Best WiFi Routers to Flash with Open Source Firmware

Top five Routers that can accept DD-WRT and Tomato firmware.

Tech testing WiFi strength.Tomato and DD-WRT are open-source firmware alternatives that can both significantly increase the router's capabilities and boost their functionality. Each version advances performance, security and QoS (Quality of Service) capabilities. Flashing a router with more capable firmware delivers the equivalent of a $1,000.00 router. Although there are other versions of open-source firmware, Tomato and DD-WRT are two of the most popular offering stability, great feature sets and a substantial community of online support and developers.

Tomato software remains a very capable firmware for quality VoIP bringing powerful QoS functionalities. Integrated tools include graphic displays of bandwidth that can be used identify which devices may actually be using too much along with a visual map of connected Ethernet devices. One utility discovers the most appropriate channel to operate wirelessly, as well as a way to increase the signal output strength. In addition it is an excellent firmware with OpenVPN for use as a client with many popular VPN service providers.

DD-WRT and Tomato are two of the best open source firmware for those that want a better performing router with advanced features with more control, increased security,  and VPN capabilities.

DD-WRT can be flashed onto a more substantial number of routers due to broader compatibilities, so you may find it flashed on Netgear, Linksys and TP-LINK. It also advances additional optional wireless modes beyond Tomato for those that need to use the device as a repeater. DD-WRT also incorporates more options for advanced WiFi hotspot creation. Some users suggest because of the granular levels of multiple settings and configuration options, it is more technical. We would concur, however there is an abundance of online support forums. Consequently those with the proper expertise this firmware allows you to control many network conditions.

Two routers best for a Flash of Tomato

1) Netgear R7000 Nighthawk AC1900 Tomato Router

The Nighthawk AC1900 has been a top list stalwart for its exceptional ratings in all measured categories for some time now and has earned its reputation as one of the best. It's one of the best reasonably priced routers that can run Tomato. Popular with just about all buyers, it brings with it exceptional speed, superb functionality and offers enough computing power that it'll have power to burn for any future needs. It can be flashed with either Tomato or DD-WRT. Increasingly as time progresses videos and other networking needs are becoming more intensive.
When flashed with a high-end Tomato build the R7000 can separate connections. You can set specific websites to go through the VPN whereas other websites when visited will connect through your local ISP assigned IP address. The Netgear Nighthawk R7000 integrates three external antennas for a strong performing wireless footprint. Being external, they can be later upgraded to even more powerful antennas if ever needed. Another plus for future proofing your purchase.

Netgear Nighthawk R7000 with DD-WRT firmware.

  • AC1900 WiFi—600+1300 Mbps speeds
  • 128MB Flash Memory and 256MB RAM
  • High-powered Amplifiers with 3 External Antennas
  • 1 GHz Dual Core Broadcom Processor
  • Numerous awards and kudos from the technology world.
  • Tomato or DD-WRT capable.

Pros & Cons Nighthawk.Pros: Well established dual-band router, proven reliability, many flashed installs, excellent combined throughput, excellent range, now very affordable. Plenty of users run this router with Tomato, so there's a large online community for support. Great for very small office or medium home with 8-12 devices. Cons: None

2) Asus RT-AC3200 AC3200 Tri-Band Tomato Router

The Asus RT-AC3200 Tri-Band router has been and continues to be a great Tomato flashed router choice and comes with powerful hardware for both excellent coverage and excellent performance at varying distances. It has been on the top recommended lists of many review companies with the only caveat that it was a bit pricey. However, now that this router has been on the market for a period of time, its price has dropped by a third, making this router not only a top choice for performance, but for price as well. It's a great choice for a small office or larger home dwelling where coverage is an issue and multiple devices will be connecting. Small offices will find that this router does an excellent job in maintaining optimum connectivity for multiple devices.

Asus RT-AC3200 triband router. 

  • 1GHz Broadcom CPU
  • 256 MB RAM and 128 MB Flash Memory
  • 6 High-powered External Antennas
  • Tomato or DD-WRT Capable
  • AC3200 ultimate AC performance : 600+1300+1300 Mbps
  • Beamforming
  • Automatic assignment for each device to either the 2.4 GHz band or one of the two 5 GHz bands, according to the device's speed, its signal strength, and how much traffic exists on that band.

