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Powerful Wi-Fi Router

Posted on 2014-11-20
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Last Modified: 2016-02-10
My client has a ZyXel P-660HW-T1 v3  (ADSL router with a four-port built-in Ethernet switch and IEEE 802.11b/g wireless capability) router that was supplied  several years ago by his Broadband Supplier.

The problem is that the wireless signal is not strong enough to reach all of the rooms in the house.

He was strongly advised that before he goes buying boosters or range extenders that by far the better thing to do is to swap out his ZyXel P-660HW-T1 v3 and replace it with a very good quality router which can broadcast a very strong Wi-Fi signal.  I don’t disagree with this as a first step because range extenders tend to divide the signal by 2 etc. He will look at extenders and Power Line adapters as a phase 2 project. (i.e.  If he gets a very strong broadcast of his wireless signal, he will use that as his foundation, and will build from there.)
His is willing to invest a few hundred if need be on a good quality router to get his broadband right throughout his house.

He doesn’t do much or any gaming at present so his primary uses are:
-      Smart phones in various rooms
-      To hook up smart TV’s in various rooms to the net.
-      To be able to access the net with a decent signal from laptops in various rooms
Given the specs of his current router ( ADSL, Modem/Switch, etc.), he will need to replace those features.

He is not technical and doesn’t even know if these are the correct type, one he seen recommendations for on this net was: ASUS RT-AC68U.
What would you recommend for a VERY good router which emits very strong Wi-Fi signals.

Thank you,
Robbie.

My Ref: 1027848
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Question by:IP4IT Staff
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 63 total points
ID: 40456302
I don't have a lot to compare it with but I have used the NetGear WNDR3700 as a better replacement for some Linksys routers.  The problem with that suggestion is that environmental aspects like the building materials and the placement of appliances that have a lot of metal in them are more important.  WiFi routers are legally limited to a certain amount of power.  

Another factor in a lot of locations is interference from the neighbors WiFi routers.  Here in my apartment I have seen up to 59 wireless networks on at once.  That's too much interference for a reliable signal even here in my apartment.
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by:Rob Hutchinson
Rob Hutchinson earned 63 total points
ID: 40456305
Linksys makes one. Never personally tried it though:
http://www.cnet.com/products/linksys-wrt1900ac-wireless-router/
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by:Dr. Klahn
Dr. Klahn earned 63 total points
ID: 40456867
Agree with all Dave's comments.  Particularly in California, the metal lath under stucco can be a major problem.  In new construction, the same goes for foil-faced insulation.
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by:IP4IT Staff
ID: 40457101
Thanks Dave, Rob and DrKlahm

He fully accepts that there can be items in his house ( metal, thick walls, other electronic equipment, etc.) that will interfere with the strength of the signal, especially as he moved further away from the source.  

But that is not his concern here. When he is trying to do is to solve first problems first by getting a good base unit, then after that, he will find additional solutions to improve the signal in rooms and out-houses where the signal is still poor.

Initially what he wants to buy is the most powerful and good quality Wi-Fi router that he can.

Any good recommendations would be very gratefully accepted.

Thank you,
Robert.
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by:Asif Bacchus
Asif Bacchus earned 311 total points
ID: 40457163
I'd put my money on the ASUS unit you mentioned in your original question.  It's a fantastic router and the custom firmware (google it, it's open-source and not made by ASUS) is beyond belief in the options it offers.  Especially for hooking up his TVs, that router is very good at running as a DLNA server and/or interfacing with media PCs etc. and allowing for streaming to/from multiple devices.

Dave's comments are also spot-on.  I would offer one an additional suggestion:  Do NOT set your router to auto-select a channel.  Use a wifi analyzer (available for free on any cell phone or freeware you can put on a laptop, the key is mobility) to choose the best channel with the least interference throughout the house.  Then set that channel statically on the router and don't allow it to be changed.  On virtually every router I've tested, the automatic scanner is not very good and chooses channels with too much interference, resulting in a lower signal quality.

Finally, I definitely recommend he chooses at least an N-band router.  The AC-band routers are even better and have better range, especially that ASUS unit.  Basically, moving from a G-band router to either N or AC (better) he should automatically see better coverage.

Good luck!
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by:IP4IT Staff
ID: 40463563
Hi Asif

Excellent feedback!!!  Thank you very much.

I would agree with you from what I have read regarding the DSL-AC68U.

The only other strong feedback that I have is for the NetGear R7000 Nighthawk router.  http://www.netgear.co.uk/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R7000.aspx#tab-techspecs

I wonder has anyone and feedback on it ( or any other highly recommended router)  before I make a final decision.

Thanks everyone!

Regards,
Robbie.
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by:Asif Bacchus
Asif Bacchus earned 311 total points
ID: 40465191
There's a good comparison here from a site that does reliable comparisons (in my experience).  Maybe it will help you decide?

I haven't used the Nighthawk personally, but it does have the fastest processor out there and would look pretty bad-ass just sitting on your desk :-P

For me, it's always come down to the availability of custom firmware for the router.  I say this because of the numerous bugs and crippled features that are inherent with virtually all manufacturer preloaded firmware out of the box on pretty much every router for the last several years.  Both models support custom firmware, including dd-wrt,  so that's not an issue.  

