FlashRouters Review

FlashRouters is a US-based company that has carved out a somewhat unique niche for itself. They sell routers that are pre-flashed with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware. In this review, we examine both their flashed routers and their proprietary FlashRouters VPN app.

FlashRouters works with a number of leading VPN providers, so be sure to check before you purchase. FlashRouters, therefore, provides out-of-the-box plug-and-play VPN router solutions.

They have also now developed their own DD-WRT app, which works as an add-on to the DD-WRT firmware. The app allows you to switch between many popular VPN services easily, plus adds some beneficial VPN-related features.

Unfortunately, as time goes on, we've seen a lot of negative customer reviews, and the routers offered are starting to fall behind the times.

Our Score
2 / 5
Readers' Rating
1 / 5
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Price

FlashRouters sells 15-20 different types of routers from 3 of the leading manufacturers: Linksys, Netgear, and Asus. The models they sell vary from low-end examples such as the Netgear R6400 ($150) to full powerhouse routers like the ASUS RT-AC5300 ($499.99). These prices are similar, and in some cases lower, than their competitors.

For this price, you also get their fantastic support, which we outline later on in this post. However, it is more expensive than if you bought the router on its own and then flashed it yourself, but that comes with the risk of ultimately destroying router if you don't do it properly.

Routers from FlashRouters are always successfully pre-flashed. They replace the voided manufacturer's warranty with one from FlashRouters (90-day, extendable up to two years for an additional cost).

The VPN app comes free of charge for all supported FlashRouters routers.

FlashRouters VPN app features

The FlashRouters VPN app comes full of some great features:

  • Easily switch between a choice of VPN services
  • Global kill-switch
  • Policy routing for devices
  • Policy routing for hosts (domains)

Currently, it supports 11 VPN services: Black Box Unzoner (an unblocking service only), ExpressVPN, HMA, IPVanish, IVPN, NordVPN, Private Internet Access (PIA), ProtonVPN, PureVPN, SaferVPN, VyprVPN, and Windscribe.

It is worth noting that DD-WRT itself supports manual configuration for almost any VPN service that supports PPTP and OpenVPN. Therefore, if you buy a router from FlashRouters but don't want to use one of the VPN services supported by its app, you can. However, you will need to configure it manually, and you won't benefit from the additional features offered by the app.

Support

FlashRouters has extensive support mechanisms: email, ticket, live chat, remote desktop, knowledge base, and phone. While none of these are 24/7, it's nice to see such a significant range.

Their live chat, email and ticket systems were usually quick to reply. They were able to help us with most things that were problematic. For complex issues, where they need access to your desktop you will need most likely need remote support. We tested this as well, and it was superb.

For the app, they also provide setup instructions on their website. This includes setup instructions for some of the supported VPN providers. Strangely not for ExpressVPN, though, which has the most complicated setup requirements of the lot.

We experienced some issues with the app when we first looked at it, but were impressed with the response from the FlashRouters support team when we reached out to them. They worked hard to identify the problems and were quick to push out firmware updates once an issue was confirmed.

The process

We received our flashed router, running on Tomato firmware. Within the box, there was also a manual on how to set up and optimize our settings. The whole process from ordering to getting set up was quick and easy.

To use the FlashRouters app, you will need a subscription with one of the VPN services supported by the app. If you don't already have one, then you will need sign-up for one.

To access the app, log in to the router's DD-WRT control panel in your browser -> Status tab -> My Page. In theory, you can also enter "flashroutersapp.com" into the URL bar as a shortcut, but this never worked for us.

DD-WRT control panel

The FlashRouters DD-WRT app

Main page

The main page of the app allows you to select your VPN service from a list of supported providers. In most cases, you need then simply enter your username and password, select a server location, and connect.

Flashrouters VPN app

One issue that we encountered is that server location names are based on the names providers have given to their OpenVPN configuration (.ovpn) files. As we can see in the example below, in some cases these names can be quite cryptic and require a certain understanding of VPN terminology to decipher!

Flashrouters VPN location selector

Fortunately, the app allows you to sort VPN servers by the closest one to you in a chosen country. Alternatively, you can let the app pick a server for you based on which server is the least loaded in a given country.

Flashrouters VPN country selector

FlashRouters informs us that its tests reveal that picking the least loaded server almost always results in the best performance (even more than picking the server in a country closest to you).

The main page of the app also allows you to opt to auto-connect the VPN when the router starts, and to enable the global kill-switch.

Most VPN services need only a username and password to connect, but with ExpressVPN you must also paste in your user certificate and private key. Instructions are not currently provided on how to do this, although we were able to infer the information from more general DD-WRT instructions on the FlashRouters website.

