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Synology Mesh Overview: Home Wi-Fi Turned Pro

Combining the RT2600ac (left) and the new MR2200ac will give you a fantastic home Wi-Fi mesh system.
Combining the RT2600ac (left) and the new MR2200ac will give you a fantastic home Wi-Fi mesh system. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Synology released its third Wi-Fi router, the MR2200ac, early last month. While this is a great standalone router in many ways, its ability to be part of a Synology mesh Wi-Fi system is most noteworthy.

Effectively, you now have another choice to start with a full-feature single router and gradually scale up your Wi-Fi network as your needs grow. Before this, the only option for this kind of non-compromising home mesh is Asus’s AiMesh. To know which mesh system is better for you — and it’s a hard question — you first you need to know what Synology mesh is.

Synology Wi-Fi Mesh System

8.8

Performance

9.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable and large Wi-Fi coverage
  • Advanced interface with high-quality add-on features
  • Highly-customizable network settings
  • Effective Parental Controls and online protection
  • Advanced Guest network

Cons

  • Limited hardware options
  • Few network ports
  • Not available as a package (you need to get two or more units)

Synology Mesh quick review: It’s quite fantastic

It all started with the MR2200ac, Synology’s third home router. Before this, there are the RT1900ac and RT2600ac, released in 2016 and 2017, respectively, as standalone routers.

Together with the MR2200ac, Synology updated its router firmware, called Synology Router Manager or SRM, to version 1.2. Among other things, the new firmware brings mesh functionality to select Synology routers.

In other words, when you use two or more supported routers, you can link them together to form a Wi-Fi system, just like other purpose-built mesh systems, like the Netgear Orbi, or the Linksys Velop.

Like all Wi-Fi systems, you use one of the hardware units as the primary router which connects to the Internet. After that, you can add more hardware units, wirelessly or via network cables, to extend the home network. But, similar to Asus’s AiMesh, a Synology Mesh can do a lot more than just providing a reliable seamless Wi-Fi network.

The RT2600ac has four LAN ports and therefore works better as a main router of a Synology mesh.
The RT2600ac has four LAN ports and therefore works better as the primary router of a Synology mesh. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

What you can expect from a Synology mesh system

Indeed, a Synology Mesh system has all the bells and whistles of the primary router. That means you can do a lot more with your home network than with a purpose-built system.

Following are the breakdown of what you can expect from a Synology mesh: 

  • Supported routers: Synology Mesh is currently available to the MR2200ac, and the RT2600ac. Both run a Qualcomm Wi-Fi chip. (The RT1900ac, powered by a Broadcom chip, is not supported and remains a standalone router.) Chances are, future Synology routers will support this feature, too.
  • Router roles: The MR2200ac can work as either the main router or a mesh satellite unit (or node). The RT2600ac can only work as the primary router.
  • Max hardware units: There’s no limit to how many hardware units you can use in a Synology Mesh. However, the company recommends no more than seven hardware units, including the primary router. Generally, you won’t need more than 2 or 3 units.
  • Dedicated back-haul band: Since the MR2200ac is a tri-band router, a Synology Mesh always has a dedicated backhaul band, with one of the MR2200ac’s two 5GHz bands being used to connect it to the main router at any given time. Consequently, in a wireless setup, there will be no (or very little) signal loss. (Read more about the signal loss here.)
  • Wired back-haul: You can connect an MR2200ac node to the main router using a network cable as a wired backhaul. In this case, you should connect its WAN port to the LAN port of the primary router.
  • Feature set: The mesh network retains all features and settings of the main Synology router, which is among the best on the market. (To find out more, check out the review of the MR2200ac).
  • Auto-update: You can set the system to auto-update to the latest firmware, which will take care of both the main router and nodes.
  • Guest network: A Synology mesh offers an advanced and high-customizable Guest Wi-Fi network. There’s even a captive portal — where users need to interact with a website, such as agreeing with the terms of use, before getting connected — making the Guest network excellent for public use.
  • Auto-sensing network ports. Other than the WAN (Internet) port of the router unit, which needs to connect to an Internet source (like a cable modem), the rest of the network ports in the mesh function as LAN ports to host wired clients.
  • Access point mode: The mesh (main router + satellite nodes) can work in the AP mode, allowing you to use the system with an existing router/gateway as part of one single network. In this case, other than the Wi-Fi network, no additional features or settings of the mesh are available.
  • Optional vendor account: You will not need to register an account with Synology to manage a router or a mesh network remotely, though there’s an option — called QuickConnect — to do so for the sake of convenience.
  • Here to stay: Future routers from Synology will likely support the new mesh functionality, especially those using Qualcomm Wi-Fi chips.
You can easily manage a Synology mesh using the main router's interface.
You can manage a Synology mesh using the primary router’s interface. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Synology Mesh: Excellent performance

Synology mesh is one of the fastest systems I’ve known. In fact, in a wireless setup, the satellite unit’s performance topped the chart of all systems I’ve tested. Note that in standard testing, I place the nodes (satellites) 40 feet (13m) away from the main router.

