Asus Merlin in AP mode vs UniFi access point

Frantisek Brabec

Occasional Visitor
How do Asus routers (w/Merlin) in Access Point mode compare with true access points such as UniFi nanoHD? Is either of them much better than the other is some ways or is it a toss-up? Thanks.
 

GHammer

Senior Member
In what way better? What are you looking for in other words?
 

Frantisek Brabec

Occasional Visitor
In what way better? What are you looking for in other words?
I guess I would be interested in hearing about whatever areas there are differences but primarily I would be curious about reliability of wifi connection given dozens of devices (some "real", some IoT ).

For example, with ASUS it seems to me that sometimes I lose signal when somebody does something on the other side of the house, in that ASUS tries to serve that area at the expense of my connection. So maybe an AP that is designed more for public spaces with lots of devices would perform better than a device that is meant to be primarily a household router.

Thanks.
 

GHammer

Senior Member
Well, I have an AX58U as router and a AC86U as a wired AP
I only have around 30 devices on the pair and haven't seen any odd events.
I use Merlin's firmware on both.
Unless you are willing to spend extra on a router, cloud key, etc, I don't think you'd see better performance. If you do build and configure a complete Unifi system, I still don't think you'll have a 'better' system. Mind you, I am running wired backhaul and that does make a difference.

Take a look at the Unifi forums and you'll see folks having issues with wireless APs.
In any event, I'd stay far away from their Dream Machine.
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
The biggest differences are in improved manageability and roaming for prosummer appliances (although roaming should improve now that Asus has started implementing a few key technologies like 802.11v and 802.11k).

Those prosummer appliances also often support PoE and are smaller, making them easier to deploy.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
How do Asus routers (w/Merlin) in Access Point mode
What Merlin features will improve your Asus router in Access Point mode? I would pick PoE UniFi nanoHD or TP-Link EAP225/245 over Asus routers for access points. Multiple of those with the corresponding controller over any AiMesh setup. The performance difference is pretty noticeable and the roaming is actually working.
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
Plus it is cheaper to buy an wireless AP over an all-in-one router unless you move up to real enterprise level hardware.
 

Frantisek Brabec

Occasional Visitor
Thank you all for chiming in. I recently procured a separate router to run pfSense on so now I am running ASUS as AP only which seems a little wasteful. So I was wondering how motivated I should be to sell the ASUS router and to buy a pure AP instead.
 

Kelbesq

Occasional Visitor
For me the ASUS routers win because I already have them =). I'm really in a holding pattern until wifi 6E AP's come out, but I did step up to a EdgeRouter 4 to handle my gigabit connection better.

Some other points in favor of Asuswrt-Merlin:
  • Open source-ish. Parts are still proprietary.
  • No cloud management, no controller software

I'm not saying I wont swap over to something else later, but I am no rush to ditch my current gear, and Asuswrt-Merlin is a big contributing factor.
 

dodge

Occasional Visitor
Depends on what you plan to use it for?

Literally moved off pfsense/Ubiquiti/managed switch about 5 days ago to a lone RT-AC86u, and I don't really miss pfsense. With this setup you could do true VLAN tagging and subnetting.

Used pfsense to support my gig Internet connection and VLANs, and adblockng with pfblocker, with pfsense you could turn on multi-WAN and saturate the gig link through OpenVPN.

...all of which I can do with Merlin's firmware and fanstastic addon's like Diversion and YazFi. All through a single device. For my (rather simplistic) needs the ASUS will do fine.

In fact the 86u's wifi signal is noticeably stronger than the Unifi AC Pro...
 

Kelbesq

Occasional Visitor
What is your question? What is cheaper or what is better?
I wasn't asking a question, I was just giving the OP my opinion. To some folks, cheaper is better.


Same with Asuswrt stock. Merlin has no performance advantages in AP mode.
Merlin adds lots of features that are not available with the stock firmware, even in AP mode. I am using it for VLAN tagging on guest SSIDs. The advantages I listed may or may not be important to an individual user. Not everything is performance based.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
...all of which I can do with Merlin's firmware
First, read how many dead RT-AC86U routers are mentioned here on SNB only. I have two of two in a 2 years period. One with dead WAN port and one with 2.4GHz radio going. Second, you can't do VLANs, pfBlocker is better than Diversion, QoS is better on pfSense, OpenVPN is faster on i3/i5 x86, DPI (Suricata/Snort) do not rely on 3rd party services and don't share data, pfSense has more options than Merlin and is more stable, Dual-WAN on Asus doesn't work reliably. Third, multiple APs will always have better throughput, control, roaming, scalability.

