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back to article Ten... dual-band wireless routers

A wireless routers is one of the most important items in any gadget lover’s home. Performance, range and reliability are essential criteria to consider when deciding when buying a router. Also, bear in mind the configuration software, as routers can do quite a few tricks these days and accessing features from the on-board …

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Boffin

A graph comparing speeds would be nice!

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I always use SmallNetBuilder...

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/lanwan/router-charts/view

Seems to provide the info you require.

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No Draytek?

Surprising omission there, surely?

Steven R

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Re: No Draytek?

Yep, i thought the same.......Mind you, Draytek are a more "professional" class of router, not like these toys.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: No Draytek?

A £200 router is a toy!!!???

Can I borrow some money, I need to erm buy a toy router.

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Re: No Draytek?

Just because it costs £200, that does not make it a £200 router...

These are mainly posh looking home routers, in 6 months all the broadband suppliers will be providing them as an updated feature as thats easier than speeding up the network infrastructure.

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The latest firmware update for the edimax improves the interface a bit

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Surprised...

You omitted Apple's – To be honest, it's the fastest, most stable, and easiest to configure router I've ever owned.

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Re: Surprised...

I'm very surprised at the lack of an Airport. I'm staunchly anti-apple, but the Airport Extreme is the only Apple device I allow in the house. I only use it as a 5Ghz access point, but its rock solid.

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Re: Surprised...

I use the time capsule which is pretty much just the Airport Extreme with a HD inside it. It's nice to be able to push 5ghz for the laptops and desktops and then 2.4ghz for the gadgets like phones and tablets.

I've never had it crash, something that I've experienced who knows how many times with d-link and other cheaper alternatives.

So it's reliable but it doesn't really give you much control over things. It's a bit too dumbed down for my liking and the latest airport update seems to have taken even more options away.

My favorite routers for reliability and technical options are from Draytek. I really can't praise them enough. We use them at the office for dual-wan (the ONLY reliable option I've found, even against dedicated linux boxes and expensive cisco boxes that need 50 technicians to maintain) and just for regular access too.

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FAIL

Re: Surprised...

"easiest to configure"????

Only if you have a Mac/ Windows desktop/ laptop... Us penguins are left out in the cold... Unless you want to fiddle with Wine or VMs running XP and the like...

WTF can't it come with a simple web-based admin UI like almost all other routers?

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Re: Surprised...

Or you could get a second hand iPod touch and run its Airport Utility app. :)

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Re: Surprised...

I have a time capsule, I wouldn't say that as a router it was outstandingly good or particularly bad, I'd rate it somewhat better than average but not fantastic. It's also rather Apple-centric with an Airport Utility application for configuration that comes with Macs, is available for Download for Windows and is available for iDevices from the App Store so you're kinda screwed if you're going for a non-mainstream desktop OS such as Linux. The fact it only has 3 input ports when most of the competition has 4 and there's definitely room for 4 on the back seems an odd omission too.

I also don't like how they've dumbed down the Airport Utility in its most recent release, thankfully you can still download the previous iteration.

But the backup appliance is a literal lifesaver. Just having that safety net of an hourly backup that happens automatically without you having to worry about it is just such a huge reassurance, and it has saved my skin on more than once occasion. If you own a Mac and can't afford to lose your files then the Time Capsule is the go to device.

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Re: Surprised...

Upvoted, because TimeCapsule is a total must-have - has saved my bacon too (which admittedly ANY backup might have done) - but in such an easy, seamless way that I'd never consider anything else. I have a 1Tb disk plugged in to USB though as I find my secondhand home hub that a friend gave me when my Netgear router died to be adequate. It routes.

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Chz
Meh

The Apple Airport Extreme is a pretty good competitor, as previously mentioned.

Are there any dual-band ones with integrated ADSL modems out there? When I checked last year, there weren't any ones that you'd call *good* and ended up buying the single channel Billion 7800N (great box, fast, zero problems).

