Wireless routers come in a wide range of prices and features, and with the advancement of wireless technology, we are seeing more features coming at more affordable options. Not everyone would need a router that costs north of $100 if all that is required is basic internet connectivity. On the contrary, you can find plenty of affordable routers that bring plenty of value for their price. And that’s precisely what we’ll talk about in this article, so welcome to our overview of the best cheap routers in 2020.
Cheap routers don’t necessarily mean underperforming. In fact, most products in this list offer great speeds and coverage. What they, however, skimp is on some of the more advanced features. For example, you won’t be finding quad-core CPUs or advanced bandwidth monitoring tools at this price. That said, you can always check if the router supports custom firmware such as Tomato or DD-WRT that can help unlock a bit of extra functionality than what you paid for.
It is important to also note that most routers in this price range offer only the 2.4 GHz band and 802.11n speeds. These should be enough for most purposes. That said, think about your requirements before deciding on a purchase. If you have only a few devices that require connectivity and if your ISP speeds are limited, then any router on this list should get the job done. However, if you plan on upgrading your ISP’s internet or require a router that can stream and game to multiple clients or take control of all your smart home devices, then you might have to spare some extra cash.
Without further ado, here’s are the 8 best cheap routers in 2020.
1. TP-Link WR940N
- Features: Single-band (2.4Ghz); Easy Setup; 10/100 Ethernet; Three antennas; Client bandwidth control; IP-based QoS; Parental controls.
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n.
- Data Transfer Rate: 450 Mbps.
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 4 / 0.
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 7.9 x 1.1 in.
- Weight: 0.66 lb.
The TP-Link WR940N offers the maximum possible bandwidth in the 802.11n protocol, so if your connection speeds are close to the 450Mbps mark, this is one of the best cheap routers available. It is easy to set up, and the software can automatically detect the most common network settings. It has three antennas, which should provide enough range, but there aren’t too many high-end features on offer.
The TP-Link WR940N has a wizard-based setup, which while being beginner-friendly, might feel a bit cumbersome for more advanced users. An added bonus is that if you use the WR940N as a range extender, you can simply copy the SSID and the password of the network you want to extend. Overall, the WR940N router is a great buy if your internet needs are basic.
- Pros: Easy setup; QoS and parental controls; Can be used as a range extender.
- Cons: Limited options in the software; Manual setup is not very intuitive.
2. Linksys WRT54GL
- Features: Built-in firewall; Linux-based; Compatible with OpenWRT and DD-WRT; Incredibly popular.
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11 b/g.
- Data Transfer Rate: 54 Mbps.
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 4 / 0
- Dimensions: 9.75 x 10 x 2.8 in.
- Weight: 1.65 lbs.
For those who have slow internet speeds but do want the freedom of the wireless internet, the Linksys WRT54GL deserves mention. It does not feature some of the bells and whistles as some of the other more expensive options and, in fact, supports only up to 802.11g wireless protocol. There is no USB connectivity either, but you still get four 10/100 Ethernet ports for hooking up wired devices. Due to the 802.11g standard, the overall throughput is just 54 Mbps.
Thankfully, the WRT54GL supports Linux-based open-source firmware. Unless you are really cash-strapped, look for routers based on 802.11n or 802.11ac, as 802.11g is no longer that widely used.
- Pros: Very economical; Open-source ready; Great for tinkering.
- Cons: Only supports 802.11g.
3. NETGEAR N300
The Netgear N300 Wi-Fi Router gets the basics right at a very affordable price. Up to 300 Mbps of maximum theoretical speed over the 802.11n 2.4GHz band is available, so any connection speeds up to 100 Mbps should have no problem with this router. The N300 offers decent coverage as it is equipped with dual 5 dBi antennas, which provide enough power for a small to medium-sized home. The design of the router compliments even an office setup. Unfortunately, there are no USB ports on this router.
The performance of the NETGEAR N300 is good, but some users have reported dropped connections and loss of signal if they moved a bit away from the router. This could be due to a possible firmware issue. Also, there are issues in properly configuring parental controls, guest Wi-Fi, and scheduling. Thankfully, most of them can be easily resolved with a firmware update or by unchecking the ‘Enable WMM’ setting in the QoS setup page.
- Pros: Affordable; Minimalistic and functional design; Easy setup.
- Cons: Signal issues and dropped connections need to be manually resolved.
4. Linksys E1200
The Linksys E1200 is one of the best wireless routers under $50. It is a single-band 802.11n router that can offer speeds up to 300Mbps, which should be sufficient for basic wireless connectivity without breaking the bank. To achieve this price, the E1200 does cut some corners. It supports 10/100 Ethernet connections and MIMO internal antennas but leaves out USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, or advanced packet scheduling options. The web interface, however, is easy to set up and configure.
Since the antennas are internal, coverage is lesser than some of the more expensive options but should suit most small to mid-sized apartments or homes. Although a QoS scheduling option is still available, it is best to disable it when you first boot up the router. Setting up this router requires software installation from the CD, so if your PC does not come with a CD drive, you’ll need to download the software beforehand and keep it handy.
- Pros: Cost-effective; good performance.
- Cons: No USB port; Requires CD for initial setup.
5. HooToo Wireless Travel Router
The HooToo Wireless Travel Router is one of the best travel routers available and, despite lacking some advanced features, makes for a good cheap router and a reliable travel companion. The HooToo functions as a hotspot and can also wirelessly share files with the connected clients. Although the included USB port is just USB 2.0, it supports all storage devices.
