Difference between routers: compact vs regular

I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the difference is between a regular wireless router like Linksys WRT54G and a COMPACT wireless router like Linksys WRT54GC.
Is the compact one inferior in any aspect or any other limitations. I'm considering these or a better one (if someone can recommend) for a simple home wireless network.
My cable modem and router would be on the main floor and I'm getting 2 P3 desktops with wireless cards for my kids bedroom which is right above the computer room.
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  1. Yes, there are advantages to the plain WRT54G's over the WRT54GC's. The plain WRT54G's are among the most popular routers available, and they have support for a number of third-party firmware. Some of this firmware gives tons of capabilities beyond the standard firmware, including the ability to do wireless bridging, and the ability to increase the wireless power output.

    DD-WRT for example. It supports many WRT54G's, but not the WRT54GC. This is a valid reason to not get the WRT54GC, even if you wouldn't like to install a 3rd-party firmware in a brand new router. (This is very understandable, but the feature set of DD-WRT is also very desirable.)

    The WRT54GL would be a good choice in this view -- the current WRT54G (model 5 or higher) aren't as good as the WRT54GL (which is basically a WRT54G model 4) or older routers. Tom's has an article on this point.

    Now, the main reason I'm going on about this here is the following:

    A supported router with DD-WRT can do wireless bridging. I.e. you could get any wireless router / AP for downstairs, and one WRT54GL running DD-WRT in your kids' room; wire both their computers to the WRT54GL, and have a wireless networking to the downstairs and the internet, etc.

    Advantages are:

    1. Don't need to buy 2 client wireless adapters
    2. Don't need to configure wireless drivers / security settings for 2 client adapters (driver-free)
    3. Wireless connection will be more stable (always on)
    4. Wireless signalling will be cleaner (single device)

    (On points (1) and (2), you might have to do similar things with wired adapters, but wired adapters are typically much better to work with. I've literally spent days on wireless adapters on some old computers and in the end, replaced them with wired adapters and a wireless bridge (in minutes).)

    You don't need a second WRT54GL with DD-WRT to do this. However, you might find over time that the connection control / feature filtering, etc., available in DD-WRT is of interest to you, and so might want one as your main router.


    Note their recommended routers section:

  2. Thanks for such a detailed reply Madwand. I do understand atleast the advantages now and have decided not to get the compact router. I also looked at the recommended routers from the dd-wrt link you posted and had a question there.
    In Tom's hardware and a couple other sites, the best rated routers are Netgear for throughput and performance. Even though I know Linksys is very popular and is generally always higher in price. I wanted to hear people's opinions on Netgear vs Linksys or DLink for that matter. Also, on the dd-wrt link I did not see a netgear product that is compatible, if that is the case would I have to rule out netgear from my list due to non compatibility with dd-wrt?
    Thanks again....
  3. Quote:
    I wanted to hear people's opinions on Netgear vs Linksys or DLink for that matter. Also, on the dd-wrt link I did not see a netgear product that is compatible, if that is the case would I have to rule out netgear from my list due to non compatibility with dd-wrt?

    I think that each of those companies makes some good products and some bad products. There is a bit more in addition regarding the company's "character", cosmetics, etc., but these generally go out the window when you have one of their bad products. In names, I'd also add Buffalo to the list -- this name isn't as well-known, but is popular among the wireless users. But I wouldn't just compare products by brand name -- I'd get specific about the models without prejudice.

    (I'm currently using exactly one of each D-Link, Linksys and Netgear products at home in my wireless network. The D-Link (DGL-4300) is the main router and wireless access point. The Linksys is of course a WRT54G (model 1) which is running a wireless bridge to another room using DD-WRT.

    The Netgear is a WGPS606 -- "Wireless Print Server" which I'm not using as a print server, but as another wireless bridge. This supports client mode bridging, WPA-PSK encryption, and standard 802.11g, but not AES or WPA2 encryption. If it wasn't for the last 2 points, I'd suggest this product to you for your kids' room. But this limit is holding back my wireless security from WPA2 to WPA, and thus indicates a dated product, so I don't feel I should recommend it.

    All these products, within their feature limits, are working "just fine".)

    The wireless landscape is going to get somewhat simpler again once 802.11n gets cleaned up, finished, and becomes a real interoperable standard that doesn't interfere with legacy products. Unfortunately, that's not the case at present, so I cannot personally recommend draft 802.11n products. I'm not even aware of any wireless bridges that support 802.11n. At present, you'd likely buy a product that's unfinished, doesn't interoperate well, might not be upgradable to the final standard, and pollutes the airwaves and interferes with your neighbours' wireless networks.

    So I'd suggest keeping it simple, inexpensive, and not pursuing the absolute best -- the absolute best for the foreseeable future is still in the committee rooms, etc., and is not yet ready and good for public consumption. Once 802.11n is finalized, publicly tested and debugged, the scene changes and you might consider another purchase of the best. In the meanwhile, you'd have greater experience with which to judge your wants.

    Products compatible with DD-WRT at this time give you the greatest flexibility. Buffalo wireless products are generally well-received and priced. Linksys is a viable option.

    If you're interested in additional opinions and options, and don't get enough opinions here, you might also try other forums such as AnandTech, Ars Technica, Hard OCP, etc., etc. I'd suggest reading the existing posts first.

    I really couldn't say what's best overall. I'm sure that there are tons of options which would likely work. I can only give you some opinions and wish you luck.
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