Wireless Routers

I’ve used many wireless routers over the years; from the basic 802.11b Linksys models to running my own PFSense installation with a separate wireless AP. Sadly, it is difficult to find reliable consumer routers/APs that have a decent set of features and don’t require regular reboots to continue working. You often have to trade reliability for good speed/range.

Apple Airport
For several years I’ve been using an Apple Airport Extreme alongside an Airport Express that extended the range of my wireless; it was just enough to give me the range needed to be usable so I could get decent signal outside. It’s also the easiest router i’ve ever setup and one that I think the average person has a better chance of getting working than most competitors. It’s definitely the easiest system I’ve used to extend my wireless signal with repeaters — you just add more airport expresses to extend your range. Setup is extremely easy in the Airport Utility app. The biggest downside is the lack of features and visibility into what is going on; all you get is what you see in the Airport Utility app. I’ve also mentioned before how easy it is to get IPv6 working with this system and with Apple’s coming IPv6 priority changes in El Capitan, it’s nice to see that it’s easier than ever to get IPv6 working for wide adoption by all clients.

For the most part, these Airport devices are incredibly reliable. I can’t remember the last time I needed to reboot them. My last router was a D-Link draft-N router and it required constant reboots and QoS was a joke; a single user could make the network inoperable for all other users.

Speed is very good with Airport, especially if you use 5Ghz. In the same room as the AP, I can transfer files locally at around 20MB/sec (160Mbps) over rsync/SSH.

Mikrotik RB2011UiAS-2HnD-IN
A few people I work with told me about this 802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz Mikrotik router; it runs on software called RouterOS. Granted, this router does not exactly compete with the Airport system on features. I’m not a networking expert, but you do need some networking knowledge to get this thing working. Your parents won’t be able to use this without your help. On the bright side, this router gives you enough features that you can manage their network remotely if they have trouble.

I was able to get up and running in under 30 minutes, including setting up my native IPv6 configuration (note: I had to do this from terminal, not the web interface). The signal strength is very good throughout my house, but unfortunately it is not enough to reach outside. Still, the speed inside is consistent — I received about 10MB/sec (80Mbps) persistently when transferring a file over wifi to two machines in the same room. I’m still impressed considering that this is only a 2Ghz router; I would love to see a 5Ghz version of this router.

The number of features in this router are simply too many to list. I don’t even know what some of these features do, but the amount of features is almost overwhelming. This is basically an enterprise level router at (below) consumer prices.

Considering the Airport still wins in range, I’ve setup the Mikrotik as my router and the Airport has been switched to AP mode only so I get the best of both worlds.