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The importance of a good router – Why your internet keeps failing

November 23, 2009
“But I have a good router already! My ISP gave me it, it must be the best!”

Man if I had a couple of bucks every time I’ve heard that, I’d be so rich by now. Fact of the matter is, it’s unfortunately far from the truth, and many ISP-provided routers truly suck.

I work with VoIP, and running a Voice call over the internet may be easy with Skype, and you may be OK with choppy calls, but when you’re running an enterprise-grade telephony system, you don’t have the same tolerance for bad quality. Same for Home users, you should not have to put up with daily restarts!

What does that have to do with you? Most probably everything! If you’re here it’s likely because you’re having issues with your internet, and either you think it’s related to your router, or I’ve referred you here from PressF1.

So let’s clear the air about a few routers:

D-Link DSL-320GThe D-Link DSL-302G is quite possibly the worst router of all time. They should be all be burned in one great big bonfire and D-Link publicly mocked for them.

Dynalink RTA1320Dynalink have their overheating RTA1320 that gets so hot the plastic melts and changes from light cream to a rusty looking orange or brown. It’s not the best choice in router. NetComm have suggested it was just a small “batch” that they recalled which had overheating issues, and the firmware is decent, however where possible I avoid them.

2Wire 2070 Telecom have been giving away a 2Wire 2070-series Router and Thomson TG585v7 modems. They’ve got some of the worst web interfaces I’ve ever used, but at least they’re semi-reliable. Again though, they must be cheap routers if they mass-produce them and Telecom gives them away. $199 value? Whatever! Nobody in their right mind would spend $199 on them!

Siemens SX-763Orcon with their HomeHub / BizHub router which is a Siemens SX-763. Best mentioned so far, but again far from the quality that a router should be. It’s locked-down so you can’t change the USB port or VoIP settings (Though performing a factory reset with the button on the underside fixed that for me), it doesn’t overheat, but for a “VoIP router” it doesn’t handle a VoIP server running behind it well at all. Mediocre, but still better than the Telecom stuff I must say.

Belkin N1The Belkin N1 is overpriced and fails to deliver in so many ways. I’m not sure why, but around 60% of all the N1′s I’ve dealt with just seem to have packed up and died. Their ADSL performance / reliability was mediocre anyway. suffering from irregular reboots.

Netgear DG834GThe Netgear DG834G has firmware issues, wireless isn’t reliable, average broadband performance and reliability, but to be honest it’s probably the most reliable router I’m recommending people avoid. They’ve got some other open-source stuff that doesn’t have ADSL Support which is actually really quite nice.

Linksys WAG160NLinksys, yes I love Linksys stuff but man did they mess up badly with the WAG160N. That thing falls over almost as much as the Dynalinks. Sure, I’ve seen ADSL Sync speeds go up when compared with the likes of a Telecom Thomson TG585 by around 3m/bit, but that means nothing to me if it’s not going to function day in and day out reliably.

What’s the solution then? So many bad routers out there, most free, what can you do about it?

Well don’t take the free stuff that your ISP gives away. There’s a reason why it’s free, and that’s not because it’s a good, quality router!

Tell me what I SHOULD buy then? What are good routers?

If you’re a home user or small-business and want an all-in-one solution that “just works”:
NetComm NB6Plus4Wn

If you’re a geek or a business, or perhaps you want a little more control over your router, maybe you give your internet connection a hammering, or if you want QoS (Quality of Service) to prioritize VoIP / Gaming above other traffic, then you want:
A Linksys AM300 in Halfbridge to a Linksys WRT54GL running Tomato Firmware

Please drop me a comment and say Hi, let me know if this has helped you or got you thinking in any way, or perhaps if you’ve got one of the routers then just say so. Always happy to hear from readers.

Cheers

Chill.

