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Switching from Asus AIMesh

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Johno

Regular Contributor
I currently have an Asus RT-AX86U with a couple of RT-AC68Us configured as an AIMesh using ethernet/wired backhaul which provides whole-house WiFi coverage, which I'm happy with given that my boradband speed is 70Mbps maximum. At some point, my home will be able to get FTTH / FTTP 1Gbps broadband and so my current setup won't be able to make the most of it, mostly because of the RT-AC68Us which (in my testing using iPerf) don't achieve anything above around 400Mbps. When connected to the RT-AX86U, I get speeds of around 820Mbps, which would be acceptable for a 1GB broadband service, so one way forward would be to replace the RT-AC68s with AiMesh-capable AX routers but it seems a bit wasteful to use a router as a mesh node (I've used the RT-AC68s as I had one going spare and came across another for not much money) so I'm wondering about switching to a "proper" system that supports a wired WiFi mesh?

I've looked at Ubiquiti UniFi gear but testing a borrowed UniFi AC Lite AP showed poor performance compared with the Asus RT-AC68Us which puts me off; also I understand that UniFi APs aren't very smart when it comes to WiFi roaming. I've also seen mention of TP-Link Omada kit, what are people's opinions on those and the UniFi gear?

Thanks in advance.
 
The weak link in your mesh is the AC68U's. They are limiting the AX86U to non-DFS channels and possibly limiting the 5 GHz to only 80 MHz. Going to an Asus AX class router as an AiMesh node will improve things.
I would recommend an AX86U Pro as a main router and use the AX86U as an AiMesh node. With Ethernet backhaul you will have no bandwidth issues. I have both routers and have recently tested the AX86U as a node to the AX86U Pro with the new Asus firmware. Works really well but I really do not need the extra WIFI in my house. The AX88U Pro is also recommended but for the additional cost you will not see a WIFI performance increase. And the AX86U Pro goes on sale from time to time.
 
also I understand that UniFi APs aren't very smart when it comes to WiFi roaming

Then you don't understand well how roaming works and you perhaps have never seen how controller managed multi-AP networks encourage better roaming. 🧐
 
The weak link in your mesh is the AC68U's. They are limiting the AX86U to non-DFS channels and possibly limiting the 5 GHz to only 80 MHz.
I've not found that to be the case - if I'm near the AX86 then I get the much higher speeds than if I'm connected to the slower AC 68s.
 
You're right, I don't.

An AP is just wired-to-wireless bridge and by itself it can't do much. Roaming is client's decision where to connect following preset conditions. Controller driven business class networks encourage roaming by tracking clients movements and dynamically adjusting transmit power to individual APs. They work better on low power and with multiple APs. There is no comparison to your AiMesh. It has one trick only - may try to disconnect clients below preset signal level threshold. The client may reconnect to the same radio though as happens often. Business gear when set properly can do it better using more tricks, but costs more and is not as user friendly as consumer products. Also business APs often have slightly directional radiation pattern, designed to work in groups/clusters and to serve multiple active clients. Consumer AIO routers are mostly omnidirectional, designed to work as single AP with maximum coverage and limited number of active clients. They are different products built for different applications.
 
... it seems a bit wasteful to use a router as a mesh node (I've used the RT-AC68s as I had one going spare and came across another for not much money) so I'm wondering about switching to a "proper" system that supports a wired WiFi mesh?
You're thinking along the right lines. Just as a matter of terminology, most people seem to use "mesh" to mean multiple APs with wireless backhaul, not wired backhaul. Wireless backhaul is a lifesaver if you really truly can't run an ethernet cable to the places where you need APs, but you pay for that flexibility in performance. If you can run wires, then the gear to be looking at is "SMB" (small-to-medium business) APs with a separate router in front of them. You can kind of emulate this with consumer gear, but you'll probably end up paying for a full-on router plus wireless AP at each position, because what those manufacturers want to sell you is all-in-one units.
I've looked at Ubiquiti UniFi gear but testing a borrowed UniFi AC Lite AP showed poor performance compared with the Asus RT-AC68Us which puts me off; also I understand that UniFi APs aren't very smart when it comes to WiFi roaming. I've also seen mention of TP-Link Omada kit, what are people's opinions on those and the UniFi gear?
I have no personal experience with Omada, but I jumped to UniFi about six months ago and have been happy with it overall. The AC-Lite is pretty nearly UniFi's bottom-of-the-line AP, and it's not surprising that it doesn't shine in single-client benchmarks; it's not intended to. (By and large, SMB APs are meant to serve a lot of clients reasonably well, not to win drag races with single clients.) I splurged on U6-Enterprises which are their top of the line or nearly so, and I have to admit that I probably overspent, but they perform very well. Roaming works fine, at least with the mostly-Apple clients I have.

