Reliable **router**, less than €50

Hi, after some years out, I'm back looking for advice. Looking for available COTS dumb AP. Preferably under €50. Perhaps it would be possible to go above that if it's 32/256-ish.

But it has to be reliable.

Reliable means it has to work flawlessly, unattended, for months. It also means it's perfectly supported on OpenWRT, and has to be like that for some years in the future.

No need to have USB on it. No need to have 500 Mb throughput, 100-200 would be enough. No need to do VPN. No need to have Gigabit Ethernet. No need to have more than N wifi. No SQM, etc.

But it has to be reliable.

I guess that's impossible nowadays, but I have to ask. If it's impossible, I'm ready to upgrade our old good ath79 TP-Links to 16/64.

For a basic AP : Netgear WAC 104 or 124; WAX models also.
I let other users advise models from other brands.

Hopefully, it is :rofl:

Here is the list of currently supported access points as of OpenWRT version 22.03.3. What you could do is to have a look at that list, find something that suits your needs and if you really want to be thorough, then look for issues with that device in the forum and github.

Be aware though, some issues may already have been solved in newest snapshots, so forum posts may be outdated, or they will actually be solved in the future (e.g. like wifi lost issues of mt7621 in combination with mt7603), if somebody is willing and has the knowledge to solve them. "Von nichts kommt nichts", as we say in German. Furthermore, while manufacturers try to make sure all devices are similar, there will always be outliers, errors and accidents, so if you are unlucky, you might be the one in a million that received a faulty hardware. Trust me, I worked in a factory that produced electronic devices. In that case, just send it back. Things also break with time. So, some of the issues in the forum may stem from faulty hardware, whereas other users are fine. Only when multiple and many people report the same problem, then you should be wary.

I only can give limited advice, as I do not own an AP that runs OpenWRT myself (only an D-Link dap x1860 repeater, which runs great since a few weeks), but if the following comment is correct Most reliable, best supported router for OpenWrt? - #17 by jdanton the EA7300 or EA 6900 look very promising, if your device(s) are supposed to run for years without any break.

@badulesia @ThiloteE, thank you very much for your answers.

Yeah, I'm aware of the advantages and shortcomings of the forum. Generally speaking, very few forums have a great signal-noise ratio. And, to differentiate whether the owner doesn't have a clue or is experiencing some funny things like we experienced with our first mediatek-based device, isn't that easy. Hence this post.

I already searched and found about EA7300. That's almost exactly what I was looking for; testimony from an owner. Too bad it's a €60 device. We are speaking about purchasing 40-50 devices. Twelve years ago this task was easy. OpenWRT would run flawlessly on the cheapest device and building a custom image would you give features OEMs put then only in top-tier devices. After the era of open-sourced Atheros drivers passed away, however, this isn't the case anymore.

Now you have to rule out the cheapest devices from the start, while they are still available on the shelves. And you can't be confident that any not-so-cheap device would work flawlessly. While skimping the forum I have seen comments like "ath10k is a pity", not to mention MediaTek. However, it also seems that there are also well-working devices. Again, hence this post. If you own a well-working device, one that "just works" for months, I'll very much appreciate you letting me know.

One last thing: after some chat with the friends, they want to have routers as they have now. So I'm changing the subject of this thread.

Check out E-Bay: Found a lot of EA7300s for under 50€, even declared as new. In "used" form, they go for 30 - 35 €

Edit: Never mind. Forgot to account for shipping cost, which is another ~ 20€ on top.

I understand you're looking at buying a lot of devices, so 10 € a pop adds up, but 50 € twelve years ago bought you more than it does now (last year alone inflation was around 10% in Europe). Manufacturing costs might have gone down but shipping surely went up once the pandemic started (everything basically comes from Asia nowadays). I'm not sure it's realistic to want a device with some bedroom for that price. MT7621 can run pretty well but most of those devices are 16/128, not too many of those with twice the flash or RAM.

Edit: nevermind me, seems you're willing to settle for 100 Mbit and 802.11n. Anything ath79 should be plenty for that, there's nothing that comes close to ath9k. But yes, flash and RAM is limited with those SoCs.

The cudy x6 seems to be barely below 50€ at idealo. It even offers wifi 6 and is a mt7621 + mt7915 device. As far as I am aware, there are not many issues with mt7915. With it's 32 (flash space) / 256 (memory), it would be fairly future proof. But i don't know about stability.

