Mesh system or single Wifi Router

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SteelSteve

Occasional Visitor
My parents have been complaining about Wifi access through their 2400 sq foot house. Its a brick ranch with thick walls. They used to have a Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH router located in the center of their house and even though it did do a great job it did enough. When it died I gave them an old DLink DIR860 but it keeps dropping and won't provide strong wifi through the rest of the house. They have Verizon 100 / 100 or 150 /150 not sure, and my nephews and sister have moved in and like to stream / games, etc. I was thinking of getting them a mesh system like the Ampli HD or maybe 2 ac86U's and try to setup an AIMesh system. Do these sound like good options, are there better ones? Would a good single router be a better idea? The router will be located in the center of the house, and there is a room over the garage which always seems to have bad wifi service.
 

sbsnb

Very Senior Member
I would try one router first. I've had pretty good luck with the coverage from Asus routers. I have a single Asus RT-AC88U in a 2,700 square foot home on a half-acre property where about 15 neighbors' APs are visible on WiFi scans and it gives me adequate coverage beyond all corners of my property.

I also advised a friend to go with Asus when he reported that his weather station console in the kitchen couldn't even stay connected to his ISP-provided WiFi in the hallway. That was several years ago and he still raves about the coverage.

Just make sure it's a router with external antennas and more than one. The higher up in elevation you can place the router, the better your coverage will be all other things being equal.
 

SteelSteve

Occasional Visitor
Thanks, I was looking at the AC88U as a possibility. Maybe I'll go that way to start and see who that works. Definitely the cheaper option.
 

sbsnb

Very Senior Member
I would go with the AX88U if I were buying today. You want your router to last a long time for the investment and the AC88U is closer to becoming an unsupported model than the AX88U. Plus, the AX88U has some features that the AC88U doesn't.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@SteelSteve - Welcome. SMB/SOHO integrator here. I'd implore you put aside other suggestions for the moment and consider the following.

At a high level, I can tell you almost straight away you want to be broadcasting wifi from at least two, maybe three, equidistant places across the house, in order to ensure proper signal quality for all devices. That said, I would choose gear based on how much, if any, wired backbone there is, and/or how simple you want the solution to be:

1) If there is ethernet or TV coaxial cable (for use with MoCa) in the house, then I would skip the consumer gear altogether and run SMB-grade, discrete components. Properly installed, neither you nor your parents will ever have to touch it again (aside from configuration changes). Help calls should also be minimal, likely zero. The setup would consist of a wired router/switch (example: Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X - $60) and two or three controller-based access points (ex: Cisco CBW140AC ceiling unit ($110 ea) or CBW145AC wall-plate unit ($150 ea). If the backbone is ethernet, you can power the APs via PoE, centrally with a PoE switch or injectors, or locally with injectors or AC plugs. If backbone is TV coaxial, then you'll need MoCa-compatible splitters ($10-20 ea) in place of any non-compatible ones, plus one MoCa 2.5 adapter ($60 ea.) per wired equipment location. APs will need to be powered locally by injector or AC plug. Although this is a more complex setup, with added steps and gear if MoCa is involved, the end result will be a network that functions more like an appliance and less like a toy (think: hot water heater, HVAC system, etc).

2) If you can't create any wired backbone, and/or or just want to K.I.S.S. at all costs, the just go consumer wifi mesh, namely Eero (any hardware version). Why Eero? Unlike most consumer router firmwares with meshing added after-the-fact (ex: Asus AiMesh, Netgear Orbi, etc.), Eero 1) purpose-built, actual mesh, 2) uses QoS that actually works (to keep all internet activity snappy and buffer-free, regardless of what anyone else is doing on the network) and 3) can alter radio roles and channel usage in real-time to optimize traffic flow and keep all mesh links in-tact. No other product in the segment (or out of it, for that matter) does any of those as well, let alone all of them, and together they make a huge difference in the "it just works" factor. Eero also has dead-simple software that I've found to me much more stable, on average, than your typical Asus, Netgear or TP-Link all-in-ones. Granted, you can augment much of that last issue with stuff like Merlin for Asus, but it's one less thing to have to monkey with when picking a product that just works, non-stop, straight out of the box.

So that's your action flow to solve their issues once and for all. Any questions, feel free.
 
