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Old 2011-12-03, 15:31   Link #1
Ledgem
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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2011 Wireless Router Recommendations?

Greetings all,

My router of choice was the D-Link DGL-4300. My first one was totally solid; it could handle tons of torrent activity and achieve massively long up-times without needing to be rebooted. I ended up giving it to my parents. I bought another one second-hand (they don't make them anymore) and it's been giving me some trouble, occasionally becoming inaccessible to wireless connections and seemingly requiring a reboot every two or three days. I'm still tweaking it to see if I can get it to be as stable as my first one, but who knows - perhaps there's a reason why the original owner put it up for sale.

In light of that, I'm considering what a valid, more modern replacement would be. My two major uses for the network at this point are torrents and long video conferences. I'd like something that can handle those tasks, and that doesn't need to be rebooted more than once or twice a year, if that. Wireless N with the 5 GHz band capabilities would be nice, but I only really need wireless G (or wireless N with 2.4 GHz-only). Ideally I'd like to spend no more than $50, but if you have a recommendation that's more than $50 and under $200, please tell me and I'll keep an eye out for it during sales events.

Thanks for the suggestions!
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Old 2011-12-03, 15:52   Link #2
chikorita157
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I had issues with my old router (a Buffalo Wireless G running DD-WRT) when I switched to cable internet as there are latency problems. Believe it or not, I have been using an Apple Airport Extreme Wireless N and it has been stable and I never experience any lockups. It's expensive, but it's close to the price of most Dual-band with Gigabit Ethernet Ports and USB ports (for Disk Sharing and Printing) at the time. Although stable, the only drawbacks is that there's only three ethernet ports, no QoS/uPnP (although it has NAT-PMP) and administrating the router requires a Mac/PC/iOS Device (Linux doesn't unless you use Wine). The newer models are far better though.

As for non-Apple routers, avoid Linksys and Dlink because the former got considerably worse after Cisco took them over... but yes, if you go this route, make sure you can get one that's compatible with custom firmware for more stability and options.
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Old 2011-12-03, 16:06   Link #3
Ledgem
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I'd forgotten about Apple's wireless router! It is indeed pretty expensive, but I've slowly been replacing most of my electronics with Apple-made things and haven't been disappointed... maybe it's the way to go. This one bit worries me, though:

Quote:
Originally Posted by chikorita157 View Post
Although stable, the only drawbacks is that there's only three ethernet ports, no QoS/uPnP (although it has NAT-PMP) and administrating the router requires a Mac/PC/iOS Device (Linux doesn't unless you use Wine). The newer models are far better though.
No UPnP?! Is that just on your model, or do the newer models still lack it? I did a bit of Googling and can't find a concrete answer, but it looks like there's still no UPnP support?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chikorita157 View Post
As for non-Apple routers, avoid Linksys and Dlink because the former got considerably worse after Cisco took them over... but yes, if you go this route, make sure you can get one that's compatible with custom firmware for more stability and options.
What companies would you recommend? I trusted D-Link because of the DGL-4300, and Linksys has traditionally been the go-to company for wireless routers. I personally don't trust Netgear, but those are basically the big three right there.
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Old 2011-12-03, 16:12   Link #4
Vena
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If you can live without 5GHz bands, one of the best and most versatile routers in existence, being as old as dirt at this point (especially for beginners with flashing firmware), is the Linksys WRT54GL. That is after you've removed the crappy software/firmware it has and bring the little guy to his true potential:

Not stock, firmware, of course.
How to turn the WRT54GL into a monster!
Not stock, firmware, of course.

It's cost is anywhere between 50$ to 70$ depending on your seller, and there will not be a website where it will be rated less than 5/5 stars. Its only downfall is its age in terms of hardware capabilities. It's still a very stable, very solid, very long living device that will last you for years if you don't light it on fire by tinkering with its settings.

If you just want a new 2011 router, I can make you a list of decent ones but they are all going to be either a.) cheaper and with less than good hardware, or b.) expensive and probably overpriced for their hardware. The key thing with the WRT series was that they were all the same brand but Linksys turned off certain capabilities in the cheaper models without changing the hardware from the much more expensive higher models. Naturally, people hacked this off-switch and turned everything on. That's harder to find nowadays. Check the stats on the WRT, tell me if it fits your needs, and if not, I will conjure up a more up-to-date list.

