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It's common knowledge that Amazon constantly tweaks prices to try to maximize margins. But the current crop of Broadcom-based 4x4 routers is pushing prices far beyond the minor adjustments Amazon makes. So what is driving prices of some high-end routers toward the $500 mark?

I grabbed price trend charts from The Tracktor for four new high-end routers to make sure my mind wasn't playing tricks. It turns my sanity is intact (at least for this subject).

ASUS RT-AC5300

ASUS' top-of-line three-radio AC5300 class RT-AC5300 has definitely been testing Wi-Fi router buyers' willingness to throw money at fixing their wireless woes. That peak on Dec 5 or so at $495 was not a figment of my imagination. Although the RT-AC5300 spends a lot of time near its $400 list price (I'm rounding up from the usual 99 cent nonsense), pricing more recently has spent time closer to $470.

ASUS RT-AC5300 price trend

ASUS RT-AC5300 price trend
(Chart courtesy of The Tracktor.com)

NETGEAR R8500

NETGEAR's direct competition for the RT-AC5300 is its R8500 Nighthawk X8 [reviewed]. It too has a $400 MSRP, but a very different pricing trend—all downward toward a current price around $358.

NETGEAR R8500  price trend

NETGEAR R8500 price trend
(Chart courtesy of The Tracktor.com)

ASUS RT-AC88U

ASUS' two-radio AC3100 class RT-AC88U has no competition yet, except from its RT-AC3100 sibling, which we'll get to next. Like the RT-AC5300, its pricing trend is generally up, since starting at $280, below its $299 MSRP. Amazon's price today is $300, having come down from closer to $375 in the past week or so.

ASUS RT-AC88U price trend

ASUS RT-AC88U price trend
(Chart courtesy of The Tracktor.com)

ASUS RT-AC3100

Demand for the RT-AC3100 four LAN port version of the RT-AC88U could be the reason its pricing has mostly stayed at its $280 MSRP. Amazon isn't even offering this router itself; the spike to $300 is entirely due to third-party sellers. Amazon's price today is $280, right back at list.

ASUS RT-AC3100 price trend

ASUS RT-AC3100 price trend
(Chart courtesy of The Tracktor.com)

Closing Thoughts

I had been thinking manufacturers were behind the big price swings, doing a bit of marketing research by jiggering prices. But they can't really do this; the FTC and other agencies see to that. No, the only marketing test manufacturers can do is set the MSRP, which both ASUS and NETGEAR have done with their AC5300 class routers at $400.

It turns out the reason for the crazy high-end router prices is good ol' holiday season supply and demand. Some folks still fall for the bigger-number-on-the-box, even though we've shown these higher-priced routers won't work the miracles people are hoping for.

If you're a smart router buyer, you'll let the frenzy die down and, if you really want one, take advantage of the lower prices that will probably come with the new year, not to mention the glut of holiday returns that turn into refurb bargains.

Remember, only you can prevent > $300 routers!

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