Page 2: Single SSID Mesh, Range, Speed, Setup and Radios
Single SSID Mesh
Before we get into the differences between the systems, let’s talk about where they’re all the same. Every one of these offers single SSID mesh, which means you choose a single network and enter a single password, and the mesh and devices take it from there. They might move you to the 2.4GHz radio or back to 5GHz. They might move you from the access point in your living room to the one in your bedroom. You don’t have to think about any of these things because the system does it for you. What you get is great coverage everywhere in your home without having to think much about anything at all.
The range on every one of these systems that I tested has been stellar. All have outperformed even the most powerful standalone routers that I’ve (also) tested. Every setup is different, but not only has coverage been stellar indoors in the houses where I’ve tested, in some circumstances I’ve had coverage outdoors up to several hundred feet away from the closest access point. The engineering here is top notch, and will likely be better than anything you’ve ever experienced at home before.
Again, lots of variables to consider so my results are only one set of data, but speeds across all devices have been fantastic. Because you’re associating with the best access point for your location, it becomes very easy to get this right indoors. Even outdoors several hundred feet away I’ve gotten speeds of 10Mbps. Not great, but hey… I was several hundred feet away!
The setup of all three of the systems that I tested were quite simple and I was up and running within 10 minutes with each. The only hitch is that eero requires your phone be able to make a quick mobile data connection in order to begin the setup process. This means if your cable modem is in the basement or you have no cell service at your house you’ll need to keep your old router running until you get your eero setup. Both Orbi and AmpliFi employed more traditional setup procedures that involved connecting directly to the devices via the local network.
Radios and Streams
Most single access point/router solutions increase your effective speed and device concurrency by increasing the number of radios available on each device. This technology is called Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) and involves nomenclature like 2×2, 3×3 and 4×4 to describe the number of input and output radios in each device.
The thing is, even though our routers have lots of available radios and streams, most of our client devices do not. And, since none of our Apple devices support Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) yet, those extra radios on our routers aren’t simultaneously made available for other devices to connect. The router waits for one client to finish, then moves on to the next in a round-robin fashion.
Mesh addresses this problem by having multiple access points. This alleviates the need for MU-MIMO in our client devices because different devices can connect to different access points. With the mesh being an intelligent partner in the decision process, that means if you’ve got two devices streaming video at the same time, the mesh and the clients can identify this and move one device to a different access point.
- Orbi: Each unit has three separate radios. Two 2×2 radios for client access, one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz. Then there’s a third, 4×4 5GHz radio that is dedicated only to Orbi-to-Orbi backhaul. This supports MU-MIMO between the Orbis, allowing for unencumbered mesh connectivity that stays out of the way of the client devices.
- AmpliFi: The router base station has two 3×3 radios, one each for 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The regular and LR models’ mesh points each have two 2×2 radios in them whereas the HD mesh points each have two 3×3 radios for longer range and greater throughput.
- eero: Each device has two 2×2 radios, one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz. Both radios are used for mesh backhaul and client devices.
Next up: Ethernet, User Interface, and Form Factor