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While high-quality routers can be expensive to buy, you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune just to stream HD content or cut the cord with your TV provider. It can be tricky shopping for a new router with all the different types there are. In the spirit of living on a budget, being frugal, or as I like to call it, “mindful spending”, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular wireless routers under $100, including the most affordable future-proof router (with WiFi 6 technology), and the most cost-effective mesh network system.

Top Four Most Affordable Wireless Routers for Streaming

1. Linksys EA6350 AC1200+ Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router

 Linksys EA6350 AC1200+ Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router
Linksys EA6350 AC1200+ Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router

For prices starting at $59, the Linksys EA6350 AC1200+ router is the easiest router to set up on our list. The Linksys App can connect your router to any modem which makes this router perfect for non-techies. The EA6350 AC1200 is not the fastest router on our list, with speeds reaching up to 300 Mbps or 867 Mbps for the 2.5 and 5 GHz band respectively. But it is the first one on our list to offer device prioritization features (meaning cord cutters can prioritize their streaming devices’ data to be first in line for transfer) and have a user-friendly control portal. Your Wi-Fi will only reach up to 1,000 sq. ft., making this router ideal for smaller households and apartment-dwellers.

Pros Cons
  • Can connect to 10 devices at once
  • Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Ideal for 4K streaming and gaming
  • Only reaches 1,000 square feet
  • Is not designed to work with anything more recent than Microsoft Windows 7
  • Does not allow custom DNS settings

2. Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gaming Router

Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gaming Router
Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Gaming Router

At just $59.99, the Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band wireless router is an amazing deal for a gaming router. You can reach speeds up to 400-1733 Mbps depending on which band you’re using. While having three bands is great for a household with different types of internet users, you won’t get Quality of Service (QoS), device prioritization, or parental controls like you would with the rest of the routers on the list. But if you’re more concerned with price, speed, and WiFi range, the Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band router is the best option on this list.

Pros Cons
  • Cheapest high-end router on the market
  • Range of up to 4,000 square feet
  • Three-band technology allows for speeds of up to 3,000 Mbps (distributed among multiple devices)
  • Not available to purchase through major retailers like Amazon
  • Missing parental controls
  • Shorter warranty than usual (only 1 year)

3. TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (V2)

TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (V2)
TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (V2)

The TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 wireless router starts at just $68.99. As a dual-band router, it works on both 2.4 GHz (with download speeds up to 450 Mbps) and 5 GHz (with up to 1300 Mbps) frequencies. It is surprising how many features are packed into this device considering its price. Two of my favorites are the parental control and guest network features that also allow you to place speed limits on certain connections. This router is best for families or roommates who often have friends come and go — that way, you can take full advantage of the control features made for parents and hosts.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to install and manage with Tether app
  • 2-year warranty + technical support
  • Gigabit ethernet ports
  • Reported intermittent connectivity issues
  • User interface is hard to use

4. Asus RT-AC66U B1 Dual-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

Asus RT-AC66U B1 Dual-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
Asus RT-AC66U B1 Dual-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

The Asus RT-AC66U is designed for large households who need reliable speeds and are on a budget. The range and maximum speed for this router are incredible, reaching up to 3,000 sq. ft. and up to 1,750 Mbps (if your internet plan allows it). The Asus RT-AC66U will cost you $97, but it is well worth the price considering its features — especially the Quality of Service (QoS) feature that’s normally reserved for gaming routers. The best part is you don’t need to be tech-literate to set up, monitor, or control your router or network thanks to the Asus Router App. If you can’t find the Jetstream AC3000 Tri-Band router, the Asus RT-AC66U is the next best option.

Pros Cons
  • Reaches up to 3,000 square feet
  • Built-in security features
  • Easy setup and management through the Asus Router App
  • Non-removable/replaceable antennas
  • No recent firmware updates

The best wireless router for the future

If you like to have the newest devices, like the latest iPhone 12 or a next-gen console like the PS5, you will want to consider a router that’s built for the future. Most routers available today have WiFi 4 or WiFi 5 technology, which came out in 2009 and 2014 respectively. Only a few have the latest WiFi 6 technology, which offers up to 10 Gbps. And of those few, the Asus RT-AX88U offers the best features.

Buying a router should be a long-term investment. After all, one of the main reasons to buy a router is the savings you get from not renting one from an ISP. So, buying a router that isn’t equipped for changes may not be a good investment, as it could quickly become outdated or even obsolete. Fortunately, the Asus RT-AX88U offers a potential solution for people who want the best wireless router for the future.

Asus RT-AX88U
Asus RT-AX88U

The Asus RT-AX88U offers built-in malware protection, parental controls, Quality of Service (QoS), and has user-friendly settings that allow you to control the router and your network. But these features, along with WiFi 6 technology, come at a high price. Currently, the Asus RT-AX88U costs $339.99. In the long run, you’ll save money since this router is equipped to handle future speed upgrades (like when providers start offering plans with up to 2 Gbps), and you won't be paying $120-180 a year on equipment rental fees.

