Few weeks ago, the OS drive on my desktop died. Fortunately Time Machine had backed up everything so I wasn’t worried, but still had to wait about a week for a replacement drive. Meanwhile, however, I realized that all our personal files are not accessible when the desktop is offline, because they are raided USB drives. So we couldn’t use the laptop to access any of our data. That made me put together a NAS box (which I’ll talk about in another post) so that we can play movies on the TV and access our data without having to keep the desktop on all the time.

After I moved all the data, however, I realized how slow is our WiFi. I was barely getting 14MBit/s on a 54MBit connection. It turned out that my wrt54g was not able to handle it (cpu wise).

So I figured I’d spend some $ on a new router, making sure that its CPU is fast enough to handle the traffic and that supported either DD-WRT or Tomato firmwares. After some reading I settled on the Asus RT-N16, which is almost like a small computer with wifi and a built-in gigabit switch.

First, I tried DD-WRT. The installation process was quite painless. Just followed the wiki on the DD-WRT web site. In about 10 minutes I had a working 802.11n WiFi under the latest dd-wrt firmware. So I connected with the laptop to run a speed test and I got 600KB/s! I changed the settings to 802.11n only wifi – no change. I tried all kinds of combinations of channels, encryption settings, radio settings, but the best I could get was around 1.2MB/s while the laptop was showing a 130MBit/s link.

Little before I was ready to return the router I decided to give TomatoUSB a try. Installation, again, was quite fast and easy and 10 minutes worth of setting up I had an identical 802.11n WiFi. I started a file copy over the network and was pleasantly surprised. The average speed got to 6.5MB/s with peaks at 7.2MB/s. In theory that is still less than half the 130MBit/s link but for WiFi that’s pretty good. Also, the laptop is limiting the connection to 130MBit/s, otherwise the router supports a 300MBit/s link.

The moral of the story is, that one should try different software solutions before giving up on the hardware.