Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Mesh Wi-Fi System Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters

By now, you must have heard of “mesh,” “Wi-Fi system,” or “mesh Wi-Fi system,” and might have some idea about what they are. OK, they are the same thing. If you already know that, well, there’s more than just semantics in this article.

You’ll learn here all about this type of Wi-Fi solutions, including when it’s not a mesh and how to best set up one for your home. Sometimes, the little things I mention here can make a huge difference.

READ  Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Systems of 2021: The Real-Deal Collection

Dong’s note: I originally published this piece on April 28, 2018, and last updated it on January 14, 2021, with additional relevant information.

Orbi RBK 752 Top
A mesh Wi-Fi system generally includes multiple hardware units.

Mesh Wi-Fi system explained

A mesh Wi-Fi system has many names. Apart from those mentioned above, some also refer to it as a wireless mesh network (WMN). But mesh is a short and sweet moniker. I like it.

No matter how you call it, in a nutshell, a mesh consists of multiple hardware Wi-Fi broadcasters (routers, access points, etc.) that work together to form a single unified Wi-Fi network.

The reverse might not be true, however. Just because you have multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters in a single network doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mesh system.

Mesh has been around for a long time, but it became a big deal when a company named eero — all lower case — announced the original eero Wi-Fi System in February 2016.

Since then, there’s been a home mesh revolution with Wi-Fi systems coming out from virtually all networking vendors.

When do you need a mesh

The use of a mesh applies to large homes or offices where a single broadcaster (router) doesn’t provide enough Wi-Fi coverage. Generally, it’s best to have just one broadcaster in a home to avoid interferences. In other words, more is not better.

READ  Wi-Fi Router Explained: How You Can Figure out that Perfect One Today

So, a mesh is not an upgrade to a single router — it’s a necessary alternative. Other than the coverage, a Wi-Fi system doesn’t solve whatever problems you might have with a single router of the same specs and feature set. (In fact, using multiple broadcasters in close proximity can be a bad thing.)

That said, if your place is 1800 ft2 (167 m2) or smaller, you probably only need a standalone router. But this depends a lot on the layout of your home, the number of walls, and where you place the router.

A home Wi-Fi broadcaster emits signals outward somewhat like a sphere. So, think of a mesh when there are areas in your home the current Wi-Fi broadcaster can’t reach. And that can be the case even in a small/medium home if you have to place the router at a side instead of in the middle.

What constitutes a mesh

You need at least two hardware units to form a mesh. One is to connect to the Internet, and the other links to the first one — wirelessly or via a network cable — to extend the Wi-Fi coverage.

These hardware units are called different things by different vendors, such as base stations, access points, nodes, satellites, hubs, mesh points, Wi-Fi points, routers, etc. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call them hubs.

In a mesh, one of the hubs will work as the primary unit that connects to the Internet, and the rest will extend the Wi-Fi and other settings of that unit. To distinguish, I’d call the primary unit router (or main/primary router) and the rest satellites (or satellite hubs).

One of the most important requirements for a mesh is that the hardware units work together to form a single seamless network. On top of that, you should be able to control all of them in one place, like the web interface of the main router or a mobile app.

If you have to manage any hardware piece separately, then it’s not part of a mesh. Below are examples of popular Wi-Fi hardware that doesn’t immediately turn your network into a mesh when put into use.

READ  Home Wi-Fi: (Almost) Everything You Need to Know
Asus ZenWi Fi Mesh System
Asus’s ZenWiFi family is among the best purpose-built tri-band mesh systems on the market.

Non-mesh hardware: Extender vs. access point vs. media bridge

Hardware-wise, using Wi-Fi extenders (a.k. repeaters) or access points (APs) is similar to having a mesh network — there are multiple hubs involved.

In reality, though, they are entirely different. For one, extenders and APs are flexible and will work with any existing network (router), while mesh hubs generally only work specifically with one another or a specific router.

But that’s about the only advantage extenders and APs have over real mesh hardware.

Extenders

A Wi-Fi extender connects itself wirelessly to an existing Wi-Fi network and then rebroadcasts the signal using a Wi-Fi SSID (network name) of its own. (That’s the reason they are often referred to as repeaters.)

As a result, even when you program the extender to use the same Wi-Fi name (SSID) and password as those of the router, you still end up with two independent Wi-Fi networks in the same air space.

Among other things, that can cause interference and adversely affect the performance of both. Also, if you change the Wi-Fi settings of the router, you will likely need to reconfigure the extender manually. Else it might get disconnected.

Extenders tend to be terrible at real-world speeds due to signal loss, though tri-band ones are generally less so — more below. And they can be unreliable and a pain to use. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of folks plug an extender in a power socket, and that’s it, thinking it’ll somehow magically make things better.

However, extenders are popular Wi-Fi “quick fixes” since they can give you the full Wi-Fi bars at a location where you used to get low or no bars at all — an illusion of “better Wi-Fi.” On top of that, you don’t need to worry about running network cables.

(By the way, the artificial full Wi-Fi bars might be the reason why folks are lured into calling extenders “boosters”. That’s misleading at best, if not completely wrong. There’s no such thing as a Wi-Fi booster. Please don’t use that term.)

Netgear EX7500 and EX8000 Extenders
The EX7500 (left) and EX8000 tri-band extenders from Netgear are my recommended of among this type of broadcasters thanks to the additional 5GHz band. Note the former can only work as an extender since it has no network port. The latter, on the other hand, can also function as an access point.
Extra: Extender and virtual MAC address issues

There’s also another odd thing you should keep in mind about extenders: Most of them use virtual MAC addresses for connected clients.

READ  MAC Address Explained and How You Can Change Yours

Specifically, devices connected to an extender will register to the network using a random MAC address instead of its own.

Consequently, any features that rely on MAC to identify a device, such as MAC-filtering, IP reservation, Parental Control, and so on, will not work well, if at all.

Certain IoT (Internet of Things) devices also require to be registered using their real MAC to work. At the very least, the change of the MAC address will cause the device to get a new IP address each time it connects to the network, and that alone can be problematic.

Depending on the situation and actual hardware, there might be ways to overcome this virtual MAC issue, but at best, the process is quite involved.

I’ve personally run into this annoying problem with most extenders I’ve used, including those from major networking vendors (Netgear, TP-Link, Linksys, and so on). The best way to deal with this is not to use an extender.

Access points

If you can install network cables, access points (APs) are a much better alternative to extenders.

(Note: Some extenders can work as access points and vice versa.)

APs are similar to extenders with one significant difference: An AP connects to the main router using a network cable. For this reason, they deliver significantly higher performance than extenders because there’s no signal loss — more below

That said, an access point must have at least one network port to connect to the router. Some even have more for you to add wired clients to the network.

However, still, APs are similar to extenders in the sense that they need to be managed separately from the router and operate as an independent broadcaster instead of being a seamless part of the existing Wi-Fi network.

However, using APs is the best non-mesh choice. In fact, performance-wise, it can be better than using a real mesh in a wireless setup.

By the way, when using APs (or extenders), keep in mind that it’s always the router that decides the features and settings of your network. So, you’re free to use a router of your choice.

Router Roles AP Extender Media Bridge
Look at the different roles, including a Media Bridge, an Asus router has to offer.
Extra: Mesh system in access point mode

Since most (not all) routers have an AP mode — you can use it just like an access point; what if you put the router unit of a mesh system in this role?

In this case, generally, the entire mesh system still works together to extend the network seamlessly. But you’ll get no features or network settings (provided by the router) out of it.

Again, not all mesh hardware supports the access point mode. Other only has this mode when you use the hardware individually (and not as a system.)

Bridge (or media bridge)

Bridge, a.k.a Media Bridge, is a popular role that many Wi-Fi broadcasters (router, access point, extender) support.

In this mode, the device receives an incoming Wi-Fi signal and relay that to a wired device (or devices). A media bridge must have at least one LAN port.

You can think of a bridge as a Wi-Fi adapter for a wired device. In other words, it allows a wired device to connect to a Wi-Fi network using its network port. The more ports a bridge has, the more wired devices it can add to an existing Wi-Fi network.

(Or you can add a switch to a media bridge to increase the number of wired devices it supports. This is not a good idea, though, since all of them will share the same single wireless connection to the main network.)

So, a bridge has little to do with a mesh network because it plays the role of a receiver, not a broadcaster. A bridge will work with any Wi-Fi network. If your existing router supports the bridge mode, that’d be a way you can re-use it when you upgrade your system to a new router.

Extra: Bridge mode in a gateway unit

In a gateway unit, a router+modem combo box, the Bridge mode is a bit different. That’s when the gateway will work solely as a modem, and no longer has any router-related function.

You can read more on this post about how to get the most out of ISP-supplied equipment.

How a mesh Wi-Fi network is better (than using non-mesh hardware)

Compare to using individual extenders or access points; a mesh Wi-Fi network has a couple of clear advantages.

Ease of use

A Wi-Fi system is easy to set up. At most, you only need to set up the main hub; the rest of the hubs will replicate the settings of the main hub.

When you need to change Wi-Fi settings, such as the network name (SSID) or password, you only have to do that on the router unit. The satellites will replicate the change by themselves.

Seamless hand-off

In a mesh, it’s easier to have continuous connectivity on your device when roaming from one hub to another, as though there was just one hub involved.


Notes on seamless hand-off

Don’t take seamless literally. That doesn’t exist.

The client needs to disconnect itself from one hardware and move to another, and there’s always a brief interruption during the process. It’s a matter of how brief. So, it’s seamless when you don’t notice it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • For seamless hand-off to work, involved hardware devices on both sides (hubs and clients) need to support the IEEE 802.11r, 802.11v, or 802.11k standard. Most Wi-Fi systems and clients support at least one of these. But there’s a chance they don’t feature the same one, so seamless hand-off is not a sure thing.
  • It’s the speed that matters. If your connection is fast enough for your task at hand, there’s no need to concern about which node your device connects to.
  • Wi-Fi doesn’t follow human logic in terms of distances. Within a certain range where signals are consistently strong (or weak) to a certain extent, devices might not see anything better or worse between closer or father broadcasters.

By the way, there’s a chance you can get seamless hand-off out of a router + AP or router + extender combo. However, this function tends to work better in a mesh system.

In my experience, via testing hundreds of hardware devices, the seamless hand-off is almost always hit or miss. It varies depending on your existing router and your clients, and other factors.

Seamless handoff in a non-mesh setup

Keep in mind that some extenders can turn an existing Wi-Fi network into a “mesh” by offering dedicated backhaul and supposedly seamless hands-off — more on backhaul below. Examples of these are the Nighthawk Mesh Extenders from Netgear — the EX8000 and EX7500.

But one thing for sure, you’ll still need to re-setup these extenders (or APs) each time you change your Wi-Fi network’s name or password. And since they work as independent broadcasters, there’s a chance they also cause interference. By the way, even a dedicated wireless backhaul is still far less reliable than a wired one.

Generally, don’t expect to have a real mesh system if you use extenders in your network. But, again, a combo of a router plus a couple of access points, when set up properly, can work similarly to a real mesh system.


Better performance

In a mesh network, all the hubs work together as a single unified Wi-Fi network. As a result, they leverage one another’s Wi-Fi signals to deliver the best efficiency, instead of each working independently, which can create interference.

For this reason, a mesh will also have better performance and reliability compared with using a bunch of extenders (or APs) together.

Note, though, that using network cables to link the hubs — a practice called “wired backhaul” — is by far the best for a mesh system.

Signal loss: The biggest drawback of wireless mesh

When you wirelessly link dual-band Wi-Fi broadcasters together, you will have to deal with signal degradation over distance and a phenomenon called signal loss.

