Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K Review: A Slow but Reliable Generic Mesh

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 14
The TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K includes two identical hardware units, each is a tri-band AC2200 router.

The TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K AC2200 Wi-Fi Mesh System a curious case.

The new tri-band Wi-Fi 5 mesh system almost the same as the EnGenius ESR580 I reviewed late last year. So it’s an oddball. But it does have a few crucial differences, enough to edge out its older clone in reliability.

The EnGenius is among the worst mesh systems I’ve worked with, so outdoing it doesn’t mean much. The point here is the TRENDnet does that by quite a large margin.

That said, if you’re looking for an affordable Wi-Fi 5 tri-band solution for a relatively large home, at a current cost of less than $230 for a 2-pack (or about $130 for a single unit), the TRENDnet will get the job done.

The mesh doesn’t have anything to wow you, but it won’t burn a hole in your wallet, either. And most importantly, chances are you will not need to tend to it regularly, the way you sure would with the EnGenius.

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K AC2200 Wi-Fi Mesh System

7

Performance

7.5/10

Features

6.0/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Tri-band Wi-Fi specs with reliable Wi-Fi signal
  • Compact, wall-mountable, easy setup
  • Mobile app doesn't require Internet or vendor account to work
  • Wired backhaul support

Cons

  • Slow Wi-Fi speeds for the specs
  • Generic look and feel. Both app and web interface could use some serious polishing
  • Some features and functions don't work
  • Too late in the game with nothing new to offer

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K: A reliable clone of the EnGenius ESR580

Saying the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K is similar to the EnGenius ESR580 is an understatement. In reality, I find them to be of the exact same hardware. In fact, their mobile apps called EnMesh and TrendNet Mesh are extremely similar, too.

So intrigued by the resemblance, I asked TRENDnet on the matter but the company wouldn’t reveal anything more than “we use a common chipset and housing, so that may be why they look so similar.”

Oh, come on! There must be a lot more than that. I guess we’ll never know what the real story behind these two, and who actually made the hardware — TrendNet, EnGenius, or a third party? In the meantime, you can take my word that they are pretty much the same.

A tri-band dual-stream (2×2) system

Both of them are 2-pack mesh systems that include two identical compact hardware units. They are quite nicely designed in fact as you can see in the detail photos below.

In the case of the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K, it comes with two tri-band AC2200 routers; each has the model TEW-830MDR. Use one as the primary router, and the other will work as a satellite to extend the Wi-Fi network.

In a wireless setup, one of the two 5 GHz bands will work as the dedicated backhaul that links the hardware unit. As a result, you’ll get fast performance, since the other two bands are free to serve clients. At least, that’s the idea.

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K’s detail photos

The more time I spent with the TRENDnet hardware, the more I believed it was the same as that of the EnGenius. You’ll see some pictures of the two next to each other below. Judge for yourself.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 10
The TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K’s retail box.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 5
The TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K includes two identical tri-band TRENDnet TEW-830MDR routers.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 3
The underside of each router includes default Wi-Fi information and a QR code for easy setup.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 4
Each router comes with one Gigabit LAN port an done Gigabit WAN port, and a USB 3.0 port. When working as a satellite both of the hardware’s ports function as LANs.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 6
Each TRENDnet TEW-830MDR router is a compact hardware unit.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K 8
Again, the two hardware units are identical, you can use either as the router and the other will function as a satellite to form a mesh system.

TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K vs EnGenius ESR580 4
Other than the branding, the routers of the of the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K and EnGenius ESR580 are literally identical.
TrendNet TEW 830MDR2K vs EnGenius ESR580 8
The resemblance is also striking even on the underside of the hardware. They are exactly the same!

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K’s hardware specifications

Mobile app required but only works locally

Similar to the case of the EnGenius, you need to download the TRENDnet Mesh mobile app before you can set up the TEW-830MDR2K. That’s the bad news. The good news is the app doesn’t require a live connection to work, or does it make you log in with a TRENDnet account.

In return, it only works locally. You can’t use the app when you’re out and about. By the way, the EnGenius ESR580’s app has the same design, but you can use it to manage your home network remotely.

Easy setup

As for the setup process, it’s a no-brainer. You just need to follow the onscreen instruction to connect the phone to the router unit’s default Wi-Fi network (printed on its underside). There’s also a QR code to simplify the task. After that, it’s the usual routine of creating an admin account and the Wi-Fi network.

Once the router is finished, you can add the second (or third) unit to form a mesh. And now the web interface is also available. In all, I was able to get the mesh up and running in less than 10 minutes.

WPA2 Only
TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K’s web interface is quite sad. By the way note how it only supports WPA2 for Wi-Fi security.

Primitive, beta-like web interface; spartan feature set, network settings

It’s important to note that you need the web interface to manage most settings of the system. In fact, if you hit the “Advanced” section of the mobile app, that will take you to the Interface itself. The irony is you can’t really use the interface on a phone’s screen — it’s not mobile-friendly.

