The Router Recommendations Thread (Consumer)

Discussion in 'Networking & Security' started by Orinthical, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Welcome to the [H] Router Recommendations sticky! Some time ago members of this forum and I decided that a sticky for one of the most popular questions in the Networking & Security sub-forum would be a good idea and thus the Router Recommendations thread was born. I am not an [H] employee or representative. There was a time when this thread contained categorized recommendations for consumer and pro-sumer grade hardware but after a long hiatus, the thread had become dated. People moved to answering questions and providing recommendations in the many pages that have followed since its inception and I think that's probably best.

    There are a lot of options out there as the market has been flooded with good hardware packaged in many different ways by many different people.

    To clarify terminology: Routing is a function one level or layer higher than base switching and provides the ability for one IP network to communicate to another IP network. For the purposes of this thread, a 'router' will refer to the hardware performing the function; which also often includes gateway (DHCP, DNS or DNS-relay, NAT, etc.) functionality. A consumer or pro-sumer router that you can purchase from the likes of Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link, Cisco or any other of many brands out there. The vast majority of these models will also include a wireless access point (WAP) function; a 'wireless router' will refer to hardware that also contains this functionality.

    Here are some things to consider when looking for an off-the-shelf router:

    1) Why am I looking to purchase a router?
    --- Is it because I am having a problem with coverage in my home?

    There are a lot of ways to look at this problem and not all can be solved by purchasing a new router. Any home will have obstructions (walls) that dampen, hinder or reflect signal and older homes or newer homes that use concrete construction materials, metal framing or mesh and plaster can be especially problematic. If you think about the field around your wireless router as an upside-down bowl, the higher the elevation of your device in your home, the wider the bowl becomes. Start there. Placing your wireless router on a higher floor in your home will often (but not always) improve coverage and reception.

    It may also be your device, not your wireless router. Different devices have different antenna designs, some of which are better than others. This is one of the reasons you can have two devices right next to each other and have different results.

    Are you near other homes? The Wi-Fi spectrum is comprised of radio channels or bands that operate at different frequencies and just like two radio stations trying to use the same frequency, they compete with one another for reception. Ever been driving and get to a point where the radio station in the next city over, that just happens to use the same (or close) frequency as your favorite station, begins to cut in and out? That's the same thing happening here. And as that other radio station becomes more powerful, the other fades until it is no longer able to compete. This overlap can occur, particularly in dense areas where homes are very close together (or apartments or condos). The air is actually quite congested. That cordless phone you have? If it's a 2.4GHz phone, it could very well interfere with your coverage as well.

    So what options do you have? There are apps for your smartphone that can help you determine what channels are congested in your area. In the 2.4GHz US band there are only three channels that do not overlap (1, 6 and 11), everything else overlaps channels around it. Many wireless routers will default to channel 1, so getting better reception in your home may be as simple as changing your existing router to use a less congested channel like 6 or 11. Try that and see if things improve before investing in a different solution.

    Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels

    There's also the 5GHz band, which offers many more channel options to help minimize congestion in otherwise dense areas. If your devices support 5GHz, you could try that. Your wireless router may have the option to transmit and receive only using only 5GHz frequencies instead of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Only do this if you are sure all of your devices support 5GHz. If your devices support both bands, chances are good that your device will prefer 5GHz but that isn't always the case. The feature that makes a connection at 2.4GHz and then re-connects at 5GHz if it is available is often referred to as 'band steering' and is exactly how it sounds.

    If your home is made of particularly problematic material (metal mesh in the walls is a killer), you may need to have more than one device to provide coverage throughout your home. This is where the 'access point' or 'range extender' comes into play. A ranger extender is a repeater; meaning that it simply receives a signal and then re-transmits it. Range extenders should be place according first according to their manufacturer's recommendations, but generally close enough to have good contact with your existing router but far enough away that it's actually extending the coverage into a new space. For best results, your range extender should be positioned so that it has no-less-than half signal.

    An access point works on the same principal as your wireless router in that it provides a (new) signal to a different area in your home, yet it contains none of the higher-layer routing and gateway functions that your router does. It's essentially a wireless switch. A switch must have an uplink, usually a hard-wire cable link between it and the next or the base device. So an access point will typically require a cable connected to either the back of your existing wireless router or to a switch that connects back to it. Access points will also require power of some kind: some can get this power through the same cable through which data is being sent (called Power Over Ethernet or POE) and some require a place to plug in. A POE wireless access point will typically have what is referred to as an 'injector', which is a device that plugs into the wall somewhere easy to access and then has two network cable ports on it; one input and the other output. The output carries both data and power to the device.

