Better for AiMesh: AC68U x 2 or AC86U + AC68U?

  • ATTENTION! As of November 1, 2020, you are not able to reply to threads 6 months after the thread is opened if there are more than 500 posts in the thread.
    Threads will not be locked, so posts may still be edited by their authors.
    Just start a new thread on the topic to post if you get an error message when trying to reply to a thread.

ElShaddai Edwards

Occasional Visitor
My primary router is an AC68U. I've been using an old AC66U as a media bridge in my office, but the LAN ports have started failing. I could still use it as a range extender, but want the wired option for my laptop which only has a N card.

Since the AC66U doesn't support AiMesh, I really never looked at that option for expanding coverage. However, now I'm looking at either getting another AC68U and creating a mesh network with a pair of the same models or upgrading my primary router to the AC86U and making my current AC68U the mesh node. I know the AC68U is many years old now, so is the AC86U a significant step forward even if you're just staying with AC connections? Or is the AC68U still a solid performer and works well in mesh mode?

I'm not looking to upgrade again for a while, so probably not considering AX devices at this point.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
My primary router is an AC68U. I've been using an old AC66U as a media bridge in my office, but the LAN ports have started failing. I could still use it as a range extender, but want the wired option for my laptop which only has a N card.

Since the AC66U doesn't support AiMesh, I really never looked at that option for expanding coverage. However, now I'm looking at either getting another AC68U and creating a mesh network with a pair of the same models or upgrading my primary router to the AC86U and making my current AC68U the mesh node. I know the AC68U is many years old now, so is the AC86U a significant step forward even if you're just staying with AC connections? Or is the AC68U still a solid performer and works well in mesh mode?

I'm not looking to upgrade again for a while, so probably not considering AX devices at this point.
A 2xRT-AC86U wireless AiMesh is a good dual-band AC kit while waiting for AX WiFi 6e to mature. An 86U has about 20% better WiFi coverage than a 68U, and is plenty capable underneath.

You can use one 86U now as an AiMesh router/root node with your existing 68U as a wireless AiMesh remote node. All nodes will broadcast both WiFi bands on the same channels and can also connect wired LAN clients. You can use wired or wireless backhauls between the nodes.

Since your 68U does not support Smart Connect node band steering, you should use different SSIDs for each band (and fixed channels)... this is preferable, imo.

Current AiMesh 1.0 firmware only broadcasts guest WLANs from the router/root node, so its placement should be considered, if you need isolated guest WLAN coverage.

AiMesh 2.0 firmware is under development to broadcast guest WLANs from all nodes. And will support 802.11k/v roaming protocols for a better roaming experience for those clients that also support 802.11k/v. AiMesh 1.0 roaming is pretty good now... better than extenders/repeaters/APs in my limited hardware experience.

OE
 
Last edited:

ElShaddai Edwards

Occasional Visitor
A 2xRT-AC86U wireless AiMesh is a good dual-band AC kit while waiting for AX WiFi 6e to mature. An 86U has about 20% better WiFi coverage than a 68U, and is plenty capable underneath.

You can use one 86U now as an AiMesh router/root node with your existing 68U as a wireless AiMesh remote node. All nodes will broadcast both WiFi bands on the same channels and can also connect wired LAN clients. You can use wired or wireless backhauls between the nodes.

Since your 68U does not support Smart Connect node band steering, you should use different SSIDs for each band (and fixed channels)... this is preferable, imo.

Current AiMesh 1.0 firmware only broadcasts guest WLANs from the router/root node, so its placement should be considered, if you need isolated guest WLAN coverage.

AiMesh 2.0 firmware is under development to broadcast guest WLANs from all nodes. And will support 802.11k/v roaming protocols for a better roaming experience for those clients that also support 802.11k/v. AiMesh 1.0 roaming is pretty good now... better than extenders/repeaters/APs in my limited hardware experience.

