Back to Article

  • sinerasis - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Very nice, makes me miss my RT-N16's... those are great routers. I live in a condo with a lot of noise so I had to get 5Ghz routers (eventually settled on the Linksys E3000's, which are not as nice, but work better for my purpose).

    Will the switch to ARM be a good or bad thing for third party software? I will be upgrading to ac once there is a good consumer/hacker friendly version out there.
  • dcollins - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I love my RT-N16, which is running one of the Tomato forks.

    Considering the target market, I'm surprised by the lack of 5ghz support, which fortunately is a problem at my complex. Hopefully Asus will launch a good ac sequel.
  • dcollins - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    * is not a problem Reply
  • mckirkus - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Nicely written! A lot of us are using old netbooks as routers since they're much more capable than most offerings available. The setup is Cable Modem / Netbook Router / Wireless Access Point. The ALIX supports PFSense so I'm hoping you include it as one of the options in Part Duex! MIPS is so 2012 :D Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Absolutely, pfSense and m0n0wall are in the software lineup, big fans of those two platforms :)

  • Assimilator87 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I'd like to put in a vote for IPCop as well. Been using that on a Barton Athlon XP and I'll never go back to an OEM router. One aspect I would really like you guys to focus on is compatibility with wireless cards and multiple NICs. I'm about to upgrade the router to an Athlon 64 X2, and would love to get rid of my separate wireless AP/switch and have everything in a single box. Also, a test to see if SpeedStep and Cool'n'Quiet are supported would be awesome because an older gen CPU running at max clocks wouldn't be optimal for the power bill.

    Cannot thank enough for the AT team's hard work!
  • leexgx - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    I used to use ipcop long time ago but they flat refuse to add on upnp (yes it's an security risk but give the users the option and big warning starring the risk) so ended up with dd-wrt router in the end (loved ipcop as lots of little things I used on wad very god) Reply
  • chrsjav - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    How do laptop-grade mini-PCIe cards fare when repurposed for access point and router duties (assuming they support access point mode)?

    A lot of enthusiasts have built mini-ITX systems for NAS that have both ethernet and wifi. If you have a 3x3 5 GHz card in a box running BSD, could you offload all wireless and routing duties to that computer? It'd be nice to replace three boxes with one.
  • wolrah - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Please take a look at something supporting dual-band 802.11n. That is a sorely lacking feature in most of the hacking-friendly routers.

    The 100mbit-only limit of the ALIX makes it sort of a joke even as a wireless device these days, if you can't bridge 802.11n to ethernet at anywhere close full speed what's the point of having 802.11n?

    I'm currently running an Ubiquiti RouterStation Pro with OpenWRT. Atheros AR7161 @ 720MHz, 128MB RAM, and 16MB flash. There's also a SD slot, USB, 3x miniPCI, and the standard GigE switch with one port VLANed off by default for WAN use.

    It was supposed to be running pfSense, but apparently Ubiquiti stopped providing support to the pfSense guys and they lost interest in porting to MIPS. Very disappointing, but fortunately the current OpenWRT UI is a lot less bad than it used to be.
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Yeah, why not the RT-N66U, I think DD-WRT runs on it already. RT-N16 is only going to get more and more dated.

    I have a WNDR3700 which supports DD-WRT pretty well, and is dual-band.
  • mckirkus - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Your best bet is to keep the router and Wifi devices separate. Wifi standards change faster than diapers on an bean eating baby and there's no go reason to throw out the baby (router) with the bath water every time. (New baby 10 days ago if you couldn't tell). Reply
  • crimson117 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    As the father of an 11-month old, Congratulations! :)

    Also I wish I had read your advice before buying my Asus RT-N65u two weeks ago.
  • kpb321 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I recently picked up a Belkin Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router. It's nice because it's a simultaneous dual band router with Gigabit Ethernet and 2 usb ports that is regularly available pretty cheap. I picked mine up for $30 new. The only major disadvantage is that has internal antennas so you can't replace them with directional or higher gain antennas. It does have only 64mb of memory and 8mb of flash but that doesn't really seem to be a major limitation. I have plenty of free memory and the flash is enough to handle the biggest builds generally available and USB allows you to add a thumb drive or hd for real amounts of storage for NAS type functionality. Reply
  • dman3k - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    So did I. I might have screwed myself for not testing the router with the official most up-to-date firmware. I immediately flashed in DD-WRT out of the box. Network performance of it was worse than my D-Link 655. I then flashed it back to official firmware, and now I've spent ~$9 to ship it to Belkin for RMA.

