Best low-cost device

Hey guys,

My trusty WR741ND kicked the bucket when I tried flashing openWRT on it, hence I'm on the market for a new router. I would like to keep the price down without having to forgo too many things;
In particular I'd like to future proof a bit and so have gigabit ethernet and dual band.

This will be used for the next two years in a student dorm, so it needs to basically cover 15m^2 with wi-fi and provide ethernet for my PC/console; Given the requirements it seems like anything would do really, but since I'm on the market right now I'd like to get something that I can keep using down the line when I move in a bigger house/back home/whatever.

I've been looking at the TP-link C7 (which seems to be recommended on this forum) but it's a bit pricey for my taste (80€ right now on Amazon). Is there anything cheaper which could offer me roughly the same value? Or do you think I should invest the money on it?


I have already scrolled through that post, but it's simply a collection of what people define as a cheap/good device; I have some more specific questions about what my usage would be like and if it warrants spending 80€, so I'm looking for more informed advice from someone more knowledgeable than me on what the market has to offer.

What are the specifications of your internet line (kind and speed)?
Which throughput (Mbit/s) do you expect from your router?
Do you want to use the device for additonal tasks such as VPN, NAS, PBX, hosting virtual machines, ...?

Yes, please ask them here to get specific advice.

Outdated, don't buy one new at 80€

Very robust, in its day, but the MIPS-based devices just don't have the processing power needed by many users today. Good value at the US$40 I pick them up for to use as a "dumb AP".

Past that bit of specific advise, unless you've got some very specific requirements, the previously linked list is the answer to your question. No need to repeat that list here.

[quote="mpa, post:4, topic:18217"]
What are the specifications of your internet line (kind and speed)?[/quote]

I am not sure what kind of line I will be getting in my dorm room yet, my home line is a 100mbps (asymmetrical, not sure about up speeds); this might change in the foreseeable future since FTTH should be coming soonish.

at the very least I'd like it to keep up with 100mbps lines, which is what I have at home right now and what I will most likely encounter in the dorm.

I would probably install ad-blocking (altough I could achieve that with a Pihole if the router isn't up to it). I've been thinking about a VPN for some time, so I'd keep that as an option.

I'd mainly like to buy something that isn't enthusiast grade but keeps me future proofed for a few years; i.e. dual band/gigabit ethernet/enough flash&ram to not have to worry about modding it.

Would the C60 @40€ new be a better deal?

"Future proofed for a few years" pretty much pushes you into what people here call "enthusiast grade" -- take a look at the broadband speeds over the last few years and what people are asking from their routers (bandwidth shaping, high/full-bandwidth VPN). I think it's reasonable to assume that even the best consumer-grade all-in-one on the market today won't be "future proof".

Future-looking? amd64 / x86_64, multi-core device with at least 4 GB of RAM, two GigE-capable (four, if you're planning on service at or over 1 gbps) and discrete AP(s). Either can be swapped out when specs or requirements on the system change.

Couple of years at a modest price -- look at the "favorite cheap" list. With the exception of VPN, nothing you've stated takes you out of the "cheap" category. (Of course, many on that list aren't 5 GHz capable, some that are may not be 802.11ac compliant, and it's nuts in my opinion to go 5 GHz without 802.11ac)

Add in VPN at more than tens of mbps? You're into the multi-core ARM devices on the enthusiast list at a minimum if you're wanting to run the VPN on the router, rather than on the client or on a dedicated amd64 / x86_64, multi-core device on your network.

C60 is a throw-away with its 100 mbps ports.

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In a dorm room do you even need a router or AP, usually you can use the schools infrastructure.

I strongly recommend you spend your money on a good x86 computer with dual LAN for use in actual schoolwork and then if you even need routing etc run openwrt in a virtual box. If you really need your own wifi add a cheap tp link EAP 225 v3 access point.

Most schools should provide you with an Ethernet port and wifi APs in the dorms already.

They do provide one ethernet port in the room, as for wifi reception I won't know until I'll move in. Over the years, back when I was doing a Bs, I've had mixed results with wifi reception in my room, and since I will have more than a few devices that will be wi-fi only I would prefer to set up my own AP. I thought about bringing a dumb switch I have lying around just to have more than one ethernet connection, but I would still prefer something wifi capable, and since I'll have to spend money on it I'd rather invest in something that will most likely outlive the dorm room days.

Would you have any specific recommendations in this category?

