The best performing routers offer many benefits and can be configured in ways that are not available with regular consumer routers. There is no doubt that the quality of advanced routers is superior than that of standard consumer routers. However, the high cost of top-end devices make them an option that is out of reach for many users. Although popular home routers from brands like Linksys, ASUS, Netgear or D-Link are affordable, their features feel limited when compared to high-grade routers. Apart from issues like weak performance and shortage of features, standard routers dont offer the option to use OpenVPN protocols to configure a VPN server or software clients directly from the network router.
Thankfully there is a way to significantly improve the performance of a budget router. Installing third-party firmware allows you to get better results from your router and to unlock features that are not available by default. When it comes to third-party firmware, there are different options but what they have in common is that they can transform a standard router into an advanced and powerful device. You will have the possibility of boosting the functionality of your router with options like bandwidth monitoring, advanced QoS and built-in OpenVPNclients.
While installing third-party firmware (a process that is also known as flashing) is a good solution to take a consumer grade router to the next level, there are some aspects to consider. The first thing to keep in mind is that setting up the firmware can be challenging task, particularly for inexperienced users. If you dont follow the instructions or make a mistake, your router can be permanently damaged. Flashing your router can void the warranty of the device, which means that if anything goes wrong, it wont be possible to get the issue fixed.
That being said, if you feel confident enough to give it a try, you can find a good selection of tutorials that will guide you throughout the process. If you prefer to be on the safe side, you can opt for a router that has been already configured with the firmware of your choice. This is a convenient solution that allows you to enjoy the advantages of a flashed router without any hassle, although you would need to pay a higher price.
You will also need to take some time choosing the firmware that is right for your needs. New options are being developed and the technology is constantly being upgraded so making a decision regarding the firmware can be a challenging task. To help you find the most convenient set up, well go through the firmware solutions that are currently available, as well as pre-configured routers that will save you time as you wont need to take on the task of flashing the route yourself.
DD-WRT is a Linux based firmware that is recognized as the most comprehensive option, thanks to the extensive selection of features it supports. It is a well-established and trusted solution that generally provides good stability. The main downside is that there are so many configuration options (some of which are not even used) that the performance of DD-WRT can become buggy. Additionally, the vast list of features available can be overwhelming for users and make the interface difficult to operate. Nevertheless, DD-WRT is set to dramatically improve the performance of a consumer grade router, making it more flexible and functional.
Furthermore, DD-WRT stands out in terms of compatibility as it works with a large selection of router manufacturers and models. It is important to consider that there is a variety of DD-WRT versions currently available. If you are a new user, it would be advisable to stick to the original version of DD-WRT. If you own an Asus router, the best option would be to upgrade to Asuswrt-merlin FW, an enhanced version of Asus proprietary firmware. This improved solution goes ahead in speed, performance and stability, thanks to the fact that it is not affected by known bugs.
Advantages of DD-WRT
- Excellent compatibility
- Impressive selection of features and configurations options
- The large selection of features make it complicated. It is not a user-friendly option.
- The stability is not consistent as performance results varies across different brands and models.
Like DD-WRT, Tomato is a Linux based firmware and both options are similar in many ways. The main difference is that Tomato is less cluttered and provides a good balance between functionality and performance. The interface is appealing and user-friendly, making it an ideal solution for new users. While it falls behind DD-WRT in terms of compatibility, in case DD-WRT is not suitable for your router, it is likely that Tomato would be. The list of features supported by Tomato is not as extensive, but you can still enjoy a good selection of configuration options that will upgrade the overall performance of your device.
It is also worth noting that Tomato supports features that are not available with DD-WRT including visibility of incoming and outgoing traffic in real-time. Since it is not overloaded with features that you may not even get to use, Tomato can be more stable and efficient than DD-WRT. It is possible to find multiple versions, but if you a new user, the original option would be the most convenient. Alternatively, you can opt for Tomato Shibby, which also delivers a consistently good performance.
- It offers options like inbound/outbound traffic monitoring in real-time with graphic charts included
- Better stability Tomato and performance thanks to its simple interface
- There are less features available than with DD-WRT
- The compatibility is limited when compared to DD-WRT
OpenWRT is in a league of its own as it is not a single package in which all features are available. Instead, it provides a platform in which users have the possibility of building packages. OpenWRT doesnt have the popularity that DD-WRT and Tomato enjoy, but it can be a better solution for advanced users who want further customization options for their firmware.
The fact that it is an open platform, means that users with coding skills will be able to set up the functions they need to use. OpenWRT is the right solution if you are interested in coding your own network firmware.
It offers advanced customization options, allowing users to create or remove packages as required, enjoying greater control over their preferences
Due to its complexity, it is not the most convenient option for home users
As previously mentioned, a practical option for those who prefer not to take the risk of flashing their router is to buy a pre-configured device. The following companies provide a good selection of professionally pre-configured routers and you can select the model and firmware that better suits your needs.
RouterSource offers a solid selection of routers running DD-WRT or Sabai OS, which is a recently developed technology that is ideal for VPN setups. Although Sabai OS cant support the advanced features available with DD-WRT or Tomato, it can be the right option for users who are looking for a simple way to configure a VPN service and it can improve the speed of your connection. When you choose RouterSource, you can rely on their professional service and the quality of their products.
Flashrouters is another great option for those looking for pre-configured routers. They have a remarkable selection of devices running DD-WRT or Tomato and there are also dual router setups that can be used to link with Apple Airport Extreme, as well as wireless extenders available. Additionally, Flashrouters offers routers that have been pre-configured with pre-paid VPN services. The company is committed to provide professionally configured and tested products and highly skilled customer support.
If you have chosen DD-WRT as your firmware, you can find convenient prices on top quality pre-configured models from DD-WRT Buffalo. There is a wide variety of options running DD-WRT, including second-gen models that support improved performance. The best part is that DD-WRT Buffalo routers are covered by a 3-year warranty. They also sell Asus routers featuring Asuswrt. These routers may not offer as many features as other DD-WRT models, but they work well and come with good configuration options.
Before choosing the firmware that better suits your requirements, you can check the below brief summary of what you can expect from DD-WRT, Tomato and Asuswrt. Keep in mind that while OpenWRT is another option available, as previously mentioned, it is designed for developers and users with advanced technical knowledge.
DD-WRT Extensive selection of features and more configuration possibilities than other solutions. While the broad functionality can be overwhelming for some, the setting up process is not difficult and the firmware gives you versatility. It is ideal for users who need a wide range of features.
Tomato It brings a good list of features (although there are less than with DD-WRT) and provides simple and faster performance. The firmware is easier to install and the interface is clearer. Overall, Tomato offers a solid combination of functionality and performance.
Asuswrt Users who have acquired one of the recent models of Asus routers, will have the possibility of using this Tomato-based firmware. There is also an option known as Asuwrt-merlin, which is as the name suggests, a version of Asuswrt created by Merlin. It only works with certain Asus routers, but it provides enhanced performance and fixes known bugs.