Last Edited by Stratuscaster
February 5, 2017
NOTE: Tanga is NOT Amazon. The ordering and shipping process is MUCH slower. Expect at least 15 days from order to receipt. Once a shipping label is generated, it is far more difficult for you to cancel your order. Be sure to read Tanga's policies and understand and be willing to accept them before you buy.
It is noted that Tanga will collect funds when you place the order, NOT when the order ships.
Q: Will this work with [insert your cable provider name here]?
A: This is a router NOT a cable modem. It will work with ANY provider's cable modem.
Q: I just need a router -- do I need to worry about flashing this?
A: No! Do so only if you want: Newer/more frequent bug fixes, security patches, need features in the official or alternate firmware options. (See similar Q+A below for a more detailed answer)
Q: I've never upgraded firmware / a router before. Should I start with this one?
A: Probably not. It's more complex than most due to T-Mobile locking it down preventing 'simple' upgrades to alternate firmware. (See similar Q+A below for a more detailed answer)
Q: What makes this so slick of a deal?
A: Even though it is 3 years old, the router is currently rated the #3 AC1900 router [N600 Mbps (2.4 GHz) + AC1300 Mbps (5.0 GHz) speeds] available on at least one dedicated networking site review. The identical official ASUS router runs around $130, so this is less than half the price.
Q: What is missing with T-Mobile firmware? Can I use without flashing to ASUS/Merlin?
A: With stock T-Mobile firmware, you have default/forced Quality of service (QoS) optimized for T-Mobile and perhaps other carrier Wi-Fi calling. It is very stable and the performance is great. But you cannot use it as a repeater. (edit: port forwarding definitely works on T-Mobile stock firmware). If you need these features, you must flash other firmware.
Q: What's the difference between this and a N / 2.4 GHz router?
A: This router has 5GHz band which delivers much higher throughput, and less interference in WiFi crowded areas (apartments, tight housing area) since 5 GHz band has 23 non-overlapping channels (for comparison 2.4 GHz band has only 3).
Q: My device only sees the 2.4 GHz SSID! Where is the 5 GHz AC?
A: Assuming 5GHz is still enabled in the Asus router (should have an indicator light), the client device probably does not have the right antenna + chipset to see or use 5GHz -- supporting only the older 2.4GHz standard. Many notebooks can have the WiFi module replaced with an upgraded card, but you'd want to research that particular model to make sure the antenna configuration supports 5GHz. Upgrade the wireless network card in your device or upgrade your device. Intel or NetGear cards run about $10-$20 on eBay and can sometimes upgrade a cheap laptop that only supported one band to others or upgrade from slower AC to faster AC. It's not just the router, it's the router + device that lets you get a certain level of speed.
Note: some devices can only connect to certain channels in 5GHz band so experiment with channels starting from 36 up to 165.
Q: Can I use this router with my current modem?
A: Yes. But make sure to turn off the modem routing functionality (if any) by switching it to "Bridge mode" to avoid conflicts[netgear.com].
Q: Can I reuse my old router to fill in Wi-Fi dead zones in my house/apt?
A: Yes. You can set it up as an Access Point (AP) per this guide[labnol.org].
Q: Mine worked for a few days now can't work even a few feet from the unit on one or both bands
A: You likely have a hardware failure especially if you've tried different settings, different devices and different firmware. Initiate a return or exchange. (Only a handful have experienced this and some have on other brands of routers too)
Q: Why do I need to worry about flashing this?
A: You don't. For many people the T-Mobile firmware will work fine. However it is known to have issues with certain functions in recent builds breaking compatibility with some devices (Xbox online gaming) and may be lacking in recent security fixes (hackers attacking the router itself not your computer). For those reasons it's suggested to consider going to the official ASUS firmware at a minimum, Merlin optionally or the many other open source ones listed below if you feel you are a power user and want extra functionality and tweaking ability.
Q: Why is it so hard to flash this unit? I've put open source firmware on other routers before in under 5 clicks/5 minutes..
A: The T-Mobile firmware disabled the emergency bootloader. That prevents you from putting any other firmware on it. Therefore the vast majority of the steps are about replacing the bootloader with an open one and increasing the size of the storage partition to accommodate newer firmware. Once you are through this part, putting other firmware on is going to be no different than any other router.
DO NOT flash if you do not have the need to do so. This router will works FINE out of the box for the average person using stock T-Mobile firmware.
Note that there is a chance of bricking the router if you do not follow the CFE changing instructions properly.
DETAILED FLASHING INSTRUCTIONS
--- User Bootymonger's instructions using SSH and WinSCP - LINK.
--> Additional steps using some ASUS software (sushiserv) - LINK
--- User Stratuscaster's instructions (updated 12/28/2016). Based on Bootymonger's steps, but in more detail - LINK
--- User jasonbuechler's screen recordings and instructions (updated 12/23/2016). Sorta based on Stratuscaster's and munchy_cool's guides. (OS X + no USB + no hex editing + no new apps) - LINK
--- User Engineer's instructions using Telnet and a USB flash drive (use next link to enable telnet first) - LINK.
--- Old thread with telnet instructions in Wiki - LINK.
--- Step-by-step video using Windows 10 and Telnet. Check comments if your T-Mobile CellSpot is on 188.8.131.52.376_3169. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_giMfTYIzI
Note 1: In the video the person doesn't transfer/copy over the WPS "secret" code, so don't forget to do that. Same process as transferring/copying mac except you search for "secret" which should be the WPS code on the back of the router.
Note 2: It's safer and faster to use the "cfe.exe" file which transfers the MAC addresses for you.
For those noting that the CPU and power amps are running hot -- they do, a lot hotter than most smaller routers. The fix that can drop the CPU temp by 60*F (190* to 130*) and the radios by 25*F (130* to 105*) is to plug in a USB fan meant for cooling laptops and place it against the back of the router. See this post for an image showing the reduction in temps in just 10-20 minutes: https://slickdeals.net/forums/showpost.php?p=93212632&postcount=3657