Best Products Networking 63 63 people found this article helpful The 7 Best Routers for Under $50 in 2020 Find the perfect cheap and reliable router for your home by Jesse Hollington Writer Jesse Hollington is a tech writer with 10+ years' experience. He has written for iLounge, Forbes, Yahoo, The Independent, and iDropNews, among others. our editorial process Twitter LinkedIn Jesse Hollington Updated on November 19, 2020 The Ultimate Router Buying Guide The Ultimate Router Buying Guide Introduction Router Basics What Is a Router and How Does It Work? How to Pick the Right Wireless Router Router Standards Explained Modem vs Router Can You Use Two Routers Same Network? Do I Need a Modem and a Router? Routers, Switches and Hubs Explained How to Find Your Router's IP Addresses What Is MIMO Technology? Best Names for Routers & Home Networks Best Placement for Wireless Routers How to Set up a Home Network Router Best Overall Routers Best Wireless Routers Best Cable Modem/Router Combos Best Long-Range Routers Best Secure Routers Best Parental Control Routers Best Routers for Under $100 Best Routers for Under $50 Best 802.11ac Wi-Fi Wireless Routers Best VPN Routers Best Gaming Routers Best By Brand Best Linksys Routers Best Netgear Routers Top Routers Reviewed Google Wifi Review Netgear Orbi Review Netgear C3700 Review Netgear C3000 Review Linksys EA8300 Review Linksys EA9500 Review Linksys WRT3200ACM Review Samsung SmartThings Router Review Asus RT-AC88U Gaming Router Review Linksys AC1900 Review Best Router Essentials Best Wi-Fi Extenders Best Wi-Fi USB Adapters Best Cable Modems Best Powerline Network Adapters Tweet Share Email Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. The Rundown Best Overall: TP-Link Archer A6/C6 at Amazon "Offers surprisingly good performance for its lower price, with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and MU-MIMO." Best for Travel: TP-Link TL-WR902AC at Amazon "An affordable, pocket-size router that lets you set up a bubble of Wi-Fi wherever you go." Best Single Band: TP-Link TL-WR940N at Amazon "Offers solid performance and range for older 802.11n devices" Best for Home Office: Asus RT-N12 at Amazon "Designed specifically for small businesses and home office networks." Best Range: TP-Link Archer C50 at Amazon "With 802.11ac support, you’re future-proofed alongside far more expensive routers." 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." in this article Expand Our Picks About Our Trusted Experts The Ultimate Budget Router Buying Guide When you look at all of the expensive high-end home routers that are out there, you might be surprised to know that you don't need to break the bank to get yourself a good router that can provide strong coverage. This is especially true if you're only looking to cover an apartment, condo, or medium sized home and all you need is a router that can handle basic surfing and streaming. Despite Wi-Fi technologies evolving all the time, they're always backward-compatible, so older routers are never left completely behind, so you can save a bundle by looking at slightly older routers that are still being sold and supported by manufacturers who recognize that not everybody needs to cover a 5,000+ square foot home filled with dozens of laptops, smartphones, and tablets. This means you can still get a solid and reliable router at an affordable price that offers more than enough performance to handle even things like Netflix streaming in 4K and busy Zoom and FaceTime calls. In fact, even if you need to cover a larger home, some of these budget routers can double as Wi-Fi extenders—and any router can be used as a wireless access point if you’re willing to run network cabling or use a Powerline network adapter, and you can buy two or three of these for less than the price of a single long-range router or mesh Wi-Fi network system. So read on for the best routers under $50 that will give you great features and coverage at extremely wallet-friendly prices—and be sure to also check out our Black Friday and Cyber Monday roundups for some even more amazing deals. Best Overall: TP-Link Archer A6/C6 AC1200 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router 3.3 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Good value for the price MU-MIMO support Easy to set up What We Don't Like No USB ports TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 Router Review TP-Link's Archer A6 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. "With an MSRP of $50, the Archer A6 represents pretty decent value for the level of performance and the feature set it offers. You may want to step up to a more expensive unit if you have a big house or a lot of devices, and it is missing features like a USB port, but the Archer A6 is priced very well for what you get." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester Best for Travel: TP-Link TL-WR902AC AC750 Wi-Fi Travel Router 5 Buy on Amazon Buy on EBay Buy on Officedepot.com What We Like Dual Band Wi-Fi Fast 802.11ac performance Versatile wireless modes What We Don't Like Shorter range Port layout isn't ideal TP-Link TL-WR902AC Travel Router 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 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 as our testing showed, 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. The 9 Best Wireless Travel Routers of 2020 "At only $45, the TP-Link TL-WR902AC is about as cheap as routers come, and is really quite a bargain considering its portability, ease of use, and remarkable versatility." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester Best Single Band: TP-Link TL-WR940N N450 Wi-Fi Router Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Good 802.11n Wi-Fi performance Can work as a range extender Very affordable What We Don't Like Lacks Gigabit Ethernet ports Single-band only If you don’t need to worry about supporting 5GHz 802.11ac devices, you can save some money by going with a single-band router, and TP-Link’s TL-WR940N is a really affordable solution that offers some of the best performance you can get for 802.11n clients. You’ll get 450Mbps throughput on the 2.4Gbps band, along with three antennas that provide good coverage for a small home, condo, or cottage. The TL-WR940N also has a few other tricks up its sleeve, including the ability to control how much bandwidth each device is allowed to use, letting you reserve maximum throughput for those devices that need it. Plus, it can be used as a Wi-Fi range extender. The biggest downside here is that while you get four Ethernet ports on the back, they’re only Fast Ethernet, so you’ll be limited to 100Mbps on your wired connections, creating the rare scenario where your Wi-Fi devices could actually get better performance. Best for Home Office: Asus RT-N12 N300 Wi-Fi Router Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Works as a router or repeater Can set up multiple SSIDs PPTP VPN support What We Don't Like No 5GHz Limited range 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, it's more than enough even for 4K Netflix streaming, and in a speed test, the RT-N12 could even end up besting most routers in its class thanks to its MIMO tech and 5dBi antennas. When it comes to internet speed, it’s all about efficiency. The 8 Best Asus Routers of 2020 Best Range: TP-Link Archer C50 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router 3.5 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Attractive design Very affordable Solid range What We Don't Like Poor speeds Flimsy build quality Not great at handling multiple devices TP-Link Archer C50 Review Like its similar sibling on this list, TP-Link’s Archer C50 dual-band fast Ethernet router is a great choice under $50. With 802.11ac support, it can handle the same modern Wi-Fi devices as far more expensive routers, plus of course it's still backward compatible with 802.11n and older standards. 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, plus a single USB port. Although its design won’t knock your socks off, you’re buying this router for its performance, not its looks. Like most budget options on this list, you’ll get the best results in apartments, condos, and smaller single-family homes with a smaller number of users. You can also download TP-Link’s Android and iOS mobile apps to 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. "We were expecting the signal strength and range to be the weak point, but we were wrong." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester Best Design: Linksys E1200 Wi-Fi Router Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart What We Like MIMO support Solid 2.4GHz performance Four Ethernet ports What We Don't Like No 5GHz No USB 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. The 10 Best Linksys Routers of 2020 Best Price: TP-Link TL-WR841N Wi-Fi Router Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart Buy on B&H Photo Video What We Like Very affordable Easy to set up What We Don't Like 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. You'll get the best results with this one in smaller spaces like a studio or small apartment. however, it's capable of download speeds of 300Mbps, making it more than adequate for streaming video, web browsing, light 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 very affordable price. Setup is a snap and you should be up and running within a few minutes. Final Verdict If you're looking for an affordable router with modern Wi-Fi standards and solid performance, TP-Link's Archer A6/C6 delivers, but if you only need to support older 2.4GHz devices, you can save more money by going with TP-Link's TL-WR940N. About Our Trusted Experts Jesse Hollington has over three decades of experience in information technology and networking and has installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender, dating back to the days long before Wi-Fi even existed. Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side. Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since April 2019. When he’s not obsessing over (and writing about) the latest gadgets and consumer technology, he can be found traveling and photographing the wild Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, or tending to a herd of obnoxious goats on a small farm in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They began writing for Lifewire in January 2018, but you can also find their work on TechRadar. Bill has also worked as an editor at Future. The Ultimate Budget Router Buying Guide It's easy to spend a bundle on a Wi-Fi router—there are models now that cost upwards of several hundred dollars, especially if you're investing in a mesh Wi-Fi system, a long-range router, or a high-end gaming router—but the good news is that in many cases you don't have to spend a lot to get a good router that provides solid performance and enough coverage to meet the needs of all but the most demanding users. Wi-Fi standards don't change all that often, and even when they do, every new Wi-Fi standard builds on the older ones, so your devices and routers will always be backward compatible. Since it's rarely necessary to live on the leading edge, this means that you can often save a lot of money by going with an older router, and many manufacturers are still releasing more affordable versions of their routers that are perfectly suited for smaller homes or those with fewer devices who don't need ultrafast performance. Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen What to Look for in a Budget Router Although it can be tempting to go out and buy the fastest and most modern Wi-Fi router you can find, it's always a good idea to sit back and consider what you need a Wi-Fi router to do in order to meet your needs regardless of what you're willing to spend. For example, serious gamers may prefer to look to a dedicated gaming router, but just because you play games that doesn't mean you need to go for the highest-end models, especially if you plan to hardwire in your PC or game console anyway, in which case Wi-Fi performance won't be all that critical. As a rule, it's also important to keep in mind that the biggest, fastest, and most expensive routers are generally designed to handle the busiest homes. If you're a single person living in a condo or small bungalow, you probably don't need to spend a lot of money to get a Wi-Fi router that will get the job done. There are a lot of great inexpensive options available, so don't let flashy marketing or sophisticated spec sheets convince you that you need to buy a Cadillac when you can do everything you need with a Chevrolet. Single, Dual, or Tri-Band? When trying to buy a router on a budget, it's even more important to understand the difference between Wi-Fi standards and wireless frequencies, since you can save a lot by not spending money on bands or frequencies that you don't need. Single, dual, and tri-band refer to the number of distinct frequencies that a router can operate at, and by extension the Wi-Fi standards that they support. Almost all single-band routers operate at 2.4GHz, the frequency that has been the base standard for Wi-Fi for over two decades. Modern single-band routers support the 802.11n standard, now known as "Wi-Fi 4," and usually offer maximum speeds of up to 600Mbps. They're also backward-compatible with the older 802.11b and 802.11g standards, which are much slower, peaking at 54Mbps. Chances are none of your user-facing devices like computers use these older standards anymore, but many smart home and internet-of-things devices still do, as they don't need faster performance. The problem with the 2.4GHz frequency range is that it tends to be slower and more congested than higher frequencies. Many other things operate at 2.4GHz, including cordless phones and home security systems, and even microwave ovens emit interference in this frequency range. So to deal with these interference issues and provide better Wi-Fi performance, the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard was developed (now known as "Wi-Fi 5") which uses the 5GHz frequency, opening up the potential for much faster speeds—a high-end 802.11ac router can offer multi-gigabit performance—as well as being free of most of the usual interference. There's a downside to 5GHz however: it doesn't travel as far, especially through walls and other solid objects. As a result of the shorter range and the need to maintain backward compatibility with older Wi-Fi devices, all 802.11ac routers also support the 2.4GHz band, and are therefore referred to as dual-band routers. So what about tri-band? These routers offer a second 5GHz frequency band to reduce congestion when you have a lot of 802.11ac Wi-Fi devices in your home. However, each of your devices can only connect to a single band at a time, so you're wasting your money buying a tri-band router unless you have more than two or three 802.11ac 5GHz devices in your home that need maximum performance. Also keep in mind that a tri-band router still only has a single 2.4GHz band, so it will do absolutely nothing to improve performance for your older Wi-Fi devices. Lifewire Range and Coverage We're not going to mince words here; budget routers don't typically offer a lot of range, so while most will be more than fine for an apartment, condo, or even a small bungalow, if you're looking to cover every corner of a medium to large home, you're going to need more than most of these routers can give you, at least by themselves. If you have a really large home, the best way to go is with a mesh Wi-Fi system. While these can be extremely pricey, some offer the ability to start out with a single base router and expand later as your needs dictate, but you'll still ultimately end up spending a few hundred dollars or more if you need to cover a large home. If you're looking to do this on a budget, however, many inexpensive routers can also be used as simple wireless access points; this means that if you're willing to run Ethernet cables around your home or invest in a Powerline network adapter, you have a pretty inexpensive do-it-yourself means of covering your whole home. In fact, many budget routers are so affordable that you could buy three or four of them for less than the price of even a single mesh Wi-Fi node. However, just remember that simply because you have a larger living space it doesn't necessarily mean you need to get strong Wi-Fi into every corner, so be sure to budget for the coverage you actually need. Security & Encryption While most budget routers won't include things like advanced parental controls or malware protection, that doesn't mean you have to do without security entirely. Make sure the router supports at least Wireless Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption, especially if you're purchasing an older model, as well as the ability to pass VPN connections through from your computers for additional security. The nature of home internet routers means you'll get some natural defence against intruders thanks to Network Address Translation and private IP addresses which are fundamental features, so you don't necessarily need a complicated firewall to keep intruders from breaking in, but you'll still want to make sure that you install anti-malware software on your computers, and enable the other appropriate security features on tablets and smartphones to prevent them from running apps that might be punching holes through your firewall. Speed & Performance When looking at routers you'll often see a performance rating that includes a letter and a number, such as AC1900 or N600. These refer to the highest Wi-Fi standard the router supports and the maximum total speed it's capable of handling. For example, an N600 router supports 802.11n speeds of up to 600Mbps, while an AC1900 router offers 802.11ac and can reach speeds of 1,900Mbps (or 1.9Gbps). In the case of multi-band routers, however, it's important to remember that these are combined speeds across all bands. For example, an AC1900 router may actually only offer 1.3Gbps