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sbsnb

Very Senior Member
At a high level, I can tell you almost straight away you want to be broadcasting wifi from at least two, maybe three, equidistant places across the house, in order to ensure proper signal quality for all devices.
Why would you start with that? That closes all your options right off the bat. If he starts with one router and it works for his purposes everything is great. If it doesn't work he can move on to a mesh network. On the other hand, if he follows your advice he may be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for nothing.

Since the OP is the only person who knows what he considers "proper" performance, anyone claiming to know that on his behalf is likely pushing something for some purpose other than satisfying OP's needs.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
Why would you start with that? That closes all your options right off the bat. If he starts with one router and it works for his purposes everything is great. If it doesn't work he can move on to a mesh network. On the other hand, if he follows your advice he may be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for nothing.
Point made about the number of APs. That said, he could just as easily start with a single wired router and access point for similar or less money, both of which would likely be much more stable platforms, on average. If he needed to expand wifi, he's already setup to do so with a purpose-built, scalable AP product, which can be upgraded for less technical debt. As far as total spend, he could do it all for $300 ish, or less, right around or not too much more than most higher-end all-in-ones + mesh nodes, and/or consumer mesh systems.
 
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sbsnb

Very Senior Member
Point made about the number of APs. That said, he could just as easily start with a single wired router and access point for similar or less money
How can a router be the same price as a router+AP?

both of which would likely be much more stable platforms, on average.

What makes a router+AP more stable than the router alone?
 

Smokey613

Very Senior Member
Let me know if you want to go the mesh route. :)

 

Trip

Very Senior Member
How can a router be the same price as a router+AP?
Very simply. Let's take a typical, mid-grade all-in-one router -- say, an Asus RT-AX58U. About $160. Now let's look at a discrete router plus AP. Plenty of wired routers well under $100 (EdgeRouter-X or Mikrotik HeX, either about $60, or an old PC off eBay plus pfSense, etc.). Add in an AP. It could be the Cisco CBW140AC I mentioned (~$110), but could also be a cheaper but almost-as-good TP-Link EAP225v3 ($60). There you have it. Router (aka all-in-one router) roughly equivalent to router (wired router) plus AP.
What makes a router+AP more stable than the router alone?
In a nutshell: a stack of specialized components, versus a master-of-none. Specifically, it most often starts and ends with the software. Consumer-class router firmwares are riddled with poor QA/QC, whereas SMB/community grade discrete components, while not perfect either, tend to be much more solidly developed, and supported for longer periods of time. On a slightly less-common basis, it can also be the hardware. This is an extreme example, but take Ruckus APs. I'll bring it back down to earth by saying, take a used $50 Ruckus R500 off eBay. Inside you find CNC-machined, multi-axis antennas, proper isolation and resistance of circuits, solid caps, redundant power inputs, etc. Basically, top-end engineering designed to make this one thing -- your wireless access layer -- function at its utmost. Compare that to most consumer boxes and low-end "business" kit, where they just take the base-reference SoC and strip it of all but the most essential items, then only add back what's needed based on "good enough" engineering. You're left with bare circuit traces, cheaper componentry, commodity sheet metal origami antennas. Etc. Granted, that's an extreme example, and at full MSRP we're comparing a $1200 mouse trap to a $50 one; albeit at $50 eBay pricing the point is a bit more relevant.

All that said, who cares, right? Well, after using the full gamut of gear over the years, I've taken note of what simply works, and very often, price differences not being too far off, a good majority of consumer kit is nowhere near as baseline-level functional or stable as it really should be. But it is what it is. Fortunately, there are not-too-difficult workarounds to be had, for not too much money, via like what I included in my first reply.
 
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SteelSteve

Occasional Visitor
I appreciate every ones opinions and responses. Trouble here is its a router for an older demographic especially when we are talking about managing it. Yes I'll be stopping by, but it needs to be something they can easily manage without having to be a network expert. Though they don't currently have any AX devices, my Nephews will be doing gaming so I've recommended to him that we look at something like the ASUS AX82U gaming router, this should ensure company support into the future. Like SNSB has said this is a good starting point, we can then add a second or even third later should his connectivity still be lacking.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@SteelSteve - Apologies for the needless complexity then, and side tangent.

For a K.I.S.S. solution that's perfect for gaming traffic and extended wifi, I would doube-down on Eero 6. A 2-unit setup is $160 and can be up and running in <10 minutes. It's controllable by anyone from the phone app, even your parents should find it approachable, and you can also give yourself remote access, provided you authorize your phone's Eero app with their account (and MFA device). Bottom line: Eero should be a more reliable and easier-to-use choice. If you need more wired ports than the two onboard each unit, simply wire in a $20 8-port unmanaged switch to a free Eero port, then plugin all your devices into the switch.
 
