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5 Best Openwrt Routers: Reviewed for All Budgets & Safety

Internet speeds are increasing, as is the demand for high-speed internet. Kids are being exposed to the internet from a much younger age, and worryingly, a lot of them are already more advanced than us!

It is crucial then, to protect yourself and your loved ones as much as possible from cyber threats. With every person in the house usually being connected to the network, this is the most obvious route of attack for any hacker.

A great way to protect yourself and others on the network is to use an OpenWRT router. These routers offer much higher levels of protection, as well as a better standard of control and internet speed and stability.

What Is an OpenWRT Router?

An OpenWRT router is simply a router that allows the installation of OpenWRT OS. This allows people to install a range of firmware which is much more capable than the factory-supplied firmware.

This gives those with network knowledge a much higher level of control over their routers, network, and systems. It also gives their networks a much higher level of fo control over their security. There are no hidden backdoors left, and thanks to the Linux based OS, it is impervious to a lot of malware and hacking attacks.


Why Use an OpenWRT Router?

OpenWRT routers allow you to write scripts and configure your router to a much higher level than you would typically expect from an ISP provided router.

You can make use of bandwidth optimization and port mapping. You will also usually see a massive boost in coverage, speed, and stability.

OpenWRT routers have a much higher level of LAN security too, and you can even install VPN services without paying for VPN subscriptions if you need that level of anonymity.


How to Choose a Quality OpenWRT Router

Compatibility

The first thing you will need to consider is whether the router you are considering buying has OpenWRT compatibility. Every router on our list has OpenWRT capabilities, so if you are a little confused, one of our picks will be your best bet.

Connectivity Options

As internet speed and network equipment evolves, older tech slowly gets phased out. When you are forking out money for a new router, you will want to be as future-proofed as possible.

One thing to look for is the connectivity options. We highly recommend that you look for a router with 5GHz connection speeds as they are much more capable and stable than the older 2.4GHz connection.

Processor & RAM Speeds

In the past, you would only have found processors and RAM inside a computer. To keep up with our quicker and more demanding tech, routers now have their own processor and RAM to help them perform—obviously, the more RAM and higher processor power, the better.

DIY Flashing vs. Pre-Flashed

Flashing is when you buy a router that has already had the firmware installed before you purchase it. This is usually more expensive, but a lot more user friendly and is geared towards the beginner-intermediate level.

For those with a bit more know-how, installing the firmware yourself can save you some dollars but is a bit more complicated.

Range & Speed

The main reason you have a router is to provide internet to your chosen area. If you are dealing with bottlenecks like buffering videos and lag during gaming sessions, it is most likely down to your router.

The easiest way to squeeze the most out of your internet connection is to upgrade your router so that it provides more range, higher speed, and more durable connections.

Security & Privacy

Modern routers come equipped with security and firewalls. These will automatically protect the network and everyone using it from hackers and malware. This comes in different levels, and you should expect to pay a little bit more for the more secure routers. It is a small price to pay when you look at what a potential hacker could do.

Technology

For the more advanced users, you might want to take advantage of some of the newest innovations in the router world. Things like Beamforming, which allow you to direct your internet connection instead of using the standard "bubble" effect or Advanced port forwarding, can really make the difference in the right hands.

Price & Warranty

With any piece of technology that is left running 24 hours a day, you are going to want a strong warranty backing the product. The better the brand, the better the warranty, and the better the customer service. Nobody wants to be left with a hunk of useless plastic, after all.

We also ensure that we look at every product's price to performance ratio, as more expensive does not always mean better. Some budget models perform way above their price tags, and some luxury models leave a lot to be desired.


5 Best OpenWRT Routers Reviewed

1. Turris Omnia 2

Turris Omnia 2 GB Wi-Fi high performance,...
  • More than just a router. The open-source...
  • Performance: High power dual-core ARM CPU at...
  • Security: Secure default configuration, easy...
  • Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 3×3 MIMO 802.11ac, 2×2...

best wifi router for OpenWRT

Max Speed

800 MBps

CPU

Marvel 1.6 GHz

Data Transfer Rate

1.3 GBps

Number of USB 2.0 Ports

1

Number of USB 3.0 Ports

1

The Turris Omnia 2 is an incredible bit of open source kit. With its open hardware and amazing support, it is easily the best wifi router for OpenWRT, in our opinion. It is easy to use, powerful, and offers a vast range of experimentation.

Looking at the hardware specs alone, this is a compelling device. It can process 1GB internet speeds and has an SFP slot that can handle most of the fiber transceivers on the market.

