For years, TP-Link's Omada has been one of my favorite DIY mesh systems using multiple Wi-Fi access points (WAPs). Now, there's a rival-worthy newcomer, the EnGenius Fit.
This review will give an overview of what you can expect from the new mesh approach and its current general status. I intend to update it as the solution evolves.
EnGenius FIT: What it is and how to make the most of it
EnGenius introduced the FIT ecosystem in November 2022.
According to the company, EnGenius Fit is geared toward home/small offices and separate from its traditional EnGenius Cloud solution, represented by the ECW230 or the ECW330, which is meant for medium business and enterprise environments. The two will co-exist with some overlap in demographics.
While this approach seems unusual, it's a fitting setup for many homes where the Internet entry -- often called the broadband drop -- is in an odd place, such as the basement, a closet with thick walls, or at a far corner. In this case, placing a Wi-Fi router there means limited coverage. Instead, you can put the primary (non-Wifi) router (and a switch) there and then run network cables to different parts of the property, where it's ideal to mount Wi-Fi access points.
And these access points are where the new GenGenius FIT comes into play. The platform allows the use of supported APs for the best performance and easy management.
EnGenius FIT: Relatively low-cost hardware
At the time I published this post, the relatively new EnGenius Fit solution includes:
- Wi-Fi Access Points, including:
- EWS850-FIT: Currently the only outdoor (IP67) AP in the family. It features 2x2 AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 specs with a 2.5Gbps PoE+ port. No 160MHz support.
- EWS377-FIT: 4x4 AX3600 with a 2.5Gbps PoE+port. No 160MHz support.
- EWS357-FIT: 2x2 AX1800 with a Gigabit PoE port. No 160MHz suport.
- EWS356–FIT: 2x2 AX3000 with a Gigabit PoE port, and 160MHz suport.
- PoE Switches: PoE and PoE+ switches with 8, 24, or 48 ports.
- FitController100 (a.k.a FitCon100): A compact on-premises hardware device for local management and fast deployment.
Here are a few things to note about the hardware:
- All EnGenius FIT devices share the same FitXpress firmware. Generally, you need two or more -- up to 30 -- access points to form a mesh system. For now, there are only Wi-Fi 6. EnGenius informed me that it would release Wi-Fi 7 hardware starting in 2024.
- A FIT switch is optional - you can use any standard PoE switch or injector. It's also worth noting that currently, none of the switches in the EnGenius FIT family features Multi-Gig ports - they are all Gigabit PoE ports. For this reason, it's better to use Multi-Gig injectors or third-party switches if you want the best performance out of the first two access points on the list above.
- The FitController is also optional, but it's great for those wanting to manage the system locally or have a faster response.
For this post's real-world experience, I used a $320 EWS850-FIT outdoor AP, a $150 EWS377-FIT indoor AP, and a $100 FitController. I also used a $150 24-port Gigabit EWS2910P-FIT PoE switch -- only to find out how the ecosystem works. The two access points need PoE+ and 2.5Gbps PoE+ to deliver the best performance, and, for now, all EnGenius FIT PoE switches are Gigabit.
Depending on your needs, you can build a system of your own hardware. In most cases, two FIT access points are enough for a large wired home, and the EWS356-FIT costs only $70 each. That's to say, you can build a robust Wi-Fi mesh system using EnGenius FIT for as low as $140 -- provided you already have a router, run network cables, and have a PoE switch.
After that, there are two ways to build your mesh system: via the free FitXpress cloud-based management or a local controller, an additional hardware piece. Let's start with the former.
FitXpress: Quick and simple cloud-based management
Each EnGenius FIT access point can work as a single individual broadcaster. In this case, you can use the local web interface to set it up. If you live where a single Wi-Fi broadcaster is enough, that'd be all you'd need to do, as described in the EWS377-FIT's review.
However, when you need two or more APs and want them to work together as a centrally managed system, the easiest way is the FitXpress cloud. To use it, you must first create a login account with EnGenius and then use the web portal or the FitXpress mobile app.
EnGenius and your privacy
Generally, using the hardware via a vendor-connected account means inherent privacy risks. Depending on the hardware, EnGenius's login account is often an option and not required.
Online privacy and security are a matter of degree. Different companies handle their users' data differently.
Each EnGenius FIT access point can work as a standalone broadcaster or a member of a FitXpress mesh at a time. If you already set up one to be part of the former, you must reset it before you can move it to the latter. In some cases, adding one to the mesh system will automatically reset it.
