Which of these low priced routers work best with OpenWrt?

#1

I come to you for advice on buying a not very expensive home router.

I had bought a tp-link archer c5 but it is not compatible with openwrt (I will return it).

My needs are not very demanding.
I want 4 or 5 Ethernet ports 1GBit that really reach that speed, and wifi n / a 2.4 and 5 GHz (2.4 Ghz is too crowded) that reach 300 Gb and 800 Gb respectively, and a USB port (3.0 preferably).

I have been browsing the forum for advice, but it is difficult to choose between so many routers and many times the advices may be obsolete.

I would not like to spend more than about € 80

Among those that I saw and could locate to buy are the following:

1.- Asus RT-AC58U (about 80€). It seems quite good.
4 cores, 2x128MB NAND memory and 128 MB RAM. 1 usb3.0 port.5+1 Gb Ethernet, 2.4 GHz N400 + 5 GHz n/ac 867. Qualcomm Atheros IPQ4018
The problem seems to be that it is not easy to first install openwrt (but there are instructions on how to do it without having to use a serial port, flashing a special frimware to gain ssh access first).

2.- Linksys EA6350-EJ. (About 70€) There is a EA6350 in the hardware compatibility list.
4 cores, 128 MB NAND flash 256 MB RAM. 4+1 Gb Ethernet, 2.4 GHz N300 + 5 GHz n/ac 867. 2x2 MU-MIMO
Qualcomm Atheros IPQ4018.
The problem is that I don't know if it is exactly the same router than the v3 specified, and it is yet only snapshot compatible with openwrt. Not easy to install and there may be compatiblility problems.
It seems to be under active porting development yet Add support for Linksys EA6350 v3

3.- D-Link DIR 869 (100€ new, 60€ second hand). Too expensive for what it offers.
The one I saw seem to be dual core, 4+1 Gb Ethernet, 2.4 GHz N450 + 5 GHz N/AC1300.
The A1 version in the list says it is single core, so it does not seem to be exactly the same router (the image looks exactly the same).
People complains about not having too wide wifi reach. I don't like its look, too bulky with that antenas, but that is a minor aspect.

4.- Netgear R6220 (about 57€).
1 core, 128 MB flash, 128 MB RAM 4+1 Gb Ethernet, 2.4 GHz N300 + 5GHz n/ac867.
MIMO 2x2. MediaTek MT7603EN, MediaTek MT7612EN
If it is the same router and netgear has not changed the especs, there seems to be no compatibility problems or difficulties installing openwrt.

As vendors don't display complete specs (amazon for example) it is not easy to be sure which version of the router they are selling. And as long as some companies change the specs and cpu from version to version, I can end up with a router that does not work.

I think my best bet is the ASUS RT-AC58U, if the version that appears in openwrt (2019 availability) is the last one of the router.

What do you think?
Are there better options in this price tag?

#2

You're talking about route / NAT / SQM at full Gb-- that is actually quite demanding. Any router with a gigabit switch can switch among LAN devices (e.g. a PC and NAS) at line speed no problem, but if you have a gigabit ISP you need a lot of CPU in the router.

EA6350 v1 and v2 are Broadcom based thus likely unsupportable. Buying a new one from a major supplier you should get a v3, but the used market is going to be full of the old versions.

I'm not saying the MT7621 is a bad chip, but it is a big step down from IPQ4018.

#3

Thank you, mk24.

NO I am not talking about 1 Gb ISP wan access, just 1 Gb in the Ehernet LAN for connecting PCs and NAS. I have read of people that says that their router's lan Gigabit switch is not able to provide 1 Gb access and their spee is much lower (mine is almost 1 Gb now).

My internet connection is just 50 MB.
And I am not going to use this router connected to the ISP.

The ISP provides a router that is almost completly closed, you can change few things, port forwarding, wifi and few more things.

I am going to use this router to provide quick wifi access in the back side of the home.
I am going to use it to provide some basic dns solving (provide local access in the local lan to some web server that is exposed to the internet too) and provide VPN to access home from outside.
In fact I am planning configure the ISP router to send all incoming traffic to this router using DMZ except some traffic like http that will be send directly to the http/https server.

