Router recommendation, BT HH5a causing bottle neck on 150Mbps upgraded line

I've had an upgrade from TalkTalk UK 60 to 150 and have discovered that my current BT HH5a flashed with openwrt is now creating a bottleneck. I'm looking for recommendations on a router upgrade?

My current setup is:
Internet -> G.Fast Modem MT992 (connected via a phone line) -> HH5a (Router / DHCP) -> Wifi via a BT Whole Hom Wifi 3x discs

I don't need Wifi on the router. Ideally, I want something that comes pre-installed with OpenWRT or can be flashed without soldering (this is why I was originally using the HH5a as it came pre-flashed with OpenWRT via an eBay seller). Ideally <£100GBP. The HH5a is limiting the download speed to 70Mbps. Using the TT provided router I can get above 100Mbps down, so a clear bottleneck. Ideally, I want to utilise this speed as much as possible. I don't currently run anything special like VLANs or OpenVPN. I may want to run a couple of VLANs in the next 12 months so that would be ideal, but not a deal-breaker. There are two of us working from home so multiple laptops, phones and TVs are usually on the network and downloading files at any one time.

A shortlist I've found so far or read elsewhere.

  • Xiaomi UK offer the R4A Gigabit AC1200 880MHz MT7621 MIPS ~£40
  • Nanopi R4S Mini 1GB - ~£50
  • RPi4 - more of an involved setup based upon this thread ~£80-100
  • Dedicated x86 machine ~£100-250 - least appealing solution to me.

Linksys e8450 / Belkin RT3200, if you can find one.

What version of OpenWRT are you currently running on the HH5a?

Powered by LuCI openwrt-18.06 branch (git-19.186.54187-cbc000b) / OpenWrt 18.06.4 r7808-ef686b7292

might be a good idea to upgrade it 1st, see if it improves things.

I think I'd read somewhere because it's an older router and due to hardware limitations the HH5a will bottleneck anything over 80Mbps. I was also uncertain if it could be upgraded to the latest OpenWrt 21.02 due it's age?

Any reason you suggested Linksys e8450 / Belkin RT3200?

If you're still going to replace it, an upgrade won't hurt, will it ?
It runs 21.01, but you'll need to reset the settings, doing the upgrade.

The Belkin/Linksys is a AX device, kind of bleeding edge, openwrt wise,
supporting the most recent wifi standard.
Reasonably priced, assuming you can get your hands on one.

Looks like a Belkin RT3200 is the cheaper at £80GBP in the UK. Linksys e8450 ~£140. As I'm using a separate mesh wifi, not sure if I really need a router with Wifi. Would it be beneficial in any way to run the router wifi and the mesh wifi? Or will this cause more stress on the CPU and potential overlap of wifi networks reducing overall speed. My main desktop is using a Wifi 6 card and AFAIK, the mesh network doesn't support Wifi 6.

well, you don't have to use it, just disable the wifi, if you feel like it.
if the mesh breaks, you've got a backup, right there, just have to reenable it.

you can run the AX in parallell with the existing mesh, if you want to provide it to your desktop,
but use a different frequency/band.

btw, using an x86 as router, isn't much more complicated than using a RPi or R4S.

btw2, isn't the mesh router capable ? most are ? just plug if directly into your modem ?

Thanks for the suggestions and clarification @frollic.

Re: Uprgading the existing router, is it safe to use the 21.02.1 image on the device page and upgrade via the LUCI interface with a direct LAN connection? Reading the device page I'm confused if I need to reset the device back to stock firmware and then reflash with OpenWRT?

using the sysupgrade, yes.

you must check the reset settings checkbox while doing the upgrade, or you'll run to networking issues in 21.01, due to software changes within openwrt.

if you have any specific settings in your 18.06, make sure to back them up.

Is that the @maurer edition you are using?

(from section 7.12 of installation guide of HH5a)

@bill888 I'm not sure. I've been looking through LUCI but can't find any indication if it's the Maurer version that addressed the issue. It was a couple of years ago when I installed OpenWRT.

From memory, I remember reading about there being a WAN to LAN issue but can't remember if I installed any of the patches. Is there a way to check via SSH or the LUCI interface if the Maurer patch is applied.

From some reading in the installation guide of HH5a, upgrading to 21.01 will resolve some of the WAN - LAN issues and increase to ceiling limit to 130Mbps. Looks like that might be the best way to go. Should I factory reset the HH5a via Luci and then upgrade to the latest stable build?

there's a reset settings check box in the firmware update window.

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Check the /etc/hotplug.d/net/ folder for existence of 20-smp-tune file. It does not exist, amongst other changes, in Maurer edition

Have you installed extra packages which may cause problems when upgrading?

Otherwise vanilla 18.06 > 19.07 > 21.02 should be OK when 'Keeping settings'.

21.02 in HH5a does not use DSA, but backups from 18.06/19.07 won't work in 21.02 due to syntax changes in /etc/config/network.

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Oh, it's not DSA, then I take back my previous statement about reseting the settings ...

Thank you for this.

Looks like I don't have the Maurer edition installed. So I'll try the suggested fixes in 18.06 first. Then potentially updating 18.06 > 19.07 > 21.02. I have some packages installed via opkg, DDNS and OpenVPN, I think. If i have to do a factory reset before upgrading it's not the end of the world. Always nice to avoid having to re-setup static hosts etc.

# ls /etc/hotplug.d/net/

Take a settings backup, then upgrade direct to the latest without keeping settings, then just add back the static hosts file. Some files can't be used but many of them can. Not sure which settings have changed but unlikely to be the static hosts.

ls /etc/hotplug.d/net/

err. you are using the Maurer edition?

20-smp-tune file does not exist in Maurer edition.

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according to How can we make the lantiq xrx200 devices faster

the latest master snapshots have a bunch of patches that will improve the speed of a HH5. Give it a go?;a=commit;h=7e484b902d269d8fd22afeccb765ccc2cd8efa19

lantiq: backport latest upstream patches

This patch includes a series of performance improvements. All patches
were accepted and should land in 5.17.
NAT Performance results on BT Home Hub 5A (kernel 5.10.89, mtu 1500):

Down Up
Before 539 Mbps 599 Mbps
After 624 Mbps 695 Mbps