You can get an inexpensive, fast, reliable 802.11 wireless router for under $50 with the 5 top devices in our review. For the lower price you’ll trade off on getting hard-wired Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB ports; At this price, the coverage area is best for apartments and small houses.
But even at under $25, you do get good data-through-put of up to 300 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 867 Mbps on the 5.0GHz band (at least on models with dual-bands). These are great values and get the job done!
TP-Link AC1200, about $40, Dual-Band, 1200 Mbps through-put, 3-Antenna, 1x USB 2.0, Guest Network, Free Tech Support, 4x 1-Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
TP-Link N450, about $30, Single-Band (2.4 GHz), 450 Mbps through-put, 3-Antenna, Dual-mode (Router, Access-Point), Guest Network, Free Tech Support, 4x 10/100 Fast Ethernet RJ-45
ASUS RT-N12 N300, about $30, Single-Band (2.4 GHz), 300 Mbps through-put, 2-Antenna, 4x SSID, Multi-mode (Router, Repeater, Access-Point), 4x 1-Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
Linksys E1200 N300, about $22, Single-Band (2.4 GHz), 300 Mbps through-put, Internal-Antenna, Guest Network, Parental Controls, 4x 10/100 Fast Ethernet RJ-45
HooToo Wireless Router AC1200, about $24, Dual-Band, 1200 Mbps through-put, 4-Antenna, 1x USB 3.0, 1x SD Card, 4x 1-Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
Best Choice – The TP-Link AC1200, about $40, has everything we are looking for in a basic, low cost router. At $40, it’s really hard to find anything better.
You get 802.11a/c dual band performance – 300Mbps for 2.4GHz + 900Mbps for 5GHz – for up to 1200 Mbps total through-put. At these rates, you can stream 4K TV around your house. The 3x External Antennas provide good coverage from most houses and apartments.
Consider upgrading to a dual-band router if you’ve added a new smart TV or media streamer (like Fire TV, Roku or nVidia Shield+ ). You’ll want the extra throughput to keep up with 4K content.
On the back of the unit you’ll find 4x Gigabit LAN ports for your home network, and 1x Gigabit WAN port to connect to the outside internet via your modem / cable-box. The Gigabit Ethernet ports let you directly connect your wired devices at maximum data rates.
If you have some rooms that are blocked from the WiFi signal, or get annoying drops out due to other interference, you can use TP-Link Powerline AV1000 to extend your wired coverage using the electrical wiring in your house.
We like there is also a USB 2.0 port. Use this with a Flash Drive or External Hard Disk Drive to wirelessly share your slideshow photos, music library and movies across your network.
Following on the remote theme, you can manage your WiFi settings from anywhere with the TP-Link Tether app (Android, iOS).
Another feature that we find is essential is the ability to conveniently provide WiFi access to visitors with the guest network. Not all low-price routers let you do this. No longer worry about giving out your (very long) owner password anytime friends come over, or your kids’ friends need to get on the network.
The TP-Link works on just about every operating system we could think of: Microsoft (older versions – Windows 98SE, NT, 2000, XP, Vista), recent versions Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 and MacOS, NetWare, UNIX and Linux.
If you are still deciding on this one, here are 3 final reasons to click the link TP-Link AC1200, and spend $40 on your new router:
- Help is just an email away with FREE 24/7 technical support using Amazon Dedicated Email: Support.Amazon@tp-link.com
- No worries if it ever has a problem – Industry leading 2-year warranty
- Other organizations like this one, too – J.D. Power Ranked TP-Link “Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Wireless Routers”
OK, just one more – it has actual buttons for WPS and Wi-Fi On/Off Button. Yay!
General Purpose – The TP-Link N450 Wi-Fi Router, about $30, is the device that has a little bit of everything, for everyone, making it our best general purpose router.
We like the overall coverage and signal strength provided by the 3 x 3 MIMO antenna. Coupled with the 450 Mbps speed, there’s no problem to stream lag-free video, online gaming, audio or all the typical web-surfing, emailing, social -media, etc.
Like the AC1200, the N450 works with all the systems you may encounter: Microsoft Windows 98SE, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, MacOS, NetWare, UNIX and Linux.
The rear panel has 4x Fast 10/100 Ethernet RJ-45 LAN ports, and the single 10/100 WAN RJ-45. Note that these are not the Gigabit ports found on the $10 more expensive AC1200.
The N450 has a few nice features for home-based power users, and great for the small office / small business environment:
- Software setting for IP based bandwidth control which allows you to determine how much bandwidth is allotted to each connected device
- Parental Controls to manage Internet access on children’s or employee’s computers
- WPS button for one-touch wireless security encryption
- Range Extender Mode for up-to 5x further coverage
- Access Point Mode to change from Router functionality
- Additional Wireless Functions- Enable/Disable Wireless Radio, WDS Bridge, WMM, Wireless Statistics
- Diagnostics – “ping” tool troubleshoots connectivity, reach ability and name resolution to a given host or gateway. “Tracerouter” tool tests the performance of a connection
Similar to the other TP-Link products, this comes with a 2-year warranty and unlimited Free 24/7 technical support. Purchasing through Amazon gets you the Amazon Dedicated Email: Support.Amazon@tp-link.com
Note – Make sure when ordering the TP-Link N450 that you get the latest model “TL-WR940N V3” which has 450 Mbps speed, as the earlier version tops out at 300 Mpbs.
