In modern households, the wireless router is one of the quintessential devices for creating networks that allow everyone within the building to enjoy access to the internet. As time goes by and telecommunications technologies advance, so too do the devices which allow us to connect wirelessly to the internet. In the past we could make do with routers which would allow us to enjoy shoddy connections, with bandwidths of up to 11Mbps at a time. Nowadays, the most powerful routers can support tons of simultaneously connected devices and crank out bandwidths of several thousand megabytes-per-second across all their frequencies, but more on that in a moment.
The aforementioned high-end routers can usually go for hundreds of dollars online, an amount that can set you back considerably, especially if you don’t even have the connection to properly enjoy the features it offers. The thing is, most expensive routers often offer services that the average user will not enjoy. Sure, it’s awesome to have a router that can, for example, offer 1900 megabytes-per-second of bandwidth, but considering that the average American household only has a 10Mbps internet data plan, the other 1890Mbps offered by said devices will potentially go to waste.
However, despite generally offering less in terms of bandwidth, cheaper routers don’t necessarily translate to mediocre or bad quality. This article was created for the users who don’t have an amazing data plan hired, but still want to enjoy a good quality wireless connection without having to break the bank in the process. The products listed in the following sections can definitely provide you the wireless network you need without considerably setting you back. If you’re looking for the best routers under $100, then you’ve come to the right place.
1,750 MB per second
750 Mb per second
54 MB per second
This router uses Wireless-N technology (802.11n) to provide a bandwidth of 300Mbps to the network. It’s equipped with 2 antennae that allow it to easily function as either a wireless router or a signal repeater to extend the reach of an existing network. The main selling point of this router, besides its price, is its intuitive touch screen, which allows setting up the network in as fast as 3 minutes. The only downside with this router is that it doesn’t have ethernet connectivity capabilities. In other words, this device is exclusively used for wireless purposes, so those who want to connect, say, their desktop computer to the network might have to invest in a network card, or a USB wireless dongle.
This router ships with security settings configured out of the box, including a randomized SSID with its respective password. This router is also configured with a “nomap” tag, which prevents certain services, such as Google Location, from tracking its coordinates. Other security features of this router include the monitoring and blocking of unwanted devices from the network, as well as parental controls, which allows the scheduling of internet uptime, as well as control the length of each user’s sessions.
This is the first out of three dual-band routers in this list and, for its price, is one of the best wireless routers available in the market. Using 802.11AC technology, this router is able to provide up to 900Mbps of bandwidth across both its bands. The RT-N66U is equipped with 3 antennae, which allows it to create networks 50% wider than standard Wireless-N routers. Similar to our previous entry, this router is equipped with USB support which allows sharing media, files, and even printers across the network. Furthermore, unlike the Almond mentioned above, this router also has 4 ethernet ports, which allow the user to physically connect devices to it via ethernet cable.
Similar to the RT-N66U, this router is also equipped with dual-band capacity which, alongside its 802.11AC technology, allow it to crank out up to 1750Mbps across both its bands: 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency, and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band. Thanks to its simultaneous dual-band support, the user may connect devices to either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band, and ensure that they receive the very best connection at all times.
This is the most expensive router on the list but, for its price, you will receive your money’s worth in one of the best routers for under $100. The device is equipped with an onboard CPU, which allows you to connect several devices simultaneously, without the connection ever lagging, or the router causing undue stress on your computer. This product also includes dual USB supports for sharing media from a storage device across the whole network. Among the many security options available to the user, the Archer C7 allows one-touch WPA security encryption with the WPS button located on the back. Furthermore, the Easy Setup Assistant in several languages provides simple and fast initial setup of the network.
The N750 is the last dual-band router on this list and was created for those that would like to enjoy creating networks in both frequencies, but without having to invest too much money in the process. For an affordable price, the Netgear N750 offers up to 750Mbps of bandwidth across both its frequencies: 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 450Mbps on the 5GHz frequency; more than enough for your average data plan. This router was created especially for data streaming across the whole network; with its ReadySHARE USB and ReadySHARE Printer software, the user can easily share files and even printers across the network without the need of pesky wires.
Last but not least, the WRT54GL is THE go-to router for those that need a reliable device for the absolute lowest price tag possible. Now, this router is definitely not one of the strongest entries in this list; it uses 802.11g technology and offers a maximum bandwidth of 54Mbps across the whole network. While this bandwidth is still enough for your average data plan, it might start to lag as soon as multiple devices try to connect to the same network.
The best thing about this router -and most Linksys routers in general- is its open source firmware, which allows tech-savvy users to install their very own custom firmware, and allow them to squeeze the most performance from their hardware. With the proper know-how, this router can potentially offer similar features than its expensive counterparts.