A minor quibble is that if you change VPN provider, your login credentials are not saved for next time you select that provider. This issue is more a nuisance to reviewers such as ourselves, however, than most regular VPN customers.

Kill-switch

The app comes with a kill-switch which cuts off the router's internet connection if the VPN connection fails. This is an essential safety feature that prevents your real IP address becoming exposed when this happens.

In practice, it also prevents any DNS leaks, which is not surprising as the "kill-switch" uses the router's firewall walls to ensure no internet connection is possible outside the VPN interface. As such, it works just as well at preventing IP leaks as it does a kill-switch.

As a kill-switch, it works… but somewhat too well. We were unable to go for more than a few minutes with the kill-switch enabled before losing our internet connection. This might not have been so annoying had the app immediately auto-reconnected the VPN. But as it was, we had to manually disable the kill-switch each time to use the internet again.

It did not take long before we were so annoyed with this that we merely disabled the kill-switch, which also meant that we lost our DNS leak protection.

Options

The Options page allows you to set policy routing for devices and hosts. This is often known elsewhere as split-tunneling. Policy routing for devices lets you choose how each device connected to the router interacts with the VPN connection. There are three options available:

  • Default: traffic to and from the device will be routed through the VPN tunnel if the VPN is enabled. If the kill-switch is on by default, then the device will also use it.
  • Kill-switch: same as default, but with the global kill-switch enabled if it isn't on by default.
  • VPN- bypass: traffic to and from the device will not go through the VPN tunnel.

Flashrouters VPN routing selector

To enable the VPN-bypass option, you need to change a setting in the regular DD-WRT interface and reboot the router. This is easy enough and only needs to be done once. It worked as advertised when we tested it.

Policy routing for hosts lets you specify how particular domain names, IP addresses, or IP ranges are dealt with. Connections to specified hosts can either be forced to always go through the VPN (whether otherwise enabled or not) or can be exempted from the VPN.

Flashrouters VPN Hosts

This is pretty cool, but comes with a big caveat. It doesn't work for sites or services that resolve to multiple domains, which includes Netflix, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, and many other popular streaming services.

Given that exempting streaming services in your own country which otherwise block VPN connections is a significant reason to want this feature, this is a little disappointing. Indeed, it didn't even seem to work for google.com, which is provided as an example in the documentation leaflet!

DNS leaks

We ran IPv4 DNS and WebRTC leaks using ipleak.net. We were unable to test for IPv6 leaks, as Our ISP does not support IPipv6 connections.

No DNS leaks or WebRTC leaks were detected on Windows and Android devices connected to the router, but we experienced regular IPv4 DNS leaks on our Macbook when using the VPN without the kill-switch enabled.

We tested in both Firefox and Chrome using Private/Stealth mode to prevent caching issues from polluting the result. We stress that these were regular DNS leaks, not browser leaks via WebRTC.

As we have noted, however, turning on the global kill-switch fixed the problem. FlashRouters really should consider renaming the global kill-switch to "Global kill-switch and DNS leak protection." But as we also noted, the kill-switch was so annoying that we were forced to turn it off. Which left us with a DNS leak.

FlashRouters should warn people to use it for DNS leak protection. Otherwise, many users are likely to be blissfully unaware that they might be surfing the internet with their real IP exposed when they think it is hidden behind the VPN.

FlashRouters: Conclusion

We liked

  • It's the easiest way there is to set up a VPN on your router!
  • App free for all supported FlashRouters routers
  • A solid range of VPN services are supported
  • Policy routing (split tunneling) for devices
  • Policy routing for hosts
  • Global kill-switch (also acts as DNS leak protection)
  • Fantastic support

We weren't so sure about

  • Policy routing for hosts doesn't work for many sites where it would be most useful
  • Current available routers are a bit behind the times

We hated

  • Users should be warned to enable the kill-switch to ensure that no DNS leaks occur
  • The kill-switch was so unstable we had to disable it. Which also meant we lost DNS leak protection.
  • It's a really expensive option compared to just buying the same router and flashing it yourself (despite the risk).

The FlashRouters DD-WRT app is by far the easiest way to use a VPN on a router. Period. And, the global kill-switch exempted, it works well. Policy routing for hosts is also great in principle – if only we could find a website it works on that we want to use it for! 

The problems we had with the kill-switch are a complete bummer. We found it too unstable to use, a problem only compounded by the fact that we detected DNS leaks when the kill-switch wasn't enabled.

