Home Network Recommendations.. Mesh, AP or other..?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by Hls811, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. Hls811 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 19, 2004
    New Jersey
    So I've been struggling to come up with a suitable network environment throughout my house. Its not what I consider to be a large house but I think it may be complex with the walls and wiring we have running throughout (and with a kitchen pretty much in the middle i'm sure theres some interference there).

    We did a renovation a year ago and I ran a Cat7 cable from my main media closet (where the primary Modem/Router come in) to the basement and another to a bedroom closet upstairs on the opposite end of the house. So I had a Google Wifi setup where both satellites were wired back to the base unit (via a Netgear Gigabit switch and then in another part of the house I had a google OnHub set as a satellite that wasn't hard wired.) Overall it worked well.

    A few weeks ago I upgraded my internet connection to FiOS gigabit - my Mac, which is hardwired through the same switch gets an utterly unnecessary 900+Mbps connection so I know I'm getting the bandwidth I'm paying for. I found out that the Google Wifis wouldn't support the 1GB connection so I switched them out for a Linksys Velop setup. Again, 1 primary unit is connected to the Modem, 2 more are connected via ethernet and a 3rd satellite is completely wireless. What I'm finding is that the devices end up bypassing this satellite in favor of wired ones even though they are further away so I'm not sure its very useful. The satellites are also a little flaky, I'll go into the app sometimes and it'll show me that a satellite is offline, I'll walk through the steps to reconnect and they show back up, thats the primary reason I'm thinking of switching it out. I looked at the Orbi system which is highly rated but a few times I saw that it works best as a 2 device setup, I'm pretty sure Im going to need a 3rd just for the basement - its underground and just doesn't not get a good signal from anywhere I put a router above ground.

    If I run the speed test through the Velop app I'm getting 500-600Mbs, if I run it through speedtest.net the speeds are closes to 250-300Mbs - I'm guessing thats more accurate.

    I started to look into maybe going with a few access points and came across Ubiquiti APs - it may be overkill, and its definitely technology that may be a little above my head. I'm sure I can figure it all out if I need to set it up, but I dont know what I'm gaining by going that route as opposed to the Velop system I have. One of the reviews on the Ubiquiti compared it to a 5 year old Apple Airport Extreme and said that the Airport actually had more pure speed than the Ubiquitis.

    I have one of those Airport Extremes sitting in a drawer unused (that was what I used before the Google Wifi system) - I'm wondering if I just ordered 2 more of those and set them up as Access points in the basement and upstairs closet (the primary being in the media cabinet) would work just as good, if not better.

    One of the things I like is being able to see a list of the connected devices from my phone - Google and Linksys both offer this, I dont know if Ubiquiti or Apple does. Google also went a step further and showed the actual bandwidth being used by device, Linksys doesn't.

    So, any suggestions?? Should I just keep the Linksys Velop setup or go with something better?
  2. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    Airport utility only seems to show WiFi clients. For WiFi devices, you can see the connection strength and speed. When I want to know wired clients on my network, I use an app called WiFi Scanner.

    AP Extreme (current version) supports ac so up to 1300Mbps, and 1Gbps WAN\LAN ports. It boasts "Beam Forming" which claims to focus the signal on a client to ensure best possible connection speed.

    The key to fast WiFi connections is ensuring you connect to 5Ghz. I setup my Time Capsule and other AP devices to use a different SSID for 5Ghz and forget the 2.4 Ghz network on devices that can do ac and are generally in 5Ghz range (shorter than 2.4Ghz). If you use a single SSiD on dual band routers, you never know whet speed you are connected at, nor have much control over it.

    But, for most tasks, even 2.4Ghz is fine. The main times you want max bandwidth are when downloading large files\updates and verifying you are on 5Ghz ac before doing this is worth the effort. Most websites will load about the same speed on 2.4 as 5Ghz because the content is typically not that large.

