Flashed CrystalView travel router to Tenda A5


Nathan Thompson

Originally Posted: 2014.07.29

The Short Version

I have a CrystalView "Wireless Instant Router". Apparently, this is a rebranded Tenda A5 travel router, A5 is even listed as the model number on device. The Internet reports the CrystalView can be rebranded to the Tenda model by flashing Tenda A5 firmware. I can concur, this is in fact true.

The Long Version

Bought a CrystalView WiFi router at CVS a couple years back. Figured it wouldn't hurt to have an inexpensive backup travel router around, that way I could leave my Airport Express for more important home network duties (generally a client bridge, but occasionally pulling double duty as an audio AirPlay client). While only supporting the most basic functionality, WiFi router, WiFi access point, and "repeater"{1}, 150 Mbps 802.11n single band 2.4 GHz routers would only seem so useful, I still came in with an open mind.

When my mom's Vizio router starting acting weird, I swapped in an older 802.11n Airport Express as her router, which worked well until I needed to reconfigure the network after buying my mom an Ooma to replace her landline. Needing a WiFi client bridge to connect the Ooma to the network, I switched the Airport Express into bridge mode for the Ooma and configured the CrystalView as a WiFi router. The first real test of just how reliable this off brand unit would prove had finally come.

Even with the CrystalView model never receiving any official firmware updates as far as I know, the little guy worked fine for exactly that kind of light home duty for the last 18 months. Smooth sailing with no connection drops and decent throughput. Although range could have been better, given the size of the CrystalView, not surprised range wasn't as strong as a typical model home router. No harm there given expectations.

Here's where the latest bit of the story unfolds. After upgrading my home router to a Netgear WNDR 4300 {2}, I swapped the old Vizio router, now flashed with OpenWRT, back into my mom's home. With her increased use of WiFi devices, we were starting to bump up to the 10 client limit on the CrystalView. Hence the swap to the now smooth running Vizio (thanks again OpenWRT!!!!). A little increased range never hurt either. Nor could the simultaneous dual band of the Vizio for that matter.

Having no immediate use for the CrystalView at this point, decided to explore the hardware some more. Confirmed it was a rebranded Tenda A5 with a little research and then downloaded the newest firmware from Tenda's site. Which was a rar file, not zip as with the older firmware, but flashing was still relatively quick and completely painless. Think firmware file was about 1MB. A5 rebooted quickly and now reports itself as a Tenda in the web based configuration screen. Some of my old settings were remembered after the update, so another factory reset set everything to the new "stock".

Bottom line?

Gained some finer grained controls for some settings, arguably gained outright new features{3} , default IP address stayed the same, but factory fresh default WiFi security is now absent (aka open WiFi network as stock config) and of course the default SSID changed from CrystalViewxxxx to Tendaxxxx. I would say the new firmware features were worth the fifteen minutes I spent on the process. The Tenda A5 model still sells for about $20 on Amazon and this firmware update is a welcome improvement to my spur of the moment purchase that has held up surprisingly well given the low price and basic feature set of the device.

{1} Repeater mode isn't really a repeater, instead it uses WISP client mode as far as I can tell.

{2} Apparently both DD-WRT and OpenWRT compatible at this point, so yay to open source firmware options for my new Netgear! Although, still waiting for Gargoyle support. sad smiley

{3} One such new feature is the option for a second SSID. Guest mode is probably the most obvious use but open to other suggestions for how to best use two separate SSID on the same band.