For the setup process, the FitXpress app is helpful. It allows the use of the phone's camera to scan the QR code on the back of an EnGenius FIT access point or switch to add them to the system. It took me less than 10 minutes to get a mesh consisting of two access points and a switch up and running via the app.
|Name||EnGenius FitXpress Cloud-Based|
|Extra Hardware Required||No|
|App||FitXpress mobile app (Android and iOS)|
Web-based cloud portal
|Total Device Support||Up to 30 EnGenius Fit|
APs & switches within one or multiple locations
(each with a distinctive Wi-Fi settings)
|Wi-Fi Security||WPA2 and WPA3|
|Release Date||November 2, 2022|
(built-in with the firmware of each EnGenius FIT AP or switch)
Lots of settings and customization
Once set up, an EnGenius FitXpress system includes all the simple and advanced settings you'd expect from a professional/business solution.
You can share the account's control between up to five users with different privilege levels, including owner, admin, and viewer. Each member can then access the FitXpress web portal or the mobile app (available for Android or iOS).
An admin or owner user can create up to eight SSIDs, automatically propagating to all access points. Each SSID has all available Wi-Fi settings and customization, including a captive portal option applicable for enterprise or public Wi-Fi access. You can make any of the SSIDs a Guest network.
You can view clients on a comprehensive list and manage each individually, including blocking them from accessing the network. You can also schedule Wi-Fi access by date and time, limit the bandwidth by clients or SSID, and create a separate NAT for the Wi-Fi network. When there's an EnGenius switch in the mix, the FitXpress can also handle VLAN and other standard and advanced port-related configurations.
Generally speaking, it's safe to say a FitXpress Wi-Fi system has everything in customization any home or office would need and then some. On the other hand, I find the interface simple and not overwhelming for those wanting a simple Wi-Fi network. And that's a good thing.
Still, this cloud-based management is not perfect.
Severe interface-to-hardware latency
While working well overall, the FitXpress mobile app and web portal proved to have some serious lag during my trial.
Specifically, certain setting changes and statuses often took up to a few minutes to apply or be synced between the hardware and management interfaces. The delay was so bad I initially thought something was broken. At the very least, the lag makes it hard to monitor the system. You'll have to wait for things to happen and be mindful that what you see might not necessarily be the real-time condition.
To make matters worse, some changes require the hardware to be manually restarted to be updated with the interface. Hopefully, things will be fixed via future updates -- EnGenius told me that much.
Additionally, while FitXpress is great for managing multiple access points, including those from different locations, with the same Wi-Fi settings, it's not ideal to manage multiple sites, each with its own Wi-Fi needs.
For that, as well as overcoming the latency issue, you'd need the FitCon100 hardware controller.
FitCon100: The enterprise-grade local management alternative
The idea of the FitCon100 is that you can manage the EnGenius FIT hardware -- access points and switches -- locally without a cloud-based account. As a result, the privacy risks and the latency mentioned in management are no longer an issue.
But you'll have to pay extra for the hardware, which costs $100. Depending on what you want, that can be a $100 well-spent.
A compact PoE controller
The FitCon100 is a compact piece device with two Gigabit ports, one being a PoE, which is the preferable way for it to get powered. Like the case of the access points, the controller doesn't include a power adapter or PoE injector.
Each controller can handle up to 100 FIT devices (access points and switches) and, like cloud management, doesn't require a subscription to work. However, it only works with devices of the same local area network (LAN). If you have multiple locations, you'll need to get a controller for each site.
|Name||EnGenius FitController100 On-Premises|
|Dimensions||6.02 x .98 x 3.04 in|
(15.3 x 2.5 x 7.7 cm)
|Weight||5.82 oz (165g)|
|Total Device Support||Up to 100 EnGenius Fit|
APs & switches
(within a single local network)
|Wi-Fi Security||WPA2, WPA3|
|Port||1x Gigabit LAN|
1x PoE Gigabit LAN
|Power||802.3af (PoE) or DC12/1A input|
(power adapter / PoE injector not included)
|Processing Power||Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 1.8GHz CPU,|
2GB of RAM, 8GB of Flash
|Could-Based Management||Optional |
(each with a distinctive Wi-Fi settings)
|Release Date||November 2, 2022|
The standard setup process, no auto AP detection
A FitCon100 controller has a standard setup process and management using a local web user interface accessible via its local IP address. Specifically, you first need to hook it to a network, preferably by connecting it to a PoE switch (or an injector). T,hen figure out its IP address, given out by the router, the same way you want to know the IP of any device within a network.
