A router may not be the sexiest thing you buy for your home, but it is one of the most important. A slow or ineffective router is super annoying. It can interrupt your TV watching or freeze your internet when you’re in the middle of a project. You want a high quality router, but you don’t want to exorbitant prices.
Finding the right router for under $100 can be tricky. Many commercial routers are overpriced company’s don’t think consumers will do the research it takes to find a good deal. So how do you find a great router without overpaying? Below we’ve answered that question by putting together a router buying guide and reviewing some of our favorite <$100 routers.
Everything You Need to Know About Routers
First off – let’s explain exactly what a router is. A router is a device that enables you to connect other devices to the internet. Routers connect you to wireless internet, so no cumbersome Ethernet cables are necessary to get online. Routers can also help you maintain network security which helps maintain their reliability.
Below we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need to know before purchasing a router. We know you’ve probably got some questions, and we’ve tried to answer anything that may have come to mind. Keep reading to learn more.
How to Get the Best Performance Out of Your Router
There are a few things you can do to get the best performance out of your router. The same router will be much more effective if it is in a good spot for your home and you properly maintain it. Here are some things you can do to enhance your router’s performance:
Schedule Regular Reboots
I’m sure you’ve noticed that when your internet is slow or seems to stop working, sometimes all it takes to fix the problem is rebooting your router. Just unplug it, plug it back in, let it reboot, and the problem is solved. You can set your router to reboot on its own, so you can get out ahead of this problem. Set it to reboot at night, while you are asleep, and then you won’t even notice that yor internet is down while it resets.
Adjust Channel Width
Your router comes with two-channel width settings – 20MHz and 40MHz. Newer routers typically run on the wider channel (40MHz), which can cause problems and interference with devices running on the 20MHz channel. Adjusting to the lower width will optimize streaming speed and help minimize internet disruptions.
Find the Right Location
Your router’s location is extremely important. Even moving the router a small bit could make a huge difference. Your home’s build can also have an impact on the router. If your walls are concrete, you could face some serious obstacles getting your wireless connection to reach through walls.
If you want your router to work at maximum efficiency, we recommend creating a heat map of your home. This way you can identify your home’s wireless dead zones, and start moving your router around to try and mitigate these spaces. The more you experiment with your router’s location, the more likely you are to find a perfect spot for your wireless connection.
Update Your Router
Just like your phone, laptop, and Smart TV, routers require updating. Manufacturers release regular firmware updates to keep routers running in top shape. Typically these are security updates, and they won’t impact your internet speed. However, if you don’t update regularly and you allow the updates to build up, it could seriously bog down your router’s efficiency.
Get a Good Antenna
Your router will come with an antenna, but these are not the best antennas for a consistent wireless connection. You can purchase an amplified aftermarket antenna to improve the signal quality if your router. You can also purchase a plug-in range extender to amplify your router’s reach. An amplified antenna can help eliminate dead zones in your home and keep your router working everywhere.
What Makes a Router Good for Gaming?
There are plenty of routers available marketed as “gaming routers.” Manufacturers claim that these routers are perfect for your gaming needs and will ensure your gaming goes uninterrupted by failures in your wireless service. However, you can have a successful gaming experience without a “gaming router.” What a router needs to be good for gaming is Quality of Service or QoS.
A typical router does not differentiate between the ways you are using the internet. If you are gaming while your roommate is streaming and scrolling through social media, the router sees all of these activities the same way and will give them equal priority. On a router with QoS, however, you can set it up to prioritize gaming over other internet uses.
The best part about QoS is that it is available on all kinds of routers – not just “gaming routers” that may be overpriced. Many routers come with QoS. You can even purchase and install third-party firmware that adds QoS to your existing router. QoS is fairly easy to use and is one of the most cost-effective ways to maximize use of your router while you game.
How to Maintain Network Security
Your router is going to run much more efficiently if it’s secure. When your router is vulnerable to a security breach, it can slow down the service. Maybe a neighbor has hopped on to your network and is using up your bandwidth. Even worse, maybe a hacker has made their way on to your network and is stealing your identity.
You can take a couple of steps to help secure your router. Here are a few easy things you can do to maintain network security:
Set Your Own Admin Login
Your router came with a default username and password for your administration panel. When you logged in for the first time to set up your router, this is the information you used. There are websites out there that track a router’s default settings and make it easier for hackers to get into your network. You can customize this username and password to help protect your network.
Use Ethernet to Access Your Admin Panel
It is very easy to log in to your router’s admin panel – all you have to do is open up a browser and enter your IP address along with the admin username and password, and you are in. However, you never want to do this over a wireless connection, because it is easy for hackers to intercept information.
If you log in to your router’s admin panel using an Ethernet connection, then your username and password are much more secure. You can even set your router up to require a wired connection before logging in to the admin panel. This will help minimize the threat of hackers on your home’s wifi network.
