Wi-Fi Signal Strength RT-AC86U v RT-AX88U

TheLyppardMan

Senior Member
I wonder why the Wi-Fi signal strength on my RT-AC86U seems to be considerably stronger than on the RT-AX88U I was using yesterday (one of the reasons I sent the latter back for a refund)? The 2.4GHz never got above -33 and often fell to -39 or less and the 5GHz band also never made it into the -20's, but admittedly was more stable than the 2.4GHz range. The screenshots show what I am typically getting with my RT-AC86U which I find surprising given the difference in price. etc. The RT-AC86U also looks better too, sat on top of my cabinet.
 

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RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
You will never get -20 dBm out of a router, even less on the 5 GHz band.
 

Maghook

Regular Contributor
I also exchanged my workhorse (RT-AC86U) in favor of a RT-AX88U(A1.1) lately and in the end noticed that the 2,4 GHz signal (running 384.15 in ap mode) is indeed clear weaker now (nevertheless what I tried all the way through, experimenting with WiFi settings for hours and hours on both sides, resetting connections profiles up to replacing stock antennas with ones with more radio gain, experimenting with antenna orientation etc. although still running devices at the exact same locations in the flat all the time). At first I was afraid that I had got a broken unit from the factory but now I'm hoping it will be getting better with future updates;)

My observations so far:
  • I'm glad that I finally managed to connect my 2019 Shield pro halfway stable to the 2,4 Ghz fluctuating now at around -76 (three rooms in between on the signal edge). The RT-AX88U states the Shield is connected at -66, while the Shield itself stats around -76.
  • In my case while not on 5GHz turning on OFDM is still problematic on 2,4GHz (ongoing connections drops on Shield connection).
  • Also my Ipad Air 3 doesn't like the "new 2,4Ghz" (as used to be during the operation of the AC86U) and now prefers to connect to the weaker 5GHz (see below). If I turn the 5GHz radio off, it connects sucessfully to the 2,4GHz.
I sometimes read here lately in the forums that one should use seperate SSIDs for 2,4 and 5 GHz bands but I still believe with what sfx2000 stated several times (using the same SSID string on both bands doesn't matter, the clients could deal with it).

So long story short: the AX88U firmware still needs to mature for a good amount of time.
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
I also exchanged my workhorse (RT-AC86U) in favor of a RT-AX88U(A1.1) lately and in the end noticed that the 2,4 GHz signal (running 384.15 in ap mode) is indeed clear weaker now (nevertheless what I tried all the way through, experimenting with WiFi settings for hours and hours on both sides, resetting connections profiles up to replacing stock antennas with ones with more radio gain, experimenting with antenna orientation etc. although still running devices at the exact same locations in the flat all the time). At first I was afraid that I had got a broken unit from the factory but now I'm hoping it will be getting better with future updates;)

My observations so far:
  • I'm glad that I finally managed to connect my 2019 Shield pro halfway stable to the 2,4 Ghz fluctuating now at around -76 (three rooms in between on the signal edge). The RT-AX88U states the Shield is connected at -66, while the Shield itself stats around -76.
  • In my case while not on 5GHz turning on OFDM is still problematic on 2,4GHz (ongoing connections drops on Shield connection).
  • Also my Ipad Air 3 doesn't like the "new 2,4Ghz" (as used to be during the operation of the AC86U) and now prefers to connect to the weaker 5GHz (see below). If I turn the 5GHz radio off, it connects sucessfully to the 2,4GHz.
I sometimes read here lately in the forums that one should use seperate SSIDs for 2,4 and 5 GHz bands but I still believe with what sfx2000 stated several times (using the same SSID string on both bands doesn't matter, the clients could deal with it).

So long story short: the AX88U firmware still needs to mature for a good amount of time.
I've posted several times about this now but the reason why the 2.4ghz signal is weaker on this version is that only a single antenna now transmits the 2.4ghz radio. The antenna transmitting is the one closest to switch port 8. If you remove the aerial you'll see your 2.4ghz signal pretty much disappear. This doesn't happen in 384.14.
 