Signal loss happens when a hub’s wireless band receives and rebroadcasts Wi-Fi signals at the same time. Having to do two things simultaneously, it loses at least 50 percent of its efficiency.

Keep in mind that signal loss has nothing to do with the Wi-Fi indicator on a client — you have it even when you’re getting a full-bar Wi-Fi signal on your phone.

Specifically, in a dual-stream (2×2) Wi-Fi system, such as the Linksys Velop Dual-Band, all hubs can deliver up to 867 Mbps on the 5GHz band. A client connected to a satellite hub will get 433 Mbps from it at most, or half the speed, compared to when it connects to the main router.

(Signal loss won’t happen when you get either of the two bands to work exclusively as backhaul. But in this case, your system will be slow due to the speed limitation of the 2.4 GHz band.)

By the way, these are theoretical speeds, in real-world usage, the numbers are much lower, due to distance, interference, and overheads.

For this reason, avoid using cheap extenders of slow Wi-Fi standards since, after the signal loss, the actual Wi-Fi speed is too sluggish to be useful.

To reduce signal loss, networking vendors resort to Wi-Fi systems (and extenders) with an additional 5GHz band (5GHz + 5GHz + 2.4GHz).

Netgear is the pioneer on this front with the Orbi product line’s introduction, which dedicates the second 5 GHz band to linking the hubs. This band is called the dedicated backhaul, and it allows the other two to focus on serving clients.

Even then, you still have to deal with the fact Wi-Fi signals get weaker over the range. So, the best way to combat signal loss and degradation is to set up your system correctly.

Extra: Mesh Wi-Fi system and Wi-Fi 6E

Starting in 2021, we have new hardware that supports Wi-Fi 6E.

READ  Wi-Fi 6E Explained: Better Wireless Connections at the Expense of Range

Wi-Fi 6E has a new 6GHz band. As a result, for compatibility reasons, all of its hardware (broadcasters and clients) will come with three bands, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. It’s a new type of tri-band, as opposed to the traditional tri-band (2.4Ghz + 5GHz + 5Ghz).

Having three different bands, a Wi-Fi 6E broadcaster is not better than a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 counterpart in wireless mesh setup — it has no extra band working as the dedicated backhaul.

In any case, this new standard is still in a very early state. There’s no client support it yet. At best, it’s premature to talk about how it pans out in a mesh system. However, you can find out more in my take on the very first Wi-Fi 6E router, the Asus GT-AXE11000.

How to best set up a mesh Wi-Fi system

A mesh system often comes in two or three hubs — referred to as 2-pack or 3-pack. One works as the main router that connects to an Internet source, such as a cable modem (or a gateway, or another router), using its WAN port. After that, you can add the satellite hubs to the main router.

Important note: A satellite hub must connect to the main router, either directly or indirectly (via a switch or another satellite). It won’t work if you connect it to the device in front of the router, namely the internet source mentioned above.

Some mesh systems come with pre-synced hardware, such as the Asus ZenWiFi AX or Netgear Orbi. In this case, all you have to do is set up the router unit then place the satellite at a good distance.

Most others require adding the satellite manually via a mobile app or a web interface. After that, they automatically work with the main router hub to form a unified Wi-Fi network.

Amazon eero 6
The eero 6 Extender doesn’t have a network port, making wired backhaul not an option when you use one.

Wired backhaul: The only way to get the best performing mesh

The best way to implement a mesh is by using network cables to link the hubs together in a wired backhaul setup. In this case, you’ll always have the best possible Wi-Fi speeds throughout.

(Note, though, that some canned Wi-Fi systems don’t offer wired backhaul, such as the Orbi RBK13, the ARRIS SURFboard mAX series, or some flavor of the new eero 6.)

You don’t need to worry much about how to arrange the hubs in a wired backhaul setup. Within reason, no matter the distance or placement, you’ll get the same performance.

So, place the hubs in a way they can collectively blanket the entire desired area. By the way, if you have Gigabit-class Internet and want to enjoy it via Wi-Fi, Gigabit (or faster) wired backhaul is a must. That’s to say Powerline (or even MoCA) probably won’t cut it.

In a wired backhaul setup, you can also use switches between hubs or daisy-chain the mesh units together — it allows for flexible hardware placement.

Wireless backhaul: Super convenient but can be temperamental

Running network cables can be hard or even not possible at all. So wireless mesh setups are popular. In this case, how you arrange the hubs is crucial. That’s because, over the air, the connections between them can vary a great deal.

To deal with that, there are two things to consider, the distance and the topology.

1. The distance

The closer you keep the hubs to each other, the stronger the signal is between them, which translates into faster speeds for clients. The catch is you’ll have less Wi-Fi coverage and probably more interferences.

On the other hand, a longer distance means more extensive coverage, but you’ll end up having a slow Wi-Fi network. For a dual-band system, if you put the units too far, it will likely use the 2.4GHz as backhaul and you’ll have a very slow network.

It’s always tricky to find the sweet spot that balances between coverage and speed. Generally, if there are no walls in between, you can place a hub between 40 ft (12 m) to 75 ft (23 m) from the main router unit. If there are walls, 30 ft to 40 ft is about the maximum distance.

The easiest way to find out where you should put the satellite is via the signal indicator on your phone or laptop. You want to place the unit where the signal starts to change from full bars to one bar lower.

Ultimately, it’s the speed that matters. If you only need to deliver a modest broadband connection, you can go a bit crazy on the distance to get the most extensive coverage.

2. The topology

In a mesh network, the topology is how you arrange the hubs. It’s, again, more relevant to the situation where you can not use network cables to link them.

In a wireless setup, signal loss and latency are inevitable. The goal here is how to reduce them. By the way, you only need to worry about topology when you use more than one satellite. Having a 2-pack network? You can skip this part.

Mesh Topology
The recommended star topology (top) vs. daisy-chain topology. This applies mostly to a mesh without wired backhaul.
The star topology

This one is the recommended topology. It’s where you place the satellites around the primary router. This arrangement ensures each satellite has a direct connection to the main router, making the Wi-Fi signals hop only once from the router before it gets to the end-client.

The daisy-chain topology

The daisy-chain topology refers to when you place the hardware units in a linear fashion. As a result, the signal has to hop more than once — from the main router to a satellite hub, then to another satellite hub, etc.– before it gets to the device.

In this case, the net speed will suffer a great deal, and you’ll experience severe lag due to compounded signal loss. In a wireless setup, avoid this topology if possible.

How to pick the best mesh Wi-Fi system for your home

Cost aside, there are three things you should consider when getting a Wi-Fi system: speed, features, and privacy.

1. Speed

Speed is, by far, the most critical factor. And this depends a lot on if your home is wired with network cables.


General guidelines for a high-performing mesh: Tri-band, dual-band, wired backhaul

First, pick a system with the highest possible Wi-Fi specs within budget.

For a fully wireless mesh, make sure you get a system with a dedicated 5GHz backhaul band (tri-band). When possible use Wi-Fi 6 hardware which is decidedly better than Wi-Fi 5 counterpart for a wireless mesh configuration.

For a wired home (wired backhaul), go with a dual-band set with the highest possible Wi-Fi specs.

Using a tri-band system with wired backhaul is generally overkill. On top of that, keep these in mind:

  • Certain tri-band systems, especially the Netgear Orbi, still keep a 5GHz band for backhaul — this band is not available for clients no matter what.
  • Generally, purpose-built tri-band systems are tuned for a fully wireless setup — there are those that don’t support wired backhaul at all. That said, when used in a wired backhaul configuration, some might have unexpected bugs.

Generally, for sharing a modest Internet connection (100 Mbps download speed or slower), any mesh system, especially one using the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, will do. The reason is that even slow Wi-Fi speed is still much faster than that.

However, if you pay for a fast Internet plan — 250 Mbps or higher — you’ll need a system that has a dedicated backhaul band.

And if you have an ultra-high-speed internet connection (500 Mbps or faster), you’ll need to run network cables to connect the hubs. There’s no way around this. Even when you use a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, chances are you won’t get full gigabit at the end device, unless you use wired backhaul.

READ  Best Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Systems of 2021: The Real-Deal Collection

Again, with wired backhaul, all you need is a dual-band system with top Wi-Fi speed. For example, the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini will deliver excellent sub-Gigabit Wi-Fi rates in a wired setup. If you have Gigabit Internet, a couple of Asus RT-AX8xU units or most dual-band Wi-Fi 6 systems will do.

AiProtection ZenWiFi AX
The Network Protection is one of many features the Asus mesh systems have to offer.

2. Features

The feature set of a system means what you can do with your home network. If all you want is to access the Internet, don’t worry too much about features. However, it’s always helpful to have a system that includes built-in online protection.

I’m not a fan of mesh systems (or routers) without a web interface since they don’t offer users full control of the network.

That said, if you want tons of useful features and network settings, use a mesh system from Asus or Synology. The runners up are those from Netgear or Linksys. Others tend to have a limited amount of features and network settings. In return, they are much easier to set up.

3. Privacy

All Wi-Fi systems that require you to register an account and log in before you can set up or manage your home network pose privacy risks. The reason is your network connects to the vendor at all times, and potentially, third parties can keep tabs on what you do online.

Extreme examples of this type of what I’d call “data-mining mesh systems” are those from Google and Amazon. I’d recommend against them even though they might offer reliable performance and ease of use.

Synology Mesh is the latest option in the mesh market and it's easily one of the best.
Synology Mesh is one of the best option for a Wi-Fi 5 system.

Final note

All Wi-Fi systems should be the only router in your home.

If you want to keep your existing router, or can’t replace the ISP-provided gateway, get a mesh that can work in the access point (AP) mode. In this case, the mesh extends your existing home network without offering any features or special settings.

READ  Double NAT vs. Single NAT: How to Best Handle an (ISP-Provided) Gateway

No matter what set up you decide to go for, one thing is always true: Using network cable to link the hardware units is the only way to get the best performing system. So get your home wired.

231 thoughts on “Mesh Wi-Fi System Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters”

  1. Very helpful article… I learned lots of useful things as I looked for an answer to my question, which I didn’t find, so here goes…

    I need to pick a mesh system. Super-high performance is not necessary, and economy is important. I’m probably going to run the mesh in AP mode because I need the ISP’s router to remain as the router (I’ll turn off the Wifi of the ISP router).

    So far, that’s easy. Here’s the complicating part: I have a very unusual house. It’s really two houses joined together.
    House1 is steel frame construction (which seems to interfere with cellphone service but I’m not sure if it interferes with communications in the WiFi bands). The ISP service is to this house.
    In House2, both the exterior AND INTERIOR walls are concrete block with steel rebar reinforcement (this definitely interferes with WiFi).
    There is an ethernet cable running between the “houses” that could be used, for example, to connect a satellite (if the chosen system’s can be connected that way).

    As a result of the nature of my “double house,” I’ve concluded that I may need a mesh setup with more than three total units. I know I can buy extra satellites for some systems, but it seems that it might be more economical to buy two identical mesh systems to get extra satellites. That will also mean I’d have two base units.

    Questions
    1. Is it possible to use both base units of two identical brand/model systems in the same mesh? If not, I’ll have an unused base.
    2. Given what I’ve described about the double house, the single ethernet cable running between them, and your answer to question #1, what deployment of components do you recommend? Obviously, one base unit will have to have a wired connection to the ISP’s router.

    Reply
  2. Right now I’ve got 3x Asus RT-AC68U with Merlin f/w in AiMesh mode with wired backhaul. My house is roughly 4000 sq. ft. and my goal is to support 60+ 2.4ghz smart home devices plus other clients such as tablets, phones, etc. For the more advanced wireless clients I have as many on 5ghz as possible and also everything that can be wired is.

