Looking for advice to buy a good quality wireless router under $100? Our guide helps you choose the perfect model, but would also educate you about them!
With numerous devices such as smartphones, smart televisions, home security systems, laptops, etc., in every home, you must invest in a reliable wireless router. If you’re looking for a seamless experience, it’s suggested to get the one that comes with an 802.11 AC protocol that provides lag-free video streaming, a smooth gaming experience, and high security.
A poor ISP connection is not always the cause behind your smart TV permanently showing “Loading,” or your video gets stuck while you’re streaming it on the platforms like Twitch. It is often because the router you have is too old and unable to handle several devices or high-internet speeds at the same time. Most of the older routers were not dual-band and do not provide dependable transmission except in the immediate vicinity.
For all practical purposes, AC is the minimum router config you need. The majority of the routers covered in this guide are minimum AC1200. You will also find very affordable routers with AC1750 and 1900 standards priced at around $60-90.
Before we begin with the list, we have curated a comprehensive buying guide for the first-timers or anyone who wants to learn more about the routers in general. It won’t just save you money but also protect you from investing in a worthless router. So, if you’re interested, feel free to check out the buyer’s guide.
- Best Wireless Routers Under $100 in 2021
- 1. Best Overall: Netgear R6700AX
- 2. Best Runner Up: Netgear Nighthawk AC1750
- 3. Best for Office: ASUS RT-ACRH17 AC1700
- 4. Best for Streaming: NETGEAR R6230 AC1200
- 5. Best for Everyday Use: ASUS RT-ACRH13
- 6. Best for Home Use: TP-Link AC1750
- 7. Best for Smooth Browsing: Motorola MR1700 AC1700
- 8. Best Budget-Friendly: Linksys EA6350 AC1200
- 9. Cheapest Wireless Router: Medialink AC1200
- The Buyer’s Guide
- Why Not Buy A Router Below 802.11 AC1200 Standards?
Best Wireless Routers Under $100 in 2021
|Netgear Nighthawk AC1750|
|ASUS RT-ACRH17 AC1700|
|NETGEAR R6230 AC1200|
|Motorola MR1700 AC1700|
|Linksys EA6350 AC1200|
The WiFi router tech has changed quite fast, and it is best if one can buy one without breaking the bank because a new one would be required in 2-3 years when 8K streaming and 5G becomes commonplace.
For now, $100 is a decent budget for a reliable entry-level router for working from home or office. We are at the cusp of a huge technological change, and advanced features like MU-MIMO and Beamforming in the affordable budget segment used to be a dream before 1 or 2 years. But not anymore!
1. Best Overall: Netgear R6700AX
The Netgear R6700AX brings the latest Wi-Fi standards at a price under $100. Bestowed with Beamforming and OFDMA, the router can reach high internet speeds up to 600Mbps in 2.5GHz, 1200Mbps in 5GHz.
The 1.5GHz Quad-core processor with 512MB RAM and 256MB Flash packs a powerful processing unit capable of handling up to 20 devices in a medium household. The NETGEAR Armor network security, BitDefender VPN support, and the latest WPA 3 encryption standards keep your home network safe from intruders.
The R6700AX is a standalone router with support for the latest 802.11 networking standards. It is also backward compatible with devices supporting earlier standards 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. With an efficient internet monitoring capacity, parental controls, and guest Wi-Fi features, the router brings a perfect solution for your home.
The router comes with three external antennas capable of delivering four streams of signals across 1500 sqft in dual frequencies (2.4GHz & 5GHz). The latest Beamforming+ and OFDMA ensures seamless connectivity with multiple devices.
With four LAN ports at its disposal, the router has sufficient avenues for high-speed wired connectivity. The lack of a USB port may dwarf its functionality to share network drives and printers.
The Nighthawk mobile application brings an intuitive user-friendly interface for network management on the go. The initial setup is easy and quick with the mobile application. The advanced users might prefer the web interface over the mobile application for complex customization.