    The problem with most satellite APs are they split the radio between client and uplink connections, thus cutting throughput in half. Best avoiding this unless using Mesh APs that claim to use dedicated radios for each task.
  3. TheIguana macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2004
    Wewf speedy internet sure is here! When it comes to Wifi the biggest factors in your setup that will affect the speed you get is your distance from the access point, what barriers are between you (5Ghz does not go through walls well), and in the case of mesh networking how distant the wireless mesh unit is from the closest wired one. Remember when your are connecting to a wireless base station it effectively has to relay your data from it to the next closest unit.

    My first thought is that because the Velop setup uses 5GHz as the backhaul, your wireless unit might just be too far away to get optimal performance. Can you wire that unit in or reposition it so it is closer to a wired unit?

    From the perspective of Ubiquiti, I’m in the process of rolling out an upgrade to Ubiquiti’s UniFi line from Apple’s Airport line at my house. I have generally been happy with Apple’s Airport line but the impending discontinuing of that line, some performance issues as of late and the added benefits from a network management perspective with Ubiquiti have been major drivers.

    For a UniFi rollout, you are going to be looking at a decent investment, with the following components:
    • Firewall - Ubiquiti Security Gateway (USG)
    • Power over Ethernet Switch - Either US-8-60W or US-8-150W depending on the number of access points
    • Managment - Software on a computer or Cloud Key
    • Access Points - UAP-AC-Lites are quite good, might consider UAP-AC-PRO or UAP-AC-LR
      • If don’t have wired connections to where your access points will be you can look at the UAP-AC-MESH units, that said you will likely have the same issue your currently have with your Velop system going this route.
    TL/DR: I would recommend investigating better placement for your existing units or wiring them all in before looking at moving to Ubiquiti or another vendors equipment.
  4. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    No longer logging into MR
    The USG (UniFi Security Gateway, not Ubiquiti Security Gateway) will manage the APs, so another piece of management software is not required. That's really the whole point of that unit is to move everything to one tool.

    Additionally, a PoE switch is not a requirement. Single-pack versions of the UniFi APs, excluding in-wall variants, come bundled with a PoE injector.

    For a home deployment, you can get away with buying the APs and running the management software on a laptop. The management software is not required to be running for continued AP functionality.
  5. Hls811 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 19, 2004
    New Jersey
    Well, after some purchases and troubleshooting I've come to the conclusion that less is more... I tried the Velop but was running into issues where some of the satellites would randomly disconnect, and when I looked at the individual devices it seems like the majority was just connecting to 2 of them.
    I went out and bought the Orbi RBK50 kit - Main router and satellite.. The reason I hesitated on it originally was that it wasn't going to be using the Ethernet cables I had run. After setting it up I had an issue with the positioning of the satellite. I couldn't really put it centralized in my house it was too close to the base unit, when I moved it upstairs it was too far away - short of leaving it in a hallway there weren't many options. I noticed that it would have a good connection and then drop randomly.. It was frustrating, so I returned that.

    Then I moved onto a 2 Airport Extreme setup - I already had one sitting around so I bought a 2nd one.. Set them up in bridge mode and it seemed to work really well. Considering that they haven't been updated in about 6 years they are still really good.. The issue I ran into was that I noticed my devices weren't handing off very well. I'd have one upstairs and one downstairs and I could be in my office 10 feet from the closer AE but my phone or iPad would still be connected to the one upstairs. If I toggled Wifi off/on it would reconnect to the closer one and work great. With only 3 ethernet ports run across the house I couldn't really move them further apart.

    So - back to the Google Wifis.. I was under the impression that they didn't support gigabit connections - that was my mistake.. 2.4Ghtz devices cap out at ~300Mbps and 5Ghtz cap out at ~850Mbps - thats pretty standard among most of these kits and I can't see ever having the need for that bandwidth on any of my devices anytime soon to where that would make a difference. (anything large I download is done from my Mac which is hardwired to my router). I think where the Velop, Orbi and Airport has a broader range my house isn't quite big enough to benefit from that and the signals overlap and cause hand-off problems. The smaller range that the Google Wi-Fi supports allows me to add 3 devices and handles the handoff easier.
  6. vsatech macrumors newbie


