router recommendations

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Chenks

Regular Contributor
i've had a Unifi Dream Machine since January and finally had enough of it. Nightmare Machine more like.

too many of the advertised features are non-existant or broken. features that are present in product lower down the scale are missing, and you constantly have to be a "beta tester" to get basic function working that get broken in pushed out updates.
thus UI can go take a flying f.

so i'm now looking at replacement routers (for virgin cable).
been looking at the AsusWRT devices specifically comparing the following

RT-AC86U
RT-AC87U
RT-AC88U

which all seem similar with the exception of WIFI performance.
not even sure if they are still current models or not.

the features i do want are
-ability to create VLANs
-the ability to create a "guest" wifi that has total device isolation and restricted bandwidth
-ability to run a VPN server allowing me to remotely connect to my network (L2TP preferred)
-ability to allow the router to be a VPN client to connect to services like NordVPN/Surfshark etc (usually OpenVPN client)
-some sort of threat management (IDS or IPS)
-deep packet inspection if possible
-ability to update DynDNS services

what i don't need is best wifi speeds currently available.
my laptop is only 2x2 anyway (dell xps) and other wifi devices are phones. so AX would be wasted albeit it would be future proofing.

the 8 ports on the 88U (with the ability for link aggregation) is a major plus point.

open to suggestions.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
The RT-AC86U, although it doesn't support VLANs, is your best bet with the needs you stated. The other two models are just buying EOL products with no compelling reasons today (apart from the extra LAN ports on the 'AC88U).

The RMerlin supported firmware, amtm scripting support, and specifically the upgraded OpenVPN options over stock Asus and scripts such as CakeQoS-Merlin, FlexQoS, nvpnmgr (NordVPN manager), YazFi, Suricata, Skynet (along with AiProtection, if needed), and many other useful scripts may offer all you need today.

What the RT-AX88U will offer is not just 2x the RAM and four cores (vs. two cores) of the RT-AC86U with all the benefits of fast hardware-based AES-NI OpenVPN acceleration enabled, but will do so with more OpenVPN clients/servers available to be used on their own core too.

AX isn't future-proofing and an AX capable router like the RT-AX88U w/RMerlin + amtm capabilities isn't wasted either, with the need for certain features/workloads.

Depending on your ISP speeds, the AX option may still be the better buy today. Even if you don't have any AX clients today.

HTH.
 

Chenks

Regular Contributor
i currently get 216Mbps down and 21Mbps up, but my line is capable of "up to" 500Mbps down.
VLAN support was essentially so i could have the main network 192.168.1.x / IoT 192.168.2.x / Guest WIFI 192.168.3.x - just to keep everything neat and tidy.

the RT-AX88U looks to be around £300 so may be pushing the budget there a little.
i'm not familiar with RMerlin - is that a different OS/firmware that what is shipped with the devices?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture

Chenks

Regular Contributor
so i would definitely be out of luck in regards to the VLAN ?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
The current RMerlin powered routers that are worth considering (RT-AC86U and RT-AX88U) as main routers today don't support VLANs.

I think this may also be true for the also RMerlin supported (but inferior OpenVPN performance) of the RT-AX58U and the RT-AX56U too.

All other models are well past their prime days. For example, the RT-AC68U will support VLANs, but the OpenVPN performance would be a small fraction of what the 'AC86U and 'AX88U can offer (up to around 250Mbps or more with AES-NI hardware onboard).
 

Chenks

Regular Contributor
i guess i could live without hte VLAN, providing the firewall allowed me to properly isloate/restrict such devices from having too much LAN access.
 

doczenith1

Very Senior Member
been looking at the AsusWRT devices specifically comparing the following

RT-AC86U
RT-AC87U
RT-AC88U

which all seem similar with the exception of WIFI performance.
not even sure if they are still current models or not.
The only thing similar about those are the model numbers lol. Asus is so confusing when it come to model numbers. I agree with what @L&LD has mentioned in his comments although I would personally go with the 86U at this time unless you did have AX clients.
 
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Chenks

Regular Contributor
if i can stretch the funds then i'll try and go for the RT-AX88U.
looking at recent ebay sold listing for my UDM it looks like i might be able to get as much as what the AX88U costs.
 

Chenks

Regular Contributor
i'm seeing quite a few bad reviews about the AX88U with regards to WIFI.
range being poor, disconnects, poor speeds.

i know they are anecdotal and it depends a lot on local environment, but are these misplaced reviews?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Not for those users. :)

Neither are the reviews that say the router is great (and the many more that don't post any review but are also happy with the router too).
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
i know they are anecdotal and it depends a lot on local environment, but are these misplaced reviews?
I've been using one as my primary router since the product was launched. No issue at all with mine.

