Recommend me a wireless router under $100

With two wired PCs, an Xbox 360, a Wii, two iPhones, two iPods and an iPad (plus my DirecTV VOD on occasion) I think my poor 2+ year-old wireless router is the bottleneck in my network that is holding everyone back. I checked Advanced Search for a “recommend me a wireless router” thread and the most recent one was from Dec. 2012, hardly applicable.

So here we are. I’m looking for a new router, under $100, that can handle multiple devices with ease. At any given point in time we’ve got the main gaming PC, the Xbox 360, the iPad and both iPhones going, that’s pretty much the minimum. Obviously 802.11n is a must, and I’m thinking dual band may be the way to go, although that could price me out of range (no pun intended). Speaking of which, range is important, the Xbox 360 is in the far corner of the house from the router, so solid signal range is a must.

I’m thinking something like the DLink Xtreme DIR-655 which seems to get good ratings and has Gigabit ports for the wired connections.

Another option I’ve seen is the Belkin N600, but that seems to be an older one. Is there a newer version of the Belkin N that is better? The router I have now is a Belkin N150 B/G and I’ve been really happy with it up until recently.

Advice? Suggestions? Deals?

At <$100, the RT-N56u. I have one myself, works great.

When I moved into my new house in CA, the computer room on the third floor wasn’t wired for cable. This was a problem. So I bought a high quality (2.4 and 5Ghz) PCI wireless-N card for my PC and installed it. I was not impressed. In fact, it was rather shitty. Comcast was bringing in ~59Mbps service but I was lucky if I’d get 10Mbps on my PC. The router was about 15’ away, in the dead center of the house. I spent days staring at cmd windows of ping -t to 8.8.8.8 and 192.168.0.1 (the router). Frequent packet loss, and pings routinely over 100ms and even 500ms. Even to the router. I really, really didn’t want to hire an electrician to cut a half dozen (or more) holes in my walls and ceiling to bring an outlet to the office. I decided to try a new router. But I wasn’t going to fuck around. I live in a crowded neighborhood, so I wanted 5Ghz so I could eliminate my neighbor microwaving a burrito as a potential problem.

I bought Asus RT-N66U. It’s a little more than your budget.

And man, I couldn’t be happier. PC is getting around 58Mbps (about 1Mbps less than wired). Zero PL and wired-quality pings. I can play BF4 and whatever. You’d never know I wasn’t wired. Very happy with my purchase.

Edit - my previous router was an ASUS RT-N16 that I flashed with DDWRT. I didn’t bother flashing the new one.

We talked more about these Asus routers recently here. It was essentially the continuation of that router recommendation thread, 'cos so many of us bought Asus routers after that.

If you want to flash alternate firmwares (because you like ddwrt or tomato more), then avoid the rt-n56u, as it isn’t supported. I have it running stock firmware, and it is quite feature-rich already. (The one esoteric feature I wish it had is a separate guest SSID.)

Before I go buy that damned expensive N66U this thread just convinced me to buy, isn’t there some new wireless standard right around the corner that I should wait for instead?

Nice suggestions, thank you all. After reading the Wirecutter reviews and doing some additional research, I started to think I would be better off upping my budget just a bit and was considering the ASUS RT-AC56U or the ASUS RT-N66U.

At first glance the AC56U looks like the clear winner. $10 cheaper at $120, and supporting 802.11ac, it seems like a no brainer. It even won “Best Wireless Router” in Wirecutter’s roundup. However, perusing the reviews on NewEgg tell a horror story about this router having issues with the firmware (even when upgraded) that ASUS has yet to resolve, issues that drop speeds dramatically over time and require constant rebooting of the router to resolve. That’s a deal breaker.

So it looks like the N66U becomes the defacto winner by virtue of not having a bunch of user complaints about speed issues. At $130 it’s busting my budget, but all the reviews seem to indicate this thing is one of the best routers around for doing what I need to do (connecting a lot of devices over a large range and not losing any signal strength or speed). I kinda wish it supported 802.11ac, but then again I don’t currently have any devices utilizing 802.11ac and probably won’t for awhile.

So now the question becomes, just how much better is the N66U versus N56U? The N56U is $88, the N66U $130, so am I getting $42 worth of extra value from the more expensive router? I’m not a wireless expert, so while the N66U is obviously benchmarked as faster, am I really going to see a dramatic increase in speed given that I only have a 10mbps max line to my home? Is the range on the N66U significantly better than the N56U?

