Page 4: Geekier Features, Buying Advice, and Article Changelog
Geekier Features: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, UPnP, KRACK
The features we listed in the previous sections here are generally the ones most people care about. That said, there are more than a few of us who have setups which require some of the geekier, more esoteric features of each router. We didn’t want to leave any of that out, so we’ve listed all of these features above as the subject heading here, and then in the per-device comments below we’re showing which features each of these systems supports.
- Amped ALLY: Bridge mode, Guest Network, Subnet Configuration, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. No KRACK patch as of last article update.
- eero: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, Subnet Configuration, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. No IPv6 yet, though it’s under consideration. Version 3.5.0 ads KRACK patches.
- Google Wifi: Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Bridge Mode is not supported for mesh configuration. KRACK patched with 9901.53.2.
- Linksys Velop: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. No KRACK patch as of last article update.
- Luma: Guest network, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Bridge Mode and IPv6 are not. Subnet is limited to 192.168.55.x. KRACK patch with firmware 2017.12.08-0.
- Netgear Orbi: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, UPnP, and Inbound OpenVPN Server are all supported. KRACK patch with 188.8.131.52 firmware.
- TP-Link Deco: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, DHCP reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Subnet defaults to 192.168.0.x and is not changeable by the user. KRACK Patch with 1.1.6 firmware.
- Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD: Bridge Mode, Guest Network, IPv6, Subnet Configuration, DHCP Reservations, Local DNS, Custom DNS Servers, and UPnP are all supported. Firmware v2.4.3 adds KRACK patches.
Advice: For most folks these features won’t be deal-breakers, but guest network, bridge mode (also called access point mode), and IPv6 are popular enough that it’s worth considering those before making your choice.
Mesh Wi-Fi Buying Advice
There is no one system that makes sense for every scenario. For most folks in most homes, though, it’s hard to look past the TP-Link Deco right now. At less than $250 for a 3-unit system, it performs well and TP-Link has been very aggressive at adding features with regular software updates. It’s not the fastest unit, though, so if high speed and efficiency are top-of-mind for you, it’s worth expanding your budget and looking upwards.
Both eero and Linksys Velop are worth considering, especially given eero’s new hardware that keeps the feature set and performance very high while keeping the costs down. Tri-band units are definitely more efficient, but they bring the cost up quite a bit. It’s worth noting that the Velop currently comes in one form-factor, and that’s the unit that has three radios (tri-band) and two ethernet ports. A Velop three-pack is currently $429. eero comes in a few different configurations. For $349 you get a tri-band 2nd gen eero base station and two dual-band eero Beacons that plug right into your wall outlets. To get an eero setup that’s similar to the Velop with three tri-band units currently costs $466.
The NETGEAR Orbi is worth considering, too, especially if you have a very long distance to cover between satellites. In our tests, the AC3000 Orbi with its 4×4 backhaul radio was able to reach a satellite 125-feet and two buildings away and still maintain a rock solid transfer at over 110Mbps in both directions. While the Orbi doesn’t yet support Ethernet backhaul, each unit does have 4 Ethernet ports, which can be handy if you’ve got more than one thing to plug into either your router or a satellite. [Update: OrbiOS 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 introduced Ethernet backhaul along with a torrent of reports about stability issues relating to Wi-Fi backhaul, many of which we have experienced in our test environment, too. We are suspending our testing of Orbi pending further updates.]
If you’re into the geekier details of your network, Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi HD is an option to consider. The AmpliFi iOS app currently has the most-detailed data available in terms of who is connected to your Wi-Fi network, and how. With it’s 3×3 radios, too, the AmpliFi HD has the ability to outperform some of the other systems, depending upon your specific scenario.
If Luma is truly able to add BufferBloat QoS to its system, at less than $200 for a 3-pack that will be a huge advantage. Time will tell!
Google Wifi is in an odd spot in this market. It’s one of the fastest dual-band mesh systems available, but lacks some of the important features like BufferBloat protection, Bridge Mode, and Intrusion/Malware protection. For the money, there are currently better options available.
The one question I can’t answer for you is, “which mesh Wi-Fi system is best?” I’ve personally tested every system mentioned here, and they all work very well. If you’re moving from a single router setup where you have some weak or dead spots, any one of these mesh solutions is very likely to bathe your home in Wi-Fi bliss.
I can also tell you that, price aside, the gen 2 eero is my current favorite hardware. It’s got three radios, setup is a breeze, the app provides enough detail to satisfy most of my inner geekiness, and it just works. But that may or may not fit your criteria or your budget. The point of this piece is to teach you enough to make this decision for yourself. By now you’ve probably got a feeling about which units resonate with your scenario. Pick from those and you’ll be fine.
We’ll keep this article up-to-date as new updates and features are made available, and we’ll track a changelog right here so you can see how this industry evolves, too. Mesh Wi-Fi is a fast-moving market, and we’ll help you stay as current as we can. If there’s a feature or a system you’d like to know more about, ask us in the comments below and we’ll take a look!
- December 13, 2017
- NETGEAR’s Orbi firmware v18.104.22.168 (December 5, 2017) adds Ethernet backhaul. Combined with the daisy-chain topology introduced in October, this makes Orbi a full contender in the mesh scenario, especially for folks that already have some wired points in their homes. Our ratings and preferences have not been updated yet based upon this… we need time to test, and we’re doing that now. [Update 22-Dec-2017: OrbiOS 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 introduced a torrent of reports about stability issues relating to Wi-Fi backhaul, many of which we have experienced in our test environment, too. We are suspending our testing of Orbi pending further updates.]
- Orbi’s v188.8.131.52 firmware also adds Disney’s Circle for full-featured parental controls.
- Google’s 9901.53.2 (November 29, 2017) adds the ability to edit the LAN IP address range, allowing folks to (finally) change their networks to something other than the 192.168.86.x range.
- KRACK also added to Orbi, Google Wi-Fi, Luma, Deco.
- October 18, 2017
- Updated QoS and BufferBloat Protection to clarify that eero does not currently support any such thing.
- Added KRACK to the Geekier Features list, noting patches from eero and AmpliFi. No one else…yet.
- NETGEAR’s Orbi firmware v184.108.40.206 adds “daisy-chain topology”, which means one satellite can get its connection from another satellite. Previously all satellites had to talk back to the main router, effectively limiting range (though Orbi’s range has always been stellar). This is an improvement to that, and lets Orbi check the “actual mesh” box now.