A new Mesh system or RT-AC86U

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calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
Hi,
I have a RT-AC86A (amazon version) and it had been working good for first a couple years and last few years I had to schedule the weekly reset. My wife complained about the slow internet many times, but then the speed tests showed no problem. A few years back, I also bought the T-Mobile AC1900 and set it up as an AP(wired) in the garage to cover the weak spots (garage and the master bedroom). The router performance is getting worse after each FW upgrade. Last few months, the problem became more noticeable: very slow with basic surfing and my VPN to work drops every 10 minutes. Again, the speed tests did not show problem, matched with my plan 80Mb/s. But when I tested with large download files, I realized my router was not working properly.
I had been actively looking into a mesh or a better router and meanwhile I installed the Asus Merlin firmware as I had nothing to lose. Voila, there are no more complaints about the slow internet since then, but the VPN still drops occasionally. There is no hurry to buy new hardware now but thinking about upgrading in the near future. The RT-AC86U is old, but the price is still very high, I could spend a bit more to get a whole new mesh system at Costco when it is on sale. The upside of buying the RT-AC86U is that my old router can become an AiMesh node.
With the current setup, router+AP, the wireless coverage in my home, two-story house, is very adequate. I can’t believe how many wired and wireless devices I have at home. It is just that I feel the router is working hard with the loads when everyone is at home during the Covid19 pandemic.
Thanks in advance.
Calvin.
 
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JohnB_123

Regular Contributor
Hi,
I have a RT-AC86A (amazon version) and it had been working good for first a couple years and last few years I had to schedule the weekly reset. My wife complained about the slow internet many times, but then the speed tests showed no problem. A few years back, I also bought the T-Mobile AC1900 and set it up as an AP(wired) in the garage to cover the weak spots (garage and the master bedroom). The router performance is getting worse after each FW upgrade. Last few months, the problem became more noticeable: very slow with basic surfing and my VPN to work drops every 10 minutes. Again, the speed tests did not show problem, matched with my plan 80Mb/s. But when I tested with large download files, I realized my router was not working properly.
I had been actively looking into a mesh or a better router and meanwhile I installed the Asus Merlin firmware as I had nothing to lose. Voila, there are no more complaints about the slow internet since then, but the VPN still drops occasionally. There is no hurry to buy new hardware now but thinking about upgrading in the near future. The RT-AC86U is old, but the price is still very high, I could spend a bit more to get a whole new mesh system at Costco when it is on sale. The upside of buying the RT-AC86U is that my old router can become an AirMesh node.
With the current setup, router+AP, the wireless coverage in my home, two-story house, is very adequate. I can’t believe how many wired and wireless devices I have at home. It is just that I feel the router is working hard with the loads when everyone is at home during the Covid19 pandemic.
Thanks in advance.
Calvin.

I just sold an RT-AC86U on ebay for $100 (it sat for a week at $120 with no takers). I think that's your best path, and you can easily get a used one for under $150.

There's no perceptible difference between that and the RT-AX88U that I have (and that's handling ~70 or so devices in our household including 2 teenagers and 2 working adults).
 

calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
I just sold an RT-AC86U on ebay for $100 (it sat for a week at $120 with no takers). I think that's your best path, and you can easily get a used one for under $150.

There's no perceptible difference between that and the RT-AX88U that I have (and that's handling ~70 or so devices in our household including 2 teenagers and 2 working adults).

Thanks, I can keep an eye on the sale/trade section as well.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
I wouldn't buy a used 86U. Historically they have spotty enough QA/QC as it is. Not to say that good copies don't exist by majority, but the opportunity cost isn't worth the dice roll IMHO. Especially when you can buy a new R7800 for ~$160, whose wifi range over distance should be every bit as good, if not better, due to the Qualcomm platform; flash OpenWRT and you've got yourself an even more capable box than you'd have with Merlin.
 

calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
I wouldn't buy a used 86U. Historically they have spotty enough QA/QC as it is. Not to say that good copies don't exist by majority, but the opportunity cost isn't worth the dice roll IMHO. Especially when you can buy a new R7800 for ~$160, whose wifi range over distance should be every bit as good, if not better, due to the Qualcomm platform; flash OpenWRT and you've got yourself an even more capable box than you'd have with Merlin.
I also need parenting control feature. thanks for suggesting.
 

cplay

Senior Member
I wouldn't buy a used 86U. Historically they have spotty enough QA/QC as it is. Not to say that good copies don't exist by majority, but the opportunity cost isn't worth the dice roll IMHO. Especially when you can buy a new R7800 for ~$160, whose wifi range over distance should be every bit as good, if not better, due to the Qualcomm platform; flash OpenWRT and you've got yourself an even more capable box than you'd have with Merlin.

But it has no aes-ni :(

Otherwise all vpn users would go netgear!
 

cplay

Senior Member
Depending on if WireGuard fits the use-case, that point becomes moot. But yes, with other types of VPN, that issue still stands true.

Netgear supports wireguard on voxel?!?
 

cplay

Senior Member

cplay

Senior Member
Absolutely. Typically 2+ times per year, as they've done for the last 16 years so far.