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39 comments

  1. I’m surprised more Linksys gear isn’t on this list. The WAG54GV2 overheats, makes this high pitch winy noise and has a high failure rate not to mention firmware is stink. AG241 after-awhile will drop the link and not reconnect unless you physically power cycle it (reboot is not enough). Linksys make good products (voip gear is fine) but there is a lot of bad router models now unless its something like the WRT I stay away from them.

    One of my favourite routers are Draytek fantastic easy to use web GUI and pretty much rock solid. I initially wrote them off a few years ago as thought they looked a bit bugdet oops!


    • Yeah we’ve had a bad experience with the likes of Linksys AG300 too. So much for them “replacing” the AM300, they sucked so bad.
      I’ve also had good recommendations from people on the Draytek Vigor 2820. Slightly higher priced (Around $550), but apparently it’s well worth the investment. I’m still yet to try one myself though.


    • It’s probably also worth me mentioning that there could also be a *ton* of other routers that I add on to there under the D-Link category especially, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but simply the most common routers that I have been replacing as of late … Especially as half of them are still being given away by ISPs!


  2. Looking at online prices I see wireless N cards are about $70+ are they really worth it? Will I notice a difference in online gaming and what model would you reccomend?
    Thanks,

    Matthew


    • Hi Matthew,
      To be honest you won’t notice a difference in gaming at all. You may potentially notice a difference in the range, but you’re better off buying a larger antenna and boosting the power output to that antenna so that *all* who are connected via A / B / G wireless get the benefits of a larger range. N is supposed to be faster, yet even if you have a poor connection and are connected at 1mbps, you’re still going to have way more than enough “speed” to watch YouTube AND game at the same time. Then there’s the issue of N-Wireless not being a final standard yet, and some cards don’t work with some routers as well as others do. Stick with a nice G-router like the Asus WL-520GU or the Linksys WRT54GL with Tomato on it, I reckon you’d get MUCH more mileage out of it than an N-Wireless card.
      Hope that helps

      Chill.


  3. Info here was greatly received. I bought a new Linksys WAG54G2 wireless gateway for Telstraclear after moving from Orcon. Had untold issues with speed, on the phone for hours with telstra (their service was really good, they kept their promises of ringing me back when they said they would). Finally did what I should have done in the first place and posted a query on Pressf1 and chill put me onto his blog. Got the Linksys AM300 and instant success with huge speed increase from 200Kbps with the WAG to 3000Kbps.

    So… anyone looking at buying a new wireless gateway…do not buy the WAG54G2, it’s rubbish!!

    Thanks CS


    • Great to hear you’re happy mate! :-)


  4. My area (in Auckland) is due to be upgraded to ADSL2 in (or before) April 2010 and I am considering a new wireless modem/router. Already, the cabinets have been installed in the surrounding streets and I swear my broadband speed has increased. On the http://www.pcworld.co.nz, the forums is abuzz with pingtest.net and on testing my computer I get an ‘A’.

    Ideally, I would like one with a port which will allow me to connect my laser printer to it, so that I don’t have to start the main PC in the house, just to print something.

    I currently have a DSE XH9950 which has been excellent and never missed a beat.
    Can you recommend a wireless modem/router or some other solution.

    Based upon your recommendation I would, without hesitation, purchase the NetComm NB6Plus4Wn, but I need to solve my printing issue.


    • Hey mate,
      Yeah I presume you’ve noticed the thread I sticked on the main Forums. Interesting results I thought!
      Anyway, to be honest I’d go with the NB6Plus4WN, I’ve found in almost all situations where I’ve used them the DSL Sync Speed has increased a bit (And in some cases by around 2-3m/bit!), but if your router is already reliable, then I’m of the opinion why fix something if it ain’t broke!
      Anyways there’s two types of options I can see:
      http://pbtech.co.nz/index.php?item=NETSTL14073 — Is the cheapest, probably pretty basic, but should do what you wanna do.
      http://pbtech.co.nz/index.php?item=NETNCM3681 — More advanced, supports two printers and can connect to the network wirelessly.
      I’ve used the NetComm one and it wasn’t bad, though you definitely need to upgrade the firmware ;-)
      Hope this helps

      Chill.