Synology Mesh also delivered excellent coverage in my trial. For example, a set of an RT2600ac and an MR2200ac could easily cover more than 4000 ft² (370 m²) with Wi-Fi fast enough to deliver a 150Mbps broadband connection in full.

It was also reliable. I used the system for more than a week without any problem at all. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi performance depends on the environment, so your mileage will vary.

Minor issues

Like all mesh systems, a Synology Mesh is not perfect. The following are a few issues:

  • You have no direct control over the satellite unit; if you attempt to access its web interface, you’ll get to that of the main router unit.
  • The USB port of the satellite unit is of no use at all.
  • Firmware update and setup time can time-consuming, mostly because the hardware takes a long time – up to two minutes – to boot up.
  • Synology doesn’t offer the mesh as a package. That said, you’ll need to either buy two MR2200ac units or one RT2600ac and one MR2200ac at a time.
READ MORE:  TP-Link Archer C5400X Review: A Formidable Misnomer
When coupled with the RT2600ac or another unit the MR2200ac makes an excellent mesh system.
When coupled with the RT2600ac or another unit, the MR2200ac makes an excellent mesh system. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

 

Synology Mesh v.s Asus’s AiMesh

It’s unclear which is better, Synology Mesh or Asus’s AiMesh, but they sure have similarities and differences, as shown in the table below.

Asus’s AiMesh offers more hardware options since you can pick and choose from more than a dozen routers, as opposed to just two of Synology. (Though, this also means AiMesh is more susceptible to firmware issues since there are just so many combos that Asus has to deal with). Also, if you’re a gamer, Asus is the way to go since certain AiMesh routers — such as the RT-AC86u, or the GT-AC5300 — have powerful built-in gaming features.

On the other hand, Synology has much more advanced firmware and an extensive set of network storage features, including a powerful PC-less download app. It also has many business features, such as the advanced VPN and DNS server functions.

And last but not least, the Guest network functionality of Synology is much more sophisticated, making the mesh suitable for a secure, managed public hotspot.

That said, Synology’s approach to mesh is professional with business flavors. Asus’s AiMesh, on the other hand, is fun and geared towards home users. Both systems are effective in delivering fast Wi-Fi with extensive coverage. In a wireless setup, though, Synology has better performance.

You have the option to add a Wi-Fi point at the end of the router's initial setup process.
You have the option to add a Wi-Fi point at the end of the router’s initial setup process. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

How to build a Synology Mesh

To create a mesh, you’ll need at least two hardware units. One will work as the main router and the other as a satellite (or node). Later on, you can add more nodes if need be.

In a Synology mesh, for a node, the only option is the MR2200ac, which is a tri-band router, and that means the mesh will always have a dedicated backhaul band.

As for the primary router, you can use either the RT2600ac or the MR2200ac. I’d recommend the former since it has more network and USB ports. However, if you pick the MR2200ac as the primary router, the setup process remains the same.

The Synology Mesh setup process is straight forward.
The Synology Mesh setup process is straight forward. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Steps to build a Synology Mesh

  1. Update all routers involved to the latest firmware then reset them to the default factory setting. This step is to make sure they are all on the same page. You might skip this step if you buy them new at the same time. Also, if you want to add a node to an existing router, then only reset the node. 
  2. Place the node unit less than 10 feet (3m) from the primary router. Plug it into power. Do NOT plug any network cable into its network ports. If you intend to use network a network cable to connect a node to the main router, do that AFTER the setup process.
  3. Set up the main router unit as a standalone router.
  4. At the end of the initial setup process in step # 3 above, you’ll have the option to add Wi-Fi points. Click on it. Alternatively, you can always log into the router’s web interface, run the Wi-Fi Connect app, then click on Wi-Fi Point.
  5. Click on Add, the Wi-Fi Point window will pop up, now click Next.
  6. After a few seconds, the MR2200ac will appear. Name it to your liking or pick a name on a list. If you don’t do anything, the system will use its serial number as identification. Now click on Next.
  7. The system will take a few minutes to add the MR2200ac as the mesh point (node). After that, it’ll show a message saying the Wi-Fi network will restart. Click on OK and wait for the Wi-Fi function to reboot, which takes a few seconds. And that’s it. Repeat from step #5 if you have more MR2200ac units to add to the system.
The Synology Mesh is now ready.
The Synology Mesh is now ready. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Now place the node(s) a reasonable distance, between 40 feet (13m) and 75 feet (25m), from the primary router, and your mesh is ready. If you have more than one node, make sure you place them around the main router and not in a straight line to get the best performance.

