The Synology MR2200AC Mesh tri-band router has a difficult task ahead. Convincing me that tri-band mesh delivers enough bandwidth to cover a typical Australian home. Or to put it positively what is it best at?
Perhaps it was my disappointment with the coverage area and speed of dual-band mesh routers like the NETGEAR Orbi, Google Router and D-Link
Mesh 101 – or why it is hard to convince me of the value of mesh in a typical Aussie, 3-4 bed, single or dual level home.
Wi-Fi signals transmit in a circular ‘dinner plate’ coverage with the signal strongest at the centre where the main router is. It gets weaker as it moves out to the edges (5GHz/2.4GHz line-of-sight is 30-100m, but in a home, it is typically 10-30m).
Mesh needs to overlap those dinner plates to get a strong enough signal to retransmit. Placing a mesh repeater at the edge of a dinner plate only lets it transmit the weakest signal. Mesh cannot turn a bad signal into a good one! We usually find that a mesh slave needs to be no further than 7-10 metres from a master router.
The term ‘mesh’ only relates to routing – communication with the main router. Each slave unit handles retransmission of whatever signal it can get over 2.4GHz, and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands then send it back to the main router via the backchannel.
Dual-band mesh equates to a two-way road. If an ambulance needs to get through you all pull over to the sides and stop! If heavy users want bandwidth for streaming or games, these are not up to the task.
Tri-band mesh is a two-way road with a service lane so if even if there is congestion on the two-lanes things can go around and get through.
Router placement is key to performance
There is no substitute for the correct placement of the router. Unfortunately, most routers hide away in the wrong places like utility cupboards, under stairs etc. If the main router is in the wrong location mesh will not improve it.
The main router (Mesh or not) must be at the nexus where most smart devices are – not where your NBN (or steam-driven ADSL) connection terminates in the house. If the two locations do not correspond, get a sparky to lay an Ethernet cable between the two and place the main router where it must be! I repeat, this is inalienable and just finding the right position will fix 90% of all issues.
So, the main router needs to be within a few metres of most of your PCs, smart TV/Blu-ray/Set-top-box/soundbar/and smart home hub. Most of these devices must connect via a full-duplex Ethernet Switch/hub to the router LAN port leaving Wi-Fi clear for portable devices like smartphones, smart speakers, lights, IoT, laptops and tablets.
The right router for the job
If you have a small one-bed apartment and perhaps ten Wi-Fi or Ethernet devices then you can get away with AC2200 and a small routers processing power.
If you have more devices or a larger area to cover then moving to AC3200 to AC5600 (currently the fastest) with lots of processing power and multiple antennae makes sense. But, you still have the limitations of the dinner plate transmit area 10-30metres.
The best whole of home Wi-Fi coverage (in my opinion) is the fastest AC5300 router (more like a V8 supercar) as a base station and range extenders (or access points) using Ethernet cable or Ethernet over Power Powerline Adaptors.
Why the lecture on Mesh 101?
Because I have yet to see a mesh router perform over the coverage area claimed.
And, don’t forget the internet. It is the router’s job to share that precious resource among all users and devices.
NBN speeds are 12/2, 25/15, 50/30 and 100/60Mbps (theoretical download/upload off-peak speeds – 100Mbps = 12.5MBps). Netflix state an HD stream uses about 5Mbps and a 4K uses about 25Mbps. Music is less – from 96-320kbps – 43-144MB per hour.
But, to be very fair there is a lot of load balancing, time slicing, packetizing, and magic going on to give the routers the best possible speeds under all loads.
Review: Synology MR2200AC router
What is it?
An AC2200 tri-band router with 2.4GH (400Mbps) and 2x 5GHz (867+867Mbps) in router mode. It does not have an A/VDSL modem – just a WAN port.
It uses a Qualcomm IPQ4019,
Synology also touts its SRM (Synology Router Management 1.2) software with optional packages like VPN server, DNS server, security and a parental control Safe Access package. SRM uses Linux, and it is easy to use.
Given our experience with routers, we would say its fine for a typical 60-80m2 one-bedroom apartment with ten or so Wi-Fi/Ethernet devices. To use a motoring analogy, it is a four-cylinder car so don’t try and tow a caravan.
But, you can add extra Synology MR2200AC routers and use one of the 5GHz bands as a mesh backchannel between them. This can extend the range and offer some internet access. Extra routers use the same SSID and password for seamless roaming
You can also use two or more of these to mesh with a more powerful Synology RT2600AC router (more like a six-cylinder car). It has 4x Ethernet Ports, Dual WAN Ports, eight antennae, bandwidth aggregation and HT160 support – think of it as about half the speed of an AC5300 router but able to do so much more than the MR2200AC router.
Synology MR2200AC coverage
Synology MR2200AC claims coverage of 185m2 which is a circular area of about 13.6 x 13.6 metres. While Synology is not lying the practicality is that
- Few homes are dinner plate-shaped! Our experience is 60-80m2 over one level.
- Wi-Fi strength reduces over distance and also by around 50% (of what it was) each time it goes through a wall, window, cupboard, plant/flowers, and other obstructions.
- Wi-Fi is half-duplex, so the maximum one-way speed is half the MBps
- Each smart device has an antenna ‘gain’ dBi measurement. Portable devices have lower gain so even though they may be within the range of a signal they may not have the power to receive or transmit in return
- Finally, every device on a Wi-Fi band shares the same bandwidth pool. If you have a lot of active devices you may only get a trickle (usually time/packet slicing), hence my recommendation for using the Ethernet LAN for everything you can.
