My wi-fi router (Dlink DI-524) worked very bad last time, especially under load – hangs, disappeared wi-fi network, etc … and I decided to buy a decent replacement:). A few days of review in the market and I bought quite cheap in my area RT-N16 which seduced me with the following parameters:
1. A powerful processor (533 MHz)
2. Rather big number of memory: ROM 32 Mb, RAM 128 Mb
3. Two USB ports for USB devices (printers, disks)
4. Open source Linux firmware (GPL) for 2.6 kernel!
5. Wi-fi N 🙂
I bought the router to solve two important tasks:
1. Host multipurpose devices on it (printer, scanner, fax)
2. Make it as a mini-server that would host the files, small projects, and in case of failure inside the network to provide a possibility to connect from WAN via ssh and solve the problem
However, what I received was able to solve only the problem number 1 … The latest official firmware 18.104.22.168 does not contain the ssh server, only telnet… Not very secure to connect from the outside via telnet. But this problem can be solved …
So, about the firmware. Out of the box it was 22.214.171.124 which seems to be ok at the begining, but on closer examination there were found the following bugs:
1. Even small internet activity makes router pings to grow from 1ms to 2000ms
2. youtube does not work
3. skype does not work
I decided to upgrade to latest official firmware 126.96.36.199 and that was done. At the begining everything was just fine, but afterwards laptop stopped seeing wi-fi, though pc via ethernet was working .. I got desperate, I decided to install dd-wrt …
Installed dd-wrt. It looks OK, but USB support is lame. The thing is that the firmware from Asus makes USB relay for devices, this function is performed by so-called Asus tools – they intercept USB commands from Windows and send them to the router. The router sends them to the printer, as a result, Windows thinks that it is working with a local device. This means that you can install printer drivers with additional features and everything will work like a charm!
With dd-wrt it is much worse. There is primitive printing only supported ; and if you have a printer with scanner all-in-one, it just does not work … After playing with dd-wrt firmware I put back the Asus 188.8.131.52 and made nvram clearing (Factory reset). And as soon as I did Factory reset the router has become relatively stable and works without any problems.
Having a stable firmware I started to dig deeper to see if it is possible to install additional services on a router, and it turns out – you can! To do this you need to put the appropriate toolchain to compile something for mipsel and USB drive to copy files and run them on router … (but we will come back to this later).
After several days of use I found another annoying problem with the device. These Asus tools that provide work for USB devices in Windows eat 100% of CPU when printer is turned off, or for whatever reasons, the wi-fi network is not accessible. Can be fixed easily – always turn on the printer, but at home it is certainly not the best solution.
So, to summarize…
Given that Asus is attempting to simplify the interface of routers that they could be set up even by a housewifes, even a basic user will be disappointed because the default firmware sucks in terms of stability : it just does not work out of the box! Experienced users will be disappointed as-well, why not to provide ssh server on the router? Telnet sends non-encrypted data, and thus, unsecure … For advanced users there is little room for maneuver – it is possible to compile and run your custom tools, and this is very good, as it opens an opportunity to extend features of your router.
Sadly of course to realize that Asus top model by functionality is worse than the old non-top Di-524. In Dlink for port forwarding you can specify what days and time for the forward – very convenient, however in Asus this is not possible. Instead, ASUS has a buggy QOS that reduces the speed of the Internet and only reboot of router fix it:).
Not pleased with the work of DHCP server. It generates dynamic IPs for the same hosts, while previous Di-524 generated the same IPs, it was convenient to do port forwarding to the well-known hosts… In the RT-N16 you will have to add static assignment via MAC address.
Bug with Asus tools on the Windows machine is generally a disgrace. This is such a simple test case, and how it could pass through the Asus test labs?
I would rate hardware as 4 points out of 5, and software as 3 with minus. Why not giving 5 to the hardware? It seems like the router is a bit heating. Two USB ports in the butt to one another, not very comfortable, because distance between ports is very narrow and you would have to use thin devices …
But in general it is a good router:)