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Best DD-WRT Compatible Routers 2017
Buyer's Guide and Reviews

In the world of computing one of the most elusive, yet important pieces of paraphernalia is the wireless router. We call it elusive not because it’s actually hard to find, but because, in direct contrast to other PC peripherals, most users don’t actually know what to look for in one of these products. As long as it allows us to create a wireless network and grants us a degree of user access control, then we’re pretty much set. However, the most computer-savvy individuals know that there’s actually much more to buying a router than its ability to create a wireless network. For example, routers that allow for custom firmware can actually provide better performance than more expensive options, for half or even a quarter of their price.

When we say custom firmware, we’re actually referring to the DD-WRT, which is an open source firmware based on the Linux OS and developed to squeeze every ounce of performance out of your wireless router. Granted, this firmware is only compatible with certain routers, most of which had inconsistent or outright mediocre stock firmware on release. The firmware itself was used to unlock some restrictions set upon the routers on release and provides a greater degree of control over your network. Furthermore, this custom firmware bestows better security alternatives than the factory default, allowing the user to enjoy a more stable network, giving them the capability to encrypt network traffic by rerouting it through a VPN and, similar to stock routers, create several segmented WiFi networks within a single space, each with different sets of parameters.

In short, the main appeal of DD-WRT boils down to increased control and performance for all your wireless networks and, while manufacturers tend to develop hardware mostly for non-technical users, we found that those with a bit of tech-savvy will be able to get the most out of their wireless router as well.​

Best DD-WRT Router 2017

Image

Model

Connectivity Technology

Total LAN Ports

TP-Link N600

WiFi

4

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900

WiFi

4

ASUS RT-AC56U

Wireless

4

Linksys AC1900

Wireless

4

ASUS RT-AC5300

Wireless

4


1. TP-Link N600 - Our Pick for Best DD-WRT Router 2017

TP-Link is one of the big fish in the industry of wireless routers. Their products are some of the best in the market, especially when it comes to mid-range routers for home networks. The N600 is equipped with a pair of antennae which, when working in conjunction, can provide a wider and more stable area of area coverage compared to others with single or no antenna. One of the best features about this router, besides the compatibility with DD-WRT, is its ability to create wireless networks in 2 bands simultaneously. With the N600 the user has absolute control over the network, as they can easily create wireless networks in both the 2,4GHz and 5Ghz band simultaneously, and with different security and bandwidth settings each.

One last thing important thing to mention about the N600 is its built-in media server, which allows the user to share music, video, and images across various compatible devices, such as Windows Media Player, PS3, XBOX 360, and so on.


2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900

This router was specifically designed for those that require the absolute fastest performance at all times, besides being equipped with 3 antennae which, similar to our previous entry, can provide a significantly better wireless experience to the users that are connected to the network, the Nighthawk also has an onboard 1GHz dual-core processor, which can provide monstrously high internet speeds, as long as your ISP can keep up. Similar to the N600, this wireless router is able to transmit in dual-band, with a maximum speed of 600Mbps in the 2,4GHz band, and 1300Mbps in the 5GHz band, for a total of 1900Mbps of network bandwidth. This makes the Nighthawk better suited for the workplace or other situations where multiple users need to connect to the same network without the bottleneck caused by other routers not being able to keep up with the demand.

Furthermore, the Nighthawk is also equipped with various quality of life features designed to improve the user’s experience. Said features include Beamforming+ and high-powered amplifiers to increase the area of coverage, the ability to connect and customize your network settings with your smartphone from anywhere with the OpenVPN app, and the ReadyCLOUD USB and ReadySHARE features, which allow you to easily access your USB drive from anywhere, and share the files contained within it with your friends.


3. ASUS RT-AC56U

This router is a bit more simple than the first two, but it is still able to provide wireless internet in simultaneous dual-band fashion with a combined bandwidth of up to 1167Mbps for the 2,4GHz and 5GHz bands. Despite not having any visible antennae, this wireless router boasts 150% increased coverage area in any direction, compared to older models. Similar to the Nighthawk, this router allows remote configuration of its wireless network via Asus’s free app, the ASUS AiCloud. Besides configuring the network, this software also allows the user to sync, stream, and share files with others. Additionally, the RT-AC56U has 4 ethernet ports, and 2 USBs on its backside, which allows the physical connection of several devices simultaneously, as well as sharing the use of a printer across the same network.


4. Linksys AC1900

Similar to all our previous entries, the AC1900 also allows dual-band connection. However, its 4-antennae setup ensures consistent performance and speed on all the devices that are connected to the network, across a wider area than the other routers on this list. This feature makes the AC1900 ideal for multi-level homes, as well as big office spaces where wide network coverage is a must. In terms of speed, this router is able to crank out a maximum of 1900Mbps across its bands; 600Mbps on the 2,4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band. Similar to the Nighthawk, this router has an onboard processor which consists of a dual-core CPU operating at a frequency of 1,6GHz. This extra processing power allows high-speed data processing between every connected user, without lag or overall slowdowns on the whole network.


5. ASUS RT-AC5300

This router is by far the strongest contender n this list, with an appropriately high price tag to boot. The RT-AC5300 looks like something straight out of a sci-fi horror film, with its 8 detachable antennae which, when combined, create a very wide and stable network across its coverage area (5,000 sq. ft.). The router uses 4x4 technology to provide tri-band coverage with a maximum bandwidth of 5334Mbps across all its bands; two 5GHz bands and a single 2,4GHz band. To complement its terrific speed and bandwidth, the AC-5300 has an onboard 1,4GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of memory to properly satisfy the demands of every user that is connected to the network. Furthermore, this router has 4 ethernet ports which can operate at 2Gbps, as well as a single 3.0 USB port for external storage devices. It can also easily share a printer or other similar device across the whole network.

