Buying Wireless Access Point – Again

I’ve had enough of crappy wireless access points. I won’t name any of the vendors (isolated cases, possible user configuration error, etc.), but after the latest problem I have to blog about this.

Here’s a short list of crap I’ve had to deal with the four WLAN APs I’ve owned in the past two years:

AP1: no support for authentication and no support for anything else (invisible SID, MAC address control, etc.). It was OK for a while (you could see an occasional neighbor sharing your bandwidth), but then P2P folks got on board. Had to go get rid of it.

AP2: generally flaky, after eight months started suffering from frequent random reboots. Yes, maybe those were attack-induced crashes. In any case, the vendor didn’t have any firmware updates and neither factory defaults nor different attempted “tunings” helped. The vendor’s service center helped by restoring the firmware (?!). Of course I had tried that myself already. Had to get rid of it.

AP3: bought a new piece of crap – with “draft N” support (although I don’t have any draft-N WLAN cards, I wanted to go high-end and be future-proof). Woo-hoo! Yes, but woo-hoo only until I realized that several applications on my LAN and Wireless LAN had major difficulties establishing connections through this AP (e.g. it’d take Outlook many minutes to connect to Exchange). Again, tons of wasted time with no ROI. Additionally the thing didn’t support bridging so I couldn’t add additional access points to my home. Oh, and clients struggle for minutes to obtain a DHCP lease. And finally, its antennas were hard-wired to the body (can’t replace them with a high gain antenna without breaking the damn thing apart). Fine, let’s get another one.

AP4: bought a stable (piece of crap, as it turned later). I set it up alongside the AP3 (AP4’s WAN port is connected to AP3’s LAN port and I connect to AP4 via WLAN). Good, now DHCP leases are always obtained and they’re obtained quickly. Bad: now I have two APs to troubleshoot. Take two: reverse the roles – make AP4 Primary and AP3 its LAN client. Badness – firewall and DMZ settings on AP4 are all-or-nuthin’. Great. Now I have to make AP3 the DMZ server, disable firewall on AP4 and manage firewall settings on AP3 (I already know that my WLAN clients have difficulties dealing with AP3). With great certainty I predict more wasted time and frustration in the very near future.

At this point I’m ready to shell out a pretty penny for a good AP.

By good I mean:

  1. Stable
  2. Can maintain 500 sessions/connections
  3. Reasonably rich firewall and NAT functionality (not enterprise-, but power user-level)
  4. Supports bridge mode
  5. Supports DMZ (perhaps more than one host only and perhaps in a granular (by port) way)
  6. The vendor should have good history of firmware maintenance for their WLAN products
  7. Supports external high gain antenna
  8. Everything else that’s reasonable to expect in a mid- to high-end wireless access point for home/SOHO use.

By the way, I do not want to ‘roll my own’. I looked at open source firmware for APs, but I already spend too much time on maintenance of home IT stuff. I just want something high-end that works properly. Suggestions?


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