EnGenius ESR580 Tri-band Mesh Review: Not so Ingenious

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The EnGenius ESR580 mesh system includes two identical hardware units.

The EnGenius ESR580 EnMesh Tri-band Whole-Home Smart Wi-Fi System is a decent mesh, with the potential to be an excellent one. It has a practical hardware design, an easy setup process, and a useful app. The performance is also better than many similar canned systems, including its presumed nemesis, the Google Wifi.

But the ESR580 has some significant flaws, of which the weak signals between hardware units is the deal-breaker. The bottom line is even if you don’t mind restarting it once in a while, you’ll still find it barely worth the current price of some $250 (2-pack).

EnGenius EnMesh ESR580 Whole-Home Smart Mesh WiFi System

6.6

Performance

5.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

6.0/10

Pros

  • Tri-band Wi-Fi specs with fast performance
  • Compact, wall-mountable, easy setup
  • Well-designed mobile app, useful Parental Control feature
  • Wired backhaul support

Cons

  • Unreliable signals between mesh units, regular restarts required
  • Spartan feature set
  • Some functions of the mobile need improving
  • Extremely slow NAS write speed when hosting an external drive

EnGenius ESR580: A design that rings a lot of bells

Getting the ESR580 out of the box, I couldn’t help thinking of the Google Wifi. The system’s two identical hardware units appeared so similar to those of the Google counterpart. As to how a mesh system works, you pick one hardware unit as the router (or the Master Unit as EnGenius calls it). After that, the other will work as a satellite (or a Mesh Node) that automatically extends the router’s Wi-Fi network and settings.

Each ESR580 unit is a round box with a flat top and a tiny indicator light. On the underside, you’ll find a Gigabit WAN (Internet) port and a Gigabit LAN port. The former connects to an Internet source, such as a cable modem, and the latter can host a wired client. This classification only matters on the router unit, on the satellite unit, both ports will work as LAN ports. By the way, you can also connect the satellite to the router using one of these port in a wired backhaul setup.

The EnGenius ESR580 is wall-mountable and includes mounting accessories. Each unit also has a regular USB port that can host a storage device.

Simple setup

To set up the ESR580, you’ll need to use the EnGenius’s EnMesh mobile app. There’s a web user interface, but it’s only available after the setup process.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The EnMesh mobile app is well-designed and has lots of useful tools.

Following the steps on the phone’s screen, the setup process is a no-brainer. Use the phone’s camera to scan a QR code on the router’s underside to connect it with the app. After that, you’ll be prompted to create a new Wi-Fi network (and password) as well as a user account. This account is also the credential to log in to the user interface.

Adding the satellite unit to form a mesh is simple, too. The unit’s indicator light changes its color to respond to what you do on the phone — it’s easy to follow. In all, I was able to create an ESR580 mesh in less than 20 minutes.

Easy-to-use mobile app; useful Parental Control feature

The EnMesh app, which works both locally and when you’re out and about, is a pleasure to use. It loads quickly, is well-designed, and includes many handy tools. For example, you can use it to test the Internet speed, the quality connection between the router and the satellite, view the hardware unit’s connected clients in real-time, and so on.

As for settings, the app has a useful Parental Control feature, which allows you to schedule Internet access and filters using category-based rules. So, for example, you can block John from the Internet during night time, let him limited access, say, everything but social media, during work hours, and full access during weekends. I tried this feature out, and it worked quite well. It allows for a lot of flexibility both in terms of web-filtering and scheduling.

On top of that, you can also use the app to change the Wi-Fi information (name, password, and Guest network). And that’s it. The app does have an Advanced section, but tapping on it will open up the router’s Web interface.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The EnGenius ESR580 router’s underside.

Sluggish interface, spartan feature set

Other than accessing from the mobile app, you can always get to the ESR580’s web interface by navigating a web browser to the router’s IP address, which 192.168.0.1 by default. The interface is a bit sluggish — it takes a second or two to move from one section to another.

And it doesn’t have a lot of extra to offer, compared to the mobile app. Worse, you can’t even use it to manage the Parental Control feature mentioned above. But it does provide access to some essential settings (backup, restore, firmware update, and so on) as well as two crucial functions, including port forwarding and Dynamic DNS. There’s also a Storage section where you can turn on the USB-based file-sharing feature for each hardware unit.

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And that’s about it. Overall, the ESR580 has fewer features than most routers. But compared to other purpose-built mesh systems, its feature set is decent enough.

EnGenius ESR580’s hardare specifications

As its full name suggests, the EnGenius ESR580 is a tri-band system. Each of its hardware units is a tri-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 router. It has two 5GHz bands that cap at 867 Mbps each and a 400Mbps 2.4GHz band. In a wireless setup, one of its 5GHz band works solely as the backhaul that links the router and the satellite together.

EnGenius ESR580: Fast yet unreliable performance

I had a lot of mixed feelings when testing the EnGenius ESR580. I was so ready to love it. But spending a couple of months with it, I gave up. Even with the latest firmware (ver 1.0.15), the system failed big time on reliability. It was a shame since it was fast and had excellent coverage.

Excellent Wi-Fi speeds, good coverage

As a single router, the EnGenius ESR580 performs well for its 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 specs. At close range, it averaged almost 550 Mbps. When I increased the distance to 40 feet (12 m), it now still registered more than 365 Mbps.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

When the second unit was used to create a mesh, the perform was now even more impressive, comparatively. Thanks to the third dedicated band, my test client connected to the satellite unit had a sustained speed of 310 Mbps and 255 Mbps for close and long distances, respectively. If the Google Wifi system is the EnGinus’s target, the ESR580 is a winner in performance.

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As for coverage, the EnGenius ESR580 has about the same range as that of other two-pack mesh systems I’ve reviewed.

Overall, one hardware unit can cover about 1300 ft² (121 m²) when placed in the middle. With a 2-pack, you’ll get about 3000 ft² (279 m²) of good Wi-Fi coverage. Just for kicks, I added a third unit and was able to increase the coverage by some 30 percent.

Terribly unreliable signals

Unfortunately, the system turned out to be one of the least reliable I’ve tested. Even with the latest firmware (ver. 1.0.15), I needed to restart it at least once a day, either just one hardware unit or all of them.

The indicator light would turn blinking red — no connection — out of nowhere. And a restart would fix that but only for so long. This happened even when I used the system via a wired backhaul.

In the end, the only way I was able to enjoy the system is to restart it once a day manually. It was ridiculous.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The EnGenius ESR580 router is quite compact.

Super-slow NAS performance

If you intend to use the ESR580’s USB ports to host storage for your network, don’t. I tested the router unit with a WD My Passport SSD, and via a Gigabit connection, it registered just 7 MB/s for writing. That was by far the slowest I’ve seen among all USB-enable routers. It was ridiculously slow.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

The read speed was much better at about 33 MB/s but still significantly slower than most routers I’ve used. At this kind of speed, don’t expect the ESR580 to be a viable NAS solution. (If you want that, and don’t have time or money for a real NAS server, get one of these routers instead.)

Conclusion

The EnGenius ESR580 EnMesh Tri-band Whole-Home Smart Wi-Fi has excellent hardware design, but its firmware and the mobile app could use some serious improvement.

At the current state, it’s a bit too unreliable to be a formidable mesh system. If you don’t mind restarting it regularly, it’ll work and it’s fast. But it’ll drive you crazy if you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal.

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