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Picture this, you’re playing an online match in your favorite game, racking up win streaks, when suddenly your game stutters and lags. Suddenly, you lose your position and it gives your enemy the opportunity to win the game. You hang your head in defeat, blaming the ISP or the game’s servers, and move on, not knowing that the real culprit was your router all along.
Routers have always been taken for granted when it comes to gaming. We just assume they’re all capable of giving a solid performance for online gaming. Most people will either use the router supplied by their ISP or buy the cheapest one they can afford without a second thought. The assumption here is that if it’s good enough to browse the internet, it’s good enough for an online game.
However, the truth is that a decent gaming router is just as essential as the right gaming mouse or the right headset. A decent router can not only prevent any network drops from ruining your game, but it can also ramp up the performance of your network, giving you the competitive edge you need to win. This is why it’s important to know what a router can do for your online gaming performance.
When it comes to actually buying one, the options are limitless. With so many companies offering different kinds of models, it can be hard to tell which ones are functional and which ones are gimmicks. We’ve lined up some of the more popular models below so that you can have a better time choosing one.
The Best Cheap Router For Gaming
Here below, we have made a comparative review of the top cheap routers for gamers.
Linksys is well-known for its decent budget-oriented network equipment. The chances are that you’ve owned Linksys products in the past, whether they’re routers, network bridges or switches. The Linksys WRT32X is a decent midway point for having a well-performing router that’s also easy on the wallet.
The Linksys WRT32X comes with a semi-sloped design with vents on the top and bottom. It has a total of four dedicated antennas with two on the back and two on either side. The front of the unit has the glossy Linksys logo on top, while the front face has all the notification LEDs in an aqua blue color. On the back of the unit, you can find 4 LAN ports along with a USB/E-SATA port and a USB 3.0 port. You can also find the power switch, the WPS button, and the reset button.
In terms of performance, the Linksys WRT32X boasts a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor that is capable of providing AC3200 level speeds. The router’s architecture works on the KPE (Killer Prioritization Engine) system, which actively prioritizes gaming traffic over other network activity. According to the manufacturer, this has a 77% chance to reduce ping and boost network performance. However, this technology is only compatible with Killer NIC cards and without them, the technology isn’t too effective.
- Decent network performance
- Great mid-range option
- Killer Prioritization Engine reduces network lag by 77%
- Only worth getting if you have a Killer NIC-compatible network card
- Not as cheap as other options
ASUS RT AC68U
Asus has been known for making great dedicated gaming equipment with product lines like ROG. With the Asus RT AC68U, the company provides a nice option that has the functionality of a high-end gaming router without the exuberant costs.
The RT AC68U comes in a sleek crosscheck design that looks visually stunning and makes it robust as well. The router has a total of three antennas lined up at the back that offer a dual-band coverage. The Asus logo sits nicely on the top right corner, while all the status LEDs are lined up near the front of the unit on the top. On the back, you’ll find 4 Gigabit LAN Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, a power button, and a reset button. The router also has a high-density aluminum heat sink attached near the vent to keep the router cool at all times.
This router features a 1 GHz dual-core CPU with 256 MB of RAM and 128 MB of ROM. This allows the router to work up to the industry-standard AC1900 speed. It’s more than capable of beating similar routers at 2.4 GHz frequency tests, despite falling behind in the 5 GHz range. The router is also fully customizable in its firmware, allowing easy installation and setup for firmware like DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWrt, and Merlin.
- Decent value for money
- Great 2.4 GHz network performance
- Wide compatibility for third-party router firmware
- Below average 5 GHz network performance
D-Link has always been at the forefront of affordable networking products and accessories. Hence, it should come as no surprise that its DIR-879 router is designed as a great cheap gaming router option.
The D-Link DIR-879 has one of the most unique designs when it comes to routers. The router comes in a pyramid shape where half of one side is a glossy orange surface, while the other is a matte black area for venting. There is a total of four antennas on the unit with two on each side that look like miniature solar panels. The entire design of this router is brimming with futuristic and high-tech design concepts.
The connectivity options here are limited to basic necessities, and you only get the standard four Ethernet LAN ports.
The DIR-879 comes with a 1 GHz dual-core processor that offers dual-band AC1900 speeds. The router features high-powered 1000 mW amplifiers with beamforming to provide great wireless signal coverage and minimize dead spots. The SmartConnect technology allows the device bandwidth to be equally distributed, freeing up your network for gaming traffic. You also get QoS functionality to properly manage how much bandwidth you want to allocate to your devices.
You can also check out our review for the NetGear R700 AC1750.
