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Best Replacement AC1900 Router, Factoring In Firmware and Reliability

Discussion in 'Wireless Buying Advice' started by HapaxLegomenon, May 5, 2020.

  1. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Hi all,

    It's my first time posting here, so I apologize if anything I write violates forum etiquette.

    I chose my current router, the D-Link DIR-860L, in 2015 based solely on value for performance from the Router Ranker data, but I realize now that this approach is quite a gamble. Unfortunately, it was recently fried by lightning and no longer boots up, so I'm looking for a replacement.

    Some background on my specific wireless router needs:
    • I currently live in a 700 square ft. 1-bedroom apartment, so I don't need to prioritize range
    • I currently subscribe to 100/5 internet service, which is perfectly fine for me
    • I have a USB 3.0 external hard drive, which was connected to my DIR-860L to stream FLAC files and movie rips
    • All but one of my devices support 5GHz wireless AC
    Apart from that, I really don't need a router with fancy features. Since I plan on connecting an external hard drive, increased USB storage speed compared to my DIR-860L would be nice. Ultimately, though, I'd like to prioritize stability and continued security updates.

    I had focused on value and was almost going to purchase the Linksys EA6900 because it benchmarked well and can be had for pennies, but I went to the forums and found that it's plagued by overheating issues. I was considering other Linksys EA6xxx routers for their value, but it seems like overheating is inherent to their flying saucer design. I also wasn't too happy to see that its USB storage performance was worse than my DIR-860L.

    D-Link routers seemed okay, but it seemed like they didn't excel at anything in particular, and the past security flaw had me concerned.

    Then I thought, maybe I'll go with the Phicomm K3C because it features an Intel Lantiq processor and is extremely inexpensive, but then I found that the company is iffy and has exited the US market, effectively abandoning the router and all future security updates.

    Then I thought, the ASUS Blue Cave seems promising because it also features the Intel Lantiq processor and is not too expensive, but I also found in the forums that it's plagued by overheating issues due to insufficient heatsinking.

    I then thought, surely the top-ranked Netgear R7000 would be free of complaints, but lo and behold I found in the forums that Netgear is iffy about firmware updates, and apparently the latest R7000 firmware leads to router instability. I'm aware that custom firmware like DD-WRT and AdvancedTomato support the R7000, but I'm wary of them causing performance hits.

    It seems that all roads, as it were, lead to an ASUS wireless AC router that's supported by Asuswrt-Merlin, such as the RT-AC68U. It looks like there aren't really any complaints about the ASUS RT-AC series of routers regarding overheating or instability or security flaws or lack of firmware updates. Wireless and USB storage performance also seem to be solid. I'm just slightly concerned about the TrendMicro data tracking agreement, but apparently I don't have to accept the EULA. Asuswrt-Merlin is also based on the original ASUS firmware, so there wouldn't be issues with performance hits or half-working features.

    Can anyone chime in about this line of routers being the best choice, or if there's a better recommendation for my needs? I'm looking at the sub-$100 range, and I almost always buy used or renewed.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2020
  2. OzarkEdge

    OzarkEdge Part of the Furniture

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    I would get the Asus RT-AC86U. You might also consider the RT-AC68U and RT-AC66U_B1... these do not support Smart Connect node band steering, so must use separate SSIDs per band. The 86U does. All can serve as an AiMesh node in a future AiMesh network for extended coverage... the 86U would make a better AiMesh router.

    OE
     
  3. K-2SO

    K-2SO Very Senior Member

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    RT-AC66U_B1 is under $100. It's older RT-AC68U in new clothes. Don't buy RT-AC86U used or refurbished. May have issues.
     
  4. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Thanks for the recommendations! I'll keep an eye out for any of these models.

    I did some research on the RT-AC68U and noticed that there are tons of variants out there. Is there a hardware revision that's ideal, and should I be worried if certain versions of ASUS firmware have blocked installation of 3rd-party firmwares like Merlin?

    (Edit: Found the SNB thread banning discussion on converted T-Mobile TM-1900AC routers, so I removed that part)
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2020
  5. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Thanks for the heads-up! Would an RT-AC66U_B1 be less preferable than, say, a newer-revision RT-AC68U?
     
  6. K-2SO

    K-2SO Very Senior Member

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    RT-AC66U_B1 is actually the latest RT-AC68U revision. RT-AC66U_B1 and all RT-AC68U versions run the same Merlin firmware.
    Read the text file here - https://sourceforge.net/projects/asuswrt-merlin/files/RT-AC66U_B1/
    RT-AC66U_B1 is a flat design router. RT-AC68U were vertical design. Whatever fits your needs and budget.
     
