Help Me Choose a Router!

This should be a no-brainer; instead, it is causing me tremendous grief. A simple router for the house for residential use, right? You go to Walmart and buy one off the shelf. Well, although it is a CISCO product (Linksys E2500), the thing must have the cheapest quality electronics known to mankind. This router frequently “freezes up” causing me to perform a hard reboot by pulling out the power cord, waiting a minute, and reconnecting the power. This failure rate is intolerable! I cannot operate this way, and the family cannot stand the weak wi-fi signal*. Knowing Walmart electronics have been crappy in the past, why should I be surprised this is junk, too, right? So, if I look to Best Buy, Amazon, or any other retailer you may recommend…what specs do I want for a real router and not another piece of junk? What should the online description say? …and/or, router packaging say? Santa Dopers, please help!

*I was considering buying (what some call) a “rubber duckie”-type antenna to boost the signal, but that will not solve my primary issue with this router. :rolleyes:

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this to IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

I use two Apple AirPort Extreme routers because they:
[ul]
[li]appear as a single network providing seamless coverage across a house[/li][li]do not have an internet facing interface that can be hacked[/li][li]are reliable – do not require reboots[/li][/ul]

Note you do need an iPhone or iPad to configure the network.

Hello thank you for asking, what you need is an open-source DD-WRT router such as the AirStation™ HighPower N300 Open Source DD-WRT Wireless Router. You don’t have to get that specific model, but if you get a DD-WRT router your time will be filled with leisure and your thoughts with peaceful contemplation. I pray this review guides you to a fulfilling purchase.

I used to buy Linksys routers (the old ones were workhorses), but they’ve gone down in quality about 10 years ago, when I’d die (like yours) every 1-2 years. An IT consultant recommended I get an Asus RT-AC66U or any Asus router and knock wood, it been going for 4+ years with the only issue being the power button kept popping out (a common issue) and turning the router off. I glued it in the On position and I’m still good to go!

Note, it’s ~$200 for the RT-AC66U, but better than buying a new $50 Linksys every year or two.

My two cents:

  • Dsl modem/router/switch/wireless access point is too much functionality for 1 little box. I would advise to put the “router” somewhere close to where the phone line/cable comes into your house, run a cat5e utp cable to a centrally located switch and run cables from there to wireless access points.
  • Install the AP’s as close as possible to where you will be using the WiFi the most. Install them connected with cable. Avoid repeaters or Mesh type ap’s (those are only convenient during installation) if you can run power to a location: you can run cat5e: consider removing the electrical wires to a ceiling light and put cat5e with PoE in. You will be amazed how much better WiFi with direct line of sight and a short distance is.

Nitpick, but Cisco sold Linksys to Belkin about five years ago. And even when Cisco owned it, Linksys was making consumer-grade hardware. So yes, the electronics were relatively cheap, but that was because the product was designed to sell at a price that people would buy. Looking around, actual Cisco routers start at hundreds of dollars and aren’t designed to be configured by the average homeowner.

I also am a proponent of DD-WRT. I bought a well-reviewed router a few years ago and had a mysterious port-forwarding problem with it. After going three rounds with their support, I just said screw it and flashed it with DD-WRT firmware, which fixe the problem. It’s been working perfectly for years now.

So, in addition to consumer router hardware sucking, consumer router software sucks.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to flash routers with your own firmware. :frowning:

And on the “super expensive but very slick” front is Eero.

I used to be a DD-WRT guy all the way.
I bought a set of 3 of these a year ago and haven’t looked back.

It works perfectly, and gives me hassle-free control over many aspects of my network.
Any one of them can be the router, with the remaining two behaving as wireless access points. I have them all wired together, for robustness and speed, though they function quite well interconnecting wirelessly as a mesh network. The wifi is absolutely perfect in my home.

They continually update their software too–just the other day the app was updated to add a notification option that will pop up a notification on my phone whenever a new device appears on my network and I can decide what to do with it.

They have $10/month “plus” service that is absolutely worth it since they give you several cool features such as standard category filtering and router-based ad-blocking. With Plus they throw in free licenses to 1Password, Encrypt.me VPN, and Malwarebytes for your family.

The Encrypt.me is particularly nice since I have installed on my iPad and it automatically switches on the VPN whenever it connects to an untrusted network away from home.

Interesting. I have enjoyed DD-WRT because I know that whatever the problem is, I can find the solution or at least a satisfying reason why there isn’t a solution.

Do you have that level of control over the Eero? Do you miss anything about DD-WRT?

