Everyone wants the best equipment when it comes to accessing the internet, but often the routers available can only do so much. Enter tomato routers.
They are the solution to your wireless dead spots, sudden glitches in your router, buffering problems and more.
Most routers come with factory standard firmware, but if you want to be ahead of the game and want more out of your router, its time you upgraded and bought the best tomato router available so that you can do more.
What Are Tomato Compatible Routers?
A Tomato router is one that has the tomato firmware installed in it, allowing you to access advanced configurations and settings.
Benefits of Tomato Routers
- Enhance your router’s capabilities
- Restrict IP addresses
- Filter traffic as well as screen websites and block them
- VPN configuration for remote access
- MAC address filtering of unauthorised connected devices
- Set up guest and VLAN networks
- USB File sharing support
- Fix operation timings
- Media server DNLA
What is Tomato Firmware
Tomato firmware is software that is embedded to your router’s hardware, an open source alternative firmware that boosts your router’s functionality, and allows you to boost your coverage, be able to monitor your bandwidth and improve security of your network. Tomato firmware remains one of the most popular open source replacement firmware.
Originally released in 2008, there have been several forks developed by others, with Tomato by Shibby being the most popular. This is a Linux core firmware distribution that is based partially on HyperWRT, relying heavily on an Ajax based interface. The user interface is what makes it stand out from the other open source firmware available.
Why Choose A Tomato Compatible Router
It is very compatible with Broadcom based firmware, found primarily on Linksys, Asus and Netgear routers and this helps the user to tap the full potential of what their router can really achieve.
Not only can you now access multiple options that will boost your wireless network, but you can also tweak settings to make your wireless signal strength even better.
Not only can you now monitor your bandwidth in real time, you can check out other wireless networks in your area to understand what you can tweak in your own best tomato router to get the best performance. If that was not enough, these features tip the scales in a tomato router’s favour.
- Advanced QoS – this means better security as well as prioritized traffic control
- Advanced wireless modes
- Advanced Port Forwarding
- Dynamic DNS
These are just some of the features that you can access. Tomato and other open source alternate firmware have become popular over the years, with competition coming from DD-WRT. However, Tomato remains a popular choice for many due to the user friendliness, allowing the average Joe to get more out of their router rather than being a tech wizard.
Best Router For Tomato Firmware For 2021
1. Netgear R7000
2. Linksys WRT3200
3. Tenda AC18
4. Linksys WRT1900
5. Netgear WNR3500
How To Install Tomato On My Router
This can be down in two different methods.
Method 1: Upgrading the firmware via the Tomato compatible router admin panel – this is usually done for default factory firmware upgrades or similar firmware upgrades.
Method 2: Upload the Tomato firmware to your router via a client software app. This is the favoured option for many people as this software directly communicates with your router from your device, using TFTP technology.
Follow these steps to flash Tomato firmware to your router
Step 1: Download the software you will use to flash your router. In many cases it could be the Recovery software of your router which is available from their website. This will act as the TFTP client that will directly communicate with the router to upload the firmware.
Step 2: Download Tomato firmware – the version which is compatible or applicable with the type of router you own.
Step 3: Get your router ready to be flashed. Browse through your computer to locate the downloaded tomato firmware and click ‘Open’ once the saved firmware has been located.
Step 4: Set your router to be in ‘Recovery’ Mode. This is the step that allows the router to be ready to get flashed. (NOTE: Not all routers need to be manually set to Recovery Mode for preparing the router to be flashed.) Read up on your router’s specs on how to enter Recovery Mode – this usually is done by unplugging the router, pressing and holding the reset button and attaching the power cord back to the router while keeping the reset button pressed for at least 10 seconds. When you see the LED light blink, release the reset button – this is how you enter Recovery Mode.
Step 5: Once in recovery mode, start the flashing process. Your file should be ready on standby. Initiate the file transfer by clicking on the ‘Upload’ button on the TFTP client.
Step 6: Wait 5 minutes.
Step 7: Clear the NVRAM to wipe out any old settings lingering from the old default firmware. Follow the instructions on Step 4, but replace the reset button with the WPS button to clear NVRAM settings.
Step 8: Connect to your router.
Step 9: Open a browser and enter your router’s IP address directly to the browser window.
Step 10: Login to Tomato with your default login and password.
- Default Tomato Username: admin
- Default Tomato password: admin
The process is complete and your flashed Tomato router is ready to be checked out!
1. Linksys WRT AC3200 Router
High Performance Tomato Router
Linksys is known to have easy installation processes and the WRT3200ACM is no different. You can choose to do the standard configuration process, or configure the router manually by bypassing the Wizard.
The Linksys WRT3200ACM proved to be an excellent performer in the 5GHz band, delivering blazing speeds of 580Mbps at close range, with the speed dropping to 310 Mbps at a distance of 30 feet.