For the Nighthawk, I would suggest dd-wrt (Kong's build).  For any ASUS N-Band, I'd recommend Padavan's firmware and for the AC units, I recommend RMerlin's builds.  With any ASUS router, going to custom firmware is pretty much a necessity since the stock firmware has more bugs than working features (seriously).

One final note, consider going one step below the top-of-the-line routers.  It's often much cheaper (sometimes as much as $200 cheaper), very little difference in performance and the firmware is more mature which means you'll have few if any crashes and better connection quality.

Good luck, and happy shopping!
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by:IP4IT Staff
ID: 40471210
Asif

I need to read through our email when I get a chance. But I have just realised that that the ASUS "RT-AC68U"  that does not have ADSL modem built in, so I think that it won't work for me.

There is very similar device DSL-AC68U that does have ADSL and VDSL – fibre modem built in ( I don't have fibre at home, just broadband over my phone line)

The DSL-AC68U is fairly new, I see mixed reports online about it.

I talked with ASUS tech support and the tech said:

      "I would recommend DSL-N55U and keep the rest of the money for potential WiFi range extenders. Please be advised that by EU regulations maximum transmit power is 100mW dBi.  So the wireless performance would be similar on both devices and before buying additional WiFi range extenders would be recommend to change settings to improve WiFi performance.  If there is chance for an upgrade to the FTTC – fibre optic ( VDSL – using phone line ) in the place where new device will be in use the DSL-AC68U may be better choice."

Confused. Nearly back to where I started. Need to make a decisions on a very good quality and powerful router to replace the old "ZyXel P-660HW-T1 v3" early next week.

Thanks for any more thoughts.
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by:Asif Bacchus
Asif Bacchus earned 311 total points
ID: 40471224
Sorry, based on your original post I assumed you were looking for just a router not a modem and router combo, but then again I guess I didn't read very carefully.  My bad.

Recommending a modem/router combo or just a modem means I need a little more info.  Is there a particular model that your provider offers/recommends?  That would be a good place to start and then I can give you some recommendations for models that are compatible (standards/frequencies/etc.) with that one.

However, you may want to consider getting an updated modem from your ISP (or buying a compatible one that is cheap) and then connecting it to a very good wireless router such as the Asus RT-AC68u or the Netgear Nighthawk.  The dedicated routers often have more features and better firmware since they are more popular than their modem/router counterparts.

As an additional consideration, your ISP may limit what modem you use which limits your choices.  I know here, in Canada, our major ISPs generally limit routers to ones they supply so they can make money.  So we usually settle for very generic modems and then get really good routers to provide the services we want on our LANs.  I don't know if this applies to you, but it's something you might want to check.
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by:Asif Bacchus
Asif Bacchus earned 311 total points
ID: 40471227
Oh, and I disagree with that ASUS tech.  Yes, the signal strength may be limited but the AC-band standard uses channels better than the N-band standard so you will be better off with an AC router even at lower transmission power, IMHO.
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by:IP4IT Staff
ID: 40475772
I checked with ASUS again and asked them: "What about DSL-N55U versus DSL-AC68U ? Which is best in this situation? we are trying to get the best signal we can, both through LAN ports and through Wireless. We will use that has a good foundation and then after we get the best signal we can, we will build from there with extenders for far away rooms/out-houses." ?

ASUS Replied: "If there is no option to have Fibre upgrade in the near by future in the are where your customer is based, the DSL-N55U should be as good as DSL-AC68U. Wireless performance should be similar in terms of range, WLAN speeds will be better on DSL-AC68U as it is an AC wireless
And if there is fibre optic installed some time in future, there is option to use on of the LAN ports as WAN port, so it would be possible to use DSL-N55U on fibre with Open Reach modem or any other external modem."

I doubt if my client will have fibre in rural Ireland to his home for at least the next several years.  Still a bit unsure as to the best solution.

Also I called the ISP again, and they said that they would improve the clients broadband, they are not upping the capacity or anything, sounds like they are going to remote into the modem and just chance some settings. I will run a Speed Test afterwards.

Any thoughts on the above items:

Thanks,
Robbie.
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Asif Bacchus earned 311 total points
ID: 40477214
I would suggest going for the AC option simply for future-proofing reasons.  Unless you can get a really good deal on the N-Band router, then why not spend a little extra and get something new that won't need to be replaced for at least a few years?  Plus, assuming your wireless clients are also AC, you'll love the LAN transfer speeds you get on AC vs. N-Band.

If you are sure you want to replace the modem also, then go for a combined modem & router.  If, however, you're willing to stay with the ISP modem, then you can save quite a bit of money by just buying a router.  As I said earlier, you will have far more options and custom firmware available if you go the router-only route (no pun intended!).
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by:IP4IT Staff
ID: 40505827
Thanks all, I want to leave this question open until next week when I actively work on the issue, so that I can update everyone, or ask more questions.

Thanks again.
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