Cheap But Not Crappy (or Expensive and Awesome) Wifi Routers?
February 26, 2010 8:20 AM   Subscribe

What current wifi router is the least crappy in the sub-$50 market? Alternatively, what hardware sub-$250 is so ridiculously awesome as to warrant replacing a serviceable OpenWRT-running WRT54GL?

I'm temporarily living apart from my girlfriend due to a long story involving work, school, crazy commutes, and other irrelevant relationshipfilter. She's in the old apartment with the cable and my WRT54GL. The woman I'm currently renting a room from has a crappy old Dell wifi router that seems fine for her use (browsing mostly I think), but overheats and crashes under any load (like, say a grad student pulling large data files from his machine at school.. >.>). I'd like to buy a replacement to protect my sanity, but since I'll be back with my WRT54GL (and my lady) in June, I'd like to either keep it cheap and disposable, or get something so awesome that it'll make the WRT54GL irrelevant come June. I haven't monitored the router market in a couple of years, so I don't know what's out there. If I go cheap, it just needs to work consistently and not crash. WPA2 would be nice. If I go expensive, I'd like the ability to run DD-WRT/OpenWRT, and N/Draft-N support. High build quality would be nice (the current crop of Linksys N routers look sort of craptacular in this regard). Built-in support for USB HDDs to create a SAN would be awesome, too.

posted by Alterscape to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's slightly outside your budget for a cheap router, but the Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 runs about $60 and you can mod the firmware.
posted by exogenous at 8:28 AM on February 26, 2010

"Built-in support for USB HDDs to create a SAN would be awesome, too."

Just as a quick FYI, you're going to have a hard time finding small devices that have iSCSI target support (which is what I assume you mean by SAN -- obviously you're not going to see FiberChannel support in a consumer-grade device). You'll find a fair number of devices that do NAS of one flavor or another, but SAN support is extremely unlikely unless you plan to bake your own firmware.

It's a shame, because iSCSI over Ethernet is a truly awesome way to do shared block devices.
posted by majick at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2010

NAS. I meant NAS. My brain is broken this morning, sorry folks! (although, yes, real SAN would be bloody awesome). Also, exogenous, that's about the same price-point as another WRT54GL. What makes the Buffalo box more awesome than the Linksys box? Build quality? Features?
posted by Alterscape at 8:34 AM on February 26, 2010

I've seen refurb WNDR3300 routers for $30ish on various sites (NewEgg,, I have one with DD-WRT and it's pretty great for only 30 bucks, especially as it has N and 5GHz support.
posted by zsazsa at 8:43 AM on February 26, 2010

Newegg has an Asus router that's compatible with DD-WRT for about $30 new:
posted by chengjih at 9:05 AM on February 26, 2010

I gave up on my dd-wrt WRT54GL for a nice little Netgear N router. Its a WNR2000v2 and replaced a Linksys WRT400N which needed a restart every few days and had a bug that wouldnt allow me to do PPTP VPN. The Netgear has been rock solid and cost me half what that Linksys cost me. Im still getting the exact same n speeds (synch at 300, but have 40-42 real world mbps). Range is the same. I'm pretty pleased. It goes for 70 bucks, which is a little over your cheap range, but its silly to keep buying G router nowadays.

I'm a little down that I didnt get one with dd-wrt, but for my home network its overkill and that stuff I've read about dd-wrt on some of these n routers isn't too confidence inspiring. I figure they'll get it right in a year or two when I'm ready to move on.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:22 AM on February 26, 2010

If you don't need 802.11n, don't need more than 4 physical ports, don't need gigabit speed on the physical ports, don't need the USB port, don't need extra memory or speed because you want to do more complex server things with it, then there's not much advantage to be had in something better than a WRT54GL.

I replaced a WRT54G with a WRT350N a little while ago. Until I got another device with 802.11n, the only practical advantage was faster data transfer on the local network, which rarely came up.

The WRT350N runs DD-WRT well; OpenWRT doesn't claim to support it, but some people are running it, but you run the risk of disabling your unit such that you need to do some sort of hardware hacking to talk to it again, or something. I haven't quite kept up.

So... get a WRT54GL; sell it when you're done.
posted by Zed at 10:08 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every cheap wifi router I have purchased died on me or corrupted data. I threw in the towel and bought expensive (over $100) boxes and they've been aces. My experience may not be typical though.
posted by chairface at 11:56 AM on February 26, 2010

Buffalo WHR-HP-G54

Second. I went through a couple Netgear/Linksys models before I settled on this guy, modded with Tomato, about 6 months ago. I haven't even had to so much as cycle it since.
posted by jckll at 8:53 PM on February 27, 2010

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