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In need of a new router - but lost between models/tech/price

geodeath

New Around Here
Hi all,

first post here, although i have been reading a lot before!

I live in the UK in one of the most dense areas of London (Westminster - if not THE most dense one), so my wireless router that is supplied by my provider is failing miserable to rise above all of the 10s of routers i can see on my devices. I have been changing channels and removing 'auto channel change' options to avoid my devices being hung without a connection and also switched to the cleanest 5g channels i could.

It is not enough. I keep getting weird problems all the time, so i think it is time for a 'proper' router.
My main requirements are 2:

1. GREAT range and performance over some distance. While the current flat i live in is small (about 80sqm), i am happy to buy an expensive router that will prove 'good enough' even if i move to a bigger house. For now and the foreseeable future, i need one router alone (if possible) that will handle my current and future flats/houses. I will probably never live in something bigger than 100/150 sqm and over 3 floors and i have seen routers being advertised (ie nighthawk x8) as being able to cover 3500sqm. I don't believe all of it, but there has to be some truth there. Having the choice of a let's say £300 mesh system and a £300 single router that still does the job, i would go for the single router. I prefer a single device, less headaches, less cables etc etc.

2. Due to the nature of congestion where i live, the 2.4 and even some 5g spectrum are completely done. I need a router that will be able to use the DFS channels.

My problem comes from trying to make a shortlist of routers from the cheapest to the more expensive ones, that cover both points. I would be very happy if £150 is enough to cover both, but i am not so sure. Current routers i am looking at with some notes in brackets next to each one of them (from cheapest to more expensive):

1. Linksys WRT32X-UK £135 (not rated highly cause of performance/range issues and firmware - got dfs though)
2. Linksys WRT3200ACM-UK £150 (same as above)
3. NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 Smart Wifi Router (R8000) £150 (seems like a great range but no dfs)
4. Razer Portal WiFi Router - AC2400 £150 (seems this was engineered with my issues in mind but a lot of conflicting reviews on firmware/stability/performance/them breaking down?)
5. ASUS RT-AX92U AX6100 £190 (seems great but not many reviews pitching it against the other ones on my list, got plenty or power and dfs)
6. ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 £250 (seems like this is the real deal and a good deal for cyber monday too)

My problem is, i do not know (and reading some of the content people post here i am even more confused) if any of the cheap ones will actually be as good as the more expensive ones or if the expensive ones are just nice to haves on top of functionality i will never really see everyday. On top of that, i do not want to buy one of them only to test and return, firstly because i might not even be able to tell the problems are solved in the grace period and also because some of these prices are deals that will not be available later.

I know there are newer routers at the top end like the newer ROG for example replacing the 5300 but £400 is too much to spend. Now if everybody comes to me and says that i HAVE to spend £400 for what i need... i will do it, but this is the point of this post. To see what you think is adequate or fitting in this case. I have seen wifi6 routers too but not sure if there is a point yet... the AX92U is supposed to cover bits of that too, making me think this is the good middle point?

Many thanks for the long read and for your suggestions!
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
My vote would be for the RT-AC86U plus RMerlin firmware. None of the models you list would even be worth testing for the requirements you've stated.
 

Pak Kriss

Regular Contributor
AC86U and Merlin and all is good.

Sent from my SM-T805 using Asus RT-AC86U & Merlin 384.13
 

geodeath

New Around Here
Thanks for the replies, the truth is that i looked at the AC86U too but nowhere in the ASUS website does it state that it has DFS support? Also, it looks like a smaller router with fewer antennas than some on my list. What makes it better? Or is the number of antennas an illusion?
 

geodeath

New Around Here
My vote would be for the RT-AC86U plus RMerlin firmware. None of the models you list would even be worth testing for the requirements you've stated.
Thanks, but can you elaborate a bit on why do you think my selection is not even worth testing for both of my requirements? As far as tests/marketing goes, all of them bar one satisfy both, and the AC86U does not? (DFS)?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
RT-AC86U has the most powerful hardware with the most RAM and it includes 3x3 antennae for 2.4GHz and 4x4 antennae for 5GHz.