Small Business Favorite – The ASUS RT-N12 N300, about $30, is great if you have a small business office because of two features. First, it has 4 service sets (SSIDs) with dynamic bandwidth management.
As a business site, you may want one network for your employees, one for consultants and another for clients / guests. This allows you to set which groups can access which information, while allowing everyone access to the WiFi.
Second, this unit has a slider-switch to select between router, repeater and access point (AP) configuration. You can also control this with the ASUSWRT graphical user interface straight from your browser.
The mode selection lets you decide how you want to use the RT-N12, and you can easily change this anytime you want to.
Similar to the TP-Link, you get 4 1-Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for your wired network, and the 1-Gigabit WAN port to connect to your modem / cable-box.
While this router has a great price, it does come with a few limitations. It is single band 2.4 GHz only, so no second 5 GHz. This limits the bandwidth to the standard 300Mbps for the 2.4 GHz band. Dual band devices will typically provide another 900Mbps on the 5 GHz.
But unless you are streaming a lot of video, it’s unlikely you’ll notice this at the office.
And while the overall data rate may be lower, the coverage can be quite good. Often times it’s the range and signal strength that can make or break your performance perceptions.
This ASUS comes with 2 detachable 5dBi high-gain antennas for more powerful and wider coverage, implementing 2T2R MIMO technology (for the tech inclined, that means 2 Transmit, 2 Receive with Multiple Input, Multiple Output). This means there’s a lot going on inside of this little box to make sure it handles VoiP calls, WiFi calls, YouTube Videos, emails and files transfers without buffering of glitching.
In case you want some more validation for spending $30 on the ASUS RT-N12 N300, PC Mag has awarded ASUS its Reader’s Choice Award for 5 consecutive years. So don’t just take our word for it …
Lowest Cost – The Linksys E1200 N300, about $22, is the cheapest Wi-Fi Wireless Router we recommend in this review. But don’t let the low price fool you – this is a quality device. This is great for a family unit at home where parents want to set internet access limits for their children.
The “300” is for the 300 Mbps through-put you can expect on the single 2.4 GHz band. This is more than enough for audio streaming (Pandora, Spotify, etc.), video streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.) and for the basics like surfing the web, emailing and printing wirelessly.
You may notice this Linksys looks a little different from the others, with no external antenna. Not to worry, there are 2 internal MIMO antenna which provide a good signal range and strength. Making these internal helps to drive that price down.
We like the management tools you get with the E1200, including the Linksys Connect, Parental Controls and Advanced Settings. You can easily keep your network protected with customizable security settings, including WPA/WPA2 Personal and SPI firewall protection.
The included Cisco Connect software makes it simple to set up your wireless network in three easy steps (there is an included CD for convenience). And the Parental Controls can be used to block specific websites and restrict Internet access during certain hours.
The E1200 also has the (important to us) ability to create guest / visitor profiles, so you can give them password-protected Internet access on a separate network. Now, your friends and guests have access to the Internet, but not your computers or data.
Similar to the other routers, the E1200 has 4 RJ-45 Ethernet LAN ports for wired connections and 1 WAN, but these are only “Fast” 10/100 Mbps, not Gigabit. Also, there is no USB port.
We really like the Linksys E1200 N300, low $22 price, as well as it’s compact size. This is great for a dorm, apartment or small house. The included software and management tools are excellent for a device in this price range.
Best Alternative – HooToo Wireless Router AC1200, about $24, comes from a company you’ve probably never heard of. But it does offer a lot of great features, especially at this low price.
The HooToo is a dual-band, provides about 1200 Mbps total through-put, combined between 300Mbps at 2.4GHz and 866Mbps at 5GHz. With this speed there shouldn’t be any problems for streaming as much as you want to as many devices as are in your household.
The unique 4 antenna design is supposed to provide a wider and more stable coverage with two 5GHz and the 2.4GHz dedicated antennas. These are positioned alternately to minimize interference between the bands, and with other devices.
We like there is a high-speed USB 3.0 Port as well as an SD Card slot.
Related – Best SD Cards
It comes with RJ-45 ports for 4x 1-Gigabit LAN and the single 1-Gigabit WAN.
HooToo provides a full package of network controls, including speed-limiting, URL filtering, white/blacklisting for parental control, and security control (MAC address & client filter). Unfortunately, there is no option for creating visitor / guest network login.
Give the HooToo Wireless Router AC1200, a look if you are interested in a low-cost, high through-put router that looks a little different.
Best Choice – The TP-Link AC1200, about $40
General Purpose – The TP-Link N450 , about $30
Small Business Favorite – The ASUS RT-N12 N300, about $30
Lowest Cost – The Linksys E1200 N300, about $22
Best Alternative – HooToo Wireless Router AC1200, about $24