-------------

I do not recommend the Airport series, as their firmware is Apple-certified locked behind iron bars, their capabilities are limited for the premium price they come with, are UPnP lacking, and have a very limited amount of connections in/out.
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Old 2011-12-03, 16:27   Link #5
chikorita157
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Quote:
I do not recommend the Airport series, as their firmware is Apple-certified locked behind iron bars, their capabilities are limited for the premium price they come with, are UPnP lacking, and have a very limited amount of connections in/out.
Please clarify very limited amount of connections in/out since the router actually allows up to 50 wireless clients and I never experienced any problems with the amount of connections or reduced internet bandwidth. Either way you look at it, if you have a lot of people connecting to a consumer router, you probably get the same result. Also, if you wanted to use a different firmware, you would use a different router anyway if you need advanced features it doesn't have.

Needless to say, I suggest checking the list of DD-WRT supported routers and customer reviews. The DD-WRT wiki has a list of compatible routers and what firmware you can load on it - http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Supported_Devices
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Old 2011-12-03, 16:40   Link #6
Vena
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chikorita157 View Post
Please clarify very limited amount of connections in/out since the router actually allows up to 50 wireless clients and I never experienced any problems with the amount of connections or reduced internet bandwidth. Either way you look at it, if you have a lot of people connecting to a consumer router, you probably get the same result. Also, if you wanted to use a different firmware, you would use a different router anyway if you need advanced features it doesn't have.

Needless to say, I suggest checking the list of DD-WRT supported routers and customer reviews. The DD-WRT wiki has a list of compatible routers and what firmware you can load on it - http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Supported_Devices
I meant physical connections, my fault on not including that specifier. I don't think there are any modern day routers that have much in the way of *limits* on their wireless connections unless we're going into the hundreds of people. In general, though, I do not believe that a system that is closed, like most apple products, is worth the money. It simply limits any third-party benefits that a device may reap from the community that uses it. (The Apple TV being a very limited off case as it is easily broken and set-up to run XBMC.)
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Old 2011-12-03, 17:34   Link #7
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If you want to run dd-wrt, asus router with broadcom chipsets are not bad. If you just want a good router billion does some good ones.
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Old 2011-12-03, 18:58   Link #8
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Yeah... all my usual recommendations in vendors have gotten crappy in the last couple of years at the consumer end. Brand buy-outs and corner-cutting for the lose.

If you don't need N band then Vena's route is still solid (WRT54GL flashed with DD-WRT or Tomato).
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Old 2011-12-04, 03:27   Link #9
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I have a Netgear WNDR3700 (also known as N600) running DD-WRT. Does its job well and has all the features you could conceivably want in a small wireless router (dual-band 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet, USB port for print/file serving, etc). Ran stock firmware on it for a while before switching to DD-WRT and that worked fine, too. Unfortunately it's about twice your budget ($99.99 on Newegg).

If you don't like Netgear for whatever reason, a friend of mine swears by the Asus RT-N56U, which is a similar device with similar capabilities. I don't think it's compatible with DD-WRT yet, though. Its little brother RT-N16 is, but it doesn't have dual-band 802.11n.

Those two are, as far as I know, pretty much the top of the line for dual-band wireless routers right now; or at least they were when I researched the situation earlier this year. Newer models that are replacing them are probably starting to come out now, if they haven't already, but I don't think there has been any significant leaps of technology lately that would motivate switching to a bleeding edge model.

Edit: Don't get a WRT54GL; it has neither 802.11n nor gigabit Ethernet. Remember that if you don't get 802.11n at all, your theoretical max speed over WLAN is gonna be 54Mbit/s. Which quite frankly sucks dongs; you won't even be able to max a reasonably fast home internet connection with that. If you're actually gonna use WLAN for serious network traffic and not just idle web browsing, 802.11n is a definite requirement these days, in my opinion. Dual band is of questionable utility, though, unless know for a fact that the 2.4GHz band is extremely busy where you live.
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Old 2011-12-04, 08:56   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ledgem View Post
I personally don't trust Netgear, but those are basically the big three right there.
Actually netgear is more dependable since the netgear wireless router I'm currently using (pressed back into service after the linksys E1000 I got started failing after 3 months) has been pretty much bulletproof apart from a slight overheating issue that knocked out the wireless every once in a while and it's lasted longer then every other wireless router I've bought.

