Modern connected devices are incredibly advanced. Despite this, the routers provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are often not terribly good. Thankfully, with a flashed DD-WRT router, anybody can get much better performance for their home for a relatively small investment. Faster speeds and better coverage mean the ability to enjoy streaming, gaming, and other data-intensive tasks from anywhere in your home.
In addition, with DD-WRT you can also connect to your Virtual Private Network (VPN) with the router – meaning that every single device in your home is automatically protected by the VPN service.
What Is a DD-WRT Router?
DD-WRT is open source firmware that can be installed onto a router. That firmware replaces the default software provided by the manufacturer. In essence, this is like installing a different operating system on your computer. The advantage of DD-WRT is that it gives you much more flexibility, including the ability to install a VPN service directly onto your router.
If you are reading this article, you probably already have some idea about DD-WRT routers. For anybody who requires a more in-depth look at DD-WRT routers, our Definitive DD-WRT Guide is a must read!
Below is a carefully thought out selection of five of the best DD-WRT routers available on the market in 2018. Down in fifth place, we have included a superbly economical option for those who want to run a VPN on a router on a low budget (but still want great performance).
Best DD-WRT Routers
(Amazon: $399.99, FlashRouters: $599.99)
The Asus RT-AC5300 is the Death Star of wireless routers. Although the AC88U is slightly better when it comes to technical specifications, the AC5300 wins every time when it comes to performance. This is in part thanks to the eight external antennas, which are set up in a four-transmit, four-receive (4T4R) configuration, and give it fantastic range. 4T4R also helps to avoid interference between devices, thereby increasing transfer rates. The router also allows users to set up two real 5GHz networks.
In addition, the router is loaded with MU-MIMO technology (Multi User – Multiple Input Multiple Output), as well as specialized gaming technology to further reinforce the amazing wireless technology.
On the whole, if you’re looking to deck out your home or office with a router that will support your 4K video streaming, and endless wireless devices, then this Asus is the best DD-WRT router for you!
Asus RT-AC5300 Technical Specifications
CPU: 1400MHz dual-core
Antennas: 8 external
USB: USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Transfer Rates: 1000Mbps 2.4GHz, 2x 2167Mbps 5GHz
(Amazon: $248.99, FlashRouters: $499.99 – $349 sale price)
Four antennas give this router a fantastic range, and the router performs well on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels. Please remember that despite this being billed as a Tri-Stream router, that functionality is actually lost when it is flashed with DD-WRT – so that technology does not apply to DD-WRT. The same is true of MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO allows the router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, increasing the speed of the WiFi network (by getting rid of interference between devices). However, not every VPN will necessarily be compatible.
Despite this, the WRT3200ACM is a fantastic router that performs at superb levels when flashed with DD-WRT. Due to its Marvell chipset, it is perfect for intensive tasks such as gaming, streaming, video calls, or max speed VPN use.
Linksys WRT3200ACM DD-WRT Technical Specifications
CPU: 1.8Ghz dual-core processor
Antennas: 4 external
USB: USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Transfer Rates: 600Mbps (max) 2.4GHz, 2600Mbps 5GHz
(Amazon: $249.99, FlashRouters: $349.99)
The Netgear R7000 was last year’s winner, but because of a number of new releases it has dropped down to third place. However, this router is still an absolutely spectacular option.
The R7000 is capable of streaming videos, improving your online gaming, and much more. While it lacks the power and transfer rates of the above two, they all support DD-WRT MEGA builds so you can achieve the same level of functionality. If you are interested in running DD-WRT on your Netgear router, you should also visit MyOpenRouter, the open source Netgear community.
Netgear R7000 Technical Specifications
CPU: 1000MHz dual-core
Antennas: 3 external
USB: USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Transfer Rates: 600Mbps 2.4GHz, 1300Mbps 5GHz
(Amazon: $101.99, FlashRouters: $249.99)
The RT-AC56U is a very popular router for home use. Asus has achieved a slick design, allowing it to be tucked into a corner, without impacting its performance too much.
The company has also included two USB modules in the router, thereby enabling you to connect your hard drive for efficient sharing between family and colleagues. If you’re looking for a low price router with plenty of punch, then this is an excellent solution. Read our definitive DD-WRT guide to find out just how much can be done with this DD-WRT router (and any other DD-WRT router, for that matter).
Asus RT-AC56U Technical Specifications
CPU: 800MHz dual-core
Antennas: 3 internal
USB: USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Transfer Rates: 300Mbps 2.4GHz, 867Mbps 5GHz
(Amazon: $99, FlashRouters: $299 – $199 in the sale)
The Linksys WRT1200AC is a superb router, although perhaps just a little too pricey for what you get. Despite this, it is a popular router that has been proven to provide both good range for its spec and fantastic performance (again for its spec). The great news is that FlashRouters provides this router pre-flashed for use with a huge number of different VPNs. As such, this is a quick and easy option that delivers more than enough power for most people’s needs.
Where this router really performs is due to its inclusion of both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. This allows a hard drive to be connected directly to the router via a gigabit connection, and allows it to be used as a fast network storage server (without having to buy a NAS server).
