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Aside from loading alternative firmware (DD-WRT or Tomato, for instance), the easiest way to upgrade a router’s performance is to replace its antennas. That’s impossible with most of the routers we see these days, because manufacturers are using either nonremovable antennas or they’re putting the antennas inside the enclosure. So we were intrigued to see that EnGenius put upgradeable antennas on its extremely inexpensive ESR300H; this router boasts a street price of less than $45.
As you’ve probably guessed, you’ll give up more than a few features in exchange for that low price tag. This is a single-band router with only a 2.4GHz radio, so we wouldn’t recommend it for deployment in an environment crowded with other wireless routers operating on the same frequency band. The ESR300H also lacks a USB port, so you won’t be able to share a printer or storage device over the network. But the feature you’ll miss the most is a gigabit Ethernet switch—the switch on this router is limited to 100Mb/s. If you move a lot of large files around your network using wired connections, you’ll find this router to be agonizingly slow.
Yes, the EnGenius ESR300H is feature‑limited; but we can’t complain about its performance—or its price tag.
As indicated in its model number, the ESR300H supports only two 150Mb/s spatial streams, so it delivers a maximum theoretical throughput of 300Mb/s. But it makes the most of its available bandwidth; in fact, it outperformed the Linksys E4200v2 at several locations. EnGenius’s budget router delivered surprisingly strong range, too. If you don’t need the 5GHz band and can tolerate the 100Mb/s switch, the ESR300H is an outstanding value.
|2.4GHz Band||5GHz Band|
|Linksys E4200v2||EnGenius ESR300H||Netgear WNDR4500||Linksys E4200v2||Netgear WNDR4500|
|Bedroom, 10 feet (Mb/s)||112.0||87.4||150.0||102.0||133.0|
|Kitchen, 20 feet (Mb/s)||85.4||90.7||121.0||82.4||98.2|
|Patio, 38 feet (Mb/s)||60.8||75.6||108.0||61.5||79.2|
|Media Room, 35 feet (Mb/s)||61.0||41.3||69.0||28.3||48.2|
|Outdoors, 65 feet (Mb/s)||15.8||17.4||32.7||2.7||6.3|
Best scores are bolded. TCP throughput measured using JPerf. Additional benchmarking methodology at bit.ly/ajskdh.