For a reasonably neutral evaluation of those two product lines, you could do a lot worse than to look at Evan McCann's website. Better set aside an hour or two though; he's got a ton of information. Some of the articles are a bit old, but at least on the UniFi side of things I don't find any of it too terribly dated.
 
You're thinking along the right lines. Just as a matter of terminology, most people seem to use "mesh" to mean multiple APs with wireless backhaul, not wired backhaul. Wireless backhaul is a lifesaver if you really truly can't run an ethernet cable to the places where you need APs, but you pay for that flexibility in performance. If you can run wires, then the gear to be looking at is "SMB" (small-to-medium business) APs with a separate router in front of them. You can kind of emulate this with consumer gear, but you'll probably end up paying for a full-on router plus wireless AP at each position, because what those manufacturers want to sell you is all-in-one units.

I have no personal experience with Omada, but I jumped to UniFi about six months ago and have been happy with it overall. The AC-Lite is pretty nearly UniFi's bottom-of-the-line AP, and it's not surprising that it doesn't shine in single-client benchmarks; it's not intended to. (By and large, SMB APs are meant to serve a lot of clients reasonably well, not to win drag races with single clients.) I splurged on U6-Enterprises which are their top of the line or nearly so, and I have to admit that I probably overspent, but they perform very well. Roaming works fine, at least with the mostly-Apple clients I have.

For a reasonably neutral evaluation of those two product lines, you could do a lot worse than to look at Evan McCann's website. Better set aside an hour or two though; he's got a ton of information. Some of the articles are a bit old, but at least on the UniFi side of things I don't find any of it too terribly dated.
Which router/gateway did you buy?
 
If you want to put in the best info structure then go to a small business set up. Don't get trapped in the consumer model to where you have to replace it all every few years.
 
Which router/gateway did you buy?
I'm currently using UniFi U6-Enterprise APs and a Netgate 4200 router running pfSense. Before the U6s I had Zyxel NWA210AX APs, which I liked, but I wanted to get some 6E-capable APs and Zyxel wasn't selling anything that fit my needs.

I don't want to give the impression that UniFi is heaven on earth, but it's worked okay for me. You can find out a lot of the potential downsides by browsing their community forums. (Bear in mind that people don't tend to post if they're not having a problem; plus Ubiquiti deserve a good deal of credit for not trying to hide negative opinions.) After reading said forums for awhile, I'm not sure I'd invest in UniFi routers or switches; but I'm happy with their APs.
 
I'm currently using UniFi U6-Enterprise APs and a Netgate 4200 router running pfSense. Before the U6s I had Zyxel NWA210AX APs, which I liked, but I wanted to get some 6E-capable APs and Zyxel wasn't selling anything that fit my needs.

I don't want to give the impression that UniFi is heaven on earth, but it's worked okay for me. You can find out a lot of the potential downsides by browsing their community forums. (Bear in mind that people don't tend to post if they're not having a problem; plus Ubiquiti deserve a good deal of credit for not trying to hide negative opinions.) After reading said forums for awhile, I'm not sure I'd invest in UniFi routers or switches; but I'm happy with their APs.
How are you powering your APs? What brand of switch are you using? Are they using POE or POE+ or POE++?
 
How are you powering your APs? What brand of switch are you using? Are they using POE or POE+ or POE++?
The U6-Ents require PoE+. Currently I'm running them off Cisco switches that have some 2.5G PoE+ ports, but before that I was successfully using generic PoE+ injectors.
 
Cisco switches are nice as they track the POE power usage and report it on the GUI if it is a small business switch.
 

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