Now I am using the nas to provide the VPN but NAS is not always on, I think the router would be a better option.

So you think the lynksys and Asus are better options.

The Linksys EA6350-EJ is new, from amazon, about 70€.
If v3 is the last versions, I think this new one should be v3 (if not another model, as it is tagged EJ).

It seems a bit better than the Asus, but it seems to be in beta yet, there are snapshot firmware versions but I don't know if they have many problems or not.

The Asus seems to be completly compatible, if there is no new version.
In the amazon page talks about it having MU-MIMO but in openwrt does not say a word about it.

It seems a bit more complicated to install the firmware, but there is the option to flash an intermediate firmware just to have ssh access and be able to erase partitions before installing the openwrt.

I prefer not having to solder a serial interface.

#4

128 MB RAM are insufficient for a device with two ath10k radios.

Only hardware revision v3 is usable here, v1 and v2 are unsupported Broadcom variants. If you can guarantee to get a v3 device, it should be a great option.

Add AVM Fritz!Box 4040 and ZyXEL NBG6617 to your list (~70 EUR), both are ipq4018 devices with 256 MB RAM.

#5

Great, thanks a lot for the response.

I suppose the linksys is the last version (v3?) as they are selling it in amazon and it is new https://www.amazon.es/Linksys-EA6350-EJ-inalámbrico-Ethernet-parental/dp/B00JZWQW4C/ref=pd_rhf_se_s_cr_simh_0_2/260-3199224-2460817?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00JZWQW4C&pd_rd_r=54e76d7d-9035-4385-8cd9-975d11befea5&pd_rd_w=Nc3yo&pd_rd_wg=5rWMC&pf_rd_p=5c0f5620-23a9-4253-9347-201a546b742c&pf_rd_r=MNWSPSY9RD9FSQ91CR68&psc=1&refRID=MNWSPSY9RD9FSQ91CR68

My concern is that it is not yet fully supported by openwrt (it seems it will be in the near future).
Snapshot installing is a bit more complicated.

I have not found the ZyXEL in amazon.

But there is fritzbox https://www.amazon.es/Avm-20002767-Fritz-LAN-Wireless/dp/B01MQUQTBR/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1_sspa?__mk_es_ES=ÅMÅŽÕÑ&keywords=AVM+Fritz!Box+4040&qid=1557694299&s=computers&sr=1-1-fkmrnull-spons&psc=1

It is on budget, and I like it. My childs will love its look.
It seems to be similar to the linksys. A cpu a bit slower.
It has only 32 MB of flash memory, lynksys has 128.
Would it be enough to install openwrt and several packages like VPN tunneling, Wake on lan, etc?

I have some other concern:

  • it has no external antena. Does it mean the wifi reach will be lower?
  • it says that you cannot make VPN in the WAN port.

Right now the router will be connected to the ISP router through a LAN port and the ISP router will send all packets through it, so I suppose that I can configure a VPN in that lan port without problems.
Right now I will delete the WAN interface and add that port to the lan interface switch to get 5 Gb lan ports.

But in the future, if I change my ISP, I would like to use this router as the main router, directly connected to the ONT.
I don't know if you can configure a LAN port to do that or you have to use the wan port. Would that be a problem, or I can just create a wan interface in Lan port 1 and continue using the wan port added to the lan interface switch?

It says it is a mesh router. Can openwrt create a wifi mesh with any router or you need special hardware in the router?
If you need hardware this router may be a better option for the future.

#6

v3 is the current version, but Linksys hides the hardware revision very well, so you'll never know until you can check the bottom of the device (model name/ FCC ID) and while you can hope for the best, you'll never know if the seller is still sitting on v1/ v2 stock.

Correct, however Linksys is setting up a dual-boot environment (good!), which only leaves ~40 MB usable space, so not that much of a difference compared to 32 MB (28.4 MB usable) for the 4040 or nbg6617 (both not using dual-boot, but offering mature recovery mechanisms instead). The CPU frequencies are the same for all ipq40xx devices under OpenWrt. The Fritz!Box 4040 was already supported in 18.06.x, EA6350v3 and nbg6617 require master snapshots, until 19.0x.y gets released.

