I am looking for a new modem and Wi-Fi router for $350 or less.
My current candidates are the MB7621 and WRT3200ACM. Advertised 300mbps from Xfinity. I’ve read the buyers guide, and here are the answers to the questions:
How fast is your internet connection? (What speed does your ISP advertise: under 10mbps, 10-50mbps, 50-100mbps, higher?) 300mbps down, ~35 up
Do you need Wi-Fi? (2.4GHz only, both 2.4GHz and 5GHz? Most routers provide both bands these days.) Yes, both required
Do you need Gigabit Ethernet? (For attaching additional devices with an Ethernet cable.) Yes. At least 2 ports if possible.
Do you need USB ports? How many? USB 2.0 or 3.0? (For attaching external hard drives, printers, etc.) No.
How many family members/devices must the router support? (Most routers easily handle 5-6 people and their devices.) 4 Zooming family at once.
What other services do you want? (Do you need VPN, media server, web server, etc.?) Nothing, although the possibility of expansion while not required is nice to have.
Finally, **please define your price range.**Saying “as little as possible” is not helpful. You certainly have an upper limit, therefore let the forum know if it is under $30, under $75, and so on. The forum responses will always mention a least expensive device that meets your requirements, and often suggest alternatives. $350 or less. That’s 2 years of a rental from xfinity (ish)
Also, looking for something relatively easy to flash (for someone who is familiar with command line but completely new to OpenWRT). Looking for something that has a GUI for ongoing maintenance if possible
What's wrong with your current modem? If it supports bridge mode (or if any device doesn't) there's no point in getting a new one. https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/list-of-approved-cable-modems
There's little to no point at all getting another router "just because" if you can't run it in bridge mode as double NAT will break more things than its worth.
As for AP I'd say get something well support 11ac and upgrade to 11ax once there is 2nd gen hardware out and decent support. IPQ4-based or MT7622 would be my suggestions.
Trying to save $168/year Xfinity fee for renting an all in one (my current solution). Edit: Also has features we don’t like or use like annoying security that flags normal (not even torrent or anything) p2p applications as unsafe, and ports even when forwarded have to go through extra security by approving every incoming connection’s IP through the Xfinity portal. Extremely annoying. Edit 2: I can see how this security would be helpful for extremely low tech end users. Just not for me
I am using an all in one rental from Xfinity currently.
Help me understand why I need more than one Ethernet port. There is no fiber in my area so 300mbps is the highest available speed. How could this aid in redundancy? Could I configure to use this as a switch of some sort for spare Ethernet ports?
The Motorola is cheaper ($90 on Amazon) so just want your insight to justify cost!
Thanks for helping me out!
Edit: By “Motorola” I mean the MB7621 I talked about in my original post
I've bene running the MB8600 for years now and it's stable depending on what Comcast does for maintenance or outages due to other people.
If you have a router already and want to add new WIFI to it you can by using an AP like the NWA110AX or NWA210AX $130-$160
It's also mining your data for sale to advertisers.
Whether you do or not it's nice to have backup ports if the primary breaks. The multiple ports while not for your use right now might be handy in the future if you want more bandwidth or decide to add more IP's as each port would get its own IP.
In the modem you can setup LACP for bundling the ports together
Thank you for your thorough response! I sadly will not have any network equipment (modem, router, etc.) after I hand my all in one back in. Do you think that the WRT3200ACM would be a good router/AP in this case? I will definitely look into your modem recommendation. Thanks again!
The part you didn't answer yet, is if you may want to use sqm - which is rather important for this WAN speed, as it is on the cusp between 'normal plastic router' and the (much better) better options hinted at by @frollic.
Let's take a look at the alternatives you mentioned:
wrt3200acm, yes its wired speed is more than good enough for the task at hand, but its wireless side is in a sorry state, with serious bugs remaining open for years and the vendor no longer caring about the drivers (mwlwifi). Unless you already own one (as in, it's free), it's not possible to recommend this platform anymore.
mt7621 is a kind of slow SOC, but with quite mighty hardware acceleration engines - meaning, what can be offloaded will be fast, whatever can't be handled in hardware (sqm, vpn, etc.) is quite affected by the relatively slow CPU. It's a solid entry level contestant, if matched with recent wireless chipsets (mt7615n, mt7915e, rather than the older mt760x variants or the quite special mt7613).
