Is the Raspberry Pi 4B still a good OpenWRT platform in 2024?

Do you consider the Raspberry Pi 4B still a good choice in 2024 for OpenWRT?

https://www.raspberrypi.com/products/raspberry-pi-4-model-b/specifications/

According to their website, "Raspberry Pi 4 Model B will remain in production until at least January 2034".

The 4B currently supports OpenWRT 23.05.0 according to the Wiki documentation:

https://openwrt.org/toh/raspberry_pi_foundation/raspberry_pi

A criticism has always been the availability of only 1 Gigabit ethernet port and the hardware design is now a bit dated from 2019. On the plus side, the 4B appears to be available worldwide now.

What's your opinion?

It entirely depends on your own requirements -- internet speed tier, inter-VLAN routing bandwidth needs, VPN and/or other services, size, power consumption, etc.

If you add a USB3 gigabit ethernet adapter (so that there are two ethernet interfaces), it's a very reasonable router for 1Gbps connections (assuming minimal other services). It has plenty of RAM which makes it possible to run adguard home or other adblockers if desired, and the storage is never an issue. It's also impossible to hard brick it because you can always pop out the card and fix the files on a linux system or re-image the card.

The only major issue with the device is the wifi.... if you just pretend that the wifi doesn't exist and treat it as a wired router, it's a good option for a lot of environments... but without knowing your particular use case/requirements, nobody can really say for sure if it's right for you.

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I recommend a solution based on the compute module 4 (cm4) with a carrier board with 2 gigabit interfaces - supported on stable 23.05 as well see https://a.aliexpress.com/_Ew2E9QB
You can buy the cheapest cm4 1gb no emmc no wifi (although it can be better than the one of the B board it's still subpar to a dedicated AP)

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It can be a very reasonable wired-only router, however, with alderlake-n/ n100 devices with four 2.5GBASE-T ports starting around 120 EUR delivered (for the complete system, ready to be used), the price-feature ratio isn't that convincing.

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If you look at a normal multi port home router there is usually a switch between the ports and and the actual cpu.
So many homerouter only have one or two gbit ports to the cpu anyway. So if you connect a switch to the Raspi and a access point to the switch you have a home router built with individual components.

But RasPi5 have a crypto accelerator so the can be a thing if you use VPN.

The Rpi series have always been good general purpose SBC devices, designed with academic uses in mind.

However it is delusional to think any model of Pi has ever been a good OpenWrt platform.

Sure, the Rpi gurus with heaps of routing/networking/OpenWrt experience can make it work very well, but no-one should seriously purchase an Rpi to use as a router (along with the required ethernet dongles, header boards, managed switches, wired access points, power supply, case etc etc).

Some will approach this as an exciting project and get a working system, but many just follow the many flawed online tutorials and become completely disillusioned.

The net result of choosing to purchase an Rpi to use as a router is always a very expensive, very complex and ultimately compromised system.

You could argue that this is just my opinion, but my opinion is based on hard facts.

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It's really not though is it? But let's assume your opinion has merit, please expand on how using an RPi (and specifically that device) renders any possible system 'very expensive, very complex and ultimately compromised'.

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Some hard facts:
Rpi Purchase list

  1. rpi
  2. case for rpi
  3. power supply for rpi
  4. usb ethernet or managed switch
  5. cabled access point
  6. numerous ethernet and power cables

OpenWrt supported router purchase list

  1. The self contained router of your choice
  2. ... nothing else needed

Rpi setup

  1. Physically build it
  2. "flash" the sdcard with openwrt
  3. Using your hard earned extensive knowledge of using vlans on OpenWrt, configure the necessary vlans in Openwrt.
  4. Configure the vlans on the managed switch.
  5. Cable up the Access Point to the managed switch.
  6. Configure the Access Point
  7. Hope you got it right.

Router setup

  1. Flash with OpenWrt
  2. configure wireless and enable
  3. All done

So you're not connecting anything by wire to the self-contained router? What if you do want to do that? Or have more devices than the number of lan ports in the router (assuming it has multiple ports)?

No need for vlans. You could use them if you wanted. Same as you could do with any other OpenWRT device, but there's no hard requirement to do so.

Ooo, so complex. How will people cope?!?

So the same thing then? And it's probably easier to flash an SD card than it is to do the initial OpenWRT flash on a lot of devices.

Please, that's the case with any setup. Having a single router/switch/AP device doesn't render it impossible to misconfigure (nor less likely to misconfigure, you only have to read through the forum to see plenty of examples).

Nothing you've posted is 'hard' facts that a network using an RPi is 'very expensive, very complex and ultimately compromised'.

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While some of facts are true, like the need to get extra NIC (either USB or using CM4 with breakout board with extra PCIE NIC) + case, others are pretty common among various router platforms as well, for example:

  1. VLAN on OpenWrt, if you want to use VLAN, you don't need to use "extensive knowledge of using VLAN" when the router is self-contained one?

