Advice Wanted on Upgrading my RT-AC68u

gogreen1

Regular Contributor
I currently use an RT-AC68u router in my one-story home, about 1900 square feet. The router works fine, even with the metal studs in the walls, except in the extreme ranges of the house and backyard. I'm in no rush, but I am thinking of upgrading the router to something that would broadcast a stronger signal. Would an RT-AC86u broadcast a stronger signal? If an 86u broadcasts a stronger signal, I might use that by itself. I could also make the 86u my main router and use the 68u as an aimesh node. Would the 86u be considered an "upgrade" from the 68u?

Thanks.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I currently use an RT-AC68u router in my one-story home, about 1900 square feet. The router works fine, even with the metal studs in the walls, except in the extreme ranges of the house and backyard. I'm in no rush, but I am thinking of upgrading the router to something that would broadcast a stronger signal. Would an RT-AC86u broadcast a stronger signal? If an 86u broadcasts a stronger signal, I might use that by itself. I could also make the 86u my main router and use the 68u as an aimesh node. Would the 86u be considered an "upgrade" from the 68u?

Thanks.

Yes. :)

What you describe is all likely.

The 86U has stronger hardware and a bit more WiFi range (Asus puts 20% more on the box). It should improve some over your 68U. Where it might fall short such as reaching out into your yard through difficult obstacles, you can add your existing 68U as an AiMesh node to extend/strengthen coverage for a key far area.

The 86U supports Smart Connect node band steering. The 68U does not. So, you would configure your AiMesh for separate SSIDs... one for each band... and fixed channels.

As I see it, 1900 sq. ft. on one level is about one AP, give or take some signal. Adding a second node at one end would 'fit' and push the signal further in that direction. Adding a second node 10-20' from the router would not 'fit' so well... too close. So, keep that in mind when you consider the extent of a 2-node AiMesh for your site.

Playing devil's advocate, you might be good enough with your existing WiFi and usage, and could just wait for an AX upgrade 12-24 months down the road. Buying now could mean you want to play and/or have a need to address.

OE
 
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wh7qq

Senior Member
I currently use an RT-AC68u router in my one-story home, about 1900 square feet. The router works fine, even with the metal studs in the walls, except in the extreme ranges of the house and backyard. I'm in no rush, but I am thinking of upgrading the router to something that would broadcast a stronger signal. Would an RT-AC86u broadcast a stronger signal? If an 86u broadcasts a stronger signal, I might use that by itself. I could also make the 86u my main router and use the 68u as an aimesh node. Would the 86u be considered an "upgrade" from the 68u?

Thanks.
Keep in mind that while you might increase the router signal, you won't be increasing most devices which lack the GUI to change output or the basic ability so if the signal is not getting back to the router, it will be of little help. Repositioning the router might help or getting another, inexpensive, router to act as an AP for the distant devices.
As far as I know, there is no way to increase the receiver sensitivity of the routers themselves except possibly going to higher gain vertical antennas since it is a single level home (flatter signal donut...antennas tend to suck and blow equally well or poorly). I don't have an 68u but from the pics, the antennae look long...might be higher gain to start with but I doubt it. Still, you might try to run the output up to max legal in your GUI as a cheap alternative. For a single level house, you probably should have all 3 antennae straight up, rather than angled like the pictures show...you need all your energy going to the sides and not angled at 45 degrees or something else. Directional antennae at the distant sites might help as well...pointed toward the router.
In most countries, the gov't. regulations limit the router power (in US, I believe 100 mw.) and most routers can put out that much. As a lot of ham radio types with linear amplifiers have found, if you can't hear 'em, you can't work 'em, so more antenna gain or a receiver preamp are the only way to go for weak or distant signals, noise and interference allowing. I don't know how you could put a preamp on a router.
 
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Smokey613

Very Senior Member
I recently upgraded my RT-AC68U to a RT-AC86U. Big improvement in all aspects. Wish I had done it sooner.
 

gogreen1

Regular Contributor
Thanks, all, for the advice and comments. My inclination is to get the 86u and use my 68u as an aimesh node. At this point, though, I'd need to connect the node wirelessly, and I've read that that doesn't work well in an aimesh setup. Comments? Thanks again!
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Thanks, all, for the advice and comments. My inclination is to get the 86u and use my 68u as an aimesh node. At this point, though, I'd need to connect the node wirelessly, and I've read that that doesn't work well in an aimesh setup. Comments? Thanks again!

