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Wireless routers review

See our wireless routers review (member content) and compare the latest gear to find out which one is fastest, easiest to use and has the most features. We also have a wireless router buying guide so that you can figure out which features you need and what to look out for when shopping around.

Do you use a wireless router? Leave a review in the comments below.

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Hi Brendan

The filters allow for the selection of routers with “Built-in modem (VoIP support)”. Having a built in modem does not mean there is VoIP support. VoIP is an added option on modems. Therefore, this should be split into two separate filters.

Another ask: Is it possible to extend the review of modem/routers (only two were included)?

With the modem/router being the ‘point of entry’ for the internet, surely to get fast and reliable connection this piece of kit is paramount. A good wi-fi router is not going to help if one has an under-performing modem/router.

Thanks
Cheers.

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Thanks @meltam, we appreciate the feedback and suggestions to make the the review better. I’ll pass this one onto @SteveDuncombe too :+1:

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To add to the review issues. They have two selectable boxes in the Specifications section re the band types one is the 802.11n/ac and the other is 802.11ac. Now it doesn’t quite make sense why you would tick either of these boxes as the 802.11ac routers all have 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz and the 802.11n/ac also share this but the selection just removes some from either result listing. If some are purely 802.11n or if some are 802.11a (and not 802.11ac) I could understand why you would have the selection boxes and they would need to be properly labeled but as currently setup it is just confusing.

Being able to select whether tri band or dual band would also be helpful and whether just MIMO or MU-MIMO, or beamforming (though most if under “ac” specs should be beamforming) or not would also be useful as choices. Whether they have VPN abilities built in, what RAM (useful when multiple connections) are also nice bits of info to have or to be able to more finely select on.

Antennas that are replaceable or not, whether some also have internal as well as external, what gain they are are also useful bits of info but this is not always important.

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@meltam @BrendanMays . Thanks for the feedback and apologies for any confusion. There are now two columns and filters - one for “VoIP support” and one for “Modem built-in”.
As we note at the top of the test in the introduction “This is a test of wireless routers, not modem-routers (gateways). We test major ISP-supplied basic NBN gateways as well” (and this is linked to our NBN modem routers test). We have not yet decided whether we will specifically test third-party modem-routers (including testing the modem).

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Thanks Steve.

Personally, I would appreciate it if Choice were to do the 3rd party modem/wi-fi routers, as I do not plan on using any of the 5 major players for our HCF NBN.

I have found the best deals are usually not from the major players, and I don’t want to be contracted so I have the freedom to move if a better deal comes along, and, I don’t like it when the modem is locked and the configurations can’t be modified.

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@meltam Thanks again. I’ll pass that on.

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@grahroll @BrendanMays Thanks again for your feedback. I’ve now clarified the 802.11ac issue (this was just a naming consistency issue) - all models tested have this (and n support is a given) but it’s left as a filter as some coming models will also have the new 802.11ax protocol (to be called Wi-Fi 6). The current 802.11ac will be Wi-Fi 5. We’ll relabel both once this happens.
I’ve also reworked the filtering options and included your suggestions. I’ve added MIMO, number of antennas, beamforming and tri-band to the filters, along with preset parental controls. Further antenna information (Antenna placement) is available in the full table (hit “Compare all products”) and I’ve noted this in the Antennas pop-up info box. This adds info on whether the antennas are internal or external, fixed or removable. We haven’t collected data on the RAM in each router though. I’ve passed this on to our computer lab for consideration.

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Another suggestion. Several of those routers appear to be based upon open source software (Tomato and possibly those whose names include WRT - though it’s not clear). These are more feature-filled than the average router firmware, and so attractive to nerds - but not necessarily so attractive to those who just want to plug it in and have it work. They are also easier to make insecure accidentally if you do drill into the settings and are not completely sure what you are doing.

Can I suggest indicating at least whether the firmware is open source-based?

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Can you name any which are not? other than perhaps the more upmarket ones like IOS, which I doubt many people will opt for. I’m sure there are some, but most I’ve seen are based on open source.

The question may be more along the lines of the degree to which the knobs are exposed …

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Unless the router market has changed radically in the last five to ten years, most manufacturers develop their own firmware. Only relatively recently have some have started to offer a few products that use the open source offerings, although since the Tomato and DD-WRT open source router hardware projects commenced it has been possible to install open source router firmware as long as a version has been developed for your specific hardware. (Doing this requires at least a level 3 in nerd.)

