Disillusioned with RT-AC86U (and RT-AX86U)

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TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
I raised a thread a week or so about problems I was having with my RT-AC86U, regarding really slow DNS responses, and also Fing complaining that DHCP wasn't always happy.

@L&LD suggested I do a full wipe and reset, which I reluctantly did. The good news is that this seemed to solve the problems I was having. DNS is now quick again, so I'm not getting any timeout errors, and I've not seen Fing complain about DHCP, either.

The bad news is that, having been working nicely now for a week, I'm now getting really erratic performance on 2.4GHz. It's not dying completely (as other threads on here have reported), but it keeps slowing down to unacceptable levels. The speed test built into the router is reporting >70Mbps, and connecting to the router on 5GHz is giving speeds very similar to that from my PC. Real world downloads seem to back this up.

However, when connecting on the 2.4GHz band (and I have some machines that don't support 5GHz, so I need to use 2.4GHz sometimes), I'm sometimes seeing results <1Mbps. The best I've seen is 30Mbps, and it seems to vary within this range, over a period of 15 minutes or so, for no reason I can identify. I can't even stream YouTube at a resolution that allows me to read banner text.

I've selected fixed channel 11, 20MHz bandwidth only, and Roaming Assistant and Smart Connect are off. I've also disabled TX bursting and Universal Beamforming (as recommended elsewhere), but I think all other settings are still default. None of these settings were changed in the week following the hard reset and the 2.4GHz performance getting unusable. It was initially OK.

I really hope the advice isn't 'hard reset it again'...I've not make any firmware updates since last time, and needing to reconfigure it every week isn't workable.

So what other routers are comparable with the RT-AC86U (supporting 50+ devices at a time, VPN server, etc)? Netgear? TP-Link? I don't think I need AX yet, but if there's a killer alternative to the AC86U that's AX, then I could be persuaded to get one. I do wonder whether I should have got the RT-AX86U, but if all current Asus routers are as flaky as this one seems to be, I had a lucky escape from wasting even more money.

I'm on the verge of dropping the Asus in the bin, and jumping to a different manufacturer. A real shame, as I do like the flexibility of Merlin and my old RT-AC68U ran for years without any problems, until it started suffering with the heat. A shame, but the RT-AC86U has not been a good user experience so far.
 

bbunge

Part of the Furniture
There is a Beta for the AC86U. I recommend you try that. Leave the WIFI professional settings at default, use Dual Band SmartConnect with fixed 2.4 and 5 GHz channels. Avoid using DFS channels and your 2.4 GHz @ 20 MHz is good.
After flashing new firmware do a power cycle by pulling the power supply from the wall socket.


You may also want to do a hard factory reset: https://www.asus.com/support/FAQ/1039074/

And it is possible the router is on its way to toast.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Do not use SmartConnect.

Use a manually selected 2.5GHz Control Channel (do not leave it on 'Auto').


The following links give suggested defaults that may help.


 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
Thanks for the replies, guys. I usually avoid beta firmware when I want reliability, but given the problems I'm having with the 'stable' release, I guess I have little to lose. I'll give this one more shot, with a full reset, and see what happens after that.

Obviously Smart Connect is a controversial feature. It worked OK for me when I first installed the router, but after I started having issues, I've left it off so it's not clouding the issues.

Did you mean to post 2 links to the same thread, @L&LD ? I'm pretty sure that's a thread I've read before, but I will re-read and digest it again later.

It could well be I just have a bad unit. It's about 5 months old. It's sad that Asus don't seem to have learnt from the overheating issues of previous models and are still producing hardware that seems to have reliability flaws. That's partly why I'm considering a different manufacturer...although I know they all have their faults. Surely one of the big boys must have learnt the tricks to make a reliable device, by now!
 

bbunge

Part of the Furniture
Thanks for the replies, guys. I usually avoid beta firmware when I want reliability, but given the problems I'm having with the 'stable' release, I guess I have little to lose. I'll give this one more shot, with a full reset, and see what happens after that.

Obviously Smart Connect is a controversial feature. It worked OK for me when I first installed the router, but after I started having issues, I've left it off so it's not clouding the issues.

Did you mean to post 2 links to the same thread, @L&LD ? I'm pretty sure that's a thread I've read before, but I will re-read and digest it again later.

