The Linksys WRT54GL is a compact unit that uses the older wireless-G technology. It can be a good choice if your laptops and desktops aren't compatible with newer wireless standards such as wireless-N or wireless-AC, and you don't want to upgrade them or you don't mind sacrificing some speed to save money. The venerable WRT54G-series router is revered by tons of owners at Amazon.com and Newegg.com for its "hackability."
Works straight out of the box. Reviews say this wireless-G router is reliable, easy to set up and secure. The series has been on the market for years, and users say the WRT54GL works fine from day one.
Solid long-term capabilities. As an 802.11g wireless router, the inexpensive Cisco Linksys WRT54GL simply can't compete with the speeds of an 802.11n or 802.11ac unit. Still, thousands of owners swear by the Cisco, saying it delivers solid performance over the long haul.
Hackable, wireless-G technology. Unlike our other Best Reviewed routers, the WRT54GL has 10/100 Ethernet ports instead of high-speed Gigabit Ethernet ports. It includes a four-port Fast Ethernet switch, and up-to-date encryption and firewall protection.
Because of its open-source, Linux-based software, developers have created their own firmware that lets this router do all kinds of things it was never designed to do, such as control bandwidth usage and signal power. Linksys supports only its official firmware, however, so if you change it and run into problems, you'll be on your own.
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Griffith lists 10 ways to make your home network run faster. One of them is to "hack the wireless," or substitute outside firmware to make your router better. He says the Linksys WRT54G is the "most hackable of routers."
Review: The Bionic Home Network, Eric Griffith, Oct. 2, 2007
Because professional reviews of the Linksys WRT54GL are hard to come by, user feedback is more meaningful. With more than 3,850 Newegg.com user posts, this router gets an overall rating of 5 eggs out of 5.
Review: Linksys WRT54GL Wireless Broadband Router 802.11b/g, Contributors to Newegg.com, As of July 2013
Amazon.com attracts more than 1,600 user reviews of the Linksys WRT54GL. Owners give it an overall score of 4.2 stars out of 5, and more than 1,050 consumers give the router a perfect 5-star rating.
Review: Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Broadband Router, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of July 2013
Weiss explains how and why the Linksys WRT54G-series routers came to be so hacker-friendly, how to find and use outside firmware for them, and includes some cautions about such firmware.
Review: The Open Source WRT54G Story, Aaron Weiss, Nov. 8, 2005