  5. The adsl router you suggested doesn’t have simultaneous dual band N. Any suggestions? The closest one I can think of is the WAG320N, but it is linksys (which people generally don’t like) and while it is dual band, it can only use one at a time.


    • Yeah I’d avoid anything Linksys makes at the moment in terms of routers that does N-Wireless.
      In fact, I’m avoiding N-Wifi altogether personally, I find I get more range and bang-for-buck out of G-Wifi + Antenna + Power Output.
      Even transferring 13gigs at a time of HD video from my TiVo via WiFi, I’m still happy with 54mbps, so don’t really need the extra speed. Sorry, I’m not much use there…


  6. I was googling and I found this article of yours, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask for your suggestion to my problem. Thanks.

    I currently using Belkin Wireless N router.

    The router used to have this problem:
    - File transfer of computers connected via the router (LAN) is extremely slow. <1 mb/s at usual and max is 2 mb/s.

    I ignored that problem for a long time now, but some new problems arise:
    - My modem refuse to detect any activity from my wireless router.

    Tried changing the cable to connect modem to router, but still:
    - Sometimes the modem still not detect any activity from the router.
    - File transfer is slower than ever. Under 10kb/s?
    - Internet access is extremely slow. I'm sure this is not a problem with my internet connection, because direct connection from notebook to modem works just fine.

    Really need a fix for this problem. Everyone in the house needs internet access for their own computers. If a fix isn't available, I really like a recommendation for a good wireless router. My requirements are only:
    - My house has two floors and it need to cover all areas of my house, so I extremely need good signal strength/coverage.
    - Budget is less than US$100.
    - Low priority (just plus point if its there): Setting for bandwidth prioritize/cap per computer.

    I hope I'm not asking too much out of you. Thank you.


    • I would recommend the Linksys WRT54GL, put the Tomato firmware on it, potentially with the Tomato -MOD for per-PC throttling / bandwidth caps, and depending on how much you have left over get yourself some larger antennas for the WRT54GL too. I’ve got a How-To here for installing / setting up basic prioritization for Tomato which will get you pointed in the right direction, but it will likely be a bit of work. It’ll be rewarding, and worth it though! :-) Post back with how you go.


  7. Hi Chill,

    Nice article! I am currently using a NB6PlusWn I could say I upgraded from a DG834PN, but my speeds have been reduced by a huge amount.

    I’ve gone from a 21,000Kbps sync, to 18,500Kbps. The modem is extremely stable (Not a single drop out) but it’s missing many tweak options to get the speed back up up.

    In my opinion this modem is much better suited and should be recommend to people who have more the 3kilometers (I’m about 50meters) from there exchange, or the non-technically minded.

    I’ve also tested a Linksys AM300 and it didn’t seem to get my speeds back up either, was about the same as the Netcomm.

    I’ll be getting my hands on a Billion soon, once I work out which one!


    • Hi Goon,

      Good to hear from you, thanks for the feedback. It’s good to hear you’re getting such good stability from the NB6Plus4Wn. As you can see with the Linksys gear, one manufacturer never seems to get them *all* correct, so it could be that the Netgear is a good upgrade?
      I’ve personally had bad experiences with the Billion routers, YMMV, but would be very interested in what sort of speeds you get with the likes of a Draytek DV120?


  8. I’m using a Netcomm NB6Plus4Wn & it is great, but I am always weary of new products from Netcomm – I sold a couple of netcomm wireless routers (not ADSL) that were rebadged dynalinks, then my supplier replaced them with a new Netcomm wireless router & it was flaky as hell. They have since gone back the the rebadged dynalinks.


    • Yeah pretty much. When one company bought out the other, things were topsy turvy for a bit, but let’s be honest, they’ve made some good stuff and made some bad stuff. Same as Linksys, they make some darn fine hardware, but they’ve also fouled up horribly at times too!


