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Home Router Experiment

Discussion in 'Computers' started by andruoid, May 15, 2011.

  1. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    As an experiment, I did a really informal connection quality test today. Using WiFi Analyzer on my Android phone I measured the average dBm in 4 different areas of the house. To give you an idea of the house layout I have the router(s) on the 3rd floor (converted attic space) the main floor is well above ground and the basement is half-in / half-out (foundation is on a slope).

    This is a comparison of 3 different routers:

    TP-Link TL-WR1043ND v1.7
    - 400MHz CPU, 32MB RAM, 8MB ROM
    - 1 year old technology, $70 new

    Linksys WRT54GL v1.1
    - 200MHz CPU, 16MB RAM, 4MB ROM
    - 6+ years old technology, $60 new (still available in stores)

    Linksys WRT54GC v1.0
    - 4MB RAM, 1MB ROM
    - about 2 years old, picked it up for $6.00 used

    Router configurations and results are as follows:

    TP-Link TL-WR1043ND with stock (3) 3dBi antennas
    Ch. 11
    N & G Mode
    Main Floor Living Room: -50
    Basement Living Room: -65 to -70
    Basement Kitchen: -70
    End of Hall in basement: -65 to -70

    TP-Link TL-WR1043ND with (3) 8dBi antennas with 1 meter cables
    (antennas fully extended apart from each other)
    Ch. 11
    N & G Mode
    Main Floor Living Room: -55
    Basement Living Room: -75
    Basement Kitchen: -70 to -75
    End of Hall in basement: -70

    Linksys WRT54GL stock antennas
    Ch. 6
    G Mode Only
    Main Floor Living Room: -50 to -55
    Basement Living Room: -60 to -65
    Basement Kitchen: -65
    End of Hall in basement: -60

    Linksys WRT54GC with 1 5dBi antenna attached to the external mount
    Ch. 1
    G Mode Only
    Main Floor Living Room: -65
    Basement Living Room: -75
    Basement Kitchen: -80 to -85 (at 1 point signal dropped)
    End of Hall in basement: -70

    As you can see, the winner is the WRT54GL, even being 6+ years old it bests TP-Link's top retail model. Also note that the 8dBi antennas (also made by TP-Link) on the TL-WR1043ND actually make things a little worse. There is such a thing as "too much antenna". I experienced the same on my short-wave radio. The antenna I used was too strong and actually attracted too much noise along with the signal. Just something to be aware of: there is a fairly fine line. :)

    To be honest the WRT54GC faired well, apart from dropping signals. However, this through 3 floors is still not bad for a router 1/4 the physical size for the WRT54GL and a single 5dBi antenna!

    Hope this is somewhat useful, if not, enjoy the rest of your day ;-)


    kidon likes this.

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  2. mplevy

    mplevy Android Expert

    I also use a WRT54GL, I found the WRT54G2 introduced a high ping on my wired desktop when playing COD. I have DD-WRT on the 54GL. The GL has been stable for the better part of a year now, now that I've switched to a channel with no interference (I pull 12 other signals from neighboring buildings, in an apt. complex, 4 units per building). Of course, my place is only 900 sq. ft. so signal strength is no issue to me except to try to override neighboring signals within my place.
  3. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Nice! Yes the WRT54G* series routers are very solid performers. You are right, DD-WRT adds a bit more life into the hardware as well. I have DD-WRT build 14929 which is stable so far.
  4. johnlgalt

    johnlgalt Antidisestablishmentarian

    To make the tests more formal, you should have all routers operating in G mode only. Signal splitting from single devices will always lead to a bit of signal degradation, ads I have found out over the last several years, first when adding G to B then adding N to G networks in my houses.

    I'm betting that if you dedicated the TL-WR1043ND to G only you should notice signal improvement, but that would also be based upon their design. If you were to compare the tests more broadly ranged (which I realize that you cannot easily do since that would require payola to buy other routers to test) I think you'd probably find that routers supporting multiple WLAN standards will always fair a bit more poorly.

    At my home, I have a D-Link GamerLounge 4500 which is the main DHCP as well as main AP for my DROID (G) and laptops (N), but my sister use the drop I had put in her room a couple of years ago to hook up her LinkSys to my network when she moved here. Her old laptop connects to her Linksys while I added her new laptop to my D-Link b/c of the N capabilities (she, too, has the wr54tgl, I believe).

    My bedroom, which is far away from the study where my D-Link is, always shows her router as the stronger connection in WiFi analyzer - and, to be fair, it is a bit closer. but, my DROID purrs on my G/N router so well that even half the house away (3400 sqft Ranch style home) I am able to regularly get 8+ Mbits over G downstream and over 2 upstream, on a connection that gives my physically connected desktop 20+ down and 3+ up.