    Some switches have POE capabilities built-in but almost all wireless routers will not. IF your switch has POE built in that you wish to use, make sure it is compatible with the access point you have in mind. Some access points will also acquire their own IP address on your network and many will use software to discover and configure them. There are a lot of options but one of the access point brands I use regularly and have had great luck with is Ubiquiti. ( https://www.ubnt.com/ )


    --- Is it because I am not able to achieve the speeds I am paying for and hope that a new router will fix that?

    This may not be a problem with your existing router. Some older hardware in particular may be limited when you exceed 25Mbps WAN, but unless your existing router is many years old your problem may lie further upstream. Buy from a place that has easy returns, just-in-case. If it doesn't solve your problem you may have to take it up with your service provider. If you suspect you are having issues with speed though, the first thing I will always recommend is to plug in via an ethernet cable and re-test. There may be other factors involved, such as the aforementioned congestion.


    --- Is it because I suspect the router I was provided by my internet service is either insufficient or problematic?

    Be careful. Some service providers require you use their router for one function or another and there may be some truth behind their requirement.

    An example is Verizon FiOS, which uses their router to bridge into coax (a technology called MoCA) and provide network time and access to PPV/OnDemand to their DVR and set top boxes. You should always consult with your provider before replacing their device, though generally speaking you should be OK. In the case of Verizon FiOS (and only speaking from my personal experience), you have to have their device plugged in but it doesn't have to be first in-line. You can disable the wireless and plug your router in first then plug the Verizon router's WAN port into one of your LAN or switch ports on the new wireless router. Your mileage may vary.


    2) Stick to standards.
    This isn't so much of an issue now that Wireless-N has been ratified as a standard but for a while there, it was like the wild west; everyone had their own solution and some didn't work well (or at-all) with others. That said, there is a new kid on the block: AC. I think the industry learned its lesson though and I haven't heard of problems with AC or at-least nothing like with N.

    3) If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
    Don't buy into promises. Should be self-explanatory.

    4) Just because it looks crazy cool doesn't mean it is going to perform.
    A lot of manufacturers now are trying to differentiate themselves by packaging their wireless routers in unique cases and antenna designs. A lot of this is nothing more than flash and you'll often pay for it.

    -------------------------------

    So where are the router comparisons?
    While I am always hesitant to post links to content outside of [H], as [H] does not currently offer wireless router reviews and comparisons I don't believe it to be an issue. I don't work for either site, but I can say that one site I go to time and time again to check reviews, comparisons and look at specs is SmallNetBuilder. What I will say is that when you get ready to buy, please consider supporting [H] by coming back here and using one of the links to Amazon or Newegg (and others) that give [H] credit for the referral. Every little bit helps!

    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/

    -------------------------------

    Where do I get cables, ends, connectors, adapters, punch down blocks, etc?

    www.monoprice.com - Monoprice - inexpensive but excellent quality cables and accessories of all sorts.
    www.graybar.com - Graybar
    www.anixter.com - Anixter
    www.gocsc.com - CSC

    -------------------------------

    Build-Your-Own Router?
    For those more technically inclined who want the most performance possible without going to a full commercial/business product, you may want to look into the many freely available Linux and BSD based firewall solutions out there. Some of the well known ones include: Smoothwall, Untangle, Endian, IPCop, pfSense and m0n0wall. A full list of the available router and UTM (Unified Thread Management) distributions can be had here: http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1517454

    Building your own router using one of the aforementioned solutions requires an older PC, a few spare network cards, some time and a bit of elbow grease. They all have different things to offer so be sure to read up on them all before making a decision. Smoothwall, Endian and IPCop are probably the most well known and thus (generally) offer the best community support for bugs and such. Your mileage may vary. Please note that most of these "build your own" solutions will require a separate wireless access point if you want wireless capabilities.

