Saturday, September 24, 2022

Top 10 Best Routers under $100

It is often said that quality and performance come at a price. And that price is typically multiple hundreds of dollars if you’re talking about routers than can perform at any better than a snails pace even in good conditions. However, there are multiple brands and routers that can be fantastic for most users, and cost less than $100. Here, we take a look at the top 10 routers for under $100. For rating purposes, each router is compared to one another given their range, potential security options, any warranty or service information and of course, speed at a reasonable range (at time of testing, around 20 feet). Hopefully after reading this article, you will be able to determine the best match for yourself and take full advantage of whatever internet plan you happen to have.

10. Linksys WRT54GL Broadband Router

Say you’re not the gaming type, or someone that has a home full of connected devices and you need something cheap, reliable and a router that can be customized a little bit. Then our first choice, the Linksys WRT54GL may be for you. It’s a single band, 54Mbps router so you won’t be able to set up a whole home business on it such as Electronic Health Records transcription, but it’d do the job for, well, my job or as a secondary router for use of IT Pros and hobbyists looking to get into Pen Testing. When testing range, it was a little shaky around corners or through walls, but in line of sight worked as advertised. Setup was about as easy as anyone could expect, though people with newer laptops or laptop/tablet combos may have a bit of trouble given that the primary set up method is a CD-ROM. One of the biggest pluses for this router is that it’s a DD-WRT Router, which is an open source firmware format that can allow for plenty of additional customizations from both the community and yourself if you are keen to tinker with it. This can be a great boon to the safety features, which are decent in their own right. In terms of warranty, if purchased from Amazon it can be returned within 30 days and can be refunded if certain conditions are met. While certainly a little slow for 2018, this router comes in at under $50 in most cases, and thus has made it onto the list.

9. TOTOLINK N600

If you happen to live alone, or have very few devices for use and no need for particularly high speeds, then the N600 is probably your best choice. Coming in at an astounding $27, it’s by far the cheapest router on this list. That being said, there’s reason for it. This router is as simple as it gets with a single 600Mbps channel. Now, simple doesn’t exactly mean bad. In terms of security it’s actually quite good, offering WPA2 encryption methods and the ability to create three separate Wi-Fi networks to keep all your ducks in a row, and the set up is pretty easy for a standard web-page landing. One slightly confusing feature is the Turbo Switch, which is said to boost coverage to even hard to reach areas. While testing in my apartment I found no significant difference between normal and “boosted” modes, but as far as the connection range itself, it was adequate. I tested it using 4 devices (two laptops, two phones) and while there was a bit of hampering in streaming, it wasn’t as bad as one could expect from something the price of a decent dinner for two.

8. Buffalo AirStation HighPower N600

The second DD-WRT to make its appearance on the list of top ten routers under $100, the Buffalo AirStation Is an interesting beast to say the least. It won’t win any love for it’s speed or lack of range (being only around 300 Mbps and just barely making it to the ends of my apartment and around corners) but what it can be loved for is as a medium for the use of a VPN. Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Why buy a router specific for using a VPN when I can just use one on my computer?” Well, Router based VPN’s can be more stable and reliable, for one. Secondly, due to the DD-WRT open source programming of the Buffalo, it’s about as easy to implement. So, if you’ve been itching for some region locked materials, this may be your pick. Added bonus features are the ability to employ a dynamic DNS, which can keep private matters private. While I could not advise a company to run this server, or anyone requiring a great deal of speed, this is great for a hobbyist or explorer of the web.

7. TP-Link AC1750 Archer C7

The first of several TP-Link Archers to appear on this list, the Archer C7 combines a good mix of performance and price. Touted as a router for most people by The New York Times, I would agree, to a point. Yes, the speeds are fine for the average user (about 450Mbps and 1300Mbps), and yes, it comes with the Tether by TP-Link which makes set up and changing settings a breeze. It even comes with a nice 2 year warranty in case things go wrong. However, there are a few things lacking that would make me a little reserved to recommend it to most people. The first is security. Namely, the fact that WPA (not WPA2) seems to be the standard encryption method to this device. This is a big negative in my opinion as Kali and Backtrack both have methods for cracking this without much effort. While this may not matter in a home setting where not a lot of financials are being taken care of, this could ruin a business if not handled carefully. The second main qualm is that the C7 has two USB 2.0 ports, while most in this price range have at least 1 USB 3.0 port, which can make for easier access to data. For this reason, I would recommend this if you are in a known safe location, don’t do a lot of business, or just need something to help extend a home network that is used primarily for entertainment. At around $90, for those reasons it’s a good deal.

6. TP-Link AC1900 Archer C9

Coming in as number 6 is the Archer C9 by TP-Link. Usually marketed for $110 but also typically being given a $10 coupon, this router just barely sneaks into the under $100 category. Offering a dual band with 600Mbps and 1300Mbps, as well as three antenna which can aid in TP-Link’s beamforming technology (which supposedly creates better connections) the C9 appears non-imposing but talks a big game. In regards to performance at medium distances, a bit of drop off occurred, but nothing of any real significance. Oddly, the beam forming didn’t seem to affect performance at all, either with direct line of sight or through walls. Set up was a breeze, as was adjusting settings through TP-Link’s Tether app. In handling security, the C9 was well rounded, but average on all counts. I will say that the Parental Controls were set up quite nicely, and the Guest Network function is a nice touch. In terms of warranty, you are given the standard 24/7 technical assistance as well as a two year warranty.

