Wireless Router Recommendations

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magus145
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Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby magus145 » Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:18 am UTC

Hello:

I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations for Wireless Routers. I need one that is both G and N compatible. Do people find it's worth it to spend more money on a router? I have Comcast with a cable modem, and I don't think that connection is going to pushing the upper limits of the router's capability anyway. But I'd like to get the most speed/reliability for my dollars. I was planning on spending in the $60 range, but if someone can make a case for why it's worth it, I would go up to around $150. I was planning on then just buying it on Newegg or Amazon. I assume that's still the best bet. Thanks for any insight.

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naschilling
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby naschilling » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:47 pm UTC

I would recommend one of these:

Asus RT-N12: ($45) It does 300 Mbps wireless, but not gigabit ethernet. The biggest flaw is that the stock firmware is garbage and you should plan on running [url=http://dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Asus_RT-N12]DD-WRT[/url if you buy it. Asus support is also pretty poor, but their devices are pretty reliable. I currently have 6 of these in production use at various locations and roles.

Apple AirPort Express: ($100) It's not cheap and has no ethernet ports, except the one for your cable modem, but "it just works." The configuration is simple and intuitive. As a bonus it supports Apple's AirPlay so you can hook it up to speakers to play your iTunes.
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theorigamist
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby theorigamist » Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:23 pm UTC

I have this $70 router, which hasn't had any problems for me and is reviewed well at Newegg.

This router also caught my eye. This may be the highest rated item I've every seen on Newegg. It averages 5 eggs with over 3400 reviews, and is a 46 time winner of the wireless router customer choice award. Also, there's currently a deal on Newegg to get it for $50 instead of the $80 it usually costs, but I don't know how long the deal will last. But I should point out that the router does not appear to support the N standard or gigabit speeds.

magus145
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby magus145 » Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:45 pm UTC

I've had that Linksys router before as well. It's certainly quality, although if I'm forward looking, I should probably get something n-compliant. That Netgear one looks interesting. Remind me if I have this correct. If two computers are on the same wireless network, and one can get N and the other can only receive G, then both computers only receive G-level speeds, right? (I'm assuming that the Wireless router can serve both n and g, say, for instance, that Netgear one that theorigamist linked to). Thanks.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby naschilling » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:35 pm UTC

The Linksys WRT54GL is a time-tested standard, but it's only 802.11G (up to 54 Mbps), which leads to me not recommending it anymore. The main reason for it's great ratings is because it is the defining router for use with DD-WRT. If you're comfortable using DD-WRT, I stand by my recommendation of using the Asus RT-N12 to get the 300 Mbps wireless speed.

The other router mentioned by theorigamist, NetGear WNR3500L has 300 Mbps wireless, gigabit ethernet, and no external antennas to risk breaking off. At $70 it's a good deal, but the regular price of $150 isn't worth it. This is made to run with DD-WRT as well, so if you don't plan on using it, it may not be on you.
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theorigamist
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby theorigamist » Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:21 am UTC

Although my Netgear router can run DD-WRT (or Tomato, or some other open source firmwares), I've been using it with the stock firmware and it's been perfectly fine. I think at the time I bought it I read somewhere that the shared drive feature won't work with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware, so I stuck with the default. (The shared drive feature lets you plug an external USB hard drive into the router to make the files accessible from any computer on the network.)

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby magus145 » Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:57 am UTC

Thanks, guys. So I read the Wikipedia page for DD-WRT, and I get that it's an open source firmware replacement. But what are the main advantages to using it for a small home network?
Last edited by magus145 on Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:10 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby naschilling » Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:57 am UTC

I find a few great advantages:
  • It provides a standard interface and feature set that I can install on existing routers.
  • It allows me to run a small DNS server to have a few local mappings.
  • It supports WPA2-Enterprise with RADIUS, which many routers do not.
  • It allows a standard router it to act as a repeater, client, or client bridge.
  • It allows for multiple WLANs on the same router, much like the Apple AirPort products provide.
  • It allows custom firewall rules.
  • It provides bandwidth logging and graphs to display the daily usage on a monthly scale.
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby GeorgeH » Wed Jul 27, 2011 6:32 pm UTC

^ All true. I think you missed the biggest advantage, though.

