Do you really need an expensive router?

There are all kinds of people. Some of us, and yes I’ll count myself in this crowd, tweak every setting we can get our hands on, customizing the experience provided by every single piece of equipment we have. It’s part of the fun of getting something new.

But then again maybe that doesn’t sound like you. Maybe you’re the sort of person who wants it to work, the day you get it home, within a few minutes of turning it on. Maybe pushing buttons and trying new stuff is just a pain in the neck. You want your router to be as reliable and as quick to set up as possible. I get you.

Just as there are fancy expensive routers designed for the folks like me, the good news is that folks like you also have a very reasonable choice. Any bargain router from a well-known company like Netgear is going to give you a good experience and router technology is mature enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about spending a lot of money or having to do a lot of configuration.

Of course, I’d stay away from companies you’ve never heard of, but really as long as you stay with the well-known suppliers you won’t go wrong. Even the least expensive router today has features that you would have only found in the most expensive ones a few years ago, including Wireless-N speed that’s faster than any streaming service can provide you and multiple options for plugging in wired and wireless devices.

It’s all pretty amazing when you realize the amount of computing power that goes into your average $40 router. A generation ago this would have been a massive, loud, and super-expensive device that was only suitable for large businesses — and it wouldn’t have been wireless. It’s hard to remember but Wi-Fi has only been with us about 15 years and yet now it’s so stable and mature that even a bargain router is a good choice.

If you do get a hankering to mess around with your router after a while, staying with a well-known brand means that you will very likely be able to use third-party firmware like DD-WRT which will add new functions and features and take that inexpensive router to the same heights that more expensive ones reach. Just know at the outset, you’ll never be able to upgrade to faster radios, meaning that if you buy a wireless-N router now it will always be a wireless-N router, and will never be upgradeable to Wireless-AC.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.