Because it is the most powerful RMerlin supported and the least expensive and most current router, is why I state it is best for your requirements ('one router for now and the foreseeable future'). :)

The RT-AC5300 is an older platform and, IMO, eclipsed by the RT-AC86U in many ways.
 

geodeath

New Around Here
RT-AC86U has the most powerful hardware with the most RAM and it includes 3x3 antennae for 2.4GHz and 4x4 antennae for 5GHz.

Because it is the most powerful RMerlin supported and the least expensive and most current router, is why I state it is best for your requirements ('one router for now and the foreseeable future'). :)

The RT-AC5300 is an older platform and, IMO, eclipsed by the RT-AC86U in many ways.
Thanks a lot for the detailed explanation - much appreciated. My concern with congested 2.4 and 5g though will not go away unless i use the DFS option. It looks like this router does not allow for such a setup. I also looked at the merlin FW but obviously an FW cannot usually provide something the hardware can't :)
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
I'm not 100% sure, but I think DFS is region-specific (I don't have it available on mine)?

I also remember that DFS was recently introduced to a certain Asus model (via firmware update), but can't remember if that model was the RT-AC86U. :)
 

Datalink

Regular Contributor
If you need DFS capability, look at the RT-AX88U which has DFS capability and its supported by Merlin.

The problem with running a DFS router/modem is that not all mobile devices support DFS channels. That's a hit and miss situation that you won't know of until you're actually running a DFS capable router/modem. You could attempt to track down all of the information for every wifi device that you currently use, but my guess is that the manufacturers won't divulge that information.

So, if you have a router/modem running a DFS channel and you attempt to connect a mobile device to that router/modem, it will do one of two things, either connect and run properly, or, look like its connected and do nothing (DFS channel not supported).

The other problem is that DFS channels are not a panacea. They come with their own restrictions which cause the router/modem to evacuate the channel if a weather radar is detected, so, given that you're in London, I'd expect that to happen given the proximity of the airports in and around London. You could look for any comments by DFS users around London to see what's been posted to date.

Have a look at the following post. Although the poster is in the U.S., its a good example of DFS issues:

https://www.snbforums.com/threads/rt-ax88u-5-ghz-wifi-problems.55088/#post-466743

If you happen to have a wifi scanner that displays DFS channels running on a laptop, ignore the following. If not, read on ......

The remaining paragraphs are predicated on the assumption that you have a laptop that is DFS capable, as indicated above.

Download Winfi Lite from: https://www.helge-keck.com/

Load that onto a laptop and when that is running, select the "i' for info icon in the second row from the top to display the info section on the bottom of the display. Then select "Spectrum" to display the graphical channel display. It may or may not display any already existing DFS networks. The initial version of that program had a setting to display the DFS channels regardless of whether or not there were any DFS network running. Later versions of the program removed that setting, so I don't know if the bottom graphical display switches automatically to include the DFS channels or not. If it doesn't, and does not display the DFS channels anymore, you will have to sort the top channel list to determine if there are any other DFS channels running.

If you happen to see nearby DFS channels running, that might be an indication that DFS actually works in your location. If you don't see any DFS channels, that either means that the laptop doesn't support DFS channels, or, that DFS channels don't work in your area due to civil and military weather radar systems. If you took a drive to some location that isn't covered by a civil or military weather radar, you might see some DFS channels in operation, maybe .....

Hope this helps.

Edit: Here's a reference for UK wifi channels:

https://wifinigel.blogspot.com/2018/05/updated-white-paper-on-license-exempt.html

Assuming that the Wifi band chart is correct, it looks like the UK DFS designation covers some of Band A, and all of Band B and C. That's a major pain as it doesn't provide many channels in Band A which are outside of the DFS zone. That's a totally different situation compared to North America where there are bottom and top channels which are outside of the DFS zone, while the DFS zone covers the middle channels. So, I'd take anyone's comments regarding DFS use with a grain of salt, so to speak. I think that the only users who can provide any useful DFS comments for your situation are those users from the UK who might happen to be in the same situation as you.
 
