Why you should buy OpenWrt compatible router

Some of you know that the router inside is actually a small computer. And like any computer, it has an operating system. Some vendors wrote their OS and some adopt existing ones. These days, most of them use the existing OS because write own OS is very hard and costs a lot of money. With existing OS vendors just need to write a network driver and some kind of user interface.

And even writing a network driver is not an easy task. You need developers who are experts in that field and thousands and thousands of hours to make sure that it is stable. As you can imagine, it cost a lot of money and the vendor cannot work for free and they would like to get their money back. Preferably with some profit.

As result, it is hard to buy a decent router for like $50-$60 because it will have quite bad software. This happened because router vendors are buying hardware from reputable hardware vendors, so hardware is usually ok and most routers are not that stable only from a software point of view.

It is possible to buy a stable router but it will have the following limitations:

  • it does not happen often
  • it usually costs much more money
  • router software will be quite limited
  • it will be unique to that particular vendor
  • the vendor will stop supporting it in a couple of years

And if the router will not be stable, you will need to constantly fight instability and attempt to find a more or less stable configuration that works most stable. Your family will be quite pissed and blame you. You can read a lot of recommendations and buy a new router but it can be also unstable because your circumstances are different and this particular router does not work well in your case but works fine for different people.

Just as an example, imagine a situation when each notebook you bought has a completely different user interface, limits the number of applications you can run, and after 2 years, you will not get any security updates. Sounds horrible.

And in the PC world, Windows was so great success because hardware vendors developed hardware and basic driver, and Windows provides everything else in a unified interface. And OpenWrt is a kind of Windows from the PC world.

Moreover, there are not many unique network chips and for many of them, network drivers are already available in OpenWrt. They are open source and millions of people were using them and they were battle-tested for millions and millions of hours. They are very stable and reliable.

So instead of relying on the goodwill of some router vendor, you can switch to OpenWrt and have access to the same interface as any other OpenWrt router and have access to a lot of great features. And then it does not matter what router you are using. Tomorrow you can change it and the interface will be pretty much the same. I have 3 different routers from different companies and sometimes I made a mistake and change something on the wrong router because they look exactly the same.

Even if you don’t care about it now, in 2-3 years your router will be out of support and you have to buy a new one just to make sure that there are no security vulnerabilities. You will have a perfectly working router and you will have to throw it away.

So even if you don’t care now, I suggest you buy a router than can run OpenWrt just in case. And later you will have the option to switch to OpenWrt. Usually, there is no difference in price. It's kind of like insurance.

Just as an example. I have a router that last available firmware from its vendor was posted 9 years ago because that router was already on the market for some time when I bought it. There were hundreds of vulnerabilities discovered from that time. But my router is still supported by OpenWrt.

And without OpenWrt, over time I will have to buy at least 2-3 routers and throw them away. I’m not an eco-activist, but I don’t like to throw things away when they can continue to work just fine. Just in case 10-12 years is the maximum you can use the router for as it became obsolete from a hardware point of view.

Also, by choosing OpenWrt compatible router you are sending a signal to vendors that don’t want their devices to be open and reusable. Just imagine that you bought a notebook and you know that the vendor will not develop drivers for the next version of Windows. Will you buy it? Probably not and you vote with your money. The same case here. And I can tell you that it is working and at the time of writing a lot of routers can use OpenWrt, while 7 years ago I saw much fewer compatible routers.

Just as a side note, it is possible to buy a decent $50-$60 router when the router has OpenWrt from the box. In this case, the router vendor doesn’t spend any money on software development and concentrates only on the hardware part. Or sometimes they just write custom UI. One of my routers (Cudy X6) runs OpenWrt with a custom UI. But I still prefer to run standard OpenWrt because it updates more often and I like to run the command line on my router.

In conclusion, buying a router that supports OpenWrt gives you option to switch to OpenWrt if you will not be happy with the original firmware. You will also be able to prolong the life of the device and save a few hundred dollars and reduce waste. I think it doesn’t have drawbacks.

I hope it helps someone.