Who makes a good wifi+router?
December 24, 2010 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend a wireless router that doesn't require rebooting periodically with WPA2 on?

My old Buffalo WHR-G54S running the latest firmware (1.40 from 2006) works fine with no encryption turned on but with WPA/PSK/AES on, gets slow after a day or so. Trying to copy a 20MByte file from a newish iMac connected via ethernet to a 2006 iMac on wifi was going to take 20 minutes, then after 10 minutes of that, then connection failed. After a router reboot, it copied over in a few seconds.

I'd get an Apple Airport Extreme due to the USB ports and Wireless N and I get a discount, but I've heard even it can slow down & need a reboot.

But.... perhaps different issues are being conflated. There's reportedly a problem where some Macs attach to the first unsecured WAP they find after waking from sleep. While going through the steps to fix that, some people might think that power cycling is fixing an unrelated problem.

I'm at the point where I might buy a separate access point, router and switch just to be able to troubleshoot more effectively.
posted by morganw to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've run an Apple Airport Extreme for several years now with WPA2, and never had to reboot it to clear problems. This is with three laptops connecting wirelessly and two desktops wired, seeing a very high amount of use.

I also recently extended my wireless network around a massive concrete wall with a wall plugged-in Airport Express. Pretty slick.
posted by fatbird at 5:55 PM on December 24, 2010

I have a Netgear WNDR3700. It is the 2001 monolith compared to my old WRT54GL. Likely it's more router than my apartment really needs.

It's awesome. Highly recommended.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:17 PM on December 24, 2010

Best answer: I've had this problem with every router I've had except Airport Extreme. On the Linksys side, people always told me to try Tomato or DD-WRT firmware, but I had the same problem with those (with multiple devices). I think the hardware just sucks -- it overheats or something and stops working.

I have had an Airport Extreme for about a year and a half now, and I have had exactly zero problems with it. I have Macs, Windows machines, an iPhone, a Blackberry, TiVos, a wireless security camera, a Wii and as of this week a Sony GoogleTV Blu-Ray player attached to it, and it's all working beautifully.
posted by sharding at 6:17 PM on December 24, 2010

Actually, I amend my answer slightly. I also had a Cisco Aironet AP at one point that was quite solid (802.11g -- this was before N came about). However, it was also ridiculously expensive, and I'm not sure what the current state of those are. The Airport Extreme is the only consumer AP I've had that's solid, but commercial ones may be better.
posted by sharding at 6:20 PM on December 24, 2010

I have a Netgear WGR614 and it has the same problem, so don't get one.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:26 PM on December 24, 2010

Try installing DD WRT on it. It is magical and doesn't cost you a dime.
posted by empath at 6:28 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been using an Apple Airport Express for four years. I have never had to reboot it unless the power happened to go out.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:41 PM on December 24, 2010

DIR-655 (or I suppose the dual band version 825 or 855 I think )
I've never had a problem with mine, typically I only bounce it if I'm making changes.

I've had mine for nearly 4 years and dont have this issue - I run WPS2/PSK/AES N only now, though I've run mixed before all my stuff at home I cared about was N.

USB port works with the software you have to install...only 1 user at a time tho... otherwise go for a print server or NAS if you are using that for storage or printing and need multi/simultaneous user access.
posted by clanger at 7:12 PM on December 24, 2010

Seconding the WNDR3700 -- Got one a few months ago and it has been rock solid.
posted by Jinkeez at 7:21 PM on December 24, 2010

If you have a power control, try turning it down. It will overheat less, and hopefully need fewer reboots and last longer.

Failing that, all of Apple's routers have been good for me. I had an office of 30 people on one Airport Extreme, and I've personally used a Time Capsule and Airport Express without any trouble. (I also have always turned the power down on each ... I have my Time Capsule turned down to 10% normal power and it still covers my whole place without issue)
posted by icebourg at 9:25 PM on December 24, 2010

I'm running WPA2 on a Cisco Linksys E3000 with DD-WRT build 14929, which is still the recommended build. Since however many months ago that I set it up, I've had no reason to touch it at all and it has performed very very well.

When I set it up, I made two easy changes (beyond using DD-WRT) to increase reliability: I elevate it a bit for heat circulation (on a set of these, because they were handy) and I replaced the stock power supply with this.

I never had heat or power problems with the E3000, but I took those preemptive measures because convincing reports in the forums indicated that they would aid reliability, longevity and performance (especially the upgraded power supply).

The E3000 is unusual among wireless routers in that it supports simultaneous 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. Lots of routers can select between one or the other, but only a small minority operate on both simultaneously. In my setup, the 5 GHz band is 802.11n only, and that isolation of n from b and g is supposed to allow the best performance possible out of n, including all the nifty stuff like channel bonding, which I am using in my setup.

The E3000 runs a bit under $150 from Amazon or Newegg. It's not the cheapest, but I have no regrets despite my own skinflint tendencies.
posted by NortonDC at 9:26 PM on December 24, 2010

Linksys WRT54GL running latest Tomato firmware is completely flawless for me :)
posted by mosherdan at 9:36 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've had an Airport Extreme, and a WRT54G(L) for several years, and neither have given me anything more than a (very) occasional problem. With the latest firmware, neither has given me a single problem in quite a long time. Eventually, I put Tomato on the WRT54G, because I was running a somewhat unusual/perverse network topology that the original firmware didn't like. Tomato handled it like a champ.

