The Best DD-WRT Routers of 2018

Welcome to our DD-WRT enabled router buying guide! We trust you are here because you know a bit about DD-WRT but If you’ve came here and found that first sentence utterly intimidating, don’t leave now! This article is about to change the way you think about routers and using the internet!

If you are a DD-WRT pro click here to skip ahead to our list.

So what is DD-WRT and why is it something I need?

DD-WRT is basically an alternative operating system (Firmware) for routers. When you buy a router, even a low quality one, it’s possible that the hardware you purchased is far superior to the software running on it. New Firmware can unlock hidden features and enable a cheap router to do some higher end tasks, and a premium consumer routers to compete with business enterprise hardware.

 (Here is a video demonstration of turning a $50 router into the equivalent of a $500 router!)


For instance, adding a new fancy VPN to a low-cost router may be impossible with the original software but is an easy enjoyable task with DD-WRT. The normal router software that most of us have encountered is known to be slow, possess an awkward user interface, and sometimes even require an ancient copy of internet explorer just to work properly (An added pain for OS X users!).


The Tech world saw this problem and created an open-source firmware to tackle the glaring problems that most manufacturer firmware presents. DD-WRT is fast, reliable, and best of all free! So if you have a compatible router, you should seriously consider some new firmware.

Where can I get DD-WRT?


Routers from a normal store or manufacturer do not come with DD-WRT pre-installed, although as the software has become more popular, several manufacturers are now designing routers with DD-WRT users in mind.  This means to put DD-WRT on your device, you have to install it yourself or buy a DD-WRT version of a router from a special provider.

If you are not technically minded or uncomfortable with the idea of possibly damaging your device, it may be better to buy a router with DD-WRT already installed. Flashrouters offers tested, guaranteed, DD-WRT versions of compatible models for an additional cost to cover the firmware change. For those who have the technical knowledge to install new firmware and want to dive right in, http://www.dd-wrt.com hosts all current versions as well as lists the current compatible devices. Before going any further though, there are some risks that must be mentioned.

What are the risks of using DD-WRT Firmware?


Installing new firmware on a router is done through a process known as flashing. It can be a bit technical, but in everyday terms new firmware is basically installed over the old firmware. Flashing a device incorrectly is one of the easiest ways to disable (Brick) a component. If the power goes out or the installation is interrupted, it can make your device unusable, often permanently. Because of this risk, some manufacturers may void the warranty if new firmware is installed. Be sure to understand all the risks and feel confident in your technical ability before proceeding.

Finally, some routers do not support adding an alternative OS (Firmware). Before buying a device make sure that DD-WRT is supported on your model. Flashing an unsupported router is a surefire way to brick it. You can check this list here for confirmed supported routers. 

Why use DD-WRT over traditional router software?

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    Advanced VPN options
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    Advanced QoS (Control how much bandwidth goes to gaming, streaming, and downloading)
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    Increased security options
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    Easy set-up as an Access Point/Range Extender
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    Easily monitor your network traffic
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    And much MUCH more…

The average person uses a router for the simple purpose of a personal in-home network. Because of this, router software is dumbed down and designed to offer limited features that appeal to the most common user. The beauty of DD-WRT is that it takes those routers and unlocks the full-suite of features that the hardware should allow. Just because a router is cheaper or seemingly lacking a feature you want, does not mean that the hardware is incapable of advanced features! Often a change in software will revolutionize your router.


Typical router software is clunky and often years out of date

VPN and DD-WRT


Many users of DD-WRT are fans of Virtual Private Networks. At the bottom of this article we’ll go into more detail about VPN clients for those who are interested!

Or for those want to use Netflix abroad!

What should I look for in a DD-WRT Router?


Not all routers are equal! There are many things to consider when picking out a router for a DD-WRT setup. All of the routers provided will work with DD-WRT in some capacity, but some will be a better option than others. For instance, a router with numerous antennas, a blazing fast chipset, and multiple bands will easily out perform a cheap, off-brand router, even more so if DD-WRT is installed. Still with DD-WRT, a cheap router may become comparable to a high-quality router that doesn’t have DD-WRT.

Things to consider:

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    Is DD-WRT compatible with this router?
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    Do I need to manually install DD-WRT
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    ​​​​​​​How big is the memory bank? (Dictates which DD-WRT version is available to install)
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    The quality of the router (DD-WRT is one piece of the decision!)
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    The purpose of the router (Business, gaming, Access Point)

At the bottom of this article, we breakdown in detail the features and benefits of DD-WRT, the things to consider when buying a router, and some frequently asked questions so that you can make an educated decision.

The Best DD-WRT Routers of 2018!

It can be a bit overwhelming when you have hundreds of options. We’ve whittled down our list of routers to 4 AWESOME routers that will have you happy, no matter the budget.

Router

Why Buy

Why Not

Killer Feature

More Info

The best router money can buy. 

