Top five budget routers that won't disappoint

CNET editor Dong Ngo picks his top five affordable routers that will do the job well.

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I admit it, I have a problem. I am a fan of fast networking products and often feel uneasy if what I have isn't the latest and greatest. That hasn't changed at all, despite the fact that over the years, I have realized that the latest and greatest is generally way more than I need.

The truth of the matter is, for most homes (and even certain types of small offices), all you need is a stable Wireless-N Wi-Fi router. This is because the main purpose of the router is often just to share the Internet connection and some network resources, such as printers and documents. Since the Internet speed generally caps at much lower amount than Wireless-N's speed, it won't get faster if you upgrade the router to the latest and greatest. On top of that, the majority of wireless hardware clients, such as tablets, smartphones, laptops, support Wireless-N (802.11n) or the slower Wireless-G (802.11g) standards. Since the speed of a network connection is determined by the slowest speed of any party involved, a lot of time having a superfast router doesn't help with the speed of the local LAN, either.

That said, if you just want a simple home network to share the Internet and data files, the following routers will more than get the job done. The best part is that none of them costs you more than $80.


Josh Miller

D-Link DIR-605L Cloud Router
At the current price of just around $40, the D-Link DIR-605L is worth every penny.

This is a tiny simple, single-band router that D-Link used to introduce its Cloud feature that allows users to control their home network via mobile apps. And this feature, which is very cool, is just part of how cool the DIR-605L is. In my testing, it proved to be one of the best router of its physical size, offering stable Wi-Fi signal, good range, and very decent data rates. Read the full review of the D-Link DIR-605L Cloud Router.


Belkin N+
The Belkin N+ is the oldest router on this list. First released in late 2008, it is still one of the best single-band Wireless-N routers on the market thanks to its great performance, extra-long range and ease of use. Belkin has since released many other more advanced routers, but so far, the N+ is its best.

If you're just looking for a single-band Wi-Fi network that offers great range and performance for a large home, currently at less than $60, the N+ will do that job well. Read the full review of the Belkin N+.


Josh Miller

Linksys E2500
The Linksys E2500 is a true dual-band router that offers up to 300Mbps on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency bands at the same time, effectively making it an N600 router (more on types of routers can be found here .) And it's one of the most affordable one, currently costing just around $80 or less then $50 (refurbished).

In addition to the friendly pricing, the Linksys E2500 offered very good performance in my testing, and it comes with desktop software that makes setting it up and managing the home network a no-brainer for home users. Read the full review of the Linksys E2500.


Josh Miller/CNET

Netgear WNDR3400
Similar to the Linksys E2500, the Netgear WNDR3400 is also an N600 router. In my testing it offered great Wi-Fi speed and range, and a long list of networking features that users can manage over its easy-to-use Web interface. Best of all, at the current retail price of just around $70 (or $40 refurbished), it's a bargain for those who just need a robust wireless network. Read the full review of the Netgear WNDR3400.


Dong Ngo

TP-Link 150Mbps Wireless N Nano Router
The TP-Link Nano Router is not for everyone. For one it comes with just one Ethernet port that works as either a LAN or a WAN port. And secondly, it supports a single-stream of Wireless-N to offer the cap speed of just 150Mbps. It makes a great router for mobile users, especially those who need to share an Internet connection in a hotel room. In addition to working as a router, this mini device can also work as an access point, a media bridge, or a range extender. At just around $20, you can't go wrong with it. Read the full review of the TP-Link 150Mbps Wireless N Nano Router.


Want to see more? Check out our always-current list of the best routers overall.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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