High End Router and NAS Market: Is it any better in 2020?

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idesign

Occasional Visitor
Hi Everyone,

I'm back in the market and wondering what is the best router for my needs and speeds?


I have used the Apple AirPort Time Capsule for many years and loved their seamless integration with OS X and the ability to store music files on the drive. However, given that my AirPort Time Capsule is falling behind, I need to buy a new home router ASAP (and potentially add a NAS later like the Synology DS218+). What is your vote for the best router out there mesh or not?

A few details:
  • Home internet speed: Gigabit (930.47 Mbps Download/ 836.25 Mbps Upload)
  • Uses: Heavy TIDAL and Qobuz lossless streaming
  • Computer and device OS used: OSX 10.15 and iOS 13 and later (iPad Pro 2020, iPhone 11 Pro, MacBook Pro 2019, and three devices on network)
  • Storage Needs: I have approximately 2TB of lossless music files stored on my AirPort Time Capsule and I would like to find a solution that allows me to access music from the network using MacOS and iOS devices via Roon, Audirvana+, and iTunes. Therefore, the Network solution needs to be compatible with those players.
  • Budget: None. I want the best of the best home router and the storage solution can be a cheap/simple option.
  • Other considerations: The router will be in a small, open space (550 sq ft) so range does not matter. Having the most up to date protocols is something I would like to have considering the advent of WPA 3 and WiFi 6. A company with good customer support is nice to have.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
Short Answer:

At minimum, you need a router capable of 2Gb/s NAT (1Gb up + down), a wireless AP (built-in or discrete) and a NAS with an Intel i-Core CPU and 4+GB of RAM for enough decoding power as a Roon server, etc -- and use a proper NAS from day one. Hanging a hard drive (SSD or otherwise) off a all-in-one USB bus won't go well, trust me.

Long Answer:

If simply replacing one consumer all-in-one with the next is fine enough for you, I look for the most solid 4x4 wifi option. If you must go Wifi 6, I'd go Asus RT-AX88U running the latest stable Merlin on it. Users like @L&LD can help guide you in how best to setup and deploy.

For the next level of support and reliabilty, plus out-of-the-box support for big-boy network items like VLANs and PoE, I'd look to a stack of discrete components, business-grade quality or better. For your needs, I'd converge the switch and router into one with a Cisco RV345P, then pair that with a 4x4, Qualcomm-based, certified Wifi 6 AP. Cisco doesn't have any small business grade Wifi 6 APs out yet, so the EnGenius EWS377AP would fit the bill, can be run standalone via the web and their support is decent.

For a NAS, as I said, for truly fluid decoding and streaming, you're going to want a higher-clock Intel i-Core or AMD Ryzen based NAS. If the hardware requirement wasn't so stringent, I'd recommend Synology, as their software quality and stability is generally superior. That said, QNAP is a much better value for hardware, and their software should be stable enough. Of all the QNAP models to choose from, the TVS-672N-i3-4G ($1300 - Amazon) would be a good minimum spec box. I'd add two 4TB WD RED or Seagate IronWolf drives and a stick or two of M.2 SSD cache. Probably ~$2K all said and done, but then again, you're running ~$4K worth of Apple hardware, so I take it you're used to some decent hardware spend when/where it's warranted.

Lastly, a note on support. Especially these days, direct customer care will only ever be top notch if you actually pay for it routinely -- ie. a services contract. Short of that, "support" is usually surmised by the product itself, namely the amount of development quality divided by the level of planned obsolescence; consumer stuff is generally a lower number, SMB-grade a bit higher, enterprise at the top. If you're pursuing a higher-grade experience overall, I'd lean towards SMB/enterprise gear, plus best-practices to match. All of that is fairly obvious of course, but I find it does bear repeating.

Hope some of that helps!
 
Last edited:

idesign

Occasional Visitor
Thank you for such a thoughtful and thorough reply. I like the idea of the using a small business switch+router instead of a consumer grade router. Security, speed, stability, and support are very important to me. The Cisco RV340W is really compelling as an integrated solution but the RV345P affords me more flexibility in terms of adding a NAS and WiFi 6 AP later on (future proofing).

According to Cisco, they're working to release a Small Business WiFi 6 AP. I'm thinking to purchase everything from Cisco for seamlessness and I'm wondering which Cisco AP you recommend as a stop gap solution (e.g. the small discrete 145AC)?
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
You're welcome.

For an AC-class Cisco AP as a stand-in, I'd try to score a deal on a bit higher-end WAP, perhaps used in clean condition, like this WAP581 on eBay for $100, or similar.
 

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