Maghook

Regular Contributor
I've posted several times about this now but the reason why the 2.4ghz signal is weaker on this version is that only a single antenna now transmits the 2.4ghz radio. The antenna transmitting is the one closest to switch port 8. If you remove the aerial you'll see your 2.4ghz signal pretty much disappear. This doesn't happen in 384.14.
So I must have overlooked your responses concerning this new firmware behavior. Otherwise, I wouldn't have spent as much time fixing something that wasn't on my side ;)
WAF also went somewhat down last week. (I had to listen to a lot of criticism lately about why need to change a running AC86U in favor of a "poorly functioning" AX88U)
Side note: from my POV I have to admit that most of the feedback regarding firmware development in this forum these days is either very specific (e.g. mostly people running different addons on top or using VPNs) or really unqualified up to unproductive rants in terms of troubleshooting errors. Then you have little desire to read such things page by page.

Nevertheless, I'm glad hear about your findings. But this cannot be an intention of ASUS/Broadcom, rather a mistake in the current firmware branch development. Does this also happen on the 384_7968 release? May I ask you if you have forwarded your results to ASUS support? Troubleshooting WiFi driver issues is beyond the capabilities of RMerlin. Maybe I am also downgrading to 384.14 as next.
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
I haven't tested the stock firmware based on the same gpl, but I suspect that it is to do with the new wifi driver contained in that release on which the 384.15 is based. Obviously all of which is beyond the control of rmerlin.

I haven't reported it to Asus, I suspect since I'm not using the stock official firmware they won't be interested unless I flash back to stock (which I am not willing to do just now). I do have access to another couple of AX88U as well as my own all of which run rmerlin and the fault is the same on all 3 of them. The next time I get the chance I may test see how the stock firmware behaves on one of these others I have access to.

I notice to that the latest stock firmware uses a later gpl, so might already be resolved.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
I had to admit that I was more than a little skeptical about this 'single 2.4GHz antennae' issue as reported repeatedly by @Phil Outram on many posts in these forums. :)

I finally had a moment to try and test/verify this for myself on my own RT-AX88U.

First, I tested that the 2.4GHz band at 20Mbps and at 40GHz widths on each recommended Control Channel (1, 6 and 11) was working as it should. All working as expected. The interesting thing is the 40MHz band performance, below.

Verified that with a 2x2 capable 2.4GHz client at 40MHz width I could achieve an indicated 300Mbps connection on a Windows 10 laptop at about 40 feet from the router and a couple of walls in-between. On Fast.com, I could get a maximum of 120Mbps down/up from my 1Gbps up/down symmetrical connection. So far, so good (no, actually, 'excellent'). :)

Note that this performance is not possible with a single antennae/single stream on the 2.4GHz band when using an AC client (WiFi 5).

I then removed the rear left antennae on my RT-AX88U (the one closest to the 8th LAN port) and I was more than a little surprised that I could not reliably connect to the router at that test location. The best attempt was at 5.5Mbps and if I initiated a browser session, the connection would be dropped. So, at first blush, it may seem @Phil Outram is correct with what he's stating about a single antennae doing all the work for the 2.4GHz band.

But, thinking this scenario through, a single antennae could not give me a 2x2 connection at the distance I was testing with either. ;)

So, no, the 2.4GHz band is not hampered at all in my experience with this latest firmware release. And a single antennae is not doing all the work.

Removing specific antennae may on the surface seem to kill that band, but that may be because it is the one the internal hardware, software, firmware and/or drivers may be used to base its other parameters and features on.

For me, this is a non-issue as everyone knows that a router shouldn't be used without their antennae firmly attached, always.

The case that @Phil Outram has been stating is a non-issue if the product is used as its meant to be used.

Simply? A single antennae is not used to transmit the 2.4GHz band as has been stated many times so far on these forums, otherwise, 300Mbps connections and throughput speeds would not be possible.

Trying to use products in something more/other than their intended design specs is great if we can make them work as we want/need.

If it doesn't work? It is not a design fault of the hardware, the firmware or the drivers either.

Rather a breakdown of us applying the right product for the right purpose instead.

I hope now all these single antennae on the 2.4GHz band messages/reports can stop? :)
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
Sorry to disagree but it is clear that only a single antenna is transmitting the 2.4ghz band. Let me give you an example as to why this is the case and why you are wrong. In my specific setup I have the following:

1 x RT-AX88U router with all of the antenna attached, however one of the antennas, the one closest to switch port 1 is actually routed outside of my house into my shed via an extension cable, and inside the shed is attached the actual antenna. The reason for this is that I live in a new build house in the UK which blocks wifi signals. I have external cameras outside my home that only work on the 2.4Ghz band so a strong 2.4ghz signal outside is very important to me. I also have some legacy devices inside that require it.