There are still quite a few devices that fit that description (e.g. you can still easily get ath79 and mt7620a ones), but expectations have risen in recent years - a lot. Five years ago, 2.4-GHz-only 802.11n wlan and the ability to cope with 50 to -at most- 100 MBit/s might have flown for an entry level device, but it doesn't anymore. WAN speeds are now often in excess of 200 MBit/s (up to very much in excess of that), 5 GHz is considered a must-have (and a second radio costs more than twice than what a 2.4 GHz one would set you back, as the 5 GHz radio needs higher quality stuff) and 802.11ac with its ~350-500 MBit/s effective throughput is generally wanted (and 802.11ax DBDC might actually end up cheaper by now).

For a very long time, not a whole lot happened on the router market - new devices just got a new radio standard bolted on, the SOCs maybe clocked a little higher (~180-200 MHz mips32r2 in ~2005, ~400 MHz mips 74Kc in ~2010, ~700 MHz mips 74Kc in 2015) and got more integrated/ cheaper, but no real development going on. Then, suddenly, with >200 MBit/s on cable and >1 GBit/s on fibre coming up, router SOC manufacturers suddenly had to play real technological catch up (and going to ARMv7/ ARMv8, as mips is dead) for the first time - and the air is still spread rather thin beyond ~500 MBit/s (they are still cheating with hardware acceleration, rather than just bringing enough raw CPU power on the table)…
The wireless is another topic, ~30-50 MBit/s might have been fine with 802.11n, but now users expect >>100 MBit/s - and at the same time will have 30-50 always-on gadget connect, while 3-4 were the most you'd see (maybe even half-) a decade ago.

That's why the interesting stuff people are keen for and are willing to recommend costs money, enthusiasts rarely spend their development time on- and go for the bottom of the barrel (at least in quantities <3-5, overspending a few bucks pays off over the longer term).

By the very nature of it, complaints will always be raised louder than praise. In practice, only Mediatek and Qualcomm-Atheros are options for running OpenWrt - and they generally work, well.

MT7621AT SoC devices seem like the sweet spot for your performance needs at a great price. Bleeding edge performance it is not, but more than enough capability for what you describe.

Specific models from there? I hesitate to make a recommendation as it would depend greatly on your local market to hit your your price point.

Considering how many units you intend to purchase, the Xiaomi Mi Router 4A Gigabit would have been tempting not long ago. With current production hardware versions, getting it flashed (if you can flash it) with OpenWrt is a bit dicey. But if you can work through that with a test purchase of 1 unit before getting the rest....could be worth the effort to look into that.

There are many other MT7621AT options.

A higher end option (MT7622) might be the Reyee RG-E5 - if you can find it at your price point in your local market. This is far more performance than your needs, and the price is probably going to reflect that.

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@tatel I have limited set of affordable devices but maybe that can help a bit. I have Xiaomi AC2350 and that thing is reliable. I use it vanilla openwrt, only lucy stats installed and I update it by loading official sysupgrade release images when they are ready. No SQM, no package updates, no fuss. It is used as router behind ont acting, for nat and ap. Works good and without any modification i can really feel how good openwrt works on it.... I enabled software offload because I had a few occasions in which router load was above 1.0 and sirq was about 99% for a few seconds on 200/80 optic fiber link. I do reboot it once a month via cron job but that is a force of habit i guess and maybe i should disable that :slight_smile:

Other one is Xiaomi Mi 4A Giga, which i also have. Faster cpu, better nat performance, okay sqm but somehow 2 antennas are not making it as good as AC2350 in nat+AP mode (number of streams i guess?) so recently i demoted it to secondary router. It is reliable tho, no questions about that however i have model from 2020. so i cannot comment on how good and stable is model with new flash chip.

I use only 5GHz wifi and luci is disabled on both devices, not sure if that is a dealbreaker? I tend not to waste resources and luci stats app is there just to give me glimpse into what happens if i try to load many things at once and check periodically will router handle that. Also i choose Xiaomi as a brand because it is widespread in Europe and AliExpress is a click away as well + openwrt support is quite good, at least on models i have :slight_smile:

ZBT WE826 . 40-50pcs you might directly order at factory.

I would not recommend the EA7300. It is an interesting device and it works well, that is not the point. It is tricky to install OpenWrt due to a bootloader worry. Please read the doc about this.

That may be solved in future, there is a PR for master snapshot. It has been submitted 6 months ago and is still not accepted. I have emailed the author about it recently.

I submitted the Linksys EA7300v2. The uptime is from the ->

BusyBox v1.35.0 (2023-01-03 00:24:21 UTC) built-in shell (ash)

  _______                     ________        __
 |       |.-----.-----.-----.|  |  |  |.----.|  |_
 |   -   ||  _  |  -__|     ||  |  |  ||   _||   _|
 |_______||   __|_____|__|__||________||__|  |____|
          |__| W I R E L E S S   F R E E D O M
 OpenWrt 22.03.3, r20028-43d71ad93e
root@Shepnet:~# uptime
 07:56:25 up 13 days, 13:41,  load average: 0.24, 0.13, 0.08

I moved my email provider and did not get the message. I tried to update it in the forum but the new provider uses DMARC authentication and does not accept forum email.

