Author Topic: Router  (Read 542 times)

Tree

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Router
« on: January 24, 2017, 11:48:54 AM »
Hello Ari,

I am new to the forum, although I have been reading your site non-stop since I found it about a year ago.

Anyway, I am looking into getting a new router. My household normally has 1 laptop, 2 tablets, 2 phones, potentially a new gaming desktop and Roku running, some weekends all at once with potentially more when friends or family are over.

The router century link provided just can't keep up, unless I'm at home by myself running one device. Currently we have 40mps but I am looking to upgrade to 100mps or possibly gigabit since it is now available in my area as well. We are also on a bulk internet connection through our apartment complex, so I'm not sure if that is slowing things down as well.

Is there a particular router you would recommend? I have been looking at the Linksys WRT-3200ACM. I'm hoping the new MU-MIMO tech will help solve my issue of certain devices slowing down when all are in use. The other reason I'm considering this router is that it has open vpn compatibility. Which leads me into my next question.

What are your thoughts on setting up your own vpn? Or would I be better off going with a company like Private Internet Access? If you do recommend setting up your own and have some good knowledge on how to set up a vpn; I would be really interested in seeing an article from you on the subject.

Thank you so much for the great, informative, yet easy to understand website.

Ari Altman

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Re: Router
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2017, 01:48:07 PM »
Welcome to The TBG Forum, Tree!

It's funny, every time I look at the current offerings in the router world, I'm taken aback by how many different approaches you'll find even within a single product line. I'll get back to your specific model selection in a moment, but first, I'll share with you a conversation I had with Linksys engineers at CES this year. I asked them point blank what the true speed of their new Velop AC6600 Mesh Network is versus their very best single router, the Linksys EA9500 AC5400, which is what I use and think is simply unbeatable. In the end, they didn't have a direct answer, but said the goal of the Velop was to provide whole-home coverage, not necessarily faster speeds. But then I said to one of the engineers that the EA9500 already provides whole-home coverage due to its powerful radios, and he admitted that it's so powerful that it's being used by ranches and other similar businesses that need coverage over extremely large outdoor spaces. You can't do that with a bunch of indoor "nodes," of course.

Point being, there are a lot of "best" options out there, even within a single company. They are pitching everything they've got and seeing what sticks. As for the Linksys WRT3200ACM you've identified, I'm not convinced it's actually the best router for everyone, but for you, it might just be ideal. That's not because of MU-MIMO, however. The WRT3200 has another unusual feature, which is its three 867Mbps (dual-433Mbps stream) radios on the 5GHz band, plus a 600MHz radio on the 2.4GHz band, which adds up to the 3200Mbps rating. That sort of makes up for the fact that MU-MIMO doesn't really work in today's environment. You see, MU-MIMO, which divides a single radio among multiple clients simultaneously rather than quickly switching between them as standard routers do, is most definitely the future of wireless routing. But clients must be MU-MIMO compatible, and most clients are not. That includes most phones, tablets, consoles, laptops, and desktop adapters. Basically, it's a great feature to have for the future, but it doesn't work today. Which is where all those somewhat slow 5GHz radios come into play in the WRT3200: in the absence of MU-MIMO clients, you have multiple radios communicating with the devices in your home, which means there's a greater chance that one will get a dedicated connection at any given instant, even if they aren't MU-MIMO compatible.

That is pretty nice, and it's something that the EA9500 I use has, but in a more robust configuration: two 2166Mbps (penta-stream) 5.4GHz radios and a single 1000Mbps 2.4GHz radio. Now, some hyper-inflated marketing is going on here too, as there are no clients that can truly take advantage of either of those ratings, but the brute force required to drive such speeds also means the radios have great range and reliability, even at slower speeds.

One thing that concerns me about the current WRT series is that it's meant to channel the iconic WRT54G, and Linksys has practically admitted that you're paying more for the styling. Alas, if you want those triple 5GHz radios, it's your only option, and in an apartment setting like yours with lots of users, it's actually better than having one or two faster, longer-range radios. I've poked around a bit and don't see any similar configurations from Netgear and Asus, which means Linksys may well be going it alone with the unique attributes that the WRT3200ACM provides.

By the way, I'm on CenturyLink Gigabit Fiber, and it's pretty darn awesome, but I'm not sure how it would work in an apartment building. I live in a house, but previously lived in an apartment, and my Comcast Cable was split in the utility room of the building to service all the residents. It was clear that at peak viewing hours, my internet service absolutely tanked. Before upgrading your CenturyLink, make sure you're not getting slowdowns during prime time hours, because a faster connection may not fix that. Use Speedtest.net to check your internet speeds during those hours, preferably not when every other device in your home is being used (in order to pinpoint whether you're getting slowdowns prior to the feed entering your unit). Then check it in the early morning and see if it comes to the same speed. If it does, an upgrade in your service may be worthwhile.

Alas, I can tell you about a lot of things, particularly hardware-related, but VPNs are a bit outside my area of expertise. I'm afraid you'll have to research that on some other helpful website!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 04:43:17 PM by Ari Altman »

Tree

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Re: Router
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2017, 09:31:16 AM »
Hello again Ari:

Sorry for such a long delay in response, been absolutely super hectic few weeks.  I got married a week and half ago, then had to turn around and work 60 hours in four days running a booth for my company at a home and garden show.  Just super crazy!

