.11ac hardware on your clients to take advantage of the maximum speeds.
Flimsy build quality
Not great at handling multiple devices
Like its similar-looking sibling on this list, TP-Link’s Archer C50 dual-band fast Ethernet router is a great choice under $50. With 802.11ac support, you’re future-proofed alongside far more expensive router options and it is backward compatible with 802.11n. The Archer C50 features both a 2.4GHz band with speeds up to 300Mbps and a 5GHz band with potential speeds of up to 867Mbps. Realistically, you’ll have more than enough horsepower to stream Netflix in HD, as well as let the little ones play games online. Two high-quality dual-band antennas offer additional reach around the house—up to 2,000 square feet of coverage—and there are also four Fast Ethernet ports on the back, as well as a single USB port.
Although its design won’t knock your socks off overall, you’re not buying this router for its looks, but rather for its performance. Like most budget options on this list, you’ll find the best possible performance occurs in apartments and condos or smaller single-family homes with just a handful of users. You can also download TP-Link’s Android and iOS mobile apps and adjust your Wi-Fi settings from the comfort of your sofa. At 4.9x7.2x1.3 inches, the Archer C50 takes up very little room and can easily disappear on a bookshelf or table in the main office. As an added bonus, TP-Link provides a two-year warranty with free support, including setup assistance.
Works as a router or repeater
Can set up multiple SSIDs
PPTP VPN support
Not suitable for very fast internet plans
The Asus RT-N12 is designed specifically for small businesses and home office networks. What it lacks in advertised speed, it makes up for in coverage area. It accomplishes this through something called MIMO technology, which uses multiple transmit and receive antennas to optimize data transfers. It also includes two detachable high-gain antennas to extend the Wi-Fi area throughout your office environment, and it features the ability to set up four SSIDs with dynamic bandwidth management—ideal for office or commercial environments where guests are common, but also useful for parents who want more controlled access for their kids.
While the 300Mbps throughput isn't much compared with other routers in the same price range, keep in mind these advertised speeds are exactly that: advertised. In a speed test, the RT-N12 could end up besting other, faster routers thanks to its MIMO tech and 5dBi antennas. When it comes to internet speed, it’s all about efficiency.
Solid 2.4GHz performance
Four Ethernet ports
The Linksys E1200 is another straight-to-the-point wireless router, only this one services a slightly more demanding network arrangement. With Wireless-N (802.11n) specs and transfer rates of up to 300Mbps, it also features MIMO internal antenna technology, which helps boost Wi-Fi signal strength over an extended coverage area. It also has four Ethernet ports for wired connections, guest networks, and compatibility with Cisco Connect. However, it doesn't have USB, Gigabit Ethernet ports, or traffic prioritization, and like most other routers in its price range, it’s single-band.
That said, it’s a router that gets to the point—a modern option for folks who like to stream HD video and transfer large files over Wi-Fi, but who aren’t likely to host a LAN party or live stream to Twitch.
No 5GHz support
Don’t let the low price on the TP-Link TL-WR841N fool you, this budget router is far more than meets the eye. Ideally, this router is designed for smaller spaces, such as a studio or small apartment—that’s where you’ll see the best results. Capable of download speeds of 300Mbps or less, the N300 is ideal for streaming video, web browsing, online gaming and more. Measuring 5.1x1.3x7.60 inches and weighing just 8.1 ounces, this is a small unit, but it feels sturdy, stays flat on a solid surface, and has holes on the underside in case you want to mount it on a wall.
There are some caveats at this price point, of course, such as surrendering support for Gigabit Ethernet. Instead, you’ll find four LAN ports and one WAN port for connection to a modem. The router also only offers single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi with a 2x2 dual-stream setup, which means you'll only be able to use it on the 2.4GHz band, which can get crowded in a home with a lot of Wi-Fi devices, with no access to the potentially faster 5GHz band. Simply stated, this is a basic router that gets the job done at a budget price. Setup is a snap and you should be up and running within a few minutes.
Dual Band 2.4GHz
Fast 802.11n speeds
Good 2.4GHz range
No 5GHz band
No Gigabit Ethernet
Netgear's WNDR3400 Rangemax is a classic router that provides excellent speeds for older 2.4GHz devices at an affordable price, thanks to its dual simultaneous band Wi-Fi. Unlike most dual-band routers, the WNDR3400 doesn't support the 802.11ac 5GHz band, but instead uses a pair of internal 2.4GHz antennas to double the bandwidth available to 802.11n devices, offering 300Mbps on each, for a combined total of 600Mbps.
This makes the WNDR3400 a particularly good choice if you have a lot of internet of things smart home devices, as it can isolate traffic from those onto one of the two bands, freeing up the other for your more high-performance devices, and minimizing interference.
Four LAN ports on the back also provide the ability to hardwire in devices, but they're only Fast Ethernet, which means that in many cases you'll be better off staying wireless with this one.
Dual Band Wi-Fi
Fast 802.11ac performance
Versatile wireless modes
Port layout isn't ideal
If you're looking for a router that you can take with you, TP-Link's TL-WR902AC is one of the fastest pocket-sized little routers that you'll find. It measures only 2.64x2.91x0.9 inches and weighs in at only 7.2 ounces, so it's small enough to take your own little bubble of Wi-Fi on the go with you.
It also offers dual-band Wi-Fi, so you can connect on either the 2.4GHz or the much faster and less crowded 5GHz band with speeds of up to 433Mbps, and it's pretty versatile too. Not only can it be used as a router or Wi-Fi access point, but also as a range extender, a private Wi-Fi hotspot for WISP networks, or as a client to provide Wi-Fi access to a wired-only device via its built-in Ethernet port.
Since the antennas are all built-in, you're not going to get a lot of range here, but that's not really the point of this little router, which is primarily designed to let you set up your own Wi-Fi access in a hotel room or sitting in a coffee shop, where you likely won't be more than a few feet away from it anyway.
We bought a top-rated router for under $50 that our reviewers tested daily for two weeks. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this router, from its speed to its design. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Speed - Your primary concern when purchasing a new router should include its maximum potential speed. Keep an eye on the unit’s supported standards to ensure that you don’t buy anything from yesteryear. Check the box for the current fastest standards, which include both “AC” (802.11ac) and “N” (802.11n) speeds—“AC” being the faster option with “N” still delivering an excellent amount of bandwidth for most users' needs.
Coverage - It doesn’t matter how fast your router is if you can’t connect to it halfway across the house. Keep an eye on the range that a particular router advertises and seek out a unit that sports MIMO technology for that extra range boost.
Design - While design as a feature to consider might seem like a bit of an odd choice with so many tech specs to keep in mind, it can still be essential. Your router should be kept out in an open area for maximum performance; be sure to consider its design so that you aren’t tempted to hide it away in a pantry closet down the road.
Our reviewers were pleasantly surprised by how great the Archer C50's range was for a router at this price, offering coverage of up to 2,000 square feet, but the performance was about what they expected, and concluded that it's not really built for multi-device streaming, but is still a great option for those with relatively basic needs, and offers just enough performance to get the job done.