WiFi AP recommendation with a good recovery method (cheap-ish)

This may be an unusual question, maybe even a dumb one, but I'm looking for a WiFi AP that can allow me to recover from messing up big time.

Long story short, I managed to brick my Xiaomi Mi WiFi R3G (v1) to the point that I get no output from the serial console. Because its ROM is NAND based and I have no way to reprogram TSOP48 chips, it's busted.

I could get another one of those for cheap, maybe... 25€ or something, but I'd rather get something safer to tinker with (it'd still be my main AP though).

These would be the important things:

  • Ability to recover in case of a brick (e.g., bootloader untouched after/when installing OpenWRT, stable UART recovery method, SPI flash (I can reprogram those), …)
  • Rather stable with OpenWRT and enough room for the future regarding storage and memory.
  • Sub 50€/$60.

Some info that could help narrow things down:

  • I have a symmetrical 100Mbps link, so GbE is not a requirement and there'll only be one Ethernet connected device. No plan to upgrade in the near future to be honest.
  • Being SQM capable is not a requirement either, after all I've lived without it for now :slight_smile:. In the same line, no advanced features will be used, like VPNs, servers of any kind, etc. I think even USB ports could be optional too.
  • ~10 simultaneous devices, but only 2 or 3 doing heavy stuff (not at the same generally). I used to have a separate VLAN for IoT devices and guests, but it's not a big deal if the new one couldn't.

As for WiFi… I'm looking for medium capabilities, I enjoy having access to advanced stuff, but I'm good with any dual band device. For example, MU-MIMO or WiFi 6 are not requirements at all.

Either way, the more the better haha, but the important thing here is being able to recover from backfires :wink:

For R3G if you have a 8 pins free for spi you can remove old flash & solder a spi flash

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most D-Link routers since may years: holding reset button while switching on will boot into a separate mini rescue partition that is never overwritten by OpenWRT flash process.
This rescue partition has a mini web GUI, which allows to flash the standard OpenWRT factory bin file via LAN1.
no need to open device, no TFP, no serial cable. Not even initial hacking to get initial OpenWRT onto it.

Linksys WRT routers have dual partitions, turning router off/on 3x in a row boots into the other partition. high power CPU in addition, but neglected WiFi driver and usually not below 100€.

there is also a lot of other cheap routers with TFTP recovery method via LAN cable.

also you might check if any of the mini devices (like Rasp Pi) may apply for you that use SD card for the firmware partition. Once you break it just rewrite the SD card at the next PC.

That are the 4 most simple/foolproof rescue variants, choose your flavor, and there is more variants. I think most routers have their recovery method listed on the device page by now.

Belkin RT3200/Linksys E8450 is a rather interesting new device. Although not quite an RT32X killer as some proclaim it to be and currently has some small WiFi issues because of how new it is (e.g. no way to enable WiFi 6 via Luci and no support for some modes, not a hardware limitation and easily fixable), it still has a very powerful CPU (should route much more than 100Mbps with SQM), ample RAM/flash, a dual partition layout for easy recovery and, although it's hard to find in some regions, can sometimes be had (discounted) for quite low for what it offers.

Another interesting option if you really want to tinker with something is Raspberry Pi 4 and a cheap separate ap. That thing was reported to route a gigabit, can be used as basically anything (router, NAS, web server, home automation system, etc.) and, unless you mess with eeprom (which there are very few reasons for), can be recovered (or switched to other Linux distribution) simply by rewriting the SD card. The only issue is that its built-in wifi was never meant to be used as an access point, so it is better to have a separate AP.

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I dont mind, if people keep recommending a future device that is currently neither available outside UK nor has a regular stable OpenWRT firmware release yet.

But I find it disappointing, when someone recommends this device in a thread that specifically asked about a device recommendation that has a simple debrick method.
you could at least refer to the question and explain, if the RT has a simple debrick method at all and if so, give a oneliner summary, of how that debricking works.

As far as I understand, it never writes the firmware to the active partition, so unless you really mess with other partitions, no matter what you do, you will always have at least one working image out of two. Have ordered one myself to Europe from UK while it was on sale (but haven't been able to set it up yet) and there have been reports of people finding it for as low as 25£, which even with (possibly) draconic shipping prices should be fitting your budget.

Not a concrete recommendation, but odroid n2+ has a small hardware switch in the back that can control whether to bootload from onboard SPI nor flash, or if that's screwed up whether to bootload from a microsd card slot.

I don't know if amlogic s922x has any other layers of read/write firmware running before this, or if this logic is read-only in the soc.

Don't tinker with your main AP, or at least, have a ready to go fallback, you'll be much happier.

TSOP-48 solderless clips exist, I've only ever used a soic-8 test clip with SPI nor flash with flashrom on a pi, but I've seen these clips around: https://www.amazon.co.uk/360-Clip-48-TSOP-Flash/dp/B00ASXZFUY

Maybe you can get it from AliExpress.

What's the particular flash chip model?

Agree with Pico's suggestion of the D-Link routers for easy recovery: D-Link Recovery GUI
Some current models available: D-Link DIR-878, 882, 2640, 2660 ...

Would not recommend Netgear R6350, R6850 ...
Their nmrpflash method may or may not work, to put it politely.