Looking for a new modem and router, $350 or less in total

Help me understand what the Sw301da is for. I don’t need extra robust network firewalls, just normal software security and a modem. Thanks!

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!


Broadcom chipset makes it a bad choice for openwrt.

No problem.

Do you know of a similar option with a different chipset that has better support? Would the Belkin router you suggested be a better candidate?


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 have no advice for cable modems.



Only drawback is the beta stage of openwrt.
I'll be in stable in next major release.

But you should really keep @slh advice in mind, when choosing your device(s).

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!

SQM requires cpu cycles, on top of what's required to do the actual routing.

The non-plastic devices wouldn't push cost, you'd still be within your budget.

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
  • SQM/ QoS
  • VPN
  • 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.

1 Like

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.

Heavily looking into this option. Read through https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/installation/openwrt_x86 and had this question.

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.

Thanks for your continued help!

On another note, yes SQM sounds like an easy “yes”— with Zoom I am willing to sacrifice speed (video/audio quality) for reliability.

I still don’t understand it fully— still a OpenWRT noob— but it looks like something super helpful that I’d like to do (as long as the price is still okay, which appears not to be a problem).

@slh I know you also had this question for me; tagging you here

Just wanted to say that this short list was insanely helpful for a network noob like me. Thank you so so much.

Just one minor addition, the wireless can stress the CPU as well on heavy usage (IRQs keeping the CPU cores busy) - multi-core SoCs. (all of the ones I listed) provide a significant benefit towards the higher end of the performance spectrum.

I wouldn't be using OWRT as I setup Ubuntu to manage / build.

CLI only needs to be done once to configure a couple of things to get it to work and then you leave it alone. Other than system updates which can be done by GUI or CLI.

If you add a NIC for the AP then some additional configuration is needed to get it to come online when you reboot the system but nothing too difficult. If you want to be future proofed then WIFI 6 is gotten with an external AP and that's a web GUI.

Interesting! Where should I look for options for Ubuntu-based SQM and other helpful OWRT features? Is there a way to utilize opkg on Ubuntu?

There are multiple options for AQM / QOS as it's a full blown OS not specific to routing / switching. I don't personally worry about it since I'm not gaming online or doing buffer sensitive data.


If you really need to prioritize things though it can also be done through iptables rules which are easier to manipulate for rate limiting / prioritizing traffic based on a host or subnet.



SQM can also be installed on systemd based distributions like debian or ubuntu, see https://github.com/tohojo/sqm-scripts.

That said, for a networking beginner OpenWrt might be an easier starting point with its reduced scope and its GUIs for many network related things. For example OpenWrt's default firewall GUI beats Ubuntu's by a wide margin....

Please don't.... get yourself accustomed to OpenWrt before 'inflicting' it on your family, espicially if you are not available for on site maintenance work....
Cloning a configuration that works well on your own site is a different kettle of fish as it will allow you to test configurations locally before deplying them remotely....