Now with this setup on 382.14 or earlier I have a strong signal both outside my home and inside. As soon as I flash the 384.15 the signal outside is virtual non existent but remains fine inside my house. This is why I noticed this fault immediately upon flashing this firmware. I can't see how you can state it isn't an issue when pulling the same antenna yourself resulted in the same loss of signal ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It really does not matter what is reported in the router gui as this could be wrong for any number of reasons (i.e. a bug), what matters is physical evidence which you already verified is indeed the case when you pulled the antenna yourself.

If I change my external wifi cable to the one closest to switch port 8 then the signal is super strong outside but is virtual non existent inside.

So without wishing to be rude, your post makes absolutely zero sense.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@Phil Outram I also don't want to seem rude either, but your use case isn't the best fit for this product either, as designed/marketed. :)

My testing and the post proves that it is not a single antennae that is being used for the 2.4GHz band, at least for my RT-AX88U running RMerlin 384.15_0. Not when used as designed (i.e. included antennae).

While the radio(s) may decide to stop broadcasting on the 2.4GHz band when a specific antennae is removed, that doesn't prove only a single one is used.

I did not report anything from the router GUI, I reported what the client device showed.

You are simply using equipment that is not fit for purpose (yours).

Please don't meaninglessly sway opinion for people that won't use it as you do.

I think I examined this fairly? And I'll gladly change my stance if needed.

But calling me wrong and stating my post makes zero sense doesn't alter the facts as I see them.

Right now, it just makes you seem blind to the truth of the situation.

Yes, drivers change (and I would hope 'always' for the better). In this case, the change/improvements just didn't benefit you.
 

Maghook

Regular Contributor
Well, thx for your efforts on this @L&LD

Compared to the AC86U, I am still not satisfied with the current performance and range of the [email protected] in the 2.4 GHz band. 5 GHz is okay.
Maybe the AX88U for it's current state of development is somewhat more sensitive to interference on 2,4 and it's getting better with future SDK updates?
I recently tested the 384_7968 stock version, but otherwise than TWT is now enabled by default I see no difference for the better. Sigh.
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
@Phil Outram I also don't want to seem rude either, but your use case isn't the best fit for this product either, as designed/marketed. :)

My testing and the post proves that it is not a single antennae that is being used for the 2.4GHz band, at least for my RT-AX88U running RMerlin 384.15_0. Not when used as designed (i.e. included antennae).

While the radio(s) may decide to stop broadcasting on the 2.4GHz band when a specific antennae is removed, that doesn't prove only a single one is used.

I did not report anything from the router GUI, I reported what the client device showed.

You are simply using equipment that is not fit for purpose (yours).

Please don't meaninglessly sway opinion for people that won't use it as you do.

I think I examined this fairly? And I'll gladly change my stance if needed.

But calling me wrong and stating my post makes zero sense doesn't alter the facts as I see them.

Right now, it just makes you seem blind to the truth of the situation.

Yes, drivers change (and I would hope 'always' for the better). In this case, the change/improvements just didn't benefit you.
If everything was good with the wifi on this build then why are multiple members of this forum reporting issues with reduced strength on the 2.4ghz band? If you are correct explain to me why there is no signal outside of my home with this version but there is with everything prior to this? I have tried the extension cable on every single port and the only one that produces a signal is the one closest to port 8. Prior to this any port can be used without a problem.

I am actually using the included antenna as well, just one is at the end of a 4 meter extension cable. Even with all 4 antenna attached directly to the router signal strength is lower than before to the point the 5ghz radio is stronger.

I'm not sure how much clearer this can be. It's not being blind, it's stating what is physically occurring based on a simple test that no signal is present outside my home with this build. The 5ghz radio is still present both outside and inside with 384.15, only the 2.4ghz band disappears.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@Maghook, in dense 2.4GHz WiFi environments, it may not equal the RT-AC86U, you may be right.

In my WiFi environment, the 2.4GHz band on the RT-AX88U is superior to the RT-AC86U I previously had.
 

htismaqe

Very Senior Member
My setup is not typical because I have no neighbors (I live in the country) and thus no competition for channels.

But my experience is the same as @L&LD - 2.4Ghz on the RT-AX88U is better than it was on the RT-AC86U. Pretty much everything is better as a matter of fact.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@Phil Outram, read my post again to see why I think your install isn't a good test of the hardware. Here is a hint. The extension cable you're adding (4M!) is not compatible with the design of the hardware/drivers or what they expect to 'see', except for a specific output.

I don't know about other's issues with the 2.4GHz band, there are many variables at play here.

