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#372677 - 31/03/2020 02:59 Router recommendation
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3552
Loc: Columbus, OH
So I'm working from home now, and need to do some traffic prioritization to make sure that my work traffic takes precedence over the netflix and gaming that the kids are doing. I've been using a Airport Extreme simply because it's rock solid and I didn't require any richer features.

So can anyone recommend a cheap-ish router/firmware combo that is will allow me to prioritize my VPN traffic? Only thing I really care about is reliability...I don't want to ever have to deal with restarting the router. I've had mediocre luck in the past with dd-wrt on that front.
_________________________
~ John

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#372678 - 31/03/2020 06:27 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31355
Loc: Seattle, WA
I recently got a Linksys WRT 3200 ACM. It worked great with the factory firmware for a couple weeks, and then I put DD-WRT on it, and I've been living with it for another couple weeks after that. I'm happy so far. Installing DD-WRT was super painless for me on this router. I didn't have to go through any weird steps to get it working, I pretty much just needed to grab the firmware file and upload it.

I know that you said that you've had bad luck with DD-WRT, that's fair to say and I'm interested in hearing more about it. I haven't had any malfunctions which required the restart of the router, but I've only been using it for about 4 weeks total, only two of those with DD-WRT, so who knows how it'll go over time. Sometimes one gets oneself a router and it's fine for a while, and only starts to get weird later on. I've had that happen enough times in the past that I hesitate to give a full endorsement: Check back with me next year.

In the past, though, the routers which have been most reliable to me (regardless of who wrote the firmware) are the ones which have a built in feature to reboot themselves in the middle of the night. DD-WRT has that feature, so I enabled the reboot feature when I installed it, and the router reboots itself every night at my specified time (3:30 am in my case). So if the router is one of those that needs rebooting regularly, it's just happening anyway. Even though the router hadn't needed rebooting up to that point, I figure, I'll just put the timed reboot in there because I've had past experience that tells me that pretty much every router needs it eventually.

Some things that might be different between your situation and mine: We have a healthy mix of wired and wireless devices on our LAN, but most of the critical items (including file servers, game consoles and TV boxes) are wired. Our wireless items are four phones, a couple tablets, a couple laptops, a couple chromecasts, a printer, and a thermostat. Work stuff is done through wired devices about half the time, though we haven't had any problems with doing teleconferencing via Wifi either, at least, not any problems from our end. Sometimes Zoom's servers had problems for our college teacher's classes in the early days of the lockdown, but the problems cleared up in the few days before spring break.

Our pipe to Comcast is 200mbps downstream, but only 6mbps upstream, and we chew away 2.5mbps of that constantly with a live video stream of our bird feeder, so we're really only getting about 3.5mbps upstream available for teleconferencing. And yet it still works fine for all four work-at-home adults in our household. I think that our success is due to a few factors: We aren't usually doing teleconferences at the same time, about half of those teleconferences are on wired ethernet, our downstream pipe is big, and we don't have any kids so we're not Netflixing during the work day. Still, I would not expect Netflix to have a big impact on our work stuff since Netflix is all downstream, and would mostly be coming through the wired gig-ethernet switches.

In any case, with four work-at-home adults in the household, we haven't needed to enable the QoS features of DD-WRT to get good teleconferencing. So I don't know how well those QoS features work. But so far, the only problems we've had can all be traced to either the head-end servers (Zoom, etc) or Comcast being flaky. I also recently replaced the Comcast modem with a Netgear CM1150V to see if it improves their flakiness, and so far, it seems to have reduced the number of Comcast blips too.

The main thing that DD-WRT is getting me, that I didn't get with any other non-DD-WRT router, is the extremely detailed control and configuration of the router. It has every feature I could have wanted and more. Sometimes too much more: some of the WiFi radio settings are dauntingly complex, but I've been poking at some forums and reading the advice there, so I think I've got it going pretty good now. The biggest problem I ran into was when I tried to enable the third radio on the router, which locked it up. Pressing the reset button got it functioning again, but it took me a while (and several of those restarts) to find out that the third radio is only used in special cases, and that I should never have enabled it anyway.

DD-WRT shows live bandwidth monitoring per-radio, and shows which devices are connected to which radios, though the reporting screens could be a bit better. I'm planning to improve the reporting by installing the YaMon tool onto the router (something else that DD-WRT gets you is the ability to install stuff like that). That tool needs a USB stick in the router's USB port, for local storage of usage history files, but I hope to get a USB stick installed in there tomorrow and give that a shot.

If you want to just use the default firmware of the Linksys WRT 3200 ACM by itself, that was doing fine for me for a couple of weeks before I stuck DD-WRT onto it. It just didn't have the feature set that I wanted.

If you end up getting this particular router and you decide to try DD-WRT again, I've been maintaining a text file with all my configuration settings and links to the various instructions I've found on the web. Let me know.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#372680 - 31/03/2020 12:13 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14235
Loc: Canada
For something with decent QoS and an excellent mix of "simple to use" and "powerful options", it would be hard not to recommend any ASUS router that can run Merlin firmware.