Do they support 86u, just check their site and it appears it doesn't?
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
In short, no. Nowhere near as much support for Broadcom-based hardware as Qualcomm, whose driver packages and base-hardware platforms have historically been (and continue to be) much more open-source friendly. It makes a huge difference in being able to develop proper low-level system integration with various aspects of the firmware, such as SQM QoS that can be tweaked in its entirety, with all of the latest qdiscs, versus much more limited implementation on Broadcom. Add to that the fact that Qualcomm wifi is generally the superior experience. The few pain points are lacking hardware acceleration for things like VPN, and they lag behind Broadcom with firmware availability on the latest platforms (as we see with the RAX120 being probably a year away from stable OpenWRT support, while the AX88U is at least baseline minimally bug-fixed and functional on Merlin).
 

calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
Wow, they price of used RT-AC86U has been skyrocketing on ebay, and if I factor in the shipping price then it's almost the same as for a new one. With the Merlin firmware, I don't really need to upgrade at the moment, 2.4Ghz signal is very strong in all areas, 5Ghz signal is very good, except one small spot -65/-70dbm from either router or AP.

I noticed that even I set my second Asus router as an AP ( not Aimesh node), my only android device tablet s2 also switches between AP or router automatically but much slower than Apple devices.
I also have an Tplink EAP-225V3 dedicated for wireless cameras and guest wifi. I was curious, and I moved it to a 5Ghz weak spot between my router and the AP. Then I lowered the transmit power of the 5Ghz radio for all 3. I noticed that my iPhone switched seamlessly to the router or AP which has stronger wifi signal. However, once my Tab S2 connected to the EAP225, it refused to drop the connection with it even the signal was below -80dbm and the much stronger wifi was available.
 

calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
I ordered a new RT-AC86U from Amazon, and it made a U-turn and ended up some where in the East coast warehouse; I m in CA. The replacement won't be available until Jun 5th. Should I stick with the RT-AC86U or go with the RT-AX92U? I just read many complaints about the RT-AX92U. I'd like to stick with the Asus due to the parental control schedule and I want to use RT-AC68U as an Aimesh node. TP-Link implementation is a bit close, and netgear requires subscription.
 
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Trip

Very Senior Member
Most of the Asus-knowledgeable SNB'ers, including @L&LD, will recommend you go with the RT-AX88U instead of either, for its Merlin support, potentially higher throughput in 2.4 and 5Ghz under certain conditions, and arguably the most stability of any AX all-in-one, from any brand, at the moment.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
How about a Netgear R7800 ($170) running OpenWRT, plus whatever packages you desire. If there's a single all-in-one capable of delivering the range you're looking for over distance, under $200, that would be it. Maybe an RT-AX58U running Merlin, but I'd probably take 4x4:4 Qualcomm AC Wave 2 (R7800) over 2x2:2 Broadcom AX pre-draft (AX58U) if I had to hedge my bets.

If you feel like you have to / want to stick with stock firmware, there's also the ~$200 Synology RT2600ac, which is basically identical to the R7800 (same base Qualcomm chipsets), just better quality stock firmware.
 

calvin tran

Occasional Visitor
So finally Amazon delivered the RT-AC86U. During the waiting period, I had a few issues with the router that required reboot. Then I noticed the link between router and AP was 100mbp instead of 1Gb. I checked the wiring over and over and did not find anything wrong; I ran the cat6 cable and made the connectors myself. I went online and found someone mentioned he redid the crimping due to faulty connector, and I did both and voila, 1Gb link is alive. Since then, the my router RT-AC68A performs flawlessly, not a single issue since. That's why I wasn't bothered with the late delivery.
Then the RT-AC86U arrived, I plugged in the power and check the range of the wifi signal strength, and I found the signal from the new router was much weaker than the RT-AC68A. The new RT-AC86U had old fw .32799 or something and I didn't see the TxPower setting as in my 68A. So I flashed it with Merlin v17 and not bother with the stock fw. Then the RT-AC86U wifi signal strength is about the same as the RT-AC68A. I decided to keep the RT-AC86U anyway. The noticable nice thing about the new router is that it reboots and updates the settings much faster than the 68A. I wouldn't buy the new router if I found the issues with the cable earlier. I am working from home and VPN connection from my laptop still drops with the new router but fewer. I don't know where is the issue.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@calvin tran put the old router in service and do the following if you haven't done so already.

To get your RT-AC86U working as well as possible after flashing RMerlin firmware, the following steps are suggested.
  • Remove all USB devices from the router (from the GUI).
  • Fully reset the RT-AC86U to factory defaults/Initialize all settings.
  • Format the JFFS partition on the next boot. Make sure you hit 'Apply' at the bottom of that page. Reboot the router 3 times in the next 15 minutes, waiting 5 to 10 minutes in between reboots.
  • Do not use a saved backup config file to configure the router.
  • Do not 'blindly' put in previous customizations that were once needed in a previous router.
  • If you were not using amtm, Entware or scripts before, you can ignore this step. Otherwise, do not insert a USB drive that was previously used with amtm and Entware or any other scripts installed (rather, format the USB drive first on a PC and then use amtm on the router to format it as Ext4 with journaling enabled. Install the Disk Checker (dc) utility from amtm and also create a swap file too (I suggest 2GB size).
With the JFFS partition formatted and the router rebooted and fully reset as outlined above, the M&M Config (please see the link in my signature below) should be followed.

With the above completed (don't be daunted by the list, this is an easy 1/2 hour maximum task), the router should be in a good/known state.

Enable the features you require (most important first) and test fully before adding another feature or customization next.

HTH. :)
 

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