    Of course, I've never heard of TP-Link, either, so....that might be a limiting factor in and of itself. personally, I'll never own anything but LinkSys and D-Link - D-Link b/c of he superb prowess of the GamerLounge series (My 4300 works 8 years after having first purchased it, and the 4500 works just as fabulously, even though it is Buffalo) and LinkSys b/c, well, of DD-WRT :p

    I'll gladly pay premium prices for these manufacturers as well - as your test shows, LinkSys just continues to work, and my experience shows that the upper end D-Link products do the same.
  5. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    John, I enjoyed the read. Mine was a quick test, I don't have much time to play around due to family and full-time study.

    However, I did just buy a D-Link DIR-825. As nice as Tomato 1.28 is on the WRT54GL the GL just doesn't have the proper signal strength and speed. I know DD-WRT is good on the 825, not sure if I'll flash it just yet. I did update to the latest D-Link firmware though. I'd be quite happy to stick with the D-Link firmware as it looks pretty good.

    1 feature I miss already is the query map that tells you detailed info about other WLANs and systems & their dBi strengths around you. If that was integrated into the stock firmware I'd see no point in using DD-WRT (for my needs).

    * I'll post the results of the 825 to compare with the above later :)
    johnlgalt likes this.
  6. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Here are the results of my new D-Link DIR-825. There are up to 9 wireless devices in the house, only 6 show as some people weren't home for my full test. Not shown, there is also 3 wired devices and a printer in the USB slot.

    Again, router is on the top floor in the converted attic space (technically 3rd floor). All the devices you see are either cell phones or laptops spread around the basement. My bro-in-laws latop is getting an excellent connection, 100%.

    5GHz is disabled as I have nothing that uses that frequency right now. Also, I tried my 8dBi antennas on the DLink and it actually hindered the connection speed and signal. They are 2.4GHz rated and you'd think they'd give a better result. Oh well, up on Craigslist they go.

    BTW, this router is very powerful hardware-wise: 8MB ROM, 64MB RAM and a 680MHz CPU.

  7. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Well, after a few days the D-Link DIR-825 went back. I tested my trusty WRT54GL v1.1 with Tomato 1.28 and it kept pace with it. Granted, no N speed but, when N is getting the same or less speed than a G connection, something is wrong.

    I went for my 2nd choice: Asus RT-N16. This has 32MB ROM, 128MB flash and a 480MHz CPU, no other router I know of comes close to that spec. I flashed DD-WRT build 16994 (the latest at this time of writing). The N16 gets a -47 to -52 signal anywhere in the basement 2 floors down. That is impressive, the next best score was from the WRT54GL at -60 to -65 signal.
  8. johnlgalt

    johnlgalt Antidisestablishmentarian

    Good for ya. Since that DIR was not only dual band (g/n probably with the ability to also do a/b) but also dual frequency, it's going to lose, hands down, every time.

    Every computer I have in the house does something different - DROID does G, one desktop does N, but 2.4 GHz only, two laptops do N, one older laptop does G only (and usually steps down to B for some *odd* reason even though it has signals in the low to mid 60 strengths available to connect to) and my desktop which is wired 100%. My GamerLounge works, so I'll stick with it - But as you've noticed, you have to go with what works best for you.

    My only gripe is that I wish I had not had to deal with the firmware fiasco when I bought the 4500 - that was a nightmare until it finally stabilized almost 6 months later.
  9. death2all110

    death2all110 Android Expert

    I have the Linksys E3000 flashed to DD-WRT. Thing runs pretty well for being in a steel framed house! My Belkin N router failed miserably. and very little configuration + no dd-wrt support. My routers MUST have dd-wrt support. lol
  10. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Interesting, I bought the Asus RT-N16 because of the great support in DD-WRT. I'm getting really bad results with builds through the 16*** range with the wireless disconnecting randomly.

    I'm finding TomatoUSB 1.28 far better in terms of signal stability. Also I attach the printer to use the USB slot on the router, not the wireless so I can have a pure 801.11n network. :)


    At the moment i have the 2 8dBi and the middle is still the stock 3dBi. I've ordered a 3rd 8dBi, should increase the signal and speed a bit. Mis-matched antennas are not a good idea ;)
  11. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    I change routers like I change my underwear. Went back to my TP-Link TL1043ND.

    The Asus RT-N16 was returned for 2 reasons: 1. the stock firmware is a joke; it's very slow to change just 1 setting and lacks basic features but, the signal is rock stable. 2. DD-WRT was giving me reasonably stable signals (in the -47 to -58) range but, the connection speed was between 58 and 65Mbps. TomatoUSB was about the same however has a nicer interface which I prefer.

