Given the multitude of mobile devices we own, having access to a good wireless connection has become almost indispensable. Not everyone requires advanced or gaming routers for basic tasks and if you're looking at a no-frills hassle-free connection for your devices, then routers under $50 should suffice. Given the advancements in the past few years, more and more OEMs have been able to bring better capabilities at lower price points.
As we go lower in the price bracket, things can, however, start to get a bit complicated. Most routers at lower tiers support only a single band but there are a few good ones that feature dual-band support. At $50, there will be some inevitable compromises and some marketing gimmicks to trick you into buying one. That's where we come in. In this article, we will list out our choices for the 10 best routers under $50 you should buy in 2020 so that you can make an informed purchase decision.
1. TP-Link Archer AC1200 Archer C50
The TP-Link Archer C50 is one of the few dual-band routers one finds at this price but don't let the price fool you as it sports some great features generally found in more expensive models. This router offers up to 1.2 Gbps total bandwidth, which should be enough for streaming Netflix in HD (or even in 4K, if there's only one client) while simultaneously offering enough bandwidth for other purposes.
The firmware is pretty functional on its own, but there is no support for DD-WRT or Open Tomato firmware yet. However, the plastic construction does not bode well for thermals inside so continuous usage might take a toll on the electronics after a certain period.
- Pros: Dual-band functionality; Good speeds
- Cons: No USB port; Can get hot
2. ASUS RT-N12 N300
If you are looking for one of the best routers under $50 that offers decent-enough performance, then give the ASUS RT-N12 N300 a look. The router supports only up to the 802.11n standard, which means you get theoretical peak speed of about 300 Mbps. Provided your ISP pipe is good enough, you should not be facing issues for VoIP calls, streaming 4K video to a single client, or just for surfing the internet. The ASUS RT-N12 N300 can also function as a router, access point, or a range extender if needed.
Those who have previously purchased this router vouch for its performance and reliability at this price. Setting up the software to play well with your network is a cinch and the best part is that you can always flash custom DD-WRT firmware if you are comfortable for unlocking even more additional functionality. However, before flashing custom firmware look up if there's an updated version from ASUS. The latest version fixes most of the inconsistencies. Also, if you are experiencing slower speeds than normal, look up the router's documentation to see if increasing the bandwidth of a particular channel can help.
- Pros: Good for streaming and voice calls; Compatible with DDR-WRT
- Cons: Stock firmware can be buggy
3. Tenda AC1200 AC6
Tenda might not be as popular as some of the other router brands in this list, but the company makes great routers at affordable prices. The Tenda AC6 is a dual-band router that offers 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands over the 802.11ac standard making it one of the few routers to actually offer wireless-AC. The Tenda AC6 offers 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz for about 1.2 Gbps of total throughout making it a perfect choice if you have a Gigabit ISP line. The router also offers four antennas that can be rotated for enhanced coverage. The Tenda AC6 is designed to look sleek and sports a good set of indicators to let you know the status of the connection.
On the back, you get four Ethernet ports, but there are no USB ports on offer. Tenda's software is very simple to use and although it does not come with some of the bells and whistles you find in other expensive routers, it is very easy for home users to set up. However, you do get a built-in VPN server, firewall, and basic parental controls. There's also a mobile app if you want to control the router from your smartphone.
Setting up the Tenda AC6 is very simple. The router offers enough features for basic home or office including some features such as beamforming and high-power antennas that are only found in more expensive offerings. Although the router has theoretical transfer speeds up to 1.2 Gbps, it has only 100 Mbit Ethernet ports, which severely limit its functionality. We also miss the presence of a USB port, which would make media sharing over the network very easy. Apart from these, the Tenda AC1200 AC6 is one of the best budget routers you can buy under $50 that does not skimp on the features.
- Pros: Wireless-AC speeds; Built-in VPN; High-power antennas
- Cons: No USB port; Only 100 Mbps Ethernet ports
4. WISE TIGER WT-RT8501
While NETGEAR, ASUS, and TP-Link own the lion's share of the router market, WISE TIGER is also a very good performer, especially in the sub-$50 segments. If your ISP speed is less than 1 Gbps, then give the WISE TIGER WT-RT8501 a good consideration. The WT-RT8501 is easily one of the best budget routers thanks to its dual-band functionality and easy setup process. You can assign three SSIDs for guest access without requiring any password and you can also set the router to operate as a wireless repeater.
Do note that the WT-RT8501's signal might not offer as much coverage as some of its more expensive contemporaries. You can, however, connect up to 32 devices at once easily with the web-based setup wizard. For an easy to set up a router with minimal fuss, it's hard not to recommend the WISE TIGER.
- Pros: Good performance; Can operate as a wireless repeater
- Cons: None as such
5. TP-Link N300 Nano Travel Router
- Features: Single-band (2.4); Chromecast compatible; small form factor; Router/AP/Client/Repeater/WISP Operation modes
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n
- Data Transfer Rate: 300 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports:1 / 1 (1x micro USB)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 2.2 x 2.2 x 0.7 in
If you're looking to create a compact wireless hotspot with your existing connection, the TP-Link N300 will fit the bill perfectly. The router can be powered using an external power adapter or just with a USB connection and can offer 300 Mbps speeds over the 802.11n band. The device can work as a hotspot, router, or a Wi-Fi range extender depending on the need.