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cooloutac

Very Senior Member
I appreciate every ones opinions and responses. Trouble here is its a router for an older demographic especially when we are talking about managing it. Yes I'll be stopping by, but it needs to be something they can easily manage without having to be a network expert. Though they don't currently have any AX devices, my Nephews will be doing gaming so I've recommended to him that we look at something like the ASUS AX82U gaming router, this should ensure company support into the future. Like SNSB has said this is a good starting point, we can then add a second or even third later should his connectivity still be lacking.

that ax82u router is only 10 dollars cheaper then the ax86u on amazon. if thats the price you're paying i'd just go with the ax86u instead. I agree that you should just use a single router and see how it works out.

I canceled delivery of my unifi ap and just picked up a refurbed ax58u and the coverage blows away my ac66u_b1. In my experience the aimesh is not that stable and I would only try it if really necessary, I'm just going to shelve my old router and keep it as a backup. I had tried the ax58u previously and thought it an amazingly stable performer and I saw one for $125 so I jumped on it. Decided that the cool tech experiment of using my raspberry pi as a unifi controller and trying to install the poe unifi ap was just not worth it in the end. Wasn't even wifi 6 and might of been a big hassle for not much improvement. I still might eventually setup a router box in the future, but these asus routers do the job fine. I'm not fort knox and I'm also a gamer. My ac66u_b1 never had a problem in 3 years and i'm running 40 wifi devices on my network. The ax58u seems just as solid.

Whatever you do don't get an ac86u. It was a nightmare. I didn't want to buy it after reading reviews of the 2.4ghz wifi chip frying on them. but i thought maybe new manufacturing would of changed things. After all sorts of errors and problems, my wifi also started dying i believe after a month forcing me to constantly reboot it and I immediately boxed it up and sent it back. Personally I wouldn't get anything marketed as gaming, i'd fear the ax86u having similar issues and if I was you I would just get an ax88u or ax58u. The mobile gaming mode and such is really not a big deal and just more of a come-on. But thats just my personal opinion.
 
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Smokey613

Very Senior Member
@SteelSteve - Apologies for the needless complexity then, and side tangent.

For a K.I.S.S. solution that's perfect for gaming traffic and extended wifi, I would doube-down on Eero 6. A 2-unit setup is $160 and can be up and running in <10 minutes. It's controllable by anyone from the phone app, even your parents should find it approachable, and you can also give yourself remote access, provided you authorize your phone's Eero app with their account (and MFA device). Bottom line: Eero should be a more reliable and easier-to-use choice. If you need more wired ports than the two onboard each unit, simply wire in a $20 8-port unmanaged switch to a free Eero port, then plugin all your devices into the switch.

This is exactly what I replaced my 2 RT-AC86U routers with and I am very happy with the results. In fact I added a second eero 6 router in place of the eero 6 extender, which I may use later if the need arises. I also have the setup behind my PFsense box. :)
 

sbsnb

Very Senior Member
Very simply. Let's take a typical, mid-grade all-in-one router -- say, an Asus RT-AX58U. About $160. Now let's look at a discrete router plus AP. Plenty of wired routers well under $100 (EdgeRouter-X or Mikrotik HeX, either about $60, or an old PC off eBay plus pfSense, etc.).
I thought we were talking about making a mesh network. You can't make a mesh network with one AP.

An old PC running pfSense is going to use a hell of a lot more power than a router. Where I live the difference in electricity prices between a 20W and 100W is $138 a year. It also means I have to go from 1.5 hours of uptime from the UPS in a power outage to about 15 minutes.

Is the hardware offloading for IPsec still broken on the Edgerouter-X? I know it used to be, which meant if you use a VPN your speeds were very slow.

The Eeros unit claims 3,000 square feet of coverage. That's a circle 30 feet from the router. That's crap if accurate. With my RT-AC88U I have a -67 dbm signal at the far corner of my yard 155 feet away from the router located in the middle of the house.

