Manufacturers are more than happy to provide firmware with a new router, but just because it came with your router does not mean that it is the best choice for you.
Traditionally, routers come with firmware configured for a GUI format, but that might be too limited for your needs. You need a functional router that allows you to maximize its capabilities and speed, keeping you right where you should be online.
In the event that your router is just not cutting it in terms of functionality, it is time to consider a customer firmware.
Whether you have looked at OpenWRT vs DD-WRT or DD-WRT vs Tomato, you will know that there is more than one solution to improve the features of your router without resorting to buying a new router. Deciding between the three, however, can be challenging as they each have excellent benefits. Thankfully, they also have enough differences to give you a chance to make an informed decision.
Maybe you have looked at how you use the internet and thought that upgrading firmware does not seem necessary. There is an assumption that only computer people go to the trouble. But the truth is custom firmware improves the capabilities of your router overall, making your network experience better than ever before.
OpenWRT vs DD-WRT or DD-WRT vs Tomato, does not matter in the larger sense. Open firmware itself allows you a new level of control over your Wi-Fi, giving you the ability to increase its speeds beyond manufacturer firmware. You will be left with a faster and more secure network than ever before.
1. Linksys WRT3200
2. Netgear R9000
3. Netgear R7000
The manufacturer firmware typically has a dramatically reduced network speed the further away you move from the router. Because of the relatively short coverage radius, ultimately you have to sit right by the router in order to get the best speeds, which is not optimal in anyone’s household.
The amount of bandwidth that you need from your router depends a lot on what you are using the internet for most of the time. If you only use it for web browsing, email or social networking, you need less bandwidth than someone who is online gaming or streaming movies and videos. Quality-of-Service (QoS) allows control over your bandwidth and the manufacturer firmware does not have it.
Hackers with malware are constantly evolving, bringing about new ways to steal your information or harm your devices. As much as the manufacturer routers try to keep up with updates that reflect security changes, it is an uphill battle. Many routers also use old firmware that simply cannot handle an update to reflect current security threats.
Being able to track your bandwidth can help you in a couple of different ways. In some places, your bandwidth is controlled by your ISP, so you can easily go over your quota without knowing it. Tracking bandwidth can also help you figure out where your bandwidth is being drained, helping you speed up your service and ensure your router’s security by looking for any unauthorized devices.
Where the firmware that comes with a router can be limiting, custom firmware eliminates the amount of dead spots within your network, while giving you more room to move around your house. Custom firmware is a better solution than spending the money on a new router that will still come with limited stock firmware.
The amount of bandwidth that you need will vary from person to person, depending on your internet usage and needs. Being able to adjust the bandwidth between your devices will ensure that the devices that need the extra bandwidth can get it while the devices that do not need it can run on less, keeping everyone within your network happy.
One of the biggest downsides to stock firmware is the inability to optimize how the network is being used. This can cause delays in service, slow performance, and denied access. With custom firmware, this is optimized to ensure that you will not have to focus on where the network is lagging since it can take care of it for you.
Your business’s LAN, or Local Area Network, can be dogged down by personal usage. If this is a problem in your place of business, restricting access to certain types of sites can keep employees away from them and keep the system up and running. If the issue is at home, you can use parental controls to contain what is being accessed through the router.
With custom firmware, you can allow a device to be accessible to other external devices, which is not possible when you are using stock firmware. Stock firmware is built to hide LAN, which blocks other devices from accessing it. While that is a form of security, it is not ideal for everyone.
Looking at custom firmware, it can be difficult to discern what the true differences are between them, especially when comparing DD-WRT vs OpenWRT vs Tomato, which are the biggest third party firmware around. We are going to look at all of the pros and cons of each custom firmware as well as what type of user should be using which firmware. Read the differences thoroughly to ensure that you are picking the right one for your router. You will see that these three custom firmware have a lot of similarities and advantages, but they are still not all created equal.
The best-known and most popular of the three big alternative firmware, DD-WRT and OpenWRT are based on the same technology and therefore have a lot of the same features. DD-WRT has been around for a long time, making it one of the more stable open source firmware available. It does not support as many router models as other firmware does, but it still supports the majority of common home routers. In addition to being one of the easiest firmware to install and operate, it also has an extra feature called Wake-on-LAN where your devices will be put to sleep when you are away, but can be woken up by the LAN when you access them from elsewhere. Just stock firmware is designed with non-tech savvy users in mind, DD-WRT is a popular replacement because of its simplicity. Don’t let the simplicity deceive you, because while it keeps in mind clients who prefer straightforward technology, it still has a lot of flexibility and options.