But from any connected computer, you can reach the interface by pointing a browser to the router’s IP address, which, by default, is 192.168.10.1.

The interface is quite primitive and includes a lot of little issues. Here’re some that I experienced:

  • Applying any changes could cause the router to restart and it might take a long time to do that somehow — up to a few minutes. Initially, I thought it was broken.
  • Many settings didn’t work. The Router Limit, which is a Parental Control feature also available in the TRENDnet TEW-829DRU, for example, wouldn’t turn on no matter how hard I tried.
  • There are no extra Wi-Fi settings other than network names, passwords, and channel width. You can’t even use the two bands in as two different SSIDs. By the way, the TEW-830MDR2K only supports WPA2 for security so it might not work with legacy clients.

That said, you can’t expect a lot out of these systems in terms of network settings and features. However, there is basic stuff, including the support for Dynamic DNS, port forward, and IP reservation.

Also, there’s remote web management so that you can set up remote control via DDNS. In a way, there’s a lot you can do with the TEW-830MDR the way you do a standard standalone router.

Rotuer Limit
The Router Limit feature that was stuck at “Connecting” for ever. By the way, those check boxes are supposed to be radio buttons — you can only pick one at a time.

The non-function NAS feature

Another example of a non-working features is the router’s network-attached storage (NAS) function.

Supposedly, connecting a portable drive to the USB port (of any either hardware unit) allows you to share the store with the rest of the network, just like the case of any router with a USB port.

In reality, I couldn’t make it work. There’s an option to enable “SAMBA” within the web interface, and the mobile app, but doing so didn’t make any changes in my case. There was no way I could access or manage my test Crucial X8 drive (or any other drives I tried for that matter.)

Considering the EnGenius ESR580 delivered terrible NAS performance, I decided it wouldn’t worth keeping at it with the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K and gave up this part of testing.

Useful Auto-Optimization feature

The TRENDnet has a new feature called Auto-Optimization feature that the EnGenius could use for its benefits. Basically, this is an auto-restart function on a schedule.

TRENDnet TEW 830MDR2K vs EnGenius ESR580 Mobile App
Note the resemblance of the app interface between the EnMesh app (EnGenius ESR580) and TRENDnet Mesh (TEW-830MDR2k) and the new Auto-Optimization feature only available in the latter.

Set it up and the system will restart itself at the time and weekday of your choosing. Generally, a restart can solve a lot of issues in routers.

In my testing, though, it turned out that the TRENDnet can do just fine without this feature. It worked quite well for a long time without the need to restart. Still, it’s a nice option to have.

TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K: Slow but reliable performance

Considering my experience with the EnGenius, which wasn’t all that great, I was aware of the fact I tested the TTRENDnet with some prejudice. For this reason, I extended the amount of testing to make sure I was fair with it. And the system turned out to be somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

Reliable signals, decent coverage

During my some 10-days of testing, 7 of which I used the system as my main Wi-Fi solution with all different types of applications, the system managed to have no issue. It didn’t disconnect even once.

Note that I tested it with the auto-restarting function turned off. In other words, as far as my experience went, the system worked fine 7+ days consecutively without any issues.

You won’t get this type of reliable performance out of the EnGenius ESR580, which you would have to restart once (or even twice) a day.

In terms of coverage, I noted that the system has low Wi-Fi signal penetration. If you have an open space, the 2-pack can handle decent square footage. I’d say you can expect them to cover somewhere between 3000 ft² (279 m²) and 3500 ft² (325 m²). But this depends a lot on the environment.

OK throughput speeds

But the system’s Wi-Fi speeds could use some improvement, especially for a tri-band mesh. For the most part, the TEW-830MDR2K did about as well as a dual-band system.

As a single router, the TEW-830MDR scored the sustained speed of some 380 Mbps at a close range of fewer than 10 feet (3 m). When I increased the distance to 40 feet (12 m) it now averaged almost 350 Mbps. In this test, it was slower than the EnGenius ERS580.

TRENDnet TEW 830MDR2K Router Performance Chart

It was also slower than the EnGenius in the mesh test. The satellite unit registered 208 Mbps and 165 Mbps for the close and long ranges, respectively. These number wasn’t terrible but virtually slower than all other tri-band systems.

TRENDnet TEW 830MDR2K Satellite Performance Chart

So the TEW-830MDR2K wasn’t fast in my testing, but it was faster than most dual-band systems. And for the cost, I found its performance speeds acceptable. That plus the fact it was quite reliable, make it a decent choice.

Conclusion

A couple of years ago, the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K AC2200 Wi-Fi Mesh System could be an excellent mesh choice. Today, though, it feels old and dated despite how it’s one of the latest, and the last, Wi-Fi 5 systems on the market.

So compared with its clone, the EnGenius ERS580, the TRENDnet TEW-830MDR2K is a much more reliable choice. But by itself, you won’t miss out on anything if you skip it. And if you decide to get it, chances are you won’t regret your purchase, either.

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