Best router for under £250?

Discussion in 'Networking & NAS' started by smotiram, Oct 24, 2018.


    1. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Question is pretty self explanatory. I've got the standard virgin media router which is total pants, does not even cover half of my house. Looking for something that has a longer range but maintains speeds. Budget is just a ball park figure, will spend more if necessary, happy to spend less too!
       
    2. Fe_man2000

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      Chances are you need to change how things are setup rather than swopping out the existing router and replacing with a "better" one. There are a lot of factors in getting a good wifi experience many of which can be improved but if the problem is a really solid brick wall for example, you need to do more. Wifi strengths are regulated so most routers are the same just with varying quality of antennas changing there performance.

      Is it possible to move the router and of course the cable incoming to a better location, more central ?

      if not maybe run a network cable out the of the router and buy an wifi access point to add another location you can connect too.
       
    3. smotiram

      smotiram
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      My setup is currently incredibly poor. Selfishly, I have the main router in my room which is at the top left of the property so I can have a wired connection to my pc. It's not really that easy to move as all the cabling is up there.

      The issue is that just below the router is my living room and i'm really struggling to stream HD movies on it due to poor connection (somehow the wifi strength drops so much when the router is literally just above it).

      I also have another router on the far right of the property which is connected to the virgin superhub through an ethernet cable in the hopes that it provided a connection on that side of the house. It does but again, if you're not in the specific room where the router is, its really bad. I've got the standard virgin media superhub on the left side of the property and a really old (over 10 years) netgear router on the right hand side. I've tried a repeater but it didn't seem to work particularly well.

      The walls of my house must be really thick/well insulated as it does not travel well from floor to floor and room to room. I was hoping a more powerful router could solve this issue.
       
    4. mickevh

      mickevh
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      With multple Wi-Fi cells, it is possible each Wi-Fi cell could be interfering with each other if you have made an injudicious choice of radio channels.

      To mitigate this, disable the "auto" tuning in the routers and set them by hand. In the 5GHz waveband, just ensure the routers use different radio channels. In the 2.4GHz waveband, make sure the channels are different and at least "5 apart." For example, pick two channels from the set [1.6.11]

      In the 2.4GHz waveband another issue arises in that there isn't enough bandwidth to support multiple "wide" ("fat") channels as used by the fastest encoding schemes in the N protocol. You might consider disabling "40MHz" (AKA "fat" "wide" "auto-20/40MHz" - nomenclature varies,) to get around this and the inter-cell interference it can cause. It means the fastest speed is roughly halved, but the system as a whole works more reliable. It's often what we do in big deployments.

      You have more or less alighted on the best solution already. To fill in coverage holes, you need more cells, not a (mythical) "uber router" that make the existing cells "louder." Stick another cell in your living room. You might consider something like a Wi-Fi/HomePlug combo if there isn't any cabling down there back to your router. (If there is cabling, you might consider foregoing Wi-Fi altogether and use the much more reliable and robust ethernet. Wi-Fi is fundamentally unreliable and thus fickle. No "magic" router will ever "fix" that no matter what BS the vendor's marketing teams come up: If any of them tell you otherwise, send them to see me and I'll bite their legs. :D )

      Spending on extra cells to fill in coverage holes is much better VFM and could result in faster and more reliable usage experience as clients and AP's are closer together with fewer devices in each cell.
       
      Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
    5. cjed

      cjed
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      I've recently had to install access points in the 3 main rooms of a 3 bedroom semi where WiFi was required. This was because whatever the walls were constructed from pretty much restricted WiFi to line-of-sight! I've seen a report into the attenuation of WiFi by different building materials at 5GHz which is frightening. 2.4GHz suffers less, but some building materials are still problematic. Remember in terms of signal strength -10db is approx. 10%, while -20db is approx 1%.
       
    6. smotiram

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      I'm far too stupid to follow this and be confident it what you have suggested. To be clear, you have suggested the following things.

      1. Change channels on each router to ensure they are not interfering with eachother. (if so, how? I can do it on the virgin one, not too sure how to do it on the netgear one. Also, I was suffering an issue with wifi long before I installed the second access point.)