  2. Cabled access point, using x86 as main router is just the same.

  3. Flashing SD card on RPi is definitely easiest, and safe way to get it done, you don't need to worry about bricking router because you only need to swap out the SD card, worrying about SD card wearing?? RPi can boot from USB stick so this problem can be eliminated as well.

One downside of RPi 4 is, lack of OpenVPN crypto acceleration, while some other platforms like NanoPi does have this, making them a better rival when compared to RPi 4

You can if you want, but on an Rpi it is not optional but mandatory.

You could use a usb ethernet dongle instead. Questions: Which dongle to buy? How much? Is it any good? Are open source drivers available in OpenWrt? etc.

You would be surprised how some people mess this up. Also there is the inconvenience of a mandatory ethernet cable and power supply for the AP.

You are missing the point that purchasing a long list of bits and pieces and putting it all together is neither a simple task for the uninitiated nor "professional" for anyone else.
I am not disputing that an Rpi can be used as a router or not, just stating that it has never been a "good OpenWrt platform" for a whole host of reasons.

One of the recurring problems is the "uninitiated" often have an Rpi solution recommended by the "gurus" causing all sorts of unnecessary problems.

I hate to break it to you, but connecting something by wire is mandatory for pretty much all setups. Gotta connect up the internet somehow...

UE300. £12.49. Yes. Yes.

Cables are not unique to an RPi. Nor is having additional WiFi coverage. And if they're messing up plugging in a cable then they're probably going to have problems with any setup.

It's not that long a list and it's not complex either. As for whether it's 'professional' I'm not sure I'd argue that having network switches or APs isn't professional...

And yet you haven't provided any RPi specific reasons (outside of needing to buy a case and power supply for it).

As with all devices it has strengths and weaknesses. It's not an ideal fit for ALL network setup/requirements, but there are plenty in which it's just as good a platform as any suitable alternative would be. The assertion that it's not good in any setup/context is just unfounded.

Which is also the case with plenty of other network setups.

I still consider rpi4 the cheapest solution for 1gig sqm (the 1g ram version)

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If you have one sitting around, sure still great! If you have to buy one, less clear....
For a similar amount of money you can get either more powerful or more complete solutions or both...

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I would never suggest you buy pi4 for OpenWrt; but if you have one and have run out of things to make it do, it is a nice option.

@bluewavenet nails it: even if the tutorial was perfect the day it was released, it, by now, won't work and you need to come here.

Patently untrue. There have not been sufficient changes made under the hood of OpenWRT to render a 'perfect' tutorial incorrect. If it worked when the pi4 was released it'll still work now.

The problem is there are plenty of online 'tutorials' out there that are wrong. But that's not an RPi specific issue, it covers all sorts of devices and setups.

I don't have one. The local hardware supply situation in my region is rather difficult, but you can easily get Pi 3, 4b and 5. I think the Pi 3 is obsolete now, Pi 4b is already on the edge due to its age. I have a spare Pi 5 with 8GB which I bought as an emergency desktop replacement. But for a router I think it would be overkill. I wish it had a standard mini PCIe port so that you could easily throw in a Gigabit Dual Nic ethernet card.

The OpenWRT router I currently use is a decent model, but only has 128MB RAM and no USB port, but 4 stable Gigabit ethernet ports + WAN. I always wanted to monitor my network's activity and individual bandwidth usage of connecting devices but the current router would lose historic data on reboot. I thought about getting a little server for my network to store the data from the router and provide decent network statistics.

Does anyone have experience with a specific Pi model in a network monitoring capacity and could make a recommendation in this regard?

You might get more answers if you would open a new thread for this new question.

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Ha, I wish it would be that simple. Past the TP-Link TL-WR1043ND I haven't found a wireless router, which properly runs OpenWrt:

  1. TP-Link Archer C7 - wireless only runs properly configured to US regdomain.
  2. Linksys WRT1200AC - runs best with wireless completely disabled (powerful CPU though, good as wired router)
  3. Cudy WR3000 - stock firmware is a customized OpenWrt, vanilla OpenWrt is a downgrade feature- and performance-wise.
  4. Alcatel LinkHub HH71 - stock firmware a customized OpenWrt, no OpenWrt images available.

FriendlyElec NanoPi R2S, R5C, R5S or R4S; get the metal case with it. The R5's come with eMMC and also support adding an internal M2 SSD. You can also plug a USB stick into any of them for extra storage.

Unless you plan to make a Gigabit SQM gateway out of it (in which case get the R4S), I would lean toward the R5C myself. But it all depends on budget and what you want to do with it. If you need more hardware or CPU than these (or find yourself spending more money for a Pi than these cost), it's time for an Intel N100 based fan-less mini router with several 2.5G ports.

I'm not a fan of the Raspberry Pi's. By the time you buy a plasti-case and USB3 dongle for them to get a second Ethernet port (which is messy looking all around in my opinion), they turn into rather expensive odd ducks. As has already been observed, they can be a decent option if you already have one and don't know what else to do with it, but otherwise....

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