    My very first post in this thread I only had 2 x 8dBi attached to the TP-Link. I bought a 3rd today and set them up as shown in the photo below. I'm getting 150Mbps from the attic space to the basement. The laptop is only rated at 150Mbps, the router is capable of 300Mbps connection. Should be interesting as I think the international students laptop has 300Mbps wireless. I'll have to check that laptop once they come home.

    I'm using N only, 40MHz, fixed channel and stock firmware which is excellent, apart from having no Site Survey. I'll just use WiFi Analyzer on my Desire for that :)

  12. johnlgalt

    johnlgalt Antidisestablishmentarian

    Interesting. And I swear I've still never heard of TP Link lol. Might have to do some research when I got to expand my coverage. As it is, though, my N does a fantabulous job reaching the other end of the house. Luckily, I'm in a single story dwelling. Unluckily, it's still 3400+ sq ft....so it's very long from one end to the other.
  13. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    I never heard of TP-Link until this year either, however, they make business grade routers and switches too. The TL-WR1043ND is their top retail model and at $70 CDN its the best I've tried, and you know I've tried a few in the past couple of weeks, lol.

    Our place is almost the same size but, spans 3 floors, 1300sq ft. basement, 1600sq ft. main and a converted attic which is about 700sq ft.
  14. johnlgalt

    johnlgalt Antidisestablishmentarian

    Ahhh, business quality products - always a good thing,. and a boatload cheaper than the D-Link top end stuff.

    Might have to take a look at it. You say it is DD-WRT compatible too (and Tomato also)?
  15. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    DD-WRT is an option with the TL-WR1043ND however, there are a significant few who are having issues with the stability of their WiFi. TomatoUSB is not supported. I actually prefer the stock firmware, TP-Link are great about updating and adding new features, even after a year and a half of the model being out. (more than I can say about Cisco, the 4400N v2.0 I had which is 3x the cost of the TP-Link had terrible support.) However, the only thing I miss is the Site Survey that DD-WRT and TomatoUSB offers.
  16. johnlgalt

    johnlgalt Antidisestablishmentarian

    Kewl. Thanks for starting (and continuing to post in) this thread, m8 - I'm definitely looking into upgrading soon.
  17. SUroot

    SUroot Extreme Android User

    I have a well loved WRT54G.

    I have just received a cable modem router in the form a virgin media superhub.

    I'm srill deciding whether to completey use the VMSH or part use the modem aspect and set the WRT54G in series.
  18. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    Just did a quick walk measuring the signal strength. I used my android with WiFi Analyzer (available for free in the Market). Virtually direct line of sight the signal was -85 to -90 and was able to connect to the router from 300ft / 90m away (according to Google Earth).

    I'll do a better test later, have to study for my first linux exam coming up this Tuesday. :)
  19. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    In another post I mentioned that I upgraded to 50/3 connection through my provider. the download cap is 400GB/m which is going to be fun trying to exceed ;) To do so they had to also upgrade my Motorola SurfBoard cable modem which is limited to a maximum 30Mbps downstream. They now use a SMC SMCD3GN which has 160Mbps downstream / 120Mbps upstream and has wireless N built-in. This unit also has 4x 1Gb ports for internal usage and 3 built-in antennas.

    All I can say is this equals my TP-Link with 3x 8dBi external antennas. The downloading speed is crazy fast. $20 more a month and i could get 100/5 speeds ...maybe when I finish my course at the end of the year and working :)
  20. andruoid

    andruoid Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    The saga continues. Shaw, my ISP has awesome service and techsupport. Before upgrading to this latest 50/3 package I never once called them for any issue and its been 4 years since I joined.

    The gateway they give you has 2 firmware options; 1. wireless N and access to the router firmware to make custom configurations and 2. 'straight-through' cable modem so you have the option to use your own router/gateway hardware. I chose to use the wireless on their gateway to compare it. It is a nice piece of hardware no doubt but, the options are lacking in a few ways:

    A. no way to hide your SSID. I realize this is not a full-proof way of securing your wireless net but, it is a deterrent.

    B. no way to Block All WAN Requests. This is somewhat similar to hiding your SSID but much more important imo. Again, not full-proof but its better than having your router responding to every scan that happens to come your way.

    C. no way to send email alerts to you regarding attacks, scans or other info.

    The above settings are there, just not available to configure, which I find very odd.

    So as of today I had them remotely flash the gateway and now use my hardware to control what comes in/out, MAC addy filtering, email alerts, etc, etc.

    Just thought a bit of experience and info may help someone else. :cool:
    johnlgalt likes this.

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