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CaptainSTX

Part of the Furniture
Before worrying about if the router can utilize a DFS channels you might want to check your client devices. I set my AC86 to use a DFS channel and none of my Alexa, multiple spots and at least on Roku would not connect. You might have more success with PCs that have more processing power and more sophisticated wireless chips.
 

Val D.

Very Senior Member
I need a router that will be able to use the DFS channels.
I wouldn't chase DFS channels. Here is a good explanation how DFS works and what to expect:
http://wifinigel.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-5ghz-problem-for-wi-fi-networks-dfs.html
Clients need to know what DFS is also, as mentioned above. Some of your devices may not find your network.

My advice is to stick to non-DFS channels, even though other networks are present on same channels. Visible networks around doesn't mean not available bandwidth. Not all the networks transmit data on full speed all the time. I see 7 networks on lower channels and my router still manages to push ~50MB/sec to my wireless bridge most of the time.
 

geodeath

New Around Here
Excellent replies all, thanks so much. I have indeed thought about checking for DFS support on devices i am using and also using a device to scan for DFS usage and how free they are.
I know that i can use them in London and the UK, so it is all down to testing really. At the end of the day, if i am going to spend some good money on a router and they do support DFS, at least it is a bonus!
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
Before worrying about if the router can utilize a DFS channels you might want to check your client devices. I set my AC86 to use a DFS channel and none of my Alexa, multiple spots and at least on Roku would not connect. You might have more success with PCs that have more processing power and more sophisticated wireless chips.
I ran my Cisco WAP581 wireless APs using DFS channels for a while with roaming and it was fast and worked with our Echo and 2 dots great. My Window10 laptop was very fast on wireless this way. It solved a problem I had with a neighbors 5GHz interfering with me. We also used 2 iPhone 7 and they also worked great. It must of been an ASUS issue.

If it was me in such a small place I would play around with turning the power down so you have less interference. Or maybe trying a single 20mhz channel on 5GHz only. You can end up with less radio latency on a small fast channel that does not have to wait on a large overlapped radio space. I played with this for a short while but my density is not that high. You probably won't need 2.4GHz at all so make sure you test both frequencies independently. There are lots of options to play nice try them.
 

geodeath

New Around Here
I wouldn't chase DFS channels. Here is a good explanation how DFS works and what to expect:
http://wifinigel.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-5ghz-problem-for-wi-fi-networks-dfs.html
Clients need to know what DFS is also, as mentioned above. Some of your devices may not find your network.

My advice is to stick to non-DFS channels, even though other networks are present on same channels. Visible networks around doesn't mean not available bandwidth. Not all the networks transmit data on full speed all the time. I see 7 networks on lower channels and my router still manages to push ~50MB/sec to my wireless bridge most of the time.
I came across this article as i was searching generally about DFS to see how it is and how it works. To be honest it sounds a little bit like the problem i am in right now, which is a crappy router, trying to channel hop, to keep the wifi network on a 'least used' channel (which does not happen, but its trying), then only for my devices to get disconnected and wait an X amount of time that i do not know what is it going to be to get connected again. I am guessing that if it is done gracefully, it should be fine (after all, one of them is marketed as zero delay dfs), it is just down to bad implementation... I would still like to have it and try it than not have it and think it might help.
 

Val D.

Very Senior Member
which is a crappy router, trying to channel hop, to keep the wifi network on a 'least used' channel
Don't use Auto channel to prevent this behavior. You may get even more frequent disconnects with DFS.
 

Datalink

Regular Contributor
I think that anyone who attempts to use DFS channels will fall into one of two groups:

1. DFS channels work without interruption as there is no weather radar present to kick the router off to another channel.

2. DFS works but is subject to constant interruption due to presence of weather radar systems in the local area.

That's one of those experimentation issues where you won't know the results until the router is in place and running a DFS channel. All you have to do is monitor the network channel with a wifi monitor program to see if the router stops transmitting and kicks to another channel. That should literally take you a couple of minutes to determine after the router is up and running. Just a matter of keeping in mind "DFS channel + uncommanded channel change = weather radar." Good idea, no cigar as they say.