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You may have missed the evolution whereby it has gotten so complex (expensive?) to roll one’s own that they use open source as their cores and add their own management layer and sometimes a few bells and whistles and optimisations. One just need go through the various product pages to discover the open source attributions.

edit: This text is common. ’ …includes software code developed by third parties, including software code subject to the GNU General Public License (“GPL”) or GNU Lesser General Public License (“LGPL”). ’

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It appears that I have missed that. Nevertheless, I would suggest nerds go with the ‘pure’ open source firmware if possible because router manufacturers have shown all too often that they ship things with too many gaping security holes (as do ISPs).

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If you want one of the best around top Wifi & cheap as chips - pickup a xTelstra for $30-50+/- sometimes even less.

Unlike many vendor devices the Telstra SMART rebranded donks are at the very top end in performance & reliability - well when I did the research about a year ago anyway. Google & you’ll find benchmarking for just about every device offered: chip/modem plus the wifi performance/reliability.

We have FTTN & I picked up a DJA0230 off eBay for $40. Checkout/search Whirlpool forums if you want to know more; under the covers they are Alcatel / Thomson / Technicolor DJA0231 or similar
https://bc.whirlpool.net.au/bc/hardware/?action=h_view&model_id=1811

Been perfect & almost certainly better than the Billion/s we’ve loyally used in the past.

Cheers

How many WiFi clients do the routers support? This is important if you have a “smart home” with lots of WiFi IoT devices. F.e. I already have about 20 Wifi down-lights and my ISP supplied router supports only 32 WiFi clients.

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Welcome to the Community @ManfredB

Many can support a few hundred. Most routers have default settings that are lower but can be changed. There is obviously a trade-off between performance (bandwidth, capacity, etc) when there are ‘too many’ active clients for the routers capability.

The real answer is that it is make and model dependent.

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I clicked through to the ‘latest review’ dated 2019, an eternity in technology.

That being beside the point I note there is nothing about VOIP capability in any of the products nor the buying guide.

If one wants or needs VOIP it is an important aspect and should be mentioned, as well as featured in a filter. Some ISPs do not allow BYO modems for VOIP while many do. @SteveDuncombe?

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Another thing that is worth accounting for in any review update is standards compliance and NBN/et al support, example, for routers incorporating a VDSL chipset there are imminent changes to NBN where there ‘must’ be support for ROC and SOS - allegedly starting 1 April 2022, no not a joke …

The following page gives some insight into how NBN are ‘handling’ the situation:
VDSL2 Modems for FTTN/B | nbn (nbnco.com.au)

nbn-Ethernet-Network-Interface-Specification-UNI-DSL-v4-251121.pdf (nbnco.com.au) gives some more detail - curiously categorising both ROC and SOS as ‘Minor’ but it seems compliance is still required.

My ‘business grade’ router was flagged by NBN as meeting neither requirement. Looks like I’ll be front-ending it with a bridge that does. Whether the implementation has happened or is being rolled out progressively I’ve not seen any information on …

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Since I am on HFC I have but prurient interest and curiosity caused me to try finding out if my TP-Link VR600v is SOS/ROC complaint. TP-Link (on their Community) recently stated none of their products were but they are working on firmware, but no promises when and which products would be updated.

If TP-Link is typical of manufacturers this could become a debacle because it is not easy for a user to discover if their modem is or is not compatible, and using TP-Link’s Community responses as example it is not being handled very crisply. TP-Link advises to SRA/on to enhance stability rather than addressing what could be potentially a denial of service to their customer base that already suffers from FTTN and its derivatives.

I doubt it will come to that as a practical matter, but imagine NBN adding a 4th ring to their circus for this?

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For most the right but expensive answer is Fibre. Sadly. not a even a thought bubble with our LNP Governments when designing the debacle that is MTM NBN. Multiple types of modems and routers needed, multiple speed issues, multiple maintenance needs for a variety of types of connection.

Just think how for the majority of Australians the simpler choices they would have to make if fibre was the way. Instead, we have to first pick for the way the nbn™ is implemented in our area, while making sure it is a truly nbn™ compatible device for that means of connection to be installed, and finally ensure that we have a power backup that avoids loss of connectivity in a power outage (if on a connection that from the nbn™ that has power backup itself).

So I say, the sooner the extended fibre rollout happens the better but it comes with a much higher cost. I sometimes wonder who was the beneficiary of all this Govt squandering? In the meantime, the devices that are compatible need listing and CHOICE seems eminently placed to carry out that unbiased assessment.

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