Looking for a new mesh system: Have some questions


  • Hey guys,

    I'm based in the UK (which means many things are a massive pain to get, like Eero or Plume) but it looks like AmpliFi exists and is a very solid choice for someone looking to set up a mesh network.

    I don't know much about mesh networks, so I have a few questions:

    What's the difference between the HD and Instant?

    I've only seen the HD in the UK, but the question remains.

    Can you use ethernet backhaul?

    I don't want to wire in the entire network. I am very against doing that. But there are some awkward routes (given the weird layout of my house, which is effectively two conjoined houses), that I'd potentially want to wire through.

    If so, do you just use another router? Do they just work like that?

    Does the router work as a wireless mesh if desired?

    If you get a second router, does it have to be wired in, or can it mesh?
    It's not entirely clear and I'm stuck on my small laptop for a while and so it's hard to research this.

    I'm asking this because the routers provide Ethernet connections, whcih would allow us to attach the few products we have that don't support WiFi.

    What is the gamer's edition?

    Doesn't look like it exists in the UK, but is this mostly a marketing thing about "low latency" or is this actually an issue that exists with the non gaming version?!

    Hopefully you guys can help!

    Thanks,
    Sam


  • @sammy-gillespie ok instant has less LAN ports than the hd, hd has four LAN ports and better signal range the instant is meant as aquick setup more as plug and play device.

    The gamers edition is the same as the hd but with NVIDIA based QoS and newer design omni directional antenna mesh points, the base router is the same specs wise but with different firmware.

    The routers do have eithernet back haul when used as a mesh point, and if you get a second router the main one will the the access point and the second will function as a Mesh point, I know this because I have 3 routers 2 stand alone and one kit.

    I hope this helps, any more questions don't hesitate to ask.


  • Hi @sammy-gillespie - NB: the Gamers Edition only comes in a kit system and you cannot combine two kit systems into a single mesh network

    So for example, you cannot purchase 2 Gamers Edition kits (one for each building) and backhaul wire them together into one mesh network

    Also, if you do decide to use a kit system the router from the kit needs to be the main router for the whole mesh, so its WAN port will be connected to your ISP modem/ONT access

    You can add standalone HD/Instant routers or MeshPoint HD as additional mesh points as needed

    I personally recommend starting off simple buying a single standalone HD router and seeing how well its WiFi coverage is in the primary building

    Then you can decide how you want to add additional coverage and build up slowly from there instead of trying to force a kit to fit your environment

    But I have never used a Gamers Edition, so if those features really interest you, you can start with one of those instead


  • @derek-saville said in Looking for a new mesh system: Have some questions:

    I personally recommend starting off simple buying a single standalone HD router and seeing how well its WiFi coverage is in the primary building
    Then you can decide how you want to add additional coverage and build up slowly from there instead of trying to force a kit to fit your environment

    Derek-Saville is spot-on.

    I would say never buy a "kit", because the components are paired together which can cause problems, as I found out.

    Likewise I would go for multiple routers and ignore the MeshPoints.

    Good luck, keep us informed as to how you get on.


  • All of the previous answers are good ones. Here are some buying scenarios based on my opinions:

    1. Providing a solution for somebody with fairly slow internet who is tech-oblivious and just want their 100mbps (or slower) ISP to work? Get either an AmpliFi Instant router or an AmpliFi Instant Kit (assuming they need more coverage).
    2. Providing a solution for somebody with fairly fast internet who is tech-oblivious and just wants their 500mbps ISP to work? Get either an AmpliFi HD router or AmpliFi HD Kit (assuming they need more coverage).
    3. Want a cheaper-to-get-started-but-easily-expandable system for the future? Get an AmpliFi HD router.
    4. Want the fastest mesh setup? Buy multiple AmpliFi HD routers and use ethernet backhauls in all places possible. (Most houses can be covered very well with just 2 since ethernet allows you to place them further apart. This provides a cheaper solution than a kit with better performance!)
    5. Have a giant mansion? Buy 17 AmpliFi HD routers. Or shoot, go hire some professionals and have a full UniFi system in place. Bonus points if you mail your spare hardware to me!
    6. Competitively gaming or a big Nvidia fan? Go get that gamer's edition so you can fine-tune QoS settings (which can limit throughput in order to save a bit on latency).
    7. Want a plug-and-play system because you're not an IT person but you're wise enough to be on here asking and researching this in advance? Get an AmpliFi HD kit.
    8. Can't use ethernet backhaul but want the best mesh performance possible? Buy multiple AmpliFi HD routers. Even if you can use wireless backhaul for just one, that'll greatly improve performance!
    9. Need a "remote wired network" where you cannot run ethernet to? Buy multiple AmpliFi HD routers. (They can use wireless backhaul but can then provide 4 ethernet ports for remote equipment that doesn't support WiFi.)