If you intend to connect the node to the main router using a network cable, the distance between the two doesn’t matter much. In this case, though, it’s better to use the node’s WAN port. If you use the node’s LAN port to connect to the router, the entire network might take a few minutes to be available. 

And that’s it. You’ve just gotten yourself a quite fantastic Wi-Fi system.

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

28 Comments

  1. Correction: the pfSense firewall rule appeared to work. But, it hit me that it shouldn’t, because the Guest subnet (192.168.2.0/24) is behind a NAT firewall. Testing verified this. For some reason though, some nodes on the IoT segment are reachable from the Guest network, and some are not.

  2. Hi Jim, I have tried using an Asus RT-AC68u as an AiMesh node, connected to an RT-AC5300 (main router). Although it “works”, performance is terrible. I then bought another RT-AC5300, and connected it as an AiMesh node (and removed the 68u). Now, performance is top notch! The only thing I don’t like about the AiMesh system, is that Guest SSIDs are only available from the main router.

    This may be of interest to some; I have a rather involved home network setup. Partly, because (now retired) I have worked in IT, and Network administrative roles, but still love playing with this stuff. Plus, given the mounting internet threat, it has now become necessary to isolate (as much as possible) IoT devices, and even devices connected to Guest networks, from our personal use devices, such as PCs, Phones, Tablets…etc. This, in an effort to avoid any sort of malware from getting into things we really want to protect.

    First, connecting to my cable modem, is a Netgate SG-3100 (running pfSense). Which I’ve configured to have 3 seperate LAN segments.

    1) For all IoT devices: Security cameras, Amazon Echos, Tivo DVR, Security system, Doorbell..,etc. Devices on this segment can only see, & initiate traffic to other IoT devices on the same segment (obviously), or to the internet. This segment uses 2 Asus RT-AC5300 routers in Access Point / AiMesh mode, for IoT device connectivity.

    2) Only wired devices, that I trust, and want to protect, such as PCs: These devices can see, and initiate connections to IoT devices, and the internet, Devices on this segment cannot access nodes in #3 (below).

    3) Family & Guest WiFi: My main WiFi access for Family, & Guests: This is a Synology mesh system. The main router is a RT2600ac. I have one mesh node, which is the MR2200ac. One really nice feature is that by default, the Guest WiFi network (192.168.2.0/24) is separate from the main WiFi network (192.168.1.0/24). So, this allowed me to set a firewall rule in pfSense, to block Guest access to the IoT segment. Bottom line for the Guest network is, they can ONLY access the internet. Family who connect to the main WiFi SSID, can access the internet, IoT devices, and can remotely access the PC (#2 above) nodes.

    One note that may or may not be obvious… When using 2 separate mesh WiFi systems, you need to pay attention to the WiFi channels that each system uses. For instance, My IoT WiFi (Asus) uses Channel 1 (@20MHz) on 2.4GHz, Channel 149 (@40 MHz) on 5GHz. My Family & Guest WiFi (Synology) uses Channel 11 (@20MHz) on 2.4 GHz. Channel 44 (@40 MHz) on 5GHz. The point is, you don’t want to configure you separate WiFi systems to use the same frequencies. It would still work. But, performance will definitely suffer.

  3. Hello Dong, thank you for your reviews; I appreciate your more thorough technical style! I have an Asus 68U that is not able to keep up with multiple xboxes, google home devices, 4 computers, etc. of a family of 4. Also, in a couple of parts of the house wifi goes down to -80-90 db. I am thinking about upgrading and had a couple of questions: (1) Does the 68U have enough life in it to make it worth pairing in an Azus AIMesh?(And if so, what would you recommend in Jan 2020 as the main router). I worry about Asus reliability as virtually every device has a 20% 1 star rating on user review sites (failing hw I suppose). (2) If I am doing a wired backhaul, what is the advantage of a mesh vs. an access point? (I am leaning towards the Synology RT and MR pair, but also looking at the Ubiquity, and/or a router plus AP)

    Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Jim. Thanks for reading my content. To answer your questions (1) yes, that router will last for a long time and (2) get another unit of the same router (or a Blue Cave) and link them together using a wired backhaul AiMesh and you’re gonna be game for a long time. If wired backhaul is not possible, well, then a pair of the Synology MR2200ac would help. But I totally recommend the former, speaking from a family of four myself. 🙂

  4. Hi Dongs,

    I replaced 2 units of Asus AX-92U with Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac today. I put the router and node at the same location as the previous ones. Router at the center of 2nd floor and node at the room in 4th floor. Unfortunately, Synology cannot perform well as Asus. The signal between router and node is very low and the download and upload speed drop very significantly. It’s likely that I need to go back to AX-92U. Hence I assume the ax signal on the AX-92u does help a lot for the communication between router and node for the wireless backhaul.

