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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The WRT54GL Killer: Netgear’s Open Source WNR3500L


Ever since Linksys released the first version of their WRT54G,the company has made a name for itself with its open-source routers. Although the WRT54G series switched to a proprietary vxWorks OS starting with revision 5, the open-source tradition continued with the later WRT54GL model, a unit designed specifically for the Linux/modding/open-source/power-user community. There’s a reason why the WRT54GL has won the Newegg Customer Choice Award a whopping 28 times…because it’s AWESOME. I am currently a proud owner of 3 of these little guys. Well, more specifically, the WRT54GL is compatible with a smorgasbord of third-party projects and firmwares, the most popular being DD-WRT, OpenWRT and Tomato.  Sure, there are numerous other open source-compatible routers from Asus, Buffalo, and whatnot, but the WRT54GL will remain close to every geek’s heart. Although its 802.11g and 10/100 Ethernet might be getting a little long in the tooth these days, it remains the gold standard of its niche.

Until now.

Netgear has just announced its new WNR3500L router, which, judging from its feature set, seems directly aimed to compete with the WRT54GL and other open-source routers. Supposedly the device will offer strong third-party support straight out of the gate with a developer program and compatibility with DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato as well. Perhaps mostly importantly, though, are the WNR3500L’s specifications of 802.11n and Gigabit Ethernet. This may be the first consumer-oriented device that combines high performance with the flexibility of open-source firmware. Plus, its minimalist black look is definitely an improvement over the cute but aging blue Linksys box shape.

Undoubtedly, eager buyers will jump on these as soon as Netgear starts selling ‘em. In the meantime, we’ll stay tuned for more information and the inevitable head-to-head comparison. Is the WNR3500L a WRT54GL killer?

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