Pros & Cons Asus router.Pros: Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Route with powerful hardware and great 5GHz throughput. Can operate as a powerful VPN/NAS server. Great for small office or large home with 10+ devices. Great value.
Cons: File transfer speeds could be better.

Three of the Best for a Flash of DD-WRT

3) Linksys WRT3200ACM Open Source Router with DD-WRT

The Linksys WRT3200ACM offers the fastest processor currently available in a router that can use an open source firmware. This router is marketed as Open Source-ready for users who want to customize their firmware. With MU-MIMO technology, the router can communicate with multiple devices simultaneously increasing the speed of your WiFi network by limiting the interference between connected devices. If you are in the market for a top shelf router for video calls, streaming, video or to max the speed of your VPN use, this is a router that will future proof your purchase.

Linksys WRT3200 Router ready for DD-WRT. 

  • 1.8 GHz Marvel Dual-Core ARM Processor
  • 512 MB RAM and 256 MB of Flash Memory
  • Dual Band (2.4 and 5 GHz) AC3200 (600+1300+1300 Mbps), MU-MIMO
  • Tri-Stream 160 technology doubles bandwidth and the fastest dual-band of any router.
  • 4 External Dual Band Detachable Antennas
  • Open-source ready to flash with DD-WRT or OpenWrt

Pros & Cons Linksys 3200.Pros: Fastest processor with blazing 5GHz throughput and file transfer speeds. excellent WiFi speeds, good open source firmware support, prime choice for small office using video calls,
Cons: None

4) Asus RT-AC5300 AC5300 DD-WRT

The RT-AC5300 is a 4X4 router meaning it uses four individual streams to deliver and receive data, which is a big advantage to offices who may be using data intensive connections like IP Video phones and is recommended for 10+ connected devices. It offers eight antennas for an excellent large WiFi footprint and with extra RAM and a 1.4 GHz processor, one of the fastest that you can put DD-WRT with, it will keep those multiple devices connected without any delays. Processing power is key to high performance routing, and the RT-AC5300 by Asus offers extra capacity for growth as streaming video and other network intensive demands grow. It’s ideal for high-end use such as a small office.

Asus AC5300 DD-WRT Router.
  • 1.4 GHz Broadcom Dual-Core Processor
  • 512 MB RAM and 128 MB Flash Memory
  • 8 Dual Band Detachable External Antennas
  • Tri-band with the latest 802.11ac 4x4 technology for maximum throughput and coverage up to 5,000 sq. ft., MU-MIMO capable
  • AC5300 ultimate AC performance:1000+2167+2167 Mbps
  • Highest number of antennas currently available in these types of routers.

Pros & Cons AsusPros: Strong tri-band WiFi coverage, fast throughput speeds, smart device allocation, great for small office or large home with 10+ devices Cons: Only one USB 3.0 connection, large device, in the expensive range.

5) Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 AD7200 DD-WRT Router

The Nighthawk R9000 X10 comes with plenty of power and excellent speeds. It's one of the fastest routers for media streaming. Rated for 20+ devices the Nighthawk X10 will do the job for small businesses which have numerous connected devices at any one time. And with Ethernet Port Aggregation, which allows combining two LAN ports, it can accelerate file transfer speeds making large file transfers that much faster; back-ups to the cloud will be that much more efficient. There are less expensive routers available, however this router will deliver ultra-smooth lag free streaming with plenty of processing power as increasing demands on networks will become greater over the next few years.

Netgear's Nighthawk R9000 X10 Router

  • AD7200 Tri-Band WiF 800 Mbps @2.4GHz – 256QAM 1733 Mbps @5GHz – 256QAM 4600 Mbps @60GHz - SC
  • 1.7GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • 512MB NAND Flash and 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • 4 External Active Antennas with high powered amplifiers
  • Six Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports with the ability to aggregate two ports for faster file transfers
  • QUAD STREAM—Up to four data streams per WiFi band maximizes connection speed, MU-MIMO

Pros & Cons Netgear R9000 NighthawkPros: Robust hardware with excellent speeds and coverage. Ultrafast wired connections for high-end servers and fast network storage. Built-in Plex server for media streaming. Great for small office or large home with 10+ devices. Cons: Priced on the expensive side.