Also you can add belkin to the list of companies to avoid.
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Old 2011-12-04, 12:23   Link #11
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFluff View Post
I have a Netgear WNDR3700 (also known as N600) running DD-WRT. Does its job well and has all the features you could conceivably want in a small wireless router (dual-band 802.11n, gigabit Ethernet, USB port for print/file serving, etc). Ran stock firmware on it for a while before switching to DD-WRT and that worked fine, too. Unfortunately it's about twice your budget ($99.99 on Newegg).

If you don't like Netgear for whatever reason, a friend of mine swears by the Asus RT-N56U, which is a similar device with similar capabilities. I don't think it's compatible with DD-WRT yet, though. Its little brother RT-N16 is, though, but it doesn't have dual-band 802.11n.

Those two are, as far as I know, pretty much the top of the line for dual-band wireless routers right now; or at least they were when I researched the situation earlier this year. Newer models that are replacing them are probably starting to come out now, if they haven't already, but I don't think there has been any significant leaps of technology lately that would motivate switching to a bleeding edge model.

Edit: Don't get a WRT54GL; it has neither 802.11n nor gigabit Ethernet. Remember that if you don't get 802.11n at all, your theoretical max speed over WLAN is gonna be 54Mbit/s. Which quite frankly sucks dongs; you won't even be able to max a reasonably fast home internet connection with that. If you're actually gonna use WLAN for serious network traffic and not just idle web browsing, 802.11n is a definite requirement these days, in my opinion. Dual band is of questionable utility, though, unless know for a fact that the 2.4GHz band is extremely busy where you live.
Aye... especially if you're going to transfer large files or stream something from a home server (e.g. watching anime or listening to music from network file storage). I went through a couple of n-based routers and cards though (lets just say advertising lies).

Currently using Rosewill N4PS router with computers using wireless adapter Rosewill N - PCI cards. This is functioning beautifully. Only complaint is that what they're calling 'bridging' isn't. Both routers continue to accept wireless connections and this resulted in computers constantly switching between one and the other in the overlap area. I took out the 'bridging' router and just put cards in all the computers.

I just used same brand across the network to minimize the odds of different manufacturers disagreeing on the implementation of a 'draft 2.0'.
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Old 2012-01-21, 17:06   Link #12
Ledgem
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Just to give an update to this, after more wireless instability I ended up buying an Apple Airport Extreme 4th generation router (at present they're up to the 5th generation). It should be arriving some time this week. The lack of UPnP is still a bit worrisome to me, but I'll see how it goes. I've found a number of reviews that praise the router for its stability and say that it's enough to overlook some of its lack of features; that stability is what I'm looking for, and hopefully I'll get it.

I looked over comparisons between the 4th and 5th generation routers, and most of the advancements to the 5th generation seem fairly minor and don't matter much to me. (For those who are curious, it seems that there are some slight boosts to range and speed on the 2.4 GHz band, and some speed improvements when used with newer Mac systems that use Broadcom wireless cards.) I was curious about one thing, though. One review did some tests and remarked on this:

Quote:
There's also a big improvement in simultaneous session handling with the 5th gen AirPortX able to open 29,413 sessions before pooping out, vs. the Gen 4's 128.
I've been curious about this. What is a session? Is that the number of outbound/inbound connections that can be made, or is it something like the number of devices that can be connected to the router at once? I've never heard those numbers tossed around before; is 128 considered low, standard, or high for a router?

Edit: I've done a bit more reading, and it seems that the max simultaneous connections is for actively transferring connections. Aside from running many popular torrents at once (especially if there are multiple users on the network doing it), I'm not really sure what the benefit of higher numbers would be. It seems like it's expected that current-generation routers can handle 200 simultaneous sessions, and some routers are up to 8,000. While that may make the Airport Extreme's maximum of 128 seem low, it seems that many older (or cheaper) routers had a maximum limit of 32. I can't find any data on the routers that I've used in the past, so I don't know if 128 would be an upgrade or a downgrade compared to previous experiences. I don't torrent much these days, so it might not be an issue either way...

Does anyone know more about the maximum simultaneous sessions thing?
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Old 2012-01-21, 20:17   Link #13
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I'm reading this here about max simultaneous connections thingy:
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/index...mid=&chart=124

It lists several current routers available by performance; one ASUS model (TheFluff's recommendation) is nearly on top.
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Old 2012-01-21, 20:41   Link #14
Ledgem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sa547 View Post
I'm reading this here about max simultaneous connections thingy:
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/index...mid=&chart=124

It lists several current routers available by performance; one ASUS model (TheFluff's recommendation) is nearly on top.
That was very useful, thank you! It looks like they tested my favorite router of all time (the D-Link DGL-4300) and it had a max of 180. So the Airport Extreme has 52 less, but I'm not sure how big a difference it would make. I'm looking forward to putting it to the test.

