Choosing a third-party router firmware is a solution that offers many benefits and while some users may be concerned about the complexity of the flashing process, in the end the effort is worth making. You can transform an ordinary budget router into an advanced platform that can support more options. There are many routers that can be flashed with DD-WRT firmware and you can find the complete list on the DD-WRT website.
Many people wonder what is the best network router for DD-WRT, but since there are many aspects to keep in mind, the real question should be what is the most suitable option for your needs. Although there are many good options available, the choice would depend on your needs, your preferences and how much you are willing to spend. It is important to make a list of the features that you require to make sire that you select the right router for you. While DD-WRT is a popular solution, flashing the firmware on your own can be a challenging task. We will go through all the options that you can find, including pre-configured routers, which are a practical solution that saves you time and effort as you won’t need to take on the task of flashing to DD-WRT firmware.
What is DD-WRT?
DD-WRT is a Linux based third-party Open Source firmware that is compatible with a wide selection of WLAN routers. It is designed to offer ease of use and flexibility by allowing you to configure the settings to match your needs and giving you access to features that are not available by default in most routers. When you buy a consumer based router, they would most likely have their own firmware developed by the manufacturer. In most cases, the firmware is designed for easy installation and it enables you to set up Wi-Fi following a few steps.
While some of them come with advanced features, in general, consumer based routers are very simple and their functionality is limited. Unfortunately, performance issues and bugs are not uncommon as there is software that doesn’t support a high level of quality. Since they are meant for every day users, the interface doesn’t offer many options and the best features are only available with high-end consumer routers and those designed for business use. However, you can enhance the performance of your router and make it more versatile with the help of free Open Source firmware.
Advantages of DD-WRT
DD-WRT offers the highest level of performance and quality when it comes to network router firmware. It gives you the possibility of enjoying an extensive selection of features, including functions that are not often used by experienced network administrators. Although this means that your possibilities are practically endless, it can also make things complicated as there is so much that can be done that in the end, users may feel overwhelmed.This is one of the main reasons why many people prefers Tomato, as this platform offers a simple interface and provides a more manageable list of features. Tomato also tends to present less bugs. However, if you are looking for variety and advanced functions, the below list will give you an idea of what DD-WRT can offer.
- Wi-Fi Bridging – You can easily configure DD-WRT routers as Wi-Fi repeaters, which gives you the possibility of strategically placing additional routers at home or the office, as extenders that can project the signal across different floors and thick walls, ensuring better coverage.
- VPN – DD-WRT is the favorite choice for many people as it can make sure that all devices on the network go through the VPN service using the router. This is a practical solution for devices that are not compatible or that haven’t been enabled for VPN. You can connect pretty much any device including Apple TV, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. The best thing about the VPN feature in DD-WRT is that you don’t have to setup these devices on your local network individually.
- Quality of Service Controls (QoS) – You can control the bandwidth that is assigned to each device or network. For instance, you can place limits over bandwidth on office computers that only need email. It is also possible to set specific values for VoIP services and it would also be suitable for UPnP video streaming and playing online games.
- Wi-Fi Hotspot Management – DD-WRT is also a convenient option when you need to support a hotspot as it provides essential advanced configuration enhancements for this purpose.
- Shared Network Printers – With DD-WRT you also get the possibility of sharing a USB connected printer across the entire network. This means that you won’t require a network capable printer or to pass a network cable.
- Shared Network Storage (NAS) – You can easily share network storage drives connected to the router,. New routers usually have USB ports that support external drivers or flash sticks that can be connected without an Ethernet network cable. With DD-WRT both types of connected storage units can be shared across the network.
- Xlink Kai – Gamer will welcome the possibility of including Xlink Kai, a global gaming network that gathers PlayStation 2 and 3, PSP, Xbox and Xbox 360 users in one place. It runs software on PC and Mac computers and gives you the possibility of playing free online. This is a well established network and it is likely that new consoles are added over time.
- DNS Cache – This option allows you to save website host name information. Whenever you visit a website, DNS Caching gives you the possibility of looking up the domain hostname to load the website. Thanks to DNS Cache, the websites that you frequently visit will load faster.
- Analytics & Tweaking – The solid performance of DD-WRT is topped with bandwidth statistics and visual graphic charts. It is not possible to cover the vast selection of customization options available. DD-WRT is a feature-rich option that will offer users an impressive functionality. Whether you have experience setting up networks or are just starting to become familiar with them, DD-WRT would be an ideal option to suit all your needs and to learn to get things working well from the start. Since it is open source technology, you can expect to continue improving over time.