    -------------------------------

    So I hope that this has helped and if you have any questions, please feel free to post here in the thread.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  2. Farva

    Farva King of borked Picture links

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    Very nice list :)
     
  3. moetop

    moetop [H]ard|Gawd

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    While I'm no proponent of Toms hardware (or any of the sub sites), they do tend to cover home/small network gear pretty well.

    This post would be remiss without linking to their "Router Charts" , as some of the details of maximum connections and throughput will be important to some people.

    Ohh ya, and one more thing GREAT POST! I would tend to agree that it would be nice to get this stickied as this seems to be a recurrent (almost daily) question.
     
  4. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Agreed! Simply link to that...you can see benchmarks.
    Based on that chart...I'd categorize "high performance" for home routers...as those which can exceed 100 megs throughput (only 4x routers in that chart).
    Although DLinks upcoming 4500 model should join that list and become the 5th..as it appears based on the DIR655 with a mixing of multi-media/gaming features from the prior 4300 model.

    The recommended list will all be fanboy/personal preference stuff though. Some people like Netgears, other hate them and prefer DLink, others hate both those and prefer Linksys, etc etc.

    That being said...the wireless router I'm installing the most of these days, for home use, and having the best luck with...is the Linksys wrt300n.

    And without question...Pre-N/Draft-N/MIMO is the worth it. It's already been out long enough to prove itself as desirable, the increase in range alone is well worth it, it's not just a slight improvement, it's a major improvement. And you still get that increase in range if you still have G and old B wireless NICs.
     
  5. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Added the router charts.
    Added a section for linux/bsd based firewall/router solutions.
    Added WRT300n
     
  6. moetop

    moetop [H]ard|Gawd

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    A bit OT, but your Signature say's "We, like most forums, are a collection of techs, engineers, architects and hobbyists whose knowledge you appeal to when you ask a question. If the answer is not to your liking, there are pay services out there that you can get upset at. "

    I think you missed the most important part. You need to put , ".....for giving you the same advice we did." at the end.
     
  7. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Good one. Done, if you don't mind. :)
     
  8. Hypernova

    Hypernova 2[H]4U

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    The WRT54's are certainly long in the tooth. although the modding is still going strong. Going as far as changing the RAM chips.

    Personally I still don't believe in the pre-N's. I would rather wait another year with my WRT54G v2.
     
  9. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Any other ideas or suggestions?

    Still need another site or two for the "Where do I get cables, ends, connectors, adapters, punch down blocks, etc?" section.
     
  10. Madwand

    Madwand Gawd

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    The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 is not a MIMO router. It has a wireless signal amplifier which works well, and hence it's advertised as "MIMO performance" -- implying range extention despite not really being MIMO.

    Otherwise, it's not very different from other Buffalo wireless-g routers, and even the Linksys WRT54GL.

    The vast majority of consumer Internet currently does not exceed the performance capability of such routers.

    DD-WRT is very cool, and with v24 coming out, getting even cooler. In my experience, a good answer to many questions posed on such forums is "DD-WRT running on a compatible router".

    Although DD-WRT supposedly works on some selected newer devices, to use it, you typically have to have a device in the class of the Linksys WRT54GL / Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 / WHR-G125 and eventually WHR-HP-G125.
     
  11. Madwand

    Madwand Gawd

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  12. compslckr

    compslckr [H]ardForum Junkie

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  13. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    This has come up in a thread before - I think YeOldeStonecat mentioned that this was due to a particularly buggy firmware and was fixed in a latter revision. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, YeOlde.

    Corrected.

    This thread is intended to appeal to both the average-joe and the enthusiast alike. If the average-joe asks what kind of router is best for his/her needs, I'm going to tell him/her the same thing I would here. Many people want "the best" up-front so they are, at least in their mind, less likely to run into problems later. The list is also sorted by feature and most predominately by budget so anyone should be able to get something good for their money. That's kind of the point. :)
     
  14. morpheus6d9

    morpheus6d9 [H]ard|Gawd

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    i think you should add the linksys wrt 330n to the list
     
  15. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat [H]ardForum Junkie

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    That was with the first generation of firmware. Their current Intel firmware platform, which was entirely revised August of 06, supports 200 megs of bi-directional throughput.

    I was going to send Tim Higgins mine to re-test...just never got around to it.

    I've had mine blast to 70 something megs....but that's all I could feed it.
     
  16. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Done - since it's essentially the same as the 300n except it adds a gigabit switch to the equation.
     