The test I have done do not show a decrease in the signal strength in my environment. I would assume that my usage is more typical than yours. ;)
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
OK here is why your test is flawed. I just got home, removed every single antenna from my router (running 384.14) except for 1 and guess what? My laptop with an Intel AX200 card in it still connects at 2400mbps and reports 2 streams....

My phone which is a wave 1 ac device, connects at 866mbps and reports 2 streams....

So I think your theory about link speeds and the number of antenna transmitting is incorrect :).
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
OK here is why your test is flawed. I just got home, removed every single antenna from my router (running 384.14) except for 1 and guess what? My laptop with an Intel AX200 card in it still connects at 2400mbps and reports 2 streams....

My phone which is a wave 1 ac device, connects at 866mbps and reports 2 streams....

So I think your theory about link speeds and the number of antenna transmitting is incorrect :).
That's not a comparable test to L&LD's. Do the same as him:
Verified that with a 2x2 capable 2.4GHz client at 40MHz width I could achieve an indicated 300Mbps connection on a Windows 10 laptop at about 40 feet from the router and a couple of walls in-between. On Fast.com, I could get a maximum of 120Mbps down/up from my 1Gbps up/down symmetrical connection. So far, so good (no, actually, 'excellent'). :)
Do you get roughly the same throughput with the same firmware at the same distance. If not then maybe one or more of your antenna connections are broken inside the router.

Using an external antenna is also not a valid test because a) it is not typical and b) all 3 antennas are designed to work together not individually (the db loss of the extension cable would likely make the antenna chains unbalanced).
 

Phil Outram

Regular Contributor
That's not a comparable test to L&LD's. Do the same as him:

Do you get roughly the same throughput with the same firmware at the same distance. If not then maybe one or more of your antenna connections are broken inside the router.

Using an external antenna is also not a valid test because a) it is not typical and b) all 3 antennas are designed to work together not individually.
It's got 4 antennas but still, and I am not sure how much clearer I can make this, on firmware 384.14 no problems, on 384.15 I have no signal outside on the 2.4ghz band. It is blindingly obvious this is because it is no longer being transmitted on the port to which the antenna is attached. The 5ghz radio is still broadcast on this specific antenna (strong signal outside).

Respectfully I am an IT consultant (with 22 years experience I might add so I know how to perform a simple test), and where I work we have a few of these routers in stock for the off home user that doesn't want to spend on a corporate device. I have tested it with 2 other AX88U routers brand new out of the box flashed with 384.15 and both have the same issue. This rules out my router being faulty in some way. Another member on the main thread discussing the firmware release also confirmed my findings.

The point I was trying to make is the entire basis of L&LD's theory revolves around being able to connect a device up at 300mbps which wouldn't be possible if only a single antenna transmits the signal. I have just tested again, connecting this time my laptop to the 2.4ghz band, and again with only a single antenna attached to the router on 384.14 I get a connection speed of 300mbps with 2 streams. This proves that the number of antennas transmitting the band does not impact either the connection speed or the number of steams.

Therefore L&LD's theory that the 2.4ghz band must be transmitting the 2.4ghz radio on more than one antenna on the 384.15 firmware because he gets a connection speed of 300mbps and 2 streams is inaccurate because I get the same speeds and streams with only a single antenna attached!

To eliminate any chance I am wrong, I've just flashed back to 384.15 and removed all antennas except for the one closest to switch port 8, and I still get a 300mbps connection with 2 streams. So there you have it.
 

sturmstar

Occasional Visitor
I believe you Phil Outram ... I observed the same thing.

L&LD could do the crosscheck by doing his same test setup with 384.14 ... outcome must be different than on 384.15 (even if this kind of "setup" is not supported - it's neither on 384.14 or 384.15)

I think it doesn't matter WHY EXACTLY the 384.15 is behaving like it is - the point is to acknowledge that there is a serious decrease on the 2.4ghz band with the buildin wifi drivers in 384.15.
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
@Phil Outram Yes sorry, 4 antennas.

I understand what you're saying about the "reported" link rate. That's why I asked you to test the actual throughput and compare it to L&LD's results.

I'm not denying you have a problem, you obviously do. But if you both do exactly the same tests under the same circumstances and get wildly different results then it's not simply a case of "there's a bug - all AX88U owners are effected". There's no difference AFAIK in the GPL build or WiFi drivers between 384.14 or 384.15 so what's the difference? (rhetorical question)
 

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