routers

These are the best cheap wifi routers

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The router is the center of your home network. Routers of 400 euros or more are no exception nowadays. For less than 60 euros you can also buy a router. But what do you actually get? We have tested the best cheap wifi routers to find out.

For a top model wifi router, you sometimes pay 400 euros or more. This concerns device with many antennas that sometimes support up to eight transmit and receive channels and use the latest technologies to achieve the highest possible wireless transmission speeds. This power is definitely useful in an environment with many wireless devices that make frequent use of the Wi-Fi network at the same time. However, in normal situations, it is ‘overkill’. Most laptops, smartphones, for example, tablets and streaming devices have only one or two transmit and receive antennas. A router with more send and receive channels does not help. Such a powerful Wi-Fi router naturally operates multiple wireless devices at the same speed as possible. But if normally only a handful of wireless devices are active at the same time, a less powerful, the cheaper router is sufficient. Think of a home office, small house, apartment or student room.

Not always 5 GHz

If you buy a router, 802.11ac is the most common technology that uses the 5GHz band, such routers also support 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band. In the meantime, 802.11ac has also penetrated the budget category. There are also cheap routers that only support WiFi 802.11n on the 2.4 GHz frequency only. That is not always a disadvantage. First, the 2.4 GHz band has a significantly larger wireless range than the faster 5 GHz band. Secondly, the Wi-Fi chip for cheaper smartphones, tablets, and laptops often only works on the 2.4 GHz frequency. If you only have 2.4GHz clients, you do not have a dual band router and save money with a 2.4GHz single-band copy.

The usefulness of multiple antennas

To achieve higher wireless throughput speeds, routers combine multiple antennas. Two simultaneous data streams are sometimes referred to as 2×2 for the number of data streams that can be transmitted and received at the same time. Transmitter and receiver must have as many antennas to reach the maximum speed. Furthermore, they obviously use the same WiFi technology: 802.11-n (2.4 or 5 GHz) or 802.11-ac (5 GHz). 802.11-n has a theoretical basic speed of 150 Mbit / s. At 802.11-ac this is 433 Mbit / s. With two channels you can double that to 300 Mbit / s and 866 Mbit / s respectively. The specified speeds indicate the maximum connection speed between sender and receiver. In practice, your wireless connections are a lot slower. How slow? We tested that in this article.

Fast versus gigabit ethernet

Affordable routers often have fast-instead gigabit-ethernet ports to which you hang wired network equipment such as a nas or Media Streamer. Keep in mind that this type of network ports works ten times slower (100 MHz). If you do not use wired network devices that support gigabit, that is, of course, no problem.

A problem may be the speed of the wan ethernet port to which your internet modem is connected. Fast Ethernet does not achieve more than about 90 to 95 Mbit / s in practice. If you have a faster internet connection, you should invest in a WiFi router with a gigabit-wan port, which reaches up to 900 Mbit / s. Otherwise, your cheap wifi router forms a bottleneck for your internet connection. A router with a gigabit-wan port usually also has gigabit ethernet ports, so you can use the faster internet connection for example on your wired PC.

Where usually only a handful of wireless devices are active at the same time, a cheaper router is sufficient

Test responsibility

We test the effective transfer rate using IPerf3 in the supported WiFi frequencies (5 GHz and/or 2.4 GHz) and on a Gigabit Ethernet port. We perform a total of four-speed tests of thirty seconds each with ten parallel data streams in the transmit and receive direction, ignoring the results of the very first second. We also perform a reach test on the 2.4 GHz frequency, in total at six locations that are in a 3D star shape around, above and below the tested router. For the USB port routers, we measure the USB speed on an NTFS-formatted external Seagate disk that is connected to the fastest USB port of the tested router. All test results are converted into weighted scores for functionality, wireless network speed, wired network speed, wireless range and USB speed.

ASUS RT-AC53

The ASUS RT-AC53 is not much bigger than a big male hand, with three long position able fixed antennas at the back. It is a dual-band router with separate WiFi chips for the 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies. The 2.4 GHz chip, with a theoretical maximum throughput of 300 Mbit / s, can simultaneously transmit and receive on two wireless channels. The 5GHz chip has one channel, with a maximum speed of 433 Mbit / s. All ports are located at the back: two yellow gigabit ethernet ports (just lan) and one blue wan port. On top of the box, there are six status LEDs for the LAN- and wan-ports, the two Wi-Fi frequencies and the power. A sticker on the bottom indicates the login details.

The management is in English. When you first access the web interface, the router will immediately ask you to choose a unique password for the admin account. That’s the way it should be! If you followed the connection instructions correctly, the internet normally works immediately. If you have a different type of connection or if it does not work then you can still run the Quick Internet Setup wizard in the management. Also check first in the management menu if no new firmware is available. You can apply this automatically; the upgrade process takes about three minutes. The management is adapted to mobile browsers and is divided into menus, tabs, and icons. The mobile management app ASUS Router contains some extra features that are missing in the web interface, such as a security scan that shows you point by point how you can improve the security of your router.

