I’m not sure what it is the idea behind the new Nokia Beacon 1 mesh Wi-Fi router.
At $129 per single unit (or $299 for a set of three), it’s not exactly affordable. Using dated entry-level Wi-Fi 5 specs — as the world is moving to Wi-Fi 6 –, it’s not a novelty, either. There are also a few oddities between its web user interface and the Nokia Wi-Fi mobile app.
But the mesh router proved to be reliable in my testing, so I can’t completely write it off. That said, get it if you find a great deal on it, or if you’re simply a fan of Nokia. Keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed. Personally, though, I’d pay another $10 and get the vastly superior Synology MR2200ac, instead.
Nokia Beacon 1 Wi-Fi Mesh Router
- Easy to set up and use
- Mesh ready with wired backhaul support
- Reliable performance
- Dated Wi-Fi specs, short range
- Lacks common network settings and features
- Mobile app required login to work but only works locally
- Not wall-mountable, topples easily
Nokia Beacon 1: Generic design, low Wi-Fi specs
As a router, the Beacon 1 is quite generic. It’s a standing box that shapes like a miniature single-slot toaster with a small indicator light on the front. This light changes color to show the router’s status. For example, solid blue means all is good, and yellow means your attention is required.
The router is not wall-mountable. Per design, it works in the upright position and due to its slender shape and lightweight, it topples quite easily.
On the back, there are two Gigabit network ports, one WAN, to connect to an Internet source and one LAN for a wired client. When you use multiple units together to form a mesh system, both ports on the satellite units function as LAN ports.
On the inside, the Nokia Beacon 1 uses the dated AC1200 Wi-Fi 5 specs with MIMO. It’s a dual-band router with the top ceiling speed on the 2.4GHz of 300Mbps and the 5GHz, 867Mbps.
Since this is not a tri-band router, expect significant signal loss when you use it in a wireless mesh. To avoid this, you can use network cables to link multiple units of the Beacon 1 together, in a wired backhaul setup.
Nokia Beacon 1’s specifications
Nokia Beacon 1’s detail photos
Easy setup, minimal settings with some oddities
Out of the box, the router has a default Wi-Fi network as shown on its underside. Interestingly, it uses the same default password for both of its Wi-Fi and its admin access for the web user interface, which is not suitable for security. You do have the option to change these passwords during the setup process.
To set up the Beacon 1, you can use its web user interface or the Nokia Wi-Fi app.
Odd Nokia Wi-Fi mobile app
With the mobile app, follow the on-screen instructions to take a picture of the router’s QR code on its underside to link it with the app (or you can manually enter its default password). Then repeat that if you want to add more units to form a mesh. I tested the Beacon 1 in a set of three units, and it took about a minute to add each additional router to the mesh. The entire setup process took me less than 15 minutes.
The app allows for a few settings of the router, including changing its Wi-Fi network and changing the operating mode between router and bridge (where the router/mesh system will work as an access point.) I did notice a couple of odd things about this Nokia Wi-Fi mobile app:
- It’s not suitable for phones with a notch. I used the Google Pixel 3 XL with it, and the phone’s notch covers part of the app’s interface. This design flaw is quite annoying. Apart from having some text obscured by the notch, certain control elements of the app can be confused with those of the phone itself.
- You’re required to create an account and login with Nokia to use the app. However, you can only use the app when your phone connects to the Beacon 1’s Wi-Fi network. So, from the app’s perspective, the login is entirely unnecessary.
As it turns out, there’s some use of this login, just not with the app — more below. Overall, you can skip this app and use the router’s web interface instead.
The simple, neutered web interface
For the web interface, point a connected computer to the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.18.1, and the rest is similar to the case of any standard router — it’s quite self-explanatory. To add an additional router to the mesh, you can manually enter its serial number, and it’ll be detected when turned on.
The interface is quite simple, with minimal settings. Some of the settings seem disabled on purpose. For example, the entire LAN section, which generally is for customizing the local network, is read-only. So, if you want to change the router’s IP away from the default value of 192.168.18.1, you can’t. You can’t reserve an IP address for a client, either, which is a deal-breaker for me.
Here’s the interesting part: while you can’t use the interface to register an account with Nokia, the account that you must create to use the mobile app — as mentioned above — can be used to access the router’s web interface from anywhere in the world using Nokia’s web portal at https://nar1.wifi.nokia.com. Keep in mind, though, the remote access to the interface is very limited in what you can do. It seems more like a place holder than a real remote administration feature.
Overall, it seems Nokia had a hard time deciding which you should use with the Beacon 1 — the mobile app, or the web user interface. In the end, both are lacking and neither give you complete access to the router.
Minimal settings, no extra features
Overall, no matter if you use the mobile app or the web UI, the Beacon 1 doesn’t have a lot of settings, nor does it have any significant features. Also, Nokia seems to exaggerate what the router can do.
For example, it calls the ability to block access of a client, via the MAC address, “Parent Control” — quite a far cry. The so-called “self-healing” is just a generic ability to switch channels automatically to deliver the best connection at any given time. Most routers released in the past five years or so can do this.
Here’s the list of what you can currently do with the Beacon 1:
- Customizing Wi-Fi network (name, password, separating bands, wireless schedule)
- Blocking clients’ access.
- Wired backhaul: You can use a network cable to link hardware units together.
- Dynamic DNS
- Port forwarding (though IP reservation is NOT supported)
- Switch between the router (default) or Bridge (Access Point) modes.
Keep in mind that features and settings can be added or changed via a firmware update.
Performance: Reliable Wi-Fi, short-range
I tested the Beacon 1 as a mesh system of three units for more than a week, and it proved to be reliable with no disconnection at all. As for connection speed, it was as fast as you can expect from a dated AC1200 system.
As a single router, the Beacon 1 did quite well, with the sustained real-world speed of almost 530 Mbps at a close range. When I increased the distance to 40 feet (12 m), it now registered nearly 395 Mbps. Both numbers were above average.
As a mesh system, the satellite units did show signs of signal loss. Clients connected to it have less than half the speeds compared to when they hooked to the main router unit. In all, it was on the slow part of mesh routers.
And range proved to be the weakest point of the Nokia Beacon 1 — the router has the shortest range compared with mesh routers of the same price range I’ve known. Generally, a single unit can cover a small house of about 1200 ft² (111 m²) when placed in the middle. With all three units, expect coverage of less than 4000 ft². In my testing, the Beacon 1 router couldn’t handle the walls very well. If you have thick walls in your place, most provider-supplied gateways will beat a single Nokia Beacon 1 router in coverage.
Note that Wi-Fi coverage varies a great deal depending on the environment so your mileage will vary. But he Beacon 1 is indeed quite weak on the range front.
Why Nokia Beacon 1? Why now? I have no idea. One thing is for sure, this mesh router has nothing new, nor does it have what other mesh routers of its price range collectively offer.
But it’s not a terrible Wi-Fi solution, either. So while I have no reason to recommend it — you’ll get the same experience, if not better, with the Linksys Velop Dal-Band, or almost any other canned mesh systems —, I can’t say it’s a total loss, either. So get it if you’re in the market for a reliable Wi-Fi solution, but only when you find a deal on it.