The Best Wireless Router for $100

Updated on April 28, 2016
The Archer C7
The Archer C7

If you look at the TP-Link Archer C7, version 2, 3, it has been on the favorite list for several years when considering overall value. This router offers 802.11ac, dual band with three antennas allowing for three streams of data. You can find this router for as low as $80, but the average in stores is around $90-105. Because of its good long range capability for the price, it is better than others costing much more. It is good for several room apartments or houses. There is a version 1, which was plagued by problems, Be sure you buy a V2 or V3.

Its primary competitor is the Netgear R6400 costing $130+, which offers VPN and faster USB ports.

The Archer C7 has a typical top rate of 150 Mbps per stream on the 2.4GHz band and 433 Mbps per stream on the 5GHz band. The AC1750 router has three 2.4GHz streams (150+150+150) and three 5GHz wireless-ac streams (433+433+433), add them and round up, and you get 1,750.

In testing, in a 2600 sq.ft. home, with walls and furniture, the R6400 and Archer performed similar in the short range testing (within 13 ft of router), while the Archer C7 was far superior at the long range of 43 feet. With no line of sight to router, the unit scored 35Mbps at short range and a whopping 70 Mbps at long range! By comparison, the R6400 was 30 Mbps and 20 Mbps, respectively. Both units were very similar at long range with line of sight to router (meaning, you can see it). The Netgear R8500, costing much more, was the only unit able to equal the Archer at long range, out of sight. Per dollar, the Archer C7 provided 1 Mbps on average, while the Netgear R8500, a paltry 0.5 Mbps!

BTW, just how many Mbps (mega bytes per second) do you need to stream without lagging and interruption, truth be told, just 15-20 Mbps. However, if you have more than two people streaming at the same time, you will need more than 50 Mbps. If four or more, you need 100 Mbps. It also depends on quality of the stream, for instance, you need 30 Mbps for 4K quality and 10-15 Mbps for streaming in 1080p. Also, believe it or not where your router and modem are located can potentially have an adverse effect on performance/speed. Other electronic components located immediately nearby can disrupt incoming and outgoing waves usually by slowing them down and your overall internet experience. Furniture and walls and distance also impact everything.

In reality, your situation dictates what router you need. If you are single or couple, live in a small one bedroom apartment, and have a line of sight to your router, nearly any router will suffice at up to 15 ft. from the router. Most will give you 50+ Mbps at that range. But, beyond 15 feet, things vary. If your router is 40+ feet away and there is no line of sight (as in large apartments and homes), you need the Archer C7. Again, if you are 40+ feet from the router with a line of sight to it, nearly all routers will deliver 50-125 Mbps, for sure, using 2.4 and 5 Mhz frequencies.

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