    I’m having issues with wireless clients not connecting to the best AiMesh node and just general slowness with all WiFi devices. Even with 5ghz I find myself often just turning off WiFi on my phone even when I have a strong signal. My thought was to add a RT-AX86U as the main router hoping that the increased performance might help, but after reading your review and the comments that WiFi6 devices had bad 2.4ghz performance, I’m wondering if it’s something else.

    I only have about half of the 60 switches installed and I’m wondering if I’m bumping up against a limitation of the technology. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • It’s not very clear what you were trying to say, Lesh, but the 86U might help. Also, try using them with Asus firmware. Generally, if you need help figuring things out, Merlin is not for you.

      Reply
  3. Hi Dong: Thanks sincerely for the wealth of info! Sorry if this is a duplicate question, but I’m still a little shaky on what’s best for homes where network wiring is not available such as mine. 1950’s 2k sq. ft. house, thick walls, AT&T gig fiber on far end, trying to determine which mesh system best suited for me. At first I thought triband WIFI 6 would give me the best odds but sounds like maybe that’s not the best without a wired backhaul? Any tips are greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • You need a tri-band system, Rick. That’s the only way for a fully wireless setup. How well that works still depends on the walls, though. There’s no magic. Maybe give this post another read and follow the related links.

      Reply
      • Got it. Glad I asked so I’ll cancel the order I just placed for a dual band nighthawk mk63. Follow up question: if triband is critical, what about wifi 6? Thanks!

        Reply
  4. How can I determine the best spacing of my mesh nodes in a wired back-haul setup? I know that since its wired, it’s less important, but what are the considerations? For example: If they’re too close, will that create problems? Are there general rules like “space them 30-50 ft apart, with just one wall or floor between each”? Your guidance is appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Generally, Kelz, you want to put the remote satellite far enough so that its range has the least overlapping with that of the main router (or another satellite). It’s impossible to determine the exact distance since that varies based on the environment, but you can imagine each broadcaster emits signals somewhat in a sphere shape. This post talks more about Wi-Fi range and interferences.

      Reply
  5. Hi Dong, LOVE your website, thanks for this valuable information.

    One question: You mentioned MOCA probably won’t cut it for a wired back haul, why not? It seems like many of the MOCA devices now are gigabit or above, which seems to be sufficient (https://www.screenbeam.com/products/home-networking/ecb6250/)

    I’d like to use MOCA to both connect the router to the modem AND to connect each node to the router. Any reason I would not want to do this? (Other than increased cost in purchasing the MOCA devices).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • MoCA is fine, Kelz. Just make sure your wiring is intact, and you use adapters of the latest standard that supports full-duplex (and not half-duplex). Also, don’t use the wiring for anything else (like TV signals) but the network.

      Reply
      • I am currently using MOCA in the wired backhaul path of one of my satallite nodes in an aiMesh network, and it appears to be working just fine. There is TV on the cable as well.

        Reply
          • It turns out I was wrong, when I went back and checked I had tried Moca, given up, and found another way to get a wired backhaul. It would be great if it worked, but so far I’m 0 for 2 on moca.

  6. Hi Dong

    What an awesome article this is, I am pretty tech savvy but hardly know a thing about networking but just reading this has taught me so much, glad I found your site

    I’m getting virgin gig1 fibre tomorrow and not heard great things about their routers wifi coverage so definately thinking of getting a mesh setup, thinking either NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Dual Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (RBK353) or ASUS ZenWiFi AX Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System(XT8)

    I live in a 3 storey house and there is 6 of us, and we have loads of wifi devices that use the network and I’ve got loads of smart home tech too, so it needs to handle a lot of traffic

    The virgin hub itself will be in my living room so most devices connected to that will be connected via ethernet, but i’m guessing the 2 systems I posted above, one of the hubs will need to be connected to the virgin hub itself? and any others I can position around the house and I know to put the virgin hub in modem mode only

    Wired backhaul won’t be an option for me even though I know it would be the best but running cables from each hub will be too difficult but as long as I’m hitting near 800-900 mbps with my wired devices downstairs i’m not too bothered if all the other devices around the house are only hitting 500 mbps. It’s mainly having strong wifi around the whole house so this avoids disconnects. Not sure of the exact size of my house but would you recommend a setup with 2 or 3 hubs as one will need to connected to the virgin hub and the other 1 or 2 could be on each floor

    Forgive me for sounding a bit dumb here but I get wired backhaul but what do you do when you wireless backhaul, would that be when I’ve got the main hub connected to the virgin hub by wan and the other devices connected wirelessly to the main hub, also when putting the virgin media hub in modem mode, I’m guessing you can still use that hubs ethernet ports?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me

    Reply
  7. Hi Dong, I am trying to achieve as seemless roaming as I can. I currently have an upstairs network and a downstairs network using 2 Linksys EA- 6350 ethernet wired together. I ended up with two networks because my phones (samsung S7’s) would not switch from the upstairs router to the downstairs router when they were connected together to cascade until the signal was so bad that if I were talking on the phone no one could hear me. I could be connected on the upstairs router and standing right next to the downstairs router and the phone (Samsung S7’s) would not switch to the downstairs router. So I had to go to separate networks. Which is very problematic unless I always remember to switch networks. I now have a Samsung S10 and S20 phone that are supposed to support R/V/K. So I would like to find a mesh solution that supports 802.11R/V/K.

    Most mesh systems (Velop, asus CT8, Asus mini XD4) do not specifically call out R/V/K or if the do (Nest, Google) they do not allow wired backhaul.

    Do you have a recommendation for a dual band, router + 2 node (my house is 4200 sq ft rectangle) that can support wired backhaul and R/V/K? Lastly, can I connect the nodes daisy chain or should it be from the router to the individual nodes. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  8. Hi, Dong, thank you so much for your amazing work on the site. I read quite a few articles and they really gave me a much in-depth understanding of a mesh system (I was first led to the site through looking for a review of TPlink’s Deco X60 and then can’t stop reading more of your articles). I really enjoy your down-to-earth tone and easy-to-understand yet technical reviews/explainers. With the knowledge learned here, I have purchased the Deco X60 (3pack) and planning to do a wired backhaul setup (house prewired). But I am debating on whether I should use the AP or router mode for the system. I am on a AT&T 1G fiber service and the Gateway is located in a quite hidden-away wirebox inside a small washer/dryer room (where all the prewired cables come out). I have a couple questions,
    1. If I do the AP mode, I can use the three units as AP (wired) and put them at different rooms. In this case, would I be able to disable AT&T’s Gateway WiFi and use Deco’s Wifi or I need to keep the Gateway WiFi? Let’s say I keep the Gateway WiFi and use the 3 units as APs, would this be a good mesh system (seamless hand-off and coverage)? I am currently using an extender and it doesn’t work well since a lot of times I am standing right next to the extender but my phone is connected to the gateway (at 2nd floor) with very poor connection.
    2. If I do the router mode, I need to put one unit next to the Gateway and kinda waste this unit since it will also be hidden away in a small and distance room. Do you think router mode is worth it in this case (a potential better overall performance and good mesh system with Deco’s NAT and WiFi)?
    3. Do you think I should go with other brands or product for my setup? I can still return the Deco if you think there are better choices :).
    Sorry for the long comments and questions. Thank you so much in advance!

    Reply
  9. Thanks so much for the detailed article. I have a question on a specific mesh configuration – Linksys Velop MX4200 or MX5300 – with wired backhaul. Linksys recommends that the wired mesh components all be daisy-chained, i.e., parent to child-1 to child-2 to child-3, etc. Linksys also seems to suggest (and I am not fully sure I got it right) that by placing a switch between the parent and the children, all components can be connected directly to the switch, i.e., without requiring daisy-chaining. Why is that? Are the multiple Ethernet LAN ports on the parent already part of a built-in switch and if so, what difference would an external switch bring about? I guess, my real question is can the children be all wired in a star topology directly to the Ethernet LAN ports of the parent. Could you please clarify?

    Reply
  10. Hi Dong – I have read several of your articles and it has helped me a lot. I currently have AT&T Gigapower. I am currently planning to set up a wired mesh system with an Asus RT-AX86U as my main router behind an AT&T device in pass through mode. My question is should I purchase another RT-AX86U as the satellite point or is that overkill? If it is overkill, what should I use? Thanks!

    Reply
  11. So I installed the TP Link Deco M9 plus (3 pack) router/APs since I was having coverage issues across the whole house with the Linksys 1900AC+.

    Since installation I’ve noticed what appears to be WAN drop on a
    frequent basis. I has local SSH connects to servers, and a VPN connection
    to the office. I do not lose the local SSH connection, so its not the wifi
    that drops. I lose the tunnel and SSH connections over that.. and ping to 8.8.8.8 drops for a bit..

    Its at the latest firmware. Should I try putting the Deco M9 in AP mode and hang it off the Linksys? When working, the coverage is great and I’m getting good speeds all over the house. But the frequent drops are quite annoying.


    Dan

    Reply
  12. Dong:

    You’re website is amazing and has been super helpful. One question I couldn’t find answered:. If you set up a mesh with wired backhaul does it matter whether your best router serves as a “satellite” rather than the primary unit?

    Reply
      • Dong,
        Great article.. I just finished wiring my house with cat 6 and used my old google mesh to attempt to wire them As wired access points. I am getting major signal loss when I tap them into the wired vs using wirelessly. I do have 3 switches connected throughout the house to navigate wire traffic, they are unmanned switches Netgear GS108v4. Could the switch be attempting to assign an address to each “puck” and creating the issue, or is it that the Google Mesh doesn’t support backhaul, and that is causing my issue? I am thinking based on your article I may be able to move to the Asus ZenWifi AX Mini and get the result I am looking for from the benefits of having just wired my home.
        Any advice appreciated

        Reply
        • Not sure what you’re trying to say,Chris, but you can’t compare the performance of a wired connection vis a wireless one. Also, Google mesh sucks. Go with the XD4.

          Reply
          • Thank you! What I was trying to say is when I connect them to the hardwire connection they actually run slower than when I run them as a wireless network.. I will take you advice and ditch them for sure!

  13. Hi, there.

    I’m new to this concept, but believe I have the need for a mesh network. I live in a two story + basement home (each story is approx. 1259 sq. ft.). I have gigabit internet and would like solid coverage on all three levels, plus out back and in the garage.

    Which system would you suggest, and can you tell me a bit about placement? (Ie. would I need one on each floor, etc.).

    Please let me know if I left out any pertinent information you may need.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Read the post again, Kevin. This time with some attention. Also, note the included related links. You’re asking me to repeat myself. 🙂

      Reply
      • I apologize, I went back to re-read and did not see mention of placement in a home regarding varying floors. I do see where you mention interruption from walls and preferred distances apart. Should I have a satellite on each floor of the home (assuming the main router accounts for one floor)?

        Lastly, you made mention that it’s preferred to wire for best performance. If it’s possible to backwire one satellite, but not another, should I do that or operate completely wireless?

        Thanks!

        Reply
        • No worries, Kevin. Glad you found the answers. And yes, you can (generally) mixed wireless and wired backhaul. How that works out depends on the hardware. But a mixed wired/wireless is generally better than full wireless. For a particular set of mesh, I mentioned the backhaul notion in all of my reviews.

          Reply
  14. Thanks for the insight. I am new to this domain so probably digested about 50% of this. Perhaps you can clarify two questions I have. I live in a relatively newer condo building in Singapore with cement walls in a T shape condo unit so having issues extending to the ends of the “T”. I use the Nokia Beacon 1, as per our local service provider. I tried using two additional/older Linksys EA7500 routers in a mesh set up (connecting them to access points in the wall) but the Linksys routers always dropped their connection and had to be reset, so I am relying on the Nokia Beacon 1 for all.

