Looking for a hardware suggestion for a home router/Wi-Fi hot spot

Looking for a hardware suggestion for a home router/Wi-Fi hot spot. Just starting to investigate this, and I am hoping someone can point me into the right direction to save me some time.

Don’t need anything too fancy. Previously I was using the one that came from my ISP and was happy with it. However, we recently got upgraded and the new router and I don’t have a high opinion of it. My biggest complaint is you need to install an App on your phone to configure it (e.g. no web admin page) and you cannot change the DNS server it uses (e.g. you have to use the ISP’s DNS).

My IPS is Shaw, which is one of the big ones in western Canada. Below is a link to the router I had before:


And this is what we got upgraded to:


The new Shaw router has a bridge mode, which as I understand it turns off the router and Wi-Fi part and basically turns it to a cable modem. So, connecting and using a consumer router/Wi-Fi to it should not be a problem.

Below are the key things I am looking for:

  • At least 4 Ethernet ports
  • Wi-fi coverage for a typical North American Home (square, 2 story, about 1500 sq ft, would like 3000 sq ft to cover the yard just outside the house as well)
  • We currently have about 12 active Wi-fi devices, but a guess that could grow in the future.
  • No gamers in the house other than Minecraft and the most insensitive we have on the next working is streaming (Plex)
  • Easy to config with a web app and does not force you to install an app on your phone.
  • Can change the DNS sever, i.e. can point it to a local Pi-hole
  • Here are a few nice to have but not needed:
    • Hoping to keep price low
    • Be able to add Wi-fi extenders to cover the shop in the far backyard.
    • has a lot of powerful features that could be explored later, but you could get it up and running fast
    • Supported dynamic DNS (I know there are other ways of doing this, but I was used to this being in the router)

Are there any recommendation for brands and specs I should be looking for or staying away from?

There seems to be a lot of Asus and Tp-link routers on sale, are these good brands?

Many routers are marked as “gaming routers”, e.g. many Asus. Should I stay away from these routers?

Ubiquity seem to be the gold standard for self-hosting. What is the learning curve like getting into their stuff? I am worried it would be complicated and as much as I would like to learn something new and tinker, I don’t have the time right now.

I have hard about open firmware “Openwrt” is this worth getting into? I have a felling this will eat up a lot of time, which I don’t have right now?

Thank you

Since you are here, I am going to assume you have an interest in home lab type of stuff. If that’s the case I highly recommend that you spend a little bit of money and separate out your network into several physical devices. It will afford you the most flexibility and the ability to experiment with things like VLANs, link aggregation, etc. OpenWRT is not bad, and I had it on my Netgear R7800, and it worked fine. I was able to set up some VLANs, etc. But As my home lab hobby grew, I found that I needed more flexibility. I ended up with a separate fire wall (running pfSense), a switch and a wireless access point. I bought this for the firewall but you can find stuff cheaper that is just as good, I am sure:

I bought this for my switch:

And I purchased this for my WAP:

All in, it cost me about $400. You can definitely do this for less money. Especially if you can dedicate an old PC to be the firewall or an old router in AP only mode as the wireless access point. But if you want to do homelab stuff, this is going to be better than trying to run OpenWRT in an all in one device

My network configuration is that I have a cable modem, the pfSense firewall plugs into the cable modem and the switch plugs into the firewall device. Everything else hangs off of the switch, including my wireless access point, my NAS device, my home security system, a raspberry pi ham radio hotspot, and my homelab server. I have 6 different VLANs set up: one for Ring cameras, the alarm and home automation stuff, one for the televisions/roku sticks, one for guests, one for my trusted devices like my PC, one for untrusted devices (mainly self hosted apps like Wordpress and Nextcloud that are open to the internet) and finally one for my home lab server management connection (proxmox). This set up allows me to have multiple SSIDs, each tagged to a different VLAN

Welcome to the forum!

Keeping price low is not my best skill when it comes to routers. Asus, D-Link and TP-Link are all fine. Asus tends to have more reported and patched vulnerabilities. All of them should be configurable from the web page. Many Asus routers have an alternative firmware, AsusWRT-Merlin, which is more powerful, look on the merlin website for supported routers.

TP-Link and Ubiquity have a lot of builds for OpenWRT, which is really nice and again powerful. I kinda want a Unifi AP 5 LR because it has openwrt. But it doesn’t have ethernet ports.

Oh speaking of which, you could realistically get a $15 switch, like the TL-SG105 if you want to expand the wired network and then get something else for the routing. I’d go TP-Link with OpenWRT in this scenario, only because it has ports already and can be found cheap used.

Asus with their default firmware are good for Mesh networking though, you might want to consider that, otherwise, a normal router and a wired AP, like the unifi one should be fine.

I don’t remember the Unifi stuff, as I only worked with them once a long time ago, but the proprietary firmware on them required that you run a controller on your network. It can be a debian VM, or a raspberry pi or another SBC (running raspberry pi os or armbian).

As an anecdote, if you want to get into homelab routing, you could buy either a Protectli appliance with 4 or 6 ports (for pfSense / OPNsense), or a rockpro64 or another SBC (for openwrt) and a switch like the zyxel xgs1210-12. I have the rockpro64 and the zyxel, but I run just linux on the rock. The zyxel is a managed switch with a GUI, you can setup vlans and all you need in the webgui (to its detriment, it has an open ssh daemon listener, but can’t find the credentials, it’s locked).

For a SBC, you can use VLANs if you don’t care about sped and don’t mind sharing a gigabit pipe as a chokepoint on the network, but more ports can give you some throughput in some scenarios (if you mostly have 1 to 1 client communications on your network, a gigabit shared pipe is fine, because if you have full duplex, you don’t lose speed, but if you introduce 4 or more devices on the same subnets that need to talk in pairs for high bandwidth scenarios, more ports help, so you don’t share the bandwidth, only if all 4 are on different subnets). Typically it doesn’t make sense to have more than 2 ports on a router (wan and lan, with vlans on the lan side and a managed switch).

I haven’t tried messing around with making an access point out of the linux router, but it is possible. But since my wifi is my wan, I’d rather have a separate AP than the router.

Thank you for the advice. Now I just have to find the time to pick something, buy it and set it up. It is looking like I will not have much free time as I was hoping for in the next month or so.


Just for reference (since OP probably already settled on hardware), I recently swapped my old UniFi Firewall for a Protectli Vault VP 2420, which is now running pfSense (but you could opt for OPNsense or any other Firewall-geared installation).

I have a friend who has also been using Protectli hardware, and it should be good for homelab. Lawrence Systems doesn’t recommend it for enterprise use, since it has proven to be a little less reliable than Netgate hardware - but it’s considerably cheaper too. :+1:

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