  9. nett comm ADSL2+/3G Wi-Fi Router -3G15Wn
    Hi
    How does the neettcomm 3g15Wn stack up for a home user and how does it compare to the netcomm nb6plus4wn …looking for a 3g option
    thanks


    • Hi Michelle,
      That’s a very good question. To be honest, I’ve not actually used the NetComm 3G15Wn, however I *have* used the N3G005w:
      http://www.netcomm.com.au/netcomm-products/wireless-broadband/n3g005w

      From what I *do* know of it, the 3G15Wn is likely just a combination of the two, and you should be fine. I’ve found my N3G005w to be absolutely brilliant, though the 3G data charges are absolutely horrible. I’ve used it with both Vodafone and XT, both worked without a worry, though in my area in West Auckland I got *significantly* faster speeds with XT.

      All in all, if you’re going for 3G, it should be good!

      Hope this helps

      Chill.


  10. Hi
    Thanks so much for this post. I was looking around for how to replace my speedtouch 580 which had begun flaking out. I know to be very wary with routers thanks to it always being a drama to find a reliable one back in the day – Nokia M1122′s were worth every cent – my sister still uses my old one.

    Now I’m up and running with a speedtouch 610 and the Linyksys running tomato. It took me a while to figure out that using the “Routed PPPoA – DHCP Spoofing” profile at http://speedtouch.co.nz/st610.htm was the easiest way to get the bridging needed.

    If anyone else out these is trying to get their router to pass through to the Linksys I found the following page extremely helpful: http://www.wlug.org.nz/Half%20bridge%20with%20PPPoA

    It lists which routers can do it and how best to get it working.


    • Hi Craig, thanks for the heads up.
      I’ve found the easiest router was the AM300 personally, for some reason I couldn’t get Tomato working doing PPPoE with the Draytek DV120, though I know they can act as a PPPoA -> PPPoE bridge :)


      • Yes – the AM300 will be back in stock in July. I just used the 610 as I bought one cheap for my work before finding out that the connection is ADSL2 which the 610 does not do. I’ll get an AM300 if they deploy ADSL2 in my neighbourhood.

        Apparently Telecom have upgraded the cabinet for my street and it should be live soon, but I don’t know if that will apply to me as my ISP is Orcon. As far as I can tell Orcon deploys ADSL2 from their own equipment in exchanges not street cabinets.

        I’m not up to speed with how the ADSL market works these days so maybe it will be upgraded soon.


      • This website here will tell you: http://telecomwholesale.co.nz/maps
        You’d be surprised, and for a quick call to Orcon to find out, I’d strongly recommend trying to get hooked up to your nearby roadside cabinet if possible. Makes an *insane* amount of difference!


  11. Hi, Thanks for a very informative post. I was wondering if you could help me with some recommendations? I have a Linksys WAG54G2 and as someone commented above it’s rubbish. The wired connection is ‘okay’ but the wireless part (the reason for buying it) is totally unreliable.

    Anyway, after several attempts at explaining the problem, one of the guys at Dick Smith has finally said I can exchange it, and would really appreciate some advice. The AG300 sounds as if it will be just as much trouble as this one and unfortunately they don’t sell NetComm products.

    The only likely candidate on their website is a D-Link DSL-2730B . Do you know anything about it? I’ve googled for reviews but haven’t found any, probably because it appears to be a relatively new product, but I sense that D-Link products aren’t held in high regard.

    Other than that I was wondering about the Linksys WRT54GL as an option, which they sell (overpriced). Do you know if it’s possible to use it in conjunction with my old D-Link DSL-504G wired router? It doesn’t have half-bridged mode so I’m not optimistic but it would at least tide me over for a while if there was a way.

    Thanks for listening and sorry for the long question, I hope you don’t mind.


