I made the decision recently to purchase another Linksys WRT54GL wireless router. My first one got zapped by lightning, and I replaced it with a cheap-o TRENDnet that’s about to bite the dust, so I made the decision to go with another WRT54GL.
Now to note, the WRT54GL is arguably the best consumer wireless router, as there is business-grade stuff that obviously is built much better with a rackmount steel chassis. But when it comes to something that “just works” in the home, the WRT54GL is it.
What’s the differences between the WRT54G, WRT54GS and the WRT54GL?
It’s more or less all about the internal memory. All the specs are here from revision to revision, but the unit that had the most on-board memory was the early revision GS model with 32MB RAM and 8MB flash.
The GL has 16MB RAM and 4MB flash, and full support for Tomato, OpenWrt and DD-WRT.
The GL is also arguably the best chassis of the lot simply for the fact it has real-deal detachable antennas on it. Fortunately, that’s the one currently still available for sale new.
In other words, no, it is not advisable to acquire an older model. You’ll probably get the one where you can’t detach the antennas, and the ability to hack the firmware will be so-so or just not work.
Why is the WRT54GL so good even though it only has a maximum Wireless G speed?
It’s because the WRT54GL is amazingly stable. The big chassis with good ventilation basically makes it impossible to overheat (at least in stock, unmodified form). And rarely will you ever see a 54GL “flake out” a connection, wired or wireless. The way it handles networking is just amazing.
In the wireless router world, there’s a ton of junk out there – including several by Linksys themselves that were just really, really bad. But not the 54GL.
The 54GL is one of the very few pieces of networking hardware where I can say, “Yep, buy that and you’ll love it” and be totally confident with that statement.
Are there any flaws with the 54GL?
Just one, but it’s something that doesn’t bother most people.
The installation procedure is complicated. Generally speaking, you never want to use the install CD and instead go straight to the admin program and configure everything manually.
Also, the admin interface is more or less the same old-school thing it was in 2003, meaning it was made at a time when “routers were routers”, meaning to a newbie it is not a friendly interface at all – and “wide open” until you set some wireless security on it.
However, to many computer geeks who read this, it will “feel like home” because a ton of you have used a 54G or 54GL at some point or another. It’s the same interface you remember and not much has changed, which in this case is a very good thing.
And even if you’re not super-geeky, there is a TON of online documentation (probably more than any other router) on the WRT54GL, and it’s really easy to find.
If you buy one, don’t forget the cables
A good thing to practice is that whenever buying any new router, always replace your network cables whether you think you need them or not. Yes, this will add in 10 to 20 bucks of extra cost, but it’s worth it to ensure the new router will perform at its best with fresh cable.