Does DD-WRT hurt performance?

This blog for the most part is a DD-WRT fanboy website by any measure.   Having said that DD-WRT isn’t right for every situation.    Such as:

– Routers with every little flash memory (if you can’t get most of the features of DD-WRT why bother?)

– Routers with every little RAM (if you’re going to use the features you’re going to use more RAM and if you don’t have it…)

– I would add a third category and only add it as a warning:   If your target router has internal antennas I would question whether you’ll lose range and/or throughput just as SmallNetBuilder found with the Netgear WNR3500L.

Are internal antennas inferior in some way?  No.   Are they a bad choice for DD-WRT?   Not really, but maybe.

To some degree good antenna design is like black magic.   You’d think catching invisible rays with a piece of metal would be easy, but not so much.

From the standpoint of the manufacturer buying external antennas is great — someone else (hopefully) did a good job designing and manufacturing them.    If the firmware has code to “focus” multiple antennas it was probably easy for them to produce and losing this aspect to a DD-WRT implementation probably won’t be a big deal.

Now in the case of internal antennas the antenna elements are custom to the router model.   The benefit is a cleaner design in the world of the iPhone.  Even a derivative design needs to be re-tuned to any hardware or case changes around them.  Thus the firmware related power handling for them could be very specialized to optimize performance.   Switching to DD-WRT or another third party firmware you lose this optimization and with it range and throughput.

The take away is see if anyone else has evaluated the impact to the router performance before you upgrade.   Likewise evaluate the performance yourself if no one else has.   If you notice a noticeable drop then go back to the factory firmware.

Now of course if you live in a small apartment or house and are on top of your router all day none of this really matters.   SecureRouter.org is currently using a Netgear WNR834B with internal antennas as its test bed unit in a 1,100 square foot apartment with multiple computers and devices connected.   No drop in range or throughput was noticed.


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