Home networking: How much of a difference does the router make?

After a several years of service (bought in 2008), our Linksys 310N router has been needing a hard reset about once a week for a month or two. Nothing has changed hardware/firmware; it just craps out and becomes unreachable until the repoot.

Anything new and noteworthy in routers over the past six or seven years? New or noteworthy that we care about experience-wise? Our whole house is Gigabit-enabled (i.e. NICs, switches, NASs are all Gigabit); all the important places (e.g. den, kitchen, parlour, guest rooms, etc.) have in-wall jacks; we’re rural so we don’t have interference/leeches to really worry about; the current signal reaches all corners of the house; and the only wireless devices that regularly connect stream video without a hitch (the newest is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 that supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and dual-band).

So if I go with something simple like a $70 D-Link DIR-855L, am I all but guaranteed to end up with at least the same network experience as we’re used to? There are more expensive options out there—other than going dual-WAN (too expensive), would something like this $300 890L/R boost our Internet or Intranet experience? Is there some feature(s) that has come out that we want to look for in a model?

Or for our purposes will ‘good enough’ actually be good enough?

No matter how fast your network is inside, the likely limiting factor is your external connection. I assume this is not likely more than the traditional 50Mbps or less down and 7Mbps or so up. So even the simplest router is pretty much capable of handling the traffic demands.

it doesn’t sound like you have weird routing demands, like multiple VPNs, traffic inspection etc.

Plus, the internal switch portion (although sounds like you don’t need it) if it is 1Gbps is capable of switching that speed internally. Very few devices designated 1Gb come even close to that in real-world traffic.

So in a single household, I would suggest any modern router will work.

I used to be a big Linksys fan till I realised the failure rate was really high across a wide range of their products.

The other brands you mention were all pretty crap and I wouldn’t recommend them.

These days I use TPLink which is a very cheap Chinese brand and usually one generation behind anything else on the market. This in my view is a good thing™. They take existing designs that have been exhaustively worked over by others and make their own version.

They aren’t clever by any means but they do keep working for long periods.

This is probably true for most households, but I have both wired and wireless clients (I prefer, and always recommend wired, if it’s possible). My old router was on 100base-T, and upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet made a HUGE difference in file transfers between machines…

One thing that can make a big difference is the power of the WiFi radio and quality of the antennae. I live in an old brick-and-steel building and getting a signal from my office to the living room used to be a coin-flip. I recently upgraded to a ASUS RT-N66U dual-band router and now I have a strong signal everywhere in my place. It helps that it comes with three adjustable antennae of reasonable quality.

i’d say good enough.

We do move sizeable files over the LAN. NAS devices are in the basement; we routinely work on several hundred MB to GB-sized files. Not streaming, but opening, copying, etc. When we switched from 10/100 to 10/100/1000 hardware (original router and intermediate switches) there was an astounding jump in internal file transfer speed matching beowulff’s experience. If it makes a difference, their path is likely NAS>D-Link switch1>D-Link switch2>Router>D-link switch2>PC.

In terms of the LAN, other than making sure it’s Gigabit capable, are there other things that would make a difference to speed? Features that won’t necessitate replacing any of the existing switches? Or will we be maxing out our internal speed with a basic, brand-name, Gigabit-capable router?

As far as maximizing the WAN side of things, our faster broadband connection is only 30Mbps. We do have small issues when uploading giant files, but since that’s something like 7Mbps up, the issue doesn’t last all that long. If there’s something/some feature to look for that could handle GB-sized uploads, that would be great. (Note–if it makes a difference, these are work files to our remote or client’s servers; they may suffer some congestion overall but it’s not throttled at either of those ends as far as we know.)

Shoot, D-link is now crap? I used to use exclusively D-Link hardware back in the late 90s or so; they had great service. Linksys won me over and we have a lot of their equipment here (though the NAS devices are now all Synology; the D-Link and Linksys NASs are backup only). Linksys went through their Cisco phase after the last time I purchased. Is their overall reputation shot now?

I’d like to get something fairly reliable, because our business depends on email and file transfers. If I’m not home and my wife is having router-related issues, save a simple reboot she could be SOL delivery-wise, something to avoid (personally and professionally). Does TPLink make robust hardware? Would an older D-Link or Linksys model be similarly stable? If I need to pay a bit more for a solid brand, who is the go-to? Cisco? I love Asus motherboards–are their routers good?

Linksys was sold to CISCO who rebadged all the phones as CISCO (NB I still use Linksys/CISCO phones - they are pretty good).

Now CISCO is selling the Linksys home network business to Belkin - not sure if the brand will remain.

I had huge problems with Linksys switches causing no end of problems with clients where I’d installed them. About the only really constantly good Linksys network product was the WRT54G which is still current but very old tech. I went to linksys after innumerable failures with other brands. This would be 10 years ago. Recently I became very disappointed with linksys wired network equipment.

With the TPLink kit, the Gig switches and DSL modems work perfectly - 24/7. However I’ve got one TPLink wireless router that gets confused every couple of months but it’s pretty old.

If I was planning on rekitting I’d probably put in a dual-band TPLink wireless router such as the TD-W9980. I’ve not used it but it looks good on paper - especially with the Gig wired interface. However i’d make sure it wasn’t core to the network - that is I’d use solid Gig switch(es) to connect the wired network devices and use the wireless router as the connection point to the DSL network and for wireless access.

I keep seeing ‘dual-band’ and getting my hopes up thinking it’s dual WAN at first. Other than speeding up connections over wifi, does dual band get us anything else?

We had a WRT54G years ago. Then they changed the form factor to that stupid wedge. Nice to see they’re bringing the old box back.