  5. Anyway, I’ve have stock of additional RT-AC86u 1 unit and RT-AX92u 1 unit. Can I also do this 1) add 1 more of AX92u to bring total of AX92u 3 units in Mesh or 2) use RT-AC86u as main router and put 2 units of AX92u as node as you mentioned that the router does not need to be tri-band.

  6. ็Hi Dong,

    I upgraded from 2 units of Asus RT-AC86U to 2 units of Asus RT-AX92U (AX6100) 3 months ago. I live in a 4 floor house with total 220 m2 space. No gaming.

    I’m quite interesting to try RT2600 and MT2200. My home has only few devices; 1 of Samsung Note 10+, 1 of Samsung S10 Plus, 1 iPhone X, 1 iPhone 8, 2 laptop, 2 ipad and 2 Smart TV. My package is 1000 Mbps / 500 Mbps. From Wifi access, I can get maximum of 600/500 Mbps.

    Meanwhile, I don’t like the look of AX92u. If I switch to Synology Mesh, is it fine for the performance.

    Thanks

    1. Yes, if you switch to Synology mesh, your performance will probably be the same considering your current situation, Wichai. It’s not a good idea to use Wi-Fi 6 Asus Mesh systems right now. Wait a year or two.

  7. I am trying to do my due diligence prior to jumping back into the mesh Wi-Fi scene. Based on the reviews I am seeing, it seems that this Synology is probably about the best so far. Wi-Fi 6 does not seem ready, and I love the additional parental control features of the Synology mesh.

    If you were building your own system, have a two-story, 4,000 square foot house, have children, and don’t care about gaming, what would you do? I have network lines into most rooms of the house, so wired is an option for some devices, but others would need wifi.

    That being said, I have not seen a review of the Nest Wifi system. Have I just missed it? If not, do you have any plans of doing a review? As others have said, your columns are fantastic. Thank you for your thorough explanations that are easy to understand for the average user.

    1. Get the Synology or AiMesh, George. You don’t miss anything. I don’t publish any reviews on those big-name mesh systems for a reason. And I have kids, too. 🙂

  8. Hi Dong. Okay well I got the two MR2200ac set up in mesh configuration and it’s working well! I updated the firmware on each unit per your instructions in step 1. Going forward, how do I update the firmware on each unit? Do I have to repeat step 1 each time I want to update the firmware on both units including the factory rest. etc.?

    1. Excelente! Congratulations, Dale. And no, going forward, you can update the firmware using the router’s interface or the DS Router app. It’s quite self-explanatory. Merry Christmas!

  9. Hi Dong! In step 1 of how to build a Synology Mesh, you say to update the firmware on both devices and then do a factory reset. Do you mean a Soft Reset (hold reset button for 4 seconds) or a Hard Reset (hold reset button for 10 seconds)? Thanks!

    1. The Synology is a much better bang for the buck, Scott. It has a lot more features and settings. Depending on your needs and your Internet speed, you might not see much difference between the two in terms of performance. If you want to send the Arris kind of money, get the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 instead.

  10. How well would the Synology router and Synology MR2200 work when setup at hotels to create a small wireless LAN? Basically looking to provide our own wireless LAN that could spand multiple floors or do you recommend another product?

  11. Hi Dong, thanks for the reviews. I’ve learned a lot from them. I am planning to implement the Synology mesh but is debating between getting a RT2600ac / MR2200ac combo or two MR2200ac. Reason is the 5GHz backhaul on the MR2200ac. Although the RT2600ac is more powerful, having no extra 5GHz makes me think that it will impact the mesh’s overall performance (I cannot wire them together). Am I correct on my argument?

    I have tons of devices, not to mention IoT and 2 PoE cameras (connected via switch so the extra ports on RT2600ac really doesn’t matter to me) and 2 wifi cameras. Around 30 connected devices at a time is not uncommon.

    What would you recommend? By the way, I am using PPPOE (single thread) on my Gigabit service.

