Building A Cheap Wireless N Bridge

Having a blast figuring out  Wireless N bridging.  The idea is to bridge two wireless routers together so that I don’t have to run an ethernet cable to my entertainment area so that my HTPC and Xbox 360 can get on to my LAN with minimal cost.

My setup currently consists of:

  • Netgear WNDR3700 v1 01R15 v1.07.98NA
  • Trendnet TEW-673GRU flashed w/DD-WRT v24-sp2 build 17201

The Netgear I purchased immediately after it was available from launch.  The Trendnet was a recent impulse buy after I discovered you can flash it to DD-WRT.  Both, incidentally, are from Dell days-of-deals (oh how many countless dollars have been spent on those).

The TEW-673GRU is identical to the D-Link DIR-825 router, sporting an Atheros AR7161 680MHz CPU, 8 MB of flash, and 64 MB of RAM.  Pretty impressive specs. In fact, the same as my Netgear which cost twice as much!  After flashing to DD-WRT the LCD on the top is rendered useless.  You will be without port LED indicators, but that’s the least of my concerns.

I first struggled with flashing the 673GRU to DD-WRT.  Little did I know, just flash directly using the modded DIR-825 DD-WRT found here.  I was trying to flash using the recovery mode which just didn’t want to work.  Afterwards, you can upgrade directly to the latest version for the DIR-825.  Make sure to set the Antenna dbi to 3 to match the stock antennas, otherwise your signal quality will be garbage.

Second, follow these instructions for setting up Client Bridge mode.   I struggled here, and was finally able to get it working with WPA-TKIP.  You also have to be patient and wait for it to negotiate.  I found that I had to disable/renable my computer NIC whenever I made changes to the wireless configuration.  It’s renewing the routing table or something, I suppose.

But then I realized, what the heck, why am I only getting 54Mbps throughput on Wireless N 5GHz???  I tried upgraded to the latest WNDR3700 firmware (1.07.98NA), and then realized that you can only select 150 or 300 Mbps using WPA2-AES.

“GREAT!”  I thought.

Flipped everything over, saw my 673GRU negotiate a 300M/300M link.  Excellent.  Ping test to my router results in 1ms response.  So far so good.

Copy a file… and BAM.  RX mode drops to 6 Mbps.  TX stays at around 270-300.

Then I remembered reading about the WNDR3700 antenna issues.  Great.  My device is a 01R15 – one of the original release units.  No wonder my Belkin Wireless N PCMCIA card choked.  I thought it was because it was a cheap $5 clearance item.

Next step, test my 673GRU with the Belkin Wireless N card and see if I can negotiate and sustain a 150 Mbps connection.  If this works, I’ll be picking up another 673GRU.  The value of these things is incredible.  My only wish is that Tomato router firmwares supported Atheros chipsets and not just Broadcom.

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