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Rod at home

Need recommendations for a new, consumer wireless router with better control

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Rod at home

I'm new to this forum, having only started listening to the Windows Home Server podcast about 4 months ago. I've been enjoying it.

 

My home networking needs are pretty modest. I've currently got a Netgear WNDR3700 duel band router, which offers B/G/N. It has the primary network and I can set up a guest network with limited access. I've not done this before, but knowing I can is great. I definitely like the duel band, because some devices I have work with 802.11n, but many others are 802.11g at best. The WNDR3700 has 4 ports, to which I've got 3 devices connected all the times. I use the 4th port if I need to setup a new PC or laptop. This router has worked well for me, and gives great service for my needs, but now I've got a situation in which I need more control than what the WNDR3700 offers.

 

My son, who has some learning disabilities and is challenged in other ways (I won't go into all that here now), has some bad habits which are just getting worse. He'll stream a lot of video at the same time on his laptop. For example, in his web browser it is common for him to have at least 20 tabs open, with a few of them streaming videos. It is, of course impossible for him to watch all of those video streams simultaneously, but his thinking is not normal, so he does it anyway. I'll sit him down, tell him how badly he's impacting the rest of us, and he'll stop for a few weeks or a month or so, but at some point he'll go back to his poor citizen behavior ways and just hog the network traffic.

 

I've poked around in the WNDR3700's configuration, to see if there's a way to restrain how much network bandwidth he takes, but there doens't appear to be any way with my router to do that. So, I'm looking for a good replacement router, which will give me better control, that is priced modestly. (i.e.: $500 is not something my wife would condone for a router.) I've got a family of 6, so I'd like to limit my son's network allocation to something like 15% of all Internet traffic on our network. I need a router with at least 4 ports, with 10/100/1000 and I want a duel band at least. Basically, I'd like everything I've got, but with better control of how people use the network, down to the point where I can control how much a machine uses. I think that for my situation a 8 port router that offers WiFi would be overkill, but if that's what I've got to go to, to get the control that I need, then OK.

 

So, what do people here recommend?

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jmwills

Do you have an older PC that you could dedicate for a Linux based router install? If so, pfSense would allow you to create the traffic shaping that it osulds like you need. Best of all, it's free.

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kcormier

There is no doubt that a Linux router distribution will give you ultimate control.

 

Another alternative is a third-party firmware (Tomato, DD-WRT) capable router that will provide way more control than generic consumer offerings but less than the above.

 

I'm a fan of Tomato and their QoS capabilities (never dabbled with DD-WRT) - take a look here to see the kinds of things you can do - will certainly meet your needs.

As for specific router recommendation, the Asus RT-N16 continues to be the king Tomato plaform out there.

 

Note that you router does support DD-WRT so I would investigate/dabble there first before switching out hardware.

 

DD-WRT QoS capabilites can be found here - on quick glimpse, it should satisfy your needs.

Edited by kcormier

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jmwills

The Linksys WRT54GL supports Tomato and can usually be found in the $55 range.

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kcormier

The Linksys WRT54GL supports Tomato and can usually be found in the $55 range.

 

True enough - I am running one myself :)

 

Note that when I say "king" I did so in the context that the RT-N16 is the most popular / performant platform amongst the Tomato community.

 

I am farly certain your existing router is fine from a hardware perspective - all you really need is more control and DD-WRT will give you that.

 

If, for some reason, you decide you want to run Tomato, I believe the $30-$40 price premium for the RT-N16 is money well-spent moving forward.

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jmwills

I am running the Linksys verison now and have been for about two years.

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ikon

The Linksys WRT54GL supports Tomato and can usually be found in the $55 range.

 

but it's not dual band and doesn't support 802.11n

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jmwills

Whatever router you decide on, get a 4 port version and an 8 port switch.

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ikon

I concur with jmwills. What he's saying is that a wireless router, particularly a consumer wireless router, is not the best Ethernet switch you can get - it's better to have a real switch at the core of your LAN and have the wireless router as a device that connects to the switch. Connect as many devices as possible directly to the switch. Your overall performance and reliability will be better.

 

You should check out geek-accountant's posts about his Super Router. He is using pfSense to restrict traffic bandwidth, apparently with great success. An old computer running pfSense may be exactly the medicine your network needs :)

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timekills

 

The Linksys WRT54GL supports Tomato and can usually be found in the $55 range.

 

but it's not dual band and doesn't support 802.11n

 

Exactly. I'm not sure why folks persist in recommending that router. That is relatively expensive for an 802.11g single band. Does running Tomato somehow give it N capabilities?

 

I've used my 3700 with DD-WRT and was not impressed, unfortunately. Then again, I also found that depending on which 3700 version you have, you can run two 802.11g/n streams (one guest, one "normal") but try and run one A stream along with an N or G stream and the router will lock up after an indeterminate but within 72 hour timeline.

 

You can set the MAC for your son's laptop to low in the built-in QoS settings on the 3700. For example, I set my WHS and newsgroup PC to low, my wife's laptop and main Xbox to high, and others to normal. Not a lot of granularity, but it ensures my wife doesn't complain about bandwidth issues when I'm downloading multiple files over a long period, and it makes a marked improvement on lag in the Xbox for my kids. That might be enough to solve the problem.

 

I'd go with the DD-WRT for a shot though if you need more control. I just haven't found any home grade wireless routers that OOB give you the QoS granularity you need. At least wirelessly...now, many do give you control per port, so another option would be to run a second wireless router off of one port and limit the bandwidth from that port.

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