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Wireless Router Reviews

Wireless routers tagged at the lower end of the price range are troopers. They may not be the speediest or most potent, but wireless router reviews indicate that the best budget models are up to the demands of casual users.

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That is, they keep you connected from most anywhere in your home and move data along at a rapid enough clip.

Wireless Router Speed.

The budget wireless routers on our list support the wireless-n standard, which has a maximum theoretical throughput of 300Mbps. In the real world, however, their speed is quite a bit slower, typically running at about 40Mbps (megabits per second) to 100Mbps. Most of our picks settle in at the lower end of this range. Some expensive routers can bump that number up to 450Mbps or even 600Mbps by transferring data along two bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz), but lower-cost routers are all single-band 2.4GHz models.

Experts tested several of the routers we researched. (Note: Test results for a given model generally vary from one expert to another due to differences in testing conditions.) PC Mag, for example, reports in a wireless router review that the Linksys E1200 (starting at $44) posted a respectable throughput of 54Mbps while CNET's tests showed the model topped out at about 36Mbps. A wireless router review of the D-Link DIR-605L Cloud (starting at $40) by CNET pegs its throughput at 41Mbps, which isn't bad for a 2.4GHz router. An expert at Macworld points out that this speed is fast enough for basic networking but probably won't satisfy users who like streaming media.

Throughput of 22.6Mbps with the EnGenius ESR300H (starting at $30) failed to impress a CNET expert and PC Mag pans the Edimax BR-6428n (starting at $30), as well, for its 24Mbps pokiness during testing. Another model we researched, the Netgear WNR2000 (starting at $40, Amazon), tested out at 47Mbps, according to Maximum PC, although the wireless router review says the performance dropped swiftly as the router was moved farther away from the client PC.

We didn't find expert test results for the Rosewill RNX-N300RT (starting at $28), although consumers' wireless router reviews at Amazon deem it an above-average performer. The Asus RT-N10 (starting at $30), another entry-level router that hasn't caught the experts' attention, finds fans among consumers who consider it a speedy device.

None of the lower-priced models we researched can use the 5GHz band, so they can't reach the significantly faster speeds possible at this bandwidth. Tests by PC Mag of the Netgear WNDR3700 (starting at $90) found lightening 5GHz performance of 121Mbps when using a laptop that can handle such high-speed traffic. Under different testing conditions, however, CNET reports a lackluster 60Mbps on the 5GHz band but a solid 54.6Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, and concludes that the Netgear WNDR3700 is one of the fastest routers currently available. The Linksys E2500 (starting at $78), another dual-band router, posted mediocre throughput of 63Mbps during 5GHZ frequency tests, according to PC Mag, but a fairly impressive 54Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. CNET, meanwhile, clocked a 77.2Mbps with the 5GHz bandwidth at a close-in range and a disappointing 36.5Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency. Although CNET considers the Linksys E2500 slow for a dual-band router, the average household won't notice any detrimental effect on Internet connectivity.

Review continues below

Wireless Router Setup.

In most cases, setting up a wireless router is a no-hassle affair. Almost all budget routers come with an installation CD that sets up the router and network in just a few minutes; the Asus RT-N10 and D-Link DIR-605L are no-CD exceptions. Most routers can be managed further through a web-based interface that lets you adjust a variety of settings, if you feel so inclined; the D-Link DIR-605L is a cloud router that additionally provides access and control through any Internet-connected computer or a smartphone mobile app. Some routers also include a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button that lets you connect WPS-compatible devices, such as a printer, to the network quickly and easily.

We found dozens of wireless router reviews attesting to the user-friendly setup of most models we researched. For example, at Walmart a novice user reports no glitches when installing and running the Linksys E1200. Another wireless router review at Walmart, this one of the Linksys E2500 by a reviewer who identifies herself as a woman over 60, says installation was a snap. And while the EnGenius ESR300H disappoints with its performance, users who commented at Newegg praise the simple setup.

We did read some grumbling here and there, however. A couple of wireless router reviews at Newegg assert that setup for the Rosewill RNX-N300RT is a tad tricky, but most report having it up and running in no time. One post at Buy.com notes the stock firmware on the Asus RT-N10 can be a little buggy, although wireless router reviews at Amazon give it good marks. A reviewer at PC Mag considers the D-Link DIR-605L setup outdated, although not particularly difficult, because the unit doesn't come with a setup CD. Setup issues dog the Edimax BR-6428n, according to wireless router reviews. An expert at PC Mag complains about incomplete documentation and notes that it automatically reboots any time you make a change in the router's interface. Some user posts echo these comments.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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