Thanks for the advice.  I have run the speed test randomly at different times of the day.  Haven't seen a huge slow down at peak times, although there is a little bit of slow down.  I just ran it again, it's the middle of the day and there are only two other cars in the parking lot other than mine.  It topped out at 29mps download and 15mps upload.  I was told that we are supposed to have 40mps service.  Do you think that it has something to do with the line coming into the building and I'm just stuck?  Or do you think that if I upgrade to the 100mps it would at least be "enough force" to push it faster even though I'm dealing with the split line issue of an apartment?

As for the router, I had been also looking at the EA9500 as well.  Would the "brute force" you mentioned of it help me at all?  Or am I better off going with the WRT3200 for the tri-band 5Ghz?

Thanks again for the help! 

Ari Altman

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Re: Router
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2017, 01:11:04 PM »
Hello again Ari:

Sorry for such a long delay in response, been absolutely super hectic few weeks.  I got married a week and half ago, then had to turn around and work 60 hours in four days running a booth for my company at a home and garden show.  Just super crazy!

Thanks for the advice.  I have run the speed test randomly at different times of the day.  Haven't seen a huge slow down at peak times, although there is a little bit of slow down.  I just ran it again, it's the middle of the day and there are only two other cars in the parking lot other than mine.  It topped out at 29mps download and 15mps upload.  I was told that we are supposed to have 40mps service.  Do you think that it has something to do with the line coming into the building and I'm just stuck?  Or do you think that if I upgrade to the 100mps it would at least be "enough force" to push it faster even though I'm dealing with the split line issue of an apartment?

As for the router, I had been also looking at the EA9500 as well.  Would the "brute force" you mentioned of it help me at all?  Or am I better off going with the WRT3200 for the tri-band 5Ghz?

Thanks again for the help!

No apologies necessary! You have clearly been busy. Congrats on your wedding, very exciting I'm sure!

The one thing I want to confirm about those Speedtest numbers is whether they were taken with a wired connection to your router, or whether they used a wireless connection. Typically, if you're on cable internet and it's not peak hours, you'll get your rated speed, in this case 40 Mbps.

So post back here letting me know if that test was done wired or wireless, and we'll go from there. I want to pin down whether this is a cable provider problem or a hardware problem.

Tree

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Re: Router
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2017, 11:48:17 AM »
Well thank you, it was a lot of fun.  Basically had a party in a greenhouse!

They have all been wired tests.  I randomly woke up at about 3:30 a.m. this morning, so I decided to try it again.  It is the highest it has made it of all the random times I have run the test.  It hit 37.5Mbps download and 18.5Mbps upload.  I also made sure nothing else was trying to pull a signal when I ran all of the tests.

Ari Altman

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Re: Router
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2017, 01:07:08 PM »
Well thank you, it was a lot of fun.  Basically had a party in a greenhouse!

They have all been wired tests.  I randomly woke up at about 3:30 a.m. this morning, so I decided to try it again.  It is the highest it has made it of all the random times I have run the test.  It hit 37.5Mbps download and 18.5Mbps upload.  I also made sure nothing else was trying to pull a signal when I ran all of the tests.

OK, with a wired connection, the only thing that matters is the cable provider. It seems you're not getting service quite at your rated speed, but it's close, at least in non-peak hours. The issues you mentioned in an earlier post regarding slowdowns with multiple users could be caused by either the router or the bandwidth cap on your service - it's hard to say for sure without knowing exactly what kind of content was being accessed. Multiple high-def video streams are going to saturate that cable link, no matter what the cable companies and content providers say is the theoretical "minimum" requirement. On the other hand, if it's just a bunch of cell phones and tablets surfing the web, the cable service probably isn't the issue, and a new router would help. At this point, you're probably going to want to assess which scenario sounds more like the one you're experiencing, and then go from there.

By the way, unless you upgrade to something well beyond 100Mbps service, which is typically pretty hard to find on cable, the Linksys EA9500 is complete and total overkill, and therefore not worth buying over the Linksys WRT3200 (which I notice has dropped in price since we last discussed it!). My EA9500 hits 200Mbps using just a triple-stream adapter. Someday, in the very distant future, when quint-stream adapters actually exist, the EA9500's quint-stream transmission will probably support at least 300Mbps. ;)

Tree

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Re: Router
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2017, 03:30:41 PM »
Thank you for the advice.  I'm glad to see the price of the router has gone done too!

Well I just looked at my Centurylink router a little closer, probably should have started there to begin with.  I'm now wondering if that is part of the issue.  It is a ZyXEL FR1000Z 802.11N wireless gateway.  Can I just replace the Centurylink router with my own?  Or do I need to keep the Centurylink router (since it is a gateway) and put it in a bridge mode to use my own router? 

Sorry for all the never ending questions.  Networking is for sure one of my biggest weak spots when it comes to technology. 

Ari Altman

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Re: Router
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2017, 05:27:56 PM »
Thank you for the advice.  I'm glad to see the price of the router has gone done too!

Well I just looked at my Centurylink router a little closer, probably should have started there to begin with.  I'm now wondering if that is part of the issue.  It is a ZyXEL FR1000Z 802.11N wireless gateway.  Can I just replace the Centurylink router with my own?  Or do I need to keep the Centurylink router (since it is a gateway) and put it in a bridge mode to use my own router? 

Sorry for all the never ending questions.  Networking is for sure one of my biggest weak spots when it comes to technology.

Yes, that router will be a problem. It cannot sustain the speed you're paying for when operating in wireless mode, and is probably only rated for 100Mbps wired, which translates to less in the real world.

You can simply plug a new router into the jack your PC is currently connected to, but if you upgrade your service, they'd have to provide you a new combo device anyway, so that's another option.

Tree

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Re: Router
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2017, 06:20:37 PM »
Ok, perfect.  Thanks again for all of your help.