      2. Install an additional access point in the living room, such as a wifi repeater. (If so, can you suggest any that you would recommend?)
       
    7. Abacus

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      Custom PC did a test of various routers recently, and yes, the virgin media router sucked on coverage, (The BT Home Hub came out well though)

      The best value with excellent range was the Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream at £228; however the ultimate best (If money is no object and you want that little bit extra) was the Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 at £395.

      NOTE: As Virgin is a cable connection you will need to switch your Virgin router to just modem mode and connect the output to the new router. (You will find the switch in the Virgin router menu; there are also plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to do it)

      Bill
       
    8. MarkyPancake

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      I'm always had our Super Hub 2 in modem mode connected to a separate router. My last three routers have been Asus and they've all been great and under your budget. I've gone from the RT-N66U to the AC68U and now have the AC86U for today's demands. Merlin firmware is popular on these and improves on the stock firmware. Asus even implement Merlin fixes into their own firmware where appropriate.

      I've also read good things about the Netgear R7800, but don't have any experience with it myself. I have considered getting one though, to see how it compares to the AC86U.
       
      Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
    9. psychopomp1

      psychopomp1
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      OP,
      As others have said, ISP supplied routers aren't normally the best when it comes to wifi coverage/range - they're normally built as cheaply as possible so that they can be given out for free or for £9.99 + p&p.

      On my 330 Mbps FTTPoD line, I'm using the Linksys EA9500 router and its brilliant for wifi range and coverage. Its that good that even our VOIP landline phones use the 2.4ghz wifi on the EA9500 to make and receive calls. Most of our devices are connected via 802.11ac wifi and get > 250 Mbps in speedtests anywhere in the house. I've also used the Netgear X10 (R9000) which is also a brilliant router but its not cheap at 400 quid. I got the EA9500 mainly due to being a tri-band router so that I could split all wifi clients across the 3 bands and also apply traffic priority across the wifi clients (the EA9500 supports this.).
       
    10. mickevh

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      I'm often cynical about such tests:

      Were they conducted in a proper RF shielded facility with calibrated test equipment and a published methodology?

      Or did whoever's "turn" it was that month and Magazine Towers take half a dozen routers home, fiddle with them in the man cave for a few hours each and thence declare one of them to be "best," like some Hi-Fi mag. group test?

      If one were to apply proper scientific rigor, testing methodology would be published along with the raw data and the testers conclusions. For example, (and I just chuck it up as an Aunt Sally for debating purposes,) what does "coverage" mean? Range? SNR? Throughput? Error rates?

      Even in the trade press, the former rarely happens and the latter is much more common. And there is a mass collective obsession with radio transmit power (incidentally, Tx power from the router/AP - never the client devices,) as if it were the only thing that mattered, (it isn't - far from it.)

      /RANT :D
       
      Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
    11. beerglass007

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      I have a super hub 3 and its awful. Been using a ASUS AC86U with merlin for 2 years and its amazing can't recommend it enough
       
    12. smotiram

      smotiram
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      I think I may just install an additional router in the living room of the house. Will have to work out some cabling going from outside the house to in. Does anyone know anyway to have my wifi seamlessly swap from access point to access point without having to disconnect and reconnect to the other routers? Is that even possible.
       
    13. mickevh

      mickevh
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      It is possible to avail automatic roaming from one Wi-Fi AP to another, you need to set the SSID name & passphrase the same on all of them.

      However, note that it is the client devices that decide if/when to instigate a roaming assessment, not "the system." Some clients need the incumbent to get pretty grotty before they consider roaming and it is "Big Wi-Fi Myth Number 2" that clients are always "hunting for the best signal" - they do not.

      With dissimilar SSID's clients will never consider roaming until they completely loose connection and essentially "start form scratch" as if you'd just powered them on. You might be surprised how far away you need to get before a client gives up on a "working" (however badly) link.

      There's no right or wrong way to do this, some prefer the convenience of automatic roaming, some prefer to explicitly choose AP. On a big site with hundreds of AP's we wouldn't dream of individually naming each AP and leaving up to users to choose. But in a domestic environment, with relatively few AP's and a sufficiently educated user population you might prefer the explicit choice (e.g. "lounge", "bedroom," "den," whatever.)