    1.) Can you mix wireless router brands for a mesh system? Or should I buy another Nokia Beacon to cover the apartment?

    2.) To clarify, for the Wired backhaul, does that mean linking each wireless router by an ethernet cable? (as opposed to plugging them in the wall…which I understand is the Mesh AP set up)? Does the length of the cable matter ie. if I buy it too long but wrap up the excess…does that have any positive or negative impact? Based on the answer to #1, which do you recommend I use…mesh or wired?

    Appreciate your response…I am a novice so this is new to me. My kids would appreciate any support that can supplement my knowledge!!

    Reply
  15. Hi Dong, and thank you for your phenomenal trove of wisdom. Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere. I live in a 30m long, three story victorian semi. The ISP enters on the first floor 2/3 back. There it meets asus 88u distribution router This router and powerline feeds the ground floor and a couple access points downstairs. No issues there really. An rj45 runs to the front first floor into an 87u. So far so good on first floor. All same ssids in a primitive mesh.The loft office is the problem and cannot get a cable up there. Roughly equidistant from the 87 and 88 signals. Tried powerline and tplink 365 but very poor results. Next option is aimesh. The 88u main router is already capable. Thinking to buy two asus (ct8, xt8, 92 or similar), replace the front 87u and position the second node in the loft. Main question: does aimesh allow to mix the existing cable from 88u as wired backhaul, with wireless backhaul up to the loft? Or do i need to make all three wireless? Any other tips hugely appreciated. Again, thank you so much for being.

    Reply
      • Thank you sir. So i have settled on the asus AC3000 linked below, also described as a CT8, which matches your AC3000 CT8 review except here it is a tri-band, whereas your review says dual-band.
        Wonder if this is a regional difference in UK/EU? https://amzn.to/39DaSz2
        Plan is to:
        1. leave my ASUS RT-AC88U AC3100 in situ as internet gateway, 2. Deploy one AC3000 to replace the 87u, adding the 88u to it’s mesh via wired backhaul.
        3. Second AC3000 will become the untethered loft mesh using its third band to backhaul to Node 1.
        4. 87u gets redeployed elsewhere as AP on e.g. powerline.
        5. Review
        Regards, Gerrard

        Reply
        • That one is the ZenWiFi CT8, Gerrard. Not sure why they call it AC3000, which is just a designation used in many routers. That said:

          1 and 2. You can do that but remember that chances are you’ll waste the CT8’s 2nd 5GHz band. More here — read the section carefully!
          3. That won’t happen. You can’t mix tri-band and dual-band and expect them to work like that. At least for now.
          4. Don’t use powerline, it’s too slow.

          Reply
          • Hey Dong,
            Thought I would bring some feedback now that the CT8s are installed as per my post. I left my ASUS RT-AC88U (dual band) in situ as internet gateway and replaced the upstream 87u with one CT8/AC3000, which the 88u meshes via Ethernet uplink/backhaul. The second loft CT8 is actually using its third band to uplink/backhaul to Node 1, so it seems I am able to mix successfully ethernet and 5g backhauls.

            Result: in the dead-zone that was my loft, I am now getting 1053mbps according to the router app. It sometimes drops from “Great” to “OK” but hitting the optimise button or switching off/on restores it – although even the OK speeds are great to me! Although I am probably wasting a band, it seemed a good price vs dual band options, and maybe it will come in handy at a later date. Also the extra rj45 ports are useful. Totally pleased overall and thanks again for the advice!

  16. I have a Verizon Gateway router and three (3) Verizon extenders (all connected by coax), still have a wifi dead spot (large apartment with concrete block walls). Can I add an Asus mesh for dead spot while keeping existing system?

    Reply
    • You can’t have an AiMesh setup with just one hardware unit, Richard. But you can use any access point there, or router in AP mode.

      Reply
  17. Clear article.
    You DO recommend wired backhaul and I DID this.
    Regarding the network setup of a wired mesh to a modem/router combo from my ISP:
    I would like to have one network with all devices visible, I guess that means the same 3 octets of IPs. Can a wired Mesh system be set-up in a bridge mode to accomplish that?

    Reply
  18. Hoya, interesting read. So i’ve got x3 deco M5 in the hous I got another m5e and it works really well. Have a very old netgear nighthawk EX7000 in a seperate building 25m from main house which is rubbish. Am I right in thinking it would be better if i got another m5 unit down there and connected it to one of the m5 units in the house with an ethernet cable it would solve my problem?

    Reply
  19. Hi Dong

    Really interesting article and helped me realise that most reviewers of systems gave gigabit internet.

    I’m in the UK and only have 76mbps and my parents less than 35mbps.

    I have a wired gigabit network around my house and my parents don’t. I’m looking to get a mesh system for both.

    I know I can go dual band, so long as the mesh system has ethernet ports but would my parents benefit from from tri-band? My father as issues with the Macbook dropping form the WiFi, so being able to connect to a node wired would be helpful.

    The other issue is that my house is Victorian and my parents house whilst 1970s, has various walls so reach dead spots is important.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that many of the systems don’t seem to allow the assigning of static IP addresses to devices, which is something I have done and wish to continue to do.

    I read about the Decor M9 but reviews claim it’s erratic. I don’t want something that one has to keep resetting.

    If there is a problem, it can be helpful to look at logs. I get the impression app ones won’t allow such a thing.

    All this leads me to a point where I don’t think I’ve found what I’m looking for because no one has made it. I could be wrong though.

    Reply
  20. Hello Dong,

    Could you clarify the difference between a mesh system such as the Linksys Velop and a router that has mesh functionality such as the Linksys MR9600?

    I am confused and it seems each manufacturer has some kind of dual offering like this.

    Is it mostly marketing and at equal specifications the mesh system is simplified as much as possible (mobile app management, few settings, pretty much plug&play) whereas the router provide more features (web ui, multiple ethernet ports, extensive settings, etc.), or is there actual real differentiation in the way they work.

    (I couldn’t find an article on the topic so feel free to redirect me to the right place).

    I tried the TP-Link Deco X60 but was struggling with the lack of ethernet.
    I gave a try to the Linksys Velop MX4200 which seems decent.
    In either case, I don’t like the idea of the online mobile UI.

    My home is about 1500sqt but I would like to cover a small office shed in the backyard and cover the backyard as well. I think a unit in my home and one in my shed should be sufficient.

    Reply
  21. Is ASUS looking at allowing me to pin a device to an AIMESH router?

    How has AI-Mesh improved over the last two years?

    Have they published what features they add and what improvements they have made with firmware?

    I run the AI-Mesh system in my house with an RT-AC68U (East and West End downstairs) as satellites connected with cat6 and an RT-AC88U (Upstairs Center of house) as the main point connecting to the 500Mbps Xfinity connection.

    Problem I have is cameras and other devices hop and end up on one of the routers. The hoping messes with the Nest Cameras and takes them offline all the time. Also they get stuck on the weakest signal or one that is not closest. I can walk upstairs, work for a few minutes and then walk to the other side of the house and now I am stuck and garbage speed and no transition to closer router. I would like to stick cameras to device as well and now do it by making one the routers an AP instead and naming it a different network called east and west. Problem is does not create more interference?

    Reply
    • Yes, David. AiMesh 2.0 should give you that. You’ll be able to force a device to connect to a particular node manually. As for how AiMesh progresses, if you started following my post 2 years ago, you’d know. There’s no way I can give you a list of all that has changed. Or you can read the release notes of a particular router’s firmware versions.

      Reply
  22. Greetings Dong,

    I live in the country. Giant house, 5800 sq ft living, very long, with a second story and probably impossible to run ethernet. Internet (a WISP) enters on the far side of the house where I am pleased to get 20mb down. It may be possible to get more via a cellular hot spot in the future, then perhaps at a different location in the house. I would like overall coverage with the speeds that I have and be prepared to plug in a hot spot in the future. What would you suggest?

    Reply
      • Thank you, Dong, that’s what I expected you to say. Is that because even with multiple hop signal loss my bandwidth is so slow that it can still handle what I get? I live with 20mb all of the time, but 5mb on the far end would just suck.

        Reply
          • I didn’t know how to post my own comment , so I just replied .

            I currently have a regular setup with a NetGear router/modem that’s probably 5 years old , and probably due for an upgrade , and a Spectrum /ISP modem (they insisted during the install I needed it for phone capabilities ? ) .

            I have a smart phone , tablet , watch , laptop, tv , and HomePod so 6 devices always connected . However I want to add more homepods , cameras, two more smart tvs, bit defender security hub, smart locks and I know my garage opener will be connected to the internet so atleast 20 more devices . All of them will jot be streaming consistently but when I do uploads for videos to YT or social media I don’t want to lose streaming capabilities . I was looking at getting a dedicated modem NetGear CM1200 (maybe future proof) or a CM700 at the least but I can’t decide if I need this triband router or not for “backhaul” which is how I found your article in the first place. I live in a condo so I’m not sure what you mean by getting it wired but I know my smart tv will be connected directly into the router . And the other outside the living room may be on WiFi , unless I can get Internet directly installed in those rooms and plug that directly into my tv’s. Is that what you mean by getting it wired ?

          • Getting your home wired meaning you use network cables whenever applicable/possible. It’s not always necessary but the only way to get the best network speed. More here.

  23. Hi Dong,

    it seems like I’ll have to put in the cable to connect two nodes as wireless backhaul simply doesn’t work for me. Is there are any specifics I need to know about cable? Should it be Cat6? Also I don’t know what length do I need, ao I plan to buy a higher length and then terminate myself. Is it a good idea? Anything else I need to consider to choose cable for backhaul.

    Thanks

    Reply
  24. I have read your article and l greatly appreciate the information. We have a 3 flat in chicago with a garage across from the yard. We previously had hard wired an airport express system. This allowed us to extend the wifi throughout the house and to the garage to operate our cameras. It recently died and we installed a nighthawk x6S router. The speed has been great but it doesn’t extent the wifi far enough to operate the cameras. We would like to install “wired” access points to be able to run the cameras and other devices with minimal bandwidth loss. I have spent hours trying to figure this out. Can I add an EX8000 as an access point #1 (wired) and then run cat 5 from AP #1 to add an other EX8000 (wired) as access point #2. I have read in different places that you cannot set up a seamless wired system. Is this possible using the same name/password so that our devises can move from one AP to the next seamlessly?
    Thanks so much.

    Reply
  25. Hi Dong,

    Thank you for all the great information. I have a wired backhaul setup at my home with 3 base stations on different floors in my home. I’m curious if each base station (or AP) should be configured to use the exact same channel, or does this cause interference?

    Since each base station is broadcasting the same SSID, I thought it might be preferred for each base station to use the same channels, but I’m concerned about interference of having all 3 use the same channel.

    Right now, I have them on separate channels: Each base station is running both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. For the 2.4Ghz band my 3 base stations use channel 1, 6, and 11 (so they don’t overlap). And for the 5Ghz band each base station uses channels 36, 40, 44.

    Is this correct, or should all three base stations use the same channel to make it easier/seamless to roam and hand-off between base stations?

    Thank you,

    Stewart

    Reply
    • I’d leave that setting at “Auto”, Stewart. It looks like you’re using three separate access points, in this case, the roaming is a matter of luck, there’s no definitive answer. But you can try out different settings to see how things pan out.

