Router purchase advice (Considering some ASUS routers)

Discussion in 'Tomato Firmware' started by Danation, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. Danation

    Danation Networkin' Nut Member

    Hey, I'm looking for a router to replace my Linksys E3000. I bought the E3000 refurbished, and it's never worked right (drops wireless a lot, etc.) I've tried stock firmware, DD-WRT, and Tomato, all with various settings, so I'm starting to think the problem is hardware. (My completely stock Linksys WRT120N works a lot better, sadly.)

    Here are my requirements:

    1) Must have the basics (Wireless N, compatibility with Tomato, etc.)
    2) The big one: Must be able to handle 30+ wireless clients, ranging from phones to computers to gaming systems without dropping connections, etc. I'm willing to tweak QoS settings to help with the quality of browsing, etc, but the wireless connection needs to be stable. Also, the interference in this area is completely ridiculous, so something that can handle interference is a must.
    3) I need about 90ft range.

    Would be nice:

    1) USB support
    2) External antennas
    3) Dual band (not really a priority at this time.)

    As I've been researching, Asus routers seem to be mentioned a lot, particularly the ASUS RT-N66U and the older ASUS RT-N16.

    The R-N16 is a lot cheaper and it's older, but I've heard some really good things about it. It's not dual band, but I'm not overly concerned about that. The RT-N66U apparently has incredible range, and it's dual band. But it's also pretty darn expensive.

    What do you guys think between those? Or do you recommend another router entirely?
  2. quietsy

    quietsy Network Guru Member

    I recently purchased the RT-N66U after reading that the wifi on N16 isn't that great, my previous router was the WRT54GL and my iphone used to get 1 bar from 60 feet away and randomly drop, with the 66U I get full bars on the iphone from 60 feet away but there are still connection drops, both with the stock fw and with tomato, I suspect there's interference or some dead zones so I may resort to using more access points.
    Besides that, the RT-N66U is a great router with a good stock fw and even better with tomato, definitely worth every penny.
  3. ka9yhd

    ka9yhd LI Guru Member

  4. Planiwa

    Planiwa Network Guru Member

  5. ppsun

    ppsun Networkin' Nut Member

    Just switched from E3000 to RT-N66U. Can't say much about their performance as I have only used N66U for a short time. E3000 had worked fine, and my maximum wireless distance was less than 30ft through 2 walls.

    But what I can say against N66U compared to E3000 is: E3000's 60k NVRAM is very useful compared to N66U's 32k - if you need to run scripts. I had to offload my VPN keys and ad-block scripts as files into JFFS to squeeze out 4.5k on the N66U (shibby's 90V AIO f/w), or else I would run out of NVRAM space. But if your router doesn't involve many scripts, you should OK.
  6. Danation

    Danation Networkin' Nut Member

    Thank you all for your advice.

    quietsy: The range you mentioned sounds good, but the dropping concerns me. It's what I'm trying to avoid most. Did it improve with the N66U or is it about the same?

    ka9yhd: The Buffalo routers do have some appeal. In addition to Planiwa's questions, I have another: I read several concerning reviews about them needing high amounts of reboots. Do you own one? Have you noticed that problem at ?

    ppsun: Did your range increase at all? I hadn't thought about the NVRAM size. Thanks for pointing that out. I think I should be ok. I don't run many scripts. Maybe I will in the future, though, so it's something I will consider.
  7. Washu-Chan

    Washu-Chan Networkin' Nut Member

  8. rhdcheme

    rhdcheme Addicted to LI Member

    If you are considering Asus, I recommend the RT-N56U as opposed to the RT-N66U. It is a solid router with excellent performance (see smallnetbuilder). I bought an RT-N66U after being a satisfied user of RT-N56U but had to RMA it because the wireless would not peg above 5 Mbps on a 43 Mbps connection after some use on all 2.4 channels - both with stock and Tomato firmware. I am still waiting for the replacement which Asus claims they shipped after I had shipped it to them on 3/15/12.

    Tomato is not possible for the RT-N56U as it is not Broadcom.
  9. wilsonhlacerda

    wilsonhlacerda Addicted to LI Member

    I'm also looking for a router to replace my current good old wrt and it is not that easy considerind requirements bellow.

    Requirements are:
    - compatible with Tomato (Victeck/Toastman/Shibby) and also OpenWRT/Gargoyle. DD-WRT is a plus.
    - Flash 8MB. More is a plus.
    - RAM at least 32MB, but 64MB is really desired. More is a plus.
    - 1 USB. 2 is a plus.
    - 802.11b/g/n. Simultaneous dual band is a plus.
    - Antenna can be internal or external, doesn't matter. Detachable is a plus.
    - No known WiFi problems.