The MU-MIMO performance averaged 186Mbps at close range, beating many other routers we had tested, with the speed dropping to 143Mbps at a distance of 30 feet.
However, the 2.4GHz results were not as great. The throughput on the 2.4GHz averaged 102Mbps at close range, with the speed dropping to 61Mbps.
The file transfer speeds impressed the BlueGadgetTooth team, enough to make us say with confidence that the WRT3200ACM is one of the best Tomato routers available. We took a folder containing music, a collection of heavy pictures, videos and more and tested the file transfer speeds between our USB drive and our wired computer. The write test revealed speeds of 78Mbps, and the read test was even higher, scoring 91Mbps!
The WRT3200ACM is a great choice for those who are looking to use Open source firmware to get customized settings on their router. If you are looking to future proof your home, get blazing fast 5GHz speeds and amazing file transfer speeds, this is the best Tomato router for you.
Linksys WRT3200ACM Cons
- Average results in 2.4GHz throughput tests
2. Netgear WNR3500L N300 Router
This is a nifty budget friendly router that allows you to flash the open source firmware of your choice. The BlueGadgetTooth team tends to look at all brands, price points and specs – and as we already had an Editor’s choice and a low budget one, we decided to check out the Netgear WNR3500Lv2, which is a router with only a 2.4GHz band.
You may think that not having a 5GHz band may make it obsolete in today’s world – think again. We all use multiple devices – sometimes, 5GHz is overkill. This is because 5GHz is great for close range – but if you are going to be all over your house, and don’t have heavy internet needs that require super fast internet, this is the best Tomato router for your home.
The installation process was simple with a manual pdf guide available for reference. The whole process took the BlueGadgetTooth team about 10 minutes to get it up and running
The speeds on the WRN3500Lv2 surpassed our expectations, reaching 103Mbps at close range, with the speeds decreasing to 74Mbps at a distance of 30 feet. Testing this in an apartment with heavy bandwidth use at peak hours made us realize about the usefulness of the bandwidth limiter feature – which is great if your kids want to lounge about, using up your bandwidth during peak hours.
Best router for an apartment or a single or two story house.
Netgear WNR3500Lv2 Pros
- Great parental controls
- Netgear Genie App
- Stable signal strength
- Excellent wireless range
Netgear WNR3500Lv2 Cons
- Need to manually disable WMM settings
- Is not wireless standard 802.11ac
- No 5 GHz band
3. Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Open Source Wireless Router (WRT1900ACS)
The Linksys WRT1900ACS is considered by many, including the BlueGadgetTooth team, to be amongst the best in top performance routers and the multiple features it has keeps this as a constant favourite, especially for those who are on the lookout for the best tomato router.
Design wise, the standard black and blue colour scheme is reminiscent of how a router should look and Linksys hasn’t deviated from this combo that seems to have worked for ages. It can be wall mounted or can stand alone, which is good news for those who are looking to hide it in a corner or to keep it out of the way.
This is a dual band router and offers a combined speed of 1.9Gbps in the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band. However, what gives the router an exceptional wireless signal is the Beamforming technology it uses, a feature that makes a huge difference in terms of performance. Though it may lack many features available in routers that have been released recently, this is still a powerhouse of performance.
When tested at a close range, the speed was an impressive 622Mbps at the 5GHz band, with the speed dropping to 562Mbps at a range of 30 feet, and the speed going down to 421Mbps when tested at a distance of 75 feet. The 2.4GHz band also performed well, reaching speeds of 112Mbps at close range falling to 72.5Mbps at 75 feet.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS is one of the best routers we’ve seen in its class, and is also one of the best routers for tomato. We could connect multiple devices, all doing their own thing from playing HD online games which take up a lot of bandwidth, to streaming movies and videos and transferring heavy files. Even though this big baby does not support MU-MIMO capabilities, we don’t miss it because this is the device to handle all your data hungry devices for your network.
This is easy to customize via your browser or Linksys iOS or Android Smart wifi app, allowing you to make many changes, prioritizing devices and channels. You can use Open source firmware like Tomato to tinker with the interface ad features.
- Can be set up as a wireless extender, repeater, AP or router
- Parental controls
- 2 Guest networks
- Firewall with WEP and WPA2 encryption
- Can be used as a VPN server
- 1 USB 3.0 port and eSATA/ USB 2.0 port
- 4 x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 1.6GHz dual core ARM-based processor
- 512MB DDR3 RAM
- 128MB flash memory
Linksys WRT1900ACS Pros
- Quick set up process
- Multiple ports for devices
- Powerful monitoring software
- Excellent performance
- Open WRT (Tomato) support
- Open VPN server
- Non WDS repeating and bridging supported
- Extensive range
Linksys WRT1900ACS Cons
- Large size
- Does not support MU-MIMO
4. Netgear Nighthawk R7000 Tomato Router
Best Tomato Router (Editor's Choice)
The name itself is reminiscent of something deadly, something that will swoop down at night to get the job done mysteriously. Well, there’s nothing so mysterious about the Nighthawk R7000, at least it won’t be once the BlueGadgetTooth team is done with this review.