I am using it for VLAN tagging on guest SSIDs.
Router model specific. Much easier on SMB equipment with native VLANs support.
 

dodge

Occasional Visitor
First, read how many dead RT-AC86U routers are mentioned here on SNB only. I have two of two in a 2 years period. One with dead WAN port and one with 2.4GHz radio going. Second, you can't do VLANs, pfBlocker is better than Diversion, QoS is better on pfSense, OpenVPN is faster on i3/i5 x86, DPI (Suricata/Snort) do not rely on 3rd party services and don't share data, pfSense has more options than Merlin and is more stable, Dual-WAN on Asus doesn't work reliably. Third, multiple APs will always have better throughput, control, roaming, scalability.
I don't doubt what you said - it depends on your needs really. Assuming I still had the gig connection, I would have kept pfsense but I just moved to an area without one and needed to keep things simple, and am space constrained. For mine, a consumer router with a solid 3rd party firmware is good enough. The 3rd party add-ons for Merlin (Diverison, YazFi, unbound) mimics pfsense sufficiently to make it a very good (and cheaper) alternative.

EDIT : OpenVPN no doubt runs much faster on my pfsense but on my sub-optimal Internet link the 86u is more than good enough.
 

grifo

Regular Contributor
Interesting discussion for me as when my RT-AC68U goes out of Merlin support, like my RT-AC87U has, I'll move to one of the open source router-firewall platforms and keep my Asus routers as APs until wifi 6E APs come around.

I've tested OPNsense on Virtualbox and it's very good, it has many features and addons and it can do everything I do with Merlin and more, but the best part is that the system is always going to be fully up to date, pretty much until the hardware dies or is obsolete. No need to rely on Asus business choices or on outdated system components, plus you're running a fully open source system.

As for the differences between Asus wifi routers as APs and dedicated APs, the last standalone APs I used at home were Cisco's 1142N's and compared to those my RT-AC87U has better coverage, likely due to the external directional antennas, but obviously less features, some of which, like multiple SSIDs over different VLANs, can be implemented using RMerlin's firmware and scripts, though with some limitations. So it really depends on what you're looking for.

As for reliability, one could think that a dedicated AP has a chance to be more reliable than a router with built-in wifi, but my RT-AC87U's wifi on its own has been 100% reliable and you can't do better than that. Though that doesn't include roaming which isn't very reliable at all between my RT-AC87U router and RT-AC68U AP. YMMV with other models.

As for throughput, obviously n and ac can't be compared but you can find lots of performance tests on the Internet for the products you're interested in.

However IMO buying a new Asus router to use just as an AP doesn't make much sense, if I'm reusing my old router as an AP fine but if I just needed a new AP I'd buy a dedicated AP.
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
The Cisco's 1142N APs went end-of-life in April 2, 2013 . I would say it is not a fair comparison to a RT-AC87U. Let's try Cisco's WAP581 APs. I know the roaming would kill the RT-AC87U with what ever other router you ran. Probably the stability is better in the Cisco WAP581 AP. My guess is the WAP581 may handle more devices as well.

The Cisco 1142N AP were enterprise level whereas the Cisco WAP581 APs are not. Enterprise is a better wireless just old tech.
 

grifo

Regular Contributor
The Cisco's 1142N APs went end-of-life in April 2, 2013 . I would say it is not a fair comparison to a RT-AC87U. Let's try Cisco's WAP581 APs. I know the roaming would kill the RT-AC87U with what ever other router you ran. Probably the stability is better in the Cisco WAP581 AP. My guess is the WAP581 may handle more devices as well.
April 2 2013 was their End-of-Sale and End-of-Life Announcement date, they were still sold until October 1, 2013 and you normally get 5 years of support from Cisco after the end of sale date, these APs were supported until September 30, 2018.

That said, of course you can't compare the two but since it's the last standalone AP I used in my home it's the only one I can compare like for like with the RT-AC87U since wifi coverage varies a lot based on a site's building layout and materials. My point was that an Asus router with external antennas can have better coverage than one of the many dedicated IPs that lack them but they normally have more advanced features like out of the box VLAN support and the like. So which is best depends on what the user is looking for.
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
Still pretty old hardware if the announcement is 7 years old. Yes Cisco does a good job supporting old hardware.
 

grifo

Regular Contributor
Yeah it's the previous generation 802.11n wifi hardware. It was my last dedicated AP as I moved to a one box solution with the RT-AC87U after I got a 1 Gbps FTTH link. My next move will be to split the functions again but today there are a lot more options available.
 

Latest threads

Sign Up For SNBForums Daily Digest

Get an update of what's new every day delivered to your mailbox. Sign up here!
Top