5 Best Routers for College Students in 2020 (Reviews and Guide)

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Best Router for College Students

Find a cheap and high-performance router for your dorm room here.

If you are getting ready to go to college, one of the most important things you want to add to your shopping list is a router. Public WiFi in different parts of campus is never good enough, and there’s the security factor. Also, if you are a gamer or a streamer and want to be able to get anything done, you will have to get the best router for your needs.

Here’s the deal, though; you are a college student, probably working a part-time job or two, which means that you cannot afford a high-end, high-speed router. Then there is a lot of interference in and around the dorms, and you have to find a way to enjoy good internet speeds, regardless.

With these and many other considerations in mind, it will get extremely confusing for you to pick one router out of tens of potentially excellent routers for you.

To save you all that trouble and help you find your money’s worth, this review is all about the best routers for college students. The reviewed routers are some of the best options on the market, and you should be able to find your perfect pick.

Comparison Table of the Best Routers for College Students

Here is a brief breakdown of what you can expect from these routers.

5 Routers for College Students
Best For
Speed
WiFi Protocol
Price
Linksys EA6350 Dual-Band WiFi Router
Best Overall Router for College Students
1200Mbps
802.11ac
Linksys EA6100 AC1200 Router
Inexpensive Router
1200Mbps
802.11ac
NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700)
Best Splurge
1750Mbps
802.11ac
ASUS Dual-Band 2×2 MU-MIMO Route
Best WiFi Technologies
1267Mbps
802.11ac
TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Smart WiFi Router
Best Value for Money
1200Mbps
802.11ac

 

Top 5 Routers for College Students – Reviews

  1. Linksys EA6350 Dual-Band WiFi Router – Best Overall Router for College Students

Linksys EA6350 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router for Home (AC1200 Fast Wireless Router),Black
  • Provides up to 1,000 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage for 10 wireless devices
  • Works with existing modem, simple setup through Linksys app

With a data transfer rate of 54Mbps, a dual-band design, and its ability to deliver high wireless speeds of 1200Mbps (N300 and AC867), this router easily clinches the top spot for your best router ideal for college students.

Thanks to the dual-band design and the super-charged wired connections from the 4 gigabit Ethernet ports, this router boats high speeds up to 2.8X faster than the speed of routers making use of the Wireless N technology. The simultaneous band speed is broken down into N300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and AC867Mbps on the 5GHz band. With such high speeds, you get to enjoy the best gaming and streaming experiences from the comfort of your home. Beamforming technology incorporated into this router boasts its maximum throughput and reduces interference.

The other feature that enhances the performance of this router is Smart WiFi, which allows for device prioritization, network control, and setup of guest networks. The USB 3.0 port allows for super-fast file/ data transfers – this port is 10x faster than USB 2.0 ports.

Pros

  • Ideal router for 4K streaming
  • Four Ethernet ports
  • Ease of use
  • 1000sq/ft. coverage range
  • Backward compatible
  • Smart WiFi
  • Good performance
  • Dual-band
  • Beamforming
  • Simultaneous 10+ device connectivity

Cons

  • Setup not the easiest
  • No option for wall-mounting

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  1. Linksys EA6100 AC1200 Router – Inexpensive Router

Linksys AC1200 Wi-Fi Wireless Dual-Band+ Router, Smart Wi-Fi App Enabled to Control Your Network from Anywhere (EA6100)
  • Up to 2.8 times faster than Wireless-N technology:  Simultaneous dual-band speed up to N300 Mbps (2.4...
  • Faster Transfer Rates:  USB 2.0 and Fast Ethernet for sharing photos, video, data files or a printer...

Regardless of your budget, you shouldn’t compromise on the quality of the router you buy. This Linksys EA6100 is one of the cheapest routers on the market today, and it is the ideal option for college students.

A dual-band router with a 2.4GHz band running at 300Mbps and a 5GHz band offering speeds of 867Mbps, this low-cost router is a media-intense router that is ideal for gaming and streaming.

It features a USB 2.0 for data transfers, as well as Ethernet ports for wired connections. The Smart WiFi system allows for device prioritization, as well as content control, network management/ monitoring, and WiFi access management. Its setup is also easy.

Pros

  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Fast wireless AC system
  • High speeds
  • Dual-bands for high-speed data transfers
  • Smart WiFi
  • Easy setup
  • USB 2.0
  • Comes with Ethernet cables

Cons

  • The speed is not the highest
  • Expect some interference and dead zones for many users and large spaces
  • No USB 3.0

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  1. NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) – Best Splurge

NETGEAR Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router (R6700) - AC1750 Wireless Speed (up to 1750 Mbps) | Up to 1500 sq ft Coverage & 25 Devices | 4 x 1G Ethernet and 1 x 3.0 USB ports | Armor Security
  • Netgear Armor protects your network and connected devices from Internet threats; Get peace of mind...
  • Fast wifi performance: Get up to 1500 square feet wireless coverage with AC1750 speed (Dual band up to...

If you don’t mind spending a huge amount on one of the best feature-packed routers, this Netgear R6700 would be a good option for you.