Price

Insane 5000 Square feet of coverage!

Excellent Speed, Goes toe to to with the Asus RT-AC5300 at a lower price point.

It’s really kind of plain looking and the RT-AC5300 is a bit better at just a bit higher price.

Tri-Band and MU-MIMO means you will get the absolute fastest speeds you have ever seen.

This is a gaming router that offers incredible value and 3 channels so you can run a dedicated gaming channel. 

At nearly 2 years old, something better is probably around the corner.

6 High performance beam-forming antennas.

It won’t be the prettiest or fastest router, but it is a great option for the budget conscious techie. 

With a bit more investment, you can get a router with superior quality and range. 

DD-WRT ready while still being dirt cheap!


1.  Asus AC5300 - Best DD-WRT Router of 2018

Few routers come with a bit of wow-factor. The Asus AC5300 outdoes every router on the market right now and comes with a ridiculous amount of antenna. Despite it’s bizarre upside-down spider look, the AC5300 is THE best you can buy for a network set-up at the consumer level. The AC5300 is the premium router of today. Asus has even supported the DD-WRT format and gives helpful tools for installing new firmware. With 8 Antennas, DD-WRT allows you to push the envelope on power and cover even more than the advertised 5000 square feet, add a new VPN, and increase quality of service for any need. Unparalleled coverage, clear connections, a fast chipset. This is the king of routers. We particularly like having 3 frequency bands and 8 antenna so that one can be dedicated to gaming or streaming while the other two can be dedicated to normal internet use. With this being a premium router, it’s important to know what you are doing before installing DD-WRT, or practice with a cheaper router model first. The only downside to this router is a pre-installed DD-WRT model can get quite pricey. 

Features

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    3 Frequency bands
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    Built for gaming
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    Allows Full-Size DD-WRT Installation (128 MB of Space)
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    8 antennas

What We Like

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    Top Quality. Basically the best that money can buy.
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    Insane coverage (5000 Square feet!)
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    WTFast GPN designed to prioritize gaming above other uses
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    Good for 10+ avid users without making a dent in the bandwidth

What We Dislike

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    Buying a pre-flashed version of this router usually adds a significant mark-up , but it’s also an expensive router so you definitely don’t want to brick it trying to save some cash.

2. NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 - Runner Up

Don’t let the humble design fool you. The Nighthawk X8 is one of the best routers that money can buy. Offering a full-suite of top of the line features such as MU-MIMO, Tri-band, 5.3 Gbps speeds. MU-MIMO or Multi-User Multi-Input Multi-Output is a newer technology. In simple English, routers traditionally could only send information one device at a time but did it so fast, you didn’t notice any gaps. Still the gaps existed. With MU-MIMO, all devices are concurrently supported which increases speed and stability. The Nighthawk is a great router out of the box but a bit lacking in the standard software. Despite having a fast speed, the software is sluggish. Installing DD-WRT removes that hurdle and makes this router one of the best money can buy! It’s a bit bland looking, but that also can work to your advantage if it is installed in a professional setting such as an office. 

Features

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    Tri-brand with MU-MIMO
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    5.3 Gbps speeds meaning you have internet as fast as your ISP can send it
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    4 antenna

What We Like

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    All the features you could ever need on a router
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    Extremely fast signal
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    If you need to use it as a switch, it has 6 Ethernet ports. Perfect for SOHO set-ups or LAN parties.

What We Dislike

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    It’s a bit bland looking
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    The on-board router software runs a bit slow before installing DD-WRT

3. D-Link AC3200 - Best Gaming DD-WRT Router

This is a router built for gamers and designed with aesthetics in mind. Coming in Cherry Red, unlike most routers, the AC3200 looks like a natural part of your gaming Rig instead of a necessary evil. While the D-Link AC3200 is approaching two years in age, it’s still a solid router and one of the best you can buy today. When the AC3200 came to market, it won tons of awards and got rave reviews and still stands as an incredible router for those who love gaming and 4K television. One of the best features Smart Connect which senses which Wi-Fi band is best for your device. This means an older laptop or cellphone with an outdated wireless card won’t use the high-quality bandwidth that a more modern device will need. With six antennas though and three bands, one of the advantages of DD-WRT is that you can power the individual antennas and customize your different channels. That means guests and siblings can use a slower band for streaming while you operate on a different channel to gank opponents with no lag. 