How to Install DD-WRT on Router
While routers include their own programming or operating system (firmware), you can upgrade or modify it. The process of installing third-party firmware on a router is known as Flashing and it offers many benefits, including enhanced functionality. Although you can try to flash your router on your own, it is important to take into consideration that this process should be followed with caution. Any error could cause permanent damage on the router and since flashing is generally against manufacturers’ terms, you may end up with an useless device. Luckily some manufacturers offer pre-configured routers that feature DD-WRT as the default firmware. There are also VPN providers that also offer this option, which saves you time and effort and helps you to avoid any issues caused by errors during the flashing process.
If you feel confident enough to flash your own router, the first thing that you would need to do is to check the compatibility to make sure that you can install DD-WRT on your device. You can visit www.dd-wrt.com for a full list of devices supported and for detailed guides to configure this firmware. Again, keep in mind that installing third-party firmware on the router will void the hardware’s warranty because the manufacturer would only offer support for their official firmware. Still, if you follow the instructions carefully, flashing your own router can be a rewarding experience. Just don’t rush and check the step-by-step guides available on DD-WRT’s website. If you prefer not to take the chance, you can opt for a pre-configured router and while this solution is more expensive than flashing the router yourself, it is more practical and allows you to get service from professional providers.
Best Routers for DD-WRT
Now that you know more about DD-WRT and the flashing process, it is time to take a look at some of the best devices to use with this firmware. Here is a list of the best options that will suit different budgets and requirements.
Linksys E1200 Wi-Fi Wireless-N300 Router
For just under $40, you can get this convenient option that combines solid performance and affordability. This is a single band wireless-N router that offers simple functionality and it would work well as a Wi-Fi repeater or as a secondary router to handle tasks that don’t require high bandwidth. You can enjoy a transfer speed of 300 Mbps, which should suit most users. The E1200 features 4 10/100 LAN ports and is a good choice for every surfing, emailing and printing. The broad wireless coverage is provided by MIMO antenna technology.
Asus RT-N16 Single Band Wireless Gaming Router
Asus is a well-established brand, recognized for the quality of its products. The RT-N16 is a good example of the practical features and solid performance that you can expect from Asus. This single band gaming router features 32MB Flash Memory and 128MB of RAM and it is an ideal solution for DD-WRT. It can support up to 300,000 sessions and it comes with 4 Gigabit LAN ports and 2 USB ports, giving you more flexibility for storage and printing. The RT-N16 has 3 external antennas for improved Wi-Fi reception and offers good performance for P2P clients. At the moment, you can find it for less than $72 USD in Amazon.
If you are looking for a high-grade solution, Asus offers a router that supports remarkable Wi-Fi coverage thanks to its three thick antennas and AiRadar beam foming technology. It features AC1900 Mbps Wi-Fi, 1 USB 3.0 port and 1 2.0 port for device sharing, as well as Gigabit ports and dual core processor. What makes the RT-AC68U stand out from other options is the Asuswrt firmware, which is a version of DD-WRT that supports with two internet sources and that works with advanced QoS options. The default firmware offers great functionality, but you can also upgrade to Asuswrt-merlin (an enhanced third-party version of Asuswrt) or to DD-WRT. It is available from $172.
For those who need better performance and speed, the WNDR3700 would be a good solution. Since it supports speeds of up to 600 Mbps, it would be suitable for media streaming and online gaming. This middle range router offers simultaneous dual band which can help to improve your connection by reducing Wi-Fi interference. Thanks to its 8 internal antennas, you can expect great Wi-Fi range and stable coverage. This option from Netgear also features 4 Gigabit LAN ports and 1 USB port to support network drives and printers. Home and small business users can benefit from what this router offers for a price that is below $80.
Buffalo Airstation AC1750 Dual Band router
This practical and comprehensive router has become the favorite solution for many users, due to the fact that it includes DD-WRT by default so you don’t need to worry about flashing. While the router doesn’t have external antennas, the HighPower technology offers impressive Wi-Fi coverage. It has Gigabit Ethernet ports, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. Its 800Mhz dual-core processor and 512 MB of Ram ensure consistently good performance. The wireless 802.11ac that it features, can support outstanding speed and you can get 1300 + 450 Mbps thanks to the Airstation AC 1750. It also features Parental Control/ web filtering and Priority Control QoS. It is available for around $117.