OE
Thank you for the insight. The +20% will be helpful in reaching where I need the second node to be and the 68 there will be more than enough to provide extra wireless coverage.

Yes - separate SSIDs - that's what I have now, so no changes needed on the client side. And no worries on the guest WLANs - the kids all hang out near the main router anyway.
 

Smokey613

Senior Member
I am very happy with my dual RT-AC86U AiMesh setup. I had been using a RT-AC86U and a RT-AC1900P which worked very good but my current setup is better.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Thank you for the insight. The +20% will be helpful in reaching where I need the second node to be and the 68 there will be more than enough to provide extra wireless coverage.
Note that one 86U may reach farther to the 68U, but the 68U may not reach as far back to the 86U. So the 68U will likely constrain your wireless backhaul distance, but the backhaul should perform as well, if not a bit better than your current 68U-66U setup.

Also, the 86U 5.0 band is 4x4 with one antenna internal. The 68U is 3x3. So, an 86U-86U wireless backhaul will have more throughput with 4 streams vs. the 86U-68U with 3 streams.

My 86U-86U 4-stream 77' wireless backhaul from one end of a brick house through rooms/kitchen out to a detached brick garage achieves 2-3 bars or ~780 Mbps max (half-duplex vs. 1 Gbps full-duplex Ethernet). A 68U on one end with 3 streams would yield about 25% less. So, a 2xRT-AC86U wireless AiMesh can be a touch sweeter.

OE
 

ElShaddai Edwards

Occasional Visitor
Note that one 86U may reach farther to the 68U, but the 68U may not reach as far back to the 86U. So the 68U will likely constrain your wireless backhaul distance, but the backhaul should perform as well, if not a bit better than your current 68U-66U setup.

Also, the 86U 5.0 band is 4x4 with one antenna internal. The 68U is 3x3. So, an 86U-86U wireless backhaul will have more throughput with 4 streams vs. the 86U-68U with 3 streams.

My 86U-86U 4-stream 77' wireless backhaul from one end of a brick house through rooms/kitchen out to a detached brick garage achieves 2-3 bars or ~780 Mbps max (half-duplex vs. 1 Gbps full-duplex Ethernet). A 68U on one end with 3 streams would yield about 25% less. So, a 2xRT-AC86U wireless AiMesh can be a touch sweeter.

OE
Thanks for the additional thoughts. I don't think that buying two 86Us is in the cards right now, but I'm hoping to taking at least one step forward!
 

ElShaddai Edwards

Occasional Visitor
I am very happy with my dual RT-AC86U AiMesh setup. I had been using a RT-AC86U and a RT-AC1900P which worked very good but my current setup is better.
Sounds like a great setup -- hopefully I'll be able to eventually consolidate all my media bridges and extenders into a well-oiled mesh network.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@ElShaddai Edwards, before giving up on your RT-AC66U, you may want to try using @john9527's RMerlin firmware fork on it.

If the LAN Port issues persist, the following link may help bring your old router back to a stable state. Either way, you will at least know if it is a firmware/configuration issue.


This is something I would do before considering a new router (if the old setup were otherwise working well for you).
 

ElShaddai Edwards

Occasional Visitor
@ElShaddai Edwards, before giving up on your RT-AC66U, you may want to try using @john9527's RMerlin firmware fork on it.

If the LAN Port issues persist, the following link may help bring your old router back to a stable state. Either way, you will at least know if it is a firmware/configuration issue.


This is something I would do before considering a new router (if the old setup were otherwise working well for you).
Thank you for posting that. I am running Merlin 380.70 on the AC66U, which I believe is his last release available for that model. The main AC68U is running Merlin's latest and greatest.

I did unplug the 66 for a day or two while I contemplated options, then rebooted and switched operating modes (bridge to repeater and back to bridge). Everything has been stable LAN-wise for the past 48 hours, so maybe there's hope, but I will run through the full reset steps to make sure.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture

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