However the flashed routers themselves are decent, however, they're quite pricey given the age of them, and the user reviews have been overwhelmingly negative. If you want a DD-WRT or Tomato router and are too afraid to do it yourself – FlashRouters is definitely a safe option, but for significantly less, you can take the risk of flashing a much newer, and more powerful router.

15 User Reviews

gravatar profile picture
Jenn K
on 2021-10-15 10:15:24.
Overall score: 2
Don't waste your money. Prices well beyond market for the routers, ours not only didn't work on desired sites but the internet ran much worse with it on. Express VPN worked on sites this didn't work on. Now I'm out restocking and shipping fees just to try it for an hour
gravatar profile picture
Brandon
on 2021-11-18 21:04:03.
Overall score: 1
I would suggest looking elsewhere if you are considering FlashRouters. I have a US-based job and moved to South America for a while, so I paid $300 for a flashed router to be sent to me. (The pre-flashed it with NordVPN) The setup gave me a little difficulty, given the very complex setup/home page for your service. I then experienced CRIPPLINGLY slow internet speeds - as in, going from over 100Mbps to 1Mbps. When I reached out to Customer Service, this was the answer I was given: "First, I must clarify that speed loss is always going to occur when connecting to VPN and this is not avoidable. Second, speed test results while connected to VPN are never going to be accurate. A speed test measures the rate at which a data packet travels from one server to another, however when you are connecting to VPN the data packets travel to an extra server where they are encrypted and then sent back into the route. This means that the measure of the speed test can not be accurate. Given this I recommend simply using the router as intended without getting to caught up in speed tests." The entire reason for my purchase, and indeed what they market themselves as being USED for , is to use a VPN on the router. What a terrible response from the company. I cannot stress enough how disappointed I am to have wasted money with them.
gravatar profile picture
Markos
on 2021-10-11 02:06:16.
Overall score: 1
I urge you to not purchase a router from FlashRouters. They refuse to support you after purchase unless you buy a support agreement from them. The adaptor which they provide for US to Australian electrical plug conversion is also cheap rubbish and doesn't work well at all
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Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

10 Comments

Bill
on September 6, 2020
Reply
Hey Ray, the end users comments don’t seem to align with your review of FlashRouters. What do you make of this ?
James
on April 8, 2020
Reply
I have been a Flashrouter customer for about a year and their support is anything but good. Once they have your order they only provide the most basic support and try to get you to purchase their other support packages at additional cost. They fail to keep their applications up to date and then take their time in resolving related problems while their sales people try to sell you support packages. I regret my purchase with them and would not recommend them.
James
on March 23, 2020
Reply
hi, I wonder if they still support tomato, in their routers now, only dd wrt appear and dont know if their app works with tomato?
martin kamandu
on January 9, 2020
Reply
Bought a netgear nighthawk r9000 x10 AD7200 DD-WRT flashrouter and it was a waste of time and money . Right from the box after plugging in the wife appeared for 20 minutes then dissappered. i tried to troble shoot from all their website nothing doing. Then i returned it and i received is back today. Same problem they never fixed it i spent $28 to ship it with return postage. I had a long chat with customer service. asked them why and all he could tell me was the power supply cord really. i told him the unit is on and the lights on the netgear are flashing meaning itrs not the power cord . and if it were why would you send the unit back without fixing it. Then i went to their website and saw all the negative feed back from feefo (https://www.feefo.com/en-US/reviews/flashrouters?withMedia=false&timeFrame=YEAR&displayFeedbackType=BOTH&serviceScores=1) and am like i guess their used to doing this. So they will get the product back for a refund then sell it to somone else and the circus continues .I have he chat history with me . If they couldnt fix it the first timewhy would they want to trouble shoot remotely and they had the unit in their posession. 300 bucks unit plus 28 bucks for shipping back and forth . then another 15 bucks to return for a refund. Then they take 25 bucks for restocking to sell to another person. CRAZYYYYYYY
James replied to martin kamandu
on April 8, 2020
Reply
At least they didn't try to milk you for more money with their additional cost support. I'm surprised they are still in business.
Jens Meyer replied to James
on July 2, 2020
Reply
Relieved to read that I am not the only fool buying from them - I got roped into it via the very good reviews on ExpressVPN and deeply regret the $ 500 I spent. I too returned it to them for correcting some issue, and have yet to hear anything from them. I also contacted ExpressVPN, thinking that - since they provide a link to FlashRouters - they would take some responsibility. Turns out: NO, ExpressVPN takes zero responsibility and truly does not care particularly about the effect of their "recommendations" upon their customers. I will cancel my ExpressVPN.
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