We also tried using it for attending online lectures, business meetings, and it worked just fine. So, if you’re a student or a working professional who needs stable internet connectivity, this should be your ideal choice.
The Netgear 6700AX weighs over 1.10 lbs, lingers on the side of light-weight routers. It sports a glossy, chequered black design accommodating all the ethernet ports and the antennas at the rear end. The convenient pricing with the latest network standards, on-the-go control over your home network makes a compelling case for the Netgear R6700AX router.
- Wi-Fi 6
- 1.5GHz Quad-core processor
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant
- Armor network security
- Limited mobile app functionality
- No USB port
2. Best Runner Up: Netgear Nighthawk AC1750
The Netgear R6700 is a device that allows you to access the internet from every corner of your home effortlessly. A sturdy sibling to its bigger brother R7000 Nighthawk, which costs around $170, the NETGEAR AC1750 looks similar to its predecessor and shares the same housing that looks like an alien ship from the movie Predator.
The only difference is the large antennas suitable for Beamforming+ that boost range and signal strength throughout your home. There are many LED lights in the front panel, 12 to be exact, that conveys the status of the device to the user. The 1GHz Dual Core processor and 256MB RAM are powerful enough to connect to 25 devices at a time.
The parental controls are particularly useful. You can set daily data limits for the younger members of the family and monitor which websites and apps they access.
The router is easy to configure with an easy UI. Unboxing and setup take less than an hour. It can be flashed with upgraded firmware without any risk of turning it into an expensive silicon brick. Being compatible with Alexa is an added bonus.
Like most routers, it is difficult to predict the range. Range depends on so many factors such as interference and intervening walls. However, in our experience, it will cover 600 sq ft with no hint of dead spots. The company also claims it covers 1500 sq ft but that may be under ideal lab conditions.
The Beamforming+ feature allows it to focus on the device and not just randomly emit signals in every direction. This is able to provide a fast and uninterrupted way to watch the new season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix without the tablet buffering every few minutes.
- Netgear’s Genie App allows easy management of the router without turning on the desktop.
- Supports VPN
- Good signal strength due to Beamforming+
- Uses latest AC1750 technology
- Good budget router for home at only $84
- The Large footprint and quite hideous looking
- 2.4Ghz Band manages only 450Mbps speed
3. Best for Office: ASUS RT-ACRH17 AC1700
The ASUS RT-ACRH17 AC1700 uses the proprietary Asus AiRadar technology. The company claims this radical new Beamforming tech provides a network more stable than those of other routers.
At 15 feet it delivered 654Mbps in our office tests and that is really blazing fast. At 30 feet the speed dropped but remained an impressive 261Mbps.
For a router that costs about $80 that is a really great performance and maybe the AiRadar is actually the next step in wifi router tech that Asus would want us to believe.David Casey, Network Specialist at Freedom 251
You can use either the browser or the Asus app to configure the router and both work equally well. The app not only allows you to configure the router but shows which device has been active for how long and consuming how much data.
The device itself looks very sleek and has 4 antennas. The housing is rectangular with a diamond pattern on the plastic top. There is a blue stripe to break the monotony of the black surface. The antennas can’t be removed and replaced with more powerful ones. Thankfully, Asus has kept the number of LED lights to only a handful, unlike other manufacturers.
It is capable of MU-MIMO and that means being able to use a variety of devices for both uploads and downloads at the same time with no lag or pause. We connected a smart TV, three laptops, a couple of cell phones, and a Chromecast and still received excellent coverage in all the devices. At only 450 grams it is also surprisingly light but not flimsy.
- One of the cheapest devices with MU-MIMO
- Really high upload and download speeds using AiRadar
- Presence of the USB 3.0 port is great for accessing storage devices
- Easy-to-use app
- Impressive range
- The Qualcomm Atheros IPQ4019 SoC hardware allows it to be tri-band but throttled down to dual-band
- Lack of open source firmware
4. Best for Streaming: NETGEAR R6230 AC1200
At a price that is just under $75, the NETGEAR R6230 AC1200 provides a very satisfying experience. With 2 antennas and Beamforming tech, it is a budget-friendly option for those looking to live stream gameplay or watch movies on laptops!
