Mesh/New router research

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Potential home nodes

TP-Link TL-WA801ND


  • Only the v5 version is usable and it's hard to guarantee that we get the v5 version when ordering
  • Only 2.4 GHz
  • Only 100 Mbit ethernet
  • Only one ethernet port
  • Non-detachable antennas


  • Cheap
  • Still being made
  • External antennas
  • Flashable over TFTP without exploits
  • Supported by stable version of OpenWrt

TP-Link Archer A6

This is a U.S. version of the Archer C6 v2.


  • Kinda expensive
  • Non-detachable antennas
  • From 2017 so who knows when they'll be discontinued


  • 5 gigabit ethernet ports
  • 4 external antennas
  • Still being made
  • Flashable over TFTP without exploits
  • Supported by stable version of OpenWrt



  • Qualcomm ipq40xx chipset (really good reputation)
  • Supported by stable OpenWrt version
  • 5 Gbit ethernet ports
  • 4 external antennas
  • MU-MIMO support
  • USB 3 port


  • Expensive
  • Flashing is a multi-step semi-annoying process
  • Apparently 128 MB ram is small for a device with two atk10k radios which required special fix to work from OpenWrt

Xiaomi Mi Router A4

This really looks to me like it could be a replacement for the My Net N600. These are 802.11 ac so next-generation devices. Everything is a bit better except fewer ethernet ports.


  • Cheap
  • 4 external antennas (2x2 mimo)
  • 128 MB ram
  • 3 ethernet ports
  • Gigabit ethernet (only gigabit model)


  • OpenWrt support is very new and not yet stable
  • Flashing requires exploit

Xiaomi Redmi Router AC2100

This is like the fancy bigger sibling of the Xiaomi A4. We might want this for places that we expect to pull a lot of bandwidth. E.g. that youth center close to Internet Archive Richmond.


  • Cheap for what it is
  • Very new device (couple of months old as of June 1st 2020? less?)
  • 6 external antennas (2x2 mimo)
  • Fast dual-core processor
  • 128 MB ram
  • 128 MB flash
  • 4 gigabit ethernet ports
  • Can probably realistically handle gigabit speeds on wifi


  • OpenWrt support is very new and not yet stable
  • Flashing requires somewhat complicated exploit
  • Case design indicates that it runs hotter than we're used to



  • Cheap
  • Supported by stable OpenWrt
  • Super easy web-based OpenWrt installation
  • Manufacturer is OpenWrt friendly
  • USB port
  • 4 unused GPIO pins and a repurposable two-position switch


  • 2.4 Ghz only
  • Internal on-PCB antenna
  • 100 Mbit ethernet

NanoPi R1 or R1S or R2

  • Not an OpenWrt device
  • NanoPi R1
  • NanoPi R2
  • NanoPi R1S
  • $20, $25 or $29 including case, not including required microSD card, power supply and shipping
  • Has been ordered: No

These are more like Raspbery Pis than routers. These are probably not great routers since one of the two ethernet ports and possibly also the wifi is attached internally via USB 2. This puts a bunch of extra load on the CPU and is kinda hacky.

These don't run stock OpenWrt (but can run a "FriendlyWrt" fork) and are meant to run a full Linux distro like Armbian.

These might be more useful for running services on the mesh.


  • Single-antenna 2.4 GHz only WiFi
  • USB-attached ethernet


  • Powerful quad-core processor
  • 512 MB to 1 GB of ram
  • Boot from microSD with full operating system
  • 2x Gbit ethernet (except for the R1 which has 1x 100 Mbit and 1x Gbit)


I did some research on possible replacements for the MyNet N600 nodes and here's what I came up with so far: For a price comparable node the best I've found so far is the TP-Link TL-WA801ND:

It is $25 new shipped and can be found for $20 refurbed. The downside is that it's 2.4 GHz only rather than the dual-radio 2.4 and 5 GHz in the My Net. The upside is that it has external antennas with a standard plug so it's easier to attach directional and home-made antennas + it should get better range as is. For folks that don't want to go with the absolute cheapest possible the TP-Link Archer A6 looks good:

It's $50 new shipped. External but non-detachable antennas. 2.4 + 5 GHz dual radio. All gigabit ethernet ports. It looks like it's a re-branded (new but largely unchanged) version of the Archer C6 v2:

These aren't new routers though. I think they're from 2017? So may also be discontinued fairly soon. If we go the route of being hardware agnostic as we've discussed then I don't think that should be a big problem. I ordered one of each.

There's also going the route of a single board computer like the NanoPi R1 or R1S or R2, eg:

Cheapest one is $20 + shipping. That's without a power supply. These are 2.4 GHz single radio, single antenna and one of the two ethernet ports is internally connected via USB 2. These aren't officially supported by OpenWrt and probably aren't going to be very performant or stable at networking but I could be wrong.

There's also a similar looking but OpenWRT compatible and more network oriented $20.50 device called the GL.iNET GL-MT300N-V2: again power supply not included

I might have found a better option. The Xiaomi Mi Router 4A:

also known as the Mi Router 3G (actually that version also has USB3 and seems discontinued).

$24 shipped for 100 MB ethernet version and $30 shipped for gigabit version: www dot aliexpress dot com /item/33059029344.html

Here's the info for the gigabit edition:

It seems like there are still some issues with this chipset but they will likely be sorted out. The good news is that this is a fairly new router (early 2019 it looks like) so maybe it will stay in production for a while.

I ordered one of the gigabit units but it will probably take 4-5 weeks to ship. Be aware the the 100 Mbit version uses a slightly different chipset but is also supported by OpenWrt (and in fact probably has better support).

I also looked at the Ubiquiti Aircube ISP which is cute and supported but $30 and 2.4 GHz only with no external antennas:

If we need a stable high quality high-speed device for e.g. a gigabit link then we might want to go with a Ubiquiti ER-X or ER-X-SFP:

These don't have any WiFi but have more ram and flash than other devices in this class + the SFP option is great if we need fiber optics.

The ASUS RT-ACRH13 is $70 shipped and has a really good reputation for high performance, probably because of its Qualcomm ipq40xx chipset.

You can buy refurb/used Linksys EA6350 for $35 which also have the ipq40xx chipset but that model seems to be recently discontinued otherwise

Also the MikroTik RBcAPGi-5acD2nD (aka: cAP AC) uses that chipset and costs like $75 but has the round roof-mountable form factor while still having 2 gigabit ethernet ports. This could actually be a great solution if we just want a single rooftop link and a great single AP to cover a room or two.