An Average Geek's Review of Kong's DD-WRT for NETGEAR WNR3500L

I may only dabble in programming, installing Linux distros and playing with networking equipment, but I love me some open source firmware. As a self-respecting gadget geek (aren't we all--maybe it's too cliche for me say that at this point) I have a large number of devices in my home that are connected to my router. As such, it's really the nerve center of my little condo and my (and the Mrs.'s) connected life, and stability and speed are important.

Given that I don't often use many of the complicated and very specific-use features in DD-WRT, I think I'm qualified to give a good perspective of what it's like to use DD-WRT in a normal technically-savvy household with lots of connected devices--and how it can really benefit the average user.


I'm going to kick off with what is probably the most important thing to virtually everyone--stability. Nobody wants a router that slows down your devices, locks up, powers down randomly, or does other ghostly and unpredictable things. It's especially important for me, as depriving the wife of Netflix usually leads to dramatically dangerous situations.

That being said, I'm happy to report that Kong's DD-WRT on my classic WNR3500L has been flawlessly stable. Quite literally, I haven't had to reboot my router due to any fault in the firmware for exactly 4 months from today. (I have had to reboot it due to my Comcast connection changing IP's and a new modem install, but that was it.) I've never had a problem with speeds slowing down or poor network transfer speeds.

Plus, every single device I own connects to the router without fail, whether over wireless or wired connections. Here's what I have in my system as of now, along with several devices that were connected at some point but I may not still have or use:

  • NETGEAR WNR3500L Router
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Sony PSP
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • XBOX 360
  • Windows 7 PC
  • Windows 7 Laptop
  • Google CR-48 Chromebook
  • Sony VAIO P (ran Linux, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 at different points)
  • Apple MacBook
  • Apple iPad 2
  • Acer Netbook (Windows XP)
  • Chumby
  • NETGEAR ReadyNAS v2
  • Windows Phone
  • Samsung Galaxy Note (on several different versions of Android including stock, most recently Jelly Bean)
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy Epic 4G Touch

As you can see, I've run many different devices of all ages and types, and every single one connects and works with the WNR3500L running Kong's firmware without a hitch.

Note also that I have never once had to manually forward ports for any of these devices--the uPnP functionality in this firmware seems to work extremely well.

Kong's DD-WRT Has Features You Can Really Use

While DD-WRT in general is packed full of advanced, specific features that aren't likely to be used by the average owner, this custom firmware makes doing a lot of tasks easier and more flexible. Here's some of what it has to offer.

Easy Access Restrictions Setup

This is one of the most asked-for features in a router used in a family household, where parents desire to limit or prohibit Internet access for certain PC's in the house, at certain times, or for certain sites. Rather than a complicated setup procedure, an "automagical" filter, or using a third party service or application, DD-WRT lets you set this up right from the router's GUI... for free.

Virtual Wi-Fi Networks

DD-WRT makes it easy to set up separate wireless networks. This comes in handy if you have an older device that only supports up to WPA encryption, or want to create a separate network for house guests. It's easy to use as well.

Advanced QoS (Quality of Service) Features, Gamer Optimization

Networking veterans will already know what this is, but for the newbie or regular user, this feature can come in handy if you have lots of different types of traffic coming through on your network, and want to prioritize those services based on their importance. This is especially crucial if you have limited bandwidth to work with.

For example, it might be super important that your connection works flawlessly for online gaming (don't want to lose that kill streak in BF3!) but not as important to snag that torrent of that totally legal thing you wanted. You might be able to prioritize this simply by using the "Optimiize for Gaming" feature, but can also fine-grain which services you want to take priority. Personally, I've found automatic QoS to leave something to be desired in most routers, so this feature in DD-WRT really fits the bill.

Advanced Wireless Features

If you're having a strange or unexpected issue, DD-WRT does have an entire screen devoted to advanced wireless features and tweaking. This screen can be intimidating, but it's important to be aware of it, as it can sometimes be used to fix something obscure. For example, I was experiencing slow wireless speeds on my Epic 4G Touch with custom firmware, but was able to overcome this issue by enabling "Afterburner." I don't have an explanation for why this worked (it shouldn't have made a difference at all) but it did.

A detailed explanation of what these features mean and do can be found on the DD-WRT Wiki.

Kong's Firmware Is King

To sum it all up--I haven't summed it all up. DD-WRT is packed  to the brim with functionality, and I've barely scratched the surface.

For the average user, though, Kong's DD-WRT's combination of stability and useful "more-than-basic" features is a home run sure to please any WNR3500L owner.

My experiences outlined here are with the 19277 build dated 5/20/2012; I haven't updated because I haven't needed to. You can get the 19545 build here, and all DD-WRT downloads for the WNR3500L here.