  17. Madwand

    Madwand Gawd

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    Cool. It was pretty disappointing seeing the original figures on such promising devices. Some of them even had gigabit WAN ports, and some very lofty claims about WAN throughput which were completely trashed by SNB's measurements.

    Maybe just a note would get SNB to queue it for re-test with a firmware update.
     
  18. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat [H]ardForum Junkie

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    At the time when I was e-mailing back 'n forth with him....I asked him to re-evaluate when the newer firmware platform came out. His reply was...Linksys was no longer sending him products for evaluation. I see one of his guys recently tested the little RV042...so I guess the boycott by Linksys is over.
     
  19. Wrench00

    Wrench00 2[H]4U

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    I suggest the buffalo.

    Its identical hardware like the Linksys except it has no bugs its not blazing fast but it works well never has to reboot handles heavy Torrent traffic and also it has no problem handling a WAP keys in asci or hex full lenght passkeys. I found lots of the linksys, netgear, belikn routers just can't handle keys that lenght.
     
  20. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    *bump* Since there were a few router questions today.
     
  21. RangerSVT

    RangerSVT [H]ard|Gawd

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    I'd like to add the Netgear WGT624 v3 WiFi router to the recommended router list. It beats the Linksys 54GS I had and a D-Link in stability/speed.
     
  22. Madwand

    Madwand Gawd

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    Are you sure about this? My understanding is that the WRT330N is based on a Ubicom chipset like the other famous "gaming router" and the DIR-655, whereas the WRT300N uses different chipsets (which vary according to the revision and perhaps location).

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/other/display/linksys-wrt300n_6.html
     
  23. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    I stand corrected. I was referring to features, whereas the main difference is the gigabit switch. Anyhow, I'm adding a caveat at the end of the list that asks that those who wish to add to the list post either a note about personal experience or some benchmark data.

    The list is intended to offer people the 'pick of the litter' and simplify the decision making process so letting it grow too long would be counter-intuitive.
     
  24. Ruiner

    Ruiner 2[H]4U

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    nice thread.

    noobish question: for a given price point, new consumer grade vs. used/ebay soho/enterprise?
     
  25. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    First, there are no noobish questions - it'd be noobish to simply assume rather than ask.

    As for the question, that would be rather subjective and therefore hard to summarized in a list format. We could put a "what to look for on ebay" section, which I may do, but unless you plan to do something specialized, purchasing a SonicWall, Firebox, Symantec, Juniper or other corporate/enterprise router is not going to net the home user, even the enthusiast, much more than a good quality consumer model.

    Where enterprise products shine is well, in the enterprise where hundreds or even thousands of clients may be wanting to google at the same time. Rather than spending money on older enterprise equipment on ebay, I'd honestly rather direct enthusiasts to try a linux/bsd based gateway solution running on an older PC.

    Hope that answers the question. :)
     
  26. Ruiner

    Ruiner 2[H]4U

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    Yes, thank you.
     
  27. 8lack8rain

    8lack8rain Limp Gawd

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  28. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    Since the question was asked... Link
     
  29. Pretzel

    Pretzel Limp Gawd

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    Do I need a Mimo wireless adapter to take advantage of a Mimo router?

    I have a Dell Latitude D820 laptop with 54Mbs built-in wireless card. I've been having major issues with using my work VPN over my old D-Link I-624. I'm trying to find a new router that hopefully will do a better job.

    I was looking at the Netgear Mimo or Buffalo Mimo and I didn't know if I could take advantage of that technology with my existing laptop wireless card.
     
  30. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat [H]ardForum Junkie

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    You do not need a MIMO/*N adapter...to take advantage of the increase in range. You can use an old G..even an ancient B..adapter..and still enjoy the majority of huge increase in range from MIMO/Pre-N/Draft-N.

    If you want all the speed increase however...the over 100 megs..yes...you do need matching. however..since most users run wireless for internet based stuff..this isn't a big issue.
     
  31. zagon

    zagon Limp Gawd

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    Can we get a sticky on this? I don't want to lose this thread.
     
  32. Ruiner

    Ruiner 2[H]4U

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    Generic question on what makes the 'Best' faster than the 'better':
    Under what conditions will you notice the improvement?
    Multiple gamers on the LAN? Is the improvement mostly wired or wireless? Improvements in peak speed and/or latency?
    More robust firewalls?
     
