Best Cheap Router 2017 Buyer's Guide and Reviews
For most of us that are living in the modern world, internet access is something that has become paramount to our existence. And while being able to access the net is taken for granted nowadays, having a stable and reliable connection to the Worldwide Web is still something most homeowners strive for. The only way anyone can create a dependable home network is by purchasing, installing, and properly configuring a wireless router. However, in a world where most routers can go for upwards of $100, and offer features that most people don’t ever understand, how is an average user supposed to know in which product to invest?
In this article, we aim to provide a list of the wireless routers that will give you the best bang for your buck. With the products mentioned in this list, not only will you be able to set up your own home network while saving valuable money, but you may even gain limited control over user access, and even control the bandwidth of each person that connects to your network, effectively turning you into the webmaster of your own home network.
Best Cheap Routers 2017
In this section you will find our personal picks of the best wireless routers under $50. These cheap routers are usually enough for users that simply want to create a wireless network at home.
1. TP-Link N450 - Our Pick for Best Cheap Router 2017
Starting off this list is a product that is as standard as wireless routers go. This product uses “n” standard of wireless technology, allowing a maximum speed of 300Mbps, which is ideal for all uses, from simple data transfer between connected computers via WiFi to high-speed internet browsing, video streaming, and downloads.
This router has 2 antennae which create a strong and stable connection throughout the entirety of the wireless network coverage area. Furthermore, it also offers up to 4 ethernet ports, for users who require a wired connection.
The N300 is also easy to set up, with its install assistant, and features parental and user access controls, which allows you to restrict certain child-sensitive content, or simply to prohibit access to specific websites for this same purpose, or to prevent the users from visiting websites like YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, among others, in the workplace. Furthermore, the IP-based bandwidth control offered by this router also permits limiting the network speed that every computer or connected device will be able to receive.
Using the “802.11g” technology we mentioned in the previous section, the D-Link Wireless N provides a stable wireless network to your whole home through the 2.4GHz band. The dual antennae feature installed in this product allows you to, similar to our previous entry, create a stable and reliable network for everyone to enjoy.
The main benefit it offers compared to our previous entry is the capability to customize the router’s settings, or even to perform initial setup entirely through the phone by downloading the free smartphone app that was developed for use exclusively with this router. This application permits the administrator to manage the permissions of each device that is currently connected to the router, including the allowed bandwidth, content restrictions, and much more. Furthermore, the app may also allow you to block undesired connections, in case the neighbors or others decide to leech off of your WiFi without permission.
As an unexpected benefit, its very low price tag also makes this router a no-brainer for those users that want to create a reliable network without having to break the bank in the process.
This router offers less in terms of connection speed than the other two, with a max speed of 54Mbps at any given time. It creates a wireless network using a dual-band configuration, which means that the user can set it to either 2,4GHz or 5GHz mode, and create a network that won’t be affected by any type of interference due to the effects of numerous devices operating on the same band.
Setting up a network with this router is also a breeze; users can either use the setup wizard included with the purchase of the product, or simply configure it manually, which basically boils down to setting an SSID, a security encryption type, and a password. Since this router activates in dual-band with both “b” and “g” standards, users can easily create multiple networks for different purposes (i.e a home network, and a guest network).
Additionally, most computer-savvy people will also benefit from the open-source customizable firmware of the WRT54GL, which allows them to, which the proper know-how, effectively tweak the router’s performance in every possible way.
This router is a bit pricier than our previous entries, but with a bigger price come better benefits. The AC750 features alleged “next-gen” wireless technology, which translates to faster, optimized performance as well as more reliable coverage compared to the competition. Similar to the WRT54GL, it also operates in dual-band, which means that there is no risk of disruption or interference from too many devices trying to connect at once on the same band. This router can handle up to 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, and up to 433Mbps on the 5GHz side, which makes it one of the faster products on this list.
Similar to the previous entry, setting up this router is pretty easy; just follow the steps mentioned on the install wizard, and you’re set. Just like the D-Link Wireless N, this router also has cloud support, which means that the network can be freely customized and managed from anywhere, and at any time via D-Link’s smartphone app. Besides, as an unexpected benefit from purchasing this router, you also gain a pretty slick decor piece, thanks to its nice design that goes well on any desk.
This router uses draft 2.0 802.11n technology to provide a faster connection in a wider area than most “g” standard routers, while still remaining backward compatible with devices that operate with the 802.11g standard. This means that, when compared to other “g” devices, this router can arguably perform at faster speeds. It comes with 3 antennae, which create a highly-stable network, at increased range than other products, which makes it an ideal choice for those who want to create a network across large spaces, such as an office or a big house.
The N300 comes with dual firewall protection, which helps block malicious users from forcefully accessing the network, further cementing this router’s effectiveness in the workplace. So, in short, for roughly double the price of the first entry in this list, you will receive a router that not only provides a faster connection speed, but also provides internet to a wider area, and with increased security measures to boot.