The software interface is not the most powerful but then it need not be. This is for those who require a simple, easy to access hotspot for hooking up to hotel or university Ethernet. The router does take a while to latch on to a network but once done, there's nothing that could practically go wrong with this making it one of the best routers under $50 for travel. Unless of course, you set it in the wrong operating mode.
- Pros: Compact; Can be powered over USB
- Cons: Delay in recognizing the network
6. Linksys E1200
The Linksys E1200 is a single-band router under $50 that offers speeds up to 300 Mbps. The router supports Ethernet connections and MIMO internal antennas but forgoes USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, or advanced packet scheduling options. The web interface is easy to set up and configure.
The coverage is not out of this world but should suit most mid-sized apartments or homes. This budget router comes with some sort of QoS scheduling but does disable it when you first boot up the router for the best results. You also need the CD to set up the router at first so if your PC does not come with a CD drive, better download the software beforehand and keep it handy.
- Pros: Easy to setup
- Cons: No USB port; Requires CD for initial setup
7. TP-Link N450 TL-WR1043N
- Features: Single-band (2.4); Easy Setup; 10/100 Ethernet; 3 antennas; client bandwidth control; IP-based QoS; Parental controls
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n
- Data Transfer Rate: 450 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 5 / 0
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 7.9 x 5.5 x 1.1 in
The TP-Link N450 is a great choice for those who just need a basic home router that offers a good range and consistent performance. The N450, as the name indicates, offers a maximum throughput of 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band over 802.11n. If your ISP line is less than 500 Mbps, this router can be a good consideration. The N450 has three external antennas that offer decent coverage thanks to their 5 dBi power. Also, the 2.4 GHz band has a longer range than the 5 GHz band so overall, the router is good setting up in a centralized room and getting a good signal across the home.
Setting up the router is very easy thanks to the intuitive web interface. You also get the Tether app to control the basic functions of the router from your smartphone. TP-Link offers a Speed Boost Mode that tries to boost your Wi-Fi speed to the maximum 450 Mbps throughput. However, do remember that your ISP's speed cannot be magically increased and this only works if you already have a good connection but are limited in the speed due to some other reason. Overall, the TP-Link N450 WR1043N is a good option to consider given its affordable price and a decent feature set. However, if you have a faster internet connection above 500 Mbps, you will have to look elsewhere.
- Pros: Good speeds and coverage
- Cons: No USB port
8. GL.iNet GL-AR300M
The GL.iNet works as a Wi-Fi hotspot, repeater, and as a programmable gateway for DIY hobbyists. As a Wi-Fi hotspot and converter, it works just like any other travel router. You can also use your existing 3G/4G internet dongle and create a Wi-Fi access point using this router. It can run off your laptop's USB port or if you like, you can use the bundled 5V DC power adapter. The best part about the GL.iNet is that it runs on the OpenWRT firmware. You can configure OpenWRT to work with any of the 20+ VPN networks or use Tor. The presence of UART and GPIO ports allows for acting as a portable gateway for IoT development.
The software allows you to use it as an OpenVPN router, Tor router, or even as your personal firewall between a public Wi-Fi hotspot and your computer. If you are an advanced user, you can also perform load balancing between multiple internet sources such as an internet dongle or a tethered device, which is something not many routers under $50 offer.
- Pros: OpenWRT firmware; Compatible with 3G/4G dongles
- Cons: None as such
9. HooToo Wireless Travel Router
The HooToo Wireless Travel Router makes for an excellent travel companion despite the fact that it does not have all the bells and whistles of slightly expensive options. You can use the HooToo as a hotspot or to wireless share files with those around you. The included USB port allows easy transfer to and from a storage device.
While the HooToo is a good under $50 router, there are a few quirks. For example, the included USB port might not provide enough power to drive an external hard disk if you are powering the device via USB. Also, if you connect a bridge having two connected drives, the router software can recognize only one of them at a time.
- Pros: Compact design; Can easily share files with clients
- Cons: Only one USB drive can be used at once
10. Tenda N301
The Tenda N301 is one of the cheapest routers you can buy. If your internet requirements are very basic and you only need a router that offers decent speeds and range, the Tenda N301 can offer a lot of functionality for a lot less. The N301 offers a peak throughput of 300 Mbps, which should be sufficient if your ISP line is less than that value. You get a pair of antennas that are decently powered to cover a mid-sized home. The range is good with few connections or speed drops as you move far from the router. Setting up the Tenda N301 is very simple. The UI is intuitive and does not bog you down with too many advanced options. You can also set up a secure WPS connection at the push of a button.
The Tenda N301 offers four 100 Mbit Ethernet ports, one of which is the WAN port for connecting your ISP modem. At this price, we really do not expect it to feature a USB port and accordingly, the router offers none. You can use the N301 either as a wireless router, wireless repeater, access point, or in WISP and WDS modes. The software gets you up and running quickly. There's little that you can do wrong with the configuration. While the feature set is limited, you do get options such as bandwidth control, parental controls, and MAC filtering. If you are looking for the best router under $50 that offers decent performance for a small home, the Tenda N301 is a good bet.
- Pros: Highly affordable; Good performance; Multiple modes
- Cons: Not too many options in the UI
Dear readers, that would be all for our list of the best routers under $50 to consider buying today. Our list should help you get started on an informed purchase but be prepared for some cost-cutting measures by OEMs at this price. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below.