Perhaps the most amazing and surprising thing about this router is the ease that it is setup. With open-source devices, the words "plug and play" are thrown around a lot these days, often used to describe devices that are anything but, however, this is the rare occasion where the slipper fits.

Setup of this router is straightforward, after plugging it in and opening the wizard page via your browser, you are a few clicks away from being good to go.

As well as the ease of use and setup, you also get an incredibly efficient self-updating router. The Omnia 2 will automatically upgrade your router to the latest software version. While this has occasional problems with compatibility and bugs, on the whole, it is much easier to let the router update itself, especially for those that have slightly less experience in dealing with router software.

Other cool features include controllable LED's which allow you to change brightness or even turn them off. Although this sounds a bit trivial, anyone who has had to cover flashing lights with tape before will attest to how valuable this can be. There is also a simple and easy to access serial port on the pin header. Simply pop open the device, and there it is.

For those that like to dabble with their hardware, this device is effortless to reset. If you mess up your settings during an experiment, it is really easy to recover. By holding the reset button for a set time, the device will enter a mode where you can flash an old or new firmware model to the router from a USB-stick.

Also Recommended: Best WiFi Routers for Long Range

Good
  • Lightning-quick
  • Easiest to setup
  • Amazing experimentation capabilities
  • Effective and easy reset mode
Bad
  • Only 1 USB 3.0 Port

2. Zyxel Armor Z2

Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 MU-MIMO Wireless Router...
  • 2nd generation AC2600 chipset for 2600 Mbps...
  • 4x4 MU-MIMO technology that enables...
  • Stream boost optimization to deliver the best...
  • Beam forming antennas for enhanced wireless...

best value ac router for OpenWRT

Max Speed

2300 MBps

CPU

1.7 GHz

Data Transfer Rate

850 MBps

Number of USB 2.0 Ports

2

Number of USB 3.0 Ports

2

Zyxel is known for creating products at the cutting edge of innovation. Their routers have been a staple for many gamers for years due to their efficiency, lower price tag, and high performance.

The Armour Z2 is no different. When you need a router that delivers the fastest and most reliable speeds, with the highest price to performance ratio on this list, look no further.

Under the hood of the Z2, you will find a 1.7GHZ processer with a whopping 4GB of eMMC RAM to back it up. This helps power the latest wave 2 Beamforming capable 802.11AC card, which allows the Z2 to provide up three times the speed of a typical router. All of this combined gives the Z2 the capability of an industry-leading 2.6GHz of streaming speed.

You can connect multiple storage devices via the fastest USB connection currently available, and you can manage a range of different functionality options via the myZyXEL cloud.

If you game, watch UHD content, edit photos, or video, you will be able to do so with absolute ease with the Armor z2. It will do so without overheating, too, with the unique airflow design designed to expel hot air without it re-circulating. It also has a thermally enhanced chassis, which keeps your router running hot, no matter the demand.

For such a high-tech router, it is also relatively simple to set up. With the eaZy123 setup system, you should be up and running within minutes of opening the box. You also get a simple to understand interface with usage monitoring and an intuitive mobile app.

Security-wise, you are getting one of the most secure routers on the market. Zyxel is known for its enterprise and business routers, and they have adapted that technology for the Armor Z2.

This means that you will not have to worry about DDOS attacks or cyber hackers. Everyone on your network is secure and safe. This security is top-notch, especially for the price. There aren't many consumer-level routers with the same high mesh security as the Armor Z2.

All in all, this router packs some of the biggest punch per dollar that we have ever seen in a router. If you want the best value OpenWRT router, this should be your weapon of choice.

Good
  • 2.3 GBps stream
  • High level of security
  • Top of class for value
  • Zyxel brand quality
Bad
  • Requires some knowledge to configure Beamforming

3. Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200

Linksys WRT3200ACM Dual-Band Open Source...
  • Fast wireless router provides Wi-Fi coverage...
  • Open source firmware offers advanced...
  • Tri stream 160 technology doubles bandwidth...
  • Enjoy 4K HD streaming, gaming and more in...

Most Popular

Max Speed

2600 MBps

CPU

1.8 GHz

Data Transfer Rate

873 MBps

Number of USB 2.0 Ports

2

Number of USB 3.0 Ports

2

Next, we have the winner for the most popular category, the Linksys WRT3200 ACM AC3200. This is the most loved router at this level and for good reason. Linksys products will always be popular thanks to their fantastic level of customization and exceptional ability.

They require a bit more tech knowledge then the other routers on this list, but if you know what you are doing, this is an incredibly capable tool in the right hands.

You get a double bandwidth tri-stream route that can double bandwidth from 80 to 160 MHz on most spatial streams and an enterprise-grade 1.8GHZ CPU running on twin cores. This allows for some blistering performance and high-speed processing.