  7. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Great - thanks for the information! This is all very helpful.
     
  8. OzarkEdge

    OzarkEdge Part of the Furniture

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    You could say that for anything used or refurbished. I'd say don't buy used or refurbished unless you can return it and it has a warranty. Otherwise, buy what you want and take your chances... you might save some money.

    OE
     
  9. K-2SO

    K-2SO Very Senior Member

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    In general, I agree. Special attention to specific products.
    From Asus routers I would stay away from refurbished RT-AC86U, RT-AC87U, RT-AC5300, Blue Cave, Lyra Trio.
     
  10. Trip

    Trip Very Senior Member

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    @HapaxLegomenon - An AC66U_B1 running Merlin is probably what you should do if you're pretty much set on an Asus solution. If you're more technically inclined, I'd run a Qualcomm all-in-one flashed with OpenWRT (Archer A7 for low end, Netgear R7800 for high end), for superior SQM QoS, a vastly more customizable OS and just as long, if not longer, software/security support. But I get that everyone isn't a tinkerer and/or skilled at that level, and Merlin is easy enough to flash and setup, while usually offering enough feature set, to be a better choice for most folks.
     
  11. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    @Trip - Thanks for the suggestions! Yeah I've narrowed my choice to the AC66U_B1 running Merlin, which seems to be a tried and true solution. I'd consider myself somewhat technically inclined, but not inclined enough to understand what SQM QoS and bufferbloat are, hah. I'll keep the Qualcomm all-in-ones in mind for the future, though!

    I'm hoping that the AC66U_B1 has sufficient USB shielding to yield the same excellent USB 3.0 storage speed as the RT-AC68P and RT-AC1900P - guess I'll find out when I receive it.
     
  12. Trip

    Trip Very Senior Member

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    Regarding the network storage solution, if reliability/functionality is of the least bit crucial to you, I'd highly consider a NAS. I know many SNB'ers roll their eyes at that due to it being perceived extra complexity, but the benefits are too many to recount and it doesn't have to be that pricey; a 1-bay Synology DS120j is only $99 on Amazon. I know in this case that's 2x as expensive as just hanging your drive off of the all-in-one by USB and hoping for the best, but perhaps worth a look, if/when you ever get to "screw it"-levels of frustration with the router. ;)
     
  13. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Also can we appreciate just how painfully ironic it is that ASUS's naming convention is so terrible that they mislabeled the RT-AC86U as the RT-AC68U on their own store?

    upload_2020-5-7_14-7-26.png
     
    Trip likes this.
  14. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Noted - I'll know what to look for when it gets to the point where I want to chuck my router against the wall!

    I find the image of a wall-mounted router with a USB hard drive hanging for dear life from the router's USB port hilarious. Now I'm kind of tempted to wall mount my AC66U_B1 and just let my hard drive hang down from the port on the front...
     
  15. Trip

    Trip Very Senior Member

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    lol! Indeed. Ouch...
    As funny as that seems, and I apologize for being too gullible/literal/geeky, but I'm presuming of course you won't, as the stress that will place on the ports surely will cause a compromise of some kind (besides falling to the floor!), if not outright port/cable failure, sooner rather than later. ;) Unless of you velcro/zip-tie both to the wall, which would be a solid 100 geek points right there.
     
  16. HapaxLegomenon

    HapaxLegomenon Occasional Visitor

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    Hahaha, I definitely wasn't serious about actually doing that! But I really appreciate that you considered the possibility that someone might take the suggestion to heart and try it with their own setup, much to their chagrin. The router gods are currently smiling upon you for making sure it doesn't get too crowded in router heaven (or perhaps purgatory, if you're the Norton Core) ;)

    Now that you mention it though I probably should get some velcro/zip-ties...
     
  17. Trip

    Trip Very Senior Member

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  18. Yota

    Yota Regular Contributor

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    RT-AC66U_B1 USB transfer speed is lower than RT-AC68U, even it CPU is 200 MHz faster than traditional 68U (1 GHz and 800 MHz).

    Usually 66U_B1 (1 GHz dual-core) transmission speed is about 40MB/s
    68U is 60MB/s (800 MHz dual-core)
    1900P close to 70MB/s (1.4 GHz dual-core)
    86U close to 100MB/s (1.8 GHz dual-core)

    So, if you care about the USB transfer speed, you should choose RT-AC86U or RT-AC1900P.

    I hope my reply is not too late.