Which router for sis?
August 20, 2012 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Which wireless router for my sister?

My nephew's school is issuing him an iPad this year, so sis needs to add a wireless router. I live 400 miles away, so on-site tech support will be minimal. She has a PC connected to Time-Warner/Roadrunner of Rochester for her internet. They offer a modem/router combination, but charge $29.95 plus $5.48 a month for one. This seems a bit high(!)

So I need a wireless router that will let my nephew use/abuse his iPad, with the added goal of plug-n-play installation. What do we like?
posted by Marky to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What sort of budget? For ease-of-use, I hear that the Airport Express is dead simple, but it's $99.
posted by jquinby at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2012

I have a little Belkin one like this. It's not as fancy-looking as a lot of the other ones out there, but it's cheap and gets the job done well for the entire range of my (large, long) apartment. Very easy install, but just about all of them are these days.
posted by phunniemee at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: Have the router shipped to you, configure it appropriately, and ship it to your sister. At that point you are just looking for something reliable and that you can, in a pinch, admin remotely. My suggestion would be a Buffalo WZR-HP-G450H with TomatoUSB firmware installed.
posted by kindall at 1:39 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

At that rate, the Airport Express will pay for itself in a little less than a year. It's among the easier ways to set up wireless networking remotely and its hardware is more reliable than most access points, in my experience. If you can support on-site, then cheaper APs would work fine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2012

My suggestion would be a Buffalo WZR-HP-G450H with TomatoUSB firmware installed

I have a similar model and the built-in DD-WRT firmware should be fine for most people.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2012

The Airport Express may not be simple for someone who isn't technically inclined. I only have firsthand experience with one unit, but it defaulted to wireless bridge mode during set-up and it took me a minute to figure out why the light was green but no network was available. If my brother had been trying to configure it himself I would've received a call about how the router I suggested was stupid and broken.

If you can't find a a plug and play router, kindall's suggestion to configure it first and forward it your sister is the safest route.
posted by popculture at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2012

You can find refurbed Airport Extreme base stations on Ebay for good prices. That's where I got mine and I've never had a bit of trouble with it.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:06 PM on August 20, 2012

Nthing the Airport Express/Extreme love. The iPad also has a free app that can be used to control/update the router if need be.
posted by squorch at 3:00 PM on August 20, 2012

I also suggest the cheap Belkin ones. They work fine, especially if the usage scenario is basic. There is no reason to spend $99 for something you can get for $29. Especially something which is basically a commodity.
posted by gjc at 3:41 PM on August 20, 2012

I have never seen a reliable Wi-Fi router that was not made by Apple. I never have to turn mine off and on again, which is more than you can say for every Netgear and Linksys piece of crap I've used. You can even configure them easily from an iPhone (Apple made an app).
posted by w0mbat at 10:32 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kindall above has it right, get a Buffalo wireless router shipped to you, put Tomato on it, and ship it to her and log in to it remotely to tweak it if necessary.

Anecdotally, I've done this exact thing three times and every time the recipient has been more than happy.
posted by Sphinx at 11:04 PM on August 20, 2012

I have never seen a reliable Wi-Fi router that was not made by Apple.

This is why I made the recommendation I did: the Buffalo hardware is very reliable and so is the Tomato firmware. I didn't know they were shipping DD-WRT on it now, that is probably good too. (I have an older Buffalo Wireless-G router, not one of those fancy new N ones.)

The only time I have seen my router flake out is when I had the transmit power cranked way up (more than I should have) and a house guest was torrenting all day, causing the radio to overheat. Turned it back down and it was fine.
posted by kindall at 8:21 AM on August 21, 2012

Best answer: Kindall, i'm sorry, but that is just silly. Your reccommended course of action saves less than $20 over an Airport Express and requires a bunch more time and effort. I understand the allure of third party firmware, but, i think, you are addicted.

I'd suggest getting an AirPort Express. It is both more capable and more expensive than absolutely necessary, but it going to do the job as well or better than most other choices and i don't have anything cheaper to reccommend that I am confident in.

One note, Marky, does your sister's cable modem have an ethernet port? If it doesn't and is USB only, then that will have to be addressed. The other thing is, she may already be paying a similar amount per month to rent the cable modem, in which case, upgrading to one with WiFi might not cost her much or any more. Alternatively, it might be worth it to her to buy her own cable modem.
posted by Good Brain at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not suggesting it because it's less expensive than an Airport, for Pete's sake. What I was objecting to was the characterization of Apple's products as the most reliable, indeed the only reliable wireless routers. This simply isn't true.

Furthermore, the Airport doesn't have a Web interface, or even a command line; you need special software to configure it. I consider this a fatal flaw in any networking hardware.
posted by kindall at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2012

Your recommendation for a reliable alternative to an Apple AirPort is a commercial router + a third party firmware. This isn't a product that can be purchased, it is something that has to be assembled from a purchased router and free software. The OP asked for a solution, and your answer was a project.

You and I are free to run whatever non-standard configuration we want, because we are the ones supporting them. Neither of us is supporting the OP, or his sister. Meanwhile, Apple does a pretty good job of standing behind its products.
posted by Good Brain at 5:05 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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