Cheap router with great performance (and an "A" on bufferbloat)

  • 1
  • Praise
  • Updated 7 months ago
Early last year I decided to replace my old router. For years I had been using PC-based solutions like IPCop and pfSense, but I wanted something more reliable and less power hungry than a PC. After a lot of reading I settled on the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X. This is a small box (about 5" x 3" x 0.75") that runs a customized version of Linux and provides all the features you'll probably ever need in a home router. It has 5 gigabit ports, and supports stuff like port forwarding, VLANs, QoS, multiple WAN connections, load balancing, auto-failover, dynamic DNS, and a whole host of other features. Under the hood it runs Debian Linux and while it can be upgraded and maintained via web browser it also allows command line configuration for those who know their way around Linux.

This thing just sits there routing packets. I never have to reboot it or do anything to it. It seems to do everything my PC-based router did and best of all, it can be had for $50.

Below is my speed test result from dslreports. By turning on the Smart Queue feature in the QoS options I got an A in bufferbloat, for whatever that is worth.



The EdgeRouter is slightly more complicated to configure than the run of the mill consumer grade router, but I found it simpler than pfSense. It helps to understand routers and switches to some extent, but these days that's a good thing to know anyway.

73,
Doug K4DSP

P.S. The VPN feature on this router works well, and allows me to control my rotator, antenna switch, and amplifier remotely. Unfortunately it does not obviate the need for SmartLink as it does not relay broadcast packets which are needed by SmartSDR to discover the radio. That's a sore subject with me - Flex calls it a feature, I call it a bug. But I do like the router.
Photo of Doug Hall

Doug Hall

  • 215 Posts
  • 60 Reply Likes

Posted 8 months ago

  • 1
Photo of Larry Loen  WO7R

Larry Loen WO7R

  • 222 Posts
  • 33 Reply Likes
Great solution.

I may look into it.

I have been running OpenWRT for years. 

The trick there is I have been using a variety of commercial routers that allow you to reflash them with whatever you like.  I flash them with OpenWRT.

FWIW, if you have two locations, your solution should also allow the use of the "tinc" utility.  The advantage of tinc (at least over solutions I know anything about) is that you can have what amounts to an automatic "always on" VPN solution.

You have to pay for a web address as well (I recommend namecheap.com as it is both cheap and supports the function required).  But, once you get it set up, the router(s) in question find each other fairly quickly after either router reboots.  I never notice any downtime.  Yet, your routers can "export" little or nothing to the internet that is visible to the script kiddies.
(Edited)
Photo of K1SZO

K1SZO

  • 36 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
I still use pfSense and really like it.  Though I don't use a full size PC for it.  I use a fanless (6) port Protectli Firewall with pfSense installed on it.  Since it doesn't have WiFi, I do use a Ubiquiti UniFi wifi access point for my wireless access in the house.  It's very nice. 

As for VPN access that allows broadcast packets.   I highly recommend SoftEther VPN (free) running on a Raspberry Pi (as cheap as $35)   The install and configuration for a bridged VPN is extremely simple and I use it for digital modes with my Flex 6400 remotely.
Photo of Michael Walker

Michael Walker, Official Rep

  • 861 Posts
  • 251 Reply Likes
VPN's are designed to 'normally' not be on the same subnet at the main network.  Like K1SZO mentioned, Softether VPN works very well and you can run the server on any PC.  I have it on a RPI with a few other network toys like PiHole and broadcast packets on the same subnet are also sent out on the VPN network, which is exactly what we want for a Flex radio.

By architecture, Vita49 packets are not routable (I'm sure Tim is going to jump in here) and this pdf may help explain the Vita49 radio protocol.  https://www.pentek.com/CATFiles/VITA49RadioTransport.pdf.  John VE6EY also puts his spin on it here:  http://play.fallows.ca/wp/radio/software-defined-radio/about-vita-49-discovering-radio-transport-pro...

That all being said, you can use SmartLink to connect to your radio outside the VPN.  I used to use a VPN for my remote HF station, but now it is all SmartLink and I don't have to worry about keeping the VPN tunnel running.  That helped to eliminate another single point of failure.

Mike 



 
Photo of Ted  VE3TRQ

Ted VE3TRQ

  • 532 Posts
  • 194 Reply Likes
With all this talk of link quality and bufferbloat, I figured I'd run the dslreports speed test on my network, accessed with WiFi. I have a cable modem connection ostensibly with 20/5 down/up, running with an old Buffalo router (with its WiFi turned off,) and running a reasonably recent version of Tomato (based on busybox embedded Linux / dd-wrt). I ran the test from Safari on an iPad.

First I tried it using my trusty 2.4 G WiFi connection: Net quality "D", bufferbloat "C" - awfull!
Then I switched to my 5 G WiFi connection: Net quality "A", bufferbloat "A+".

Just goes to show you should take care not to have the shared use of the 2.4 G spectrum destroy your network :-) 5 G is a MUCH better choice if you care about data delivery without delay / interruption. The WiFi frequencies are truly multiplexed, with collisions and back-off, and 2.4 G just plain sucks unless you are in a very quiet neighborhood and you don't have other devices in use yourself (e.g. tablets, cellphones, smart TVs, game consoles, smart speakers, smart thermostats, etc)., all competing for the spectrum you want. 5 G just has so much more room, and the signals from your neighbors just do not carry as far. Do a wireless survey to pick the best channel.

The above testing is why I switched to always using 5 G for Flex remote communication when forced to, or wanting to, use WiFi. Slightly off the topic of this thread, but germain, I think.

Ted VE3TRQ
Photo of Tim N9PUZ

Tim N9PUZ

  • 24 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
I learn something new each day. Ran the DSLReports test here and received a solid "F" for buffer bloat. More research to do now!

Tim N9PUZ
Photo of Doug Hall

Doug Hall

  • 214 Posts
  • 60 Reply Likes
Tim,
If your router has support for QoS or Traffic Shaping (and many do) you may be able to use that feature to improve the latency caused by buffer bloat.
73,
Doug K4DSP
Photo of Tim N9PUZ

Tim N9PUZ

  • 24 Posts
  • 13 Reply Likes
I experimented and it helped some. My score went from "F" to "D"!

Thanks for the tip Doug.

Tim N9PUZ
Photo of Larry Benoit

Larry Benoit

  • 89 Posts
  • 21 Reply Likes
Tim,

You may get better results manually setting the QoS download and upload speeds to 85-90% of the average speed reported by DSLReports.com, speedof.me or speedtest.net

73,
Larry KB1VFU
Photo of N8SDR

N8SDR

  • 168 Posts
  • 27 Reply Likes
Another router that can be configured on a small platform or cheap SFF box that is even more feature rich and easy to use is Untangle.. https://www.untangle.com/get-untangle/
While Ubiquiti has some nice products, like the mentioned Edge router and more.  I have been using many of there WiFi AP for small- medium size business and nursing homes with anywhere from 5-400+ users accessing them at one time they work really well and have great coverage,  however there AP points have a nasty RF issues that falls in the 10 meter band and creates hash,