What’s your budget and tech skill level? Most router “freeze ups” are actually the radio overheating. If you touch your router when it’s “frozen” odds are it’ll be warm to the touch. Our new wireless-enabled smart devices(Amazon Echo, Ring Doorbell, Google Home, etc.) put a much more constant stream of radio signals out than the old school stuff. Wireless transmitters generate heat internally and the more chatty everything in your house is the more of a duty cycle the transmitters have to endure. I saw this when my daughter bought an Echo a couple years ago and I saw the wireless traffic just spike and never come down. Now that all the kids smartphones are on Wifi along with a laptop, gaming console, another PC, printer, and other things it’s not uncommon to have nine+ clients on the RF network. I’ve really only got one hard-wired connection to my desktop PC.

Are you going to be doing lots of things with your router? Setting up custom networks for certain groups of people so they can access things like sharing the printer or streaming video, giving QOS priority to gaming consoles so you get low pings, etc? If you don’t know what any of that means then the answer is no of course.

Reliability is important, but reliability will depend on the workload you put on it. If you’re running everything wired and it’s freezing up, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. If you’re streaming video on half a dozen smartphones that’s a different recommendation too.

Enjoy,
Steven

For the last few years Nighthawk routers have been very popular. I have one (maybe two?) of them and have been very happy. In fact, I’ve been very happy with pretty much all my Netgear equipment. It’s the brand I moved over to quite a long time ago when all the Linksys stuff started failing after a year or two.

My dad had a Craftsman router that he was always very happy with. :D:D

This thread sort of scares me. I am going to move next summer and thought I’d treat myself to a new router. The old one is a Linksys, vintage 2000 and has nearly always worked perfectly (maybe it would have to be rebooted every year or so). Maybe, if it ain’t broke I won’t replace it.

Wireless standards have changed quite a bit since 2000. The more recent standards are faster and more secure. Your eighteen-year-old router might be working, but not as well as a newer one.

Not a single thing so far.

I compare the DD-WRT / Eero relationship to the tinkerer vs. “just let me do my work” difference of working on Linux vs. working on MacOS or Windows.

(besides DD-WRT, I also used m0n0wall and PFSense for several years, so I am quite used to a full service firewall and router appliance.)

Eero is more of a “just give me an app for it” tool, but it still seems to cover everything. I open the app on my phone or iPad and immediately see the status of the 3 Eeros in a visual way, along with a list of all devices currently connected (19 devices right now) and the top three right now. It’s showing me the Internet connection performance (82 down/86 up woot!).

If I tap the device list I see all kinds of stuff from my wife’s Apple Watch to our thermostat. I can tap any one and quickly set its profile (e.g. “Bad Boyz” for stuff I don’t trust) that limits its access.
Last year I needed to limit the kids access at one point, so I put all of their devices in a group and set scheduled access limits. This process was far far less painful than it would have been in PFSense or m0n0wall or DD-WRT.

A tap in the corner shows graphs of weekly activity (scans, threat blocks, ad blocks, content filters), broken down by device. My wife’s iPad is leading the way for web access.

The other routers all do this kind of stuff but you really feel like you are turning greasy wrenches under the hood, while the Eero app makes it feel like you are simply dialing in a station on the radio.

Need to share your password? The app gives a QR code your friend can scan to get in the guest network, it also allows quick SMS or email of the credentials, built into the app.

I don’t necessarily need a slick minimalist interface but it’s pretty darned nice. In my opinion, the real value of Eero is the rock-solid wifi throughout the entire house and out on the deck, coupled with solid security features, regular updates, and set-and-forget simplicity.

ETA: Forgot to mention, all of that stuff gamers need to do to punch holes in the firewall for various things can be done, it’s just tucked away in an advanced features area.

I got one of them Netgear Nighthawks and it’s a beaut. Works great! It’s just me in the house tho, so it doesn’t get massive heavy use but my living room computer and my bedroom computer, both on WiFi, never skip a beat. I run torrents all day long while workin from home and don’t even notice. I used to have the same problem as you with my Linkskys, having to reboot more often than I wanted. Haven’t had that problem since.

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R2AZLD2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_R3ehCb5FG6D7P

One issue I do have with this router is when i connect external drives to it via USB, for backups, the whole network craps out. So I wouldn’t recommend this router if you’re looking for that feature.

That’s strange, I have an R6400 with a USB drive attached (sort of a half-assed NAS) and have never had that sort of problem. Definitely agree with the rest of your evaluation, though.

I switched to DD-WRT back when I had a a Linksys WRT54G and have used several different routers since. The Buffalo N600 was OK but glitchy, and I am presently using a Linksys WRT1900ACS from Untangle which overlays thier firewall over DD-WRT. Haven’t had a single problem in over 18 months.

Next time I have to replace a router, I’m going Eero for sure.

The last one I replaced took me like three hours of hassle because the manufacturers are making it harder to load your own firmware. I had to downgrade the firmware twice with old OEM firmwares until I got to one that would let me load something unsigned. Grumble grumble. Definitely not dealing with that crap again.

Eero was just barely a thing then, but I’ve heard good things.