Trying to understand modern Mesh routers and decide if I should buy one

sodage9908

New Around Here
Hey all,

I live in a home that is one floor approximately 2,000 sqft in size (high ceiling) with an approximately 2,000 sqft screened-in pool outside, perpendicular to and on the corner of the house. At the moment, I use an Arris TG1682 modem+router combo to deliver internet, however, it only covers most of the inside of the house when doors/windows are closed and maybe half of the house when doors/windows are open. I'm looking for a way to completely fix this coverage issue inside the house and add coverage to the pool area too while potentially future proofing for 1 gbps wireless speeds. My current bandwidth is about 230 mbps so I'd like 230 mbps wireless speeds at a minimum.

I've been doing a lot of research and it seems like there are two main options here. I could obtain two or three APs and configure them to act as one wifi network or I could buy a dedicated mesh router + satellites. My concern with the former is roaming. I know there are some standard APs which support 802.11r/k/v and thus Fast Roaming but I've been reading that Fast Roaming isn't very reliable due to unsupported devices, bad implementations on clients/routers, and being designed for enterprise or large scale networks. Standard APs also aren't very likely to support the force disconnect feature which helps with roaming on many mesh routers. At least, I haven't found any standard APs that support the feature. All of this is to prevent devices from sticking to APs that clearly have a bad connection and to have a seamless transition from node to node. If getting mesh router equivalent roaming or better with standard APs is not possible, then I'd like to go with a mesh router, but I'm not sure exactly which one to buy. There are terms such as Wifi 6 and Tri-band thrown around but I'm not sure if they are necessary to achieve the coverage and speeds in my case because I have no problem using a wired backhaul. I'm looking at the mesh routers for their advanced roaming capabilities and because of the wired backhaul, their wireless transfer speeds don't matter beyond getting the data from the wireless device to the nearest node (no wireless transferring of data between nodes necessary, except to coordinate roaming).

I think the best case scenario for me would be standard AP routers with roaming capabilities equivalent or better than mesh routers, with open source firmware installed, supporting gigabit wireless speeds everywhere, and at a decent price. The open source firmware is preferable to have complete control over my network but from what I've read, it seems as though open source mesh roaming support isn't very good. If roaming is simply not good enough on standard AP routers, then my remaining option is to find a mesh router that best fits my use-case.

After scouring the internet for advice, it seems the best mesh routers are the TP-Link Deco, ASUS AiMesh/ZenWifi, Amazon Eero Pro, NETGEAR Orbi, Synology mesh routers, and Ubiquiti. The Eero is apparently a privacy nightmare. I'd rather not have a router that sends sensitive browsing data and analytics to a third party. I've seen many people around the internet complain about the Orbi dropping frequently which is a huge problem for me. A router needs to be reliable. But, maybe it's been solved now or is a defect in a small percentage of units. If we look at the Wifi 6 and Tri-band routers, the best options seem to be the Deco X90, ZenWiFi AX6600 XT8 2PK, Orbi RBK752, and a combo of Ubiquiti routers but if we look at their price points, they're kind of steep at the $450 mark (RBK752 on sale at Amazon for $330 !!). If we look at the Wifi 5 and Tri-band routers, the best options seem to be the Deco M9, Orbi RBK23, and ZenWiFi CT8. All of their price points are listed around the $300 mark, with the Deco M9 taking the lead at $250.

I guess all of this really boils down to a few questions. First, are standard APs good at roaming or should I go for a mesh router? Second, if I should go for a mesh router, what specs does a mesh router need to give me the performance that I want? Would a $250-range mesh router like the Deco M9 work? Third, which router(s) would you suggest for this scenario?

Thanks for sticking with me :)

Edit: Seems like the Orbi RBK852 is on sale from $700 to $550 too!
https://www.amazon.com/NETGEAR-Whole-Tri-Band-System-RBK852/
 
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OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
At the moment, I use an Arris TG1682 modem+router combo to deliver internet, however, it only covers most of the inside of the house when doors/windows are closed and maybe half of the house when doors/windows are open.

How does opening doors/windows reduce WiFi coverage?

One decent wireless router/AP should cover it. If not, add one more. Me, I'd start with an RT-AX86U and add a wired second one (hardware backup), if required (and ditch the ISP gateway).

Beware buying a packaged mesh system for too much money with more APs than you need... too much WiFI is not a good thing.

I really don't like suggesting what people should buy. :)

OE
 

Kapet

Occasional Visitor
For various reasons, I do not recommend purchasing TP-Link Deco. It is better to look in the direction of ASUS ZenWifi XT8 or ET8, - a router and one node.
 

TheLostSwede

Senior Member
Any chance you can get a wire from your current router to a location on the end of the house where the pool is?
Wired "backhaul" is always going to beat wireless backhaul.
This way, you can put an AP where it's needed and get coverage for the entire area you need.