As we mentioned above, the routers we’re going to be mentioning in our top 5 belong to the wireless router category. In order to make the very best purchase choice that will satisfy all your needs for wireless internet, we need to know a bit about the different aspects of said products, as well as the things to keep an eye out for when browsing the market for a good quality product. So, the next time you’re looking for a good wireless router keep an eye out for the following aspects:
Every wireless router uses a certain set of technologies in order to create their wireless networks. These set of technologies are encompassed in what is called the wireless standard and are expressed in 802.11X format, where “X” is replaced by either b, g, n, or AC. Besides identifying the technology used by the router, the wireless standard can also help us identify its generation and give us an idea of its performance. For instance, the “b” generation is made up of the oldest routers, which are widely obsolete by now; these routers had small bandwidth caps which most likely wouldn’t be able to keep up with today’s internet speeds. Meanwhile, the “AC” routers are currently the newest generation and offer the very best devices on the market. In stark contrast with the “b” routers, which struggle to keep up with today’s internet, it is today’s internet which struggles to completely fill up “AC” routers’ bandwidth and, more often than not, they won’t even come close to approaching said bandwidth limit.
In a nutshell, all you need to know about wireless standards is the following:
b → g → n → AC
The newer standards offer better performance and features and are somewhat more expensive in consequence.
Also known as “bands”, this term is used to refer to the frequencies in which the wireless networks created by the routers operate. Most older routers operated exclusively in the 2.4GHz frequency, but nowadays an increasing amount of routers are able to operate simultaneously in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. These routers are known as dual-band, and are an improvement upon regular single band routers in the fact that they can forgo operating in the crowded 2.4GHz frequency, instead opting to create networks on the clearer 5GHz band. Most of the wireless devices in our home which operate via radio frequency, such as smart TVs, remote controls, and other smart appliances operate in the 2.4GHz frequency. If there are too many of these devices in a given place, the 2.4GHz can get crowded, which can often cause interruption and interference in the wireless network. Dual band routers circumvent this issue entirely by allowing the device to operate on a whole different frequency.
This is also referred to as the router’s speed. Basically put, this number is used to represent the maximum speed the device can reach across all its bands at any given time. The older “b” generation routers were limited to only 11Mbps of bandwidth, followed by the “g” routers, which could reach 54Mbps. The “n” routers, most of which are still widely available for purchase even today, can put out a maximum bandwidth of 300Mbps, which is still more than enough for the average user. The most recent generation of wireless routers, the 802.11AC, is currently the most powerful in terms of speed, with devices that are able to provide anywhere from 1000 to 3000Mbps, and the number grows with each new router that makes it into the market.
As we mentioned above, despite allowing the user to wirelessly connect to the internet, most routers offer the chance to physically connect to them via a number of ethernet ports located on the rear panel. Said ports allow devices that can benefit more from a physical connection to do so via ethernet cable. Additionally, some routers also come equipped with a number of USB ports which allow sharing of files from a connected storage device, to every computer that is currently connected to the network. The more powerful routers can stream high-quality music and 4K/HD video content to any connected computer or device in this manner.
In order to keep the flow of information within the network secure from outsiders, most routers make use of certain security protocols, the most common of them being the WEP, WPA and WPA2 protocols. Other security measures often include user access controls, which allow the network admin to assign each user the amount of bandwidth they will be able to use or to segment the network with multiple SSIDs in order to assign differing amounts of bandwidth to designated areas.
Now that wireless internet technology is as accessible as ever, most companies opt to equip their routers with features to improve the user’s experience when operating the device. Most quality of life additions involve methods to facilitate the initial setup of the network, as well as allowing the remote configuration and monitoring of the network via an app on the user’s smartphone.
There currently exist several types of routers, all of which are designed for specific purposes. In order to make the best purchase, it’s important to know the difference between each type.
One of the oldest types of router on the market. These have been around since the advent of broadband internet and were used mostly to connect several computers to a single network so that they could all enjoy a single internet connection while also allowing the transfer of information between them. These routers were equipped with several ethernet ports for the aforementioned purpose, as well as a telephone port that would allow the user to enjoy certain services such as Voice Over IP (VOIP). These routers don’t have wireless capabilities and were used exclusively to physically create connections between the computers as well as grant them internet access.
This is currently the most common type of router in the market, and the type which this article will focus on. Wireless routers in the market vary in size and design, but they all share one thing in common: they allow users to connect wirelessly to the internet on any device within range of network coverage. These devices make use of technology to offer wireless bandwidth of differing sizes, as well as a varying amount of quality-of-life features to the user, often with more features with the newer generation of routers. These devices also offer a number of ethernet ports on their rear panel so that the user can also connect devices via cable in those cases where a physical connection is needed. We’ll get to the specifics of these devices in our next section, but for now, we can definitely say that wireless router is where it’s at in terms of creating quality networks for the domicile or small to medium sized offices.
The routers in this category correspond to the types which are not for domestic use, but rather for the companies that require intranet or complex wide area network (WAN) solutions. Among the routers of this specific category, we can find Edge Routers, Core Routers, Inter-provider Border Routers, and so on.
The routers mentioned on this list are our absolute best picks for those that require a reliable internet connection but can’t afford to drop $200+ on the high-end devices. When it comes to these wireless routers, the most expensive products are seldom the absolute best options available to the user, especially since these high-end products often offer features that you might never need to use. Now that you know what to look for in a router, you can decide for yourself which device is better suited to your needs.
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