The 5GHz is actually the fastest 5GHz band that you can find in a consumer router and allows for a tri stream of 3x 837MBps, totaling 2.6GBps. In homes with lower Internet traffic, you could also use the WRT1900ACS.

The easy to configure browser-based config setup is easy to use and gives anyone who is using it the ability to customize the Linux based open source config. This allows you to control all traffic going through the four Gigabit Ethernet ports and anyone connected wirelessly.

Another great feature is the ability to manage the entire network and wifi settings remotely via the smart wifi app. Via this app, you can create a private guest network for up to 50 guests as well as set up parental controls to protect your family while you are away.

Port-wise, you get four-gigabit ethernet ports as well as a USB 3.0 for connecting storage or printers. You can even connect an eSATA via the USB 2.0.

Linksys has a reputation for leading the way in terms of connectivity equipment, but they do have a small downside. This router will require some substantial knowledge of networking and openWRT software to run smoothly. If you are more of a beginner and are thinking of moving from your internet service provider router, this may be a bit much for you to handle.

For those of you with the know-how, this router is the most popular for a reason. In the right hands, there isn't much that this router cannot do.

Good
  • Linksys build quality
  • Amazing app control
  • 2.6 GBPS internet stream
  • Fastest 5.0GHz band available
Bad
  • Tricky to configure for beginners

4. TP-Link Archer A7 AC1750

On Sale Today
TP-Link AC1750 Smart WiFi Router - Dual Band...
  • Wireless internet router works with Alexa,...
  • Dual band router upgrades to 1750 Mbps high...
  • 3 external antennas for long range Wi Fi
  • Gigabit Router with 4 Gigabit LAN ports, fast...

best budget OpenWRT router

Max Speed

1300 MBps

CPU

Qualcomm CPU

Data Transfer Rate

430 MBps

Number of USB 2.0 Ports

2

Number of USB 3.0 Ports

2

If you are just starting out in the world of open-source OpenWRT routers, or you are looking to experiment, you probably don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for a top of the range model. This is where the best budget OpenWRT category shines.

The winner of this title falls to TP-Link, a brand with a pedigree in networking and routers, and their Archer A7 Ac1750 model. This router offers incredible value and is perfect for newcomers and experimentalists alike.

This router works on both 2.4 and 5.0GHz bands, giving you the ability to funnel your lower demand tasks through the weaker 2.4 while keeping your 5.0GHz band free for gaming and streaming.

This router utilizes three external antennas that give consistent and stable internet connections across your areas. The router itself comes equipped with 4 Gigabit LAN [ports, which can give you speeds up to 10x the regular output of a normal ethernet port.

The Archer comes with a QoS or Quality of Service system onboard, which automatically detects devices that require higher bandwidth and automatically supplies them with the internet needed. This, paired with IPv6 support, means that this router is brilliant at detecting and automatically configuring your internet connections to be optimal.

Security-wise, TP-Link offers onboard DDOS protection and a secure network mesh firewall, which protects all users on the network. It also has some simple and easy to use parental controls for keeping an eye on your loved ones.

Finally, you get the awesome design factor. This router looks sleek and sophisticated, with easy to understand and read LED indicators and a stealth black design. This makes it the perfect addition to any office or gaming room, without the need to hide it away in a cupboard.

If you are on a budget but still want exceptional levels of performance with a nice, easy to swallow price tag, this is our favorite budget router with OpenWRT capabilities.

Also Recommended: Best Routers Under $100

Good
  • Extremely well priced
  • Performs better than the price tag
  • TP-Link build quality and brand
  • Works on both 2.4 and 5.0GHZ
Bad
  • Less powerful than other models here

5. GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext

GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext (Slate) Gigabit Travel...
  • [DUAL BAND AC WIRELESS ROUTER] Simultaneous...
  • [OPEN SOURCE & PROGRAMMABLE] OpenWrt/LEDE...
  • [VPN CLIENT & SERVER] OpenVPN and WireGuard...
  • [LARGER STORAGE & EXTENSIBILITY] 128MB RAM,...

best OpenWRT travel router

Max Speed

433 MBps

CPU

775 MHz CPU

Data Transfer Rate

200 MBps

Number of USB 2.0 Ports

2

Number of USB 3.0 Ports

2

For those that like to travel, we have the winner of our best OpenWRT travel router, the GL-AR750S, by GL.iNet. This incredible offering was a CES 2019 innovations award honoree.

Anyone who has traveled a lot will know the hardships of using foreign wifi. These wifi systems are often unsecured and are extremely easy for hackers to take advantage of. This router is designed for those who need added security.