      There's nothing to stop you trying it both ways for a few weeks and see which you prefer.
       
    14. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Do you think a wifi repeater would work as apposed to installing a further router, just because its far easier (and cheaper) to install. May need to get a few but again, don't want to compromise on speed and ideally don't want to have 4/5 different access points that I have to manually connect to. I would prefer one that extended the range, but didn't require a need to connect to a different access point. Is that even possible? Or am I talking nonsense.
       
    15. mickevh

      mickevh
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      Here's a quick bit of Wi-Fi 101:

      A Wi-Fi hotpot is availed by something called an Access Point (AKA Wi-Fi Access Point, WAP, AP.) Any other kind of "thing" that avails Wi-Fi is a "thing" with an AP built in along with other things, e.g. router, repeater, HomePlug, etc. are all devices what have built in AP's. "Routers" are not required to "do Wi-Fi" though of course, a SOHO router with a built in AP is one of the ways you can.

      The best way to create an extended Wi-Fi coverage zone is my creating a "cellular" pattern of multiple hotspots using multiple AP's (usually with overlapping coverage footprints.) On big sites, we put up hundreds (I've done a few schools and colleges.)

      The "trick" is how one establishes the link between the AP's and the rest of the (wired) network. I call these the "backhaul" links, though I'm not sure it's an accepted industry term.

      In my order of preference....

      The best backhaul is using "proper" cabled ethernet infrastructure. It's fastest and most reliable.

      If that cannot be achieved for any reason, then in a domestic environment, next best is probably to use something like HomePlug/Powerline technology to tunnel the data over the mains electricity circuit. There are HomePlug "kits" available where the "remote" end plug is one with a built in Wi-Fi AP. However, the quality of the mains link is highly dependent on you mains electricity circuit's quality. Some people report excellent results with HomePlugs, some report dreadful ones. There's no reliable predictor.

      It is also possible to use Wi-Fi for the backhaul links, including such things as repeaters and the newer "mesh" and "whole home" type systems that are entering the domestic realm. The "problem" with Wi-Fi backhaul is that the outpost AP's needs to be "in range" of a good signal from the next AP/router "up the line" so physical positioning can be important. Also, in a Wi-Fi cell "only one thing at a time" can transmit, which means that with repeaters backhaul transmissions and client-AP transmissions are all competing with each other for air time, which can effect the throughput.

      Some of the newer so-called "mesh" and "whole home" type system employ a few tricks to try and mitigate some of these effects (and aid the roaming hand offs.) You might perhaps care to see what others have said about their experience of such systems (I've never used them.)
       
      Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
    16. Downinja

      Downinja
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      The above is a good post, without getting into topology, you are far better having a wired infrastructure to your APs and having multiple of them.

      Your issue has nothing to do with routing.

      Your issue has everything to do with WIFI range, you could get better WIFI range with a better router, but you are purely looking to improve the WIFI range then a different router is not really the correct tool.

      How is your house wiring? Would something like a Powerline WIFI Extender work better than your current setup? It wouldn't be impacted by the thickness of walls.
       
    17. smotiram

      smotiram
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      I would like to apologise in advance for this but...What exactly is a powerline wifi extender? Does it require an ethernet cable coming into it and is powered by socket in the wall? Or does it access the network through wifi and then extends? I used a £10 Huawei wifi extender and didn't really achieve great results. Can anyone suggest some good hardware for the job. I'm prepared to get/spend whatever is necessary to achieve the best results.
       
    18. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Mic, would your suggestion be to get a wired connection from the superhub to either a router or extender in the living room?
       
    19. Downinja

      Downinja
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      It's fine :)

      [​IMG]

      Pictures speaks a thousand words.

      Basically you plug one near your router, and attach an ethernet cable.

      The other in a room where you want wifi access.

      Powerline devices piggy back on the mains to send data.
       