    The old Asus WL500G Premium is almost there, but it lacks 802.11n (and RAM is 32MB sharp).
    Newer Asus RT-N16 is also almost there, but it is not exactly supported by main OpenWRT/Gargoyle (and it's not simultaneous dual band).

    Any suggestions? Last days looking for that but it has been difficult to find a model that fits these requirements.
  10. Python46

    Python46 Networkin' Nut Member

    Linksys E3000 works well.
  11. Danation

    Danation Networkin' Nut Member

    I'm replacing an e3000...
  12. koitsu

    koitsu Network Guru Member

    To the OP (regarding your "would like to have", not pre-requisites): to my knowledge, no Tomato or TomatoUSB firmware available supports dual-band, regardless of what router you get. If I'm wrong I urge someone to come forth and correct me (please!), but as I understand it presently, you can use 2.4GHz or 5GHz, just not both. With the stock firmwares, dual-band capability is available.
  13. Python46

    Python46 Networkin' Nut Member

    Dual band works on my E3000 with all the distros that I have used. Teaman, Toastman, Shibby, and Victek...
    juntok_abot likes this.
  14. Monk E. Boy

    Monk E. Boy Network Guru Member

    There are builds with dual band modes available under Tomato, the features were added a while ago. If you're only using Teddy's TomatoUSB builds then no, they don't support dual bands, because those builds are static and not being updated.

    Personally I'm a little mystified over the "weak radio" comments on the RT-N16, since what's weak is the antennas, not the radio. Replace the antennas, easy to do since they're external on standard RP-SMA connectors, and it can be as strong as you want it to be.
  15. juntok_abot

    juntok_abot Networkin' Nut Member

    replace refurbished with a new e3000
  16. Danation

    Danation Networkin' Nut Member

    I guess I could do that. I'm a little reluctant after the poor performance of my current e3000, but I've also heard that Cisco routinely sells garbage as "refurbished."

    Then again, if the e3000 is so good, why are there so many refurbs being sold in the first place? I'm just worried that I'll be stuck with the same problem after paying a lot more money.
  17. Danation

    Danation Networkin' Nut Member

    I'm leaning toward getting that router, so I have a couple of questions:

    Is that the router you're currently using? What kind of range do you get currently? How much interference is in your area? Which antennae do you use? And do you recommend it over juntok_abot's suggestion of a new e3000?
  18. juntok_abot

    juntok_abot Networkin' Nut Member

    refurbished are being sold because of high demands (could be due to performance/reliability) and they dont want to miss the business opportunity. if no demands, no reason for them to re-furb and re-sell, instead just make a new model such as E3100 or else, as an example. btw, good luck for the new e3000. I'm still satisfied with my tomatoed wrt54gl
  19. Elfew

    Elfew Network Guru Member

    single band - ASUS RT-16N with TOMATO
    dual band- ASUS RT-66

    I have RT-16N - pretty stable - now about 90days without restart, transfer rates are very good... and the price is excellent!
  20. juntok_abot

    juntok_abot Networkin' Nut Member

    which build of Tomato and version?
  21. jsmiddleton4

    jsmiddleton4 Network Guru Member

    "if the e3000 is so good, why are there so many refurbs being sold in the first place?"

    My two have been great.
    juntok_abot likes this.
  22. jsmiddleton4

    jsmiddleton4 Network Guru Member

    "you can use 2.4GHz or 5GHz, just not both"

    Not true.
  23. ppsun

    ppsun Networkin' Nut Member

    @Danation. Made a screenshot of my tablet running wifi analyzer. Placed e3000(blue) side-by-side with RT-N66(red). Walked around the apartment with the tablet. The RT-N66U appears to perform better when I am closer to the routers, but not much difference when I am further away. Perhaps a properly working E3000 may be all you need (you need to cool it well, though).

    N66U-Red E3k-Blue.jpg Max distance.jpg
  24. jsmiddleton4

    jsmiddleton4 Network Guru Member

    Does Tomato work with the Buffalo N600?
  25. Elfew

    Elfew Network Guru Member

    I am using Toastman build for my RT-16N with VPN - I think that the number is 7493
  26. koitsu

    koitsu Network Guru Member

    Okay, I think the problem is that I'm referring to the wrong thing. I used the term "dual band" to refer to supporting both 802.11b/g *and* 802.11n at the same time. I was under the impression (and incorrectly so -- I just did my reading on Wikipedia) that 802.11b was 2.4GHz, 802.11g was 2.4GHz, and 802.11n was 5GHz, hence my comment.