The GL-AR750S comes with multiple VPN protocol support, with industry-leading encryption and authentication. The innovative WireGuard security system gives you fast and easy to configure VPN abilities that are lightning quick and impenetrable.

This router utilizes both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands, with the 2.4 running at up to 300 Mbps and the 5GHz running up to 433Mbps. All of this while fitting into a device nearly as small as the average mobile phone.

On the back of the router, you get 3-gigabit ports, which can be used to transfer files between other gigabit enabled devices quickly. You also can install a memory card up to 128GB, creating a secure private network cloud for storing data between all devices on the network.

This device makes it easy to bring all of your workplaces together, no matter where you are. With the secure VPN, you can connect your offices in London to your remote worker in Japan and everywhere in between without compromising security.

The VPN capabilities of this router are extremely strong, too, with the WireGuard system offering up to four times the regular speed of OpenVPN protocols.

Finally, the last feature that makes this stand out from the rest is the pre-configured multicast system for high-end audio configurations such as the Sennheiser LSP 500 pro system.

This gives this little router the ability to address audiences without any need for power and audio cables. You can simply connect your GL-AR750 to any of the LSP 500 devices and use a tablet for a seamless control at the flick of a finger.

Portable travel routers like this are a pretty specialist offering, but for those on the market for such a device, this is worlds ahead of the rest in terms of innovation and ability.

Also Recommended: Best Travel Routers

Good
  • Best travel router on the market
  • Incredible security protocols
  • Innovative design
  • Works on both 2.4 and 5.0GHZ
Bad
  • Very niche audience

OpenWRT Firmware vs. OEM Router Firmware

Stock firmware or OEM router firmware is designed to be easy to use and hard to mess up. This often means that there are bottlenecks on the speed and performance and some security flaws like back doors.

OpenWRT provides over 3000 different packages which can give you the ability to control things like:

  • Integrated ad-blocking capabilities
  • Reduced Lag/Latency for gaming
  • Secure VPN access to your home network
  • Guest network control
  • Live webcam surveillance

You also get a much higher level of community support, with lots of forums and videos helping users to get them to sort out of their internet.


OpenWRT vs. DD-WRT

For those that want to get the most out of their wifi, installing custom firmware like OpenWRT or DD-WRT is the logical step. You can see exactly what is going on and beef up your speed and security.

OpenWRT is the original custom firmware and the firmware from which most others were initially born from. It is relatively hard to use and supports the broadest range of upgrades. OpenWRT supports almost every type of Linux device.

DD-WRT is based on OpenWRT but is slightly easier to use. This has been designed for most common home routers. If you are going to install custom firmware to your router, most people will use OpenWRT.


How to Set Up & Configure Your OpenWRT Router

There are two methods commonly used to configure and set up your OpenWRT router.

These are very generic steps, and it is worth bearing in mind that for 90% of cases, these will not be simple enough instructions, and you will have to look at your specific router and the guides that you can find on Youtube or Google.

  1. 1
    The first method is via OEM Firmware. This is the simplest method and simply requires you to open your router settings and install the OpenWRT factory firmware upgrade via the setup.
  2. 2
    The next method is to install it via Bootloader and Ethernet port. This method is very complicated and will not be used very often if this is the way you want to install your firmware, we recommend looking at the guide here.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Is OpenWRT secure and safe to use?

In the right hands, an OpenWRT router is safer and more secure than most routers on the market. This is an opensource device, however, which means that you are taking responsibility for any of the changes you make. This means that if you do something wrong, you may compromise the security.

What does LEDE mean in OpenWRT routers?

LEDE stands for Linux Embedded Development Environment.

Is OpenWRT harder to configure than DD-WRT?

This is not a clear-cut question with an easy answer. There are easy to configure OpenWRT firmware, and there are harder to configure OpenWRT firmware; the same is true with DD-WRT. Overall, it is probably easier to install OpenWRT due to the huge level of community support and wider adoption.

Can I remove OpenWRT firmware from my router and revert back to the stock version?

Yes, but you must make sure that you have that original stock version saved somewhere on a flash drive. If not, you may be able to find it on your routers manufacturers' website.

Will flashing my router with OpenWRT void its warranty?

This depends on the company that makes it. You should look up and research this before you buy and router or engage in any flashing.


Conclusion

OpenWRT routers give network admins a considerable level of control over their network. You can boost performance and increase security.

Hopefully, this article has given you some knowledge on how OpenWRT works and which router is the best choice for you. If not, we highly recommend our Top Pick. This is the router with the most well-rounded feature set and will suit most users.