Netgear is known for having superior feature sets and the Nighthawk R7000 definitely does not disappoint, which is why it is featured on our guide for best router for Tomato firmware.
Design wise, it is a stable structure that has all the trappings of a fancier, newer model. The Led lights indicate what is wrong and what is working and the angular design with large antenna size do make it look very much like how we perceive a router to look like. This may have been released many years ago, but it still holds relevance in today’s world and continues to be the favourite, even though newer models of the Nighthawk have been released since.
The Nighthawk as a series of routers has created quite a reputation for itself, and anyone who knows their stuff will tell it all started with the R7000. This Tomato router offers so many features that you can tweak if you wish to.
The speeds on this Nighthawk were comparable to many routers available on the market today. When the BlueGadgetTooth team tested the Nighthawk R7000, the results amazed us. Our testing space had many obstacles like multiple walls, as we wanted to see how it would fare in a home with many rooms. Even though the signal had to travel through multiple walls, we still received speeds of 414Mbps at a distance of 75 feet. Of course, the closer our device was to the router, the better the performance. The 2.4GHz band also performed very well, reaching speeds of 212Mbps at a distance of 75 feet.
- 1GHz dual core processor
- 3.0 USB port
- Dynamic QoS
- Beamforming technology
- High powered antennas and amplifiers
- Smart Parental Controls
- Access Control Feature
Netgear R7000 Pros
- Simple UI
- Improved performance
- Superb speeds on both bands
- Great for multiple connected devices
- Advanced security
Netgear R7000 Cons
- Better options if needed for business purposes
5. Tenda AC1900 Dual Band Router With Open Source Support (AC18)
Best Low Budget Tomato Router
The Tenda AC18 is definitely not an eye sore, but neither is it the most attractive. But looks don’t matter that much when the device does the job, and the Tenda AC18 certainly does, which makes it the third option on our list for best Tomato router guide. The installation process was really simple, which is great news for the average user who may not be a tech brainiac.
The design itself looks like someone peeled it off a padded wall, but the sleek black colour does make it stand out.
When we tested the Tenda AC18, we thought that due to the very affordable price, some features may be missing and that the performance would be average at best. We couldn’t be more wrong. The 5GHz tests showed that in close range, we achieved speeds of 362Mbps, and the speed dropped to 227Mbps at a distance of 75 feet. Even through a few walls. The 2.4GHz was admittedly not the best, delivering speeds of 68Mbps at close range, with the speed averaging to 32Mbps at 75 feet.
The transfer performance is excellent, averaging at 45MBps writing and 39MBps in reading.
- Detachable stand
- 3 external, non removable antennas
- 3 x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 1 WAN port, 1 x 3.9 USB port
Tenda AC18 Pros
- Easy set up process
- Strong 5GHz performance
- Attractive price
- Comprehensive and navigable management console
- Parental controls
Tenda AC18 Cons
- Average performance on 2.4GHz band
- Ports located at the back – so router cannot be placed horizontally
Benefits of Open Source Firmware
The average router available today is limited in terms of functionality and the stock firmware can sometimes be unreliable. With so many cyber threats targeting online users, it has become more important than ever to secure your home from possible threats. Standard market routers can often lack the security levels needed to ensure a problem free online experience, and that is one big reason why many people choose to use Open Source firmware.
A router like the Netgear R7000 mentioned as our Editor’s choice has all the necessary features required for dealing with networking issues that most of us face. Routers with open source firmware provide advanced security features as well as allow you to tweak many advanced settings to get an optimal online experience.
If you check out reviews and forums, you’ll see that many people who use open source firmware state that their routers enjoy a longer shelf life, which is music to anybody’s ears. Routers with open source firmware allow you to control your bandwidth allocation; your signal controls and gives your network more stability.
When it comes to the safety of your network, and in turn, to the safety of all users connected to your network, it is important to always have the best security possible. With most routers having stock firmware that just about covers the basics; you don’t want basic security coverage for your home network.
We’ve tested and found that open source firmware boosts functionality as well as security for your home network, and we highly recommend the best Tomato router in this guide. Whether you want to ensure your young ones don’t stumble upon malicious or adult sites, or want to make sure that your devices get priority in your network, controlling and managing these settings is all an easy process. With a wealth of management and advanced features, you will find that having a Tomato router is the way to go to enjoying a better online experience.