In my experience once you get out of the $20 "Cysco" market the single biggest factor in router reliability and performance is the firmware. If your router doesn't support something like DD-WRT, then you're stuck hoping the manufacturer will bother to fix an older product instead of simply introducing newer product lines. If your router is well-supported by something like DD-WRT, then the chances are pretty high that any problems you might encounter with the stock firmware will have already been fixed.

magus145
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby magus145 » Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:41 pm UTC

Thanks for the help, everyone. I'm going to go with the Netgear.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby naschilling » Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:28 am UTC

GeorgeH wrote:^ All true. I think you missed the biggest advantage, though.

In my experience once you get out of the $20 "Cysco" market the single biggest factor in router reliability and performance is the firmware. If your router doesn't support something like DD-WRT, then you're stuck hoping the manufacturer will bother to fix an older product instead of simply introducing newer product lines. If your router is well-supported by something like DD-WRT, then the chances are pretty high that any problems you might encounter with the stock firmware will have already been fixed.


I totally agree with that statement, but there is one proviso that is often true in the Linux world: If others haven't made it work well, it's up to you to do it.
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby MysteryBall » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:17 pm UTC

Bump to plug the Buffalo routers, specifically the Nfiniti series. My grandmother has walls twice as thick as normal due to it being an old house, and she can get a perfect signal from the other end (and that's not even N). Buffalo actually install DD-WRT on their boxes instead of giving you some shoddy in-house crap too.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby Bakemaster » Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:19 pm UTC

I'm going to piggyback on this thread rather than create a new one to ask: Anyone have thoughts on the Linksys E-series routers? I was considering the E2500 but there isn't a DD-WRT firmware available for it. The E2000 is the same price right now on Newegg and does have DD-WRT support.

In the past I've gone with the WRT54GL+Tomato, but I've left that unit with a relative and need a new router for myself. Like many people I want to upgrade to take advantage of the 802.11n capabilities of my newer machine, but I'm tempted to just go with old reliable (the WRT54GL) because my top priorities are stability and price.

E2000: Gigabit LAN, selectable dual-band, DD-WRT support.
E2500: 10/100 LAN, simultaneous dual-band, no DD-WRT support.

EDIT: Actually, after looking at the ASUS RT-N12, I'm left wondering if it's possibly worth paying for an E2000/E2500 if I can get a DD-WRT supported b/g/n for half the price... Even without gigabit LAN or dual-band, Newegg reviewers using DD-WRT report it's very stable.
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GeorgeH
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby GeorgeH » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:42 pm UTC

I've never used the E2000 or E2500, but in my experience Linksys' high end stuff is typically really good and their lower end stuff is typically pretty bad. At a glance the E2000 looks decent, but I wouldn't touch the E2500.

Is there a reason you want to jump straight to DD-WRT? It does a lot of really nice things, but it's not perfect. For example DD-WRT works great on my trusty WRT600N when I want to do weird stuff, but its max throughput on the 5GHz band is close to half of what the stock firmware can provide - the same laptop with an Atheros AR5008X adapter gets ~40/100mbps and with an Intel 5300 adapter gets ~70/130mbps (DD-WRT/stock) when grabbing large files over 5GHz N from my server.

Of course none of that applies to the RT-N12, as it doesn't have a 5GHz radio. That being the case (and again with no Gigabit support) I'd probably grab a WRT54GL instead if you want something cheaper. The two best points of N are the use of the much less crowded and interference-prone 5GHz band and >100mbps file transfers, and if you're not going to take advantage of them you're probably better off with a tried and true G model.