      Reply
      • Hi – I have a follow up to clarify your advice to this question. Like Stewart I have a wired backhaul system – specifically a tri-band velop system, therefore it has a 2.4GHZ and 2x5GHZ radios, with a base router (MR8300) and 3x tri-band nodes.
        In a full mesh, the 5GHZ network mainly uses the same channels for each node (except for one which is different) in the 36 to 48 range and >100 for other radio.
        In your response, are you saying there is no definitive answer to whether radios should be on the same channel or not?

        Reply
  26. Hi Dong

    Many thanks for all you articles, it has been really interesting and insightful.
    I have a question which I don’t think I have come across exactly.
    I understand having a dual band mesh system and hardwiring is the way to go in my set up. I intend to get a 3 node systems, probably Asus XD4.
    I can fairly easily wire 2 nodes but the 3rd upstairs may be difficult. If I wire the first 2 nodes but not the 3rd will that impact the performance of the first 2 or whichever one the 3rd is communicating to?
    My thinking is if the 3rd node is not hardwired then some bandwidth of the others will be used up as they need to provide a wireless backhaul to the 3rd node or doesn’t it work like that.
    If I can’t wire them 3rd node am I better off going with tri-band?

    Leon

    Reply
    • If you can’t wire the 3rd node, only devices connected to the 3rd node will be impacted. And no, you can’t do tri-band just at the 3rd node (you can, but it makes no difference) since the way AiMesh works, you need to have tri-band at the router unit to have the 3rd band being used as the backhaul. More here.

      Reply
  27. I’m curious about how the ethernet backhaul works. I live in a split level house with one side wired with gigabit ethernet but the other side is connected via MoCA. With a MoCA 2.0 adapter, it looks like the best throughput I can get will be around 400Mbps on that side of the house. I would only need one node on that side of the house, but I wasn’t sure if the MoCA would negatively impact performance for that one node and/or possibly the entire mesh. I had been planning on using the Asus ZenWifi AX Mini with ethernet backhaul in AP mode with the Fios router.

    Reply
  28. Doug,

    Howdy, I’m an IT guy and just wanted to say thank you for writing this article and responding so quickly to posts. Good to know that the kindness still exists.

    So I moved into a new home and decided to jump into the ASUS AX. So far with my testing I can simply say that I’m truly amazed at how well they work. Almost got the Orbi’s but my thinking was I can get 3 of the Asus Ap’s for the price of 2 Orbi’s.

    Having done tech and IT all my life these are next level good… Of course I have not tested Orbi or Amplifi Alien’s (sold out everywhere BTW) but I’m happy with the purchase.

    Well thanks again for the article peace be with you and live long and prosper 😉

    Reply
  29. Hold up a second… There are a lot of inaccuracies here, starting with how you’re defining meshing (See my comment on the Omada post). “Mesh” only refers to wireless backhaul. Wired backhaul is not mesh.

    It’s also critically important to understand that in wi-fi, there is no such thing as seamless handoff. Or handoff of any kind. When a client gets a signal level from the AP that suggests it’s moving out of coverage, it must then stop passing data to scan for new access points that meet its criteria for roaming, and if it finds one, it must then disassociate from its current AP, associate to the new AP, re-establish encryption, and then check that it can keep the same IP address.

    802.11r allows the encryption keys to be cached, but the APs don’t know which AP the client device is going to want to connect to (although with k/v it can sometimes make a better guess, but each client device has its own algorithms to do this). 802.11r doesn’t generally work very well, and is usually only useful in networks using strong security like enterprise authentication.

    Bottom line, there’s no seamless handoff. Roaming from one AP to another is solely a client decision, and the disconnect/reconnect process takes a long time, about 100 milliseconds under ideal conditions. It can take significantly longer if the AP rejects the incoming connection due to configured limits on client capacity or RSSI, or anything that introduces delay like band steering.

    Reply
  30. Hello good afternoon. I bought asus zen wifi xt8 router to work as Access points in mesh system around the house.
    I have the main router / modem from ISP connected to a switch and I connected 3 Zen wifi routers to the switch as explained in the link below, that is, the main module connected to the switch on lan1 and the other 2 connected to the switch on the wan port.
    https://www.asus.com/support/FAQ/1044151/
    Scenario 3: Using AiMesh or ZenWiFi with network switch. And using Main AiMesh router as AP mode (Bridge mode).

    What happens is that I can only connect via wifi via one device. If connecting another device always gives an error and I have tried with many. I can connect by cable on several different devices (computers) directly to the asus router that is connected to the switch so I think this is not a DHCP problem with the ISP router because assigns IP to the two cable-connected devices. The problem is that I can’t connect via wifi. 

    I appreciate all possible help. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Some info in that post is wrong, JM. That’s quite terrible on the part of Asus. Anyhow, set up your system the standard way Router-> (Switch) -> Nodes. Make sure that works. Now, check out this post to use the system in a double NAT setup, turn the gateway into bridge mode, or the system in AP mode.

      Reply
  31. Hi Dong,

    Due to the lay out of my place, it is rectangular in shape and the main router is at the start / front of the house (entrance).

    There is no way to position the routers in a start topology except a daisy chain topology.

    Can I ask, by using a triband mesh, will I be able to elminate the 50% signal loss by using a triband router instead of a dual band?

    I estimate I need 2 to 3 hops to get to the end of the place.

    Please advise.

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • No, Leroy. As you can imagine, the dedicated backhaul band of the middle unit will have to do two things at the same time. But it sure is still better than using a dual-band system.

      Reply
      • So can I confirm that by using a tri band mesh, when it does 3 hops,

        A -> B -> C -> D for example,

        node B and node C and D will not each experience a 50% decrease in bandwith cos they are all tribands right? Since nodes B and C area all tri bands and they have a dedicated bandwith to handle to backhaul and communications.

        Reply
        • Only A is OK. The rest will be bad, very bad, and really bad. By the time it gets to D, the net speed will be quite terrible. It might still work if you don’t care about fast speeds. Read the post and my previous answer again. Keeping asking the same question in different ways won’t get you a new answer. 🙂

          Reply
          • Hi Dong,

            Thank you.

            Cos I misinterpreted your previous reply. When you said no, I thought you meant no as in no signal loss.

            Looks like it is back to the drawing board to try and fix the WiFi connection.

            I was looking at the linksys velop ac6600 initially.

            Do u have other tri band routers to recommend?

  32. Hi Doug

    I have gigabit connection that comes in thru my basement on one side of the house. Should I run a triband satellite backhaul to the other side of the basement with a hub in between for my basement office and be still be able to provide good speed for my wifi on the 1st and 2nd floor of my 3600 s.f. house? What do you recommend?

    Reply
  33. Hello Dong,

    Thanks for the great article. The prewire includes 3 WiFi access point locations in 6,000 sq ft house. I will be using either charter(spectrum) or AT&T internet with speeds of 400-500 mbps or higher if available with 10-15 devices in total. I read about wired back haul being better in your article. I hope prewired 3 wifi access points will be able to achieve that. I read about concerns with privacy issues with vendors like Amazon and Google in your article. I was considering Eero 6 or Eero 6 pro but after reading your article, I am not sure. Which wifi mesh network would you recommend?

    Reply
  34. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for all the useful information. My wife and I are building a home and I plan on installing a mesh wifi system. We have signed up for gigabit fiber service, up to 940 Mbps. The home is ranch style, approximately 3500 s.f. Centurylink is our provider and they plan to install their modem/hub on the outside of our house. I am planning to run a cat6 or 6a ethernet cable from the modem to our primary mesh wifi router (approximately 50′), which will be on a top shelf in our pantry, centralized on the main level. I wasn’t planning on running more ethernet cables, but after reading all of the comments, it sounds like it’s a must for reliability and coverage.

    When you talk about wired backhaul, are you suggesting running cat6 from the primary mesh wifi router to the satellite units or are you suggesting cat6 to televisions and office computer location also? I will most likely get a 3-unit mesh system and place one satellite in the basement and the other strategically placed on the main level. We are hoping this will provide coverage on our back deck and patio as well.

    The drywall work has not begun, so now is the time to run the ethernet cable. I’m just uncertain as to where to run these cables. I’m assuming they should all originate at the primary mesh unit in the pantry? Any recommendations you have for the wiring strategy, what mesh system and the type of ethernet cable would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You,

    Brent

    Reply
  35. Hi Dong,

    Thanks a lot for your great articles. They are very helpful.
    You mentioned that if someone wants to leave its ISP router he should choose the mesh system which can work in AP mode. Which devices can you recommend which have this kind of ability?

    Reply
  36. Hi Doug,

    I’ve got a large home 12000sqft currently covered by a google Wi-Fi mesh system. We’ve got lots of thick brick walls interior to the house making the mesh connection unstable at times and not great speeds in areas. We have some satellites wired where possible but it’s my understanding the wireless satellites still need to connect back to the main router. I’d like to upgrade and it seems like Tri-band will help. Can you tell
    me which systems will use the wired satellites to extend the mesh to the wireless satellites? For my situation, I think that is required for good speed everywhere.

    Thanks
    Tim

    Reply
  37. Hey, Dong,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I have a question I haven’t found a unique answer to. Here are the details:

    1. We use an asus ct-8 mesh. The main is connected to the ftth modem.

    2. There is one ct-8 node connected to the main. (-55 dB signal)

    3. A repurposed RT-88u is daisy- chained to the mesh ct-8 to connect across a hallway. (-55 to -60 signal depending on door opened or closed)

    4. A hacked t-mobile rt-ac68 is acting as a repeater and is broadcasting the mesh ct-8 signal the attic. (-60 dB signal) I can’t get the ct-8 to recognize the ac68 as a mesh for some reason.

    My question is: is my ct-8mesh nodes signal split in half because of the repeater not being a mesh?

    Reply
  38. Harlo Dong, thank you for the sharing.

    I’m looking to improve the wifi in my triple storey house (20000×9000)
    Currently the modem model (RG-DLINK-DIR842) AC1200 was installed on centre of the house.
    The connection at ground floor & 2nd floor was bad.

    Any suggestion or package to improve the wifi connection?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  39. Hi Dong,

    Excellent web site ….. I have a question for you. With everyone working or studying at home I decided to upgrade to 1GB internet connection. Only to realize that the 2 Airport Express that I am using as access points (bridge mode) need replacement. I am using as router the ISP provided one (no wifi configured) and my house is fully wired.

    Do you have any recommendations for my situation? Should I get just 2 WIFI 6 access points? or get one of those mesh systems (configure ISP provided as bridge) ?

    Reply
  40. Hey Dong,

    Your articles are most helpful. Thanks so much bro! I have an old Netgear router from a 100 years ago that must be put to rest. I plan on upgrading to a Mesh Wifi-6 system. My master bedroom (which has a work area) has an ethernet connection (wire run from crawl space from main router). Family room also has an ethernet connection (wire run from crawl space from main router). This was done because my Smart TV, game consoles for kids everything was crawling to a halt over wifi. But laptops (work + personal are all wifi) and my wife and I move around the house searching for peace and quiet to work. In my master bedroom where I work, ethernet cable is near desk and sometimes I work on the bed late night and don’t want cables everywhere. In family room, kitchen etc. wifi-speed ain’t good. Current router is in living room.

    So, I was thinking of one mesh (primary) connected to modem. One in my master bedroom (wired backhaul), so when my wife and I are working, we are getting Gig speeds that we are PAYING for! In family room put the 3rd unit using wired backhaul. We have tons of Nest cameras, tablets and so many devices used by parents, grand parents and my pets! LOL.

    What do you recommend? Also, undecided between Orbi (latest version), Deco X60, M9 Plus, etc. Can you please help guide me about best setup and more so on which model would work best. Money is not an issue.

    Reply
  41. Hey Dong,

    Great post and I appreciate the clear and simple descriptions of systems and your recommendations!

