Via Twitter, some useful router recommendations

If you haven’t yet seen firsthand how Twitter can be genuinely useful, maybe this story will help. Yesterday, I asked a quick question via Twitter:

Router recommendation, anyone? Looking for rock-solid Wireless N and wired gigabit Ethernet

Within a few hours, I had dozens of responses. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw the question, but because of the way Twitter is designed, you probably saw only a handful (if any) of those responses. So, by request, I’m summarizing the results here.

One response was an interesting link to performance test results for a bunch of wireless devices (thanks, @LANjackal). And, amusingly, the two market leaders in the router category, Linksys and D-Link, each got the Crossfire treatment from some followers. @chriskhall said "just dont buy anything from Dlink," while @KSalamehI called the D-Link line of Wireless N devices "simply amazing." Similarly, @toomers recommends "anything Linksys" while @pinggoat says "as long as you avoid linksys you should be fine."

Aside from the ironic symmetry, I think those responses do a good job of illustrating one weakness of individual recommendations. By their nature they usually encompass one person’s unique experience, which might or might not reflect the experience of a larger population. Fortunately, the sample size is good enough that I was able to identify some trends.

D-Link got the majority of positive mentions. Four recommendations called out the D-Link DIR-655, including one from my Windows 7 Inside Out partner Carl Siechert (@carlsiec), who says "they’ve supposedly fixed o’heating problems, and it’s worked well for me. Win7 friendly too!"

I got two very strong recommendations for the DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router, including one from Mike Torres (@MITorres), who calls himself a "big fan" and says he "went through 4 different routers last year before settling on this one. Only one that hasn’t failed me."

At the higher end of the D-Link line, there was a thumbs-up for the DIR-825 ("rock solid and real dual band APs") from Media Center guru andy vt (@babgvant) and a vote for the DIR-855 from my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes (@the_pc_doc).

Linksys has its share of advocates as well, with the Linksys WRT310N getting the most recommendations (four). Microsoft’s @brandonleblanc says it’s been "working fantastically." As a cautionary note, @chrisdaida points out that it "gets hot" and recommends a vertical mount. There’s one vote strongly for and one strongly against the WRT610N, however, with @robertmclaws saying he’s "had all kinds of trouble" with that model.

A handful of devices from other vendors got cameo mentions. @leemathews says "We just switched to an Asus WL-500W two weeks ago. Have yet to drop connection once!" Windows Home Server MVP Donavon West (@donavon) confesses, "I know it’s an odd choice for a PC guy, but I’ve been using the Apple Airport Extreme Gigabit edition. Reboot *maybe* once a year." Rounding out the list were the TRENDnet TEW-652BRP and Netgear RangeMax NEXT Wireless Router WNR854T.

Because of the layout of my home and office, I can’t get by with a single wireless access point. I currently have a pair of D-Link devices in service, a DIR-615 and a DGL-4500, both configured as access points only. They’ve been mostly reliable performers, but I’ve been having some problems lately with the DGL-4500 in the living room, which has been regularly dropping wireless connectivity. The system log complains that a local PC "Received deauthentication," which is invariably followed by an annoying "wireless restart." I tried flashing the firmware to the most recent version, disabled QoS features. I’ve just replaced the unit with another, identical model, to rule out hardware problems.

[Update: Hmmm, seems like the A1 version of this D-Link hardware might be defective.]

In the past, I’ve used the comments section of this blog to do similar research. This option was faster and much more focused. Thanks to all who responded!

15 thoughts on “Via Twitter, some useful router recommendations

  1. Ed, a couple more notes on the Asus WL-500W. It’s also got a fantastic admin system, can do black/whitelisting, supports downloading and torrenting via a built-in client, and has a USB port for storage sharing. I’ve gone through at least half a dozen routers at our shop over the past three years, and this is the first one I’m really, really enjoying.

  2. I was very unhappy with my Linksys 610N. I had one connection loss after another. I decided, however, to call AT&T and get a new modem; mine seemed just too hot not to be causing potential problems. Since installing the new modem, I haven’t lost a single byte. Just goes to show you, things often work in concert and the real problem might be disguised.

  3. I’m sorry Ed, but I’m still a little sceptical when it comes to quite how ‘useful’ Twitter might be in these sorts of scenarios.

    It might be useful for YOU, when you ask your 1900 largely tech-savvy followers for information about routers, but for the average user (say most of those 1900) who have maybe a small handful of followers at best, it offers them nothing. They just don’t have a large enough pool of opinions to generate anything of value.