    • Hi Jeff,

      Yes you could use the WRT54GL along-side your D-Link DSL-504G. In fact, just yesterday I began writing a screencast / video blog on how to do something just like that.
      DSE do both the Linksys AM300 and the WRT54GL. They will also price match if you can show them any retail store (Online-only doesn’t count) where you can purchase it from cheaper, so you might as well make use of that ;)

      Hope that helps

      Chill.


      • Hi Chill,

        Thank you very much for the reply. Can you possibly suggest some tips on how to set up the DSL-504G so it will work correctly with the WRT54GL (I assume the WRT54GL ‘just works’), or would it be better and easier for you if I wait for the video blog? Will it be posted here or somewhere else?

        I’ve googled to try and find a guide myself, as well as following some links others have posted above, but unfortunately any info was too unspecific to be helpful and seemed a little contradictory.

        One thing that did seem a concern was the mention that a very short DHCP lease time should be used to avoid problems. Is that necessary in your method for connecting a adsl router to the WRT54GL? Does the AM300 half-bridge mode avoid things like that?

        Thanks once again,
        Jeff


  12. What about Cisco routers, like the 800 series? these seem to work very well. Have you tried these before?

    Thanks


    • Hi yesmat,
      I can’t say I have, but I’ve used a few other Cisco routers doing consulting for other customers with existing setups of Asterisk. I’ve more stuck to the Draytek / Linksys gear personally.
      Cheers
      Chill.


      • I use Cisco routers on a daily basis and I can say that they are really good. But I guess what I am asking is whether they have any negative impact on Asterisk of SIP in general knowing how senstive SIP is to NAT etc…

        I have a customer that suffered too much from random SIP call drops (both inbound and outbound) and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I am thinking that I should have replaced the router. Any thoughts?

        Thanks


  13. Hi chill, great blog entry, finding routers that actually work is a constant hassle,
    I am having trouble with an AM300, the sip ALG is changing outbound port numbers and breaking the sip registration.

    Have you experenced this? Any suggestions?
    (using 2 or three phones each with multiple sip accounts. More complex than the average configuration I agree)

    Is there a modem that you have found allows multiple handsets registering to multiple sip providers without fail? my greatest success has been with the zyxel P660HD-D1 but that’s not available for sale in NZ :-(

    Look forward to your thoughts.


    • Hi Abe,

      It’s probably a pretty relatively easy fix, though it depends on your phones / ATA’s you’re using. I’d personally get an Asterisk box hooked up locally if you could. Even an old 300Mhz Celeron would suffice for several calls, if it’s not transcoding between codecs for calls.
      I’ve had 30 trunks going over an AM300 to an Elastix box and it was rock solid (We oversubscribed as the ADSL2+ could only physically handle 15), it was up for months on end, but to be honest I put it in half-bridge mode so that may partly be why. Strongly recommend you do-so and use something like a WRT54GL with Gargoyle / Tomato on it. It may just be what’s needed to resolve your issue :)

      Never used the Zyxel gear to be honest, no comment there sorry.


  14. Hi Chill, Yet another unhappy WAG54G2 buyer. I was after a wireless router/modem that could do throttling or at the very least QoS. I’ve got the dreaded “resetting to bridge mode” problem every few hours or so, like so many others. Cisco aren’t helpful at all.

    I’m considering going to a WRT54G with Tomato and an AM300 after reading your article. I’d probably be happy with any old cruddy modem/router set up if my boarder didn’t use Skype all the time to call home. It is a true bandwidth hog and takes over my WLAN while she is calling, which is why I bought the WAG54G2, to try to control it.

    Is there any issue with the AM300? Some people seem to have doubts…

    Is there a better modem out there? I only need one for a home network but the Dynalink modem I used with my original Airport Extreme was rubbish and overheated.

    Cheers for the informative article. I wish I’d read it before forking out for the WAG54G2.