It works well enough given the existing dual-band hardware and the relatively recent addition of AiMesh functionality. Tri-band hardware would permit using one of the 5.0 GHz bands as a dedicated wireless backhaul to connect the node to free up the other 5.0 GHz band for clients. The expectation is that AiMesh will continue to improve with hardware and firmware advances.

A main intent of AiMesh is to extend LAN and WiFi wirelessly. It works now and will work better with the next generation of hardware, WiFi 6/AX, and AiMesh firmware... imo.

Some things to consider now...

o Guest networks only broadcast from the router, so it may help to locate the router accordingly. And, don't expect a node to extend isolated guest WLAN coverage to far IoT devices.

o Given that dual-band node WiFi supports both client connections and the wireless backhaul to the router/mesh, it could help to locate the router to connect the site's primary WiFi clients/traffic, and the node to connect the lessor WiFi burden. So for example, put the router in the home near the media center and put the node in the garage near the patio and pool.

o Third party Asuswrt-Merlin firmware recently enabled AiMesh functionality in the stock code. I consider this reputable support for AiMesh.

My install notes can help to guide your initial AiMesh setup.

OE
 
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Grisu

Part of the Furniture
You could load John's L (legacy) firmware on your RT-AC68U, then you would even have better coverage than with 86U, give it a try, it allows stronger radio and you can adjust power to your needs.
With no region setting you even could max it out (but might not be allowed in your country).
 
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Smokindog

Senior Member
Buying the 86u and then sacrificing a radio to build an AiMesh network with your 68 is counterproductive to your goals. If you can add it in as a wired AP then you'll add towards your goals. Otherwise just go with the single 86u or save your $$ and wait for the second gen on AX routers.
 

Val D.

Very Senior Member
I'm in no rush, but I am thinking of upgrading the router to something that would broadcast a stronger signal. Would an RT-AC86u broadcast a stronger signal?

No, the Tx power is limited as per local regulations. Stronger signal won't extend your range, the devices you use have to communicate back to the router and their power is exactly the same, no matter how strong the router's signal is. RT-AC86U has a better range due to increased radio sensitivity. In other words, the router will "see" your devices a bit further and will be able to "hear" them a bit better, if compared to older generation routers. So yes, RT-AC86U will "extend" usable range and allow higher connection speeds on same distances, compared to RT-AC68U. When connecting a node wireless (AiMesh or Repeater Mode), the clients connected to this node will have the throughput cut on half. The reason is the radio on this node has to communicate in the same time with the master router and the clients. My suggestion - try RT-AC86U only and see what you can get from it.
 

Klueless

Very Senior Member
I only have three sites so my observations ain't science. When I upgraded one site from an N66U to an AC68U I got slightly better range. When I upgraded the other two sites to AC86Us I got noticeably better range. (But, in all three cases, I still needed access points to get to those hard to reach areas.)

More detail on "extreme ranges and backyard" could be useful. If they work but just slow then moving to the 86U could prove useful. If they are dead spots then maybe not. Try downloading some WiFi analyzer tools, they might help you in making guesstimates.

With these tools in hand you might try relocating your router. It can be temporary. Just take a long length of Ethernet cable, and an equally long power cable, and throw them along the floor. Get the router out of the corner, get it off of the floor, move it towards the center of the house, move it off center, move it around and measure your results.

A central location might eliminate all weak spots. On the flip side a central location might give you four weak spots, one in each corner of the house. If they're only slightly weak an upgrade might do it. If they're "dead" then skew the router towards one side and put in an access point (or mesh node) to cover the other side.

But the idea is to play a little and then take your best guess.
 
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Val D.

Very Senior Member
When I upgraded one site from from an N66U to an AC68U I got slightly better range. When I upgraded the other two sites to AC86Us I got noticeably better range.

I have similar experience with RT-AC66U -> RT-AC68U -> RT-AC86U. On every upgrade the range and speed improved.
 

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