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Cheap, Reliable Wifi – Yes Please!

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Cheap, Reliable Wifi – Yes Please!

For years, I have enjoyed the power and freedom of running DDWRT on my home wireless routers. But when I moved last fall into a slightly larger home, I noticed some serious dead spots in certain rooms. I started hunting for access points in the DDWRT range, but wasn’t terribly pleased with the on-slaught of dlinksysnetisco options that were returned from my searches. I finally found what I have come to believe is the best, most reliable, and cheapest wireless solution available today. I have held my tongue, 1/2 expecting that things would go south with this setup. But alas, the time has come to release my secret to WIFI success with the world!


The secret device that has been hiding behind it’s sickeningly low price ($37 on amazon), and standard “blah” package is the TP-LINK TLWA901ND v3. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “TPLINK?! REALLY?! All credibility out the window.” To be honest, when I installed my first TLWA901ND (say that 5 times fast) in my home, I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that about after being in service for 2 hours, it completely stopped passing traffic for all wireless clients requiring a reboot to get it going again. I rebooted it a few times over the course of 2 days, and sent the first one back to amazon for a replacement unit thinking, “surely, this one slipped past QA” – TPLINK, you get one more chance to make things right. The new unit arrived with the same disappointing message of failure and reboots – OK these things are junk; or are they?


At first sight of the factory firmware, it’s fairly obvious that it’s garbage. UI and formatting errors are plenty, functionality minimum. So I thought, I wonder if there is any aftermarket firmware that could help the hardware perform better – it certainly couldn’t hurt. Low and behold, someone compiled this minimal OpenWRT image including the Luci web interface that simply makes this access point sing. Simply download the bin and upload it through the factory provided web interface and configure. The image includes everything you need to get the AP pumping out WIFI signal to all of your A/G/N clients with all of the extras you’ve come to expect from open-source firmware. But what’s most impressive about this firmware is just how stable it is. I have anywhere from 10-25 WIFI clients on in my house streaming TV and YouTube videos, passing MineCraft and XBL content, pushing VPN traffic, and this AP has not had a reboot in months! The throughput and uptime of these little wireless work horses leads me to believe the TLWA901ND v3 + OpenWRT firmware are the best wireless bang for the buck.

Hardware Details (including images)