Merlin is exactly the original ASUS factory firmware (which began life as "Tomato" years and years ago..), with more security/bug fixes and a few extra features tossed in. The GUI is simple, clear, easy, yet powerful.

I run it here, though I have never bothered with QoS on the 300/20 cable internet connection.

If you want a really good router cheap, the TM-AC1900 (T-Mobile Personal Cellspot) routers are actually real ASUS RT-AC68U routers that T-mobile has changed the firmware on. With some hacking (which may not appeal to you), these can have the original ASUS firmware restored to them, and then Merlin easily installed after that. All for less than USD$50 (eBay).

Otherwise, pretty much any recent model ASUS router will work, and with Merlin it will work even better.


Edited by mlord (31/03/2020 12:20)

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#372683 - 31/03/2020 15:01 Re: Router recommendation [Re: mlord]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 744
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Regarding ‘automatic’ router rebooting, I use an inexpensive 24 hour wall timer. Every night in the wee hours, the timer cycles off for 15 or 30 minutes. The rest of the 24 hour cycle the timer is on.

The router and the cable modem are plugged into the timer.

So every morning the internet gear has been rebooted.

I still use Apple Airport and Time Capsule. One as router, the others as additional WiFi access points.

I do not have bandwidth management needs. One simple method is to put the ‘less important’ people/uses on 2.4 GHz channels and use 5Ghz for the more critical uses.

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#372688 - 31/03/2020 17:39 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12220
Loc: Sterling, VA
It's the opposite of cheap or cheap-ish, but as a huge Unifi fan I'm a big fan of the Unifi Dream Machine (UDM) for home users. Ubiquiti wised up and realized that there's a segment of power users who want their products at home but maybe don't want to cobble together the equipment. So they combined their gateway, controller, AP, and basic managed switch into one product that ends up being just about the most powerful home router you're likely to find. It has all the features of a normal Unifi network in one nice package. And you can still add on any of their other products.
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Matt

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#372713 - 03/04/2020 03:48 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3552
Loc: Columbus, OH
Thanks for the recommendations guys. Gives me some good spots to start looking.

Tony, regarding DD-WRT, I've run it on two different routers now. On a WRT54GS, it was rock solid...never had a problem (this was quite a few years ago). On another Linksys router (exact model escapes me at the moment, I think it was an E2000) it was not stable and would freeze and require reboot at random times to reconnect. Often while my wife was teleworking (live video). This one was running in AP mode. So while I love the firmware in general, my personal experience with it has been a bit of a mixed bag. I would run it again though.

I know several of you mentioned not using QoS and just having sufficient bandwidth. That wasn't a problem until a couple weeks ago. I have (ostensibly) 100mbps down, 10mbps up. I just tested it now, and I'm getting 105, 7.6, which is fantastic as far as I'm concerned. I've not done any testing during the day, but I'm suspecting with everyone else on my cable loop now working/schooling from home, I'm not getting my advertised speeds. My wife has been teaching English kids in China for a couple years now and has never had video problems until the last two weeks. So, for now I think the best solution is just to give my our work traffic highest priority and let everyone else split what is left until the quarantine ends.
_________________________
~ John

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#372714 - 03/04/2020 12:52 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
Roger
carpal tunnel

Registered: 18/01/2000
Posts: 5631
Loc: London, UK
Originally Posted By: JBjorgen
... regarding DD-WRT, I've run it on two different routers now. On a WRT54GS, it was rock solid...never had a problem (this was quite a few years ago). On another Linksys router (exact model escapes me at the moment, I think it was an E2000) it was not stable and would freeze and require reboot at random times to reconnect.


fwiw, I'm using OpenWRT on a Netgear WNDR 3800 (also on a 3700); it's been absolutely rock solid (up 336 days).
_________________________
-- roger

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#372715 - 03/04/2020 13:38 Re: Router recommendation [Re: JBjorgen]
Phoenix42
veteran

Registered: 21/03/2002
Posts: 1406
Loc: MA but Irish born
Originally Posted By: JBjorgen
My wife has been teaching English kids in China for a couple years now and has never had video problems until the last two weeks. So, for now I think the best solution is just to give my our work traffic highest priority and let everyone else split what is left until the quarantine ends.


I don't think your QoS priority flag has to be respected once it leaves your network. I'm open to correction.

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#372716 - 03/04/2020 14:45 Re: Router recommendation [Re: Phoenix42]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14235
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Phoenix42
I don't think your QoS priority flag has to be respected once it leaves your network. I'm open to correction.

That's right. But these router firmwares use somewhat fancy algorithms to flow control things, thereby tricking the other ends of the connections into pacing themselves more suitably. It actually does work, but takes a few seconds per connection to self-tune.

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