ASUS RT-AC53

Price

€ 60, –

D-Link DIR-809

This small router has three large, fixed position able antennas. It is a dual-band router that uses two separate Wi-Fi chips just like the ASUS device. The 2.4 GHz chip supports two simultaneous transmit and receive channels. For 5 GHz this is limited to one channel. The theoretical maximum throughput is the same as with ASUS. The D-Link has four LAN ports (colored black), next to one yellow-colored wan-gate. Certainly, for beginners, it is confusing that those colors are not standardized within this product group. Unfortunately, slower fast Ethernet ports. On top, there are eight status LEDs, including LEDs for each LAN port. The standard log-in details can be found on the bottom.

A colorful A4 sheet leads you visually through the commissioning. In addition, the complete manual on CD is included. Unfortunately, the management interface management does not require you to change the empty admin password into something unique. Many users will leave this empty, which is particularly unsafe. Also, remarkable: the extra secure spi firewall (stateful packet inspection) that functions as an extension to the normal firewall is disabled by default. Via a wizard, you can configure the internet, wireless and network settings. The management is still the traditional management such as D-Link that has a lot of network equipment, with text menus at the top and left, and information and input screens in the middle. This router does not have the visually better management of recent D-Link wifi routers. The handy D-Link WiFi app can unfortunately also not handle this DIR-809. On the right in the management window, short tips appear with each configuration option. Unfortunately, everything is in English, just like the rest of the web interface.

D-Link DIR-809

Price

€ 42, –

It is certainly confusing for beginners that the colors of the gates are not industry standardized

Linksys E1200

The E1200 is very compact due to the lack of external antennas: not much bigger than a big male hand. Only the 2.4 GHz frequency is present, with a maximum throughput of 300 Mbit / s. There are four blue fast Ethernet ports (LAN) and one yellow wan port. At the bottom, you will find a WPS pin code, but all other log-in and configuration information is only available in the quick start guide. Unfortunately, the installation instructions do not say more than that you have to insert the included CD into your PC and follow the instructions. Awkward at a time when a CD player is becoming a rarity. Fortunately, you can also simply download the Linksys Connect installation software. Choose during the download the correct hardware version, because there are three of them. We tested version 2.0 of the E1200. You can find this information at the bottom next to the model number. E-aware users can manually install the E1200 by clicking on the message “Continue with an open and unsecured network (not recommended)” at the bottom of the welcome page. Unfortunately, Linksys does not oblige you to change the default login details to something safer. If you use the more user-friendly, more visual management environment Linksys Connect then you have to choose a secure password. For all advanced settings, connect software simply refers you to classic web management. Firmware updates must also be installed manually but be careful that you flash the correct hardware version! E-aware users can manually install the E1200 by clicking on the message “Continue with an open and unsecured network (not recommended)” at the bottom of the welcome page. Unfortunately, Linksys does not oblige you to change the default login details to something safer. If you use the more user-friendly, more visual management environment Linksys Connect then you have to choose a secure password. For all advanced settings, connect software simply refers you to classic web management. Firmware updates must also be installed manually but be careful that you flash the correct hardware version! E-aware users can manually install the E1200 by clicking on the message “Continue with an open and unsecured network (not recommended)” at the bottom of the welcome page. Unfortunately, Linksys does not oblige you to change the default login details to something safer. If you use the more user-friendly, more visual management environment Linksys Connect then you must choose a secure password. For all advanced settings, connect software simply refers you to classic web management. Firmware updates must also be installed manually but be careful that you flash the correct hardware version!

