Hi all! I'm in the US and moving into a new apartment soon. There will be three of us and we'll all be regularly using the internet (gaming, work from home, possibly a homelab, etc) so we're planning on getting a 2gig fiber plan from AT&T. I'm sure this gets asked a lot, but what would you all recommend for routers/APs/Switches that doesn't quite break the bank?
Gaming screams SQM, and SQM bumps the performance requirements massively. While I don't have personal experiences with either of those devices, I'd prefer x86_64 for this job - and while I'm confident that the Atom range would handle plain routing at that performance, SQM pushes the envelope beyond that… Personally I'd prefer a core i3/ i5 (or ryzen) basis for this kind of requirements than Atom (very personally, rather low-end i5 than high-end i3; ryzen obviously beats all of these, but at higher overall costs).
Well, I can only compare against the Atom based Celeron J1900 - and that one hits the cliff with SQM around 830 MBit/s (iperf3). Plain routing in comparison is easy and merely bores the j1900 (less than 30% CPU usage on one core). An ivy-bridge Celeron 1037u however has no problems doing SQM at the full 1 GBit/s wirespeed (with plenty of performance left), 1000BASE-T network cards (igb) being the only limit there.
Obviously the Celeron J4125 is newer than the J1900, but I'd still be vary if it were that much faster to cope with SQM at 2.5GBASE-T wirespeed (or the aforementioned contractual 2 GBit/s WAN speed, again, SQM is a significant burden).
Just wondering if you will be able to utilise / actually use that 2 Gbit bandwidth for sustained data traffic at those speeds for any longer period. There will be much slower servers at the other end, much slower intermediate steps on the data path through the internet, and so on. The real life usage will likely be much slower than the 2 Gbit.
From that perspective, the required routing performance will likely be sohewhat less than the top speed of the connection would implicate.
Ps. 1 Gbit/s means = 60 Gbit/min = maybe 7 GByte/min, 400 GB per hour, half a terabyte of new data per hour...
Do you have a specific need for that much bandwidth (eg regularly uploading large videos) or are you assuming it will make gaming better? Also what is the upload speed on that plan (I presume the "2gig" only refers to download bandwidth).
As per other comments: gaming is about latency (ping) and latency stability (sqm can help here, especially when other people are using the same internet link). Even a few megabits per second is enough for almost all online games, thousands of megabits per second is complete overkill (and often more than the raw link the servers have).
If you absolutely need 2 gigabits per second
Option 1: A router that can handle a 2GBPS+ link and run SQM at the same time. ie a standard desktop x86 computer with a add-in multi-gigabit network card OR a motherboard with a multi-gigabit NIC. Add the cost of a separate wireless access point. Costs anything from "almost free" (old computers + buy a NIC) to most of a thousand dollars (everything new and higher spec).
Option 2: Don't worry about SQM and instead rely on the fact you won't ever actually use all of the bandwidth you are paying for. Look for an OpenWRT supported router than has a multi-gigabit interface and read up whether or not it actually can do that rate without "hardware offloading" (something that you often can't use anyway). Many hundreds of dollars minimum, possibly up to a thousand dollars.
Knowing what I now know: I'd lean towards option 1. It's not always an option space-wise and you don't want to use any hardware made before 2011 (high power draw), but the hardware is standardised so in the long term you can easily replace parts.
Be wary that many box-label specs are based off "theoretical" numbers for just the ethernet transciever IC, not the system as a whole. Not to mention the big unknown of how much processing you apply (firewall rules, sqm, NAT, etc) which can take this down to approx hundreds of Mbit/s, depending on many factors.
The MOGINSOK thing looks bat ugly but I suspect it will probably meet most of its stated spec.
Its big passive heatsinking makes me really want to see its power draw specs (idle watts, full load watts) and see if they're that different from a desktop PC or fat laptop. (Random guess: 25W idle 100W full load?)
At that price you may as well start considering actual, standard x86 desktop computers. That way you can replace parts when things break. Also if you use a second hand (eg Haswell SFF) computer then you might even be able to set things up cheaper.
For both of these options you will need to purchase separate Wifi APs. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it might be (?) cheaper in the long term, and it frees you from necessarily needing the Wifi APs to also run OpenWRT. I of course put OpenWRT on mine but I also don't need high-end AX expensive APs, which you guys might want if you're not wired ethernet people (and want something resembling hundreds of megabits of throughput).
On that note... it's very unlikely you will get even 1Gbit/s over wifi if you're more than a meter or two away from your wireless APs AND they have to be expensive ones. I regularly only get a few Mbit/s from mine, but I'm in a high interference environment.
Reading through everything, it seems like we might be fine with 1 Gbps up/down. I think it's a bit out of our budget to get a whole new x86_64 computer just for a router. What hardware should we be looking at that'll be fine with 3-5 Ethernet connected decides + wireless devices?
Even 1Gbit/s is hard to saturate with non-x86 hardware, unless you pay quite a bit. Some off the shelf SOHO routers that cost hundreds of dollars can do it with hardware offloading and absolutely no special features enabled, but if you're on this forum then I assume you want special features.
TL;DR: if your budget is less than a few hundred dollars then you either have to live with problems (no SQM, cheap hardware, can't saturate the full 1Gbit, no OpenWRT, etc) or you have to downgrade your expectations.
Consider plugging things into a Gigabit switch. That way you can have as many ethernet connected devices and wireless APs as you want. An 8 port switch will be cheaper than everything else here.
In my country (Australia) most ISPs let you upgrade your plans for free but won't let you downgrade. I assume it's the same for you in the US?
It might be worth going for a cheaper plan and cheaper equipment to start with, give everyone a feel of what it's like. Measure speeds & latency both wired and wireless whilst there are other users. That will give you an idea of whether or not you need to invest more of your limited budget in the Wifi AP side or the raw router side. If the bottleneck is the wireless side then it's generally better to use a few (eg 2) wireless APs rather than one very big expensive one, but again read into the Duckware link I provided above.
Whilst I'm here: apologies for my general pessimism. Hopefully you'll find a cheaper or better option than what I'm saying. Despite my long ramblings I am not a reliable expert.
I come from Australia, where 1000Mbit down 50Mbit up costs $150AUD (~107USD) a month and is only available if you live in a lucky area or pay thousands+ for an install. I use an x86 router and two wireless APs to try and eke out as much value from my 25/5Mbit (!) line as I can. It's cheaper than paying for a faster plan but not being able to use it. The household watches lots of video and doesn't complain, but no one has 4K here and I'm the only person that games.
Thank you to everyone from giving their suggestions.
From what I can tell, I should get...
An 8 port switch
An x86_64 machine (do they all support SQM?)
A couple wireless APs
Over here 1Gig up/down is $80 per month and with multiple people gaming/streaming 4K/in Zooms and the possibility of a low to mid usage homelab, a setup above in the $200-400 range should be achievable, right?
you went back to 1g option but also good to check how ISP is offering >1g plan ... as trick can be that 2g is provided via 2 x 1g ports, which is a totally different setup than a real single 2.5/10g port