    Personally, I think many people who will post on here will fall into the #3 or #4 categories (both have the same solution). I hope this helps!


  • @sammy-gillespie said in Looking for a new mesh system: Have some questions:

    What's the difference between the HD and Instant?

    Instants are a lower cost entry level router / system with lower spec's, lower performance and missing some features, such as QoS and HW NAT
    People's opinions will vary on the limit, but in general if you have a lower speed internet service plan and few client devices, they do okay
    Unless cost is a factor, I would not recommend using an Instant as your main router
    Instant Routers do work okay as additional lower cost mesh points and provide a single remote Ethernet port

    Can you use ethernet backhaul?

    Yes

    I don't want to wire in the entire network. I am very against doing that. But there are some awkward routes (given the weird layout of my house, which is effectively two conjoined houses), that I'd potentially want to wire through.
    If so, do you just use another router? Do they just work like that?

    Yes

    Does the router work as a wireless mesh if desired?

    Yes

    If you get a second router, does it have to be wired in, or can it mesh?

    It works either way - wired Ethernet backhaul or wireless backhaul
    Note however, AmpliFi does not use dedicated backhaul radios, so there is a performance drop for each wireless hop on the mesh
    Wired Ethernet backhaul works great

    What is the gamer's edition?

    An nVidia co-branded mesh system that uses the nVidia Game NOW network servers and custom firmware to help tune latency and WAN QoS

    Doesn't look like it exists in the UK, but is this mostly a marketing thing about "low latency" or is this actually an issue that exists with the non gaming version?!

    The regular HD Routers do not have WAN or Ethernet QoS - only very basic WiFi client QoS
    (Note: HD Routers prioritize LAN connections, and Instants do not have any QoS)
    Regular HD Routers also do not have any WAN side latency tuning exposed in the user interface (app or web)

    Whether there is an issue or not depends on your ISP
    For example, if you suffer from buffer bloat on your ISP connection there is no way to manually tune for that in the regular HD Routers
    You can use online testing sites to check latency to your ISP
    AmpliFi may open up more tuning options in the web UI in the future, but don't hold your breath

    If you have a good ISP connection the regular HD Router will not add significant latency in my experience
    You just can't do anything about a bad ISP connection, or manually optimize latency to your liking

    Every environment is different, so it is very hard to predict WiFi performance and make recommendations

    In my experience, two HD Routers have always provided much better coverage and performance than a mesh with one HD Router and two MeshPoint HD's
    I have also had very poor experiences with MeshPoint HD's in general
    So I fall into the "Never Buy a Kit System" camp

    The convenience factor of having mesh points automatically connect as the reason for hardware locking them to the kit routers also just doesn't hold water in my personal opinion
    If you can set up a router using the app, which is very easy, then you can just as easily add a stand alone mesh point

    Since the Gamers Edition relies on latency and QoS tuning, it must be the main router of your mesh to provide any benefit
    AmpliFi, in my opinion, is unnecessarily and artificially trying to enforce this by only offering the Gamers Edition as a system kit
    I have never used one personally, but I doubt the antenna change of the Gamer Edition MeshPoints provides any meaningful improvement over the old directional MeshPoint HD's

    If cost doesn't matter, then I would say go ahead and buy a Gamers Edition knowing you may never actually use the mesh points
    But that is a very high price for some features that AmpliFi should provide to regular HD users sans the nVidia stuff

    Otherwise, instead of potentially investing in a system kit and being disappointed in the value proposition, start with a single HD Router and build up your mesh piece-by-piece as you go

    It sounds like you want to Ethernet backhaul between two joined buildings
    In that case I would say go ahead and buy 2 HD Routers and experiment with them
    You can install the main HD Router and then use the 2nd HD Router as a wireless mesh point in your first building to see how much coverage you need

    Then move the 2nd HD Router to the other building with wired Ethernet backhaul and check the coverage
    From there you will probably have a pretty good idea of what you will need to expand your mesh, including locations where you might want additional Ethernet ports

    It is possible to over saturate your premises having too many mesh points / mesh points too close together causing interference and performance degradation
    So a lot of experimentation helps


  • @derek-saville said :

    AmpliFi does not use dedicated backhaul radios, so there is a performance drop for each wireless hop on the mesh
    Wired Ethernet backhaul works great

    Could you expand on this please?