Linksys WRT1200AC Technical Specifications
CPU: 1.3GHz dual-core processor
Ram: 256MB DDR3 system memory
Antennas: 2 external
USB: USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Transfer Rates: 400Mbps 2.4GHz, 867Mbps 5GHz
Advantages of DD-WRT Routers
While default router firmware has been improving, installing DD-WRT on your router gives it the full functionality of a business-grade router at a fraction of the cost. These are some of the most useful advantages of a DD-WRT router:
- Advanced Quality of Service (QoS) controls – Permits you to change bandwidth allocation settings for different networks, and can provide Universal Plug and Play media streaming.
- Network storage (NAS) – External hard disks and USB flash drives can be plugged into DD-WRT flashed routers that are equipped with USB ports.
- Network printers – Printers can be connected to a USB port.
- Domain Name System (DNS) caching – Speeds up hostname lookup and improves connection speeds to specific websites.
- Wireless bridging – Turns the router into a WiFi repeater to extend the range of your WiFi signal.
- Advanced performance graphs – DD-WRT lets you analyze your network performance and bandwidth use with detailed charts and statistics.
- Kai Daemon – Provides network tunneling for PC, Xbox, and other consoles, to the open source Xlink Kai gaming platform.
- Adjustable antenna power – To increase wireless range.
- VPN – DD-WRT can route all connected devices through a VPN service. This is particularly useful for connecting devices that don’t allow a VPN to be installed on them directly. This applies to games consoles, Kindle Fire tablets, mobile phones, AppleTV, and Roku. With a DD-WRT router, all devices are protected with encryption and attached to a remote Internet Protocol (IP) address.
Flashed DD-WRT Router Providers
It is possible for anybody to flash a router with DD-WRT. However, the process is quite tricky and could lead to problems:
- Even though there is a DD-WRT routers database page, it can sometimes be out of date. For this reason, finding the correct stable build can be an issue.
- Flashing a router can and should be easy. However, at times it can be problematic and could result in a ‘bricked’ router that can’t be used at all.
- For people who are unfamiliar with coding and programming, certain settings might be a bit too tricky.
The good news is that, if you are uncomfortable with setting up DD-WRT yourself, it is possible to buy a router pre-flashed. FlashRouters.com will even help consumers to customize their router’s settings. If you have any special requirements, it is therefore worth talking to FlashRouters about them at the time of purchase. That way your router will arrive set up perfectly for your needs!
If you are happy to install the VPN onto the router yourself, and are confident that you will be able to use the DD-WRT software to configure it, buying the router on Amazon can save you some money. For anybody else, we strongly suggest either of the following online router shops:
FlashRouters is probably the best online flashed-router retailer. The firm provides fantastic support, a massive selection of routers, and a high level of expertise. It also provides a modest hardware and satisfaction guarantee. They also have an individual support plan, so if you already own a DD-WRT router but need some help setting it up, you can pay them to provide some help. In addition, we have managed to agree on an exclusive special offer for BestVPN.com readers – $15 Off Any Router Costing $199+ – simply use the code: BESTVPN.
SabaiOS is another reasonable option. The firm offers a much smaller selection of routers. However, they have longer guarantees and can also provide Tomato and SabaiOS flashed routers. If this is what you need, then SabaiOS is a great option.
Configuring VPN on DD-WRT
A VPN on a router can provide fantastic speeds for streaming on all your devices.
All DD-WRT routers support VPN using the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Unfortunately, that protocol is out of date and can not be considered secure.
OpenVPN, on the other hand, is the best VPN encryption available. It is available on all the routers that we have chosen for this list. Please bear in mind, however, that not every DD-WRT router will allow you to run a VPN on secure OpenVPN encryption.
Lastly, it is worth remembering that some VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN and ibVPN, sell routers flashed with DD-WRT and preconfigured to their VPN service. FlashRouters also sells routers pre-flashed for those two VPNs (and many others).
Can I get a Free DD-WRT VPN?
Many people are interested to know whether they can get a free DD-WRT VPN. Sadly, the answer to this question is largely a no. The free VPNs that are available on the market tend only to be available for popular platforms like Windows, Android, iOS and Mac OS X. In addition, a VPN for DD-WRT tends to have more of an initial setup cost. As such, it is pretty difficult to protect your entire home with a free DD-WRT VPN.
Top DD-WRT Routers: Conclusion
In this article, we have suggested five routers that can be purchased pre-flashed and pre-configured with DD-WRT. For people who want to buy their router not only pre-flashed with DD-WRT, but also pre-configured to a particular VPN service, SabaiOS or FlashRouters are the best options.
For anybody else, it will be cheaper to buy the DD-WRT router from Amazon (but that will involve having to install the VPN on it yourself). An even cheaper option is to buy any of the above routers with their default firmware and to flash it with DD-WRT yourself.
There are over 2,000 devices that support DD-WRT. As such, this list is simply our opinion of what the five best DD-WRT routers (in terms of performance and price) are at this time this. This list is in no way all-encompassing, so if you spot a router that interests you but would like our seal of approval, please don’t hesitate to leave us a message below. We will help to make sure it is suitable for the VPN you intend to use.
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