Seeking Home Network Happiness
TL;DR: My home firewall/router is slow, please help me pick out a new one.
After replacing my firewall/router/WiFi access point one too many times, I’m ready to get off the upgrade treadmill and buy something better than the consumer-grade gear sold at Staples.
My current device is a TP-Link Archer C7 V5, running the latest firmware. I purchased it in a rush during COVID because my previous unit (a NetGear Orbi) stopped working mid-day and I needed to get the house back online right away. It’s worked well for 18 months and there isn’t anything wrong with it per se. In fact, I’m still happy with the wireless.
Why am I looking to upgrade now? It seems that the “internet” port on this device taps out at less than 200Mbps. Spectrum recently upgraded their standard service tier to 300Mbps and I’m not getting that speed. In fact, if I plug my computer into the cable modem directly I can get over 350Mbps out of it!
I’m ready to play with the big kids and get something that’ll be solid, reliable, deliver my full speed today and be ready for future ISP speed upgrades. I don’t think I need to replace the entire device right now, I should be fine with a firewall that plugs in between the cable modem and the rest of my network.
I don’t really know what to look for though - what products are good, which ones should be avoided, how much I need to buy, etc. Which is why I’m writing this in the first place. I’m not a networking person, but I’m aware of a few products on the market:
- Ubiquity Dream Machine SE
- pfSense (software and devices)
But are any of these the right fit for me? My network isn’t anything outlandish (diagram below), it’s a pretty typical (I think) home network for someone who doesn’t have a lot of home automation going on, but does have a couple teenagers spending too much time watching YouTube plus two adults working from home. The total device count is about two dozen wireless devices and under 10 wired devices. I run Pi-hole to filter advertising and some tracking cookies. Being able to take that a step further and do some additional blocking on the network would be nice as well, especially since it’s recently come to light that the home security cameras I bought last summer might not be as good as I was led to believe (I guess what I’m saying is, “I would like to block all IPs in certain countries”).
Whatever I get needs to be relatively easy to manage, in case I’m not around and someone else needs to be able to log in and switch off anything odd that I might have configured. Cost is a factor, but not the only factor - if I’m buying something that’ll last me 5-10 years, I can accept spending a bit more. I have no idea what the good and bad brands are in this space, and I have no brand loyalty here.
So, dear reader, do you have any recommendations for what I should buy? Are there critical features I should be looking for? Please reach out to me via any of my social media or email my first name at this domain.