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Anonymous Coward

Seconded @Chz

I hate having multiple devices, and Linksys made a great little box that did both ADSL2+ and 802.11b/g/n. Sadly though, the firmware leaves much to be desired and it's not the most stable on the planet. If someone was able to rip the crap firmware off and provide a better OSS alternative, I'd be all over that.

If Apple's Airport Extreme did the DSL bit too, I'd buy that as a replacement... :-/

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Meh

Yes, please.

I've got a Cisco jobbie, but really, it's pants. I had a Belkin a few years ago that was great, but obviously that model isn't up with the times now.

And yes, with DD-WRT written for legions of router devices, are there that many variations on ADSL connectivity? (There may well be - I have no idea)

But I'm not going to buy two devices when you can get one that does the job for not much more than the router price (not to mention the clutter).

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@ Chz

Netgear do the DGND3700 N600 which is dual band with integrated ADSL (and also VPN pass through). Mine seems fine, no reliability issues with it so far (had it for about 2 months)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Chz (Netgear DGND3700)

Just wait. There is something intrinsically wrong with this model: I had a rock solid ADSL connection cos I'm a couple hundred yards from the exchange, but the wifi was really flakey and didn't have much further range than the old DG834N. See http://forum1.netgear.com/forumdisplay.php?f=115

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+1 for Asus RT-N56U

I bought one maybe six months ago to replace an ailing Linksys at home, and it's been rock solid, and good performance with all my devices. I saw some moanings online about the stock firmware when I bought it, but I haven't felt the need to change it. And it does actually look good in the flesh, not as tacky as the photo in the article makes it seem.

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What 5GHz channel?

It would also be nice to see the channels used for the tests, and what channels are available on the router for that matter. On 5GHz channels channels 36-64 are at a lower maximum power level (23 dBm) than channels 100-140 UK or 100-165 US (30 dBm).

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so much missing info

5GHz channel support

graph of all the collected data

power usage

how well does the router support moving clients between 2.4 and 5GHz as required by signal strength?

for routers with USB ports what filesystems do they support? What kind of speed do you get accessing the disk?

alternate firmware support, the buffalo comes with dd-wrt but do any of these other boxes support it?

These things aside though, this is quite a good round up, I think the screenshots of the UIs tell you a lot about the products. Interesting that the reviewer didn't like the TP-link interface when it's not far removed from most of the others.

Of course the real issue here is that 5GHz just isn't worth it for most people. My 2.4GHz N router happily gets to the 10-15Mbps my broadband provides, despite me being able to see 15 other routers in my local area. It runs dd-wrt and cost £30. When I need something more reliable or faster than 2.4GHz wifi I use a cable.

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Re: so much missing info

Agreed with missing info points. Also making it a little bit more explicit that the results are given in Megabytes per second (that is what I assumed anyway from the MBps) but it could be made much clearer and using Mbps (megabits/s) could also be interesting to compare with the advertised speeds without mental arithmetic.

5GHz becomes worth it when you have networked local storage and/or have a busy/noisy 2.4GHz environment.

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FAIL

Why not the Netgear N900?

I'm surprised you picked the slower N750 from Netgear - I've been running the N900 (wndr4500) for a few months now and getting excellent results on both 2.4gHz and 5gHz, with 450 Mbps available on both channels, unlike the slower model you've reviewed here.

If you're going to review high performance wi-fi routers it's surely better to review the high performance model from each manufacturer, rather than the next one down, isn't it?

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Re: Why not the Netgear N900?

Its possible they reviewed free stuff that was given to them.

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Stop

Re: Why not the Netgear N900?

Free stuff LOANED to them, you mean. I suspect even El Reg's budget doesn't run to buying ten routers just for a one-off test.

And the loan thing is why there's no Apple Airport Exteme - Apple doesn't knowingly lend The Register hardware. Recent MacBook reviews suggest they have a covert source.