    This time around, I'm going to test the official firmware's performance first. Maybe it's just as bad if not worse than DD-WRT. If so, I think I'll be keeping my D-Link 655 for a while.
  • kpb321 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I haven't had any problems with mine but I actually flashed to Toastmasters Tomato-usb build instead of DD-WRT. I'm assuming you are referring to wireless performance. Tomato makes it pretty easy to up the transmit power among other possible tweaks to improve wireless performance. Reply
  • Simon42 - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I'm using the Belkin F7D4302 - a close relative with no Gb ports and 1 usb. I'm running Tomato and there's a 2 Tb drive permanently mounted. Great for XBMC, including 10GB 1080p files on 5 Ghz band. It's really day and night compared to the original Belkin firmware which was utterly crappy! Reply
  • reckless76 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I've been running a Sonicwall tz-180 with their advanced firmware and it seems to be working very well for me. I can download a torrent, talk through vonage, and stream a blu-ray rip across my LAN all at the same time without any troubles.

    Does a solution like this in the article offer anything I'm missing?
  • ZPrime - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Disappointed that bad-ass embedded hardware from Soekris wasn't included. the latest Net6501 series is a dual-core Atom with up to 2GB of RAM, SATA, mSATA, PCIe expansion, and Gigabit ports. Reply
  • mike8675309 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I'm running DD-WRT on a few devices including an older Asus WL500W that did get replaced once on RMA. One of the primary issues that I've seen people dealing with on wifi routers running with higher horsepower is poor power quality. The little power supplies shipped with some units are simply not up to the job to keep high quality power available to the router.

    This thread and DD-WRT has a series of posts on power supplies and their relation to signal quality.

    You might try your tests with better power supplies to note any change.
  • Daniel Egger - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    If you don't want/need external antennas but just a very capable simultaneous 11n router/AP with GigE the N56U is quite a good choice.

    What I'd really like to see are some power measurements. I'm looking for something a little bit greener than the 18W of continuous power consumption of the N56U.
  • Conficio - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Brian have you followed Jim Getty and had some look at the Codel implementation in CeroWrt It only supports the Netgear WNDR3700v2 or WNDR3800. Codel has been recently added to the Linux kernel, so many platforms can pick up the good work soon.

    Also read this team's ongoing efforts regarding linux Wifi drivers and how they (poorly) interact with the Codel algorithm.

    To me that is a critical piece to the puzzle of internet performance these days (and it is Open Source). I'd appreciate if you could at least perform some of the tests that Jim Getty and the others developed to show the buffer bloat problem. Ideally show the performance of CeroWRT. In any case I'd be interested in yur take on this topic.

    Off course bufferbloat does not only happen in the router/Wifi, but its one choke point that one can influence, besides configuring one's computes accordingly.
  • owned66 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    i got a a question ive searched for this for a long time

    from what i understand when it comes to VPN specifically L2TP IPsec
    the IPsec stack required lots of memory which most commercial routers lack
    can some one help me out ?
    im looking for a router that can do this
    i dont mind building an x86 router too
    i just need a guide
  • dreamkiller - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    i run an old ibm t42 laptop with a vpn encryption card in the minipci. between the hifn card, 1.8ghz p4 and 2gb ram, ipsec benches about 50mbps each way. Reply
  • mike55 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Awesome article. Definitely looking forward to part 2. I have DD-WRT installed on my current router, but the QoS doesn't do what I'd like. Large downloads slow everything else down. Reply
  • Conficio - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Have a look at Jim Getty's bufferbloat analysis. You are describing exactly his symptoms. His writing style is not to concise but sometimes entertaining (lots of thunder involved ;-) ). Reply
  • mike55 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the tip, Conficio.

    It seems Controlled Delay (CoDel) active queue management may be the answer a lot of home networks are in need of to keep latency low while downloads, uploads, and multiple users are doing their thing. Unfortunately, it seems it needs at least Linux kernel version 3.3 to run. I know a lot of the third party open source firmwares run kernels 2.4 and 2.6. It would be interesting to see a test of how effective CoDel is and how it can be implemented in the average home network in part 2 of this article.

    I've attempted to use the QoS in DD-WRT on my router again, so we'll see how that goes. It effectively disables PowerBoost from my ISP, which is part of the reason I turned it off before. CoDel doesn't require setting fixed bandwidth limits which seems pretty awesome if it works well.
  • mrseanpaul81 - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I am very interested in fascinated by this stuff but.. I would love a tutorial on all this jargon if anybody has a link to a tutorial to help get the basic that would be awesome. I have a linksys router from like 5 years ago and would love to understand and compare it to newer stuff (besides the obvious 801ac upgrade). What are the differences between the old linksys and the newer routers in terms of home network speed? Reply
  • trochevs - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    This is wonderful subject. I run DD-WRT and I have played with many of the other 3rd party software for routers and firewalls. I never had the setup for good testing and I am looking forward for your results. It is "fresh air" to read about other tech and to forget the current FAD around smartphones and tablets.
    Thank you.
  • aryonoco - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    Thank you very much Brian for this wonderfully written and informative article.