As far as reliability, I'm not sure what's the standard here. I've gone about 400 days without a reboot of my Asus, but it's usually less because I update the firmware. It routinely is not rebooted in between firmware updates, between 3 and 9 months apart.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
I thought we were talking about making a mesh network. You can't make a mesh network with one AP.
We're talking about scalable wireless in general. Mesh only happens to be one option. Wired APs are another. Regardless, you can't make a mesh network with a single all-in-one or a router+AP.
An old PC running pfSense is going to use a hell of a lot more power than a router. Where I live the difference in electricity prices between a 20W and 100W is $138 a year. It also means I have to go from 1.5 hours of uptime from the UPS in a power outage to about 15 minutes.
Indeed. Probably should have left out that example. The point remains: there are several options to run an inexpensive and solid wired routing solution without breaking the bank in hardware or energy costs (Mikrotik RB series, PC-Engines APU, used thin clients, just to name a few).
Is the hardware offloading for IPsec still broken on the Edgerouter-X?
It's active for certain encryption algorithms, not for others, per this KB.
The Eeros unit claims 3,000 square feet of coverage. That's a circle 30 feet from the router. That's crap if accurate. With my RT-AC88U I have a -67 dbm signal at the far corner of my yard 155 feet away from the router located in the middle of the house.
For single-cell setups, blasting an over-amplified all-in-one to the farthest corners of the earth may work well enough, but at some point the physics will catch up to the comparatively weak radios in the client devices, which, although supposedly seeing great signal in those spots, won't be ale to return that signal with the same aplomb, causing a fair amount of degredation in performance to the WLAN as whole (due to an ever-growing amount of re-transmits and extra airtime taken). At that point, one simply needs more, lower-power radios across the same area, to get more returnable signal closer to the endpoints. That's how big-boy wifi engineering is approached, and how it filters on down to properly designed and deployed SOHO/SMB installs as well. Understanding that, you then see that growing overly concerned about claimed "range" of any specific single-array is barking up the wrong tree. For a great primer on wifi and principles therein, see this excellent Duckware article, for more on how best to approach "range", see Appendix H (Maximizing Wifi Range), specifically.

Also, please know, I don't mention all that to take the wind out of anyone's sails if they want to stick to all-in-one for the sake of it. That said, if you're looking for truly scalable wifi that performs solidly, discrete, purpose-built APs or mesh products are the better route, more often that not.
As far as reliability, I'm not sure what's the standard here. I've gone about 400 days without a reboot of my Asus, but it's usually less because I update the firmware. It routinely is not rebooted in between firmware updates, between 3 and 9 months apart.
That's excellent to hear, and a testament to @RMerlin's work to enhance and stabilize AsusWRT.
This is exactly what I replaced my 2 RT-AC86U routers with and I am very happy with the results. In fact I added a second eero 6 router in place of the eero 6 extender, which I may use later if the need arises. I also have the setup behind my PFsense box. :)
Great to hear that both work so well together.
 
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cooloutac

Very Senior Member
I gotta say the whole clients won't be able to respond even though receiving long range argument is very common among ubiquiti unifi fans especially when it comes to uac-ap-lr vs multiple lites which usually cost roughly the same price. I figure it started as sales pitch for people to spend more money on multiple ap's rather then a single one. Cause when you dig deeper the avg home user never notices these performance differences that might possibly happen. It would be better to argue 5ghz speed vs 2ghz speed which is the only difference someone might notice. where the long range device would perform better on 2.4ghz and the lite would have slightly better speeds on 5ghz. I'm sure environment plays a role as well but we talking about the avg home user here.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
@cooloutac - Indeed, it's much less of an issue for those without enough client numbers and/or demands to make multi APs worth it. But the explanation isn't strictly a Ubiquiti-born argument. It's existed long before Ubiquiti was even a player in the space. Regardless, yes, all-in-ones are often good enough for most home users.
 

cooloutac

Very Senior Member
@cooloutac - Indeed, it's much less of an issue for those without enough client numbers and/or demands to make multi APs worth it. But the explanation isn't strictly a Ubiquiti-born argument. It's existed long before Ubiquiti was even a player in the space. Regardless, yes, all-in-ones are often good enough for most home users.

I'm sure it has.
 

Smokey613

Very Senior Member
This is exactly what I replaced my 2 RT-AC86U routers with and I am very happy with the results. In fact I added a second eero 6 router in place of the eero 6 extender, which I may use later if the need arises. I also have the setup behind my PFsense box. :)

I went back to my Asus routers. The eero cannot be managed if they loose internet connection. :(
 

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