performance on the 5GHz band, with the other 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side. This is also why tri-band routers typically have much higher ratings like AC5300—that 5,300Mbps of bandwidth is actually shared across three bands. In practical terms, however, even if you have a dual-band router that offers AC1900 speeds and beyond, don't expect these kinds of speeds from a single device. Routers are designed to be able to handle multiple Wi-Fi devices, all of which will be sharing the total bandwidth that the router offers. However, to put this in perspective, streaming 4K movies on Netflix only requires speeds of around 25Mbps, and you generally don't need more than that for online gaming either— low latency is actually far more important than raw speed. Ultra-fast routers are generally only necessary when you have a lot of devices competing for that bandwidth or if you're regularly downloading extremely large files. Keep in mind as well that there's usually no need to buy a Wi-Fi router that's significantly faster than your home internet connection either, since that's where your performance bottleneck is going to be anyway; if you've only got 25Mbps download speeds coming into your home, a high-speed Wi-Fi router isn't going to do anything to improve that. Lifewire Wired Connectivity There are times when Wi-Fi connectivity may not be enough, and even most inexpensive routers provide at least a few Ethernet ports to let you hardwire in devices. This is especially important for gamers, since as we mentioned before, there's more to gaming than just raw speed—your router also needs to provide low latency so you get lag-free gaming performance. After all, there's nothing worse than having your favourite first-person shooter freeze due to network lag just as you're about to make that critical kill shot. Most affordable routers won't offer the kind of low latency Wi-Fi performance that serious gamers need, so it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll need to jack in. Some budget routers offer Gigabit Ethernet ports, which are definitely a nice bonus, although again unless your internet connection is more than 100Mbps, you'll do just fine with the lower-end Fast Ethernet ports found on many of the older and more inexpensive routers. What about Wi-Fi 6? As we explained earlier, there are a number of Wi-Fi standards that mostly relate to how fast a device can operate and which frequencies it operates on. While for the longest time these had relatively cryptic names like 802.11b and 802.11ac, the Wi-Fi Alliance, which is the industry organization that manages these standards, recently decided to go with names that not only sound less technical but also make the relationship between standards clear. So the older 802.11n standard became Wi-Fi 4 and the newer 802.11ac standard became Wi-Fi 5. This all happened while the newest standard, Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) was being ratified. While Wi-Fi 6 is definitely the way forward in Wi-Fi technology, you're not going to find an affordable router that includes it yet, nor is it something that you even need to worry about unless you're willing to spend a lot of money to live on the leading edge of technology. Wi-Fi 6 works across both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, offers significantly faster performance, and works better on very busy and congested networks. To benefit from this, however, your computers, smartphones, and other devices must support Wi-Fi 6 too. Right now, those are pretty rare, with the only mainstream devices being Apple and Samsung's very latest smartphones, and let's face it: how much faster do you really need your iPhone's network connection to be? So if you're looking for an inexpensive router, you're not going to find one with Wi-Fi 6 support, but there's a very good chance you don't need to worry about it anyway, as you likely don't have any devices in your home that will actually benefit from it. Save your money for when the Wi-Fi 6 standard becomes a bit more widespread, by which time Wi-Fi 6 routers will also be much more affordable. Top Brands TP-Link TP-Link has been in the router business for over two decades, and while the company does offer a few high-end models, as you can see from the entries on this list, it’s best known for its much wider array of inexpensive general purpose routers. In fact, TP-Link is one of the few companies that continues to sell and support a wide range of older router models. Asus Although Asus is more typically known for its premium gaming routers, it has a few older models that it still sells and supports that offer some unique features like multiple SSIDs—letting you set up several Wi-Fi networks from one router—and some handy security features. Netgear Even years ago, Netgear was known for making some of the most powerful routers you could buy, with high-performance features like dual-band 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for older devices. Netgear has a large family of older routers that are still available and remain supported by the company, letting you pick up a pretty affordable router if you’re only looking to support 2.4GHz devices. Lifewire Conclusion When you look at the routers on the shelves at your local electronics store, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking you need the kind of performance that a high-end router offers, but if you’re on a limited budget, it’s important to consider your actual requirements and not pay for more performance or range than you’ll actually use. The fact is that most routers you can buy already exceed the speed of your home internet connection—sometimes by quite a bit. More expensive routers are designed to meet the needs of busy families and large homes with lots of devices, so they’re usually overkill if all you’re looking to do is surf the internet and watch Netflix in a small home or condo, and you’ll probably be amazed at how much an inexpensive router can actually do for you.