For starters, it runs on WiFi 5 (802.11ac) standard, and you get to enjoy high internet speeds up to 1750Mbps, and a range coverage of up to 1500sq/ft. With these features, it goes without saying that this would be the best investment for you. If you choose to share the cost of the router with your dorm mates, you get to save some money without worrying about the total number of devices connected because of the router’s 25 device compatibility.

The other features that enhance the speed and overall performance of the router include a robust 1GHz dual-core processor, Beamforming+ for focused WiFi signals, three amplified antennas for range enhancement, dynamic QoS for device prioritization, as well as Smart Connect for easy management. The dual-band system runs at 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band.

The 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports are ideal for wired connections, and you can plug in PCs, gaming consoles, etc., for more stable connections. All you need is a good quality Ethernet cable.

For media transfers/ storage, the router comes with one USB 3.0 port, which boasts ultra-high transfer speed.

The security features of this router are also impressive, especially since this router features Netgear’s Armor security, which ensures safe connections.

Pros

  • 25+ device connectivity
  • Ideal for HD streaming and gaming
  • Easy setup
  • Advanced threat protection by Armor
  • 4 Ethernet ports
  • High-speed router
  • Beamforming and QoS for great performance
  • Smart connect enhances network management
  • Competitively priced

Cons

  • A tad too expensive
  • The firmware could be better

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  1. ASUS Dual-Band 2×2 MU-MIMO Router – Best WiFi Technologies

ASUS Dual-Band 2x2 AC1300 Super-Fast WiFi 4-Port Gigabit Router with MU-MIMO and USB 3.0 (RT-ACRH13)
  • Dual band AC1300 with the latest 2x2 MU MIMO technology for combined speeds of up to 1267 Mbps
  • 4 external 5dBi antennas for improved Wi Fi range and multi device performance; Connected devices must be...

WiFi 5 or 802.11ac is a very popular wireless technology today, but not two routers with this standard work the same way. The reason for this is that some have better features than others. This affordable Asus router is one of the best as it comes with the most advanced technologies for great performance.

Besides having four 5dBi external antennas to boost the WiFi range, it features 2×2 MU-MIMO (multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology which ensures simultaneous multi-device internet connectivity. And combined with the top speed of 1267Mbps, the router is pretty much a great option for small homes, not just college students. It’s a dual-band router, and the 2.4GHz band offers 400Mbps speeds against 867Mbps on the 5GHz band.

The four Gigabit Ethernet ports allow for wired connections for desktops, gaming consoles, etc., while USB 3.0 ensures the fastest media transfers.

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Impressive maximum throughput
  • Good coverage
  • 1300Mbps max speed
  • MU-MIMO for simultaneous device connectivity
  • Good 5GHz signals for heavy internet usage
  • 4GHz speeds for a wider range

Cons

  • No beamforming
  • No device prioritization

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  1. TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Smart WiFi Router – Best Value for Money

TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Smart WiFi Router - 5GHz Gigabit Dual Band MU-MIMO Wireless Internet Router, Supports Beamforming, Guest WiFi and AP mode, Long Range Coverage by 4 Antennas(Archer A6), Black
  • JD Power Award ---Highest in customer satisfaction for wireless routers 2017 and 2019
  • Dual band router upgrades to 1200 Mbps high speed internet (300mbps for 2.4GHz + 900Mbps for 5GHz),...

This is an excellent dual-band router for anyone looking for a router offering reasonable speeds of at least 1200Mbps. With a 5GHz band at 900Mbps and 2.4GHz band at 300Mbps, you can look forward to the best wireless router performance with reduced buffering. It’s a good streaming router.

The four Ethernet ports (Gigabit LAN ports) allow for wired connections for gaming or streaming. MU-MIMO technology ensures high-speed multi-device connectivity, running simultaneously.

It has an AP mode that you can turn into an access point for internet sharing. You might also like its control functions like the guest WiFi and parental controls.

The TP-Link Tether app allows for easy setup and network management.

Pros

  • Easy setup and management of the network
  • High-speed router
  • Dual-band
  • Four antennas
  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • AP Mode
  • Guest WiFi access
  • MU-MIMO
  • No network congestion

Cons

  • Firmware update issues
  • Not future-proof

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Ultimate Buying Guide for the Best Router for College Students

Like a high-end router, there are standard considerations/ factors that you must bear in mind whenever you are buying a router. Yes, you are probably buying one of the cheapest routers on the market, but that doesn’t mean that you get to overlook features that make the router a good investment. There are critical features and considerations in routers that matter, whether you are looking for the best long-range router, a mesh WiFi system, or a gaming router.

Something like the router’s WiFi standard is important, your budget notwithstanding. With technological advancements taking hold of the way we do things, it would be a terrible idea to choose a router running on older, almost obsolete technologies when you are smack in the middle of a dynamic technological ecosystem.

Below, we take a look at the important considerations you need to keep in mind when looking for routers, especially if you are on a budget.

  • Your needs

What do you need the router for? Heavy gaming calls for high-speed and the most robust systems on the market, and these will force you to dig deeper into your savings; this is also the case where you will be using the router’s WiFi with your roommates. On the other hand, if you don’t anticipate heavy internet use, are on a tight budget, and live alone, then you wouldn’t need the most expensive router on the market.

