A trend that started last year was the Mesh WiFi system. These seemingly easy to setup, plug and play looking devices that cost a lot for the ones with the good reviews. I have been doing some research lately as my router is right at 3 years old… and my network performance has been suffering, a lot!
I found quite a few options out there. Just buy the kit, register the smartapp, plug in everything and go… kind of like the commercial I’ve seen on TV. But there was something I kept seeing that I just didn’t like. I’m a tech guy. I like to mess with things… ie break things and figure out how to fix them. Well, these off the shelf kits didn’t seem to give you the capabilities of a regular WiFi system… as in I couldn’t go in there and screw with settings till it broke.
And then, last week I found myself at BestBuy with the box in my hands… and I almost shelled out the $400.00 for that box… almost.
I decided to do a little more research and exercise all of the options.
First stop was MoCa. That step was fast, It just wasn’t going to happen.
Second step was Powerline Ethernet. I did some research and found the best reviewed item and went to get it. I was and was not impressed.
Now, I’ll give you some background on my little problem. I pay for a 100/10 cable internet into my home. I also have a 24mb/s ADSL into the house (which sucks so bad that I actually do not use it). My system would normally run around 60mb/s, on a good day, at 2am. But that was ok because at that time it was only 60/5 internet. I have 9 people in my house, at least 4 xbox’s, a gaming computer, 6 or 7 tv’s, netflix, 13 Alexa devices, and more wi-fi devices than I can count.
I honestly began to wonder if my system was overloaded and bottlenecking…
The biggest problem was when I moved my office. Apparently the new office location was a black hole of death for my wi-fi. I couldn’t get over 15 mb/s on my speeds… I was not happy. Netflix was buffering, games were kicking off the servers, ,web pages were timing out… and my HA was beginning to slow down…I was in a bind… the family was beating down the door!
I finally figured out my problem was environmental. I could stand in one spot (in the foyer) and get 115 mb/s download speed… move 6 feet and get 5 mb/s… it was my incredibly well built house coupled with an older router and a plethora of smart devices. I confirmed it was not the incoming signal by hard wiring the laptop to the router… speeds were awesome… and I was pissed…
Ok, summary so far… Incoming internet good. Wi-fi bad. Family pissed.
So… I bought the powerline ethernet kit and brought it home and got right to work… and just in the nick of time. When I got back from BB it was just walking in the door and the entire network system crashed… but that’s ok, I had the fix!
I set up the adapters. They are simple, super simple. Just plug them in and you’re done. One device goes to the router, then you connect the other device (they come in a set of two) to whatever. So, I connected it to my laptop in my office. They definitely improved my network. They got things up and running and stable. At a whopping 25 mb/s download speed. I was impressed that they worked that good, and very much not impressed that the AC1200 adapters I just bought only gave me that speed. FYI, my house is 4 years old… new wiring and no surge suppressors to interfere.
My struggle continued…
I had long ago ruled out repeaters. They are a pain, hardly ever work right, and they cut your bandwidth by 50%… just no.
Access points… I didn’t want to spend the money and they really aren’t much better than the repeaters.
So, i took a Cisco router that I had and rooted it with DD-WRT and turned it into my access point. Again, a royal pain in the butt.
And now to the thing moral of the story…
I was in my router settings. I’m using an ASUS AC68U/RT AC1900 router. 2.4 and 5 ghz radios. A very nice and powerful router. I keep the firmware up to date and it does good… until I built this house around it. Anyway, the settings… I was just about to give up for the night when the little beacon in the settings page started blinking… there was a new update! Ok, so I ran the update and rebooted the hub. I actually, one of the very few times, actually read the release notes. And you won’t believe what I found…
ASUS had just pushed out an updated firmware that turns their routers in a mesh wi-fi network. Once you update, the router is automatically configured for Router/Mesh use. And of course i only have the one ASUS router… and BB had closed hours before… I was a very sad panda…
Anyway… the next day I went to BB and got an ASUS AC1750 router… the newest version of the model. I figured since it was going to be mesh, no need to buy one of the big alien space ship looking ones. I drove home as fast as I could get away with and got started.
Since the firmware update was new, the new router didn’t have it. I was again a sad panda. So, I took it upstairs and plugged it into the router and updated the firmware. And then the big decision… which one should be the router and which one should be the modem… that was easy… the new hardware was the router and the old hardware became the node.
Set up was easy. Log into the old router, click the button for mesh node, the router does a factory reset. You set it close to the primary router and then log into that one. You click on the find a mesh node button and a couple of minutes later you’re up and running.
And now for the big test… how are the download speeds…
Now I was truly impressed. A consistent 115 mb/s where only minutes before I was lucky to get 30 mb/s. And my office? oh I get 85 mb/s in that black hole…
So, if you’re running ASUS routers… you to can easily have a mesh wi-fi system that works great.
If you hurry, as of this writing the AC1750 router is on clearance… well, last years model is. If you go to BB you can get this years $129.99 model for about $83.00. BB they will price match with Amazon… instant $50.00 savings. I’m going to grab another one today for for a total of three in the house.
ASUS routers are good powerful routers that work well, have a great UI, and are supported by the company for a while. And now, they are mesh wi-fi that you can get into the settings and break things!
My personal review… off the shelf mesh systems… I’d give them 4 stars out of 5 for their ease of use and ability to get the job done.
DIY ASUS mesh… 5 stars… Easy to set up, powerful, and I can get in there and break it!
Have a great day!