The EnGenius ECW230 Cloud Managed Wi-Fi 6 4×4 Indoor Wireless Access Point (AP) is like a good-looking, relationship-material significant other who happens to be high-maintenance and has cranky mother.
It’s hard at the beginning, but once you’ve given it enough attention, chances are you’ll be happy with it in the long term. That’s if you can afford its current price of some $600 a pop, without a power adapter.
That said, whether or not this new Wi-Fi 6 AP is worth the effort depends on your level of commitment and desperation, and your ability to handle a somewhat non-traditional product. If that seems like something that resonates with your situation, read on!
EnGenius ECW230 Cloud Managed Wi-Fi 6 4×4 Indoor Wireless Access Point
- Reliable performance, excellent coverage
- Nice design, ready to amount
- 2.5 Gbps PoE network port
- Convenient, subscription-free cloud-based management
- Expensive yet doesn't include a power adapter or PoE injector
- Requires Internet and a log in account for setup and on-going management
- Comparatively slow throughput speeds
- No 160 MHz channel width support
EnGenius ECW230: More, yet also less, than a typical Wi-Fi access point
First and foremost, the EnGenius ECW230 is a Wi-Fi access point. And like all others, it requires a wired environment with an existing router. It won’t work just by itself. Again, that’s the case of all access points.
No power adapter or PoE injector included
But you’ll need more with the ECW230. Out of the box, the device doesn’t include a power adapter — you’ll need to get one yourself for another $15 or so.
Since it’s a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) device, which is a good thing, alternatively, you can power it via a network cable. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t come with an injector, either. So, again, you need to get one, or better yet, a PoE+ switch.
In short, unless you have already had a PoE-ready network, don’t expect to use this Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster right out of the box. Other business-class access points I’ve worked with, such as the TP-Link EAP245, generally include a power adapter or an injector, or even both.
Simple and practical design
The EnGenius ECW230 comes in a design that’s easy to look at and work with. It’s a square that’s 9.65-inch (245-mm) wide and 3.35-inch (85-mm) thick. It’s also relatively light, at just .31 lbs. (597 g).
The AP includes amounting accessories, namely two brackets and a couple of screws. It’s straightforward to mount it on a wall or a ceiling. So the hardware installation is a no-brainer.
Strictly cloud-managed, easy setup
When it comes to getting the AP up and running, EnGenious means business when it calls the ECW230 a Cloud Managed access point. There’s no way you can set up this access point without the Internet.
Indeed, the device has a local web interface that you can access via its IP address. However, in this case, you can only view the status, upgrade the firmware, and not much else. There’s no way to set up its Wi-Fi network. In other words, you can’t make it work as a Wi-Fi access point this way.
For that, you’ll first need to download the mobile app, log in with an EnGenious Partner account (or using an existing one from Google or Facebook). And now, apart from using the app, you can also access the AP’s interface via the cloud portal at cloud.engenius.ai, which allows you to access its full potential.
That said, if you’re OK with this vendor-dependent management — and the privacy risk it implies — setting up the ECW230 is a walk in the park. I was able to finish that in less than 20 minutes, including the time to mount the hardware.
It’s worth noting that most business-class APs have this type of cloud-based management. But some of them also allow for local management, where you won’t need to access the device via the vendor.
A bit of hiccup
I did run into an odd issue with the ECW230. After the setup process, the AP appeared to be offline even though its Wi-Fi network was available and working.
In the end, I had to reset it, which itself was an odd experience. I did so via the interface — the function was somehow available even though the AP appeared offline. Then I noted a new firmware version was available. After the update, everything consistently worked as expected.
EnGenius ECW230’s detail photos
EnGenius ECW230’s hardware specifications
The EnGenius ECW230 is a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 access point. However, like most APs, it doesn’t feature the venerable 160 MHz channel width. As a result, its theoretical speed caps at 2400 Mbps when working with a 4×4 client. Since we currently only have 2×2 clients on the market, for now, it caps at 1200 Mbps.
But compared to other dual-band Wi-Fi 6 APs, such as the recently announced Netgear WAX610, the ECW230 still has double the bandwidth, meaning it can handle more concurrent clients without slowing down.
The ECW230 has just one network port (which also works as its power port via PoE). This port is 2.5 Gbps-capable. However, chances are you won’t be able to use it at a higher speed than 1 Gbps. For a couple of reason:
- Most PoE switch or injectors on the market cap at 1 Gbps. As far as I know, there’s no multi-gig PoE injector or switch yet.
- You can use a multi-gig switch (or a router), but in this case, you will also need a power adapter for the access point. Using a power adapter limits the versatility and placement of the AP and, therefore, not practical.
That said, the multi-gig serves mostly as a potential rather than something you can use right out of the box. Also, the lack of a second network port means you won’t be able to use a wired device with it, like another AP in a daisy-chance setup.
Lots of advanced settings
You can choose to use the EnGenius ECW230 as its default settings or you can customize its Wi-Fi, and other features, to your liking. And there are a lot of them.
For example, you can create up to 8 virtual Wi-Fi networks (SSIDs) for both of the bands. On each network, you can make it a single band (either) or dual-band. And there are tons of other settings too.
On top of that, there also many ways to manage connected clients and monitor their online activities. In all, the owner of the network has complete control over those who connect to the access point.
And if you use multiple hardware units — including EnGenious’s other Cloud Managed access points, you can turn them into a mesh network. By the way, if you use an EnGenious switch, the cloud portal can manage it too.
Overall, like most business-class access points, there is a lot you can do with the EnGenius ECW230, many of which are irrelevant to a home network.
EnGenius ECW230: Reliable performance
I tested the EnGenius ECW230 using a $350 EnGenius Cloud 8-port Gigabit POE switch (model ECS1112FP) for more than ten days and had no issue with it, other than the short hiccup mentioned above. The AP delivers excellent coverage and reliability.
The single unit I used was able to cover some 2000 ft² (186m²) of a residential environment (multiple rooms with plaster walls) with ease. And I experienced no disconnection.
Decent throughput speeds
As for throughput speeds, considering there’s no multi-gig PoE switch, and the lack of support for the 160 MHz channel width, the AP did relatively well in my testing.
In my standard wired to wireless tests, my 2×2 test client was able to connect to it consistently at 1.2 Gbps and registered the sustained speed of more than 580 Mbps at close range. When I move it farther out, it now averaged some 410 Mbps.
And in extra tests where I copied data from one 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients to another, the AP registered 423 Mbps and 351 Mbps for close and long ranges, respectively.
The AP did much better comparatively on the 2.4 GHz band. My 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients averaged 205 Mbps and 78 Mbps at the close and long ranges, respectively.
The AP did similarly well with Wi-Fi 5 clients. At a close range, my 4×4 test machine managed to pull the sustained speed of 500 Mbps at a close range, father out, my 3×3 client averaged faster than 450 Mbps.
So, compared with home routers, the EnGenious ECW230 didn’t have enough to wow anyone. But it’s important to note that as a business device, it’s optimized for reliability and not necessarily speeds.
With lots of features, an easy-to-use and versatile cloud-based portal, the EnGenius ECW230 Cloud Managed Wi-Fi 6 4×4 Indoor Wireless Access Point has a lot going for itself. Unfortunately, it’s just too expensive for now.
Indeed, Wi-Fi 5 alternatives, like the TP-Link Omada series, can deliver a similar experience at a much lower cost. That said, keep this AP in mind and snatch it when you find a good deal. My take is its price will come down as Wi-Fi 6 becomes more and more popular.
But if you decide to get it now, chances are it will work out after the above-mentioned little surprises.