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 the more recent wireless-N standard, and you don't want to upgrade them -- or if you don't mind sacrificing some speed to save money. The venerable WRT54G-series router is revered by hundreds of owners at Amazon.com and Newegg.com for its "hackability."
Works straight out of the box. Reviews say the unit is reliable, easy to set up and secure. The series has been on the market for years, and users say the latest version, the WRT54GL, works fine right out of the box.
Solid long-term capabilities. The Cisco Linksys WRT54GL is based on the older 802.11g wireless networking standard, so it's not as fast as 802.11n routers. Thousands of owners swear by this router, 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 (GbE) ports, and Linksys says the router is compatible only with Windows 2000, XP and Vista. It includes a four-port Fast Ethernet switch and up-to-date encryption and firewall protection. But 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. Note that Linksys supports only its official firmware, so if you change it and run into problems, you'll be on your own. In addition, wireless-G technology is fading. If you want to stream video or need better range and speeds, experts recommend a wireless-N router.
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Review Credibility: Good PCMag.com's Eric Griffith lists 10 ways to make your home network run faster. One of them is to "hack the wireless" -- in other words, 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
Review Credibility: Good Because professional reviews of the Linksys WRT54GL are hard to come by, user reviews are more meaningful. With more than 3,700 Newegg.com user reviews, the Linksys WRT54GL 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 January 2013
Review Credibility: Good Amazon.com has more than 1,300 user reviews of the Linksys WRT54GL. They give it an overall score of 4.2 stars out of 5, with more than 800 owners giving it a perfect 5-star rating.
Review: Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Broadband Router, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2013
Review Credibility: Fair This article explains how and why the Linksys WRT54G-series routers came to be so hacker-friendly, and how to find and use outside firmware for them -- along with some cautions about such firmware.
Review: The Open Source WRT54G Story, Aaron Weiss, Nov. 8, 2005