Next are the satellite routers.
As they are the same Synology MR2200AC, they cover 185m2 – in theory a total of 370m2. The reality is that they need a strong overlapping signal to get an effective backchannel. In our tests we found 7-10 metres away gave three/two band signal strength respectively. What that means is effective non-overlapping square metre coverage is around 160-250m2.
- But, if using a Gigabit Ethernet cable or Powerline they start with 1000Mbps full-duplex backchannel (both ways) each to share. It also removes the issue of placement.
- If using he Tri-band Wi-Fi 5GHz backchannel they have a maximum of 866Mbps to share but remember that Wi-Fi is half-duplex so its 433Mbps maximum
- The reality is that device speeds are no more than the backchannel can achieve at that location. If the satellite is 20m away (equal to three rooms away and one band signal), it may only get 50-100Mbps half-duplex.
- If you have two or three satellites, each gets half or a third of that total bandwidth again. To be fair, this only becomes an issue if there is a bandwidth hog on a satellite like streaming video or games – never rely on satellites for use in media rooms!
- Download the Synology DS Router app for iOS or Android (you can also access the web-interface 192.168.1.1 via a browser)
- Plug in the main router to the NBN or ADSL Gateway using an Ethernet cable between Gateway LAN and Synology WAN port.
- Power up the Synology
- The app walks you through setting up an Admin login and password as well as a Wi-Fi login.
- After a few minutes, the Three bar indicator goes green, and you are good to go.
- The main router has two Ethernet Ports – WAN and LAN for connection to other Ethernet devices like a multi-port hub or switch.
The satellite is just another MR2200AC router set to Access Point mode. Top points to Synology for that – it makes sense to have all that CPU power even if it is a little costlier than a dumb access point.
- Load the app
- Look for
- The rest is automatic
- After the three green bars appear you can power it down and move it to where you think it needs to be. You can also replace the Wi-Fi backchannel with an Ethernet Cable (either directly or using PowerLine adaptors) for a faster full-duplex backchannel.
Using our D-Link DLR-895 AC5300 reference router and a Samsung Galaxy Note9 with a high gain antenna capable of HT160 speeds (over the 5Gbps, 866Gbps limit)
|Distance/link speed||D-Link AC5300||Synology MR220AC Main router||Synology Satellite using Tri-band backchannel (2 bar strength)|
|1 metre||1.275Gbps solid (5GHz)||750-866Mbps||750-780Mbps* (5GHz)|
|10 metres line of sight||580-750Mbps (5GHz)||340-480Mbps||225-275Mbps* (5GHz)|
|10 metres (two rooms away)||170-340Mbps (occasional 2.4GHz)||68-117Mbps||34-70Mbps* (2.4Ghz)|
* Our analytics software show the satellite connecting at 340Mbps to the main router. So, real upload/download link speeds are at best half those shown. This can be misleading – you think you have 866Mbps. When using AV2 2000 Gigabit Ethernet Powerline the backchannel was more than 800Mbps full-duplex.
The satellites need to be within 7-10 metres line-of-site of the master to get reasonable backchannel speeds.
For example, in the middle of a home with satellites up and down a hallway. We could not test daisy chaining, e.g. Master to Satellite to Satellite as we only had two units but remember it will only be as effective as the backchannel bandwidth to the Master.
Under all other circumstances use Ethernet and Powerline adaptors to connect satellites. We say that because while the MR2200AC are more powerful than the typical master/slave mesh combo and offer better upload/download speeds, they still need a good backchannel.
And, the winner
It is not fair to expect any AC2200 mesh router with 2×2 internal antenna to match up to a powerhouse AC5300 (1000+2167+2167Mbps) with a 1.4GHz processor, eight external antennae and HT160 band aggregation.
Still, in our home the AC5300 does have black spots and Mesh will get some signal, even if it is a slower 2.4Ghz one, into those spots.
The Synology MR2200AC tri-band delivers significantly more power than the dual-band reviews.
GadgetGuy’s take: Synology MR2200AC
While I am yet to be convinced about ‘mesh over might’ the Synology works well, the app is good and in the right place would deliver a signal (any signal is better than none) further than a stand-alone AC 5300 router. From what I read it delivers more power than the master/slave combos some other brands sell.
Would I buy it?
If I were a single or dual level apartment or townhouse, had no more typical ten connected devices and could not install Ethernet cables then yes – it makes sense!
With due respect to Synology however, it will not work for me as I have 30+ devices in my home network and the D-Link AC5300 has the horsepower to handle that.
Just as Synology can get two or more standard routers working in a mesh, I suspect we will see a lot more whole-of-home solutions using the IEEE 802.11s mesh standard.
And, do not forget that Wi-Fi 6 (AX) is coming with speeds of 6000 to 11000. Sure, this will be costly, but they have the power to support ever-growing networks.
So in the right place, it’s a winner. And, don’t forget if you can use Ethernet to connect them it offers AC2200 experience off each router.
We rate it as an AC2200 router under perfect mesh conditions.
Price Synology MR2200AC
Synology sells via local computer stores. Expect to pay around $220 each or a little less per unit in a multi-bundle.