    Is the performance drop equal across the mesh? I currently have 3 HD Routers. No 1 adjoining the modem at one end of a long house, No 2 at the other end of the house & No 3 in a building in the garden, all in a virtually straight line, but sadly no Ethernet backhaul.

    I have assumed that the performance of No 1 is unaffected by numbers 2 & 3; is this correct?

    Is the performance drop equal for numbers 2 & 3?

    Can the performance drop for numbers 1,2 & 3 be estimated?

    I'm thinking of a 4th HD router in a garage to provide WiFi coverage for cameras & an alarm system. Again because of terrain and the age of the buildings ( c. 1630 ) Wired Ethernet backhaul is almost impossible. It might be possible to connect No3 & the proposed No 4 by Ethernet, but difficult & expensive !

    NJSS


  • Hi @nigel-steward -

    Could you expand on this please?

    I’ll try...AmpliFi HD routers are single user - multi input multi output with 2 radios (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz) with 3 chains per radio

    WiFi is inherently half duplex until the new full duplex WiFi 6 standard is finalized and implemented - probably late 2019 early 2020

    What all of that means is that at any given moment in time an HD router can only communicate in one direction (send or receive) with one single client (including mesh points) with each radio (one 2.4 & one 5 GHz)

    For example, let’s say you have Main Router A and Mesh Point B connected by a 5 GHz x 3 chain backhaul

    Then your iPad connects to Mesh Point B by a 5 GHz x 2 chain WiFi connection

    The 5 GHz radio of Mesh Point B can only communicate with one device at a time in one direction

    So if you are streaming a video from the internet, Mesh Point B has to first receive data from Main Router A, then stop and send the data to your iPad client

    This effectively cuts the maximum real bandwidth in half

    Mesh Point B CANNOT receive data from the Main Router A and send it to a client simultaneously - or vice versa

    If you have wired Ethernet backhaul (or dedicated independent backhaul radios like other mesh systems) then simultaneous communication is possible

    This was a compromise AmpliFi made in order to create cool aesthetic cubes instead of the typical WiFi routers with lots of radios and antennas sticking out all around

    That’s overly simplistic, but in general, each wireless hop cuts bandwidth roughly in half because the mesh point can only do one thing at a time

    In reality a mesh point can multitask and do one thing on 2.4 GHz and one thing on 5 GHz simultaneously, but the the available bandwidth on 2.4 GHz is pretty low compared to 5 GHz

    Air time fairness also comes into play when you have a crowded WiFi environment on all of the channels, the channel widths, and the number MIMO chains, etc

    So, wired Ethernet backhaul is a huge huge benefit to an AmpliFi mesh if you can utilize it

    This is also why mesh points try very hard to connect directly with the main router, even with low signal strength, instead of other mesh points at a higher signal strength - the algorithm often determines direct communication at a lower signal strength still has higher bandwidth utilization than using the mesh point at half the bandwidth

    All of the AmpliFi secret sauce is in tuning those algorithms to make everyone happy

    The future is bright though, as full duplex WiFi 6 takes care of everything in the background and makes it all way more efficient...


  • @derek-saville said

    The future is bright though, as full duplex WiFi 6 takes care of everything in the background and makes it all way more efficient...

    Many thanks Derek

    Any ideas when we will see WiFi 6? Will this merely be a firmware upgrade, or are we looking at replacing all the hardware?

    I hope not the latter.


  • Hi @nigel-steward - WiFi 6 will require all new hardware unfortunately

    This TechSpot article WiFi 6 Explained does a much better job than I can

    Uplink MU-MIMO is what I was referring to as “full duplex”, which isn’t technically correct, and it sounds like it won’t be part of the initial hardware rollout, but implemented later


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