Best Cheap Routers Buying Guide
There are several aspects of any given router that the user needs to keep in mind in order to choose the best product for their home network conditions. However, understanding the features of a router can seem a bit more difficult at first, considering that they use terms and words that can come off as alien to us. Regardless, understanding the perks and features of any router is by no means a difficult task, and we will prove it by listing the most common terms used to describe their characteristics.
Most wireless communications make use of 2 bands in order to provide their wireless capabilities, the 2,4GHz band, and the 5GHz band. There are currently 3 popular types of standards used to describe both the generation and the bands used by the router. In the beginning, there was only the “802.11b” standard of wireless router, which used exclusively the 2,4GHz band. This generation was followed by both the “802.11g”, and “802.11n” standards. Most of the “g” routers, as well as some models of the “n” standard, made use of the 2.4GHz band. However, most of the “n” standard routers are dual-band, which means that they can provide wireless internet in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band.
The problem with routers that operate on the 2,4GHz band is that most devices also operate on this level. This translates to interference and disruption of services in areas where there are multiple devices operating in this band simultaneously, causing reduced internet speed and, in extreme cases, difficulty while connecting to said routers. Meanwhile, the 5GHz band often has fewer devices competing for connection, which leads to a cleaner, faster, and overall better internet service for everyone involved.
Another feature that is always advertised on the box of any router is its speed. This feature is also linked to the generation of your router or, in other words, the standard they use to provide their wireless service (b, g, n).
The slowest routers on the market are usually the 802.11b, which are usually capped to 11 megabytes per second. The 802.11g routers, on the other hand, usually cap out at 54 megabytes per second. The fastest routers for domestic use on the market are currently the 802.11n, which provide up to 300 megabytes per second of the smoothest internet connection you’ll ever experience.
However, despite the speed provided by your router, keep in mind that you are still limited by the connection speed provided by your ISP. This means that, despite having the 300Mbps provided by your “n” router, you will still be limited to a slower connection due to your ISP. Depending on your type of connection, the user will most likely benefit most from an “802.11n” router at all times, considering that faster routers will also allow multiple users to connect and transfer information at high speed simultaneously, without slowing down the service for everyone else.
This feature is used mostly to reference the security standard used by the router in question, which mainly revolves around WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security standards. Additionally, this section is also used to reference the type of user access control provided by the product. This is especially important if you want to limit every user’s access to the internet. For instance, a network admin might want to limit the bandwidth of their users in the workplace. Similarly, they may also want to want to create multiple SSID with different user access each, so that the workplace can be appropriately segmented into different departments (i.e the IT department might require more bandwidth and internet access than, say, the accounting department).
This feature is rarely advertised on the box but we recommend you take note of it nonetheless. Some wireless routers often have several ethernet ports on the back for users that require a wired connection, or that want to take advantage of the stability or other benefits from having a physical connection. This is especially important for users that have their router close to the computer, but still want to establish a wireless network in their home. That way, they can have a stable wired connection on their main computer while still having the option of connecting wirelessly with any other devices.
The Different Types Of Cheap Routers
There are currently several types of routers on the market, some of which are commissioned for niche purposes, rather than general use. However, for the sake of this article, and for our readers, here is a list of some common types of routers:
Arguably the most common type of router of the last decade. This hardware has many functions, most of which are designed to provide a reliable connection to the internet to the user. The vast majority of broadband routers have both ethernet and phone ports, which allow the network admin to connect several computers to the internet simultaneously, as well as allowing certain technologies, such as Voice Over IP (VOIP), to exist thanks to its telephone ports.
Currently the most widespread type of router available. Most homeowners have one, and some ISPs even supply one of these routers when the user signs up with them. This hardware is similar to broadband routers. In fact, their functions are virtually the same. The main difference is that the computers don’t have to be physically plugged into the router in order to connect to the internet. Instead, these routers produce a signal to which any user can connect, allowing wireless access to the internet as long as they are in range of the router. Despite this, most wireless routers still have several ethernet ports, for those rare occasions where the user requires a wired connection.
Some other types of routers, which are not relevant to this list, but that we will mention nevertheless, are the Edge Routers, Inter-provider Border Routers, and Core Routers. The aforementioned hardware is used mostly to provide internet access to big companies or to create Wide-area Networks across large areas, such as college campuses.
Best Cheap Routers Wrap Up
At the end of the day, choosing an appropriate router for your home boils down to knowing your needs and picking a product that satisfies them. Sure, you could vie for the most expensive piece of tech money can buy, but we fail to see the point in that, considering that you could most likely squeeze out the very same performance by carefully selecting a cheaped router. Furthermore, if the network conditions provided by your ISP aren’t actually that generous (as is the case in the majority of the US), the most expensive router will perform the same as the best cheap wireless router.
So remember, always try to know your network conditions and, if possible, buy cheap routers that can accommodate said conditions. You won’t regret it, and your wallet will definitely thank you for it.