Networking

Review: Tomato router firmware

If you're willing to risk voiding a warranty by flashing your device's firmware, Tomato firmware can unlock powerful new functionality on your router. Jack Wallen reviews its features.

A router is a router is a router. Right? Wrong. If you have had enough experience with routers, you know that many a default router firmware fails to handle some of the tasks that many IT admins really need (or want) them to handle. Sure, in a residential setting a default Asus router works great. But what if you want that router to work as a printer server? That Asus firmware is going to fail you for sure.

That doesn't mean you are out of luck. There are a number of options you can use to replace that default firmware. One of those options is the Tomato firmware. This firmware replacement will bring a number of features to your router that you wouldn't have had otherwise. But is this firmware right for you and your needs? Let's find out.

Requirements

  • Supported hardware ( Linksys' WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers)
  • Working Internet connection (to download firmware)
  • Wired connection from computer to router (to flash firmware to router)

Who's it for?

The Tomato firmware is for anyone that needs more from their router than just the basics. And even though many of today's routers offer much more advanced features, the firmware they use lock those features out. Tomato unlocks those features and puts them back into play. But flashing a router isn't for just anyone. Even though the task is simple, one mistake can turn that router into nothing more than a paperweight. So only those with stomach enough to handle the flashing of a devices' firmware need apply.

What problem does it solve?

Tomato opens up so many features to your router you will be shocked at how basic the default router was. Instead of being locked to what the manufacturer thinks you need, why not install a firmware that will allow you to do what you need it to do. And once you have used Tomato you will never use a stock router firmware again.

Standout features

  • Printer server
  • Bandwidth tracking
  • Configurable quality of service rules
  • Alerts
  • Access restriction rules
  • Wireless Distribution System support

Tomato main page.

As you can see, from the first login page, Tomato offers features standard router firmware only dreams of.

What's wrong?

If you don't like the idea of flashing a piece of hardware you may as well forget about Tomato. Although Tomato is one of the finest router firmwares available, no company has yet to pick it up and make it official. Because of that, you will not have support. And by flashing your device with Tomato you will invalidate your Linksys warranty.

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

The one feature that makes this firmware so attractive to businesses is the printer server. If your business needs to deploy network printers, but you don't want to pony up for a network printer, you can simply flash a Linksys router with Tomato and connect your printer. What more do you need from a router? Well, with Tomato you get plenty. If your business uses a supported router, you should definitely consider flashing with Tomato. The extra features and functionality you get with this firmware makes voiding the warranty a complete afterthought. Now, if only companies like Linksys would model their own firmware after Tomato.

User rating

Have you deployed Tomato on your router? If so, how would you rate your experience? Rate this operating system below and compare your results to what other TechRepublic members think.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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