- Visually appealing futuristic design
- Very cheap entry-level price point
- Great wireless frequency range
- No USB ports included
- Limited to basic functionality and features
- Bundled firmware doesn’t have as many configuration options as other models
Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600
Zyxel typically flies under the radar for most people as the company has almost exclusively catered to commercial and business needs. However, lately, the company has refocused by providing its products to home users as well. The Zyxel Armor Z2 is a testament to this as it aims to provide great network performance for gamers.
Right off the bat, you can see where the Zyxel Armor Z2 gets its name from. The router comes in a matte black finish with futuristic contours that you might see on some sci-fi armor. On the top of the router, you can find some sleek yellow LEDs that add to the router’s high-tech aesthetic. The front face has all the status indicators in place in a convenient location. The router has a total of four antennas with two on the back and the other two on the left and right sides.
Powering the Zyxel Armor Z2 is a 1.7 GHz dual-core processor with 512 MB of dedicated RAM. This works by providing unparalleled performance to the router. The router combines its beamforming capabilities with its 4×4 MU MIMO technology to allow several devices to simultaneously experience a stable connection. This means you can get AC2600 speeds even at times of heavy loads and network traffic congestion.
- Next-gen design that looks incredible
- Dedicated hardware-accelerated performance
- Decent network stability with MU MIMO technology
- Stream boost optimization for gaming and streaming
- Limited status indicators
- Router firmware is a bit basic and there is no support for third-party firmware
TRENDnet TEW 818DRU
TRENDnet isn’t as popular in the router market as some of its competitors. The company mostly focuses its attention on network hardware for devices like computers, tablets, and mobile device. The TRENDnet TEW 818DRU is its new foray into the gaming and entertainment sphere.
The TEW 818DRU is by all means a simple and functioning router. There are no crazy design ideas going on in the router. It keeps a simple design that looks clean and polished. The router has a book shape with status LEDs on its front side and four Ethernet LAN ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port on its back. Other than this, there isn’t anything else going on in the router. It even lacks antennas.
This router has a 1 GHz ARM Cortex processor, giving it incredible performance gains. The router provides AC1900 speeds with connection management to equally distribute the traffic. The router also has the ability to create a guest network so that there’s no network crowding.
We also have a comparative review for routers for large homes and buildings.
- Fast AC1900 network speeds
- Dedicated USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports
- Network management with guest mode
- Very basic design
- No dedicated antennas
- Price is a little high for limited functionality
Synology is another brand that you may not have heard much about. It has been focusing on corporate networking products and has rarely had any consumer focus. That’s all changed with the Synology RT1900ac.
This router features a fairly standard design. It comes in a matte black color with no special finish or design elements. The front of the unit has all the status indicator LEDs in a noticeable location, while all the connectors are at the back. The router comes with four Ethernet LAN ports at the back and a single USB port on the side as well as three antennas.
The RT1900ac has a 1 GHz dual-core processor with 256 MB of RAM. This allows the router to achieve AC1900 speeds on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. However, in practice, the wireless range tends to fall behind a bit when compared to other similar routers.
The router interface is carefully designed and has a lot of useful features like parental control, QoS, NAS, QuickConnect, DNS management, VPN management, and website filtering. There is also a dedicated download station that lets you manage downloads across various sites and torrents.
- Exceptional router interface
- Feature-rich router applications
- Dedicated Download Station
- Very simple design
- Wireless range is a bit lacking
TP-Link Archer C7 Smart Wi-Fi Router
TP-Link is well-recognized in the world for affordable networking hardware. Its products are extremely common, and it is more than likely that you have come across one of its many product lines. The TP-Link Archer C7 is one of its new smart routers and is popular among gamers.
The Archer C7 features a nice, glossy design that looks decent and eye-catching at the same time. The router comes with three antennas at the back with four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a USB port, and a WPS button. The front has the status indicators lined up with striking lime-green LEDs lighting them up. Every inch of this router has been designed to look appealing without being glaring enough to attract too much attention.
It is based on a 1 GHz ARM Cortex processor that gives it capable speeds of up to AC1750. The great thing about this router is that it has the ability to intelligently split network bands based on incoming traffic. The standard 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are reserved for normal users, while the guest 2.4 GHz and 1.5 GHz bands are kept for guest users. This greatly frees up space for movie streaming and gaming network needs.
- Outstanding value for money
- Great network management
- Simple and elegant design
- Can be managed via the TP-Link Tether app
- No option for separately setting up bands in 802.11n
Whether you’re looking for decent streaming speeds or getting playable online gaming performance, a good router goes a long way toward affording you the ability to play better. There are a lot of options out there for you to consider. At the end of the day, it is less about which gaming router is the best in general and more about which gaming router is best for you specifically.