let's add ipq8065 to the mix, which comes with a rather fast SOC, good wifi5 wireless and manages around 500-600 MBit/s routing (using swconfig, dsa is still slower (in the range of ~360 MBit/s), but there's ongoing development to speed it up before it migrates over), but sqm would drop that figure below 200 MBit/s (around ~190 MBit/s). Popular devices would be the Netgear r7800 or the ZyXEL NBG6817, for US based users the rac2v1k would be a hot contender, as you can find it starting around 20 USD on the used markets.
mt7622bv+mt7915 would be the ticket into the wifi6 arena, currently the Linksys e8450/ Belkin rt3200 would be the top option there, it should cope with your desired WAN speed even with sqm - wireless should be good, but probably not quite meeting the range of the (wifi5) ipq8065 options.
as mentioned before, you're quite close to the border between 'plastic routers' and So you have 500Mbps-1Gbps fiber and need a router READ THIS FIRST, depending on your outlook into the future (expected speed upgrades on cable/ fibre) you might want to take a wired-only router based on the RPi4, NanoPi r4s or x86_64 with dedicated APs into account.
I see. I don’t foreshadow fiber in my neighborhood, however I’d like to take into account all of the options.
Help me understand “sqm” a bit more. First of all, what is it? How does it affect the speed?
And, what is the price differential between non-“plastic” and “plastic” routers? Would that entail another piece of hardware (as @frollic mentioned briefly)? If so, would how much would this push the budget?
Thanks so much for your detailed reply!
Edit: I know that this is where my inexperience with OpenWRT and network equipment shows through. I apologize, and appreciate the patience in advance!
On a typical router (which isn't overloaded with non-routing tasks), the major things that require performance would be:
routing/ NAT/ firewall
your base load
router (DNS-) based adblocking needs RAM, not so much CPU performance
Given that all of these need the hardware performance concurrently, SQM/ VPN come on top of the requirements you already need for the mere routing, so whenever those are needed, the router hardware needs to be considerably faster than they would have to be without them.
If you're in the US, I'd very much look at the rac2v1k, it's cheap enough (20-25 USD used) that you can still 'throw it away' if it doesn't meet the requirements (and they also make good APs/ repeaters, if needed).
Edit: The Belkin rt3200 would be one step up from that.
On the flip side getting away from pre-fab routers and building your own router / wifi from a PC + AP or WIFI NIC allows for performance and replacing tech in pieces as things progress.
Getting a cheap SFF PC ($150) + 4 port NIC ($50) + AP ($130) still comes in under budget but, allows for better performance for all of the above. Taking a full fledged CPU gets you all of the perks for wire speed using any / all of the technologies mentioned. If you need a boost in RAM it's easy to find and replaceable compared to buying a new router for adblocking. Putting in a $20 piece of DDR4 RAM makes more sense than spending another $100 on a different router. NAT/FW are simple to configure using iptables - NAT is a 1 liner to tell which interface to use and FW can be 10 lines or less depending on how granular you want to be with traffic. VPN is where the power comes into play though with AES-NI being a cake walk for a CPU to handle. Typical VPN pushes the device to the limits if you're using OVPN but, if you use wireguard it's minimal impact even when pegging your bandwidth beyond 1gbps. I run my own PC / Router and it exceeds all consumer options and beats some enterprise level options as well. I put 5GE 4-port NIC in it for the LAN to hit 400MB/s to the server NAS storage to not have a bottleneck in transferring files. The other benefits is you can typically take the SFF guts and move them into another case if you want more room for storage or additional cards for network / storage.
How does one update an existing x86 image? It looks incredibly complex, requires command line work and wipes all config, all dealbreakers as unless I want to remote in (which could be impossible to do mid-update) I will not be able to administer cli commands on an ongoing basis.
Context is I am setting it up for family members that are (probably) savvy enough to use LuCI if needed but definitely not enough to use a CLI. I can set it up for them but can’t execute CLI commands (unless over SSH) post-setup. I’m using them as my test dummies before I switch to using OpenWRT (and if this doesn’t work I’ll use a different solution). Still want to give them top of the line hardware though since I’ll probably just replicate for my own solution.
Is it possible to update an x86 install without the dealbreakers listed above? If not, that’s okay, I will revert back to the company-made regular routers.