The Airport Extreme is regarded as an almost-but-not-quite-Enterprise-grade piece of hardware. It's ridiculously overpowered for what it is. (The Airport Express, on the other hand, is fairly unremarkable, and I believe there were quite a few bad batches of the hardware on those)

This is all anecdotal, of course, but most routers these days will handle WPA2 just fine. The "higher end" models will probably be a bit better, and you'll have more options with alternative firmwares. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a "universally known to be awesome" 802.11n router, like the WRT54G was for 802.11g...
posted by schmod at 9:44 PM on December 24, 2010

Alix 2d3 running m0n0wall here. No reboots at all unless I lose power.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:56 PM on December 24, 2010

Another vote in flashing it with some decent firmware. If you're just gonna replace it anyway, what possible harm could there be, maybe save a few bucks.

I found Tomato a smidge easier to work with than DD-WRT, but I've had my Buffalo for a couple years now. I'm not up on DD-WRT these days.
posted by Sphinx at 11:57 PM on December 24, 2010

The Linksys WRT54G and Netgear routers I've bought have been expensive experiments gone bad. A complete waste of time and money. The Apple Extreme base stations have been tanks, day in and day out.

We have used the old "UFO" variety, up to the single and dual (802.11g/n) antenna version, and have experienced no issues connecting PS3s, Xboxes, iPhones, Windows XP and 7 clients, Macs, etc.

YMMV, but the Apple gear has been worth the extra $20 for us, over a feature-comparable dual antenna Netgear.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 AM on December 25, 2010

Best answer: I used to think having a single box that did everything (ADSL, routing, VoIP, wireless) was a really good idea, because I was sure it would all Just Work and I wouldn't have to mess with it. So I bought a Billion 7402VGP does-everything router.

I still have it, but all I use it for now is ADSL and Internet routing; it does a fine job of both. But both its VoIP ports blew up, so I bought a Linksys SPA3102 for that; then its wifi just died, so I bought an UltraWAP to do that. And both those bits of gear do their respective jobs better than the Billion ever did either of them.

It will cost you less to attach a decent WAP to your existing router than to upgrade the whole thing, especially if you're happy with the non-wireless bits. I have not used the N version of the UltraWAP, but if it's anything like the G version it's fairly basic, very cheap, very reliable and very effective.
posted by flabdablet at 5:08 AM on December 25, 2010

My Airport Extreme has been excellent. However if you are seeing similar problems with different access points, then access points are probably not your problem and a new one won't fix anything.
posted by chairface at 10:26 AM on December 25, 2010

I own two Netgear WNR2000's and love them both. As far as I'm concerned this is the best cheap home N router and I've tested several different models. I get real world N speeds of 80-90mbps when transferring over SMB or FTP through three walls and 30 feet away. I dislike Buffalo, all their products seem cheaply built and seem to have issues. I'm not sure why I see them recommended so often, probably because they're junky enough to get by and always on sale.

Airport extremes are also good but clock in at least twice the price.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:50 PM on December 25, 2010

Best answer: Another vote for an Airport Extreme. Keep in mind that it's a true dual band router. Many aren't, which means you have to set it up to be either G or N but not both bands at the same time. With Airport Extreme, this isn't an issue.

I haven't had to reboot my router since the day I bought it. My stupid Comcast modem, on the other hand...

Before buying an Airport Extreme, I owned a B/G only Airport Express. During the 4 years I owned it, I rebooted it twice. Once when I moved to a new apartment and again when I moved to another apartment. I only replaced it because I wanted wireless N and found a refurbished Airport Extreme at too low a price to pass up (found it on Amazon. Hooray for Amazon!)
posted by 2oh1 at 2:23 PM on December 25, 2010

The Airport Extreme is rock solid. If that's too expensive get the cheaper Airport Express, but you are missing out on the 5GHz band (the Extreme has separate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios and will use both at once, which is terrific).
Current Netgear and Linksys routers just do not have the ability to stay up long term. Hell, the Netgear my mom had couldn't stay up for more than an hour or two on her broadband connection. I replaced it with an Apple router which has to my knowledge has never hung.

If you are planning on hanging a disk off the Extreme, you may want to check out a Time Capsule instead - it's less clutter that a router and a drive, and your backups over N will be faster.
posted by w0mbat at 10:38 PM on December 25, 2010

Best answer: w0mbat: Current Netgear and Linksys routers just do not have the ability to stay up long term.

That is a flat-out false statement. My Cisco Linksys E3000 has been up 39 days, since we lost power in a windstorm. It came back up on its own with no intervention and just works. This is on a 20 megabit per second connection, and we run it on both 2.4 and 5 GHz simultaneously, under sustained heavy loads like multiple simultaneous Netflix streams, including HD streaming.
posted by NortonDC at 5:57 AM on December 26, 2010

nthing I've never had any problems at all running high bandwidth for a long time through WPA2 on WRT54Gs running DD-WRT.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:21 AM on December 26, 2010

And, to add to that, given it's about a third of the price of an Airport Extreme, you can't really go wrong.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:24 AM on December 26, 2010

My WNDR3700 with DDWRT has been up for over 60 days, basically since the day I've bought it.
posted by aeighty at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2010

Currently, we are plagued and probably going to replace it. Constant dropping of connections. Doesn't seem happy to handle the xbox doing a download while the iTouch wants to look something up. We have previously been quite happy with Netgear equipment. Our previous one lasted far better than the Linksys that preceded it.
posted by Goofyy at 11:46 AM on December 27, 2010

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