LEDE-compatible access points, on a budget

I've been running a couple of ancient Linksys WRT54GLs as in-fill access points, and one finally gave up the ghost, and died. I'd like to replace them both with something that will cope with a LEDE/Luci install. Although there is the usual temptation to get something with all the bells and whistles, I actually don't need amazing performance, and anything with 802.11n is going to be a big upgrade anyway, so I'm looking to do it on a budget.

So after a bit of investigation, I like the look of the GL.inet micro routers; either the GL-AR300M, or the GL-MT300N-V2. I can get them new for a great price via Amazon, they run Open-WRT by default and can apparently be flashed with standard LEDE ... what's not to like? Well, getting them with external aerials is a little harder, and a lot more expensive - which raises the question of range.

So, does anyone have any experience of using these with only the internal aerials? Is the range good enough? I'm only looking to cover an area within about an 8m radius of the router. Any views?

I got the GL-AR300M before going to a rental cabin out in the desert for a family reunion. I anticipated crappy internet and was right, they had satellite internet with huge ping time, and more to the point terrible bufferbloat. Ping of 500ms was unavoidable considering the speed of light, but ping could spike to 5 seconds under load!

Using fireqos to set up a QoS scheme on the travel router kept pings at 500ms for the whole family... so in that sense it worked. At this location there were basically no other APs on the channel and so interference wasn't an issue. I could just about cover this house with the AR300M at one corner of the building. Not great signal, but was very good for the room it was in and the next door room, usable throughout the house.

Warning however: this router has NOR and NAND flash, and LEDE only works on the NOR flash, which by default isn't the one that boots, it's the backup. So it's not super convenient. there are workarounds, and I seem to have bricked the NAND and so it always boots standard LEDE, which is what I wanted, but it's a hack and I don't even know how I did it.

so... all in all it's OK but not great. Will be awesome as a travel router when the NAND flash is working in standard LEDE. Overall, I'd tend to favor finding something a little better supported so you can get booted properly every time without hacks.

how about something like the TL-WA801ND ? I haven't used it but it's basically similar price range, and probably a lot better antenna performance. if you don't need "travel size" and want external antennas.... it's gonna beat the WRT54GL I imagine.

I personally buy used on eBay. Just as good as new.

You can also consider BT Home Hub 5a, which you can get on eBay at almost the same price as GL.inet devices. Compared to GL.inet specs, HH5a is perhaps a step forward: it features 802.11ac dual-band wireless, four gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB to attach devices.

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I like TP-Link gear, but their access points are 4MB flash, and I'd like to have Luci for ease of management. I'm not sure if I can get LEDE with Luci into 4MB. Anyone know for sure?

That's an interesting option that I'd not considered. I'll investigate further - thanks!

Devices with 4MB flash are not recommended for normal users.
See https://lede-project.org/meta/infobox/432_warning.

luci is enabled for release builds, which means that it either fits
into the firmware image (with the mandatory safety margin of at least 3
erase blocks) or no release images can be created for the affected

So if a device has a current https://downloads.lede-project.org/releases/ image listed on it's device page then it should include luci. And TL-WA801ND v1, v2, and v3 all appear to have 17.01.4 release images available. I still wouldn't buy it tho.

Where are you located? The Netgear R6100 can be found on ebay for cheap prices. It has only 100M ethernet ports instead of GBit but it's not a problem unless your internet connection is fast enough to max that out.

LEDE + Luci still barely fits in 4/32 memory sizes, but when shopping for new equipment you should not buy such devices.

R6100 (I think is what you wanted to say) is one of my favorite models. I think all the GL's even with the external antenna are 1x1 MIMO which is a significant performance limitation.

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I agree - even if I can squeeze the current release of LEDE & Luci into 4MB of flash, there's every chance I won't get the next release into it. Not a good investment :slight_smile:

I'm in the UK and the R6100 doesn't come up on ebay so much here, but the suggestion from @savostyanov of a BT Home Hub 5 Type A looks like a good one - they're very cheap and plentiful on Ebay in the UK at the moment, and the hardware is very capable (128MB flash, built in ADSL2/VDSL2 modem, 5xGigE, dual band AC1300 WiFi with 2+3 mimo aerials, USB port etc).

Installing needs the case opening, and a soldering iron and an FTDI adapter, which likely puts a lot of people off, but I'm OK with that. I've ordered a couple (at about $18 each) and I'll see what they're like. Certainly a LOT more capable than the GLs, for less money.

I have a number of GL.inet products including the AR 300 and AR150.

Regarding the AR300, there have been a few versions of u-boot for this and the latest, the third version I think, allows you to use the switch to control the boot from NAND or NOR. It's not possible to tell what version you will get through distribution and you need the UART adapter to flash the u-boot. I do not have the latest version on mine so I need to boot to NAND to get to NOR, but I do have LEDE on the NOR. Check the docs section.

The AR-150 might be easier to deal with and I see little difference with my collection of older devices. I get good signal at about 6M through my sheetrock walls and can do better line of sight What is your construction?

I have only internal antennas.

Exactly what are you running on the Linksys? I still have a couple lying around.

Thats useful information, thanks. I'm probably going to acquire a GL.inet MT300N-V2 as a travel router (that's a more natural fit for it, I think!) but will go with BT Home Hub's to replace my existing wireless access points, as they are a better fit in terms of capability, as well as cost (since they're second hand).