We must note that any of the products in this roundup will serve you well if your ISP doles out under 5 Mbps of bandwidth to you and your Internet use is primarily web browsing, emailing, IM and the occasional file download. But if you're looking for more out of a router, then the following comments will be helpful for ranking the products in this roundup.
Though it won't be winning any router beauty contests any time soon with its homely design, the Airlink101 AR504 soundly beats the competition in this roundup, both in terms of performance and feature set. With nearly double the benchmarked speeds of its nearest competitor, along with a full set of features, the AR504 offers the best combination of features and performance for its price.
Coming in second is the Edimax BR-6104K with its extensive feature list and attractive admin console UI. Its tough firewall options make it a fine choice for the security-minded, along with its port forwarding and access control options and its total memory size (with both RAM and flash being double the size of its nearest competitor) make up for its middling speed.
The TrendNet and Zonet offerings make up the middle of the pack, with a decent amount of features coupled with adequate speed. Either router would make a fine addition to a small network environment.
Pulling up the rear are the the D-Link EBR-2310 and U.S. Robotics USR8004. While the EBR-2310 comes with a good amount of features, its low ranking is mainly due to its relatively low throughput. However, the USR8004 comes in dead last due not only to low throughput but also its lackluster feature set and bare-bones UI, which harken back to first generation routers. Consumer routers have come a long way, but you would never know it from the USR8004. And you can see by this roundup that there are better products, although with lesser-known brand names, for the money.
With the exception of the USR8004, none of these routers can truly be called 'cheap'. Rather, they all offer functional solutions for the small office or home user on a budget, without carrying the same price tag as more hefty routers. The conventional wisdom of 'you get what you pay for' can be thrown to the wind when it comes to these routers, as nearly all fare well when put to the test and all can be had for the price of a song if you look in the right place.
For your reference convenience, tables of key router features are available in the next pages.