Linksys E1200

Price

€ 30, –

Netgear R6120

The Netgear R6120 has the same trapezoidal design as the more expensive Nighthawk routers from Netgear. But it is much smaller, lighter and completely plastic. It is a simultaneous dual-band router based on a MediaTek chipset. The maximum transfer speed is 300 Mbit / s in the 2.4 GHz frequency and 867 Mbit / s in the 5 GHz frequency (which is also called an AC1200 router). There are one blue wan port and four black LAN ports, all of which only work at 100 Mbit / s (fast ethernet). The only USB port supports USB 2.0. On the top, you will find four status LEDs for power, wifi, internet, and LAN. A single status LED for all Ethernet ports makes it difficult to find a solution for any network problems. At the bottom, there are recesses to fix the device against a wall. The packaging contains several quick-start brochures. The login data for Wi-Fi and management are printed at the bottom. You can also scan a QR code with the Netgear Genie app, but the login details on the bottom of the router must still be configured on your mobile. With the Genie app, you change the basic settings, but only the web interface contains all configuration options. Both are fortunately in Dutch. The web interface (which is also called ‘Netgear Genie’) looks very classic, with a menu on the left, information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard, but via it, the login data for Wi-Fi and management are printed at the bottom. You can also scan a QR code with the Netgear Genie app, but the login details on the bottom of the router must still be configured on your mobile. With the Genie app, you change the basic settings, but only the web interface contains all configuration options. Both are fortunately in Dutch. The web interface (which is also called ‘Netgear Genie’) looks very classic, with a menu on the left, information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard, but via it, the login data for Wi-Fi and management are printed at the bottom. You can also scan a QR code with the Netgear Genie app, but the login details on the bottom of the router must still be configured on your mobile. With the Genie app, you change the basic settings, but only the web interface contains all configuration options. The web interface (which is also called ‘Netgear Genie’) looks very classic, with a menu on the left, information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard, but via it but the login details on the bottom of the router you still have to configure yourself on your mobile. With the Genie app, you change the basic settings, but only the web interface contains all configuration options. The web interface (which is also called ‘Netgear Genie’) looks very classic, with a menu on the left, information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard, but via it but the login details on the bottom of the router you still have to configure yourself on your mobile. With the Genie app, you change the basic settings, but only the web interface contains all configuration options. The web interface (which is also called ‘Netgear Genie’) looks very classic, with a menu on the left, information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard but via it information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard but via it information in the middle and at the top of the choice between basic and advanced settings. It all works well organized. Connected USB drives are freely available in the network as standard, but via it Ready SHARE menu can be secured. If you want to share a printer, you first have to configure the USB port via this menu. Given the wireless specifications, the performance on the 5GHz band is disappointing: they are slowed down by the slow-fast ethernet connections.

Netgear R6120

Price

€ 49, –

TP-Link Archer C5

The stylish box of the TP-Link Archer C5 looks very sturdy. Also, the (more than) twice as heavyweight, compared to the other routers tested, indicates good build quality. The two positionable antennas of this simultaneous dual-band router (300 Mbit / s on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbit / s on the 5 GHz band or AC1200) need to be attached to golden coax connectors yourself (type rp-sma) that are also suitable for optional more powerful antennas. All connections are at the back: one gigabit-wan port (blue), four Gigabit LAN ports (yellow) and two USB 2.0 ports (white). On the front, you will find eight status LEDs, four of which show the status of the LAN ports. At the bottom, there are two recesses with which you can attach the router to the wall if desired.

You will find the login details and the standard Wi-Fi password on the bottom of a sticker. The brochure with installation instructions also contains but is very concise. You will find a more extensive manual on the included mini-CD (which we find inconvenient). In addition, an English-language sheet is included that shows graphically how to connect the router. TP-Link does not oblige you to change the login details of the web interface (default admin/admin) into something unique. The TP-Link web interface works in a clear and simple way, with a menu on the left, the choice between basic and advanced settings at the top and the options to be filled in the middle. The router is also compatible with the TP-Link Tether app for Android and iOS, but much more than requesting the status,

TP-Link Archer C5

Price

€ 59, –

ZyXEL NBG-418N v2

The ZyXEL NBG-418N v2 is just like the Linksys E1200 a very affordable single-band router (dual-stream, 802.11n) with a maximum throughput of 300 Mbit / s. This is the smallest router in the test, even more, compact than the E1200. He is so small that he would fit in a big pocket, except for the antennae: they are big, positionable and stuck. Turned inwards, the antennae protrude about four centimeters from the sides, but they are turned up fifteen centimeters above the plastic housing. No matter how small the casing is, the NBG-418N v2 has at the bottom recesses that allow you to attach the device to a wall. The blue wan gate and four yellow lan gates (all only fast-ethernet) are located at the back. At the front, there are four status LEDs for power, wifi, internet and wps. Status LEDs for the network ports are missing. You will find the ssid and the unique Wi-Fi password on the bottom of a sticker. One downside: the web interface works in many languages. The interface is simple and mostly text-based, with a menu on the left, several tabs with corresponding input screens in the middle. The main page shows an overview of the configuration. There is not much configuration work, with in fact only two menus that really matter, namely the interface is simple and mostly text-based, with a menu on the left, several tabs with corresponding input screens in the middle. The main page shows an overview of the configuration. There is not much configuration work, with in fact only two menus that really matter, namely the interface is simple and mostly text-based, with a menu on the left, several tabs with corresponding input screens in the middle. The main page shows an overview of the configuration. There is not much configuration work, with in fact only two menus that really matter, namely Network and Security. Sometimes it is looking for an option. For example, you can find the settings for the wireless guest network under the somewhat mysteriously labeled tab MBSSID.

ZyXEL NBG-418N v2

Price

€ 25, –

Conclusion

For less than sixty euros you buy a lot of routers, but compromises are inevitable. Network ports often work only at fast ethernet speed (100 Mbit / s instead of 1 Gbit / s), a USB port is not always present and the Wi-Fi chips are not the newest. The TP-Link Archer C5 combines strong performance with the good build quality and a complete collection of functions and specifications. It is the rightful winner of this test. The ASUS RT-AC53 is an honorable second, which performs even better, but with less complete equipment (only two LAN ports, no USB port).

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