New router and wi-fi after lightning hit

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 15, 2022, 11:07 PM | comments: 0

Last weekend's lightning hit fried the ethernet port on my router, and that makes me sad. Right before we moved into this house in late 2017, I bought a Ubiquity AmpliFi mesh router. The geeks with large houses were really excited about this particular system. It had this cool little cube of a router to plop on my desk, and two things that looked like cellular antennae that you just plugged right into the wall. at strategic locations to extend the signal everywhere. The result was pretty great wi-fi across the entire house on both floors. In retrospect, that was pretty great for a system based on the 2012 standards, and pretty much every device had no issue picking the best access point on the best band. We typically have more than 40 devices during the day talking to the network.

I still have the old TP-Link router that powered our last house, with all of its blinky lights and three antennae. It has two problem though, the first being that it obviously doesn't cover the bigger house. Our Ring doorbell, for example, is if I had to guess, at least 50 feet away with several walls in between, and it couldn't latch on. It also didn't have any magic to help devices connect to the right band, 5 GHz for speed, the 2.4 for distance. I know some people just provision each with different SSID's, but that seems silly. The machines should just figure it out.

I could buy a replacement AmpliFi without the two access points, but the best price was $180. I think the original package was $300, so I suppose that's not out of line. But there are many mesh router choices now, and most also have the new wi-fi 6 standard available, which is impractically faster, but perhaps still more robust. I settled on the TP-Link Deco X20 system. It was only $220, had mostly positive reviews, and it was certainly an upgrade.

While I preferred the way the extra access points just plugged in anywhere on the old system, the new one has the very cool advantage that every node could act as the main router, in the event that one of them dies or gets fried by lightning. The other cool thing is that it has better backhaul options, which is the link between each node. They use a separate channel from the regular channel that your devices use, in order to connect. And if you can run ethernet cable between them, and I happen to have an otherwise useless network in my house between four locations, you can use that as the backhaul. This means it would be slightly more stable and less latent for the devices on that node, which is important for Simon for gaming. We never had an issue before, but it's still pretty cool.

Overall, measuring the signal (there's an app for that), it's far better everywhere, and most of the devices connect on the 5 GHz band, likely never to use that available bandwidth. I'm pretty happy with it, and the app also has the parental controls to turn off devices at bedtime. It even tracks what domains that device hits.


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