    Here's the chart that shows base frequencies vs. 802.11{x} protocol. You can see that 802.11n supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz (simultaneously if need be); I believe that simultaneous capability is what "dual band" means, correct?

    So what I was trying to say is this: I do not see in any Tomato or TomatoUSB firmware where you can enable support for both 802.11b/g and 802.11n at the same time. If you use 802.11b or 802.11g, 2.4GHz is all you get. If you use 802.11n, you can use either 2.4GHz or 5GHz or both (simultaneously).

    In my case, 802.11n is not an option (my Nintendo DSi does not support 802.11n), thus in TomatoUSB (Toastman builds) under Basic -> Network -> Wireless Network Mode, I use "B/G Mixed".

    I hope this makes more sense, and sorry for confusing folks / using the wrong terms to describe something. (Wireless is not my forte; IP, Ethernet, *IX systems down to the kernel, etc. are. :) )
  27. koitsu

    koitsu Network Guru Member

    The stock Asus RT-N16 antennas, if I remember right (from reading blog posts, etc.) are -2dBi antennas. One can purchase higher gain antennas (such as -8dBi ones from Rosewill if money is an issue) which greatly improve range. This fellow's blog post shows the results of replacing the stock antennas. The Rosewill antennas mentioned in that blog don't really have much details about them, other than "they're antennas". Yeah, that's nice and vague.

    Also, based on some of my own messing about with inSSIDer, it seems that the stock RT-N16 antennas are probably vertical half-wave dipole antennas, or possibly a strange directional antenna (I'm thinking something like a V-shape, or a "frontal-facing half-donut" shape, focused on the horizontal plane and not vertical. (More details on antenna types over at Cisco)

    The reason I say this is that if I take my laptop and walk behind my RT-N16 (stock antennas) maybe 3-4 feet, the RSSI drops horribly (by like 20). While if I stay in front of the RT-N16 and walk 20-30 feet, the RSSI drops by ~20. So I'm inclined to think the antennas are maybe directional? Hard to say. And of course, if I go underneath the router diagonally (say a 45-degree angle down), RSSI drops even worse (try 30 or 40). And this gets compounded by walls/metal/whatever other objects. It really seems like the best choice for an antenna would be an isotropic antenna, which basically spits out signal in a gigantic sphere/ball, rather than a "donut".

    Finally, while I'm here -- a question related to our routers and antennas: does anyone know "what the deal is" with the RT-N16 having 3 antennas? The RT-N16 isn't the only one to do this, but I'm curious why. For example in Tomato and other firmwares, you can (if you want to) dedicate one antenna to transmit and another to receive, which leaves only 2 choices. Yet, these routers have 3... What's the third for? Are two dedicated to 2.4GHz and one is dedicated to 5GHz? And if so, why aren't there simply 4 antennas (transmit/receive for both frequencies)? Colour me confused, but I've always wondered this.
  28. mraneri

    mraneri Network Guru Member

  29. Incidentflux

    Incidentflux LI Guru Member

    I'm leaning towards the Asus RT-N66U instead of the RT-N16, because it's more than two years old and Asus will probably stop making them soon.

    If VLANs, OpenVPN, Wireless Bridge, uPnP, Bittorrent, USB storage work with Tomato on Asus RT-N66U. I'll be good to go :)
  30. Elfew

    Elfew Network Guru Member

    ASUS supports RT-16N - every month new version of firmware so I dont think that they will stop making them until there will be more 5Ghz devices... I bought it 6months before. I wanted to buy RT-N66U but I dont need 5Ghz - my devices dont support this, so its useless for me.

    I love my RT-16N - very good power, stability and with tomato it has everything what I need. Mainly the price is excellent!
  31. bucher

    bucher Networkin' Nut Member

    I bought a refurbished E3000 that seemed dead out of the box, then I tried using a different power adapter, and it worked fine. I have seen this happen to others as well. I suspect many refurbs are sold due to dead power adapters. Once I got my replacement it has been rock solid without any problems.
  32. jsmiddleton4

    jsmiddleton4 Network Guru Member

    Looking at all the Sunday sales today. Seems like a bunch of new routers have come out. Its getting quite confusing which ones that do or do not work with Tomato/Toastman/etc. Used to be if DDWRT worked, Tomato worked. Not so any more. DDWRT has spread out a bit in terms of hardware it supports that Tomato does not.
  33. nomejodas

    nomejodas Network Guru Member

    I wish someone would create a neat and tidy updated list of all compatible routers with the different types of Tomato firmware.
  34. Incidentflux

    Incidentflux LI Guru Member

    RT-N16 is an outstanding router, but I'm thinking of the long term. The RT-N66U has got better specs. So if Tomato is fully functional on the Asus RT-N66U (which is nearly a small computer), then I see no harm.