  33. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat [H]ardForum Junkie

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    One of the main differences is how much power is under the hood. A router has its own processor and RAM. For a single computer or two that do nothing but surf the web, e-mail, basic stuff like that...even an old inexpensive model with a 33MHz CPU and 2 or 4 megs of RAM would be OK.

    Todays more powerful routers will usually have at least 200MHz and 32 megs of RAM...and more.

    But as soon as you start having more and more computers on the network....hitting the web at the same time...the amount of work that the router needs to do increases. "Concurrent Connections"..meaning..all those web browser sessions, TCP sessions, gaming packets, etc etc. In some router comparisons..you'll see a stat on the max number of connections a router can support. Years ago...I was doing some articles and benchmarking on routers when it came to online gaming, and hosting game servers from your home. With basic cheaper routers...as you had a second or third or fourth PC sign on and play an online game on your home network..out on the same public server...as each person signed on and began playing..the lag for the already signed on players would increase. When I took the lesser grade routers out of the mix..and put in a more power router..I noticed that..as each person logged in and started playing..the amount of lag increase that the others received was less. Eventually, with more and more powerful routers...the lag doesn't even go up..until you're filling the bandwidth pipe that you have.

    Online games are also getting more bandwidth dependent than they were years ago, not just the game packets to the server, but built in voice over IP functions, sending heartbeats to master servers, stuff like Steam and/or other authentication stuff in the background, etc.

    That file downloading P2P software is a huuuuuuge hog...often bogs down most entry level routers.

    QoS is a growing feature in routers. As home networks are growing more and more...more homes will have several computers online. With older routers...if someone was playing an online game..and someone else on another computer went to do some heavy websurfing and/or downloading of files..that would impact the gamer..with lag. Newer routers help prioritize gaming packets..and keep that moving as quick as possible...giving the other web traffic lower priority.

    VoIP traffic is another feature...newer routers try to give the phone higher priority. Earlier routers...if you used an IP phone..and someone went to download a file or play games...the voice quality on the phone would suffer.
     
  34. Orinthical

    Orinthical [H]ard|Gawd

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    YeOldeStonecat beat me to it so consider this just an add-on to what he said as I think we hit submit at the same time. :)

    The average home is not likely to notice a difference between a 'better' router and a 'best' router however someone who does a lot of torrenting, gaming, VoIP and such may see some improvement in the router's ability to consistently handle traffic from many sources simultaneously.

    The routers in the 'best' category are listed as such due to their resilience; they have been recommended time and time again by experts in this section of the forum and abroad. They've also scored highly in throughput and functional tests around the internet.

    As for having a "better firewall" or what-not; all routers out there come standard with NAT and most modern day routers will also employ SPI; that said, there are some who offer IDS/IPS, antivirus or other security options but most consumer models I've seen do so on a subscription basis. If you are looking for such a device you are probably better off with building yourself a linux/unix based solution. That said, routers in the 'best' category will also tend to have better underlying hardware; faster or better processors, more ram, better antenna's or wireless chipsets, than their 'good' or 'better' brethren so that they are more capable of handling a demanding environment.
     
  35. Madwand

    Madwand Gawd

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  36. Q-BZ

    Q-BZ Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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  37. BobSutan

    BobSutan [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Stickied until I can edit it into the FAQ.
     
  38. Q-BZ

    Q-BZ Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    :cool:
     
  39. Mackintire

    Mackintire 2[H]4U

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    The D-link DI-634M is the direct predecessor to the D-Link DIR-655

    The differences being the DI-634M is a little slower, lacks gigabit ethernet, and wireless N

    Compared to the D-Link DGL-4300 the DI-634M gains MIMO but looses gigabit ethernet, otherwise the capabilities are the same as the DGL-4300.

    "D-Link high end routers are represented by two models: the DI-634M and DGL-4300. Both are based on Ubicom's IP3023 Wireless Network processor, which as you'll see shortly is pretty powerful. The DI-634M's 10/100 switch chip is a Realtek RTL8305SC, while the DGL-4300's gigabit switching features come courtesy of a Broadcom BCM5385." Taken from Tom's Hardware
     
  40. SidewinderX

    SidewinderX 2[H]4U

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