I haven't had either of them on my desk so far, but internal antennas aren't necessarily worse.

VPN shouldn't be an issue, at least not because of the OpenWrt router (if the ISP router passes through the required packets is an orthogonal issue).

ONT means ftth, which in turns suggests WAN speeds up to and in excess of 1 GBit/s, ipq40xx can not do that (rough guess, ~200 MBit/s for routing, NAT and firewall).

VLAN settings are currently a bit limited for ipq40xx, due to the swconfig based switch driver in use by OpenWrt, the pending DSA switch driver should solve these restrictions in the future.

AVM is referring to their proprietary mesh implementation here, which only works between AVM devices running Fritz!OS >=7.0 (their OEM firmware). OpenWrt offers several different mesh solutions, these work the same on all ipq40xx devices (if repeating or meshing are a particular priority for you, ipq4019 with a third radio, e.g. ea8300, might be a better choice).

If you're sufficiently sure to get a v3 device, the EA6350v3 might be the best option, but it's a gamble.

#7

Ok thank you a lot.
Both linksys and avm seem great choices for the price.
I would have to decide if opting for the more advance linksys with the difficult snapshot setup and the risk of something not working for some time, or the avm fritzbox that seems to be more than probed.
If they send me an older version of the linksys, I will return it, as I am buying it in amazon europe.

Mesh is not really an issue for me. My home has Gb ethernet in almost all rooms.
I prefer cable for the most demanding needs.
The isp router installed in the hall near the saloon and this other in the back rooms would cover all the house with decent speed.
It is a pity that i cannot substitute the isp router, as they have it closed and don't give you any option.
I would prefer to have complete control of the router that gives access to my home.
I may use another router connected to it through the wan interface but there is no room in the communications cabinet, and having another gadget consuming power just for that seems not a good option.

Yes I have ffth at home, but here in spain 1 Gb internet acces is quite expensive, I just have 50MB simmetric, more than enough for my needs, may be 100 inthe future, but not thinking of 1 Gb.

#8

Also one point to note is that some routers have external antennas, but they are for one band only. For example, Archer C7 has 3 internal antennas for 2.4 GHz band, while the external antennas are for the 5 GHz band. As @slh mentioned, external antennas don't necessarily mean better range, but probably the good thing about them is that you could use an extension cable if you need to place the antenna in a place where it has better reach (though it would probably look ugly). Ah and you can replace the antennas with bigger ones, but usually manufacturers make the antennas proportional with hardware transmit power capabilities, so replacing the antenna with a higher gain antenna will not always make a difference.

#9

Extension cables for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz have extremely big losses (even for good/ expensive ones, cheap/ no-name ones are basically useless), you can easily kill most of your signal by using them (even if you're 'just' talking about 1 metre).

#10

This doesn't look too bad to me, to be honest

  • Cable Length: 1.5 m (4.9 ft)
  • Maximum Cable Loss with Connectors: 1.4 dB
#12

Thank you all.
I am not going to install cable to extend antenna. The router is going to stand on a desk, and I don't need to have too much wifi reach, just indoor in my flat.

i like the idea of not having external antennas, if internal ones provide similar performance.

But I think I will go for the lynksys, as the price is good and seems a bit more advanced.

I will try to help in testing.

#13

If switching is a concern, get a separate GigE switch -- they are cheap on ebay, will give you far more ports, and far more backplane bw.

1 Like
#14

Yes, I have an old one from the times of ADSL.

But the router I was using lately, had no problems with 1 Gb lan ports.

#15

went with the netgear r6220. they can be found on ebay used for about 20 dollars US. the firmware update process is a little different. you have to flash multiple images. but not hard at all. works very well in my opinion. its either a dual core or it has hyperthreading\smt because it does show 2 threads.

the extra thread or core or whatever it is makes loading the openwrt web ui faster when the router is under full load.

#16

I have bought the fritzbox.
Would get it in a couple of days.

The linksys price has risen a bit, tom115€ and is currently unavailable. It is not yet fully compatible with openwrt, so that made my decission.

I will tell you how is it working.

Thank you all.