Edit: Odd; even though the DGL-4300 is listed on that chart as having a maximum of 180, that site's review lists a "pro" as being that it does 1,000 simultaneous connections. Hmm...

Edit 2: I am a very confused man, apparently. I just re-checked the seller's listing information for the router and it looks like the part numbers match up to the fifth generation router, not the fourth generation. Not sure where I got the idea that it was a fourth-gen, but I'm also not positive that it's a fifth-gen. Guess I'll have to wait until I have it in my hands to verify. I'll feel a bit more at ease if it is a fifth generation, though, given that huge difference in max simultaneous connections...

I guess I'm still unclear how important they are. What happens if the maximum is hit - is it simply a matter of no new connections being made, or is that when routers start to slow down and need a reboot? In my experience, running torrents heavily usually causes routers to freeze up eventually (although the DGL-4300 never needed that), so I'm guessing it's the latter...
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Old 2012-01-21, 21:20   Link #15
sa547
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You can check out the more recent version of the list:
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/lanwa...er-charts/view

But there are also some other lists that can be cross-checked to home down to a few good routers.

My friend and I had bought a generic N-router with DD-WRT firmware flashed in, but packed a punch with a lot of features, including public hotspot capabilities.
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Old 2012-01-26, 16:32   Link #16
Ledgem
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It's been a few days now, so brief update: I'm currently running with a 5th generation Apple Airport Extreme, and it's fantastic. Some people decry its lack of a web-based interface, and while it's bad news for Linux users, being able to administrate the router from a program feels nicer. Even better, I can make quick adjustments to the network from the iOS app version of that program.

Stability-wise, this router is doing well and actually saved me. I recently put my modem-router provided by the ISP into "bridge" mode, which kills the router functionality entirely (can't even access it via web browser - need to do a factory reset to take it out of that mode). The goal was to see if I could cut down on the number of times that the modem had to be rebooted, and to make opening ports easier. It worked, but apparently putting my previous router into PPPoE connectivity mode added some strain, because I couldn't do video conferencing for more than 5-10 minutes before the router would freeze up and need its power cord pulled. The Airport Extreme has handled hours of video conferencing and some light torrenting without any issues.

Lack of UPnP is not an issue. The programs that would have needed it also support NAT-PMP. I read up on NAT-PMP a bit, and it seems like it's a cleaner version of UPnP, which is nice...

I haven't tried the disk or printer sharing feature yet, but I'll get to that eventually. Having dual band networks running simultaneously is nice. I also appreciate that a "guest network" can be established very quickly, without taking down or modifying any of your regular networks. My intended use for that is for my Nintendo DS, which only supports WEP encryption; previously, I would have to change my entire network configuration to support WEP or remove encryption entirely. Now, when I want to take it online I can simply enable the guest network, and then shut the network off when I'm done. Nice and easy!

Time will tell how stable it is. I have high expectations.

On another note, rumor has it that Apple will be releasing 802.11ac routers (the successor to 802.11n) later this year. Sigh, just when I'd gotten my most-used network components up to 802.11n...
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Old 2012-01-26, 19:13   Link #17
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Damn, that was fast in terms of standards. N right now is all right for copying average-sized files and traffic, but AC seems to be... a bit of an overkill for the ordinary user, unless it's great for those fanatical about streaming videos around the house, or sharing massive Photoshop files across the workplace.
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Old 2012-01-26, 20:41   Link #18
Ledgem
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That's what I thought. I wonder if it's that wireless N's ratification process was more drawn out than usual, or if it's just that wireless AC's ratification process was better kept under wraps. (Although I shouldn't say that, as it hasn't been finalized just yet - it's up for ratification some time this year.)

I can see how AC would replace N for the 5 GHz band, but from what I understand, AC is 5 GHz only. It seems that N will live on in the 2.4 GHz band for people who value distance and getting through obstacles. It makes perfect sense for Apple to adopt this early, though: with their rumored renewed focus on the Apple TV (and its tie-in to the iTunes store), having a wireless standard that can handle much higher throughput means that they can keep their entertainment system relatively wire-free while enabling higher resolution videos to be played.
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