    I’m looking at mesh systems for my home since I get spotty signals due to the location of my main router compared to the other rooms in our home, approx. 4,000 sf with a daylight basement. I have several devices running off WiFi like security cameras, pelotons and several rokus and my WiFi extender is not cutting it.

    I noticed in the post you mention that if you can hardwire the hubs together then there’s no need for tri-band and that dual is all you’d need. I have a gigabit connection and the house is wired with Ethernet so I’m pretty confident I could find a way to link up all the hubs through my existing cabinet. However can you confirm that I a Triband with dedicated backhaul would it be worth it?

    I’ve been looking at the Eero system in either dual or tri but let me know if you have a better recommendation!

    Reply
    • Hi Dong,

      What do you think of using a pair of TP-Link AV-2000 Powerline adapters to create the back haul signal in an ASUS Airmesh system.

      Thanks,
      Reg

      Reply
      • It will work but, Reginald, but powerline adapters can be quite unreliable and slow (despite what the vendor claims). Your mileage will vary depending on how the electrical wiring of your home is. More here.

        Reply
        • Hi Dong,
          Thank you for replying to my last query and also, thank you for your time and what you do.
          Last time, I asked about the use of TP-Link AV2000 Powerline ethernet adapters (AV2000). I had 2 of these laying around and wanted to try and use them.
          I have also purchased a TP-Link RT-AC5400X router and two TP-Link RE450 Extenders.
          I have a two storey house. There is a Smart TV, Streaming and Gaming devices beside it on the lower floor. Upstairs, there is another Smart TV in the Master bedroom. There is a corridor that connects all 4 bedrooms.
          I would like to use both powerline adapters to create a wired ethernet drop from the router downstairs to an outlet in the MBR near to the TV. I plan on plugging the second AV2000 Powerline Adapter into this outlet. The TV will be plugged in here together with one of the RE450 Extenders to establish an Access Point. The second Extender will be plugged into an outlet in the corridor in the vicinity of the other bedrooms. What are your views on this plan? My plan B is to just set up the Extenders in the normal way. Without the Powerline adapters.
          Sorry that this is so long. I would appreciate your opinion.
          Thank you very much.
          Reg

          Reply
      • What Dong said, but I will add a little detail from personal use. I have a TL-WPA8630 pair, which claims “AV-1300” speeds. I think in some places they actually spell this out as being “1.3 Gigabit” equivalent but it would take some incredible gall to say that to your face — in the real world, getting half that would be a miracle.

        The way your home electric lines are wired has a huge impact on performance, and in my older home (built in the late 1800s, refurbed in the ’90s) I routinely got 70/40 Mbps (up/down) speeds, and even then there would be “spikes” of latency or packet loss that wreak havoc on streaming applications. We couldn’t watch TV while the dryer was running without getting video artifacts and dropped connections!

        Have you looked at MoCA at all? I’ve heard nothing but praise for that tech and you might have an unused coax run that you could use instead. If that’s not an option (and assuming you don’t already have the mesh routers picked out), think about picking up a tri-band mesh to try from a store with a good return policy. I set up a pair of RT-AX92U between the points where the aforementioned powerline pair used to run, and the dedicated backhaul band has been really great for a month now.

        Reply
      • Thank you for your prompt response Dong. I think I’ll try using the Powerline adapters as backhaul for My Asus Airmesh network. I read all that you sent and will let you know how it turns out.
        Thanks,
        Reg

        Reply
  42. Hi Dong.
    I’ve been reading all your articles and I must they are some of the most clear and simple explanations I’ve read till date especially for a layman like me. I have 2 fiber connections of 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps from different ISPs but my wifi router is at least 6 years old and I am getting dead spots. I use a TP Link load balancer to merge the two connections together and am also using TP Link Powerline adapters but they are pretty spotty. Which mesh system would you recommend for a multi storied 3000 sqft house (cost no object) ?

    Reply
  43. I have a large home that is long and narrow. The home is wired with Ethernet ports in most of the rooms. Unfortunately, my router (Xfi/Wi-Fi 6/Comcast) is located at one end and cannot be moved. The Wi-Fi signal is excellent near the router and poor or non existent at the other end of the home and in the basement. Xfi pods were a disappointment. What would suggest as a solution?
    Thank you for hosting such an informative site.

    Reply
  44. Hi Dong! I’m getting a Mesh WiFi System (TP-Link Deco P9 Hybrid Poweline, 3 units). I don’t have wired backhaul, so I’m hoping the poweline backhaul helps me. I’ll connect it through ethernet to the ISP’s router/modem. The question is: What happens if I set it to Access Point mode? the 3 units will broadcast the same SSID as the ISP router, right? But will there be clash? If my device is nearby the main deco unit and the ISP router, is there a risk of my device connecting to ISP router and then switching to the TP-Link mesh? (thus breaking the seamless transition between points like it happens with extenders)

    Reply
    • Roberto, you wouldn’t normally run WiFi from the ISP router and your mesh kit at the same time. Your mesh APs still get IP addresses on your network and you can manage them via app/web interface, so you pick your own SSID / password / etc.

      Dong, Roberto’s comment reminded me to ask, have you reviewed any mesh kits that include a hybrid-powerline feature? I’m using a powerline AP right now, and while my wiring is garbage and I can barely top 60 Mbps real-world performance, I’d be interested to know if there’s a mesh kit out there that bonds powerline and wireless backhauls intelligently.

      Reply
  45. Dong, I think you meant to reply to George with this post instead: https://dongknows.com/powerline-networking-explained/ — he asked about Powerline and you replied with your PoE explainer.

    I was curious, because my powerline setup is pretty disappointing — old, wonky electric wiring means I can only manage about 60Mbit — and I’ve been considering replacing everything with a single mesh setup, hopefully with dedicated wireless backhaul. Is bad powerline still better than a tri-band all-wireless mesh?

    Reply
  46. Hi there, I’m currently using 3 node TP-Link Deco M5 mesh for my wifi networking. I have them set as router mode (as opposed to AP mode), with 1 main node connected through ethernet to an older ISP-provided router, and the other 2 extra nodes connected wirelessly (I don’t know if that is the right set up).

    My question is will I be able to have ethernet connection if I plug my laptop to the extra nodes?

    Reply
  47. Dong, thanks! youve been so helpful.
    So I can set up my cameras using Dyndns independent of the router? Thats forwarding right?
    I will read your articale in more detail and attempt this. I always understood teh router and teh networked device needed DDNS. I’ve order teh Lyra trio as suggested. Thanks again

    Reply
    • Sure, Matt. Any device in your network can work as a DDNS updater if it has that feature. The router is just one option. Port forwarding is another thing. The post will explain.

      Reply
  48. Hi Dong. Thanks that’s good advice.
    The trio it is then.
    How does it compare to the Deco M5? I’ve been quite happy with this just the ddns that is driving me crazy.
    I’m sure you know the deco only supports tplinkdns and. I don’t think my network client does.
    Any advice there please ?

    Thanks again
    Matt

    Reply
    • You don’t need to use DDNS at the router, Matt. You can use it on any client (or server) within your network with whatever host you want. So, say if you want to use dync.com, you can use their client updater on a computer, etc. If you have a NAS server or an IP camera, they tend to have their own DDNS feature, use that. More on that here.

      Reply
  49. Hi Dong,

    I have to link deco M5 setup but am finding it impossible to use ,my home security cameras as they need dyndns and deco only supports tplinkdns so I, thinking of switching to Asus Lyra.
    Ipmy home has a brick walls so would probably 5 or 6 lyras – 2 with wired back haul and the balance wireless. I’ve read it best not to connect more than 5 though. Any thoughts on using the 6th?
    Also, if you have any info on how I can use tplinkdns rather than dyndns that would be great too.
    Thanks very much

    Reply
  50. Gents, I am interested in this same topic as I currently have a GT-AX11000 at one corner of my home and at the reverse corner of my house is where my office is located which hardly gets any signal at all, if any. Now that my family has been working from home due to COVID-19, I have decided to bite the bullet and purchase a Zen AX Node to add to my network to get better signal out to that back corner. I wanted to keep the dedicated 5ghz as the backhaul. Have you guys seen any issues or concerns with this set up? It did catch my eye that you said turn off QoS. I currently have QoS on under the Game Acceleration tab prioritizing “work from home” and the QoS settings set to default under Traffic Analyzer/Bandwidth Monitor. I am not sure which QoS is being referred to when you say turn of QoS.

    Reply
  51. Hi Dong, great stuff!
    I have gigabit service at my house that comes in at one end of my L-shaped Ranch home. Unfortunately, where the service enters the house is the exact opposite end from where my office is. My current solution to get hardwired internet to my work setup in the office is via a powerline adapter – providing service to a docking station, VOIP phone, printer, and a second WAP in the office that broadcasts a wifi network for that end of the home. This functions okay, but I hate that the powerline connection kills my speed and my family’s devices often drop when switching from one WAP to another.

    I am planning to get a mesh solution with the main unit at the source of the internet service, a second in at the corner of my L-shaped house, and a third in the office. I also plan to crawl around in the attic to run Cat 6 cable from the ISP source to the office on the far end of the house.

    My question to you is this: will using the hardwire as a backhaul between the first and third node while connecting both to the middle node wirelessly still allow for full-speed (1GBs+) wifi throughout the mesh network? If not, will there be an appreciable slow-down? Ultimately, I’m trying to avoid running an additional Cat 6 cable for the middle node of the mesh network. What do you think?

    Also, knowing that future-proofing my hardware as much as possible is more important than immediate cost concerns, I welcome any suggestions you have for what mesh network would be best for me. I’m currently planning to wait (indefinitely) for the TPLink Deco X90, but would love your input.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  52. Wow, that was fast. Thank you for response. I appreciate the recommendation, but the application is for outdoors, so I don’t think the EX8000 is a good match. If you have a recommendation for an outdoor AP, wired or wirelessly compatible with the Orbis, I’d love to hear it.

    Reply
  53. My boss has an Orbi RBR50 and RBS50 at home and wants to extend his coverage outside to cover his 80’x80′ back yard. He doesn’t want to pay the price of a RBS50Y. I’ve tried looking into adding a wired AP to either existing device and sharing the SSID, since third-party mesh devices are incompatible, but i can’t find a definitive answer. What do you reccomend?

    Reply
    • You can use any access point for this purpose, Andrew. Just make sure you understand what an access point is as noted at the top of this post. Once you’ve got one, you can connect it to the router or the satellite of the Orbi mesh. Alternatively, you can try the over-priced EX8000, which can work either as an AP or an extender.

      Reply
  54. Hello Dong, I love reading your articles. I I read many but could not find any clue to my question. I currently have a Asus RT-X89X router in my basement. I want to buy another Asus router to create an AImesh since Wifi signal on the 3rd floor is unreliable. I am able to do wired-backhaul since my house is pre-wired with CAT6. Should I buy a dual-band or a tri-band router? Will I get any benefit from the third band of the tri-band router in a wired backhaul mesh? Please advice.

    Reply
  55. Hello Dong! Thanks for your article.

    I am in the process of remodeling all the internet configuration at home and I need some recommendations to know what is the most simple and efficient.
    Thank you very much in advance for your help!

    My ISP Internet Speed is 1 GB/s and I want to know the best way to try to keep that speed in every corner of home.