Features

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    Tri-Band Wi-Fi (Three dedicated Wireless bands that you can connect to with different speeds for different needs)
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    Smart Connect
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    Smart Beam Technology

What We Like

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    Looks less like a router and more like sweet gaming gear
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    Great router software that is designed with those who prefer DD-WRT in mind making it easy to flash and fully supported.
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    Incredible speed

What We Dislike

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    Doesn’t have MU-MIMO

4. TP-Link Archer C9 - Best Budget DD-WRT Router

Despite the low-price, this router performs far above what you would expect. That being said, it isn’t the best, the strongest, or the fastest, but it is cheap. It can be a bit intimidating to spend hundreds of dollars on a router knowing you could brick it and you are new to the features and benefits offered by the new firmware. The TP-Link Archer 9 is a great option to jump into the world of DD-WRT. With a white design that is reminiscent of an apple device, this can sit in the house and be a practical solution to Wi-Fi and a brand new toy to test out your burgeoning techie skills! DD-WRT unlocks the same features on a cheaper router as those on a more expensive one as long as the hardware allows. That means you can still install a VPN, play around with power settings, test security options, create an access point or range extender, and so much more. The C9 is the best entry option for those who know they want a little bit more from a router but are still a bit new to the technology. 

Features

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    Dual Band Wi-Fi (with a 1.9 Gbps bandwidth)
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    USB 3.0 and 2.0 with numerous ports
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    Beam-forming technology

What We Like

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    The price!
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    Awesome choice to jump into the world of custom firmware. Open source router work can be intimidating so this is not so expensive that you are afraid to use it.
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    Good quality router, especially for the price.

What We Dislike

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    No Tri-Band
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    Can have range issues that you just won’t with an expensive router

Features and Benefits of DD-WRT

VPNs

A virtual private network or VPN is common tool among techies. From increasing security to simulating an IP address that originates in another country. If you want anonymous internet security, or to use Hulu in an internet restricted country, a VPN is your best option. That being said, a VPN on the device level doesn’t mask everything. As long as you configure it correctly though an openVPN router naturally adds an extra layer of security to every device connected. Basically any device connected to the router is funneled through the VPN! This is fantastic for a small business that has numerous devices or a lot of incoming visitors. Instead of needing to individually install VPN programs on each device, it can be pre-enabled. 

Increased User Control

Advanced QoS: Quality of service is an advanced option on some routers to choose which traffic is prioritized. Normally this is just a simple toggle where you can check if internet browsing or games come first. With advanced QoS you can set the amount of bandwidth dedicated to ANY process. I.E. If you love to game or download and upload frequently, you can set your network device to always make gaming traffic come first. This results in blazing fast speed and flawless ping.

Increased Security: New security options that extend well beyond the basic WPA or WPA2 password system that most routers use. Also since this is an open source firmware, they consistently update and improve the software to combat the latest tech problems.

Easy Access Point: Setting up Wi-Fi through a big building can be an expensive and technical process. DD-WRT can turn any router into an Access Point that extends a wireless signal significantly. Great for SOHO set-ups and extending signal to multiple floors!

Monitor Your Internet Traffic: All internet traffic is monitored, stored, and logged as well. Not only is this useful for seeing if you have unwanted internet visitors or faulty equipment, there are a plethora of security configurations and options available that you can’t normally find on a standard router.

DD-WRT FAQ

What should I look for in a DD-WRT Router?

The features and incredible versatility of DD-WRT works with any compatible router. The hardware will make a difference though. Just like Operating Systems exist with numerous hardware configurations, the specific hardware you have will dictate the quality of your DD-WRT Experience. For instance, more antennas may mean more bands and possible channels. Still a cheap router with DD-WRT has features that people pay hundreds of dollars for and an expensive router with DD-WRT may put large-scale business hardware to shame. 

Which DD-WRT version should I pick?

We recommend buying a router with more than 8 Mb of Flash memory as this allows for the biggest build of DD-WRT and is extremely reasonable. If for some reason you don’t have that much space, DD-WRT comes in some stripped down micro-builds for those who don’t have the latest or greatest router, but that is a rarity. DD-WRT.com has great guides on selecting a version of DD-WRT. Even if it’s a minimalist build, there is probably a version that works for you. Be sure to look up your router and see what the most recent supported edition of DD-WRT is for your router as they are updating it frequently. 

To flash or not to flash?

Setting up a DD-WRT router isn’t routine for most people. This comes with some inherent risks, and if done incorrectly can brick your router and may even void the warranty. Flashing requires a bit of work and ability to follow technical instructions so some may prefer to buy a router that has DD-WRT already installed. Even if it seems like a simple process, it must be done correctly to insure your hardware doesn’t break!

The process of installing new software on a router is called, “Flashing.” You literally save over the old operating system with the new one. It’s the equivalent of saving over that paper you wrote in Word with a brand-new document. There is no going back. The original is gone once this happens. This is why there is an upcharge for a DD-WRT router that already has the firmware installed. If you are thinking about buying a router with DD-WRT instead of following the process yourself, we recommend flashrouters. They specialize in routers that have DD-WRT installed, tested, and a quality technical support team to handle any necessary troubleshooting.

For the brave ones willing to save some money and install it themselves though, we have a guide below!

