Best option for home wifi infrastructure upgrade
October 19, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I have narrowed down my home wireless infrastructure upgrade down to two choices, could you help my decide which one is more suitable for my needs?

My current home wireless setup consisted of a Airport Extreme (802.11g model) connected to the DSL router which was extended over the house using WDS with a Linksys WRT54G (running Tomato), and two Airport Express (802.11g model) basestations. Even with this setup, I had dead spots in the house; now one of the Airport Express basestations died.

I think the poor coverage is because of the concrete construction, and I think a couple of high power routers may alleviate my problem. Based on this idea, I have come down to two choices:

1. Buy couple of WHR-HP-54 routers, and install Tomato.
Pro: It will integrate with existing network easily.
Con: My network will continue to be 802.11g.

2. Buy couple of 802.11n routers, and install DD-WRT.
Pro: Future ready; faster intranet transfer.
Con: May not work will with existing hardware.

Which option should I go with?
If you suggest option 2, which router would you recommend?

If this helps to answer the question, the clients on my network are usually
2009 macbook pro
2007 macbook
iPhone 1st gen
2010 toshiba notebook
posted by hariya to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you didn't know, the 1st gen iPhone only does G, and unless you get a dual-band N solution, it'll kick your entire network back down to g speed. The Wii might be G only as well, but I'd have to look it up.

Is it an option to have the wireless APs be connected to eachother via ethernet? All that repeating is going to kill your bandwidth if you do any large transfers of local network stuff.
If so, I'd pick up some older Cisco access points off of Ebay and link them all up. They can all be independent access points running the same SSID and will pass clients between eachother on their own without disconnects. Also they run at 100mw by default (most other gear runs at 30, and even if you can turn it up with a firmware, they tend to overheat) so you'll have very good reception. I had an 1100 and a 1200 on G doing this and it was amazing.

If you're going to go with either of your options above, get APs that have external antennas, and get some bigger antennas. This will make a huge difference.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:51 AM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: The point about the iphone is quite valid. I had thought about that, and was planning to run two networks if I go with option 2. I would connect my linksys router to the wireless-n router with cable, and have two independent networks.

My house is a concrete structure. Passing ethernet cable between floors to connect the APs will be a major renovation adventure I don't want to consider at this point. However, I will also look at Cisco APs off ebay.

The WHR-HP-54 is a high power router, and I thought the wireless-n routers also have better range than the wireless-g ones.
posted by hariya at 12:00 PM on October 19, 2010

FWIW, I was recently looking at routers and I went with the WHR-HP-54 with Tomato. As Threeway Handshake points out, the N support doesn't do anything for you unless all of your devices are using it, unless you have a dual-band router. And I'm a little skeptical of the idea that you're really future-proofing — who knows how long N will really be the state of the art? The industry may have moved on to something by the time you can get rid of all your G devices and actually take advantage of N speeds.

My WHR-HP-54 with Tomato has so far been painless and non-flaky, which is what I was hoping for.
posted by enn at 12:03 PM on October 19, 2010

Go the route of picking up the routers that run Tomato.
While it is G and I don't know how heavy streaming internally you are running, I love Tomato over ddrt (not that its bad, its actually great). Gotta figure the pipe in your house isn't running at speeds required for n and some devices are legacy at g/b you probably could get out ahead and increase the broadcasting wattage for the routers. I can't believe the range I'm able to get by increasing the wattage (mine is running just around a 100 and yes I know FCC frowns on this) and my router is a beast. Been running for over 3 years over watted and have had the same router for probably 6 years.
posted by handbanana at 12:26 PM on October 19, 2010

I think router location is much more important than power. In the 2.4 GHz band you're just not going to get great penetration through concrete. The "N" routers are probably a better choice as they take advantage of multipath and may work better with the reflected signals you're going to get from the wall surfaces. (Make sure you get a true 2 or 3 stream "N" router) Try playing around with the doors open/closed to see if that impacts your signal. Also if you have flexibility in placement give different locations a try. You can also look at using a small mesh network to cover your space. Open-mesh offers a cheap home solution.
posted by white_devil at 6:41 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: To close this thread: I went with a combination of powerline networking, and 3 WHR-HP-G54 routers. I used a pair of powerline 100 Mbps units to send the signal from the router to the most central location of my house, and put my wireless router there. Then I set up 2 more routers as repeaters in other parts of the house, and I have 80-100% signal strength in 100% of my house and yard.
posted by hariya at 1:28 AM on November 18, 2010

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