TP-Link C2600 or Linksys WRT32X?


#1

Looking at getting one of these: Linksys WRT32X or TP-Link C2600. I know the TPLink uses Atheros and Linksys uses Marvell and don't expect MU-MIMO from either.

I'm planning on using it as a plain Access Point (though it may become a main router) so for now I need the best range/signal I can get and support for a Guest SSID on its own VLAN (the VLANs and security are handled by a wired router for now).

I currently have an Asus RT-AC68U running DD-WRT, not sure whether either of the above can do better.

I realize there may be cheaper alternatives, but I kinda like the looks of these routers which is important to swimbo.

Which one is better suited for OpenWRT? Does Atheros work better than Marvell?


#2

I would suggest the slightly newer (ipq8065 instead of ipq8064) Netgear r7800 or ZyXEL NBG6817 instead of the TP-Link (they're slightly more expensive, but not much - and you get the newer SOC and wlan).

In terms of routing performance, mvebu (Linksys WRT3200ACM/ WRT32X) is the clear winner, with routing performances up to 1 GBit/s. The ipq8065 SOC can only compete up to 350/ 400 - 600 MBit/s WAN-to-LAN-routing, but probably has slightly better wlan reliability/ interoperability. CPU performance is similar for both (ipq8065 is slightly ahead, but that's negligible).

Drivers for IEEE 802.11ac in general aren't as mature as the IEEE 802.11n drivers (ath9k) were, but both mwlwifi (Linksys WRT3200ACM/ WRT32X) and ath10k (TP-Link Archer C2600, Netgear r7800 or ZyXEL NBG6817) should do the job for most uses (newer chipsets tend to fix bugs, that's why I'd suggest to prefer ipq8065/ QCA9984 over ipq8064/ QCA9980) - each with their own share of quirks (mwlwifi seems not to like the esp8266 as used in many IoT devices that much), but still good enough. If you want to go cheaper and don't need fast routing performance (e.g. up to 200-300 MBit/s or AP only), the various ipq40xx options (AVM Fritz!Box 4040 or ZyXEL NBG6617) might be an interesting choice (for less than half the price).


#3

@slh great reply. Thanks for all the info.

I "only" have 100/100 fiber so WAN/LAN routing should be fine. Currently using a wired Edgerouter X which is plenty. There's gigabit fiber available too but don't really need it or want to pay for it yet..


#4

Unless you plan to upgrade to faster contracts within the next ~3 years (although that shouldn't be discarded, as with fibre already on the premises, it's just a contractual question, done within seconds), ipq40xx (they are also a very good option for 'mere' APs, with good wlan) should be good enough for that purpose (but the 'immediate' option of 1 GBit/s would point more towards mvebu (Linksys WRT3200ACM/ WRT32X)).


#5

Any suggestions for actual products to look at with ipq40xx?

I guess I should list more requirements to narrow it down:

  • 5GHz ac1300 as I have a Mac that seems to like staying connected at 1300Mbps to an Asus RT-AC68U (too bad OpenWRT doesn't work on it) with very good actual iperf numbers (which helps backups). For this I need a chip that can do 3x3, correct?
  • is VLAN/Guest SSID an issue on any of these models or these days pretty much all modern SoC handle it well?

(It seems that my current wired ERX can reach close to 1Gbps WAN/LAN with hardware offloading enabled)


#6

As for prices, the TP-Link C2600 or Linksys WRT32X I can get for $73-85 on the used/refurb market. Netgear r7800 or ZyXEL NBG6817 seem to be more expensive.


#7

Personally, for the small incremental cost, I'd go with the more-powerful unit. I don't know where you're located, but I understand that Amazon (US) sells the WRT32X refurbished for $110 and has been as low as $95, and the NBG6817 I've been watching for a long time, dips down to $150 from time to time.


#8

I can only recommend those, as those are the ones with enough RAM, no differing hardware revsions, 4+1 ethernet ports (if you're fine with only 2 ports, there are a few more options) and relatively easy to flash, but ipq40xx will 'only' provide you with 866 MBit/s WLAN - ipq8065/ QCA9984 can do up to 1733 MBit/s brutto rates (keep in mind that these maximums are just theoretical).


#9

Looks like I can get a brand new WRT32X for $92 at Sam's Club. Hmm, is that the one to get over a refurb TPLink C2600 at $73? The price difference is not that significant (but it becomes so for the R7800 at $150), just trying to make the right choice for the best WiFi, that should be the focus for now, not CPU speed or WAN/LAN throughput as I'll be using it in AP mode only for now.