    I would like to place a switch to distribute cable network to all floors and each floor to place an Access Point (The type of network cable I have is CAT5e)

    The Home solution that I want is this one, please tell me if it’s the best for me:

    Floor 2: Access Point by ethernet

    Floor 1: Access Point by ethernet

    Floor 0: Switch and ISP Router/modem

    Floor – 1: Access Point by ethernet

    My question is:

    1) It’s a good solution to place a TP Link Deco on each floor in “Access Point” mode connected by cable to the switch and making an ethernet backhaul connection?
    Examples: TP Link Deco m5 or m9 Plus
    https://www.tp-link.com/en/home-networking/deco/

    OR

    2) Place a Router on each floor in “Access Point” mode connected by cable to the switch.
    Examples of router:
    https://www.tp-link.com/en/home-networking/wifi-router/archer-c2300/

    OR

    3) Put another mesh network product or what solution do you recommend? Do you recomment something better than the deco m9 plus?

    My ISP Internet Speed is 1 GB/s and I want to know the best way to keep that speed.

    Other doubts:

    The Switch I’m thinking of buying is this one because I was told that in order to connect TV BOXES to the switch to work well, the switch had to have the “IGMP Snooping V3” functionality. Do you confirm?
    https://www.tp-link.com/en/business-networking/easy-smart-switch/tl-sg1024de/

    It’s necessary to buy a good router to link in bridge mode to my ISP Router? And then off the wireless functionalities of my ISP Router?

    Thank you very much again for your help. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi John, 1 and 2 are the same. 3 is the way to go. I’d recommend getting a nice router (that’s that has a lot of useful features) and a set of TP-Link Omada PoE mesh, or you can use the ISP-provided as the router. If you want or have to keep the ISP-provided gateway and still want to get a new router/mesh check out this post.

      Reply
  56. Thanks for the speedy reply! I think I may have phrased my question poorly. Instead of using a cable for backhaul could you use something like a wireless point to point bridge. I looked at the Ubiquiti Nanostation that uses 2.4 ghz signal but has a range of a couple kilometers and supports transfer speeds of 450mbps. my thought is that it would increase the range between the mesh router and the satellite point. Thank you

    Reply
    • You can make it work wirelessly, however, but with that distance, the result won’t be good nor will it be reliable. Run a cable, Jacob, it’s probably cheaper that way in your case.

      Reply
  57. Hello Dong and thank you for the great article. I have a question that I was hoping you might be able to help me with. I’m trying to help my father-in-law install a network that spans between two houses. They are about 100ft apart so I think the distance is too great to span with a traditional mesh network without daisy-chaining multiple satellites, and throttling the connection. Do you think it would be possible to create a an ethernet backhaul connection between the router and satellite that uses a wireless point to point connection. Using something like the Ubiquity Nanostation M2. Thanks!

    Reply
  58. Hi! Im helping a friend setup wifi in his house. Its 3 floor house with concrete walls between. Hes got 2x RT-AC68U routers that has AIMesh and one RT-N65U that havent got AIMesh. We will use wired backhaul. What do you recommend we do?

    Should we get another RT-AC68U to replace the RT-N65U and just use AIMesh or can we use AIMesh with the 2 existing RT-AC68U and then set the RT-N65U in access point mode to work with these?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • You guys should do this, Markus.

      1. Set the two RT-AC68U in an AiMesh setup, using wired backhaul.
      2. Set up the RT-N65u in the access point mode, connecting it to one of the RT-AC68U using a network cable. Make you configure its Wi-Fi to be the same as that of the AiMesh router.

      Reply
  59. Laughing now. When I looked at my wiring my switch was going into the google fiber box and not the router. Moving the cable solved it all. Appreciate your insight! Your site and advice rock!

    Reply
  60. OK – I will give that a try. The Lyra devices are currently in the RT-AC68U interface. I assume I should delete them from the mesh in the ac68u interface then push the reset button and wire one and try to add it when it’s wired? If that doesn’t work I may move the 68U to the utility box in the basement so that the nodes can plug in directly to the back of the AC68U. The 68U seems to see all of the clients connected to it wirelessly or wired directly to a LAN port on the actual unit but doesn’t always see whats hardwired through the switch. Maybe that is part of the problem I am facing?

    Reply
    • If you choose to remove it from the interface, it’ll reset itself. And yes, check the connection between the RT-AC68U and the switch. Your network might be fragmented, or the switch is connected to the device *before* the router, and not the router itself, or maybe there’s another router between the RT-AC68U and the Lyra. Or maybe the switch itself is a router and not a switch. Check my previous message and follow that simple diagram.

      Reply
  61. Hi Dong!

    Mike L here again. So I took the plunge and picked up a 3-pack of Asus Lyra AC2200 to add to my existing AC68U. Linked them in the Lyra app. Updated them all. Reset them. Placed them and added them to the AC68U as mesh nodes. Working mostly fine. Here’s where I am struggling. I run google fiber with the wifi off and the google modem/router feeds directly into the WAN port of the AC68U which runs my wifi. From there the Lan runs to a netgear gigabit switch in the basement that feeds the other ethernet connections in the house. All 3 of the lyra nodes are connected wirelessly to the 68U. When I try to connect them via ethernet they go offline. Am I missing something? Any help you can give is appreciated!

    Reply
    • Try this, Mike:

      1. Wired hardware connection: Internet source (Modem/Gateway) -> (WAN port of) RT-AC68U (LAN ports) -> (Switch or not) -> Other wired devices.
      2. Now reset the Lyra, connect one unit’s WAN port to the switch or the RT-AC68U, start the AiMesh setup from within the RT-AC68U’s interface.
      3. Repeat step #2 with the other Lyra units.

      Reply
  62. Hey Dong, Clif again! Seems like backhauling these two 86U routers to the 89X is going to be the way to go. Reading lots of frustration online about AiMesh, and I guess since its would work great for a short period before becoming problematic I thought it was something I was going to find a magic fix for. Particular type of LAN cable I should get? While I’m not Gig speed currently would prefer to not have to run wire again. Plus it has to go through the attic in Florida heat so well insulated. And hopefully this will fix the issues going wired.

    Reply
  63. Hi Dong,

    Avid follower of your posts/reviews. Dong, i have a simple question. If it is not possible to connect two mesh points (router + hub) via ethernet cable, is it possible to connect them using ethernet over powerline adaptors. Would this scenario be better than connecting the two units via wifi.

    Reply
  64. I have a quick question on this, I have multiple WAPs as well but all of them are choosing their channels automatically. Should I manually set their channels to be different, and can I do this arbitrarily or is there a way I can find the best channels?

    I have a couple RT-AX88U units in AP mode, since my main router is setup my AT&T. Not sure if it’s worth adding another ASUS router near the modem so that I can connect the AX88U units with an AiMesh setup. (doesn’t seem AiMesh will work by connecting to APs to my AT&T issued router).

    Reply
    • 1. If you use APs, let them pick the channel by themselves. They are independent broadcasters and should manage their channels to avoid interference.
      2. Yes, it’s worth it. You can have an AiMesh system working in AP mode. But it’s best to turn the ATT box into a modem. For more on that check out this post on double-NAT vs single-NAT.

      Reply
  65. Hi Dong,
    I as so happy I came across your website 🙂
    Very informative and helpful.

    I purchased the ZenWiFi AX mesh system and was happy sailing for a week or so. I use one of the XT8 as a main router and the second one as a node together with AC-5300 as another node. The XT8 acting as a node losses connection to the main router approx twice a week. AC-5300 never lost the connection.

    I have lot’s of WiFi and few wired devices. I am not sure what is the problem, but I suspect that the XT8 node gets overloaded. Or perhaps the XT8 router is not able to keep up? Both XT8 get between 6-8 devices connected at a time.

    I don’t have a massive apartment but the wireless connectivity is awkward. It’s a rented one and a wired back-haul is out of the question. I got gigabit internet and was looking for a solution to maximise the throughput.

    I am thinking of even adding the GT-AX11000 as a main router and using both XT8s as nodes – is that even possible?

    My apartment has approx 130m2 (~1400ft2) and all bedrooms are places alongside a long corridor with a living room at the end of the corridor.
    When I check on the router’s settings page – the signal between the router and node is flagged as GOOD.

    Your help would be appreciated!
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Glad you’re here, Rafal.

      Yes, that’s totally possible. In fact, I’ve been using the GT-AX11000 as the main router and many others as nodes as you might have noted via screenshots in different posts. As for the disconnection issues, trying using the RT-AC5300 as the main router. Upgrading them all to the latest firmware. Reset then re set up. Do NOT turn on QoS.

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  66. This is a very good article. However, my experience is: do NOT use wireless backhaul unless it’s really your only option. Get a mesh system where all the satellites have an ethernet port and use a cable to connect to the router. Limit wireless backhaul only to zones where it is absolutely impossible to use a cable.
    This is because signal loss is ALWAYS a problem with a wireless backhaul, regardless of the fact that it has a dedicated band or not. I have an Orbi, for example. The problem is not to have a dedicated band, the problem is signal loss. This happens because, of course, you want to *extend* your network. So the satellite will be placed where the signal from the router already starts fading. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need an extension at all. And this means that the backhaul will be slow, as slow as with an extender. The problem mentioned in the article is not solved by a mesh system or a dedicated band, I discovered this the hard way.
    Speed with wireless backhaul in real-world conditions is terrible and you will have to deal with it. Stick to wired backhaul whenever possilble. Make sure to buy a system where satellites support wired backhaul: you might discover that it’s the only way to get a good speed. If your satellites only support wireless backhaul, they might be useless. I ended up thrashing my Orbi satellite and now I use the old router plus the Orbi router connected via cable, as if it were a satellite, with the same SSID. Yes, devices do not roam seamlessly, but at least I get the full speed.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the input, Tom. But I think you didn’t read the entire post, especially the part I talked about wired backhaul. :).

      Reply
      • You shouldn’t use the Orbi if you have wired backhaul. It’s a waste of money. Any tri-band mesh is primarily for a situation where wired backhaul is not available.

        Reply
          • Yes, Pritpal, even when you use them with a wired backhaul, the 2nd 5GHz band is still not available to users. If you use a different tri-band set, like an Asus AiMesh, you can use this band for users.

          • Since, I am unable to reply to your last comment about the technical reason of why Orbi not allowing you to use the 3rd band even if wired backhaul is setup, I’ll just end the thread by saying that I read the link on Asus AiMesh. The 3rd band cannot have the same SSID as the other two, so clients have to either choose SSID1 (2.4g + 5g1) and SSID (5g2), which defeats the purpose. This is a universal problem. So dual band is good but lacks features like guest network, parent controls and all that. Anyways, thanks for engaging in this conversation with me. Appreciate it. I’ll read up more on what is the best option for me. Got me thinking about issues that I didn’t think before.

        • Dong,
          Can you help? I bought a Netgear MK63 (1 router, 2 satellites) and per your suggestion, ran 2 ethernet cables to the satellites from an ethernet switch attached to the Ethernet port of the MK60 router. Is there anything I need to do in the Netgear app or software to enable this wired backhaul?
          Thank you.
          mike

          Reply
  67. I just wanted to buy a Home & Mesh Wi-Fi Systems. I saw a good one on a shopify website last week, but I don’t know if the price is suitable. Can you give me some suggestions?

    Reply
  68. Hi Dong, Great article and it cleared up some things about wired backhaul that I was unclear about. I have a couple of questions concerning wifi speed on the various mesh systems. I’m going to be setting up a network in a new home for family and It’s a large 4000sq ft home. They will be paying for 200Mbps speed from the ISP. What “AC Protocol” (AC 1750, 2200, 3000 etc..) should I be looking for that will provide at least 200Mbps over a 5Ghz signal from close to the node assuming I use a wired backhaul? Also do you have any recommended systems for this type of set up. I would like to have some features, parental control probably most important. FYI the primary hub/router is going to have to be in a closet/pantry where the modem is going to have to go (they didn’t know any better when they planned it). I’ve been thinking a 3 node system because of that but I would love to hear your take. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi JB, the ACxxx is very misleading since it’s the combined number of all the bands and a connection takes place on a single band at a time. That said, you’re looking for 2×2 or faster AC broadcasters. If you’re going to use wired backhaul, almost any systems will do. If you’re looking to use wireless backhaul, you need a tri-band system.

