Need suggestions for a sub-$100 WiFi-router for a small house (which can also serve as a media server).
June 23, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Need suggestions for a sub-$100 WiFi-router for a small house (which can also serve as a media server).

I am a complete newbie when it comes to WiFi routers, so I would appreciate some suggestions.

Following are my requirements:

1. I have a small 1-bedroom (1000 sq ft) house so the range does not have to be great. However, the strength within the house should be really good. There will be maximum 2 laptops and 2 phones accessing WiFi from it simultaneously. My internet provider would be Cox Communications.

2. I have a large external hard drive and would like to connect it to the router, so I can copy files or stream video on my laptop/WiFi TV.

3. I have heard there are several advantages to installing an open firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato, so the router should be capable to install one of them.

4. It should ideally be less than $100.

Also, what would be the keywords for my requirements so that I can search on Google, Amazon etc. myself.
posted by libbrichus to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: 5. I forgot to mention, I have utorrent running 24/7 seeding and downloading (legal stuff of course) from private trackers. So, the router would be in constant use for long amounts of time.
posted by libbrichus at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2012

Whatever you get, if you want to make it as reliable as possible, put the thing on a wire shelf or something else where it can get airflow underneath. I went through so many routers that needed constant rebooting until I figured this out, my current router has been running like a dream for nearly two years and has only ever been off for power outages.

The Asus RT-N16 looks like it has the features you want, but I haven't tried it. You'll basically be searching for a wireless router with USB hard drive support. I'd wait and just check it for DD-WRT compatibility once you find one that looks good, rather than expecting listings to advertise this, but the Asus one actually does on Amazon anyway.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:16 PM on June 23, 2012

You might try the Asus RT-N16 as it does have built in support for torrenting. I just set one up recently and had to place it into a server closet next to an elevator and thought it would have problems with the signal but I have had little trouble getting a signal anywhere on the floor.

It can support DD-WRT. I didn't set it up as it wasn't necessary for the setting in which it will be used. I did have a heck of a time getting it to do it's own firmware updating. Best to manually download them and then up them through the router's web interface.
posted by kuppajava at 2:20 PM on June 23, 2012

FWIW, transfer speed on routers that support USB storage is pretty poor.

I bought a cheapo Belkin and put DDWRT and got around 7-8MB/s. From doing research, it appears many routers transfer files around the same speed.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:40 PM on June 23, 2012

You may this post by Jeff Atwood useful, regarding the advantages of open firmware, specifically Tomato. He got an Asus RT-N16 -- "the almost universal recommendation".
posted by snarfois at 3:21 PM on June 23, 2012

I have the better wnr3500L which supports plug not play loads of tomato firmware which supports dlna media streaming, has a usb port for a hard drive from which to stream and can even download torrents for you. Usually about $89

I love it so much I have two now.
posted by chasles at 3:50 PM on June 23, 2012

Damnit blackberry spell check.

It's not the "better" 3500 its the "netgear" wnr3500L
posted by chasles at 3:51 PM on June 23, 2012

The Asus WL-520GU is a good, cheaper alternative to the above-recommended N16 if you don't want/need 802.11n speed. I think it will only support the external hard drive after you've installed DD-WRT (or another open firmware), so just be aware of this.

I have two of them and use one as my main router (with connected USB printer) and another as a wireless bridge. The other big advantage is that it's really hard to "brick" these routers by installing the wrong firmware (which was a big advantage for me when I got them since I was just starting out with DD-WRT).
posted by Betelgeuse at 5:40 PM on June 23, 2012

If you want to stream video over WiFi, get an 802.11n router. Further, I'd suggest getting a simutaneous dual-band router. You may have to use 2.4GHz for your phones, but you'll likely get much better performance out of 5GHz because there is so much less interference.

The Netgear wndr 3800 and the very similar wndr 3700 are good simutaneous dual-band routers with dnla media servers in your price range. They will run dd-wrt, if needed, but not Tomato.
posted by Good Brain at 12:21 AM on June 24, 2012

Throwing this in here but not sure it fits your needs.

I have this little el-cheapo router - Tenda W268R 4-Port Switch 150Mbps Wireless-N Broadband Router - although mine is the 100mbps version. Anyway, it works for me while I do quite a bit up upload/download, I do not do much in the area of media aside from streaming movies and YouTube.

Still, at $15, it is kind of a steal.

Cons: The documentation is a little sparse. Make sure you check for the latest firmware. The web interface is a little clunky. Setup is alright if you do things in a certain order.
posted by lampshade at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2012

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