This router was specifically designed for gaming; it offers built-in integration to the WTFast service, which is a GPN (Gamer’s Private Network) that redirects network traffic more efficiently across the web, resulting in decreased latency between the user and the server. Furthermore, the ASUS Smart Connect technology equipped in the AC5300 will automatically switch the users between bands based on the network load, speed and signal strength, to ensure a consistent bandwidth for all users.


Best DD-WRT Routers
Buying Guide

Despite offering a wide slew of benefits compared to stock firmware, DD-WRT is only a performance upgrade for wireless routers. This means you will still need to purchase a good product to improve upon. That being said, here are the most important aspects you will need to keep in mind when shopping for a good wireless router:

Bands

Most wireless routers are categorized by certain letters that shed some light about both the bands they use to create the wireless network and the speed of network in question. These letters are, in order of appearance, “b”, “g”, and “n” types of routers. The word “Bands” is used to refer to the frequency in which the network is created, and which users will have to connect to in order to enjoy a wireless internet connection. Most modern wireless routers operate in 2 frequencies to create their wireless network, the 2,4GHz and 5GHz band, the most common being the first. Both “b” and “g” type routers depend mostly on the former, while some “g” and most “n” types operate either on the former or on both simultaneously. The main difference between both bands is that most wireless devices operate on the 2,4GHz band in order to connect to a wireless network. Consequently, this band is usually more crowded, which could lead to disruption of service, and even difficulty connecting. On the other hand, the 5GHz band is seldom used by other devices, and the band is usually much more clear.

Speed

As we mentioned above, the letter of the router in question is also a good indicator of the maximum network speed it can provide. The slowest (and oldest) routers on the market belong to the “b” generation of products, which are usually capped at 11 megabytes per second of network speed. The “g” generation of routers, on the other hand, caps out at a maximum of 54 megabytes per second. The “n” generation is arguably the fastest types of routers available, capping out at more than 300 megabytes per second.

However, when browsing the market for a reliable wireless router, always keep in mind that, despite the product offering ample network speed, you will always be limited by the connection speed offered by your ISP. This means that, if you use an “n” router with 300Mbps maximum speed, but your internet plan is limited to 35Mbps, your total connection speed will still be limited by the latter. In general, if you have the means, you will want to invest in an “n” router, as it will allow you, as well as any others that are connected to the network, to enjoy the full speed of your internet without a hitch. Similarly, it will also allow you to easily transfer documents and other files to and from the connected computers at high speeds. On the contrary, if your connection speed is slower, then you will likely benefit from acquiring a router that is closer to your connection speed.

Encryption

This section usually references the security protocols used by the router in question to encrypt your wireless network, which mainly revolves around WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security standards. Furthermore, most wireless routers also grant you the opportunity to set limitations on your network, which is awesome for, say, office or workplace networks. Said limitations include assigning bandwidth to each user, creating multiple SSID, such as for workers and guests, dividing the network between departments, or even creating multiple networks on one router.

Connectivity Options

Despite providing the inherent benefits of a wireless connection, most routers also offer alternative connectivity methods, such as ethernet ports, which the users may connect to via wired, physical connections. This is important for the devices which must operate without interruptions and could greatly benefit from the stability of a wired connection. For instance, you might want to set your wireless near your main desktop and connect it via ethernet to the network, while connecting everything else wirelessly.​

The Different Types Of DD-WRT Routers

DD-WRT routers usually come in two categories, both of which are entirely wireless. If you’re aiming to get a router that is compatible with this custom firmware, you’re most likely going to need to shop in these two categories:

Wireless Routers

Your standard wireless router makes use of an antenna (or in some cases, several), to create a WiFi network around a designated area. This is by far the most common type of router; most people have them at home, and some ISPs even provide them as part of their internet service. Similar to standard broadband routers (providers of wired internet and predecessors to their wireless counterparts), most wireless routers also feature ethernet ports, so that devices which can benefit from a physical connection may do so with the use of an ethernet cable. With these kinds of routers it’s entirely possible to have a stable wired connection with specific devices, while also providing wireless internet to the entire area.

VPN Routers

In terms of performance, VPN routers behave similarly to wireless routers. In fact, they are essentially the same thing: they both provide wireless internet to an area, while also offering the possibility of connecting certain devices via ethernet. The main and most important difference is that, unlike consumer-grade wireless routers, VPN routers create a secure tunnel of information in the area of coverage, which encrypts and protects the data flowing both to and from the internet. This translates into a more secure connection to and from the internet at all times, which is especially useful for those that work remotely and need to connect to the office network through a public or untrusted internet. These routers are also useful for keeping hackers and informational theft at bay. All of these features make VPN routers the go-to devices for big companies or workplaces where consumer-grade routers are simply not cutting it anymore.


Best DD-WRT Routers Wrap Up

Despite offering an obvious potential increase in performance and stability, the DD-WRT firmware still requires a compatible device to improve upon. All of the products in this list are tested and proved as the best DD-WRT routers. So, if you’re looking for the very best performance and customization options, you won’t go wrong with any of these. Sure, some of them can be a little heavy in terms of price but, as far as the routers in this list are concerned, you’re receiving exactly what you pay for; a quality product.


All images sourced from Amazon.com
Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
TP-Link N600 Wireless Wi-Fi Dual Band Router (TL-WDR3600)
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About the author

Jackie