Though the manufacturer claims it can support 20 devices, the CPU does not seem capable of that many. It is backward compatible with 802.11 B/G/N protocols and would be able to effortlessly operate with your older devices as well.
With a compact design and using the latest 802.11AC protocol, R6230 supports IPv6 and the older IPv4. Priced far less than the R6700 and Archer C9, it delivers a solid performance but without the capability to cover a one-acre farm! The multiple LEDs notify you about the power, wifi, WPS, USB, and LAN usage.
If you live in an apartment with 3-4 rooms and need a router for 4k video streaming and playing online games like PUBG, Fortnite, Civilization 6, and more, this router is sufficient for your needs. The USB 2.0 port can be connected to a storage device to stream media to any device. The 128MB DDR 3 RAM is more than sufficient. If you want even faster downloads you can use the Gigabit LAN ports for blazing-fast 1000Mbps speed.
There is a WPS button that allows the connection of a guest device without having to type in the password. Being dual-band it is capable of simultaneously supporting both 2.4 and 5GHz, providing steady data flow up to a distance of about 120 ft.
The Nighthawk app makes it easy to set up due to the intuitive interface. The app also allows you to change the firmware and customize the network. The initial setup is easy and the router automatically connects to your ISP. Manual configuration needs you to input information through a computer.
- Easy to use Nighthawk app
- Gigabit LAN for fast downloads
- Dual-band for wide coverage
- Facility for WPS
- Lack of USB 3.0 port
- Phone customer support restricted to the United States
5. Best for Everyday Use: ASUS RT-ACRH13
The ASUS RT-ACRH13 is a solidly built wireless router from the Taiwanese manufacturer. It is priced at only $70 and competes well with Motorola MR1700.
It scores over the MR1700 in several ways – from its 5dBi antennas to the use of MU-MIMO technology. While reviewing it, we simultaneously used 4 laptops, a Chromecast, 3 phones, and a gaming console and never faced any problem.
The 5GHz band delivers 280Mbps consistently across a room, and the 2.4GHz was able to deliver 90Mbps about a hundred feet away. The matte finish top hosts the patented diamond pattern Asus finish. The design is sophisticated yet assertive and would be a welcome addition near your home entertainment unit.
Not everyone is a computer science student or IT specialist, or network engineer. Thus it is important to buy a router that can be configured quickly. Asus has come to the rescue with its intuitive app that detects the ISP and optimizes the setup.
Thankfully it has only a few LED lights at the font and not the multitude that many models feel the need to put in. Plenty of encryption means easy and safe connection to all devices without malware seeping from one device to another.
The technology of Asus routers is always impressive and allows the most stable downloads possible. Add to it really easy to use parental controls and advanced options such as a firewall and you have a winner on your hands.
The USB 3.0 port at the front is really handy in that you could store all media files on one hard drive and stream it across your home wherever you are.
- 5dBi antennas for strong signal strength
- Best in class performance
- Better speeds on both bands
- Effortless setup
- Cheapest router with MU-MIMO
- Does not use AiRadar proprietary tech
- USB 3.0 port should be located in the rear
6. Best for Home Use: TP-Link AC1750
The C7 from TP-LINK is meant to compete with the TP-Link AC1750 model and compares quite well. They are both priced about the same at just under $60 and have largely the same set of features.
If you are leaving home there is a physical switch to turn off the wifi. That is quite an unusual but very useful feature. The device is black and has the generic look that most routers have. The three antennas can work at 5dbi which is a change from the 3dbi signal that many cheap routers provide.