  • Band system – Single, Dual, or Tri-band system?

Even when shopping for a router on a budget, you need to understand the differences in WiFi standards, as well as the wireless frequencies for the routers you are considering.

There are single, dual, and tri-band routers, and the number of the bands represents the number of distinct frequencies a router operates at, as well as the WiFi standards they support. ‘

Single-band routers operate on the 2.4GHz band, a frequency that has been a standard for routers for pretty much the last two decades or more. They run on the 802.11n WiFi standard, also called WiFi 4. These routers offer maximum speeds peeking at 600Mbps, and they are backward compatible with older WiFi standards; 802.11b and 802.11g – these two standards are quite slow.

Now, you need to keep in mind that in as much as these older router standards are slower (maximum speed of 54Mbps), they still work with some smart home systems, as well as Internet-of-Things devices because these devices do not need to much power to run.

Back to the 2.4GHz band, you need to keep in mind that this frequency range is imperfect, and it is slower. It also tends to be a very congested frequency.

Which WiFi standard is a better option for you then?

Well, the single-band 2.4GHz band is imperfect, and you will have to get used to interference. However, if you are open to better, higher-performance routers, you’d like the routers running in the 802.11ac standards or WiFi 5, which is not only faster than the older version but also comes with an additional band with a 5GHz frequency. The 5GHz band, though fast, has a shorter coverage than the 2.4GHz band, which makes it an ideal option for heavier and dedicated internet use through wired Ethernet connections. For example, gaming. The other issue with the 5GHz band is that the signals do not travel well through walls or other thick solid objects. With this caveat, this short-range system cannot work on its own, and the router you buy will recruit the help of the long-range 2.4GHz band, hence dual-band routers.

What about the tri-band routers?

The tri-band routers are built on the dual-band routers, and they feature an additional 5GHz band. This extra frequency is important as it curbs network congestion, especially on the 802.11ac WiFi router.

Note, however, that you won’t be connected to all the three frequencies just because you have a tri-band router. Essentially, every one of your devices connects to the router, one band at a time. So, unless you have two or more 802.11ac 5GHz devices in your apartment or dorm, then a tri-band router wouldn’t be a good option for you.

  • Range (Coverage)

Before you start kicking yourself for not knowing what you were getting yourself into, we’ll jump straight into things – if you are buying a budget router, you shouldn’t expect too much in terms of the range/ coverage of the wireless signals. Fortunately, your dorm room is one of the smaller spaces you will spend your time in, and finding a decent router shouldn’t be too hard.

Also note that if you are looking for the most inexpensive router for your room, its range and coverage shouldn’t be the biggest issue you deal with because the best routers often come with wireless access points like Ethernet ports, which will ensure stable and good-speed internet access to your connected devices. Just make you have the best Powerline network adapter and/or an Ethernet cable.

  • Speed and Router’s Performance

Even if this is your first time buying a router, you know that speed is an important factor in determining the performance of the device. To learn more about the router’s speed, check its performance rating: designated by a letter and a number, for example, N600 or AC1900. These numbers represent the highest supported WiFi standard and the maximum speed the router can handle. In this case, AC1900 supports while 802.11ac and maximum speeds of 1900Mbps.

One catch, though – these are the combined speeds from the bands, and the actual speed is often lower than the rated speed – 1300Mbps on 5GHz and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz. If you need the best streaming solution, this router will work great, and it might also enhance your gaming experience.

  • Security Features

Never overlook the security and the encryption features of the router you are buying. At the very least, the router must have WPA2 encryption, as well as VPN support for enhanced security. You need a rooter that keeps off intruders by virtue of having private IP addresses or Network Address Translation. Other security features to look out for include malware protection.

  • Wired Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is hardly enough, which is why you need a router with a few Ethernet ports, say four. The Ethernet ports will make it possible for you to hardwire your devices (gaming console, PC, etc.), and these ports are a huge win for gamers because you get to enjoy high and raw internet speeds. Ethernet ports also help lower latency for lag-free gaming. Now the latency reduction won’t be the lowest possible, but it is good enough for what you are paying for.

  • WiFi 6

This is the latest WiFi protocol boasting the highest internet speeds, a large device capacity, network congestion, and overall best performance. It is, however, expensive technology, and it might not be the best option for college students.

FAQs

What is WPA?

Also called WiFi-Protected Access, WPA refers to the technological security feature developed to take over the weaker security system Wired Equivalent Standards (WEP).  WPA offers better encryption and authentication features, while the upgrade to WPA2 is even more robust and powerful.

What is an Intrusion Protection System?

IPS is a security/ intrusion detection system, a control system designed to detect and block potential threats to your network system and the network infrastructure.

What is NAT?

NAT or Network Address Translation is the system designed to allow your router to modify the data packet sent, making multiple device connectivity via a single public IP address possible.


Conclusion

The five routers reviewed above are among the best routers for college students. And if you don’t know where to start, these options would work well for you. Keep in mind that there is something for everyone, and you will find a good router within your budget.

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