    Mar 9, 2015
    --- Post Merged, Jan 16, 2018 ---
    We use Ubiquiti's Unifis and have a lot of iPads constantly dropping their WiFi connection. You need to turn WiFi off and back on after 10 seconds or so to get it to reconnect. Checking Ubiquiti's forums reveals there's a known software bug causing the problem. The problem is only on the 5 GHz channel...so switching everything to the 2.4 GHz channel should solve it temporarily. We haven't done that yet because we need our network consultant do it for us. Unifis aren't easy to figure out and deploy for non-network people! Just thought you should know in case you're still considering getting Ubiquiti hardware.
  7. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    Watch out for Moore's Law.

    There was a time when people thought there would never be a need for a 10 GB HDD, or 256MB of RAM. But, yah, for the foreseeable future you should be fine.
  8. 0110 macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2018
    Kansas City
    I’ve had luck with the Eero routers. They’ve been reliable, easy to use and have a good app. I don’t know if they are fast enough for you though, you’d have to look into that. I have 100mbps and everything is plenty fast for me.
  9. rayjay86 macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2011
    Sorry to rehash an old thread

    I've been running a TC hardwired to my modem, then a 3rd gen and 4th gen AE in the living room and bedroom. Living room has 3 walls in between it (bedroom and bathroom) and the AE in the living room gives me a really variable connection. The main device using that is the Apple TV, which obviously needs a pretty robust connection as we almost entirely stream TV watching now.
    The bedroom has wifi signal from the other AE but I'm pretty sure the TC is providing plenty of reception as there is only a single wall connecting an ensuite bathroom then the bedroom.

    Occasionally I'll get amazing speed, then for no reason it'll drop down to 3mbps. I walk into the office, toggle wifi and retry the speed, shoots up to 55mbps
    Go back in the living room, 3-5mbps. Then on some days the living room is 40mbps
    If I restart the Apple TV, sometimes that perks the speed up to very usable, sometimes it doesnt.

    I'm at whits end with these Apple routers; they worked really when our internet was crawling at 5mbps (Australia...). But since our speed upgrade to 50mbps, I've really started to notice the change.

    Considering Google Wifi mainly because the cost in Australia is already high, the Orbi system is over $500 and I'm not sure my house is big enough to justify it
  10. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    If you get inconsistent speeds in the living room, likely there is interference that is affecting your connection speeds.

    First, consider how the AE are connecting to the TC, are they hardwired? If not, the radio on the AE (and TC) is splitting capacity between uplink and client connections, that in itself will cut bandwidth in half immediately, add interference from some other source and your connection speed is shot. Further, the Living Room AE may or may not connect directly to the TC. If both AE are connecting wirelessly (Apple recommends only one wireless extender, and even recommends avoiding wireless extension if possible), you most certainly will see poor performance on all of the access points, especially if something is connected to each of the satellites and is using bandwidth. Solution: Hardwire the satellite AEs to the TC, and if Ethernet is impractical, consider using powerline or MOCA adapters to get the ethernet to the AEs.

    Also, look at where the access points are located, are there a lot of electronics very near the devices? If so, try separating them a bit. All electronics emit signals that can interfere with wireless radios.

    Next, if you are using the same SSID for both bands, consider changing. For instance, NETWORK and NETWORK5G. Then, on 5Ghz capable devices, forget the 2.4 SSID so that you always connect to 5G. Why? 2.4Ghz contends with all kinds of interference, microwaves, radar, wireless phones, bluetooth devices, wireless keyboards\mice, and even USB3 devices in close proximity to the access point. Also, if there are neighbors in close proximity with WiFi, the signals tend to interfere with each other. Since 2.4Ghz has longer range and fewer channels, interference is more of an impact on this frequency. 5Ghz, with shorter range, often is out of range, and it offers more channels to avoid conflicts. By connecting to 5Ghz, you avoid more sources of interference.

