Best router choices for Merlin support on a budget

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BobGafner

New Around Here
Long time lurker here and IT old-timer.

I bought an RT-87U last summer and saw it is now considered obsolete. Also own a few RT-AC66U’s (probably earliest hardware revision)

from what I can tell they are both unsupported by today’s standards. I did see Johns Fork for the 66u but it seems he uses a much older firmware revision, he does seem to update certain components but if I’m not mistaken it still uses the old Linux kernel and it might not be as secure and stable as the newer FW versions from Merlin.

I saw the RT-AC68U is still compatible with Merlin, but for how long? Will it still be supported in let’s say a year from now or am I better of buying a better router. I’ve lost my IT job due to the pandemic so I’m freelancing now, but I don’t have a large budget to spend. I want to have a reasonable secure router for a reasonable price. Any thoughts are welcomed! Thanks in advance
 

Keith Gorham

Regular Contributor
Considering that the RT-AC68U is the number one downloaded version of the Merlin software, I would guess that it will be supported for a while.


1611061108925.png
 

hancox

Regular Contributor
honestly, and without knowing your budget - i would look for a second-hand AX-56U or AX-3000. The 68U is very very long in the tooth for most merlin usage (i.e. fine as a router, but you're missing horsepower for other tasks).

86U's tend to hover around $120, give or take, another good choice.

If you pull the trigger on the 68U, make sure it's a real 68U, and not a converted TM-AC1900. Not a performance concern, per se, but it runs afoul of running Merlin on it.
 

BobGafner

New Around Here
honestly, and without knowing your budget - i would look for a second-hand AX-56U or AX-3000. The 68U is very very long in the tooth for most merlin usage (i.e. fine as a router, but you're missing horsepower for other tasks).

86U's tend to hover around $120, give or take, another good choice.

If you pull the trigger on the 68U, make sure it's a real 68U, and not a converted TM-AC1900. Not a performance concern, per se, but it runs afoul of running Merlin on it.

how can I make sure of this? Can I can just check the model number/type on the back? And is there anything known about the different hardware revisions for this model?
 

BobGafner

New Around Here
RT-AC66U_B1 clocked faster than AC68U and less money new. Try B&H Photo for price.

just found this:


performance seems quite similar
 
Last edited:

bbunge

Part of the Furniture
just found this:


performance seems quite similar
Correct. AC66U_B1 $99 new. Same processor and RAM as AC68U. Does not have removable antenna. Best case for it is Merlin uses one to test his firmware on first. I have one running as a root AiMesh router in a small office with an AC68U as a mesh node. Just updated the Asus firmware on it yesterday and it is still working well. I say still as it was in my house for almost 4 years before I donated it to the not-for-profit.
 

hancox

Regular Contributor
how can I make sure of this? Can I can just check the model number/type on the back? And is there anything known about the different hardware revisions for this model?

Unless someone tried really hard, it should say T Mobile and Personal Cellspot on the top bar, to left of Asus.

1611068412833.png
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
My thoughts on the RT-AC68U and its variants are that regardless of how long and for how many it has been a solid choice for up to today, it has no bearing on how long it will be supported in the future.

Those routers were great and still are if you already own them (I am constantly re-purposing them as Media Bridge routers for my customers lately, as they buy the newer models).

The RT-AC86U or the RT-AX58U are the starting points for a router today. Depending on your ISP speeds, VPN needs, and the price between those two 'entry-level' routers in your area.

 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Long time lurker here and IT old-timer.

I bought an RT-87U last summer and saw it is now considered obsolete. Also own a few RT-AC66U’s (probably earliest hardware revision)

from what I can tell they are both unsupported by today’s standards. I did see Johns Fork for the 66u but it seems he uses a much older firmware revision, he does seem to update certain components but if I’m not mistaken it still uses the old Linux kernel and it might not be as secure and stable as the newer FW versions from Merlin.

I saw the RT-AC68U is still compatible with Merlin, but for how long? Will it still be supported in let’s say a year from now or am I better of buying a better router. I’ve lost my IT job due to the pandemic so I’m freelancing now, but I don’t have a large budget to spend. I want to have a reasonable secure router for a reasonable price. Any thoughts are welcomed! Thanks in advance

RT-AC66U_B1 or AC68U or similar, RT-AC86U, RT-AX86U.

The AC1900/AC68/AC66_B1 do not support Smart Connect node band steering, so you must use different SSIDs per band.

