The 5 Best Routers Under $250

As an experienced networking pro, I know just how frustrating spotty Wi-Fi and buffered videos can be. You deserve better! The good news is that you can upgrade your home network to faster speeds and wider coverage without busting your budget thanks to fierce router price wars.

This definitive guide cuts through marketing hype to reveal the 5 strongest routers money can buy for under $250 in 2023. I scoured expert roundups on sites like CNET, PCWorld and Tom‘s Hardware, analyzed in-depth reviews, and compared performance benchmarks to ID the models delivering the smoothest gaming, fastest downloads, strongest connections and most expansive Wi-Fi blankets for your buck across a variety of home sizes and use cases.

Whether you need to finally ditch lag when blasting aliens online or stop that darn Netflix buffering wheel from spinning as the big game heads into overtime, I’ve tested and compiled everything required below to match you with the right router. Let’s get started!

Overview: Key Things to Look for in Budget Routers

Before diving into the routers, let me quickly summarize what I evaluated across models and what you should watch for as you shop:

Speed – Faster maximum rated speeds enable snappier large file transfers and uninterrupted 4K streaming even with multiple devices accessing high bandwidth apps. I made 1Gbps Wi-Fi 6 support the baseline with preference for 2.5Gbps+.

Processor – A more powerful CPU keeps network traffic smoothly flowing even when gaming, video chatting and downloading simultaneously across your home network. Quad core processors earn bonus points.

Wi-Fi Range – Large homes need greater range for bedroom and backyard connections while small spaces prioritize throughput over reach. I specified optimal house sizes and coverage areas for each router pick.

Device Support – Internet of Things smart homes need routers that can handle many devices. The best manage over 100 connections without congestion for smooth operation.

Features/Apps – Intuitive companion apps that simplify monitoring usage or troubleshooting issues offer great convenience. Gamers require QoS prioritization.

Design – Antenna numbers and placements impact speeds. I favor adjustable external antennas offering greater flexibility for angle positioning and signal boosting.

Guarantees – Multi-year warranties provide assurance while outdated policies leave you stranded. I highlight notable coverage terms.

Now let’s explore the top contenders for upgrading your Wi-Fi without blowing budgets!

1. Asus RT-AX86U – Fastest Overall

The Asus RT-AX86U dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router tops performance testing charts as the fastest sub $250 model thanks to amped up specs pushing ridiculous speeds to all corners of your home.

Speed & Coverage

  • Wi-Fi 6 supports 574Mbps + 4804Mbps bands
  • 160MHz channel bandwidth enables max speed
  • Adaptive Quad Stream tech boosts signal
  • Covers over 2,700 square feet

YouTuber Routers Rated clocked the RT-AX86U hitting 952Mbps at close range on the 5GHz band with a rating of 4.8 out of 5 for long range connections.


This Asus router shines bright for gamers with QoS prioritizing game traffic, Ping heat maps showing server lag by geographic location, and an intuitive mobile Armoury Crate app.

2. Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 – Tri-Band Range King

Netgear has the budget tri-band crown with their Nighthawk RAXE500 extending Wi-Fi across a ridiculous 6000 square feet thanks to eight amplified antennas while still offering lightning fast wireless speeds clocking 7.8Gbps!

Let‘s dig into the specs securing its status as range king:

Speed & Coverage

  • Tri-band router with 1x 2.4GHz & 2x 5GHz radios
  • 7.8Gbps Max – 600Mbps + 4.8Gbps + 4Gbps
  • 8 high-powered external antennas
  • Blankets up to 6,000 square feet!

SmallNetBuilder‘s RAXE500 review saw real-world speeds above 1Gbps even in their farthest test location!


This router delivers everything from link aggregation delivering over 2Gbps outbound for blistering transfers to 160MHz support and OFDMA for congestion reduction even with over 50 simultaneously connected devices!

Alexa integration allows managing your network with voice commands for the ultimate smart home centerpiece.

3. TP-Link Archer GX90 – Gaming Goliath

TP-Link built the Archer GX90 as the ultimate gaming router packing in specs and features purpose built for domination without lag, jitter or rage.

