Review

Cisco Linksys N300 v2 (E1200) DD-WRT Flashed Router Review


Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information

This is our first router review, so why not check out our introductory comments before reading it?

2014-02-11 14.24.30

Price: $89.95

Frequency bands: Single (2.4 GHz)

Wireless Standards: IEEE 802.11b/g/n

Ports: 4 x Ethernet 10/100, 1 x wireless

Processor Speed: 300 MHz

Memory: 32 Mb RAM, 8 MB Flash memory

(Full specs available here).

The Linksys N300 v2 is a very low cost router (available unflashed from Amazon for just $35), so it hardly surprising that it does not burst with the sort of features you might expect to find on higher end products, and if you want USB ports, dual band 5 GHz reception, processing power, or any of the other funky features found on many modern routers then you should look elsewhere.

That said, and underpowered though it is, it does its job as a basic router perfectly well, and most importantly for us, as it has been flashed with DD-WRT, it can be used as a VPN hub for all your internet connected devices.

Looks

The N300 is a fairly smart but unassuming wedge of black plastic with 5 Ethernet ports (1 x in, 4 x out), a power-in socket, and a reset knob placed on an underside edge of the unit (so you cannot see the ports when views from the above). It is designed to be placed flat on a surface, and cannot be vertically or wall mounted, and two antennas are internal so there is nothing sticking out of the casing. There are no status lights visible from the front or top, and the only lights at all are the LED’s on the LAN ports.

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 Setup

Getting up and running is ridiculously easy. We just turned off our modem/router, plugged in the N300 and attached to the modem/router using the supplied Ethernet cable, turned on the modem/router, then turned on the N300, and ta da! – everything worked. Not Flashrouters’ fault, but non US customers should be aware that the plug which came with our unit was of the US kind, so don’t forget to make sure that you have an international adapter to hand (luckily we did!).

Although the instructions recommend using a wired connection until everything is correctly setup, this was a bit inconvenient for us, so just went ahead and connected our Windows PC using WiFi and encountered no problems at all.

cc1

Once connected, the first thing you want to do is visit the router setup page. The included instructions are text-only, but everything is clearly explained

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Changing the network name and setting up a secure password is the top priority, and is very easy to do

Performance

We put the router through its paces in its ‘out of the box’ configuration using our 20 MB/s broadband connection. The router was connected to a bog-standard Netgear VMDG280 Wireless N modem/router (supplied by our ISP, Virgin Media).

st without
Connected directly to our home modem/router (i.e. not connected to the N300)

st with oob
Connected through the N300

Flash based speed tests such as those from Speedtest.net are not always the most reliable indicators of real world performance, so we used ThinkBroadband’s tbbMeter software to measure how long it took to download a 100 MB file:

tbb 100mb without
When not connected to the router

tbb 100mb with oob
When connected to the router

The tbbMeter results suggest that the N300 may be a slower than our ISP’s stock router although terribly so (and the speedtest.net results actually showed an increase in speed). We also carried out some (very non-scientific) range tests, and found that the N300’s signal strength was about the same as that of our stock router/modem.

WiFi performance on all routers can be improved by using a program such as inSSIDer to analyse signal interference, allowing you to choose the best channel for your area.

The manufacturer states that the N300 is suitable for connecting up to 3 devices simultaneously. We tried connecting with everything we could get our hands on at the time of writing this review (7 devices including a smart TV), and did not encounter any problems or slow-downs.

Using VPN with N300

One of the main reasons to get a DD-WRT flashed router (and the one we here are BestVPN are obviously most interested in), is that all devices connected to it can have their internet connections routed through a VPN server.

Setup details vary by VPN provider, but we connected to PIA without (too) much trouble.

locationAs if by magic, the internet thinks we are located in New York!

Running a VPN client takes processing power, something the N300 is sadly lacking in, so how does this affect performance?

vpn router ny
Connected to VPN server in New York using the router

vpn software ny
Connected to VPN server in New York using Windows software client

  st no vpn ny
Not connected to VPN (but using same speedtest.net server in New York)

These results show the limitations of the N300’s processor and memory.

One of the best things about using a flashed router is that even devices which cannot normally use VPN can gain the benefit of it.

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Our smart TV can now access geo-restricted services such as Hulu (only available in the US)

Conclusion

Without a doubt the N300 is underpowered, and while its performance without VPN is roughly on a par with our stock ISP supplied router/modem, it struggles with VPN.

The N300 v2 looks good and is very easy to set up however, and as a cheap and cheerful solution for connecting all household devices using VPN it works, just don’t expect such a low-cost router to match the VPN speeds your quad-core beast of a PC can manage…

You can buy the router by clicking here


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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5 responses to “Cisco Linksys N300 v2 (E1200) DD-WRT Flashed Router Review

  1. Hi Douglas,

    Similar question except I want to use for roku. Would you also suggest smart DNS over a DD-WRT enabled router?

    1. Hi David,

      Yes, except that setting up SmartDNS on a Roku is more difficult than for most devices. All the services listed here provide full setup guides for doing so. Using a VPN router will work too, but unless it is a very good model it will likely struggle with the task of processing VPN traffic fast enough to stream video content smoothly.

  2. Hi! i’ve read your article thoroughly..and on the quest to find a VPN router to connect my Apple Tv to it so that it permanently will be “located” in the States…. so is this router okay for that thing? speed and stuff? my original wireless speed at home is 100mbps…

    1. Hi madlen,

      I think this router would struggle with this. A far better solution IMO would be to use a SmartDNS service (it is easy to change an Apple TV’s DNS settings.)

    2. this can be good and bad. A lot of other online services will be affected by it too. For example, when you google search for things, it will show you foreign content and locations rather than where you are. Or if you mess around with locations too often on facebook, hotmail or gmail and other similar services, you’ll get blocked because they think your account has been hacked.

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