Tomato and DD-WRT firmware are open source alternatives for
some routers that both significantly increase the router's capabilities, boost
their functionality and offer increased performance, security and QoS options.
They take a $150.00 to $400.00 router and make it a $1250.00 plus 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 large community of
online support and developers.
Tomato offers one of the best QoS functionalities with tools that allow for graphic displays of bandwidth to identify hogs, a visual map of connected Ethernet devices and tools to find the best channel to use wirelessly, as well as a way to increase the signal output strength. It also is an excellent firmware with OpenVPN for use as a client with many popular VPN service providers.
DD-WRT can be flashed onto a much larger number of routers due to certain compatibilities, so you will find it being used on Netgear, Linksys, TP-LINK, etc., making it extremely popular. It also advances additional optional wireless modes over Tomato for those that need to use the device as a repeater. It also includes more options for advanced WiFi hotspot creation. Some suggest because of the granular levels of multiple settings and configuration options that it is more technical, and we would concur, however there is a lot of online support forums, so with some network knowledge this firmware can get you the setup you'd want.
All in all, both DD-WRT and Tomato are possibly the best open source firmware for those that want a router with advanced features, increased security, more control, VPN and better performance.
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.
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
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.
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
Cons: File transfer speeds could be better.
The Linksys WRT3200ACM offers the fastest processor currently available in a router that can use an open source 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.
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,
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.
Pros: 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.
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.
Pros: 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.