There are 10 LEDs on the front panel that indicate the usual information – power, WPS, LAN, USB. Unfortunately, the lights cannot be turned off and can be slightly irritating in a dimly lit room providing a ghostly (and ghastly) green glow.
The 5 dbi antennas work well up to 150 feet away if there are no intervening walls or partitions. With the WPS switch, you can easily add a guest device and the button doubles up to reset the router to factory settings if depressed for 8 seconds.
The Qualcomm processor at 720 Mhz is slightly slow considering that the Netgear R6730 that the TP-LINK Archer C7 compares itself with has a 1 GHz CPU. It also lacks MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs) for efficient resource management when several smart devices are connected simultaneously.
Our tests showed the 2.4 GHz band capable of delivering downloads at about 180 Mbps about 50 feet away and the 5 GHz providing 304 Mbps at a distance of 10 feet.Jacob, Freedom 251
Use of open-source firmware allows the optimization of the router. Although an ordinary user would not find much use in that. However, if you are a developer who is a fan of open-source code, you’ll love this for that reason alone. There are parental controls but it needs time to set up since the system is based on inputting individual MAC addresses of the devices.
- Inexpensive and reliable
- Runs on open source firmware
- Wifi on/off switch
- Parental controls possible
- USB 2.0 port for storage devices
- Lack of USB 3.0 port
- MU-MIMO optimization is not available
7. Best for Smooth Browsing: Motorola MR1700 AC1700
At a low price of $70, it is probably the cheapest wireless router from a well-known brand. With no less than six adjustable antennas (four for 2.4GHz and 2 for 5GHz) it promises to deliver lightning-fast internet into the farthest corners of your home.
The Motorola MR1700 AC1700 router looks simple with a curved top and has a nondescript black design. It can work well with either cable or ADSL modem and showed quite decent results in our lab tests. We received download speeds of 60Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 95Mbps on the 5GHz band. Considering the price that is value for money performance
The test we did included eight devices connected at the same time and device prioritization controls worked perfectly. It is going to be really easy to tie all of your smartphones, television and gaming consoles together into one network.
Whether you like Netflix or Hulu, the MR1700 does the job smoothly and with very little fuss. The setup is straightforward and you could just use the parental controls if you don’t want your child to be reaching out to darker corners of the web. The NAT firewall keeps your system safe from hackers and malware. The only let down is it has no USB interface and that means being unable to connect it to a storage device and watch movies or stream music from it.
It is also backward compatible meaning you don’t have to stop using your older gaming consoles. There is a 2-year warranty on the product and at all times you could reach out to really efficient tech help who are just a phone call away.
- A reasonably priced product with dual-band capability
- Made by a trusted name in telecom
- Parental control possible
- Traffic prioritization available
- Six high powered antennas
- No USB port
- Lack of tech support over the phone outside the USA
8. Best Budget-Friendly: Linksys EA6350 AC1200
A slightly dated model when AC1200 was considered the latest tech, it fades quite a bit compared to newer models like TP-Link Archer C9 and the Linksys EA6350 AC1200 that are priced about the same.
The fact that the Linksys product page brags that it is three times faster than 802.11N shows its vintage! In fact, the page does not even tell if it is compatible with Windows 10 (of course it is since Win 8.1 is listed but no mention of Win 10 is surprising).
Strangely enough online stores have these priced everywhere from $50 to 90 and there are a lot of vendors out there looking to liquidate their old stocks and you might grab one for as little as half the sticker price.
The great thing is it requires no CD to set up and you can have it up and running in less than 10 minutes. With Beamforming technology, it is possible to connect several devices at the same time and watch streaming video from the web and download music at speeds above 200Mbps.
Our tests revealed that it is able to handle 7-8 devices smoothly. It does seem that the setup has a problem with some devices running on the 2.4GHz band and it would not allow my laptop to use VPN over wireless. I was able to access the VPN using the LAN port but that is hardly desirable.
There is parental control available through the Linksys Smart WiFi App and device prioritization can be set as well. This means your streaming videos can take precedence over your brother’s gaming (or vice versa).