It could well be I just have a bad unit. It's about 5 months old. It's sad that Asus don't seem to have learnt from the overheating issues of previous models and are still producing hardware that seems to have reliability flaws. That's partly why I'm considering a different manufacturer...although I know they all have their faults. Surely one of the big boys must have learnt the tricks to make a reliable device, by now!
You are correct about SmartConnect being controversial! Every time I recommend it the grownups in this forum as much as blast me for it. I am also berated for my other WIFI recommendations even though I have "slow" internet speed (which is actually bandwidth).
I have used SmartConnect on my AC86U and now my AX86U with ZERO problems. For what its worth I replaced the AC86U because I wanted to play with the AX86U and I had the bucks, and the approval of CFO. There are no problems with my AC86U. In fact I had loaned it to an office in a warehouse for a couple of months and it performed well with over 30 connected PC's and a number of phones and security cams. I have also used the AC86U as a mesh node just to test AiMesh because I wanted to. At this moment, it resides under my desk loaded with Asus firmware awaiting a call to duty or to be loaned to someone in need.
If your router is within warranty I am sure that Asus would replace it without question. If you could return it to the place of purchase I, and many others, would recommend the AX86U.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@TheMegaMan, something to keep in mind with routers. Changing a setting, then putting it back to its default isn't (always) the same as leaving it at the default, to begin with. This is why a full reset is suggested and only using the 'best practice' settings as a start. Without toggling them back and forth.

@bbunge, I am not blasting your recommendations. I am glad that they work for you (and keep that in mind when the 'best practice' settings don't work optimally, for my customers). But to begin troubleshooting, it is best for (me) to know what state the router is at. :)
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
Yeah, from my perspective, the biggest problem with Smart Connect is that you never actually know (or control) which band is in use. As I said, I had it switched on, and didn't have any problems with it, until around the time I realised the 2.4GHz band was playing up. Coincidence? I think not. I'd conclude Smart Connect probably works really well when the router is fully functional (both bands), and there aren't any factors affecting one or the other that might cause issues. Then the whole system is bu99ered and you don't get to steer the router or connecting device to avoid the issues. So for debugging, I think it's pretty essential to turn it off. But once everything is OK, it seems it should then be fine to use it.

Regarding the fact that changing a setting from default and back to it again might not actually set it to the same value as before....that's really shoddy programming. There really is no excuse for a parameter not to be the value it is displaying, and setting it back to that value really should set it to the same as it was. Likewise, this need to do hard resets to work around changes that can't be fixed in the GUI is pretty crappy. When you told me this before, I didn't really believe it. But alas, it seems Asus doesn't hire disciplined programmers.

It's funny reading those other threads. People are complaining that they are getting only 450-500Mbps...I'm getting around 1Mbps!

@bbunge Did you find that the AC86U and AX86U work OK together in a mesh? I'd understood that AC and AX devices don't mix well.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I've selected fixed channel 11

Have you tried CH 1 or 6? And move the router to see if its location is messing with the radio signal.

Are you using USB 3.x mode at the router? It can can disrupt 2.4 WLAN comms.

OE
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
Have you tried CH 1 or 6? And move the router to see if its location is messing with the radio signal.
Yeah, I was on channel 1 originally, but moved as out new neighbours seem to have jumped on that one, too. 6 also has other traffic on it. I'm actually on the edge of a village and wifi is relatively quiet, but channel 11 seems to be the quietest. I will try switching to the others again, though. I guess there could be other interference that's not showing up on inSSIDer...

Are you using USB 3.x mode at the router? It can can disrupt 2.4 WLAN comms.
That might be a gem of information! Yes, I am. I added a USB stick to the router fairly recently, so that might indeed be a change I make when these problems all started. I'll switch it back to USB 2.0 and see if that makes any difference (or even remove the stick completely).
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I guess there could be other interference that's not showing up on inSSIDer...

Cordless ~2.4 GHz peripherals like headphones can mess with 2.4 WLAN comms.

OE
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Be sure you're not using any Wi-Fi app when you're running your tests. I mean, be sure it isn't even sitting there open, and doing nothing. Your test results will be skewed.

Use the apps to 'see' what is going on around you, but using them to set up a network optimally is an exercise in frustration. Simply test (for an extended period as possible, 24 hours or more is ideal), each Control Channel in your normal use and with all your normal client devices, keeping good notes. After all the Control Channels have been tested, refer to your notes to choose the best one for your particular Wi-Fi environment and client device mix. It can't get better than that.

Wi-Fi apps can't identify, perceive or report non-Wi-Fi induced interference, hence their uselessness. Including the extra time needed to 'analyze' a space/area (in 3D) and write down needless numbers that may or may not have any relevance to good/great Wi-Fi usage.

Unless you're using a multi-thousand dollar Wi-Fi analyzer that can detect non-Wi-Fi interference, tuning your network by testing each available Control Channel is faster, with less frustration and invariably gives the best results too.
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
I know it's been a while since I created this thread, but I'm still battling with it!

So I removed the USB stick and knocked the interface down to USB2 - didn't make any difference, unfortunately.