So for OpenWRT WiFi stability/performance ... WRT32X or C2600? Or try both? :slight_smile:


#10

Prices vary -a lot- between north america and europe, $73-85 is a no-brainer for the WRT3200ACM/ WRT32x - especially with fibre (up to 1 GBit/s) in mind. In europe the WRT3200ACM/ WRT32x sells for ~190-200 EUR, the r7800/ nbg6817 for ~170-180 EUR (the c2600 for 150-160 EUR) and the 4040/ nbg6617 for ~70-75 EUR (all prices brand new, you will often find the ipq8065 devices for 115-140 EUR on special sales or amazon warehouse deals - but you can't get refurbished Linksys devices in europe).


#11

Any final thoughts for OpenWRT WiFi stability/performance ... WRT32X vs C2600? I think it's between these 2 to keep the price reasonable, unless the newer models like the R7800 provide significantly better WiFi in AP mode, not just faster CPU or WAN/LAN throughput.


#12

I would vote for the WRT32X. I have both a WRT3200ACM (basically a WRT32X but different case color and different stock firmware) and a C2600.

The C2600 for me does not keep up when running SQM (cake, layer_cake) with my 100mbps down, where as my WRT3200ACM does.

I also really like the dual partition concept the Linksys devices has, it has saved me more than once. The C2600 is also easy to recover via TFTP, so it's up to personal preference.

I also have a client that hates the ath10k-ct firmware for the C2600 (just drops connection after loaded), and the stock firmware for that chipset hasn't been updated in like three years.

Overall they are both decent choices. As much as the WRT32X gets ragged on with the driver support, it has been stable for me since the last chipset driver/firmware update from Marvell.


#13

@AjkayAlan how's the Wifi performance and range between the two, that's the #1 concern for me given my "dumb" WAP use-case (the reason I'm looking at a router and not just a plain AP like a Unifi is because I need 4-5 wired ports too, don't want to add another switch).


#14

@wired I believe the range on the C2600 is slightly better from what I have seen but not significantly. My 3200ACM and C2600 both cap out my internet connection at 130Mbps down, 10 Mbps up, so they are both viable from a performance standpoint.


#15

Thanks. I'm not worried about maxing out the internet connection, but performance, stability and range on LAN, e.g. multiple clients streaming from a LAN media server, backups over LAN, some IoT devices.

You mentioned driver/firmware updates ... how do you get those? By going to a nightly build instead of running stable 18.06.1 for example?


#16

For driver/firmware updates, it depends on the device.

For the WRT32X, you can watch https://github.com/kaloz/mwlwifi and compile yourself or download a precompiled version (if you are on a stable release), and update the /lib/firmware directory via scp.

For the C2600, if you are going to use the -ct driver (what is default installed on recent snapshots) you can watch https://github.com/greearb/ath10k-ct. I believe the maintainer compiles and publishes on their site. To use stock ath10k firmware you just uninstall the two -ct software packages and install their respective non CT versions (doable from Luci). You can see the last time that chipset firmware was updated by looking at https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/kvalo/ath.git/ I believe per https://wireless.wiki.kernel.org/en/users/drivers/ath10k/sources.

In either case, snapshot builds are kept pretty close to most recent firmware for these chipset (takes a few days to get updates merged through pull requests and such)


#17

I will also vouch that current snapshot builds on both platforms are running well for me (if I switch to ath10k for the C2600).

At this point there have been so many fixed and updates included in snapshot builds that are not in a stable release I would recommend starting with a snapshot, ssh'ing in and installing Luci (with opkg update; opkg install Luci), and seeing how they go.

Also it looks like I was wrong about the C2600 firmware not being updated in 3 years, the tree I linked way more active then the other one I was looking at.


#18

I agree with slh, WRT32X below ~130$ is a no brainer....


#19

Tough to decide. Looking at various reviews (which in general I know should be taken with a grain of salt) it doesn't look like either the C2600 or WRT32X is better than my current Asus RT-AC68U in terms of WiFi performance. For an almost 5 yr old device the Asus is pretty impressive, but it doesn't run OpenWRT, I run mine with DD-WRT which takes workarounds to get the guest SSID and VLAN going (I suppose that's fine once it works well no reason to change or update anything, until the next Krack bug hits). My concern is that the Asus will just die some day, it's been running at 75C for almost 5 years now, how long before it cooks itself? So I'd like to sort of have a backup on standby that I can quickly swap in when disaster hits.


#20

Buy something cheap like one of the ~US$20 GL.iNet devices if you can get by with only 2.4 GHz or pick up something used, cheap, well-supported, and with reasonable performance, such as an Archer C7 v2 (about US$30-40 here). Then you'd have a back up and "breathing space" to make a decision based on your future needs and what is available on the market at the time.