Enable a Router Firewall
Firewall is a super cool name for a fairly simple function. A firewall checks out any data entering your network and blocks out anything that doesn’t seem safe and secure. Most routers have firewall technology installed, it just needs to be enabled. This is as simple as logging in to your admin panel and toggling your firewall to “enable.”
Smart Home Considerations
If you live in a smart home, then your router is literally the gateway to your house. Keeping your router secure means your doors stay locked, your refrigerator keeps running, and Alexa keeps doing her job. It also means that you’re going to have multiple devices on your network. Fortunately, there have been several advances in smart home routers over the last few years.
If you’re looking for a router for your smart home, you may want to look for one that has multiple radio types along with the wifi. As we described above, this is referred to as MIMO. MIMO can help you control different devices along different radio waves, keeping your internet from slowing down.
There have also been advancements in router security features. Some modern routers include software that protects devices from malware or phishing. The routers analyze every piece of data coming in and blocks out or blacklists anything suspicious. These routers may give you some piece of mind if you’re living in a smart home.
The Difference Between a Router Under $100 and Over $100
Over the years routers have gotten more and more expensive. One reason for the rise in price is a rise in demand. Nowadays people like to kick back and browse Instagram on their phone while watching their favorite TV show on Netflix and keeping up with work emails on their laptop. This is a lot of demand and routers have been updated to meet this need.
More expensive routers usually have two features that cheaper routers do not include. According to The Washington Post, the first of these updates is MIMO, which stands for Multiple-Input Multiple-Output. Routers with MIMO create more airwave space for your device and will include multiple transmitters and antennae to accomplish the goal.
The other major advance in router technology is millimeter wave frequencies. These routers use different radio band frequencies so they can move more data back and forth. Although not as significant, newer and more expensive routers also look sleek and modern, so if you’re into aesthetics a more expensive router may be your best bet.
Ultimately, routers that cost over $100 will probably deliver faster speeds. However, these speeds may not be significantly faster than routers under $100. If a $200 router only runs a hair faster than a $40 router, it’s probably not worth the extra $160. Luckily, we’ve found some great routers available for under $100, which we’ve outlined below.
What is the Best Wireless Router Under $100?
So now that you’ve learned a ton of information about routers you’re probably wondering, which is the best one for my home? Different routers are made to meet different needs. Below we’ve listed five of our favorite routers, and provided a brief review to help you find a high-performing, cost-effective router.
1. Best Router Under $50
About: The Tenda AC1200 Wireless Wi-Fi Gigabit Smart Router comes in at just under $45 and is incredibly effective for the price. It provides speeds of up to 300Mbps which is excellent for most video streaming and gaming. It also supports 802.11ac, often referred to as the “next generation” of Wi-Fi.
The Tenda includes two dual-band antennas that ensure your internet is high-speed even across long distances. It is simple to set and change your network settings in the Tenda app. The Tenda router also includes full gigabit Ethernet ports for when you want a wired connection.
2. Best Gaming Router Under $100
About: The TP-Link AC1900 Wireless Router is compatible with any Wi-Fi device and provides speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps (1900 Mbps). This router also includes beamforming technology, which means it connects directly to each of your devices for fast and reliable internet.
The TP-Link is especially good at handling multiple devices at a time, one of the reasons it’s a great gaming router.
It is easy to set up your TP-link router and create your network. This router also works well in a smart home. The TP-link comes with a 2-year warranty, so you can count on it working for the long haul. This router allows you to stream games online on your PC, Mac, PlayStation, or Xbox without interruptions.
3. Best Long-Range Router Under $100
This router works well in homes where 12 or more devices will be used simultaneously. The NETGEAR router includes advanced features specifically made to support lag-free gaming.
The NETGEAR router includes beamforming so you can access HD on all your devices from all over your home. It also has the option to set up Parental Controls if you have kids. This router offers QoS so you can prioritize your gaming or other applications. The Dual Core Processor boosts the overall performance of the router, whether it is wired or wireless.
4. Best Dual-Band Router Under $100
About: The ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router includes 2.4GHz and 5 GHz of concurrent dual-band transmissions for a super-fast connection of up to 900Mbps.
You can use this as a wireless router or plug in an Ethernet cord for even faster internet performance. This router includes two built-in USB ports that enable both file sharing and printer sharing.
The ASUS router is easy to set up and offers network application control that is easy to use. You can manage your data storage wirelessly with this router. One of our favorite things about this router is that it is so easy to use. It is a breeze to add different WiFi networks to the router, including Guest networks.
Final Thoughts on Finding the Best Router Under $100
So, which of these routers is our number one favorite? For me, it has to be the NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750. This router will reach every point of pretty much any house or office space. It can handle tons of devices at once and offers QoS for application prioritization. We love the NETGEAR Nighthawk for gaming, streaming, and consistent wireless connection.