In regards to the favorite cheap, would you happen to know which router would fit my description more or less? Specifically regarding wifi? It seems to me one of the few that does would be the C60, even though as you mention it has fast ethernet rather than gigabit ports, but I'm thinking unless I go enthusiast grade I will have to cut corners somewhere

Often school networks have switches set up to limit each port to a single registered MAC address, so the ethernet switch won't help in that situation. of course the answer for most people is just to plug a router and create their own LAN on the other side :wink:

The thing is, for 100Mbps, particularly if you want low-latency running SQM you need an enthusiast grade or better, if you are ok without SQM / queue management then you can get away with lots of stuff.

The thing that makes the most sense to me other than an x86 is the Espressobin + a separate AP.

I personally use the PCEngines APU series for a lot of things, as a moderate-performance amd64 choice with Intel NICs and low power consumption (~7 W at idle). It's around USD$150 for the 4 GB models complete with case and power supply. Add in a little for one or two mSATA SSDs. While a low-power, 1 GHz, 4-core amd64 / x86_64 can probably handle a few hundred mbps with "fancy" traffic shaping, you probably need more than even that for higher rates or for high-rate VPN.

It all comes down to cost/year. Nothing is going to last you "forever". At least with a general-purpose, PC-compatible board you know you're likely to have ongoing OS support and your older hardware can migrate down the chain to various servers or other services as they age. With specialized boards, you're often at the mercy of the manufacturer for drivers and proprietary bits that can make ongoing support challenging. (Yes, OpenWRT does a good job mitigating that, at least for hardware that doesn't need proprietary bits.)

For a slightly different application, the UP Shop boards were pointed out. I haven't used them myself. I'd also agree with the "Gemini Lake" recommendation especially if you've already got memory, an ITX case, and power supply "lying around" or available cheap enough.

(Note that simply bridging traffic can be a much lower CPU load than running advanced bandwidth shaping algorithms as well.)

Thanks to you both for your suggestions. Unfortunately most of them aren't available in my market, and the ones that are come with quite a markup (PCengines >200€ i.e.) which unfortunately rules all of them out.

I will most likely try again to salvage my old tp-link (speaking of, I can't acquire shell command through serial because it's stuck in a boot loop and won't even get to the "rebooting in 1second" bit, know of a way to fix that?) and if unsuccessful I'll cough up something for a cheap tp-link replacement (the c60 at this point I think, supports most of what I need and recently got official openwrt support).

Thanks again for your very helpful comments.

As long as you're on something like 100 MBit/s, both ipq40xx and mt7621 will cope easily, ipq40xx whould be better in terms of wireless quality and probably a bit faster for CPU intensive things like VPNs - as long as you exlusively use your router for routing and NAT (no VPN, etc.), mt7621 will be faster.

If by fibre you're referring to the prospect of 1 GBit/s WAN speed (or half that), you really need to look into the high end market though; mvebu or x86_64.

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Am I correct in thinking that this Zyxel mounts the qualcomm soc you're referring to? What does make it better than say the Archer C900 (link) or the Netgear D6000 ? Is it worth it spending 20€ more on it? To me it looks like they have the same characteristics even though they mount three different boards.

The ZyXEL nbg6617 is based on ipq4018, yes.

I think you mean TP-Link Archer C2 with "Archer C900", so you have a 750 MHz single-core mips. I would indeed go with the 638 MHz ARMv7 quad-core instead of a 750 MHz mips single core here.

Netgear D6000 probably isn't supported at all, at the very least its ADSL modem certainly isn't - wlan might be problematic as well.

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From the comments on Amazon when searching on version, they are up to V11.0 with the last post. Which one of the Archer C2 versions work if any of the newer ones?

Do you see any version of the TP-Link Archer C2 listed as supported in the ToH?

I don't know, you tell me. I thought you were suggesting this model to the original poster who was looking for a powerful router for an economical price.. I don't even see it in the Table of Hardware list, however. I was just going off your suggestion.

Can you please back that up with a quote?

As far as I am concerned, I recommended exactly the opposite, namely preferring ipq40xx (or mt7621) over ar71xx at this point in time. Especially I would not recommend the TP-Link Archer C2, on the one hand because there are three different hardware revisions with vastly different internals (v1 is mt7620a based, which I would not recommend because of long standing reliability issues with rt2x00 driver support; this variant should be supported by OpenWrt. v2, which appears to be totally unknown, so obviously isn't supported. v3, which is ar71xx/ QCA9563 based and should be supportable, but it certainly isn't supported at the moment).

Usually choose low-cost routers can not get around MT7620 MT7621.
However, because of the low availability of the rt2x00 driver at this stage, I don't recommend him.

Adding a little bit of budget using ipq40xx's RT-ACRH13 would be a better option.