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Router Upgrade Advice

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This is the first time I've upgraded my router in probably 8 or 9 years. I've been using this old Netgear WNDR3400v3 which was apparently released in 2012. I don't remember exactly, but I think I only paid like $40-$50 for it when it was new. I haven't really been having any issues with it, but it's so old I just kind of feel like it needs to be updated.

One of the features I liked from the Netgear was the QoS for gaming. It wasn't perfect, but it really made a difference on latency while playing games when other devices would try to hog the bandwidth. On my old ISP with my old modem I didn't have very much bandwidth so it made a big difference.

Less than a month ago I switched to a new ISP with a new modem and theoretically 17 times faster internet than I had before. Since I have such an old router I started shopping for a new one to match my shiny new internet. The gaming angle led me to the ASUS brand, and the reviews I read looked good. I admittedly didn't do enough research on all the different ASUS router model numbers and I just bought at the same price point as my last router. I got the RT-AC1200.

Before I start complaining too much, I just have to say that I love this router so far. It doesn't have all the options I saw while reading general ASUS router reviews because it's such a low end model, but it's still better than what I had. I really like being able to SSH in to it and run things on the command line. The QoS for gaming seems to work better than my old Netgear so far. The bandwidth monitoring options are much better than the Netgear. The real time cpu charts and real time bandwidth is fun. Being able to custom name all my devices from something like the default ESP_2467234 to "Living Room Light 1" is amazing. I like the phone app for it too. I could never get IPv6 to work on my old ISP. When I contacted them asking about it they told me they needed to send a technician out to my house to set it up for me. With the new ISP and the new router I just put IPv6 on native mode and dhcp worked. There's a lot of stuff I love about it.

What I don't like is wifi devices keep dropping connection, and then I reboot the router and they start working again. BUT!! I'm doing my research on how to change the settings to hopefully fix this which has been helped immensely by reading these forums and a lot of other websites. More on this in a bit.

The other thing I don't like about it is apparently it doesn't support gigabit... Seriously? This is 2021 I just assumed everything that was sold anymore would support gigabit ethernet by now. It didn't even occur to me to look at that. I feel real dumb because I can't even come close to my ISPs theoretical maximum speed when everything on my network has to go through this 100 Mbps pinhole. Anyways...

The other thing I don't like about it is it doesn't support Merlin. That firmware looks pretty neat. One of the features I expected on this router was the ability to monitor data usage by device. I'm guessing it just simply doesn't have enough storage space on it for all those logs.

Anyways, if I can't get a more stable wifi connection, it's going to be a deal breaker. I live in a pretty crowded wifi area. I can see 22 other 2.4 Ghz essids right now and 10 other 5 Ghz. The first setting I changed on the new router is the channel bandwidth. It was set to auto which I'm sure it was trying to use 2 or 3 channels, but I read that setting it to 20 Mhz in a crowded area can increase stability. The channel selection was also set to auto, and I think the 2.4 Ghz was trying to use channel 11. I downloaded WifiScanner onto one of my jailbroken iphones and used it to pick channel 8 hoping it kind of sits between all the 11s and 6s. We'll see. 5 Ghz isn't as crowded, but it looks like most of the other routers are using the low channels so I set mine to 165. I'm going to give it a few days and see if I have the same issues with stuff disconnecting.

One of the wireless devices I'm having the most issues with is my main iPhone X running the latest iOS 14.4. I've tried 5 Ghz and I've tried 2.4 Ghz and both were having issues disconnecting or getting laggy for a bit and then working again. Just today I was having issues while connected to 2.4 Ghz keeping a youtube video playing on my phone sitting 30 feet from my router through one wall with no microwave or fridge or anything between. Checking the ASUS app showed I had about -55 dBm signal strength where I was sitting which should be enough for a phone resolution video. I haven't noticed any issues with lag or anything on any of my wired devices. Only wireless issues so I don't think it's my internet connection.

Something I read from like 2012 said that ASUS routers and Macs don't always work well together. Is that still a thing? Would an iphone and an ASUS router have the same issues? Would changing some settings help with that?

I have 24 wireless devices, and 4 wired. 5 of the wireless are security cameras that send a small but steady stream of data out to the cloud constantly 24 hours a day. They don't use much bandwidth all at once, but it adds up over the whole day. The rest of the wireless devices are mostly like smart bulbs and junk that don't use any bandwidth at all, but are always connected. I also play some games that don't use a lot of bandwidth either unless they're downloading an update, but they're wired so I haven't had any issues with that. Any advice on how to tune my wireless router settings would be appreciated. I don't think it's too much to ask for a new router to work as well or better than a 9 year old router.

Ok, the final issue that I touched on above is I'm considering returning the RT-AC1200 and upgrading to AT LEAST something that supports gigabit ethernet. Obviously all the wifi tuning advice from above will probably apply to an upgraded router as well. The one I'm looking at now is the RT-AC68U. It looks like it supports gigabit ethernet and I could even install Merlin on it. Thoughts?
If you are looking to save a buck check out the RT-AC66U_B1. Same electronics as the AC68U but clocked faster. Does not have removable antenna.
A few bucks more the AC86U is a better performer with a Linux 4 Kernel and more features. Better future proofing is the AX86U
I live in a pretty crowded wifi area. I can see 22 other 2.4 Ghz essids right now
That's not crowded. Last time I looked I could receive over 170 Wi-Fi transmitters.
That's not crowded. Last time I looked I could receive over 170 Wi-Fi transmitters.

No, 22 is crowded... your 170 is off the chart! :)

If you are looking to save a buck check out the RT-AC66U_B1. Same electronics as the AC68U but clocked faster. Does not have removable antenna.
A few bucks more the AC86U is a better performer with a Linux 4 Kernel and more features. Better future proofing is the AX86U
Thanks for the suggestion. It looks like Merlin dropped support for the RT-AC66U though so if I wanted to try that out I'd have to run an older version without any of the new features.
I contacted Amazon to start the exchange process and they wanted to do some troubleshooting first. The Amazon guy had me reset the Asus router back to the factory settings and a few other things. Nothing improved. Then he handed me off to Asus to see if they had anymore ideas of things to try. They made sure I was using the latest Asus firmware, and then they had me do a few speed tests.

Computer wired directly to modem with an ethernet cable gave 236 Mbps, which is actually more than I'm paying for. My internet is supposed to be 200 Mbps. Not complaining.

Same computer wired to the Asus router with the same ethernet cable gave 93 Mbps which is pretty much what I expected since there is the hard cap of 100 Mbps because the router doesn't support gigabit.

Laptop connected to 5 Ghz wifi sitting on a table literally 3 feet from the router. The speedtest takes about 10 seconds, and for the first 6 or 7 seconds it was struggling to even hit 1.5 Mbps. The last 3 or 4 seconds the router sort of woke up a little and managed to get the speed up to 16 Mbps, but when the Asus guy heard that he just said, "Yeah, that's not good. I think there is a hardware issue."

So Amazon has been great and they're going to do an exchange/upgrade to the RT-AC68U I was looking at for only $15 more with free return and free shipping. I don't even have to print a label or anything. The Asus RT-AC1200_V2 is back in the box, and I'm using my old Netgear again. Hopefully the new router works better.

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