Overall a good device but it has certainly grown slightly long in the tooth.Rene, an EA6350 user since 4 months and a regular Freedom 251 reader
- Inexpensive if you get a discount on the sticker price
- Has a USB 3.0 port
- Easy to manage using Linksys app
- Can handle several devices smoothly
- More than capable hardware firewall
- A quite old model
- Has a problem connecting to some 2.4 GHz devices
At a price of around $50, it is squarely aimed at the low budget segment. At this price, you cannot expect the pedigree of Netgear and TP-Link.
A plain black device that has a row of green LEDs in the front for LAN, power, USB, and WPS, it offers satisfactory streaming over dual bands. In our tests, the 2.4GHz band was able to provide 40 to 60 Mbps consistently 100 ft away and the 5GHz band delivered 100 Mbps across the room. The latency is dramatically low and the groundbreaking design of Beamforming antennas must be given credit for this.
The lack of USB 3.0 means that very fast file transfers are not possible but Beamforming technology allows greater optimization of networking.
The antennas are really capable of performing well even though you are on a different floor. The setup is surprisingly straightforward and there is no need for you to be a geek and fumble with hard to understand phrases such as “64-bit WEP Yes/No”. Just plug it in and the router does most of the setup by itself.
There is also the choice of a VPN that is built-in and it is a welcome feature. So if you love privacy, this is something you’ll love! #HelloPrivacy
The design of the Medialink AC1200 wireless router is robust and the build quality leaves nothing to desire. The black corrugated plastic front is high quality and the LED lights, believe it or not, can be dimmed at night!
If you are facing any problem with media streaming inside your home this is the perfect answer. And why just video, use 10 devices at the same time and the Medialink AC1200 would support them very capably.
We tested ShieldsUp and it showed all the ports were blacked out which means the firewall works just great. One problem is that it is not compatible with open-source firmware.
- Very cheap and reliable
- Clean and sturdy build
- 4 Gigabit LAN ports
- Easy setup with no hassle
- Strong overall performance
- No USB 3.0 port
- Not very well known manufacturer
The Buyer’s Guide
Although $100 is a medium-budget when it comes to WiFi Routers it’s not less. There are a few things you might want to look into before buying one. The good thing is, the models we’ve reviewed and compared above takes care of all these factors.
As stated above the rated speed is not the same as actual throughput. Only a fraction of the rated speed is achievable in real life. If you are going to connect only a couple of devices at a time to the router then maybe a router with a rating of 900 would be fine. For anything more, you need AC1500 and more.
If you use the router to watch 1080p video from YouTube on your tablet then 300 Mbps is enough. But connect a gaming console, a smart tv, and a few laptops and you will find you need upwards of 1200 Mbps rated speed.
If you are among the ones who have access to really high-speed gigabit internet speed connection then you might want to consider a router which is AC5400.
Wifi routers have two bands 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The first delivers lower speeds across long distances and the latter higher speed across a room. Both are needed for better usability. Ideally, the 2.4GHz can support 450 Mbps and the 5GHz 1300 Mbps. In reality, it is one-tenth of that amount.
Dual-band gives you the flexibility to move around with your laptop or tablet from room to room without serious packet loss or lag. You can enjoy very speed inside the room where the router is and moderately high speed at a distance of 120 feet.
3. Type of LAN port
Ethernet ports support 100 Mbps while Gigabit ports support 1000 Mbps over wired connections. With more homes being connected by optical fiber to 1 Gbps networks it makes sense to have Gigabit ports. 4k videos are gradually becoming the norm and the files are vast in size at about 100GB (that is bytes made of 8 bits). With a Gigabit port, it would take 15 minutes to download a 100 GB movie while an Ethernet port would take 10 times longer or 2.5 hours.
4. Wifi Standards and Security
If you are satisfied with rated 900 Mbps and actual 40 Mbps downloads then the 802.11N standard is fine. But as discussed above more than one data-hungry device would mean going for AC1200 standard routers.