802.11ac. Just approved in January, devices utilizing the standard should become more common by 2015. That said, unless you plan on replacing a lot of electronics in the next 24 months, you can probably live without 802.11ac support for awhile.

Yes, and the wirecutter just updated their recommendations today to the $120 RT-AC56u. It’s a good bit more expensive than the RT-N56u I mentioned earlier, and the only real differences are that it supports AC wireless and can be flashed with DD-WRT firmware.

Question is if you really need AC wireless. N is plenty of bandwidth to stream HD video, and offers consistent performance at the 5Ghz band. You only really need AC if you’re copying massive files around over wireless, and how often do you actually do that? That said, I don’t even have any AC devices and I would absolutely spend the extra money, but everybody’s price sensitivity differs.

Just to play devil’s advocate, are you really transferring large amounts of data wirelessly? Better routers are 2-3 times faster and longer range, but I’ve allowed myself to move past paying for performance for the sake of ‘knowing it’s not a bottleneck’ and thinking more about what I actually use.

The same website says ‘best cheap router’ is the Linksys EA2700, available for $40. Dual band N, 4 x gigabit, remote monitoring with iphone app or browser, and solid features including the latest VPN, firewalls, plus an easy to use GUI. I have one, and I offer the following anecdotal evidence. I tested it by loading it up: a 300GB backup over wire (and my PC was downloading a torrent), HD streaming netflix on the PS3 (wired), wireless netflix stream on ipad, then I popped open my work laptop on wireless and found it connected immediately and surfed the internet fine. I tried to tell myself that it was a bit slower and buffering youtube, but I’m not sure. In terms of range, it’s in the basement of my 2 level home. I set my and my wife’s work laptops (typically used on ground floor) to connect to the 5ghz band, ipad and iphone to the 2.4. Absolutely zero issues or complaints.

Anyway, it will also allow you to enjoy another round of research and reviews once cheaper AC are common in a couple few years.

This is a very good point. Thanks.

Thanks for the info. I think I’ll wait a bit on AC to develop further and get a phone or something that supports it down the line and then start looking again.

On the AC56U, keep in mind the reviews on NewEgg (and there are several of them) seem to indicate the router has an issue with cycling speeds down and dropping connections altogether over time, which requires frequent rebooting to fix. That combined with the high price have me rethinking the $88 N56U as the possible top candidate for my needs right now.

I totally bought into Scott’s argument and bought the cheap Linksys router (only because my current router is acting funny and I think I need to replace it). I can wait a couple years for the AC standard to be implemented across the board.

I’ll offer one more anecdote about the rt-n56u: I cannot get near 150 Mbps on 2.4 GHz band, but I can get 300 Mbps on 5 GHz band. It could be my mix of 2.4 g and n devices. I tried moving all the g devices to a completely separate router, and I still couldn’t 2.4 GHz to go as fast as 5 GHz.

But otherwise, it’s rock solid, never needs rebooting.

That’s probably a (the, seriously, the WAN-die bug for ASUS routers was an issue on my old 500g!) firmware issue and wouldn’t be an issue in DD-WRT, mind you.

Oh, and reading the first post? Some advice on Belkin routers - NO. That is all.

If you do get the N56u, be sure you update the firmware immediately (there’s a built in utility to do it, so it’s not difficult). The older firmware had a bug that allowed external users to get access to any USB drive you had attached to the router and add/remove files from that drive.

…That’s true of a LOT of ASUS routers, actually.

So yea, update em all.

ARISE!

So six months after asking for advice in purchasing a new router in this thread, I finally got around to pulling the trigger. (Hey, it was a busy spring/summer!)

On the bright side, waiting 6 months allowed me to pick up the ASUS RT-AC56U for only $80 from Newegg (there was a coupon code good for $30 off over the weekend). Also, six months of firmware updates seem to have evened out the stability issues that plagued this router back in March. It was a breeze to setup and the immediate jump in speed and signal strength for my iPad, iPhones and Xbox 360 were noticeable.

Of course I updated the firmware right away, but I left it with the ASUS supplied firmware, I did not put third-party DD-WRT or anything on it. I’m going to monitor performance for a few weeks with it as is, and I’ll report back here if there are any significant issues. For now though, I could not be happier with the big boost in speed, and I don’t even have any AC capable devices (yet).

T-mobile is selling a rebranded Asus RT-AC68u for $99 for non T-mobile customers. It’s an incredible deal. I got one myself.

If you are a T-mobile customer, it’s completely free with a $25 deposit.

Were you able to buy the TM-AC1900 (its rebranded designation) online? I can’t find it anywhere on the T-Mobile site.