The 7 Best Routers to Buy in 2017 for Under $50

Find the perfect cheap and reliable router for your home

Networking technology can be hard to wrap your head around, and sometimes you just want a router that's super simple. The good thing about gunning for a cheap router is that you’re honing in on the basics and setting aside the bells and whistles. If you’re in the market for a router that’s less than $50, there are a couple of things you should know: One, advertised speeds are entirely theoretical. Everything from your particular ISP subscription to the weather outside can impact how fast your WiFi speeds actually are. So don’t feel cheated if your practical speeds are nowhere near the speeds promised by the manufacturer. Two, unless you can find a really great deal, most routers in this category are going to be single-band, which means slightly lower bandwidth (although, we have a handle of dual-band ones in this list). Three, these routers are meant for simple applications. If you live in a household with four different Netflix subscriptions streaming all at once, you should probably spring for something a bit more robust (see our Best Routers To Buy in 2017).

That said, there are great deals to be found. Just keep your eye on the basics. Here are the seven best routers that can be found for less than $50.

Like its similar-looking sibling on this list, TP-Link’s AC1200 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 backwards compatible with 802.11n. The AC1200 features both 2.4GHz with speeds up to 300Mbps and 5GHz with potential speeds 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 to keep the connection strong even as you move around your home. There are four Ethernet ports on the back, as well as a USB port.

Its design won’t knock your socks off overall, but you’re not buying this router for its looks, just for its performance. Like most budget options on this list, you’ll find the best possible performance occurs in apartments/condos or single family homes with just a handful of users. You can also download TP-Link’s Android and iOS mobile app and adjust your WiFi settings from the comfort of your sofa. At 4.9 x 7.2 x 1.3-inches, the AC1200 takes up very little room and can easily disappear on a bookshelf or table in a main office. As an added bonus, TP-Links provides two-year warranty support for free, including setup assistance. 

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, the E1200 is more refined than the NETGEAR RangeMax but still well within the sub-$50 price range. It features MIMO internal antenna technology, which helps boost WiFi signal strength over an extended coverage area. It also has four Ethernet ports for wired connections, guest networks and compatibility with Cisco Connect. It does not 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 WiFi, but who aren’t likely to host a LAN party or live stream to TWITCH.

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 WiFi area throughout your office environment, and it features four service sets (SSIDs) with dynamic bandwidth management—ideal for office or commercial environments where guests are common.

While the 300Mbps throughput is not much compared with other routers in the same price range—namely the TP-Link’s listed above—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.

That said, this is an office router, designed for multiple guests over an extended area. If you’re not looking for a router for your small business, then this probably isn’t the one for you.

Perhaps the most well-known name in the router world, NETGEAR makes a wide variety of devices, ranging in price from $500+ all the way down to sub-$50. The AC1200 is one of our budget favorites, thanks to its sleek design, solid features and easy installation. (You can use the NETGEAR genie app to set up your router automatically or you can connect it manually.)

If it’s speed you crave, consider a 802.11ac router like this one. It’s essentially a supercharged version of 802.11n. (Don’t worry, the AC1200 is backward compatible with 802.11n, too.) With combined speeds of 1200 Mbps (300+867 Mbps) and simultaneous dual-band WiFi technology (2.4GHz & 5 GHz), you can wave goodbye to spotty WiFi. It’s perfect for multi-player online gaming sans lag and smooth multiple HD video streaming. This device skimps on NETGEAR’s Beamforming+ technology present in the R6220 model, but if you’re conscious of cost, it will get the job done. Now the only question left is: What should you watch?

Don’t let the low price on the TP-Link N300 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 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.60-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 parts and one WAN port for connection to a modem. If you want to go wireless, you’ll receive support for single-band 802.11n WiFi standard with a 2x2 dual-stream setup. In other words, this router only works on the 2.4GHz band with no access to the (potentially faster) 5GHz band. The 2.4GHz band can get crowded in a home, especially if you own smartphones or other WiFi enabled home electronics. Simply stated, this is a basic router that gets the job done, and at a budget price. Setup is a snap and you should be up and running within a few minutes.

While HooToo may not a known name brand, the AC1200 router offers more features at a lower cost than its competition. The router broadcasts 802.11ac WiFi with 300 Mbps speeds at the 2.4GHz band and 866 Mbps speeds at the 5.0GHz band. On top of good speeds, the AC1200 has a smart design of four antennas that alternate between 5GHz and 2.4GHz to reduce interference.

There are also four Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port that can let you share all kinds of files with family, friends and roommates using the same network. If you need to whitelist/blacklist websites for any reason, the AC1200 can do that as well. Amazon reviewers have been mostly positive, noting that this packs a lot of speed for a low-cost router. That said, they also noted the range is not amazing, so if you live in a large house, this is likely not the right router for you.

While many of the routers on this list don’t have dual-band, the RAVPower AC750 actually does feature it, making it one of the most fully featured routers to make it on the sub-$50 list. RAVPower is best known for making affordable charging devices (see our list of Best USB Batteries), so this router is another example of the company upending the market with more features at lower prices.

With its 802.11ac WiFi, the AC750 can hit up to 300 Mbps speeds at the 2.4GHz band and up to 433Mbps speeds at 5GHz. RAVPower claims the router takes less than a minute to set up, but we’d expect it to take at least a few minutes to get going. The device also has a built-in USB port, which can let you share photos, movies, music and other files with anyone else using the network. One last feature worth noting is the ability to whitelist/blacklist websites, so you can make sure children can’t access unsafe or inappropriate URLs.

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