On the topic of the A/B partitioning scheme; there are two work arounds. One is to overwrite the boot count with the /etc/rc.local entry on the device page. The second is a utility to flip the next boot to the alternative partition. If you have questions, you can use the forum messages.

The Cudy WR1300 is about the cheapest, MT7621 based solution, it is still available in the states for $38USD. It is a easy web interface setup. 1st Flash Cudy's OpenWrt release, from their website, and then you can upgrade to any OpenWrt version. Cudy did not use the Android style A/B partitioning scheme.

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What do you mean be this ?
I don't doubt it is upgradable to 22.03.3. I have achieved an install a year ago (21.02) using the bootcounter overwrite method (/etc/rc.local). I have updated the router several times since, including up to 22.03.2. I'll upgrade it again when I can (it's in a relative's home). I also want to try snapshot.
The PR only concerns snapshot so far that I know, so not 22.03.

I was talking about @arrmo with which I talked about the PR several months ago.

luci-app-advanced-reboot? Yes it works but only if the bootcounter method is not used. And if the bootcounter is not used, the router switch to the alternate partition after 3 boots. So it is mandatory to be used. The purpose of the PR is to manipulate the bootcounter to avoid such annoyance.

I think he means he ported the device to OpenWrt and sent in the patch for it.

I had a doubt. I would say "to port a device", and "to submit a patch". He mixed both in the sentence.

I'm not sure we are talking about the same patch. The one I'm talking about has been provided by another user @arrmo. Please read above. It allows a smooth install, no more bootcounter issue, and easy partition switching with Luci-app-advanced-reboot, but only in master snapshot. Has it been backported to 22.03.3? I don't see this in the changelog. I'd hope it had.

I’m a fan of the Archer C6 v3.2, which is available cheaply and definitely under your price point. As long as you don’t enable HW acceleration (i.e. change from the default) then users report it to be very stable. It’s a dual core 16/128 device, so should be fine for OpenWRT releases in years to come.

First, thank you all. I have now a much better picture. There seems to be consensus about MT7621 being reliable. Good to know. Again, thank you all.

I have to build a 22.03 image to see how the requirements have changed, now that dropping IPv6 isn't a viable option anymore. We were used to put Luci and IPv6 out as a matter of routine. For the time being, it looks as if I could fit it into an 8MB image, but I still need to strip out some more things, then look how the utilities we want fit into that image, then look at RAM consumption. But I'm pretty confident it could be made to fit into a 16 MB image without much hassle, and that 128 RAM will be enough for our need for some years to come. Yet this has to be proven. I hope to do it before next week.

We have no problems with difficult installations as long as they are possible and the result is reliable after that. So, reading a flash chip, etc, could be done, no problem.

After a meeting with the friends, it has been decided to purchase some ram and flash chips to try and upgrade some of our old ath9k devices, and to purchase a router to test it. I'm the one making the decision about which one.

Since it looks as if a 16/128 device could be good enough, I'm leaning towards cheap ones that are about €30. That would mean Xiaomi Mir4A, Cudy WR1300 and ZBT WE826. First two could be obtained from local vendors that can be contacted by phone to make sure what version we are about to get. We had some nasty surprises in the past when the device was delivered an realized hardware had changed without notice. Fortunately these were small purchases.

So, any additional information about of Xiaomi Mir4A and Cudy WR1300 would be greatly appreciated. Any information, not just about reliability.

@reinerotto Hi, nice to be again in contact with you. We find ZBT WE826 quite interesting, mainly because it looks as if you have quite a few of them deployed. But there are some different models. We would like to have 802.11 ac since that could be obtained from the other two candidates, and upgrading the hardware in that way without getting ac wouldn't be easy to explain to our people. We found an Alibaba provider but the model would be WE826T, without ac and with LTE hardware which we are not interested in.The price, after transport, VAT and taxes would also be higher. Could you give us some more info about it?

Since you're prepared to do some manual labor, have a look at the Mercusys MR70X (MT AX1800),
it's not officially supported, but you can use the DIR-853-R1 firmware, with additional package for
the AX radio, and hands on.

Might want to use google translate on

It's cheap too, often < 40€.

Google Translate isn't working for me, unfortunately. I can get the original polish language only. It looks in early stages of development anyway?