I don't know what price you're looking at for the E2000, but if I had to replace my WRT600N today I'd be grabbing an E4200 - which last time I checked was running around $140. That's may seem like a lot in a world of $40 routers, but if you want a high-performance network (and not just something to connect your laptop to a pokey internet connection) it's money very well spent.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby naschilling » Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:31 pm UTC

GeorgeH wrote:I've never used the E2000 or E2500, but in my experience Linksys' high end stuff is typically really good and their lower end stuff is typically pretty bad.

I completely agree with this statement. I've had really good routers from Linksys. I had a WRT54G v1.1 running for 7 years until last week when I replaced for another RT-N12. I've also had several wireless cards (PCI and USB) from Linksys and some were good and some were bad. The biggest problem is knowing where the break point is between the good and bad product lines. That dilemma is why I stopped using Linksys in the first place.

I've always believed that any vender, whether Linksys, Asus, Microsoft, or Sony, is only good as the worst product they produce. I have always respected Sony and Apple for not producing the disposable garbage like many other companies do. I have frequently purchased and recommended Asus motherboards and it was that confidence in the brand that lead to my first purchase of the Asus router. Sadly, my experiences with the router did lower my opinion of Asus over all, but the router does its job and supports open standards. My biggest complaint about the router is the cheap antennas and their expense to replace them when/if they break.

DD-WRT is great, but I really would like to fix the UI. It's really showing its age and lack of organization.
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby Bakemaster » Sun Aug 14, 2011 4:18 am UTC

GeorgeH: Newegg reviewers seem pretty unimpressed with the E-series firmware; I want DD-WRT support as plan B in case the stock firmware is crap. My internet connection is only going to be 3Mpbs up and down and I don't use my home network for anything particularly complex, so I'm not overly concerned with throughput. What I want first and foremost is a stable connection that won't drop or stutter while streaming, or during a Skype call, or in the middle of uploading 10+ GB of RAW files to my wife's portfolio.

Beyond that, I would like compatibility with the most current standard so I don't end up wanting to buy a new router year after next if I get a new machine (or two) and my demands change. The RT-N12 caught my eyes because it's cheaper than the WRT54GL, but you're right that it's not offering much in terms of performance. I'm seeing the WRT54G at $50 and both E2000 and E2500 at $80 on Newegg (which I prefer to use because their support has become the standard against which I judge all online retailers). I can't justify spending any more than that as it's all going into the 1910 money sink my wife and I just bought.
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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby GeorgeH » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:01 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:Newegg reviewers seem pretty unimpressed...

That's a huge can of worms. Newegg reviews can be helpful, but they're arguably 50% noise, 40% it did or didn't arrive DOA, and 10% helpful. If you want stability over all else, you want a WRT54GL - barring the 2.4GHz interference that everything is susceptible to it doesn't get any better. The only things the WRT54GL will ever fail to do well is operate in a noisy environment (no 5GHz support) and provide speedy wireless large file transfers.

I understand wanting the flexibility of DD-WRT or similar, and I personally would never want to buy a router without that capability. However if I were on a budget I'd go for 5GHz/Gigabit over 2.4GHz/100 and DD-WRT every day of the week - having to occasionally reset and/or mess with a router and work around its firmware limitations is annoying, but the time spent doing that would be far outweighed by the time spent waiting for local file transfers and the microwave to stop. Then again where I live there are at least 20 Wifi networks, my kitchen/microwave is in between my router and where I typically use wireless, and I occasionally like to stream Blu-Rays from my server to my laptop - so my situation is probably a little different from yours.

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Re: Wireless Router Recommendations

Postby Bakemaster » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:13 pm UTC

I live in a relatively dense residential area. My laptop has seen a couple dozen networks from within the house, albeit most of them blinking in and out of range. My desktop, which has yet to be unpacked, has a beefier antenna and will probably see more. On the other hand, the kitchen is in the opposite corner of the house and we have neither microwave nor cordless phones in the house.

Thanks for the advice. I think I'll probably just stick with old reliable. Even if I do end up buying something beefier a year or two down the road, it's always good to have a backup.
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