    As someone who is thinking about potentially buying a new router that's suitable for third party open source firmware, I especially appreciated this timely article.

    This is AT at its best. Brilliant!
  • critical_ - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - link

    I have 3 Asus RT-N66U dual-band "N900" routers on-site all running Tomato. They also run other open-source firmwares. They're an excellent successor to the Linksys WRT54G (and WRT54GL) crowd. Asus just released the RT-AC66U (802.11ac) router which also works with open-source firmware. Please include them if you can. Reply
  • Kiepie - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I don't see that anyone has mentioned the MikroTik range of RouterBoard hardware and their RouterOS software? Any chance of including some of those?

    The boards supposedly range from cheap home-use types to ISP-class solutions. The OS comes in flavours tailored to their hardware, but also in a free-to-download x86 variant.
  • sharpjs - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    This article needs to cover the Soekris units. It's hard to beat the Net6501 for an open-source router platform. Reply
  • Jaybus - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Those are great, but they are in a altogether different class than these two routers. They are far more expensive. Reply
  • Zaitsev - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the interesting look into the RT-N16. First, not to be nit-picky, but the ports on the back are RP-SMA not SMA. I don't know how common standard SMA ports are on wifi equipment, so this distinction might not be necessary.

    Secondly, some of the Hawking directional antennas require two rp-sma ports. Would it be possible to use two of these ports for an outdoors directional antenna and the third port for a local omni-directional antenna? Or does it not work like that? Thanks.
  • UrQuan3 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Looking forward to future articles. The list of choices is so large you'll never make everyone happy, but a "start here" article will be very nice.

    As for testing, a test of a large download while performing realtime work is what I want to see most. There are already comments on bufferbloat, so I won't waste more time there.

    Do please cover finding images, compatability, and flashing steps for those of us that haven't done that before but are interested.
  • LordConrad - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I got one of these Nettop systems a while back to use as a router, and it works like a charm.
  • nakomaru - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Thanks for this article. I'm still running the classic broadcom WHR-HP-G54 circa 2004 (I think BCM4712) with the Teaman Tomato fork, which is somehow managing to keep its meager specs running decently even with a few thousand "connections" due to P2P (unfortunately it thinks each UDP packet is its own connection). I have been wondering what the modern hardware offerings are, and this article caught me up with excellent detail. Reply
  • mhaager2 - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    I agree with other comments here. This is an excellent topic that has relevance to virtually every tech consumer. I too don't understand a lot of the jargon. I have the RT-N16 running tomato and have been mucking around trying to get better signal on the second floor and basement. It would really be nice if someone had a link to good tutorial on router basics for us noobs:-) Reply
  • lwatcdr - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    There are many itx boards out that cost about the same as the Netgate but offer a lot more power.
    Is fanless, has two intel Ge ports and more expansion options like 6 sata ports. You could boot from a USB stick if you want or make it a full NAS/router.
    Or if you want more power and don't care about fanless pop in any Sandy Bridge or even Ivy Bridge CPU and your good to go.
  • Conficio - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    This is ~ the same price + $40 for the cheapest enclosure + $20 for way too much RAM + $20 for a cheap 5 port GBE switch and I'd think that that 45W power supply indicates it'll cost you a bit more on the utility bill (not to mention that you could actually be conscious of the environment).

    In addition, not everybody who feels capable to flush a router's ROM feels like he wants to assemble a sys from scratch and keep an OS up to date (secure).

    I'd think that is a project for another day.
  • vkristof - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the article. The article finally motivated me to order a RT-N16 as a replacement router for my ~decade old M$/Accton .b router.

    My only complaint is related to actually finding the article on Anandtech. The search function produces nothing useful and i can't find a way to naviagte > HOME > NETWORKING. Could be operator error on my part...
  • jediknight1 - Tuesday, September 04, 2012 - link

    Its been quite a while for the update. Hope the update is still on course? Reply
  • grantdesrosiers - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    When can we expect the next part of this series? Reply
  • Demios - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    I'm inclined to wonder if we'll ever be getting a part two to this article. Reply
  • Die Fledermaus - Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - link

    Almost a year later and still no part 2... Reply
  • oltrianave - Tuesday, December 09, 2014 - link


    i created an account just to ask for the update

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now