There are a few caveats with the HooToo, though. For instance, you cannot power an external hard disk via the included USB port if you are already powering the device via USB. Also, the software can recognize only one drive at a time if you connect two drives in a bridge.
- Pros: Affordable; Good media sharing features.
- Cons: USB port alone will not be able to power external drives; Software can recognize only one connected drive at a time.
6. ASUS RT-N66W
If you are looking for a router that offers the most bang for the buck, the ASUS RT-N66W should be high on your list. This router is a dual-band router, which is a rarity at this price, and supports 802.11n over both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, making it a great option for those looking to connect multiple devices at once. It offers a maximum throughput of about 900Mbps also helps in providing enough bandwidth for moderate to heavy use. Adequate coverage is provided by the 3 antennas, and the included 2 USB ports allow file sharing across the network when connected to a storage device. Setup is taken care of by the ASUSWRT software, which is feature-rich and offers regular updates.
The RT-N66W is known for its reliability and strong performance, and not many problems have been reported with this device. That said, updating the firmware as soon as you finish installing the router is a good idea.
- Pros: Dual-band support; Feature-rich stock firmware.
- Cons: None as such.
7. ASUS RT-N12
The ASUS RT-N12 is one of the best cheap routers for gaming
. There are no unnecessary additions to keep the costs low. It works only on the 2.4GHz band, but if your ISP speeds are below the 300 Mbps mark, you should not be having any issues with this router. In fact, the RT-N12 works great for streaming Netflix, gaming, or even connecting multiple clients as long as the total bandwidth capacity is kept in mind. Another advantage with the RT-N12 is that it can also function as a router, access point, or a range extender if needed.
Setting up the software is also extremely simple, and luckily, there’s the option to flash custom DD-WRT firmware for unlocking even more additional functionality. However, before flashing custom firmware, make sure to first update the stock firmware. Also, if the speeds seem slower than normal, increasing the bandwidth of a particular channel can help.
- Pros: Budget-friendly; Good and reliable software.
- Cons: Supports only wireless N.
8. TP-Link N300 Nano
- Features: Single-band (2.4); Chromecast compatible; Small form factor; Router/AP/Client/Repeater/WISP Operation modes.
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11 a/b/g/n.
- Data Transfer Rate: 300 Mbps.
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports:1 / 1 (1x micro USB).
- Dimensions: 2.2 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
- Weight: 0.45 lb.
For frequent travelers, the TP-Link N300 offers an easy way to create a compact wireless hotspot quickly. It can be powered using an external power adapter or just with a USB connection. The maximum throughput offered is 300Mbps over the 802.11n band, which should be sufficient for most hotel or university internet connections while on the go. The device can also be used as a router or a range extender.
The software UI is not the most advanced out there but should be sufficient for managing hotel or university Ethernet. It does take some time to latch on to a network, but once done, there’s not much user intervention required.
- Pros: Works in multiple modes; Good speeds; Easy setup.
- Cons: Not the most feature-rich UI.
Before we let you go, we’d like to share some additional information. So, let’s go over some frequently asked questions, which will hopefully help you to select the best router for your needs.
How Much Should You Spend for a Decent Router?
As you can see from our list of the best cheap routers, our recommendations range from $20 to $35. This means that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent router – if you don’t have plenty of advanced needs, that is.
You should also know that mid-range routers are priced from around $60 to around $100, and these come with some advanced options, and they also support much faster Web connection speeds. So, our strong recommendation is to start searching for a new router only after you know the maximum speed of your Web connection, which is perhaps the most important feature of any router.
What Are The Limitations of Cheap Routers?
Before deciding which router to buy, you need to adjust your expectations. As you can probably guess, cheap routers do have some limitations, and these are mostly related to the maximum supported Web connection speed.
In general, cheap routers support Internet speeds of up to 300Mbps. However, you’ll also find a few routers supporting speeds of up to 450Mbps for the 5Ghz band. So, you can find a bit ‘slower’ router with some advanced features, and vice versa.
Are Cheap Routers Even Worth Buying?
Yes – we absolutely believe that cheap routers are worth buying. This especially applies to average home users who need a reliable Web connection for Web browsing and media streaming.
In case you have more advanced needs, we recommend spending a bit more. In case you need a DD-WRT router that could provide greater flexibility, we recommend checking our list of the best affordable DD-WRT routers. Also, if you’re a gamer, we recommend spending a bit more to get a reliable gaming router that will meet your every need.
How Long Should a Router Last?
In general, it’s believed that routers last from 3 to 5 years. Each year, we’re seeing new Internet technologies that impact the way we use the Web. In the same manner, routers become more powerful each year to accommodate all these new technologies. So, if you want to take full advantage of your Web connection and everything that your ISP is offering, you should replace a router every few years.
Some of the signs that your router might be obsolete include limited Web connectivity, constant buffering when streaming videos, and occasional disconnections from devices.
Can You Turn Cheap Routers Into Wi-Fi Extenders?
When you decide to replace your old router, you can turn it into a Wi-Fi extender instead of selling or throwing it away. However, this applies only to routers that come with a Bridge or Extender mode. You can check whether this option is available by visiting the Web interface of your router.
Dear readers, that would be all for our list of the best cheap routers to consider buying today. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments below. We will do our best to provide a timely response.