    The list is here, but not up-to-date.
  35. myersw

    myersw Network Guru Member

    I have been using an e 4200 v1 refurbish for a year now. No complaints. Using both bands without issues. Have used Toastman and Victek mods. For my use Victek has performed better for me. Wish Linksys had not come out with the version two that cannot run Tomato.
    eahm likes this.
  36. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Re refurbs: Speaking as one who has worked in industry for many years and has seen the way people approach their work, I can tell you that what you get depends on the engineer that was involved in the "test" or "repair". Returns almost never have the reason for return recorded. So the engineer has to figure it out with a quick test. Quite often they "forget" to test accessories and power bricks. Then even if it does "work" it's quite probable that they did only a quick cursory test of the main functions, probably skipping things like the USB ports etc. They are under great pressure to get rid of those returns as quickly as possible.

    When you buy refurb, you take a risk. You may end up getting it cheap or you may get a lemon. So a refurb should be VERY cheap to reflect that. On the other hand - most of them probably never had anything wrong in the first place, so it's a fairly safe bet :D
  37. wilsonhlacerda

    wilsonhlacerda Addicted to LI Member

  38. Monk E. Boy

    Monk E. Boy Network Guru Member

    Tomato has some fairly odd limitations on what standards can be selectively enabled. You can just enable b. You can just enable b/g. You can just enable n. Or you can enable all three (AKA "Auto"). This leaves out the best option g/n. g & n can cooexist well, but b is the wireless equivalent of Godzilla walking through Tokyo, it affects all non-b connections. As a result I typically force routers into n-only mode and just deal with the lack of g connectivity, which rarely comes up, and tell the people with PSPs to get a Vita if they want wireless connectivity (mini-rant here, but if you switch production to use 802.11b/g chipsets, you should enable g functionality in your firmware, &*@#$&* Sony).

    Personally I run l-com's 9dbi antennas at home and a single router can cover the majority of the two acres with the exception of a cone of darkness, where it's blocked by the furnace & associated ductwork, but with the 9dbi antennas I end up with a weak signal relatively close in (by garage) which I didn't get with weaker antennas. I actually purchased a set of 5, 7, & 9dbi antennas (3 orders, not just all 9 antennas at once), so I've done some amount of signal testing. The 5s are quite nice in terms of having uniform signal quality, the 7s and 9s have a strange radiation pattern, but in my case we're talking about a relatively uniform single plane (ranch-style - single floor - house), so you tend to end up with a dead spot in one antenna being caught by the other antennas.

    Those 5 & 7 dbi antennas found a new home in a building with multiple floors and tenants (my workplace), with a LOT of wireless pollution between tenants, and our RT-N16s and RT-N12 give the strongest and most reliable signals in the place. One tenant has purchased a series of routers trying to improve his situation, each time blaming the equipment, when what they need is someone who understands there are only 3 802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz channels... 1, 6, 11. A router set at channel 2 or 3 isn't going to have a better time when you have hot signals next door on 1 & 6, but they're really, um, prickly so I can't exactly offer to help. They don't even like to say hello when walking past in the hallways.
  39. koitsu

    koitsu Network Guru Member

    The WNR3500Lv2 is in the same boat as the RT-N16; supported by TomatoUSB (Shibby and Toastman builds at this point), but not supported by OpenWRT.
  40. Incidentflux

    Incidentflux LI Guru Member

    Like everything in life, we can't have it all. Maybe we'll get lucky since Google recently revealed its Open Source network infrastructure. Would make sense for them to get in the game since Cisco announced their A series routers which are essentially an apps platform.
  41. mito

    mito Network Guru Member

    Hi, personally i have a common issue, with a lot of networks around, decided to go for three 9dbi antennas for my RT-N16 pictute avatar, is true that going for hotter antennas you generate more interference but the gains are higher so the balance is better, plus if you rise the Tx power to 60 or 62 the benefits are greater than with 2dbi dbi antennas, btw now i am using Tx 68 after hours of testing. Then tested which has better out put and found that "A" was best. Three antennas = MIMO.
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