So, the question has been asked a thousand times before – Which hardware version should I buy? Well, we are here to provide you with the knowledge to make that decision. Features added or lost between revisions will the one of the two primary aims of the Autopsy articles. The second being a detailed look a the hardware components that make up each revision.
As this is our first article I’ll set up a format. With each revision we will discuss the gross anatomy, the internal anatomy, and the evolutionary differences.
Following the reviews of the available versions is a summary chart that follows significant features and their evolution. Those that are of particular interest (best so far) will be set off in Bold.As new revisions are produced we’ll give you the skinny of how their built, what may be of use to you, and the potentials that lie within. This is a plea: If you happen to have any Linksys hardware, current or not-so-current, and would like to donate to our database for autopsy, feel free to contact me.
The version 1 router has several other distinguishing features from its later siblings. Cosmetically, the router has the full set of LEDs weâ€™re used to on Linksys products, with 3 lights per port. LEDs include Power, DMZ, Diag, WLAN Act, WLAN Link, Link/Act, Full/Coll, and 10/110 for each LAN port and the same three for the Internet (WAN) port.
Later versions removed all but one light for each connection, leaving Power, DMZ, WLAN, 4 LAN, and 1 Internet (WAN). Additionally a quick clue to a version 1.0 router, the Cisco logo that has shown up on v1.1 and above is missing from the front panel. The power supply also suffers from being the odd ball of the bunch. The US Spec is rated at 5V DC 2.0A. While more and more of Linksysâ€™ products seem to be released on a 12V standard, being a 5V application allows it to be used with the WAPPOE accessory product Linksys provides for Power over Ethernet applications. This may be help when you want to place the unit in a remote location for better signal broadcast.
The internals of this first version are quite different from the following versions. As you can see, the motherboard has a Mini PCI slot that allows for flexibility in wireless card application. In the retail WRT54G the Mini PCI card is the same as can be found in the WMP54G. The antennas are soldered directly onto the board in the WMP54G. While the Mini PCI card in the WRT54G has its cables attached via the more standard U.FL (sometimes called Hirose) connector. Lifting the router antennas out and removing the card from the Mini PCI slot gives you a card to upgrade the 802.11b solution that may be built in your laptop or tablet PC. You can use the drivers provided by Linksys for the WMP54G.
Overall â€“ The 1.0 revision started what has become a great hobby and it provides two features later revs donâ€™t â€“ 5V power and Mini PCI architecture. Of course, these are only helpful if youâ€™re looking for these features, otherwise, Iâ€™d go with a v. 2.0. Component Lists can be found in the comparison chart.
As you can see from the picture, Linksys removed 12 of the 20 lights in this update. While this may be a disappointment to some who like extra indicator LEDs, it’s not a terrible loss. Having only one LED per port only indicates a successful Link (solid) or Activity (blinking).
Version 1.1 also sports the Cisco logo as Linksys had become a part of Cisco with the v1.1 release. Last but not least, the power supply is moved to a 12V 1.0A DC setup.
Once we open up the router, we see a very different image â€“ the Mini PCI slot is gone and everything is integrated onto the board. Other than the loss of the Mini PCI card, the manufacturing cost model probably shifted in favor of an integrated model, the components remain the same.
This unit is virtually indistinguishable from the outside from a v1.1 until you flip it over. The only indication you have v2.0 hardware is the product label which now states WRT54Gv2. Power is supplied by the same 12V 1A DC Power supply as the v 1.1.
In a tricky ploy, the version 2.0 does not have its own box but is rather packaged in the same boxes as the v1.1 routers and can only be identified by their package serial number which begins with CDF5xxxx, where the v 1.1 run from CDF2xxxx-CDF3xxxx. Everything else on the outside is the same as v1.1 including the LED setup:
The v2.0 shows why itâ€™s a new version once you open it up and take a peek inside. The CPU and MAC chips are now integrated into a one chip solution from Broadcom, the BCM4712KPB. The Radio is still a separate chip and uses the same BCM2050 found on the previous versions. The new CPU/MAC also sports a clock speed increase from 125MHz to 200MHz. Along the front edge of the board to the right of the LEDs you can see a 2×6 and 2×5 pinout from left to right. The 2×6 connector is an EJTAG port (thanks rwhitby). The 2×5 pinout contains connections for two serial ports. This is a new feature of the board, though supported by earlier CPUs.