The other issue as I mentioned above, is knowing whether or not the device that you're testing with is DFS capable. The worst case scenario is attempting to test/use a new router and test mobile device where you set up the router to run a DFS channel and it immediately detects a weather radar, forcing it to change channels, with the ensuing transmit delays, and, your mobile test device doesn't support DFS channels. At the end of the day, you don't see anything on the test device but possibly don't understand that there are two issues at play.

You really need to know that something like your laptop fully supports DFS channels. Without a router on hand, you need to test the laptop somewhere that has DFS channels in operation. Basically a chicken and egg situation. Which arrives first, the DFS capable router, or DFS capable device (laptop)?

As indicated by @Val D. auto mode is a problem. Personal opinion, set the channel and stay there. Stand your ground as they say, instead of channel hopping, although in the UK, without DFS capability, there aren't many channels to hop thru in the 5 Ghz band.

Edit: Correct the following;

"Without a router on hand, you need to test the router somewhere that has DFS channels in operation. "

to read:

"Without a router on hand, you need to test the laptop somewhere that has DFS channels in operation. "

My apologies :( a case of "router" on the brain .......
 
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coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
I would still like to have it and try it than not have it and think it might help.
Maybe a Cisco RV260p router and a Cisco WAP581 wireless AP. The WAP581 is very adjustable. I have never used European Cisco as I am in the US but I would think it will work well.

Around me there were no DFS channels in use by my neighbors.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@geodeath - How flexible is your budget and how intent are you on ending your issues and/or just getting it handled?

I realize you probably wouldn't even be here if you could do the following, and this may sound like bringing a nuclear weapon to a gun fight, but if you do have the means, you might consider hiring this out to a high-end residential AV/networking outfit in your area. Something like London AV Solutions, or similar. The cost level is obvious, but the value here is of course their expertise is being able to navigate past your very challenging environment (from the sounds of it). I figured I'd at least mention it because some people who do have the financial means aren't even aware that the option exists in most markets.

Beyond that, if you still want to DIY, you indeed might be able to get away with a higher-powered all-in-one or single AP, but trying to combat all that RF interference from a single cell may be a losing battle. A better option would be to wire as much Cat6 as is needed and run multiple APs set to very low power, using a centralized wifi product (Omada, UniFi, Cisco WAP, etc.) all connected to a PoE switch and wired router (or wired combo unit like a Cisco RV260P). Either way, the general approach would give you the ability to get as much clean signal as close as possible to your wifi clients, while also having the reliability and bandwidth of wired backhaul and manual control over channel usage (ie. no whole-house mesh systems).

One step further still would be running a wifi product purpose-built for interference mitigation, such as Ruckus. Expensive? You bet. But properly setup, I've seen it simply end people's issues in situations like yours more often than not. Their proprietary beam-steering and PD-MRC works above and beyond the typical standards-based implementations, as does their auto channel selection algorithm, which optimizes channel choice based on client load, traffic flow, RF co-interference, throughput overhead and topology awareness. That will probably be called out as unicorn dust by some here, and that's cool; all I know is I've seen it work enough times when other things wouldn't (including Cisco Aironet), that it must have some value beyond just buying more UniFi or another AC86U and calling it a day. But then again, I'm only one guy, so what do I know. :)

Additionally, all of the above isn't to say static channel assignment and/or disabling DFS, in-part or altogether, isn't the right thing to do for certain scenarios, but just know that at least some of how you can optimize your wifi experience is due to gear selection as much as it is your environment.

Hope some of that helps, and forgive some of my suggestions if they're way above and beyond.
 
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Val D.

Very Senior Member
I would still like to have it and try it than not have it and think it might help.
Did you look at Netgear R7800? Wireless AC Wave 2, excellent hardware, very stable software, DFS channels support, one of the best WiFi throughput and coverage in AIO category. If you don't need 100 firmware options and don't have intentions to tinker with your router too much, it might be a good choice out of the box. Not the newest model, but tested by many and proven very good.
https://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R7800.aspx
https://kb.netgear.com/000060372/Which-NETGEAR-routers-support-Dynamic-Frequency-Selection
 

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