Synology today unveiled its first Wi-Fi 6 router, the RT6600ax. Finally.
To put things in perspective, this is the known NAS maker’s only new Wi-Fi hardware after the MR2200ac that came out in 2018. Since then, I’ve been bugging Synology about its new Wi-Fi devices to no avail.
At one point early this year, I gave up and assumed that the company had decided to quietly get out of the networking business to focus solely on network-attached storage, despite its successful Wi-Fi 5 solutions. And that would make sense — its NAS servers are excellent.
Now, out of the blue, there’s this new network hardware officially on the horizon. Better yet, it may be well worth the wait. While details are still sketchy, it seems Synology has planned it all along.
Synology RT6600ax Wi-Fi 6 Router: The beginning of a new chapter
Even though kind of late to the game — you’ll soon hear other networking vendors talk Wi-Fi 7 — Synology manages to pack some novelty within the RT6600ax, enough for it to edge out existing Wi-Fi 6 counterparts big time.
But at the very least, it’s safe to say the new router is all-new compared to its older Wi-Fi 5 cousins, namely the MR2200ac, RT2600ac, and RT1900ac, inside and out.
First router with the 5.9GHz band support
According to Synology, the RT6600ax is a Tri-band 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 router with the top speed on one of the 5GHz bands of up to 4804Mbps. Consequently, we likely have the 2nd 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands at 1200Mbps and 600Mbps, respectively.
However, what sets the RT6600ax apart is that it’s one of the first, if not the first, to sport a third and clean 160MHz Wi-Fi channel via the use of the newly available 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz band.
For decades, this controversial portion of the 5GHz spectrum was reserved for other applications — it’s a long story. But in late 2020, FCC approved it for Wi-Fi and then made it available for unlicensed use earlier this year.
Without this 5.9GHz portion, both existing 160MHz channels on the 5GHz frequency band need to include at least one DFS sub-channel, which shares airspace with radar signals and can cause intermittent disconnections. (More on that in this piece about Wi-Fi 6.)
Technically, existing clients, such as the Intel AX2xx, should support this wireless portion right away or via driver updates, but there’s no way to know for sure until supported broadcasters are available.
This 5.9GHz part of the spectrum opens up new possibilities and makes the 5GHz band comparable to the new 6GHz band of Wi-Fi 6e, performance-wise, without the innate reduction in range. Hint: It can be better.
Right off the bat, this clean 160MHz channel will be perfect in a wireless mesh configuration where it works as the backhaul. And yes, the RT6600ax is mesh-ready.
Like the case of the MR2200ac and RT2600ac, the new RT6600ax also features Synology Mesh, where you can use multiple units to form a robust Wi-Fi system, the only one to genuinely rival Asus’s AiMesh.
Initially, you’ll need multiple RT6600ax units for the mesh feature to work, but Synology says it’ll consider the support for mixed-mode to include older Wi-Fi 5 routers (which currently can work in a mesh of their own).
What’s more, the RT6600ax is also the first router from Synology that features a 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port to host a Gig+ broadband connection or function as the wired backhaul — similar to the case of the Asus RT-AX86U and others on this list. (I wish it had more than one Multi-Gig port!)
And then, it has some significant software improvement, too.
First router to get SRM 1.3
The firmware is a big part of a router’s capability, and the RT6600ax comes with the latest version of Synology Router Manager (SRM), version 1.3.
SRM is based on Synology’s flagship Diskstation Manager (DSM), which recently got a major upgrade to version 7, and is easily one of the most, if not the most comprehensive firmware for Wi-Fi routers.
Generally, SRM has a robust web interface akin to that of a native operating system — it has a Desktop area, a Taskbar, a Control Panel, etc. Most importantly, it has a Package Center where you can add more functions to the router via add-on apps.
Up to now, previous Synology routers use SRM 1.2, which itself is already quite impressive.
Version 1.3 now supports 802.1q VLAN tagging allowing for more business-related applications. On top of that, Synology says SRM 1.3 also significantly increases the performance, up to 92% in the specific model.
As a router firmware/operating system, SRM 1.3 has a lot, but Synology promises at least the following:
- Multiple networks and SSIDs: You can create up to 5 networks and SSIDs and distribute them to all endpoints across different networks to achieve network isolation and to customize firewall rules, Internet access policies, QoS rules, and other settings according to the purpose of each endpoint.
- Mesh Wi-Fi configuration: Additional Wi-Fi points automatically broadcast all SSIDs, each associated with their respective network.
- Safe Access: Built-in online protection and Parental Controls for the entire network based on Internet access rules.
- VPN Plus: Users can decide which network remote devices should connect to, using firewall rules to control whether they are allowed to access servers in other.
Synology says, initially, SRM 1.3 will arrive first with the RT6600ax, but it’ll be made available via free upgrades to the existing Wi-Fi 5 routers in the later part of 2022.
New Synology DS Router app
Together with the RT600ax, Synology also overhauled its DS Router app to version 2.0.
Synology says the new version now has more in-depth access to a router’s function and features, and it’s also faster, even when you use it on the go.
Specifically, users can now configure Internet connections and manage VPN connections directly from the mobile phone. What’s more, essential functions like port-forwarding, multiple SSID management, and traffic control are also included within the app.
Finally, the app also has other improvements in user interface and accessibility.
Synology says its RT6600ax Wi-Fi 6 router will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2022, give or take, with pricing being made public then. (But it’s my educated guess that it’ll be more expensive than the RT2600ac which currently still costs $200.)
Again, there are still a lot of unknowns about the new Wi-Fi machine, but admittedly the fact Synology has gotten back in the networking game is exciting enough.
I’ll update this post as I learn more and will eventually do a full review of the hardware when that’s possible. In the meantime, check out my thoughts on Synology’s existing Wi-Fi 5 routers to have an idea of the RT6600ax’s potential capabilities. Stay tuned.