    1. You’re not wrong, Eric, but I’d recommend using the former combo. In a mesh, the 3rd band matters mostly in the extender units. The main router doesn’t need a dedicate band because it doesn’t receive any signal, it only broadcasts. The system will be able to handle 30 concurrent devices or more just fine. Hope this helps and good luck! 🙂

  12. Hi Dong, many thanks for your expert guidance. I believe a little of it is beginning to sink in. A WiFI Mesh question: I have a Asus RTac66U with a 3×3 dual band. Can a firmware update allow it to function as a mesh satellite with a new Asus router? Many thankis

  13. Dear Dong:

    I thank you for your excellent reviews regarding both Asus AiMesh system and Synology Mesh system. My only question for you is regarding both systems, should all nodes be directly connected or sinked with the main units or can one node be connected through another node to main router? I do understand even with 5G backhaul one may loose speed or signal but could it be possible to do that? If so how much signal or speed degradation I should expect? I do understand the signal penetration not only depends on distance between router and nodes but also depends on environment such as other wireless systems using 2.4G or interference form walls or other metallic objects. Currently my phone system using DECT 6.0 and I have tried to use my current Mesh system by TP Deco M5 Version 1.0 using 6 nodes. And at furthest point in my house, my last node is connected through another node to main routers. Before recent firmware update 1.2, I was able to easily achieve around 140 Mbps download on the farthest node and my Spectrum Cable Account at the modem using hard wire connection was giving me 225 Mbps download and 25Mbps Upload. However, after recent firmware update 1.2 and most recently 1.2.4 from TP link, I was only able to get maximum 10-15 Mbps download at main Deco M5 router but my upload remains at constant 25Mbps. After consulting with TP link IT multiple times and after IT person from Spectrum visited my house and check all wired and wireless connections and Deco and my modem, they could not find the problem or could help me to figure out the problems. My modem works fine and its firmware is updated and it was checked by 4 different Spectrum IT personnel confirming that I do get proper speed both up and download. I always check my system main Deco via ethernet and still poor download speed and excellent upload speed. I have updated all of my main PC hardware firmwares and always check them weekly and still no solution why my download speed is problem . I used Chrome, FIrefox, and Edge and still no difference., I even checked some sources regarding possibilities with Chrome having something to do with upload speed and still no change. I have also changed and assigned different nodes as the main routers and nothing works. My Deco App does not help me find the problem and it also shows that my download speed is severely affected at main unit but upload speed is unaffected. I turned off security system from Trend Micro and still no improvements. I even turned off my windows firewall and remove and deactivate any security softwares on my PC which runs Window 10 and still no improvement in my download speed which is now around 10-15 Mbps and my upload is at usual 25Mbps. I am not sure if recent Window 10 firmware upgrade could have contributed to my slow download speed but non of technician from Spectrum could help me with that. I am now thinking to return my Deco M5 (all 6 of them) and consider to purchase Deco M9, But after reading your article regarding Asus AiMesh and Synology Mesh, I am very interested to switch to one of this systems. I did look into Linksys Velop, Google Wifi, Netgear Mesh, Asus Lyro, Samsung Mesh, Eero and few other systems. But your article intrigued me and I am very interested to switch to one of this systems which may give me more flexibilities despite few shortcomings which is far better than the aforementioned mesh systems. Unfortunately, I am not very tech oriented and rarely use online gaming. However, because I have watch many online high definition videos and read lots of medical oriented articles as a physician, I do require from fast and reliable speed. Unfortunately, I am not getting any help from my service provider and I am willing to spend money to get a decent system. If cost is not an issue, do you recommend to purchase Asus AC5300 or AC5300GT (I believe that I may need at least 4 unit in order to reach all part of my house assuming 40 feet or less between each node) or Synology RT2600 with 4 units or Synology MR2200 with 4 units or purchase RT2600 as main router and add 3 MR2200 to it? I am tired of getting poor connections and I am willing to spend as much as necessary to have a system that is reliable and future proof for at least 2 more years. Hopefully, in next 1-2 year, Verizon will implement their 5G system for residential units in my neighborhood in Culver City, California. I thank you again for wonderful articles you have written, I am a big fan.

    Sincerely,

    Ebrahim Sajedi
    ebisajedi@gmail.com

    1. Hi Ebrahim,

      For more on how you should arrange the hardware units of a Wi-Fi system, check out this post: https://dongknows.com/mesh-wi-fi-system-explained/2/

      Generally, though, in a wireless setup, you want to use the star topology (meaning the satellite units are placed around the main router unit). For your situation. I think it’s best that you use network cables to link the hardware units together. If you can’t do that with all of the units, at least with the units that are closest to the router unit.

      Otherwise, I’d recommend using a few Synology MR2200ac routers in a mesh.

      Hope this helps,

      – Dong.

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