This unit is virtually indistinguishable from the outside from a v1.1 or v2.0 until you flip it over. The only indication you have v2.2 hardware is the product label which now states WRT54Gv2.2 (?). Power is supplied by the same 12V 1A DC Power supply as the v 1.1 and v2.0.
We are currently working to determine if the serial numbers differ from the v2.0 hardware Everything else on the outside is the same as v1.1 and v2.0including the LED setup
The v2.2 sports a new Ethernet controller chip from Broadcom, the BCM5325E, the picture is incorrectly labelled. Other than that, there are no other differences between the V2.0 and V2.2. This same chip was used in the move to the GS V1.1.
The Version 3.0 hardware adds a new button the left side of the router, directly behind the Cisco logo. This button also has red and white surface mounted leds behind it. This button is supposed to be used for Linksys and Broadcom’s new Secure EZ Setup for setting up Wireless security.
I will get a picture up of the button shortly. Everything else on the outside is the same as v1.1, v2.0, and v2.2 including the LED setup:
Motherboard pictures are courtesy of our user Windsurfer. The v3.0 has no other differences from the V2.0 and V2.2 other than the switch that you can see to the bottom left side of the motherboard.
Version 5 looks exactly the same earlier linux based versions. Use the label on the bottom of router or serial numer on the box to identify version.
Serial Numbers begin with CDFB. The hardware is very similar to the v4.0 however it has less RAM available (2Mb/8Mb) It also runs on VxWorks and not Linux and so no 3rd party firmware will exist for this version of router.
WRT54GS v1.0 Gross Anatomy
Once again the router is virtually indistinguishable from the outside save for a sticker indicating the addition of SpeedBooster and the different model name WRT54GS versus WRT54G. The spartan LED setup remains the same â€“ besides, who wants additional info on the connection speed or collisions?
Let the conspiracy theories begin to fly – the only distinguishable differences from the non-SpeedBooster WRT54Gv2.0 is the doubling of both RAM and Flash. The System RAM gets bumped from 16 to 32 MB and the Flash memory from 4MB to 8MB. Additionally, there are two different solder pads for the Flash chip, the GS occupies the more forward and the GV2 the rearward. This may just be due to the flash size. The sites for the serial and EJTAG ports also remain in the GS motherboard. If anyone is willing to take the RF cover off their router, perhaps we can get a better look at the Radio on each of these versions.
Obviously those people using â€˜hackedâ€™ firmware that allows for add-ons will appreciate the extra memory space. The CPU remains the same 200MHz as in the v2.0 hardware.
WRT54GS v1.1 Gross Anatomy
The only difference between the WRT54GS v1.0 and v1.1 should be found in the label. If you are looking for one in the store, the Serial Numbers for the v1.1 start with CGN2xxx where the v1.0 started with CGN1xxx
Like with the WRT54G upgrade to v2.2, the v1.1 WRT54GS hardware revision gets a change to the Broadcom BCM5325E ethernet controller as well.
Thanks to Olek Kwasniewski for the great photo!
Serial Numbers begin with CGN3
WRT54GS v2.1 Gross External Anatomy Use the label on the bottom to identify version.
Serial Numbers begin with CGN4
WRT54GS v3.0 Gross External Anatomy
see the label on the bottom to identify version.
The motherboard is equivalent to the WRT54G v4.0 and moves to the System-on-a-chip solution with the Broadcom BCM5352E series. This chop handles the CPU, Ethernet switch and MAC. The BCM2050 radio persists. Serial Numbers begin with CGN5
WRT54GS v4.0 Gross External Anatomy
This has the same hardware as the WRT54G v4.0 as indicated by the FCC ID label. Despite early reports, RAM has been cut in half to 16Mb and ROM cut in half to 4MB. While there are sparse reports of v4.0 units with 32/8, this is not the norm and it should be assumed that all v4.0 units will have the decreased memory. Official firmware version number has also changed from the v4.7x for the V3.0 and below to a new v1.0x firmware number. The reason for this change was to differentiate between the firmware images that needed the larger flash space, however the v4.0 will accept 3rd party firmware after being flashed with a small distribution such as DD-WRT micro. Serial Numbers begin with CGN6