If you were in the market for a new DD-WRT router and would like to ensure that your new one is compatible with DD-WRT, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 is the way to go. With its 1GHz dual-core processor and high speed, the Nighthawk AC1900 comes ready to perform. Because it has DD-WRT in mind, it comes with a dynamic QoS to prioritize your bandwidth, ensuring the best streaming experience possible, if you are a gamer or just enjoy streaming videos. This is also ideal if you live with others on your network who also like to stream content and can otherwise bog down your bandwidth.
One of the biggest perks of the Nighthawk R7000is that it comes with the ability sync with your home network, including working with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, making configuring it easier than ever before. One of the configure options with the Nighthawk R7000 is the parental controls that can manage what websites your family can visit while still giving you Denial-of-service (DoS) security for attack prevention.
For gamers, the Nighthawk R7000 will make your playing experience smoother than ever, prioritizing the bandwidth to exactly where you need it to go, providing you with uninterrupted streaming.
You’ve read about the similarities between the firmware, and we have to admit that those features make it worthwhile in trying out custom firmware, but what are the features that set them apart?
While admittedly, DD-WRT is more popular than other open source firmware, there are certain features that Tomato has that is not available on DD-WRT and vice versa.
To begin, Tomato offers better Open VPN support than DD-WRT. Why this make a difference is because it allows you to connect to your VPN easily or even give you the option to use the VPN you want to. Our research has found out that Tomato works much better when connecting with Open VPN.
Not only this, but the super easy graphical user interface and visual prompts and help add-ons makes Tomato a recommended option. If you are a little confused about finding the best channel for your wife network, there is a wireless survey page to help users out. And now you even get notified when there is an update so you don’t have to keep checking for updates on a regular basis.
USB integration just became easier as well, thanks to the integrated BitTorrent and Tor clients.
This is because you can use two VPN servers side by side and switch to and from with ease. The VPN servers don’t even have to be from the same provider, so this means you can optimize your network’s performance. You can also monitor your connected devices easily, allowing you to determine which device is clogging up your bandwidth. The best thing is, Tomato allows real time bandwidth monitoring on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis, while DD-WRT offers only real time bandwidth monitoring.
If you own a high end wireless router, Tomato may be a better open source firmware for you as the Dual Gateway Setup allows you to use your wireless router as a VPN connection as well as an ISP connection. This means you can get the most out of your router, while staying protected.
While Tomato certainly offers a plethora of features that will have other open source firmware beaten hands down, DD-WRT has many reasons in its favour.
If you’ve shopped around for open source firmware, you would’ve noticed that DD-WRT is more popular and way more easily available. Even better, you can use DD-WRT with many more devices than Tomato, because it supports some Ralink based as well as Atheros based chipsets. Even bigger manufacturers like TP-Link and more readily provide DD-WRT.
DD-WRT also has better built in feature such as Sputnik, Wifidog to name a few, which makes it easier to create your own Wifi hotspot. You can use wireless repeater nodes on different subnets while Tomato is stuck with WDS / Repeater Bridge.
While the DD-WRT might be easy to configure, Tomato is the easiest to operate of the open source firmware. While it does still offer the opportunity to tinker around and delve into more specific customization, it does not require it to the same extent that other firmware does. As a result, it is not the typical choice for the ultimate techy user who enjoys the customization options of open source firmware. Tomato offers advanced firewall features as well as the ability to alter the access to the router based on users, which is a huge perk for those who need to be monitoring devices that are using it. It also allows for monitoring in real-time, ensuring that any security threats or bandwidth concerns can be caught when they are happening rather than after they have happened.
If upgrading your current router to Tomato is not an option, you can buy a new router that comes Tomato ready. The Linksys WRT AC3200 router comes with dual-band technology with Tri-Stream 160 that doubles the bandwidth. Open source ready, the WRT AC3200 is specifically designed for flexibility and customization, allowing you to really make your router perform up to your needs and your standards. The WRT AC3200 can run up to 3.2 Gbps between its two Wi-Fi bands, giving you incredible speed. The 2.4 GHz band can reach speeds up to 600 Mbps while the 5 GHz band can reach 2.6 Gbps.
The WRT AC3200 also has an updated Smart Wi-Fi apt that lets you manage and monitor your home Wi-Fi from any device, anywhere you are, which means you can keep track of what is happening on the router even when you are not there.