    Harry


    • Hi Harry,
      The AM300 is great because it does half-bridge, and this avoids double-NAT which is always good! The WRT54GL + Tomato (Or Gargoyle firmware is what I’ve been alternative with lately) is what handles the ‘brunt’ of the load, and they’re great, so you really can’t lose. I say go for it! :D

      I know what you mean about the WAG54G2, it was one of the routers I purchased for a client after recommendation from PBTech that it was the AM300 replacement. Never doing that again, that’s for sure …


  15. Excellent reading material, everything becomes so much clearer now. Gets so monotonous resetting that useless router from Vodafone.

    Anyway Chill, Christmas 2010 around the corner, please recommend a nice Router surprise present for myself. I do P2P, my daughter music & son PS3 COD. Point me in the right direction and a hohoho merry Christmas to you.

    I’ve noted your previous recommendation but is that still current? Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


    • Yeah to be honest there’s a couple of other similar 11n models by NetComm but they’re all quite good. I’m still an advocate of the AM300 in half-bridge to either a WRT54GL, or I’ve been playing with 1-port Wireless AP’s, the Accton MR3202A (See http://www.open-mesh.com for info). They’re also really awesome routers (Quite possibly nicer than the WRT54GL because they’re perfectly happy sitting in direct sunlight under heavy traffic load), but only useful if your whole network is going wireless.
      Anyways, because you’re wanting to do all of the above, then I’d suggest the AM300 + WRT54GL so that you can do QoS (Prioritizing PS3 traffic over say the P2P or streaming music), not to mention with the Gargoyle firmware you can set per-device bandwidth caps, and easily find out where all your data is going.
      Hope this helps, and merry Christmas to you too!


  16. Chill,

    I run a linux box and have an older Billion modem/router (non-wireless) connected to a Linksys ATA for doing VoIP, etc.

    Time has come to upgrade to enable wireless (for connecting my laptop and smartphone) and was hoping to find a device that did all three (modem, router, VoIP) in one as opposed to separates.

    Looking at your recommendations above they do not seem to have VoIP capability). Can you recommend a cost effective solution?

    I am not a gamer and the most intensive it will get is Skype and some file transfers.

    Thanks for your help.


    • Hey mate,
      To be honset I’d avoid the “all-in-one” solutions like some of the Linksys stuff. They’re not the most reliable. Keep your ATA (I’m taking it that you have an SPA2102 or a PAP2?), and get yourself the NetComm NB6Plus4Wn. PBTech still have them for a great price.
      It’ll be reliable, it’ll work well with your adapter too, it’s easy to setup, and it won’t cost the earth ;)
      Let me know what you end up giong with, and how you get on
      Cheers

      Chill.


      • HI Chill,

        Thanks for your advice. Just moved to Wellington so have been offline for a few days (sorry for the delayed reply!)

        YOpu are correct in your assumption – I am running the SPA2102.

        Bought the NetComm NB6Plus4Wn on your advice and it is really good. The simplicity to setup was ridiculous!

        Took 5mins to plug in, open web interface, enter ISP details and change wireless passwords. Then it just worked – great!

        Works very well and anecdotally seems to be quicker than my previous modem/router both in straight line speed and in lag reduction. Will run some speed tests soon to get the numbers but for now I am well satisfied.

        Thanks again for your advice and the informative detail on your website – you should receive New Years Day honours next year:)

        Cheers,
        Supersimmo


  17. I bought a NetComm NB6Plus4Wn, 8 monhs ago and was ready to throw it out of the window. I had a professional company take a look at it and they couldn’t get a decent signal out of it (he used an i-phone I think to check). I returned it to the distributors, who sent it back and said there was nothing wrong with it). The speed was unusable and I couldn’t get a netbook to connect wirelessly (‘n’), even when it was in the same room.

    After hours and hours of playing with it, I have it working with…
    802.11b/g/n
    20MHZ Channel width
    WPA2-PSK
    AES

    Firmware: 3.104d

    I dare not change any settings but would like to know what the difference between 20MHZ and 40MHZ is.

    The only other issues I have are that it runs hot and every couple of months it seems to lock up and I have to disconnect the power and leave it for a few hours.



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