Installing DD-WRT

Setting up DD-WRT is a bit technical and warrants an article all in itself, that being said, we can provide a great launch pad for educating yourself about installing DD-WRT but you ABSOLUTELY should research what makes your individual router a good fit for DD-WRT. A list of supported devices can be found on the DD-WRT website which also includes router specific tips (For instance ASUS routers should use a special tool before installation that ASUS provides).

They have an excellent user wiki that answers most questions


Warning: Improper installation can brick (Destroy) your router and void the warranty. Make sure to be cautious and follow all instructions exactly. Make sure you have a router compatible with DD-WRT because installation can quickly brick an incompatible device.

So to begin, first we have some basic set-up tasks to accomplish:

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    Make sure your router is compatible
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    Disable onboard Wi-Fi (Usually done by pressing a button or within the router software)
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    Connect the Router with an Ethernet Cable
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    Find out which DD-WRT version you want

When all this is done you are ready to begin!

  1. Download the version of DD-WRT you want from here.
  2. Factory reset your router (Often instructions to do this are on the manufacturer's website or come with the hardware.)
  3. Once again as a reminder, double check that Wi-Fi is not enabled. If it is disable any onboard Wi-Fi through the router software and keep the router connected to Ethernet. If not done correctly, this could cause complications in flashing the firmware.
  4. Most Routers have a Router upgrade or Firmware section, login into the router using a compatible browser and install DD-WRT through this.
  5. Once the process begins, wait. Even if it takes 20 minutes. The process can take a while and turning off or disconnecting the router during this time can actually brick it. This is the most important time to follow instructions.
  6. Eventually it will direct you to a logon page. Congratulations! DD-WRT is installed. This is the de facto firmware on your device now (Even a factory reset will still result in DD-WRT booting up).
  7. Log in! On the DD-WRT website, there are some basic credentials or it may prompt you to create a new logon. After this you are ready to explore the glorious world of open source routers!

Note: If something went wrong during the process or you have bricked your router, there are many helpful guides located on the DD-WRT webpage. Look up your router and see if there is a helpful dix-it guide!

DD-WRT and Virtual Private Networks

VPN providers come in many different styles and often price ranges. There are enough of them that one article could not possibly be comprehensive enough to cover every VPN choice. Like many internet services, some VPN are free, some are bloated programs that aren’t that good for a router, and others work fantastic but charge on a subscription basis. Selecting a VPN is your first step and this guide right here gives some great tips on picking a VPN! The truth is that selecting a VPN is a challenging task and there are some good choices out there but many don’t offer high-quality security, use outdated protocols, and sink money without much in returns. So be wary when picking one! Still the advantages of a Virtual Private Network more than make up for the research involved!

Some of the advantages are location based IP switching (You can make your IP appear to be from anywhere in the world) which is used for accessing Netflix in another country or disguising your location. While this may seem just for entertainment, users from countries that censor certain sites like Facebook or Twitter often use a VPN to protect themselves and reach the outside world. A VPN sends encrypted signals, so that if someone is able to “Listen” in on your network, they can’t see what information you are sending or receiving. There are a ton of helpful things that focus on security, anonymity, locations switching, and accessing sites that a VPN focuses on.

So after you’ve picked a Virtual Private Network provider, what’s the next step?

Installing a VPN is actually different depending on the version DD-WRT you are using and even the VPN provider. For a good example, check out the guide below for setting up ExpressVPN! They show the process with different versions of DD-WRT and cover some of the more technical details as well.  

Try the guide here to get started! You can also try motherboards guide to VPN’s as well!

What else does DD-WRT offer?

Honestly, an exhaustive list would take a very long time to go through which is why we recommend researching the features here. Some of the features are really unique such as Kai support (Allows you to connect old consoles such as the Gamecube together for LAN play) and DDNS options that allow excellent security. It’s best to think of what you value, connectivity, security, data management, or speed. DD-WRT has numerous new features for any of those categories and much more!

Conclusion

So how practical is this for you? If you don’t care about privacy, the speed of the games you play, blazing fast networking speeds, or customization, DD-WRT might not be for you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one of the routers we suggest though! All of the options we are showing off today are top of the line, excellent choices for a router. DD-WRT is just one of the many benefits that these models have.

Thank you for reading our guide on the best DD-WRT routers. While most of us have never thought of expanding the function of our router, DD-WRT can revolutionize the way you browse the internet, play games, and access long distance files securely. You really won’t find better routers than the ones we have here, and if you are thinking about DD-WRT but a bit intimidated, we recommend you give it a shot. You’ll walk away with a killer router and some expert level knowledge just by trying this process out.

Have you been helped by this guide? Do you have a better router suggestion? Have any fun DD-WRT stories? Comment below and don’t forget to smash the like button and share this guide. Never know who will be looking for some sweet new router tech!

All images sourced from Amazon.com

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