5. Securifi Almond

Cheap and easy to use rarely go together. Likewise innovative and cheap are rare to find together. In this way, Securifi Almond is a real gem right out of the box. Marketed with the claim that you can have a network set up in 3 minutes (in my case, significantly less), Securifi focuses on ease of use. Coming off of attempting to set up more complex routers, this was a relief. This $80 router doesn’t use an app, or have you navigate to the router’s IP address, but instead uses a built in touch screen to handle all settings and set up functions, making it so easy that a child could do it. In terms of speed, it’s not going to win any prizes at 300Mbps with a single band system. Range was a bit of a surprise though, as the walk test verified that it could reach out and connect with a system nearly out to the parking lot. Security settings are easy to access and an active allowed list, parental controls and similar features mark it as just above average in terms of security. For warranty, the Almond gets a one year limited warranty and unlimited technical support (though you may find this a bit much given its easy interface).

4. D-Link AC1750 DIR-859

If you need a router that can provide decent speeds for a medium 1-2 story home or apartment building, the DIR-859 is a great choice. Able to cut through walls and keep connections as well as any other router tested on this list, the dual bands which can carry 450 or 1300 Mbps have very low slowdown rates even at distance. In fact, I was able to take my smartphone outside of my second story apartment, down the stairs, and an additional dozen feet or so before I started having connection issues streaming a high quality Youtube video. While the DIR-859 excels at long range, it somewhat lags behind in terms of security and customizability features. Set up is easy enough as is the occasional bit of maintenance, as is setting up a guest network, but the dual-active firewall features advertised were not of terrible use, as even old school cracking methods like Reaver and a few other tools from BackTrack R3 was able to get by. For around $80, it’s a little on the pricey side for under $100, but if you’re not terribly worried about being hacked and need more range and speed, it’s a great option.

3. AFOUNDRY Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router

Now, first thing’s first: This is a bit of a cheat in terms of under $100. Normal MSRP is usually around double your budget, but there’s enough sales at regular enough intervals that no one really needs to pay more than $100 for this router. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at this monster. So, upon first glance, you may notice something; The six large antenna that protrude out of this thing. Those are not just for show, the range of this router is truly awesome. In testing, I could connect, walk out of my apartment, across the parking area, and nearly to the pool (quite a distance away) and still manage to get a connection. In terms of ability to handle multiple connections, the AFOUNDRY router had no issue with it. I at one point had 3 laptops, 3 smart phones, 2 tablets, a gaming system (and a partridge in a pear tree) connected, and at no point did any device have even the slightest hiccup, whether they were in different rooms with walls in the way or not, even with all devices streaming at the same time. While I could not test the claim that this device could handle 100 connections at the same time, I can verify that if you have company over, they won’t complain about your internet. This can be attributed to the 3 core processors used to handle the connections, as well as an active data transfer rate at around 1,175 MB per second (only slightly lower than advertised). On the downside through, getting through set up and working on subsequent settings was, to say the least, a challenge. Likewise, security is again an issue. It allows for WEP (not recommended) and WPA/WPA2 encryption, but anyone with a bit of practice could hop on this router as it’s a light on protections. Finally, as a warranty, 24/7 support and a life-time warranty are included.

2. Netgear AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

While currently about $10 over budget, this router is often enough on sale at just below $100 that it can make it to this list as a runner up. Bragging about speed and range, the Nighthawk as it’s often called looks futuristic and performs likewise. Let it be known, this thing is fast for the price. Offering a dual band Wi-Fi system with 450 and 1300 Mbps (which performs as advertised) , the Netgear is also pretty consistent with range. While not as big in terms of range as a few on this list, such as the AFOUNDRY, this router can handle your average home or apartment without an issue. With a dual core 1GHz processor, this router can handle multiple connections without an issue. In terms of security, the router itself is pretty standard in terms of encryption, as is the warranty. For $100 to $110, it’s a great deal if you can handle the upper end of the budget allowed.

1. TP-Link AC1200 Archer C1200

Coming out on top of all routers below $100 is the Archer C1200 by TP-Link. Coming in at well under the $100 price point at around $65 (even lower if you catch a sale, of course) this one was definitely the underdog of the bunch for this spot. Like any good sports movie though, I should have seen this coming, as despite the low price, the speed and range were incredible. I was able to move about my apartment, even into nooks and crannies and behind multiple closed doors and still able to stream without so much as a hiccup. In terms of the speed itself, I could not quite manage the advertised speed of 1,200Mb per second (split between a 300Mbps connection and a 900Mbps connection), averaging instead around 1,050Mb with both channels running. Regarding security controls, the Archer C1200 provides your standard WPA2 encryption, as well as Parental Controls and a Guest Network which is handy if you’re working a small startup or home office. As an added bonus though, you can toss up a VPN connection to your router with a great amount of ease. Both the Firmware updates and settings can be altered using the TP-Link Tether app, which is a nice touch. Finally, in regards to warranty, there is a lifetime service warranty which allows for free 24/7 technical help and a 2 year service warranty in case something goes wrong. With this mix of performance, service and price, it’s hard to beat, and our top pick for Routers under $100.

Cody Carmichael
University graduate in Psychology, and health worker. On my off time I'm usually tinkering with tech or traveling to the ends of the globe.
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