      Parental control hasn’t been one of my big concerns (I should have paid more attention to this and I will from now on). But for your needs, I’d recommend getting the RT-AC86U and two Blue Caves. With wired backhaul, they will work very nicely. Also, you’ll have pretty good parental control features (though again, I haven’t really used it.)

      Reply
  69. Hi,

    A little late to the party here but I was wondering if you’ve done testing to see if Mesh is faster than multiple WAPs?

    You say that Mesh will give the best peformance, but in a Mesh network aren’t all of the nodes forced in to operating on the same channel? If so, wouldn’t there be some degradation of signal due to interference. Or do the nodes automatically reduce/increase signal strength to reduce the interference? ( I think I read somewhere that some nodes do that??)

    I have a large house and have favoured multiple WAPs as I’ve been a bit sceptical of mesh solutions
    I currently have a Asus RT-AC87U acting as the main router in the house, which is placed in the basement.
    On the 2nd story I have a Asus RT-AC66U wired backhauled to the RT-AC87U acting as an access point.

    I’ve set them up to use the same SSID and passwords, channels are configured manually to ensure no overlapping, and roaming assist is enabled.
    Wireless devices jump between the two without problem and I can get full download speeds from both of them using the Speedtest app in alot of the house.

    However, there’s still one small area at the far end of the house where wireless devices experience dropouts and am on the brink of adding another AP (wired backhaul, of course).

    Unfortunately neither of these two routers that I currently have from Asus support AiMesh but have seen that I can buy used Asus routers that do for little money and have been wondering about getting 3 of these devices to try AiMesh, all wired backhauled.
    (RT-AC68Us can be bought cheaply and support AiMesh)
    Worst case, mesh Wi-Fi isn’t cracked up to what everyone raves about and I just set them all to run as ordinary APs.

    But I wonder if it’s worth it? Hence my initial question about you having tested mesh vs multiple WAPs.
    Would there be any benefit performance wise in going mesh instead of multiple APs. I believe my current setup delivers the good (apart from the one dead-ish area which will soon be fixed one way or another)

    Maybe I should just get another RT-AC87U (these can also be bought for little money) but the advantage of this model over the AC68U or AC66U is that it supports 4×4 on the 5Ghz band.

    Reply
    • You’re already having a mesh, Ben. It’s just that you had to spend time and configure each AP individually. If you get a mesh from the beginning, you only need to configure it once at the router unit. So, you’re doing well now, no need to change anything. And sure, add another AP for that far corner. Using wired backhaul is always the best approach.

      Reply
  70. Hi Dong,

    I’ve found this article to be super helpful.

    I currently have a wired star topology with a router which is connected to the internet. Off this main router I have wired connections into different areas of my place with another router attached and set up as AP mode. All SSIDS have a seperate name which is annoying.

    Hence why I’m switching to Orbi (someone is giving it to me). I’m reading a lot of articles discussing how Orbi supports Daisy Chaining and how good it is, but haven’t seen at articles discussing how star topology is better….except your article alludes to it here, albeit in a wireless setup.

    Do I need to change my topology to be a daisy chained network or is star wired network still king?

    It seems as though star topology would be better, but I’m confused now. If you could shed some light on this I’d be super grateful!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Ronnie,

      Star or daisy-chaining topologies applies only to when you use the hardware units in a WIRELESS setup. If you use network cables to link them up, it doesn’t matter. And yes, the Orbi will work great for you, but any mesh system with wired backhaul support is, for that matter, considering your current setup.

      Hope this helps,

      -Dong.

      Reply
  71. Good article as always. I have couple questions. My background is I have owned Orbi (multiple satellites to the point I ended up getting 9000sqft worth of devices for 3800 sqft house trying to get best coverage throughout house) and currently use Eero Pro. All connected using Wifi (no wired backhaul option for me). For Orbi, I used Star as well as daisy chain options with router located center of house. Currently we have 300Mbps DL service, but recently I see our town getting new cable replacement by Xfinity so I’d assume/hope we will get Gigabit service soon.

    I had major issue with Orbi due to constant connection drop, and eventually ended up selling. But in retrospect I wonder if having too many satellites resulted in interference. Though I added one satellite at a time in attempt to maximize throughput throughout the house. Eero is unremarkably stable, never had issue of dropout for months but does not get me the fastest speed.

    So I’m currently looking at potential of alternative and conceptually, AiMesh really intrigues me. In particular, ROG Ax11000 appears future proof on paper and flexibility of node selection to the extreme of second Ax11000 for dedicated wifi backhaul placed South and North end of house vs. center Ax11000 and as needed Ax88U or upcoming Ax6100 at North and Sounth ends.

    For these, I have couple questions.

    What do you think about satellite/node selection, particularly on AiMesh when compared to system like Orbi or Eero? With the latter two system, I’ve experienced that selection of node seems not always optimal i.e. despite physically closer, instead of satellite, device connects to router, which due to the distance gets slower speed. I’ve also read on other sites, AiMesh still tried to connect to router when reachable despite slower speed and as you move far away enough where router signal unreachable switched to Node, and suddenly speed became faster despite even further away from router and node than before. It certainly sounds like firmware issue, but have you noticed this?
    Dedicated Backhaul Wifi Channel. I know these are supported only on triband AiMesh compatible routers but do we have a option to turn off when triband rounters are meshed?
    Why would you say over 500Mbps, we must have wired backhaul? It makes sense wired backhaul will take away any loss of speed between router and node(s), but devices with dedicated wifi backhaul over 1Gps channel, in theory shouldn’t they be able to support theoretically 1Gbps ethernet equivalent if close enough?

    Reply
    • I think AiMesh is much better than Orbi or Eero. You have way more features and almost no privacy risks.

      What you talked about is called roaming assistance, which you can adjust in the professional section of the Wi-Fi settings. You can change the number to make a connection less sticky, meaning a client will more likely jump to a closer node.

      As for speed, I’ve never experienced any AC Wi-Fi connection that tops 950Mbps of real world speed even at optimal conditions. That said on average, at best, you get around 600Mbps, plenty fast but not fast enough to deliver a gigabit broadband in full.

      By the way, for your need, I think a Synology Mesh will suite you better. (Check it out: https://dongknows.com/synology-mesh-review/). Among other things, you will have dedicated back-haul for much less, though, still you won’t get net gigabit Wi-Fi speed. For that you’ll need Wi-Fi 6.

      Hope this helps,

      -Dong.

      Reply
  72. Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, because of the bldg I can’t run all cat 5 cable to the AP so I ran the powerline part of the way and then the Cat 5 out to my AP which does use a POE. Is the TP-Link AP you noted above better able to support dual-band/backbone? Even with such an AP the closest I’m able to get to the boat is still about 150 ft. So I take it there would be little advantage to just going with the TP-Link AP unit over trying to set up an ASUS AiMESH between office and boat?

    Thanks, Marcus

    Reply
    • That’s correct, Marcus. For your situation, I think it doesn’t make sense to go with an AiMesh (though that doesn’t hurt). You better off going with a cheaper solution.

      Reply
  73. HI Dong,

    I have an ASUS AC-68U router in my office connected to modem as the only local internet source point in my small town, for my primary wifi network. From there I connect to my boat that we live on for Internet/WiFi service. The physical layout of the bldg and dock makes this problematic. The boat is about 150 ft from the back of my bldg on the dock with a clear line of sight. So far, the best arrangement I’ve come up with, after much trial and error, is:

    1. Office (Asus AC-68U router) network- SSIDa >>
    2. Powerline+ethernet cable (~100 ft.) to Engenius 1750AC access point on back of bldg – SSIDb >>
    3. Wirelessly (~150 ft to boat) thru high-gain antenna to PepWave Surf SOHO Mk3 router for my boat wifi network – SSIDc.

    Pepwave router has rollover/fallback capability with tethering to my Verizon 4G LTE phone, but requires manual setup. It works… mostly. I get 20-30Mbps downloads, occasionally up to 50 Mbps depending on time of day, but often lose the connection and have to reacquire the internet for most of my electronics on the boat. When I leave the dock out cruising I have to acquire a new WiFI AP wherever I may be, which is a rather laborious, but obviously necessary process…

    If I haven’t made this too confusing, I have a couple questions and would appreciate your input. I’ve been researching and contemplating adding another ASUS AC-68U router for an AiMesh (and since it will also support 4G rollover and a better interface) to see if this would give me greater ease, speed and reliability, particularly at the dock where the boat spends most of its time.

    1. Can I just replace the Pepwave router on the boat with the 2nd ASUS and invoke AiMesh setup?
    2. Will it work with the Engenius AC1750AP interposed between the two ASUS routers, or should I replace the Engenius AP with the ASUS router as access point (and the Pepwave) for a three node setup, although it would be a linear arrangement?
    3. Would I benefit from all three nodes having the same network SSID?
    4. Would you, perhaps suggest a better alternative setup?

    Thanks for your time and ideas, Marcus

    Reply
    • Hi Marc, here’s my suggestion.

      1. Keep the RT-AC68U as it is. Get rid of everything else.
      2. Get a PoE access point (like this one https://amzn.to/2JyXaP5, note that it includes a PoE injector) and a long network cable (CAT5e, up to 300 feet long)
      3. Connect the PoE injetor to the RT-AC68u via a short network cable. Plug it into power.
      4. Connect one end of the long network cable int o the PoE Injector, and the other end into the access point.
      5. Place the access point near your boat, as near as the network cable allows (and there’s a roof over it.)
      6. Set up the access point to have the same Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and password as that of the RT-AC68u.

      And that’s it. If you need a cellular backup connection, you can plug the dongle into the USB port of the RT-AC68U and set that up.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
  74. I just bought a house with CAT5 wiring, so I can hard wire to every room. But I also want a Mesh network so things like my phone and iPad can seamlessly travel from one hub to the next. What is the best MESH network that I can set up using direct wiring? i.e., I assume it would be better to direct wire the hubs rather than loosing any speed just setting up the mesh wirelessly. ?? And please don’t tell me Google. I bought it and returned it because I did not know Google follows your every move on the network. I don’t want big brother watching me!

    Reply
  75. Hi anh Đông. In your Asus AiMesh article you mentioned that if I have 2 routers, 1 with tri-band and the other with duo-band, then the tri-band should be the node and the other should be the router. Does this mean that the node will avoid having to use some bandwidth to connect to the main router, as you said about half of the bandwidth, and can provide full bandwidth for clients connecting to the node?

    In real use if my Internet connection is ~40 Mbps does it make a difference?

    Reply
    • That’s correct in a wireless setup, Anh. If you use cables to connect them together it doesn’t matter. Also it’ll make no difference if you just want to share the internet and your internet is slower than 150Mbps.

      Reply
      • Hey Dong,

        Really great article. I think its important to draw a distinction between modem and router prior to understanding the mesh network topology. I wanted to ask on your opinion on the AirTies products. They cater to service providers (att in this case) to provide AP products that can be turned into mesh network in conjuncture with the ISP provided gateway. Is this really a true mesh solution?

        Reply
  76. Lots of grammatical errors in your posts, but this typo definitely needs to be fixed:
    “2. The typology
    In a mesh network, the topology …”
    All of the ‘typology’-ies in this article should be ‘topology’, right?

    Reply

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