Routers have long been regarded as plastic rectangle boxes supposed to work behind the scenes and ensure fast, consistent connectivity. However, the rate of technological advancement has sped up and users faced the necessity of paying more attention to the features a good router should possess.
If you are a gamer, you must have a strong opinion about the “gaming” grade devices. I agree that the gaming mice have features their standard counterparts lack. (Take the 12-button grid of the MMO mice as an example). However, the situation with the gaming routers is a bit different.
Most ISPs provide you with a router when you subscribe for their services, and these routers are good enough to meet the needs of an average household. That being said, they leave quite a lot to be desired as far as smooth online PC/console gaming experience is concerned.
If you are looking for a decent upgrade that enables you to do port forwarding, data prioritization, VPN setup, check out the best routers under $100 that ensure cheap networking thrills. And if you happen to be a proud console owner, you may want to check out our best router for PS4 and our gaming router for Xbox One guides for more options.
If you want even more savings and you do not care about all those router fancy features, our best router under $50 guide may interest you.
Best Budget Gaming Routers Comparison
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Router (AC1750)
If you have been keeping an eye on the wireless routers’ release, you must have stumbled upon the Asus RT-N66U model. Back in 2013, it was defined as one of the best N routers for homes and offices, but the rapid development of the wireless technologies made Asus launch an upgrade. The RT-AC66U became the first Asus router that supports the ac WiFi standard. Today, it is recognized as a budget device ensuring a decent coverage and trouble-free gameplay.
Similar to its predecessor, the RT-AC66U looks like a gift box, but the detachable antennas imply that this is actually a router.
At a first glance, the back seems a bit crammed. It houses four LAN ports and one WAN port. The latter can be used as an additional LAN port whenever the device is not working as a router but as an access point or a media bridge.
Right next to the ports, you will see two USB 2.0 ports, the power and reset buttons, the WPS button. The lights on the front indicate the router performance and start blinking in case of an issue.
You can set six guest networks, three for the 2.4GHz band and three for the 5GHz band, respectively. The Web interface is responsive and simple to use.
The RT-AC66U has the so-called AiCloud feature that enables you to access and share/ stream content to Android and iOS-run devices. Essentially, you can share content to remote users from any computer in the network. However, keep in mind that you cannot use the feature unless you have a DynDNS account.
The “Advanced” area in the Web interface also allows you to create a secure virtual private network (VPN) for remote users. The router supports IPv6, as well as the much-needed in gaming QoS.
To sum up, the RT-AC66U router offers stable performance and plenty of features usually found at routers that cost at least $50 more. It is a great bang for the buck and although it did not prove itself as a device delivering blazing fast data rates, it gets the job done.
- 1GHz CPU powers dual-band 3x3 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology for speeds up to 1750Mbps and wide, responsive coverage for large homes. Coverage area - 3,000 square feet
- Monitor and manage your network with ease from your mobile device using the intuitive ASUS Router App
- OS Support - Linux,Windows 8,Windows 10,Windows 7 ,Mac OS X or higher,Windows 8.1,Windows XP
- Integrated USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports enable printer sharing throughout your network and remote file access with AiCloud 2.0 support
- AiProtection Powered by Trend Micro provides multi-stage protection from vulnerability detection to protecting sensitive data
TP-Link AC1900 Archer C9
I am sure that you guys have heard of the Archer C7 router but this time around, its more sophisticated brother will be in the spotlight.
The Archer C9 is one of the most affordable AC1900 routers released by a reputable brand. It lacks in certain areas, but after all, you cannot expect a sub $100 router to compete with the Nighthawk X10 in terms of advanced features.
Still, the Archer C9 compensates with an unobtrusive design and a wireless speed of up to 1,300Mbps. The router is elegant, but it asks for more as far as the practical aspect is concerned. The C9 cannot lay flat or be mounted on the wall but these setbacks are negligible if the router’s price and performance are your main worries.
Other than that, the Archer C9 router has three detachable antennas, as well as lights that allow an “at a glance” diagnostics. The rear part houses all essential ports – an Ethernet socket, four gigabit Ethernet ports, a reset and WPS buttons, as well as a USB 2.0 port. The USB 3.0 port is located at the side.
The biggest selling point of the C9 is its capability of ensuring theoretical speeds of 600Mbps over the 2.4GHz band and 1,300 Mbps over the 5GHz band.
You can manage your router via your smartphone by downloading the TP-Link app to your iOS or Android device.
The Archer C9 is a great pick for people on a budget. If you are looking for an adequate replacement for your current router, the C9 is a solid choice. It is reliable, sturdy, and inexpensive even though it does not have the top specs of some other TP-Link routers that cost three times more.
- 1 of wireless routers for Home which is compatible with all Wi Fi devices, 802.11ac and older
- Gigabit router with 4 gigabit LAN ports, fast Access to Multiple connected wired devices, also ideal as gaming router
- Long range Coverage by 3 external antennas; FCC less than 30dBm
- Beamforming Technology makes the router Smart detecting where you need fast wi fi
- 1G hertz Powerful dual core processor easily handles Multiple devices (Laptops, Tablets, phones, Smart Home, Alexa Enabled devices and more); Operating Temperature: 0℃ to 40 ℃ (32 ℉ to 104℉)
The next budget router that made the cut is the NETGEAR R6230 model so without further ado, let’s examine its pros and cons.