Now, you're getting close, but the rest of the process can get confusing if you don't pay attention. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind from my experience:
- The controller uses port 8080 for its local web server. That said, as shown in the screenshots below, you need to add the ":8080" suffix to its IP address -- the way you call any port. Without this suffix, the interface's webpage is not accessible.
- The first time you access the interface, you'll be asked to create a local access account with a username and password. Confusingly, this account's username must be an email address, which gives the impression that it would be an online account. That's not the case. Even if you use the same email as the one used for the FitXpress cloud management above, this account remains local.
- You can add a controller -- or many of them -- to a FitXpress account mentioned above for remote management. However, the controller will not be part of the FitXpress Wi-Fi network. More on this below.
Other than that, the controller's web interface is self-explanatory. If you're an advanced user or have mastered the web interface of a standard Wi-Fi router, access point, or switch before, you can figure things out relatively quickly.
If you have previously used an EnGenius Cloud Managed enterprise solution, such as the ECW230 access point, you'll be pleased to know that the FitCon100's local management shares the same interface, settings, and features.
Once you've accessed the controller's interface, adding a FIT access point or switch to it is a bit tedious. That's because the controller won't automatically detect access points or switches already hooked to the network. Instead, you'll need to manually add them via their serial numbers to the controller's "Inventory" and then manually "pair" the device(s) to the controller. Still
An EnGenius FIT access point or switch can only work with the FitXpress cloud-based management or the FitCon100 controller at a time. To move between the two, it first needs to be reset to the default settings.
Lots of settings, optional FitXpress-based remote access
The FitCon100 controller has the same settings and features as the EnGenius Cloud Managed enterprise solution., So it has a lot more than FitXpress cloud management. I talked more about this in the review of the ECW336. But most home and small business environments will need just a portion of what it can do.
Most importantly, it had no lag in my trial -- everything worked as intended. As a matter of fact, it worked better than EnGenius's enterprise-grade hardware, at least in terms of responsiveness.
By default, the FitCon100's web interface is only available locally. However, as mentioned above, you can enable the remote access feature and pair it with a FitXpress account, just like you would with an access point or switch.
After that, you can access the controller's local web interface remotely -- similar to accessing a router's interface via Dynamic DNS. That's to say, the controller (and its network of APs and switches) remains separated, not as part of the network as other FitXpress-managed devices, such as the access points.
And that's a good thing. You can use this remote access feature to manage multiple sites, each with its own FitCon100 controllers.
EnGenius FIT: Reliable performance
I tested an EnGenius FIT system considering two access points (EWS850-FIT and EWS377-FIT) and a FitCon100 controller for over a week and was generally happy with it.
When used as a cloud-based FitExpress or via the controller with local management, the system passed my 3-day stress test with no disconnection. And I could move within the system's coverage generally with seamless handoff.
As for performance, as shown in the charts above, the system generally maxed out at Gigabit-class sustained speed, including when I used the APs with a third-party Multi-Gig switch. That's because none of the available EnGenius FIT APs currently feature a 160MHz channel width, which is required for the best Wi-Fi 6 performance.
For more on throughputs and Wi-Fi performance, check out the individual reviews of the EnGenius FIT access points.
EnGenius FIT DIY PoE Mesh's Rating
Flexible hardware and software options with enterprise-class Wi-Fi and network customization; built-in could-based management with a hardware controller option
Comparatively affordable; easy setup option; no additional cost for management
The system can be managed via a local web user interface or cloud manage a useful optional mobile app
FitXpress has interface-to-hardware lag and doesn't support multiple sites of distinctive Wi-Fi needs; the FitCon100 controller is a bit confusing and tedious to set up
For now: No 160MHz Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E support, no Multi-Gig PoE switches, generally performance is limited at Gigabit
No support for WPA or older security; most PoE access points and controllers don't include a power adapter or PoE injector
Like most do-it-yourself mesh systems, the EnGenius FIT solution is not for everyone. To use it, you first need a router, preferably a non-WiFi one, a wired home or office, and the know-how to handle the advanced firmware. And that's quite a lot to consider.
But in return, you'll be able to build a flexible and reliable mesh system that delivers true Gigabit-class performance with the potential of faster speed and better management via firmware and hardware updates in the future.
Looking to upgrade your office's Wi-Fi? EnGenius FIT is a fitting consideration. Try it today!