A lot of times people want to know what the “best” wireless home router on the market is, but there is no answer to that question. Sometimes people favor quality over price, and other times it is the complete opposite. But you can say that you want the best router in a specific category. With that in mind, the TP-Link WDR3600 seems to be the best cheap router on the market. That is to say that of all the cheap routers, it is one of the best. The TP-Link WDR3600 is very functional and provides the basics any non-technical home user would need without adding extra features that would likely never be used. But be forewarned. Because it lacks many of the advanced features, you will be limited by default regarding the functionality of your hardware.
The standard firmware on this model of router isn’t known for being incredibly brilliant. While it is functional and it will “get the job done” for most basic home use purposes, people that desire or need a higher performing router will need to look elsewhere. Part of the reason that the software is substandard is due to the fact that this model router is targeting the portion of the market that needs a cheap and functional router with no bells and whistles.
If you’re in the same boat and you need an extremely inexpensive wireless router, just know that this model only costs about $49.99 on select Internet sites and about $59.99 in retail locations. But there is good news if you need extra functionality past what the manufacturer includes by default. This model of router is compatible with DD-WRT, so you can easily upgrade it to add useful features like NAS storage, printer sharing, and VPN support. In addition, this router is also compatible with Open-WRT which can also provide you with extra functionality that exceeds the OEM firmware. It seems that the biggest complaint people have with the WDR3600 is its default software, but this problem is easily remedied for free.
Features and Specifications
What the TP-Link WDR3600 lacks in software features it makes up for in hardware. Of the other cheap routers competing at the same price point, the TP-Link WDR3600 will offer you great speed and wireless range – which are probably the two most import features someone looking to buy a router at this price point. It supports the latest wireless standards and it will work with 802.11b/g/n wireless network cards and it offers wireless frequencies of 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz.
This creates a small problem for people with the latest and greatest computing devices, because 802.11AC is the newest and fastest wireless standard to date. Though the 802.11N wireless standard is still pretty fast, this router isn’t going to offer the top wireless speeds on the market for consumers who want an extremely high performing home network for the latest games, massive downloads, and data transfers. If you are using 802.11N, your games will still run just fine, but some gaming enthusiast swear by implementing the latest standards to ensure they don’t become the victim of latency or lag issues. But 802.11AC is still an emerging technology, as many of the laptops and computing devices you can buy today only use 802.11N. However, they will likely become phased out in the near future.
It also provides 4 separate gigabit Ethernet ports, ensuring that you won’t run into any capacity issues on your LAN if you want to connect additional devices such as hard-wired computers or NAS devices for storage. If you connect a NAS device to an older router that only provides Fast Ethernet ports, your data backup and file transfer operations are going to take a massive performance hit. In addition, it does offer 2 USB 2.0 ports that you could even use for a little bit of NAS storage via flash drives should you decide to upgrade the firmware.
Also, because of the price of this router it is clear that the manufacturers are targeting basic home environments. And most home environments typically have small children and teenagers as users. Though the standard software lacks a lot of fantastic features, it does offer parental controls that will help families control what content is accessible by their little ones. In addition, the OEM firmware will also allow you to create guest networks to keep guests off the same subnet as the home users. This is a protection measure to ensure that someone connecting to your network as a guest can’t attack or access devices on the home network.
Lastly, it provides a media server that claims it will help you share entertainment content such as videos, music, and images across multiple devices using Windows Media Player and gamin consoles. There are better options to facilitate these operations, but having a feature that’s ready to go out-of-the-box is handy for basic consumers.
The current cost of the WDR3600 starts at just $50 on the latest Amazon deals, but can increase slightly for faster N bandwidth capacity models. If you prefer to have it pre-configured with DD-WRT or other firmware options, both FlashRouters and RouterSource offer some options with DD-WRT, Tomato or Sabai OS as needed.
If your local network demands aren’t concerned with state-of-the-art speeds to support the most speed-sensitive and resource-gobbling applications, this router will save you a significant amount of money. Instead, if you just use a wireless router to access the Internet, browse the web, and perhaps use some local network resources such as NAS, then this is probably your best option considering its price. The two largest drawbacks are the failure to support 802.11AC (which the basic target consumers likely don’t care about) and a sub-par version of OEM firmware (that can easily be upgraded to DD-WRT or Open-WRT). All in all, this is a fantastic choice for users that want a simple solution to take care of their basic wireless needs without unnecessary features.