For your home network, the WPA2 security that is provided on every router is good enough. Each password is at least 8 characters (alpha-numeric). Unless you own a business with professional hackers trying to get access inside your system you will not need much more. All routers by default have a NAT firewall that is reliable enough for home security.
5. MU-MIMO & Beamforming
MU-MIMO or multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs (also known as AC Wave 2) allows several smart devices to have a conversation with the router at the same time. The more complex the connection, the greater will be the time taken by an older router.
Such as if you and your wife were downloading data and your son and daughter were uploading, the old wifi routers would place everybody in a queue and handle requests accordingly. Simultaneous up and down traffic from multiple devices was not possible. MU-MIMO is able to optimize these complex traffic patterns better.
Beamforming is a way of focusing the antenna signal to a device instead of spreading it all around. Naturally, it increases the signal strength and is a desirable feature.
6. Number of ports
Most routers have 4 LAN ports and that is usually more than enough. Ideally, they should have 2 USB 3.0 ports but at sub-$100 the best one gets is 1 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0. The USB 3.0 can be used to stream media files from a hard drive while the USB 2.0 can be attached to a printer. Many routers at this range lack a USB 3.0 port. Try and avoid such models if budget allows.
Routers with 5 dBi antennas can cover a large area. Most routers can send a signal till around 100 feet away but thereafter the strength dies down. It is best to buy routers with a detachable antenna. This allows you to buy a better one rated at 10dBi from the market and extend the range. A range of 120 feet is usually desirable to cover a property.
Why Not Buy A Router Below 802.11 AC1200 Standards?
WiFi standards change every few years to deliver higher and higher data rates. They are also known as 802.11 standards and has been around since 1999. It has gone through several versions – A, B, G, N and now AC. Each generation provides faster speed at a greater range.
So when we say router above AC1200 means, you shall go for the ones which are AC1750, AC1900 or even AC5400. However, you won’t be able to get a router above AC1900 in the $100 price range.
1200 means the total data rate for the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz bands is 1200 Mbps (megabits per second, not confused with megabytes per second). Understand that the suffix 1200 means the theoretical rate is 1200. In actuality, it is far less and around 10% of that amount. The reason it is less is, first of all, because your ISP may be slow.
In a report, Statista mentioned that Kansas City, Missouri had the highest average speed in the US. It was only 159.19 Mbps (March 2019). However, even the basic 1200AC router would support speeds up to 1200 Mbps. It’s not wrong to buy a router that is below the 1200AC standards, but going below it would mean you are buying an outdated device that is no more secure.
While there are plenty of reasons for interference in the signals, However one of the common reason includes interference due to walls and signals from other Wireless networks or routers.Michael Smith, Freedom 251
If you could take your AC1200 router to an uninhabited area, use a laptop with an SSD as a server, and connect it to another laptop with the wifi router in between, you would probably get a really high transfer speed of 900 Mbps at a distance of 4 feet.
As you begin to move away from the router, the speed would drop. If you moved out of the line of sight, it would drop dramatically to between 60-100 Mbps, which most routers actually deliver. Since you can use no more than 10-15% of the router’s rated throughput, anything less than 1200 would not be able to work with your 4K TV, which needs 25-30 Mbps to work.
All of the devices we checked were competent. They are among the best ones available in the US. Besides, none of them really made us unhappy. But what if you asked us which was the first among equals?
The best router we reviewed on the list was Netgear R6700AX. At a price of under 100 dollars, it has a great range and the latest WiFi standards for better speeds. It worked well with several devices in our tests.
If we had to choose another it would definitely be the Netgear Nighthawk AC1750. With MU-MIMO, proprietary AiRadar Beamforming and USB 3.0 port it struck as an excellent value for money option. Close on its heels would be ASUS RT-ACRH17 AC1700 because it has an incredible look for just a few dollars more in price.