People often fail to troubleshoot their own network, always putting the blame on their router. A 802.11ax router may not always work well out of the box with old, low-end wifi devices that were never tested with Wifi 6, and require either settings tweaks (like disabling Airtime Fairness), or old wifi clients to get replaced by more modern and compatible devices.
 

Chenks

Regular Contributor
this is very true.
i work in IT so troubleshoot issues often.

my wifi devices are all fairly recent (Dell XPS, iphone, pixel 4, couple of nvidia shields, and a spattering of IoT devices - hue hub, harmony hub, nest thermostat, nest speakers)
of the 15 wifi devices currently connected, 10 are on 5Ghz and 5 on 2.4Ghz.
it's a modern build house (so plasterboard and wood studs), so coverage isn't a problem anywhere.

at the moment the modem and router are downstairs in the livingroom, but the plan is to move those upstairs in the spare bedroom/office and put some of the other kit in there too out the way - Synology NAS, hue hub etc.

i assume having the router at the top of the house won't make much of a difference compared to having it at the bottom of the house?

i've also found out that it's possible to upgrade the WIFI card in the Dell XPS as it's just a standard module. it's currently a Killer AC1535 module.
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
i assume having the router at the top of the house won't make much of a difference compared to having it at the bottom of the house?
You will generally want the router either in the most central location possible, or at the very least closer to where most of the wifi-connected devices are.
 

Chenks

Regular Contributor
does anyone ever have it in a central location? unless they have it plonked in the middle of a room which is in the middle of the house?
generally, everyone has there incoming connection on an external wall, and that's usually where the router is going to be.

however, the question was more about vertical rather than the horizontal.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
however, the question was more about vertical rather than the horizontal.
High, central, and in the clear. However, there are considerations...

Signal power (and throughput) degrades with distance, so closer is better.

Signal power (and throughput) degrades with obstacles, so line of sight is better than being blocked by material, some worse than others.

Multiple APs/mesh are separated to distribute coverage to the perimeter and outdoor areas, so central is no longer applicable or takes on a different meaning.

For example, my 2xRT-AC86U AiMesh is spread to each end of the main level. This puts the router in my study/office (below the MB) near the primary media center and cable ISP so that traffic is mostly wired and direct, and spreads the coverage to all perimeter and outdoor areas, and to the upper and lower levels where coverage is very good and usage is much less. It would be inconvenient to locate my router on the upper level and less practical overall for our home arrangement and usage.

OE
 

Marc66

Regular Contributor
i'm not familiar with RMerlin - is that a different OS/firmware that what is shipped with the devices?
RMerlin is one of the main reason to get an Asus router: it is a fork of the original Asus firmware with a lot of extra features and fixes. Look at the RMerlin sub-forum for more details


Sent using Tapatalk
 

tekrich

Regular Contributor
does anyone ever have it in a central location? unless they have it plonked in the middle of a room which is in the middle of the house?
generally, everyone has there incoming connection on an external wall, and that's usually where the router is going to be.

however, the question was more about vertical rather than the horizontal.
I have the AX88U replace our virgin hub, and its located on the 1st floor hall of our house. And there is a signal down to the ground floor and up to the 2nd floor. I have mine mounted on the wall.

Don't read too much into the bad reviews, both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz for us is top class, I don't get moaned at by anyone regarding wireless performance.

It's a powerful router too. I have AMTM, Diversion, and Skynet scripts installed on the router! I also use it as an OpenVPN server so I can access my LAN from the WAN. Handy to reach a server, or other machine while I'm out, and a safe way to access my CCTV system.

Also, install the Merlin firmware on it. Its just a better router with Merlin installed.
 
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Trip

Very Senior Member
I'd go AX88U via Amazon Prime and give Merlin plus scripts a trial run. If it's not enough for whatever reason (VLANs, extensibility, etc.) then it's a quick and free return, and you can step up to a proper wired router, switch and APs and build yourself a big-boy stack of discrete components. For that route, I'd do a cheap SFF PC with a multi-NIC card, 4G of RAM and an SSD in it, or an embedded x86 whitebox (Qotom, Lanner or similar) with RAM + SSD, then load your distro of choice plus packages. Then add whatever controller-based SMB-class wireless layer you like (UniFi, Omada, Cisco WAP, etc.) and you're done.
 

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