    It’s not even like the responses to your original question would even be useful to the wider world, because it would be difficult for someone to piece together the information via Twitter search (most entries would refer to a single router model). It’s only your blog pulling the information together into a single entity which makes it in any way useful, and which wouldn’t happen except in very rare circumstances.

  4. So twitter is so genuinely useful that you had to make a blog post to summarise the results? You could have got exactly the same response by just asking the question in a blog post, and you wouldn’t have then had to make a separate blog post to make the responses useful to anyone but yourself.

  5. Been wondering the same myself and came to the conclusion it was more hassle looking through all the routers on offer than putting up with my current kinda-working one, so I gave up. Thanks for sharing the answers!

    (Part of the problem I had is UK online stores still selling old/discontinued routers that turned out to have major issues. I found a couple that looked good then did some more research and it turned out they were disasters. It also doesn’t help that many of the manufacturers re-use model numbers for completely different hardware. It’s hard to know what’s actually being sold online.)

  6. This came at a good time. I’m currently looking for a new wireless access point. Thanks for sharing. It looks like I”m going to have to add you to twitter now.

  7. Am very happy with my DIR-655. Love the dual wireless network (one for the family, one for guests), and the “game fuel” thing.

    I agree with the comment above: twitter is useful in this way only if you have lots of savvy followers.

  8. Don’t forget to avoid Netgear.

    In all seriousness I’ve had reasons to avoid all of the consumer level networking brands and come to the conclusion that they all make terrible products. Fortunately they all seem to make a few good ones once in a while too, you just have to find them.

    I currently have a DIR-655 and it works pretty decently for me. For something like this I judge it by how often I have to fiddle with it, lets just say its been sitting their on the shelf quite a while chugging along nicely.

  9. My experience has given me reason to never use a router with a wireless access point built in. I use the D-Link Gaming router without wireless (4100? If I remember right) which has been a rock solid performer for me much longer than any other router I’ve ever used. And, I use Linksys N access points for wireless connectivity. This has proven to be the best for me. I’ve repeated this combo a few times for work and friends. It has yet to fail me, where before I was replacing routers w/wireless once a year or less. I’ve found the traffic control of the D-Link useful for much more than just games. My family loves it to because now I don’t hog all the bandwidth to myself on new MSDN releases 😉

  10. The Linksys 610N is the only home router that I’m aware of that will simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz. It does so by creating two wireless networks, each with it’s own SSID, allowing you to keep the 5GHz network clear for devices that need the higher bandwidth. Here is a good article on why 5GHz is benificial for 802.11n wireless.

  11. Your router column had amazing timing. Ever since January, I’ve been struggling with getting Windows7 to work with my Linksys BEFSX41. I lose my network when Win7 wakes from sleep mode.

    This router works perfectly with my Win98 and WinXP computers. Works when XP replaces Win7 on my computer too.

    And if I connect the computer to the cable modem, bypassing the router, this Win7 problem disappears.

    My current thinking is that Win7 is expecting something that this router isn’t delivering.

    I’ve tried duplicating XP’s setting in Win7. I’ve read hundreds of web pages looking for hints to try. Nothing has helped. (Psst! I even re-read your book, XP Inside Out!)

    Yesterday, I gave up. Today, after reading your column, I’m motivated to continue my struggle.

    Cheerios, Fred.

    P.S. Win7 builds 7000, 7100, & 7600, — same results.

  12. I have the D Link DIR-655. Had some issues with printer sharing over wireless when I first got it. Updated the firmware and has been working great ever since.

    Great transfer speeds over wired and wireless.

  13. I am currently using the linksys wrt320N and it’s been running fine handling extenders and has a great range.

    The only brand I can not recommend would be 3com. It’s been the worst router I have dealt with and I couldn’t even blame it on one bad batch considering we had about five of them.

    The best router I ever had was a Microsoft MN-700, alas it has been discontinued for years.

  14. Ed,

    Very interesting topic. I read with great interest. Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m still using a WRT54G with Tomato firmware, and am still VERY happy with just that. But I don’t bit-torrent, etc too much, so it’s no big deal.

    As for 802.11n, I’m waiting until it’s final, which should finally be happening soon, before messing with it, and even then, no rush, as I have no real need.

    Anyway, all interesting.

    When are you going to be on Computer America again? I loved hearing your comments on there… you put the smack-down to any hint of Windows bashing… sometimes it’s valid, but all too often, it’s not.

  15. You asked for rock-solid Wireless N and wireless gigabit wired gigabite ethernet but mention only wireless routers. Did you get any wired suggestions at all? I am using a Netgear RP614 and it is only ok and not gigabite. Sure like to hear some suggestions for wired routers.

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