The AC86U (and newer?) has about 20% more effective WiFi range, which can push it to being a single router solution for a typical house footprint where as an AC1900/AC68/AC66_B1 may come up a touch short on range.

So, I'd consider the AC86U or newer unless you must manage a tight budget. Look for a sale.

OE
 

heysoundude

Very Senior Member
if you want to get somewhere in the range of 3-5 (or more) years out of a router, I would suggest no less than an ac86: wifi6 and 6e client devices are starting to populate the market, so by the time you have acquired enough of them to need router technology to leverage those capabilities. the ac86 will be aged and coming due for replacement itself; so it should come as no surprise when I say the ac68/ac66_b1 versions are closer to dropping off the edge, into the canyon of no support, from where I stand - yes, they can be had for "next to nothing" but you could be throwing more money at another router upgrade in 6-12 months if you go that route. bite the bullet and be done with it for a while.
I just popped over to the asus website - @RMerlin hasn't said anything yet about supporting it as far as I've seen (I would bet that it's safe to assume he will), but there's an AX68 on their product listing that would kick an AC66/68's butt around the block any day of the week and twice on sundays, and probably seriously bruise the AC86 I mentioned above....just to stir mud up into the waters of this discussion. (This could devolve into a "More or Faster processors" discussion...I'm on the faster side, but I won't deny more processing is never a bad thing...sorry for making it a more complex thread)

(It's crazy how they're throwing so much at the wall to see what will stick over at Asus...)
 

maxbraketorque

Very Senior Member
If you don't care about AX wifi, then the AC86U is the clear choice. Its a very powerful router for its price point. The average household is unlikely to have any AX capable devices, and even if they do, the benefit is dubious IMHO. The AC protocol is way faster than most people's internet connections even in relatively low signal strength conditions.

But if you want an AX router for future compatibility, I suggest the AX58U because L&LD said its a good entry level choice.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Long time lurker here and IT old-timer.

I bought an RT-87U last summer and saw it is now considered obsolete. Also own a few RT-AC66U’s (probably earliest hardware revision)

from what I can tell they are both unsupported by today’s standards. I did see Johns Fork for the 66u but it seems he uses a much older firmware revision, he does seem to update certain components but if I’m not mistaken it still uses the old Linux kernel and it might not be as secure and stable as the newer FW versions from Merlin.

I saw the RT-AC68U is still compatible with Merlin, but for how long? Will it still be supported in let’s say a year from now or am I better of buying a better router. I’ve lost my IT job due to the pandemic so I’m freelancing now, but I don’t have a large budget to spend. I want to have a reasonable secure router for a reasonable price. Any thoughts are welcomed! Thanks in advance

AC86U on sale for $153 (US) w/promo code: ASUS AC2900 Dual-band Gaming Router, Mesh Wi-Fi support - Newegg.com

OE
 

sorinut

Occasional Visitor
I run the LTS fork on my rt-ac68u. The core parts are updated and it's secure. You don't get all the bling of the main merlin firmware, but it's stable as hell, and he keeps it patched.

I gave my girlfriend my rt-ac56u running the LTS fork, and that router has been (officially) obsolete for a couple years. The fork still supports it and it's been rock solid!
 
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noah way

Regular Contributor
that’s a very hopeful statistic. I guess it is still very much alive and kicking. There is a guy in my local area selling a barely used 68u for $ 43. I guess that’s a pretty good deal.

That's a good deal. The 68U is a solid, well-performing unit That will reliably give you > 400 Mbps. You certainly don't need to spend 3x the money for a router for your 50/20 connection.
 

Lee MacMillan

Regular Contributor
86U's tend to hover around $120, give or take, another good choice.
Beware of used 86Us from 2018 or earlier. Anecdotal evidence along with my own experience is that they have a high failure rate. At least don't buy one without return privileges.
 

maxbraketorque

Very Senior Member
Beware of used 86Us from 2018 or earlier. Anecdotal evidence along with my own experience is that they have a high failure rate. At least don't buy one without return privileges.

One of my four AC86Us is 2018 vintage. Still going strong serving as the main router in my household. Overall, I'm puzzled by the AC86U failure rate. There seems to be a real issue, but I have four in-service now that were purchased piecemeal over a three year period, and all chug right along without a hitch. I guess I've been lucky.

With that said, I agree that it would be prudent to only by an AC86U that has free returns.
 

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