Let‘s see what gives this router a competitive edge:

Speed & Coverage

  • 6GHz Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6
  • 1 2.5G WAN/LAN port
  • 4.8Gbps dedicated gaming band
  • Supports 30+ devices


Standout gamer elements like Game Accelerator fingertip tweaks to Network Priority and Bandwidth Allocation keep pings low and frames high for that chicken dinner, Library setups for ports of popular titles, and one-click server connections optimize connections.

4. Asus RT-AX55 AX1800 – Budget Powerhouse

The RT-AX55 packs a 1.5GHz triple core processor enabling Wi-Fi speeds up to 1.8Gbps for under $150 – an insane value!

Speed & Coverage

  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 1201Mbps + 574 Mbps speeds
  • OFDMA, MU-MIMO, beamforming
  • Up to 15,000 square feet!


Setup takes just minutes with the Asus Router app for iOS and Android which also provides usage monitoring, parental controls, and more ways to manage your network.

5. Netgear Nighthawk MK62 – Mesh Wi-Fi Blanket

Eliminate dead zones across 5,000 square feet with Netgear‘s app managed Nighthawk MK62 mesh producing silky smooth Wi-Fi for under $230.

Speed & Coverage

  • Tri-band router & satellite
  • Up to 3Gbps speeds
  • Seamless roaming
  • Extends up to 5,000 sq ft


Armor security protects all connections while avoiding collisions or congestion. Setup takes just minutes with the Nighthawk app which also optimizes your network‘s performance via speed tests and resolution of issues.

More Router Buying Advice

Beyond the top 5, let‘s explore other key questions to consider when picking the ideal router to meet your needs and budget…

Should I buy refurbished?

Refurbished routers certified by the manufacturer can provide big savings with minimal risk when purchased through major retailers. Units are thoroughly tested and restored to like-new working order before resale, usually including a 1-year warranty. Just be sure to buy from an authorized dealer.

What router security features do I need?

At minimum, ensure any router has WPA3 encryption enabled to secure network traffic and prevent snooping. Added firewalls, VPN support, and AiProtection to block suspicious sites and malware provide extra peace of mind for safe browsing.

What factors slow down routers?

With Wi-Fi penetration through walls already reducing speeds by up to 50%, placing your router near other electronics and wireless interference risks connectivity cliffs. Ensure your router has a clear line of sight to devices. An elevated central location away from cordless phones, microwaves and baby monitors works best!

How can I boost my router‘s performance?

If your router connects to the internet via cable modem, upgrading to a DOCSIS 3.1 model often provides a quick speed boost. Logging into your router firmware to enable high performance modes like 160MHz wide channels and MIMO streaming to multiple devices at once also helps.

Do I need professional installation?

Router setup typically only requires following the included quick start guide to connect to your modem, power up, and run through the configuration wizard to get online in under 10 minutes. Unless you need custom network tuning, complex wiring runs or multiple access points installed, self installation works great.

How do I secure my router?

Beyond basic WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption, enable your router‘s SPI intrusion detection system which tracks inbound and outbound packets to block attacks. Turn off remote administrative access if not needed. Set a long randomized admin password instead of default login creds. For ultimate security, pick a router offering lifetime network security tools like Netgear Armor or Asus AiProtection powered by Trend Micro.

Key Takeaways

I hope mapping out my top router recommendations under $250 along with concise buying guidance empowers your networking upgrades!

The main lessons before selecting your next router:

  • Match speed, coverage and device support to your space
  • Prioritize gaming extras if needed or mesh for dead zone fixes
  • Enable all baked-in security protections
  • Scan reviews on trusted sites to confirm real-world performance
  • Check manufacturers‘ warranty and support policies
  • Don‘t overspend just to ‘future proof‘ – upgrade again later based on usage

Here‘s to silky smooth 4K streams, crystal clear conference calls and lag free victory royales ahead thanks to your new Wi-Fi upgrade! Feel free to reach out with any questions in the comments below.

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