Best Router Setup

Hi everyone,

I know routers have been discussed a lot elsewhere, but I remain very confused about the subject. It seems I can spend quite a lot of money on some top grade Fritzbox or Ubiquiti hardware, but then there are also widely praised Xiaomi routers for 30 bucks and I don’t really get the difference.

And then there are always some who throw OpenWRT/DD-WRT or Pfsense into the conversation and I am usually lost by then.

In a reddit thread somewhere a couple of people recommended the Unifi EdgeRouter with a Unifi AP. This setup would cost me about 150 bucks which seems reasonable. I suppose I would simply have to connect the router to my ISP router and would be good to go. Home Assistant integration seems to be alright.

Am I missing something? What setups do you use and can you help me get a sense of what is important and what is not when choosing a router for my home?

it depends on your requirements and how many square meters you want to cover with your setup. fritzbox is very popular in germany and a good all in one solution for most applications (phone, internet, smart home with dect, firewall, child protection, port sharing, dyndns …). you could also buy a used fritzbox for 150€.

Ubiquiti is already (almost) industry standard and is qualitatively very well manufactured. the Edge X router costs 50€. with a good access point you are at 130€. i didn’t like the configuration in ubiquity. accordingly i switched back to openwrt.

I use a Netgear Nighthawk R7800 (used via eBay). The only disadvantage you will have with OpenWrt is that the performance (wifi, network throughput) will not be as good as with the original firmware. This is due to the proprietary original drivers, but the big advantage is that you can trust the operating system and control it completely. iptables firewall, sqm, dns adblocking, wireguard vpn, …

the Fritzbox 4040 also works very well with OpenWrt and is available for under 50€.

It is a never ending question :slight_smile:
The short answer is “it depends”. Which does not help a lot. I know.
It is basically the result of a compromise between : cost, features, technical knowledge.
A xiaomi router will do little, will cost hardly nothing.
For example, in my case, I want (by design) to run a firewall on a separate box that as enough horsepower to terminate a VPN. I chose opnsense (fork of pfsense) running on a 200 euros box. No wifi on the box. No home-assistant. Nothing except firewall. Then, I have a wifi network based on tp-link deco M5. Very basic setup, all the complexity moved to the firewall. In total, roughly 350 euros. So expensive, a bit of DYI but really tailored to what I want.
I would start be the part “what do you know in networking/security?” that will reduce the options. Then, the cost “how much ?”. That will give a few choices with various features. Eg. do you want to terminate a VPN on your device? Do you want all-in-one?
Based on that you will have the “Best router setup” for you.

Thank you both, @greengolfer @broken.pipe for your responses.

We are about to move into a new apartment, which will be about 200 square meters on two floors. I will probably need at least two APs to cover all of it.

I am not an expert in network technologies, but I can handle the basics and would like to be able to do more than I can now with my simple ISP router. Especially now that my iot network is growing.

What exactly does pfsense do? Is it basically a router software, similar to OpenWRT or is it something that you plug in between?

@broken.pipe what didn’t you like about the Ubiquiti configurations that made you want to switch. Does OpenWRT have a comfortable interface?

@greengolfer can you tell my why all of this, especially vpn termination, needs sich a powerful machine? I am going to buy a Synology Ds918+ and I was hoping to be able to run a VPN off of that. Otherwise I might actually go in your direction if I can afford it.

It is not only a question of performance. I want to have a firewall with 2 1Gb/s interfaces. These kind of beasts are not that cheap… I also don’t want to run VPN a my synology. For two reasons, my DS412 (that still runs perfectly as a NAS after 8 years 24/7) has a CPU quite limited and second I don’t think it is a good design to terminate a VPN “inside” your network where the NAS is. It should be at the edge of your network hence on the firewall.
I have:

  • a dedicated firewall running opnsense (and incoming VPN)
  • a NUC where I run hassio, an asterisk PBX, pi-hole…
  • a synology NAS that is used only as a NAS and as surveillance station for security cams

It is a rather expensive solution… But, I like it!
Synology has become a “swiss knife” and you can do a lot of different things on one box. In term of design, that is not my choice to group everything in one place.

For the wifi, my house has thick walls and is also 200 sqm. I have moved from a Netgear R7000 to deco M5 and I am really pleased with the result. Coverage is excellent everywhere.


Nobody mentioned Asus, Merlin, and openvpn. Since you have a very basic understanding, you might find something like that a little easier to setup and use. Merlin doesn’t have some of the neat features found in ddwrt, like vlans, but it’s faster (you get to keep the proprietary drivers), offers plenty of ‘accessory features’ if you want to experiment (like adblocking with tls, skynet firewall, yazfi guest wifi isolation, etc…), and compared to ddwrt the initial setup is more user friendly. Recently merlin has gone the final step of including amtm to his firmware. So adding all those gushy scripts that bring nice features is much easier for newcomers to get started (all gui setup now… but you still have to ssh to change settings etc…).

Not knocking more industrial setups like ubiquiti or pfsense, and I also like ddwrt, but I think the learning curve for getting into these technologies is a lot less steep with merlin. It also keeps the firewall and vpn on your edge device, so later when you add a nas it will be more secure.

Merlin runs on Asus routers I gather? I’ve never heard of it. Do you have a router recommendation? Which one do you use?

pfsense (and opnsense) is an open source firewall distribution. Think of it as a secure door you put in front of your network.
So typically, you would have your internet access and then immediately the firewall and on the other side of the firewall you network.
All in one box tends to be simpler to configure… So asus merlin Installation · RMerl/ Wiki · GitHub or something equivalent might have the right balance between cost, features, technical knowledge for you.

Merlin does sound like a great alternative for people like me, who would like to do a little bit more than standard routers support, but won’t commit to a full ondiy solution like using Pfsense.

However, there are still several Asus routers with - again - quite a large price range. I will have to do some research about the differences, but a lot of it seems to be Wifi range and number of antennnas, am I right?

Does anyone here use Merlin and what actual router do you use?

Before I switched over to Unifi, I was using ASUS-Merlin on a Netgear R-7000 Nighthawk. Best setup I have EVER had (again, before my Unifi setup). You can find R-7000s for about $100-$150 depending on where you buy it. Good signal and good processing power. With Merlin on it, the thing was a BEAST.

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I use merlin on an ac86u. This is a solid performer in the merlin wheel house if you don’t want to play with ax wireless. It’s way overkill for my isp and lan environment, but I wanted it to be future proof and when I bought it the guys at snbforums recommended it based on my needs at the time. Before that, I had an n66u running merlin for years (very reliable, but now out of date).

You probably can’t go wrong with an ac86u, but if you want more precise advice I would recommend asking at snbforums. That is where r-merlin himself hangs out, and all of the very helpful and friendly devs of all the router scripts that can be used with merlin (lonelycoder, adamm, jackyaz… too many awesome folks to mention here). Even if you go ahead and buy without asking their advice, you will probably end up posting a question or 2 there as you get things going. snbforums is to merlin, what this site is to ha… super useful go to site that is full of talented and friendly folks.

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If you are going to muck about with VLAN’s or change your system with some frequency, a UniFi system is hard to beat. For 200sqm, I would expect more than one AP, maybe three, to get good coverage everywhere. If 2.4GHz coverage only is ok, then fewer APs. For a simple system, a EdgeRouter X would likely do the trick.

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