Budget AC Router Roundup

Netgear R6100


Middling performance with above-average range

www.netgear.com

Trendnet TEW813DRU


The best of these budget routers

www.trendnet.com

Specifications

Are Budget Routers Worth the Price?


Picking a clean winner in any roundup is rarely easy, though in this case, Trendnet leaves little room for dispute. The only real negative is that the TEW-813DRU costs the most. However, we’re only talking about a $15 difference over the other viable candidates, and beamforming support alone is worth the small premium—it’s no coincidence that Trendnet’s entry was the fastest overall, especially in the 802.11ac space where the signal is highly sensitive to obstructions.

We’d give Asus props for undercutting the competition on price with a street cost of just $69, but it’s negated by having 10/100 WAN and LAN ports, which hold the router back. And on top of that, the 5GHz channel was extremely spotty, both in our benchmarks and real-world tests. We routinely saw downloads on the 5GHz channel fluctuate in speed and drop out altogether.

We also had high hopes for Netgear’s R6100, but like Asus’s model, the router is hindered by limiting both LAN and WAN ports to 10/100 instead of gigabit. That doesn’t have to be a deal-killer in the budget space, but it’s certainly a clear reminder of why these models cost so much less than their high performing counterparts, and the performance benchmarks bear that out.

That leaves Buffalo and D-Link. Buffalo gets an early dismissal for its overly feature-poor approach and slow 802.11n performance, while D-Link is a solid choice. Though there’s no mention of beamforming support, D-Link’s DIR-818LW gave Trendnet’s unit a run for its money at close range, at least on the 802.11ac channel. However, it couldn’t keep up at distance runs, and its 802.11n performance trailed far behind Trendnet.

None of these routers have what it takes to compete with much more expensive models, but if you’re just looking for a modest speed increase, you have a few inexpensive options.

Benchmarks