In frustration, I also invested in an RT-AX86U, in the belief that the RT-AC86U must have gone faulty. I was planning to return the AC86 for repair/replacement, use the AX86 while it was away, and then maybe use it as a mesh node when it came back, I also had this nagging feeling that I should have bought the AX86 instead of the AC86, in the first place.

However...the AX86 is showing exactly the same problem - excellent performance on the 5GHz band, but terrible (<5Mb/s) on the 2.4GHz band (channels 1, 6 and 11). This was having done a nuclear reset on the new AX86, before and after loading it up with Merlin 386.3_2 and configuring it, so it definitely shouldn't be a dirty config problem.

So I guess it looks like there was actually nothing wrong with the AC86 at all, and some other factor is afoot.

Looking at the Wi-fi Radar tool, I'm seeing quite high levels of non-wifi interference. I guess this could be the cause of the problem.

Any suggestions on where to go from here? I suspect it might be something the new neighbours might have done. No kids there, so shouldn't be a baby monitor. Their house is about 10m from ours, so I can't imagine they've got any Bluetooth devices that are driving hard enough to swamp my wifi, either.

Anyone else had any issues like this? Any hints on how to try and track down the source of interference...without investing in a frequency analyser?!

1632957807780.png
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
I should also clarify that a few months ago, everything was fine, including the 2.4GHz band. It's only recently that we started getting iPads dropping off the network (but moving those to 5GHz is avoiding most of that problem), and my Squeezeboxes keep losing connection to their server (and they don't support 5GHz, unfortunately). The router(s) has stayed in the same location on top of a shelf unit towards the centre of the house, and it's not a problem with the microwave, for example, and performance is bad even when it's not being used. As far as I am aware, other than fiddling with the router trying to fix it, I don't believe there have been any changes on my side that will have caused this.
 

bbunge

Part of the Furniture
I still stand on my recommendation for the AX86U and the Asus firmware and the settings I have recommended time and again.
Just what are you using for WIFI settings? My neighborhood is adding new houses close to me with routers that always change channel. I put my AX86U in the garage at the front of the house to hopefully stear those other routers away from my channes.
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
I still stand on my recommendation for the AX86U and the Asus firmware and the settings I have recommended time and again.
Just what are you using for WIFI settings? My neighborhood is adding new houses close to me with routers that always change channel. I put my AX86U in the garage at the front of the house to hopefully stear those other routers away from my channes.
Specifically Asus firmware, not Merlin?

My settings are:

1632988456589.png


1632988500622.png

1632988540741.png


I've left most at defaults, and only changed a few settings based on recommendations. Have I missed any significant ones?
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
I am sorry to ask what may be a silly question - I presume that you are using a tool like Wi-Fi Scanner - Simple and convenient tool for monitoring 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless networks. - LizardSystems ?
That will give you the MAC addresses, channels, bandwidths and signal strengths of all that is around.
I've used a combination of InSSIDer, the Merlin Wi-fi Radar utility, and Wifi Analyzer Android app. None actually show a lot of other APs in my area...only 8 or so others. Hence the assumption I'm coming to that it may be non-wifi interference that's causing the issues.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Consider that the apps may be causing the interference themselves. (They certainly affect throughput when they open in my experience).
 

TheMegaMan

Occasional Visitor
They aren't. Even when not running, performance on 2.4GHz is bad enough that it takes longer to open the config pages of the router itself. I'm talking sometimes taking 5 seconds or so to open the network map page. On 5GHz, it's almost instant - certainly less than a second.

Just done a test to take the tools out of the equation. Downloading a ~1GB video file from the memory stick in the router (my ftp server folder). So that's router to PC only, no other network devices in between. On 5GHz, it took about 30 seconds, and peaked at around 50MB/s download speed.

On 2.4GHz. it was taking over 12 minutes, hovering around 1MB/s. I saw a momentary peak of 5MB/s, but it also dropped down to almost zero, so it's extremely volatile.

I know 5GHz is faster, but seriously, 2.4GHz was never this slow until the last month or two, when I suspected the AC86 had failed. 10Mb/s is terrible. I should be over 100Mb/s, surely.

Maybe I have a rogue device on 2.4GHz that's hogging or killing the bandwidth available, but neither the router Traffic Analyser nor the other tools are showing anything out of the ordinary.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
100Mbps, maybe, in optimal conditions. Certainly not guaranteed with a USB drive in USB 3.0 mode.

Does the 2.5GHz band respond as expected when not using any USB drives? How about when the USB on the router is in USB 2.0 mode?

If none of the above helps...

Your environment isn't optimal, obviously.

At this point, I would redo the full reset. Then, after verifying that the suggested defaults are working, slowly add (1 feature, option, script) at a time, and keep excellent notes. This may be the only way to track your issue down.

Myself, at the minimum, I would:
If the 2.5GHz interference is permanent at your location, you may need to find/use only 5GHz devices going forward.
 

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