Looking at the router physically, the WRT AC3200 has a versatile range of ports that can connect to USB hard drives, including USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet ports, network printers, flash drives, and even eSATA hard drives. With open source firmware in mind, this router will give users the advantage of using Tomato and customizing their routers’ abilities.
The original open source firmware, OpenWRT is a Linux-based firmware that has been around long enough to get the bugs out. The most difficult of the three to operate, OpenWRT is not designed to be user-friendly and can be tricky to configure. Because it has been around the longest, there are several versions of it floating around your will need to confirm that you have the right one before you install it so you don’t brick your router. Because it is difficult to use, it is the least popular firmware, but it is also the best firmware to choose if you are tech savvy enough and really enjoy getting your hands dirty. It does have a GUI interface now, however, which has made it much easier to configure than it was previously, which could potentially increase its popularity in the future.
For users who are excited by the complexity of OpenWRT and would like to get a compatible router, the Turris Omnia is the best choice. The router comes with the option of a 1 GB or 2 GB RAM, depending on what you need from the router. The Omnia is a high performance, dual-core and an ARM CPU at 1.6 GHz, giving it a PC-like performance that you will not find with other routers. Unlike the known challenges of OpenWRT, the Omnia is easy to set up and to configure, taking any of the guesswork out of your user experience. Because of its user-friendliness, the Omnia makes OpenWRT possible for the less computer savvy users.
The Omnia has excellent security features, including automatic security updates and a default security configuration, helping keep malware or hackers out of your network. The security updates will happen as long as you have the router, ensuring that the network is safe and up-to-date on the most current threats. The multiple ports on the Omnia allow you to connect external devices securely, such as printers or flash drives. It also has a virtual server built-in, giving it the extra power it needs to function well.
We’ve discussed the benefits and disadvantages of having DD-WRT vs Tomato, but what about the original firmware that started it all? Enter Open WRT; the Linux based open source firmware that spawned the creation of Tomato and DD-WRT. It has also seen many changes over the years, evolving from a command line only firmware, restricted to LuCI or Gargoyle, but now is available as a GUI model.
When it comes down to it, OpenWRT vs DD-WRT, it is definitely the most complicated firmware of the three, but if you know what you’re doing, you can get more out of your router than what any other third party firmware can provide.
While it isn’t for a novice due to the command line deal, once you get it up and running, you’re in for a smoother ride.
Of course, if going through all the options available is going to just give you a massive headache, browse through our guides to determine which one fits your need. Sometimes preconfigured flash routers are the way to go if you don’t want to read through endless pros and cons just to get your head in a muddle.
With the risk of bricking your router, you might be too scared to update your current router with an open source firmware. And that is ok! Upgrading is really not a good choice for everyone, especially if your router is older and might not be able to run an updated firmware regardless. A preconfigured flashed router means that your router is ready to take you on the journey of internet greatness from the get-go, making all of your worries about using open source firmware melt away.
The term “bricking” means that your router did not take to the upgrade and has essentially fried itself. No matter how much you paid for the router originally, it is as useful as a brick once that happens. Therefore, bricking is a valid concern. Instead of going through all of the trouble to upgrade your current router, you can just buy one that is ready to go, ready for your customizations, and ready to give you the fastest speed possible. Feeling overwhelmed at the idea of an upgrade itself is also a completely valid reason to buy a preconfigured flashed router, taking away the stress of attempting to install it yourself while still giving you the router freedom you deserve.
Conclusively, the final decision rests solely upon your shoulders. We can inform you about the benefits of each and the disadvantages, but your internet needs determines which is the best router firmware for you – whether it is OpenWRT vs DD-WRT vs Tomato.
If you’re looking for user friendliness and ease of installation and configuration process, your best bet would be to go with Tomato.
If you’re looking for a popular open source firmware option, and want more repeater modes, DD-WRT is the option for you.
If you are looking to get the most control out of your router, you should opt for Open WRT – but warning, you should be able to handle the command line operation.
Overall, no matter what your final choice is, BlueGadgetTooth has a variety of guides that will help you be clearer on which open source firmware router is best suited for your internet requirements.
Hey, it's Tomas here! I'm the founder and chief editor here at BlueGadgetTooth. After spending hours explaining my parents how to hook up their Internet, why it's being so slow etc. I decided to start this blog to help people with their gadgets and questions about technology.