Pros Cons
  • Next-gen WiFi 6 standard
  • Built-in security features
  • Can handle speeds up to 6,000 Mbps
  • High price tag
  • Might be overkill for people who just want basic internet
  • Requires frequent firmware updates

The best wireless router for a mesh network

A mesh network is a group of devices that work together to form one large network. Mesh networks are best for people in homes with “dead zones”, which are usually distant spaces like attics, basements, garages, etc.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus
TP-Link Deco M9 Plus

The beauty behind the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus is that it’s two devices working together as one. You can almost think of it as having two routers, but they’re on the same network racing to deliver your data. Together, the Deco M9 devices are able to deliver high speeds no matter where a device is under their collective 4,500 sq. ft. coverage area. TP-Link also offers a three-pack version of the Deco M9 if you need Wi-Fi coverage for up to 6,500 sq. ft.

Purchasing a TP-Link Deco M9 gives you a free lifetime subscription to TP-Link HomeCare: a digital security package featuring parental controls, antivirus software, and QoS controls. On top of that, the Deco M9 also doubles as a smart home hub. You can connect smart devices from TP-Link, GE, Kwikset, Samsung, Phillips, Securifi, and the list goes on. While the price for the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus ($189.99) is higher than most of the routers on our list, you’d make your money back in less than two years depending on how much your ISP charges for equipment.

Pros Cons
  • Large coverage area (4,500 square feet)
  • Tri-band tech for faster speeds
  • Built-in security features
  • If the primary access point goes down, you lose internet access across the entire mesh network
  • Limited customization options

Things to know when shopping for a wireless router

If you’re like me, price is normally the first deciding factor in anything you buy. A cheap router may make your budget happy, but could frustrate you or your family/roommates if it doesn’t create a strong wireless network. Take a look at the other four most important things to consider when you’re looking for a new router.

WiFi bands

WiFi bands refer to the radio wave frequencies used to transmit data over a network. Most wireless routers are dual-band, which means they can transmit data using two frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. If you’ve ever had to set up your own network, you’ve probably noticed that your router provides these two options in the list of WiFi networks. As previously mentioned, 2.4 GHz is designed to provide farther reach at reduced speeds. Alternatively, 5 GHz provides faster speeds over a smaller coverage area.

Though the technology is relatively new, tri-band wireless routers and mesh networks have now added the 6 GHz frequency. This is one of the key features of the next-gen WiFi 6 standard. In theory, this new frequency provides faster speeds and farther reach than either of its predecessors.

Speed (data throughput)

Data throughput (or the “speed” of your router) refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted through your network per second. The actual speeds you experience will depend on a variety of factors. Most wireless routers can transmit up to 600 Mbps, though WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 standard routers can reach and even surpass 1-2 Gbps.

However, the maximum speed allowed by your internet plan will be the most important factor for determining your internet speed. For example, let’s say your internet plan advertises download speeds up to 1 Gbps. However, the average speeds you actually get are closer to 300 Mbps. As long as your router can transmit at least 300 Mbps (and most routers can), you won’t experience slower speeds due to your router. (But you may want to switch to a more reliable provider).

Reach

On average, 2.4 GHz frequencies can provide a WiFi coverage area (or “reach”) of up to 150 square feet indoors and 300 square feet outdoors. If you choose to use the 5 GHz frequency, you can expect these numbers to be 75 square feet and 150 square feet, respectively. While reach is not that important for small apartments or homes, it can be extremely important for larger households. In some cases, you may have no choice but to set up a mesh network to ensure that you have WiFi across your entire property.

Features

While many people just look at the price, there are a lot of additional features that can really improve your home network. Routers that already include certain features can enhance your internet’s performance, give you more customization options, and even make your home network safer. Here are a few of the most important features to look for:

  • Built-in security – This can include unique passwords, regular firmware updates, built-in firewalls, and restricted access policies.
  • Parental controls – Many routers allow parents to control the kind of content that can be accessed from certain devices through the home network.
  • Ports – Routers usually have ports so that you can plug your device directly into the router to create a wired network. Wired networks typically have faster speeds, greater connection stability, and lower latency.
  • Guest Network Features – Many routers allow you to set up “guest networks,” giving visitors access to the WiFi connection, without giving them your password or access to files shared across the home network.
  • Applications – If a router has a smartphone app, it can be far easier to set up your network and manage its settings, even when you’re away from home.
  • Home Automation Features – Many routers are now able to easily integrate with Smart Home devices like Alexa, making it easier for you to get the most out of your Start Home device.

2 thoughts on “The Best Wireless Routers for Streaming

  1. Avatar Gonzalo Gaitan says:

    Looking into cord cutting, with that my existing Wi-Fi service will go too.

    My question:
    If I purchase a router, do I have to tie myself to a new Wi-Fi provider? Or this is a plug and play system?

    Thanks for your help,
    Gonzalo

  2. Avatar Chris Barton says:

    We have a netgear 26 is this good for cord cutters?

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