    Google and Orbi may or may not help, if there is a lot of interference, all will suffer. Where Mesh equipment excels is by adding a separate radio for the uplink so that each radio is able to do it's job without splitting the duties. But, they still rely on a good, interference free connection to the router to be effective. If the walls are dense materials like brick, concrete, metal, signals don't penetrate as well. In this case, the satellites, be they Mesh or Airport, connecting via ethernet will avoid the issues of poor uplink connections.

    Don't be so fast to blame Airports for the issues. My home has a TC (802.11ac), an APExtreme (802.11n), and a APExpress (802.11n), all connected by Ethernet to the TC. I get excellent coverage on a 4000 sq foot home on two levels. My ISP service is about 70Mbps, and speed tests in every room yield 70-80Mbps download speeds.

    Unfortunately, good WiFi in dense populated areas, larger homes, and homes built with solid interior walls is a challenge. It would be a shame if you went out and spent $500 on equipment that suffers from the same issues the Airports do.
  11. rayjay86, Jun 6, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018

    rayjay86 macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2011
    Thanks for the reply!

    Sounds like you are able to mitigate speed loss by direct Ethernet between TC and AE

    I live in a rental and currently there’s no practical way to run Ethernet between the TC and the AE. I really just need the living room AE to get a good signal, the bedroom as I said gets decent enough, so much so that I often unplug that one and leave it.

    I’m not familiar with power line adaptors, how much of a difference will that make?

    Will upgrading to an 802.11ac router make a difference in range or is it only throughput that’s improved. I don’t really want to buy a new AE for the .11ac, especially as they are an outdated hardware from Apple now, and very expensive
  12. rayjay86 macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2011
    As an example

    Just got home

    Ran a speedtest in my iPhone X - 25mbps
    Ran speedtest on the ATV4 - 4mbps
    Waited 5 minutes then ran speedtest in the ATV4 again - 30mbps, same on iPhone

    Doesn’t make sense. Two speed tests run within 1min of each other on two different devices give massively different results. They’re sitting beside each other so any interference/walls/radios should effect both

    I’m not sure if mesh is the answer

    But I essentially want something that will be consistent with wifi speeds regardless of device. I live in a 3br single story home; the walls feel pretty cheap (as you’d expect for a quick built rental house), sometimes I feel if I lean on them too hard I’ll go through!
  13. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    @rayjay86 Powerline adapters can deliver 1Gbps or more, basically similar to hard wired 1Gbps Ethernet. Older units are slower, but the newer, slightly ones claim speeds in excess of 1Gbps. However, most network gear is 1Gbps Ethernet, so that will limit the speed over the powerline link. Take a look at Amazon, search for "powerline ethernet adapter", focus on the AV1200 or AV2000 devices.

    Setup is a breeze, basically an Ethernet cable from a router LAN port to one unit, plug it in, then Ethernet from the far end AE WAN port to the other unit and plug it in. Done...

    WRT AP Utility, the satellite AE should be set to Network > Network Mode = Off (Bridged), and Wireless > Network Mode to "Create a Wireless Network". Use the same SSID, password and WPA scheme that your router uses and you are set.

    It sounds like using just the TC and one AE would be sufficient, but if you find the second AE is needed, a third powerline adapter can be added to link the third Airport to the Ethernet. Some of the adapters have 2 LAN ports, if you go that route, ATV4 could use one jack, and AE the other. That eliminates wireless hiccups for the ATV and leaves more WiFi capacity for other wireless devices.

    Powerline adapter performance is generally best when both sides are on the same circuit (same circuit breaker controls the outlets), but you may find it works more than adequately when crossing circuits. Clearly, the speed will exceed your ISP service speed (I assume 30Mbps given your speed tests above).

    As for the different speedtest results, WiFi is a strange beast, a lot of factors can cause delays. Since you are splitting WiFi radios on all your units between uplink and client, and have 3 Access Points, the devices may connect\drop\reconnect to a different AP, or the demand on uplinks might be hitting from both of the satellites, or there could be intermittent interference, or your neighbors may be downloading something and are close enough to cause interference, or... you get the idea. By hardwiring the satellite(s) to the router, you eliminate a lot of the possibilities for slowing things down.

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12 December 31, 2017