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Joke

Re: Why not the Netgear N900?

>Apple doesn't knowingly lend The Register hardware.

I believe Apple's official response when asked about The Register was...

"We wouldn't piss in their mouth if their teeth were on fire."

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WTF?

No Linksys/Cisco EA3500 or EA4500?

USB and Gigabit Ethernet provided...

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Re: No Linksys/Cisco EA3500 or EA4500?

Disappointed the reviewer didn't note 12.1MBps at 5GHz for the E2500 w/o gigabit is near 100% efficiency on the 100baseT ethernet. With only 100baseT to feed it then it CAN'T go faster.

On casual benchmarks with my E4200 and MacBook Pro I see 17 MB/sec through 3 or 4 interior walls of the house. But it didn't work farther away outside through a brick wall where the 2.4 GHz side worked just fine.

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Oddly this review omits the fact that the tested Fritz!Box 7390 is not just a router but also has a built-in ADSL2+ and VDSL modem and can use a 3G USB modem as connection fallback . Besides analog phone and VoIP it also handles ISDN where still used.

One thing I would have liked to see verified here is stability in everyday use. In fact, as several others have already commented this is why i use an AirPort Extreme base for the home network, because it is the only wifi router I have ever used that does not need constant babysitting and restarting.

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Stability

I have a veritable graveyard of routers in my house (mostly Netgear, I have to say, because of their ubiquity and my familiarity of setting them up). Every one has given me stability problems. I thought I'd try out a combination of a Draytek Vigor 120 modem and Apple's Airport Extreme a few months ago. Since then, I've never needed to reboot either device on any occasion. This makes my family very happy.

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Re: Stability

The draytek looks kind of awesome, actually...

http://www.shop.bt.com/products/draytek-vigor-120-adsl2--ethernet-modem-5JWN.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=product+search&utm_content=RR00

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Re: Stability

Another upvote for Draytek hardware from me. It's not cheap, but it is rock solid. Firmware updates are frequent, and they tend to support their older kit for quite some time.

The only issue I have with my 2800Vn is that the n band is either/or. If I set it to 5ghz, the PC's can see it - and fly along - but my phones and Ipads can't. Consequently I have to run it in 2.x ghz limp mode to keep everybody happy. I'm also looking at getting the Apple Airport Extreme as a parallel n band solution.

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Fritzboxen

Stability and ADSL2+ and VDSL is why I'm replacing my recently deceased Fritzbox 7170 with the 7390 despite the fact that I don't use analog telephony anymore. The 7170 also let me retire my external wireless access point, and I'm hoping the 7390 will prove to be as good.

Unfortunately, researching stability is an excruciatingly time-consuming task, because you have to troll through dozens of consumer review sites and weed out the tripe.

Yes, it's a ludicrously expensive router, but I have never seen anything come near a Fritzbox in terms of stability, performance and features.

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Gimp

How fast??

Will the TPLInk be when you take off the standard antenna and stick on some +8db replacements!!!???

(Yeay! for replaceable antenna!!).

Pity it only works on one network at a time though; perhaps they will fix that with a firmware update.

TPLINK fanboi natch!!

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Gil

Torrentday

I see from the browser bar bookmarks in those screenshots on the last page that the author is a regular visitor to torrentday.

That's an interesting, albeit controversial, choice of 0s and 1s to test out those fancy new routers........

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irm

Power?

As these are likely to be left running 24/7, it would be nice to know how much power each one draws.

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FAIL

Sync today, gone tomorrow

The #1 problem that I've had with access points is that they aren't reliable. A quick check of online reviews shows that I'm not the only one having this problem.

I had purchased and returned more access points than I can remember before I found one that could run for a week. Most of them started malfunctioning immediately or lacked features that were right on the box. Some good testing points are: Does the router survive many hits to bloated web pages, can devices remain continuously connected without WPA glitches, are broadcast packets reliable, and are the features on the box actually implemented. Now try that again after being on for a week.