The R6230 router has a neat design and two external antennas. There are LEDs at the front. The back houses the power DC socket, the 4 LAN and 1 WAN ports, USB 2.0 port, a separate WiFi button. The WPS button enables you to connect a new device without typing your password.
The router uses 880MHz CPU and 128 MB DDR3 RAM.
Similar to its counterparts above, the NETGEAR R6230 is a dual-band router operating simultaneously on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies and delivering a theoretical combined speed of 1200Mbps. You’d better use the Ethernet ports to get an optimal speed.
The manual installation is a no-brainer, but keep in mind that you will need the information from your ISP to complete the process. Alternatively, you can set up the router via the NETGEAR UP app for iOS and Android.
Overall, the R6230 router delivers as promised. It is a good budget option for multiplayer gaming, HD video streaming, and large households where multiple devices are connected to the router at once.
- Fast WIFI Performance: Get up to 1200 square feet wireless coverage with AC1200 speed (Dual band up to 300 plus 900 Mbps)
- Recommended for Up to 20 Devices; Reliably stream videos, play games, surf the internet, and connect smart home devices
- WIRED ETHERNET PORTS: Plug in computers, game consoles, streaming players, and other nearby wired devices with 4 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports.
- LOADED WITH ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Designed with an 880MHz processor, 2 amplified antennas, and advanced QoS.
- USB Connections; Share a storage drive or printer with any network connected device using the 1 x 2.0 USB port
If I had to pick a budget gaming router, I would not think twice about getting the Linksys E8400 model. It is a powerful device that will help you make the most out of your gameplay. Linksys packed it with the most important features you may need for your gaming / streaming session.
The E8400 offers rocking speed in close proximity throughputs but I would not define it as the best long-range router on Earth. Also, it supports neither MU-MIMO nor the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi management feature. That being said, it offers more than what meets the eye.
As for the design and port layout, the E8400 is similar to its high-end Max Stream EA8500 brother. It has the standard LEDs, four detachable antennas, a WAN port, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WPS, WiFi, and reset buttons, as well as a USB 3.0 port. The USB 2.0 does double duty as an eSATA port.
The E8400 is powered by 1.4GHz dual-core processor. It supports beamforming technology, but the lack of MU-MIMO might be a dealbreaker to some of you.
As mentioned above, the router cannot be set via a mobile device. Although it does not use the Smart WiFi console, the installation is still easy. Once you set it up you will gain access to the beamforming, MAC Address filters, IPv6 firewall settings, SSID, SSID Broadcast, Channel Width, FTP Server parameters, WPA2/WPA, parental controls, port forwarding, QoS, and more. In other words, you get a whole lot of management settings at your fingertips.
The E8400 is a steal for gamers with serious budget restrictions, so if you think you can put up with the lack of MU-MIMO and operate the router via the older Web-based console instead of using the Linksys Smart WiFi interface, don’t hesitate to give it a shot.
- Double the network bandwidth for maximum speeds to gaming and streaming devices. Speeds up to N600 + AC1733 Mbps
- Supercharged 1.4GHz Dual-Core Processor for heavy-bandwidth gaming, file transfers and downloads
- 4 streams of data for stronger, faster performance. Optimal for HD video streaming and lag-free gaming
- 4 adjustable antennas for a clear Wi-Fi signal in each room
- Connect external storage devices or printers via USB 3.0 port and share across your network at speeds 10x faster than USB 2.0
How to Choose a Good Sub-$100 Gaming Router
One of the most important (if not the most important) features a good gaming router should possess is the so-called QoS (Quality of Service). It enables you to prioritize traffic over other content (movie streaming, downloading) and avoid latency during a game. There is no point in explaining that budget routers do not have all bells and whistles of their high-end counterparts, but here are a few more features you should take into account before you make a decision.
Single-Band vs. Dual-Band Router?
For the average user, a single-band router that costs less than $50 would be a viable solution. However, for gaming purposes, you should get a dual-band router (2.4GHz and 5GHz bands).
Do I Need a Router with MU-MIMO Technology?
The majority of routers released in the past two or three years, use the multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology. Before the MU-MIMO takeover, routers used to have single-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (SU-MIMO) technology. They were capable of delivering data to one device at a time, while routers with MU-MIMO technology can deliver data to multiple devices simultaneously. Still, do not regard the SU-MIMO devices as ancient artifacts. They deliver data to one device at a time but on a rotating basis. The rotation happens too fast for you to notice, and in most cases, a SU-MIMO device would meet the networking needs of a small household. However, if you have an online gaming itch and you share your router with users who often download large files or stream videos, the MU-MIMO technology will ensure smooth data flow to all connected devices.
AC or N Router?
When it comes to gaming, the “ac” routers are superior to the “n” ones. If you haven’t settled for the “Basic” package and you pay your ISP a substantial monthly fee to get high-speed Internet, you have to make sure your router can handle it. In this respect, you’d be better off with an “ac” router.