It helps having the same WiFi chip in both devices when it comes to handover, as I have a Netgear router and two cheap TP-Link devices as AP, all QCA based and I have no issues roaming between them.
 

alba666

Regular Contributor
I would start with one good consumer router. I have been using Asus for years. The AX86 seems to be their best of breed right now and can have additional Asus routers meshed later if needed.
Your outside coverage is very dependent on your house topology and construction materials. So don’t be afraid to move the router to minimize the number of walls between the router and your outside service area. Open air > Doors > Inside walls > Outside walls/Fireplaces.
 

sodage9908

New Around Here
How does opening doors/windows reduce WiFi coverage?

One decent wireless router/AP should cover it. If not, add one more. Me, I'd start with an RT-AX86U and add a wired second one (hardware backup), if required (and ditch the ISP gateway).

Beware buying a packaged mesh system for too much money with more APs than you need... too much WiFI is not a good thing.

I really don't like suggesting what people should buy. :)

OE
It could just be confirmation bias, but it seems as though whenever the doors and windows are opened nowadays, the wireless connection is significantly worse. Thanks for the response!

For various reasons, I do not recommend purchasing TP-Link Deco. It is better to look in the direction of ASUS ZenWifi XT8 or ET8, - a router and one node.
Could you give me some specifics on why? I haven't heard anything bad about the Deco yet so I'm curious.

Any chance you can get a wire from your current router to a location on the end of the house where the pool is?
Wired "backhaul" is always going to beat wireless backhaul.
This way, you can put an AP where it's needed and get coverage for the entire area you need.

It helps having the same WiFi chip in both devices when it comes to handover, as I have a Netgear router and two cheap TP-Link devices as AP, all QCA based and I have no issues roaming between them.
Yeah, in my post I mention I have no problem using a wired backhaul. All of my analysis is with the assumption I will be using a wired backhaul. Good to know about the chip and roaming, thank you!

I would start with one good consumer router. I have been using Asus for years. The AX86 seems to be their best of breed right now and can have additional Asus routers meshed later if needed.
Your outside coverage is very dependent on your house topology and construction materials. So don’t be afraid to move the router to minimize the number of walls between the router and your outside service area. Open air > Doors > Inside walls > Outside walls/Fireplaces.
Ah, that's a great idea! After looking around a bit, I didn't realize how many Asus routers supported AiMesh. Any idea if replacing the firmware with OpenWRT or similar will remove the AiMesh roaming features? Or is that baked in the hardware somehow?
 
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OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
It could just be confirmation bias, but it seems as though whenever the doors and windows are opened nowadays, the wireless connection is significantly worse. Thanks for the response!

I wonder if the doors/windows reduce interference inside from neighboring WiFi (?).

OE
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Ah, that's a great idea! After looking around a bit, I didn't realize how many Asus routers supported AiMesh. Any idea if replacing the firmware with OpenWRT or similar will remove the AiMesh roaming features? Or is that baked in the hardware somehow?

Me, I would stay with the mainstream Asus routers that Asuswrt-Merlin supports, like the RT-AX86U, and shy away from the Asus niche gaming/packaged mesh kits... you'll enjoy better Support, imo, and external antennas.

I would start with one router and only add another to build an AiMesh, if required.

Finally, I would commission a new Asus/AiMesh network with stock Asuswrt until you have the basics working and are past the hardware burn-in (dead on arrival) stage. Then if you want more configurability, etc., consider Asuswrt-Merlin.

OE
 
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sodage9908

New Around Here
I wonder if the doors/windows reduce interference inside from neighboring WiFi (?).

OE
That could be the case. I have many wifi signals nearby.

FYI the AiMesh code in Asuswrt is closed source... so same code is in Asuswrt-Merlin.

OE
Yeah, I discovered that after a bit of research. Unfortunate, but better than everything being closed source.

Me, I would stay with the main stream Asus routers that Asuswrt-Merlin supports, like the RT-AX86U, and shy away from the Asus niche gaming/packaged mesh kits... you'll enjoy better Support, imo, and external antennas.

I would start with one router and only add another to build an AiMesh, if required.

Finally, I would commission a new Asus/AiMesh network with stock Asuswrt until you've have the basics working and are past the hardware burn-in (dead on arrival) stage. Then if you want more configurability, etc., consider Asuswrt-Merlin.

OE
Good advice, thank you!
 

TheLostSwede

Senior Member
Ah, that's a great idea! After looking around a bit, I didn't realize how many Asus routers supported AiMesh. Any idea if replacing the firmware with OpenWRT or similar will remove the AiMesh roaming features? Or is that baked in the hardware somehow?
It's a firmware feature, so OpenWRT would remove it.
 

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