    20. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Downinja,

      The current location of my router makes it pretty difficult to wire an ethernet cable to a repeater that is a distance away or in another room. Can the repeater be next to the router or does it have to be certain a distance away?
       
    21. mickevh

      mickevh
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      ...Or an AP. If you can get a wire in, then yes, that's the best option. However, if domestic harmony, DIY skills, or whatever mean that's not possible, then I'd look at a HomePlug solution as a next best option.

      The idea of HomePlugs is that the ethernet wire between your router and an outpost AP, is replaced by piggy backing the data on the domestic mains circuit. There's an FAQ about HomePlugs pinned in this forum and Downinja has given a picture of what the units look like. You plug one HomePlug into a mains socket near you router, then run an ethernet cable between router and HomePlug, then plug the other HomePlug into a mains socket where you need the additional network presence. (EDIT see picture Downinja has posted following.)

      Not all HomePlugs include a Wi-Fi AP (so do check the spec.) but if all you need is additional Wi-Fi, then you should be good to go once the two HomePlugs have "found" each other across the mains circuit.

      Some HomePlugs offer wired ethernet at the remote end, some offer Wi-Fi some offer both, some offer something called "pass through" which essentially mean you can still use the socket for plugging in the desk lamp, iron, etc. (the ones pictured above look like such.)

      I've never had need to use HomePlugs myself, so if you want some first hand reportage of how they work, you might care to wait to hear from others. But from what I've read of them, they seen pretty simple to set up.
       
      Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
    22. Downinja

      Downinja
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      No it can be immediately next to it.

      [​IMG]

      I have used them before, fairly straightforward to setup.
       
    23. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Okay that seems like the best option. Shall give it a go. Final thing. Any recommendations for hardware?
       
    24. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Upon further research regarding the mesh networks. It seems like that is exactly what I am looking for. an extension of wifi range whilst not having to fiddle about with selecting access points. The question now is what is the best mesh network system to go for. Will probably need 3 nodes. Can anyone recommend?
       
    25. psychopomp1

      psychopomp1
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      Before spending £100s on a mesh system why not buy a high end router such as an Asus RT-AC86u or Linksys EA9500 and see how things go from there? (Buy from Amazon so that you Can return router free of charge). Mesh systems are really suited for those who live in very large homes and/or have thick walls.
       
    26. Abacus

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      Some good advice so far, however from your question I suspect most have caused your eyes to glaze over, as you need networking knowledge to get them setup and working optimally.

      For your requirements simple is probably the better, so go with a better router or the home plug extender route, as otherwise you are going to get completely confused.

      If I have misread the question and you are familiar with networking, then by all means go with the more advanced systems mentioned if you think they will be better.

      Bill
       
    27. smotiram

      smotiram
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      I'm certainly not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I would like to think I'm competent at the very least. Additionally, reviews for these systems suggest setup isn't particularly difficult. I'm sure I can find a video tutorial worse comes to worse.
       
    28. stevelup

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      In your second post, you confirmed you had already run an ethernet cable to the opposite side of your house?

      All I would do is buy a pair of decent access points which needn't cost the earth - for example Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LITE UniFi GEN2 AC1200 Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi PoE Access Point (1200Mbps AC) or Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LR UniFi Long Range AC1300 Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi PoE Access Point (1300Mbps AC)

      Put one next to the SuperHub, put the other in your other location and disable the SuperHub's onboard WiFi.

      The last thing you want to be doing is introducing powerline adapters or wireless mesh networks at this stage when you've already got a hard wired cable in place.

      If this doesn't solve your problem (which I would rate as unlikely), then you've got some solid kit to base your eventual solution around.
       
      Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
    29. smotiram

      smotiram
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      Hi Steve,

      yes,

      the wiring actually goes out of the house and re-enters on the other side. Wiring through the house would be impossible. The two access points currently are at the back of the house so realistically, at the moment, the weak areas of the house are more or less the entire ground floor, certain areas of the first floor and the garden (which doesn't really matter). I think I would probably need 3 access points in either side of the property and in the living room towards the front of the house.
       
    30. stevelup

      stevelup
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      You might be surprised how well a good AP works compared with the SH3's built in stuff...
       

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