It's also weird that this review complains about a brand of AP missing features when the reviewer has explicitly chosen a model missing those features.

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No Asus RT-N66U?

I'm somewhat ammazed that the older internal antenna ASUS device won - and the newer (and compatible with alternate firmware) external antenna RT-N66U was not listed instead.

Oh well, even with the manf. firmware, it is a very solid wireless router.

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A glaring omission on the fritz! Box

But not only does the fritzbox have Adam modem built in, but also is only one of two routers I know that supports vdsl, also known as fibre optic, the other router being a draytek.

I use a fritz box with bt infinity and it is a much neater solution that the bt solution of a home hub and separate modem!

Something I feel helps justify the price and should push its grade closer to 85-90%

I also use it with a NAS drive and the wireless is excellent and gigabit Ethernet is also nice:)

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Re: A glaring omission on the fritz! Box

Agreed, I got one of these when I switched from cable to VDSL (here in Luxembourg) which then replaced my Cisco E4200 running DD-WRT.

The Fritz is streets ahead of the E4200 with a ton of extra functions and an amazing amount information it logs. It even detects wireless interference sources, which it then logs, graphs and reconfigures itself to get better connectivity. Also logs when wireless isn't being used and reduces the power usage until needed again. Very clever piece of kit.

Highly recommended.

I would have gotten a Draytek as many others have mentioned as I had one many moons ago and loved it, but their dual-band offerings are fairly non-existent. At least at the time I was looking.

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Firmware features

What I'd be more interested is a comparison of the various features each firmware supports. The Linksys/cisco firmware is so bare bones it makes me wonder why they bother...I mean my E2100L didn't even have a way to track bandwidth usage, something I sadly need in my area. I've worked with DD-WRT and I've found it works best on the ancient GL wireless-G router. Any other router I've tried it on...stock Buffalo included...has had major issues with reliability. None of Buffalo's or DD-WRT's latest efforts have fixed things (only made it a lot worse). DD-WRT is nice but they don't appear to have great quality control, except on the old, tired GL router.

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Re: Firmware features

Hmm. I'm using a Buffalo (older G300N) and am experiencing solid reliability.

On the other hand, the signal's distance is, as the review stated, on the low side. I like Buffalo, but I'm going to do some comparison shopping when the next generation of wifi standards emerges.

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1m Distance?

Totally unrealistic!

Also < 10% use Macs

What about TurboG mode on 11g and 5.xGHz 11a modes?

What about testing when 4 users?

Or Laptop speed when a Nintendo, phone or PSP is using 11Mbps b or 54Mbps g?

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The reviews should clearly signpost which ones are dual radio. The term "Dual band" means different things to different manufacturers. I have found it nigh on impossible to find a dual radio one with DSL modem without stability complaints from users. Shirley this is what everyone wants?

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No IPv6 = no sale

I wouldn't recommend any router that doesn't come with IPv6, such as the Asus RT-N56U.

World IPv6 Launch was earlier this month. It's an essential feature. If the router doesn't have IPv6, at least it needs a nice, stable third-party firmware project.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No IPv6 = no sale

That's what custom firmwares are for :)

TBH I would only buy a router that can run Tomato, one of the best (if not the best) custom firmwares you can use.

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Joke

WTF?

What? No VirginMedia Superhub?!

I'll get my coat.

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Anonymous Coward

'Designers' let loose?

Form over Function rules.

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Things must be grim....

When most people need an external AP.

Here is Switzerland, swisscom hands out a very nice Pirelli router that does all of that (simultaneous 5 and 2.4, gigabit, usb/nas, telephony, voip etc.).

It works a treat, the settings can be backed up to the cloud so that they can be auto-restored upon failures. It works 24/7 on heavy torrent usage as well as in-home streaming and 2 IP cameras. No issues.

Only snag: every 2 years it dies completely but thanks to swisscom I'm on my 3rd free one so no worries there.

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