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Wireless Router

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Networking – Wireless Mesh Routers

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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Call it what you may – Mesh Routers, Whole Home Wi-Fi System or Distributed Wireless System – Wi-Fi hardware has undergone quite the colossal shift. Most brands have come out with their own specialised mesh routers while some simply upgraded the firmware on older routers to support meshing. With more folks going in for more than one Wi-Fi router, it was natural for the mesh routers to enter the consumer market.

Mesh networking has been a common phenomenon since the time IEEE 802.11-1999 standard came into being. Routers, back then, had it as an option called Wireless Distribution System (WDS) and the standard wasn’t all-encompassing or complete in any way. This led to incompatibility between devices from multiple manufacturers.

All of that is now in the past and Mesh Routers are here to stay simply because they solve a major problem that many face with the increase in Wi-Fi devices and subsequently, the interference caused by high-density of the same. We saw some interesting Mesh Routers this year. Almost all of them take great effort is not looking like routers. That’s a story for another day, let’s see the best that this year has for us in this particular category.

2018 Zero1 award Winner: Netgear Orbi

The Netgear Orbi isn’t a small device at any means. Compared to some of the other mesh routers we saw this year, the Orbi takes up a lot of real estate and stands tall as well. This gives it a very commanding presence in your living room, something that most customers don’t seem to prefer. Also, the Orbi had a rough start with not-so-great performance over short distances but as we kept increasing the separation, the Orbi showed its prowess in maintaining a strong link.

It’s also one of the few systems to be available in a multitude of variations. Most manufacturers have one or two SKUs but Netgear has multiple combinations to suit a myriad of use cases. Since performance over distance is why this particular category even exists, the Netgear Orbi shone through as the best that we’ve seen this year. It definitely deserves the Zero1 award for the best Mesh Router in 2018.

Runner-up: Linksys Velop

While the Orbi works its magic over longer distances, the Linksys Velop remains consistent across distances but is exceedingly good over short distances. Since we prioritised the performance at larger distances over shorter distances, the Velop lost out to the Orbi. Nevertheless, the Velop also offers multiple SKUs for consumers and is more versatile.

By that, we mean that each node can act as the router connected to the backhaul. You don’t have to get a specific SKU just for the primary node or as secondaries. Any node can play any role. The Linksys Velop comes in as a runner-up in this category.

Best Buy: D-Link Covr

The D-Link Covr take up little real estate and do pack quite the punch. They’re dual-band devices so they are at a disadvantage from that perspective. However, two bands are more than enough for most households. Only extremely congested areas would require the additional band. The per-hub-cost for the D-Link Covr was the lowest among all the units we received. Thus, making it the Best Buy for this year’s Zero1 Awards.

Wireless Router

Zero1 Awards 2017 – Networking – Wireless Routers

December 13, 2017 — by Digit0

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We first saw AC5300 routers back in 2015 when the high-speed protocol was introduced and made their way into India. The sad thing is, not much has changed since then. Those brands which brought the flagship units for sale in India were met with dismal reception and we’ve hardly seen any new units since then. However, that did not stop manufacturers of other products from incorporating the newer 802.11ad technology. We’ve seen motherboards such as the ASUS Prime X299-DELUXE which came with an onboard Wireless AD solution sporting speeds of up to 4600 Mbits. Enthusiasts and early adopters who go for such products will have to get 802.11ad routers sans official Indian support. So we’re looking at a stagnant market where brands are hardly any brands are bringing in the newer and shinier stuff. On the other hand, we’re seeing more brands introducing mesh routers. These generally have multiple units which are to be strategically placed around the premises to eliminate any and all dead spots. Let’s take a look at this year’s Zero1 Winner.

2017 Zero1 award Winner: ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300

ROG Rapture GT-AC5300

Being the only brand with an AC5300 product that was released this year, ASUS ends up with the Zero1 Award. It’s still based on the Broadcom BCM4366 chip that was released a couple of years ago but there have been hardware revisions since then that have helped it improve performance. This chip in particular is the newer BCM4366E. Moreover, ASUS has switched to the BCM4908 for the CPU on the GT-AC5300 along with double the RAM and flash storage. Another feature that stands out is that this router packs in eight RJ45 ports which is a first time for us. If you are curious about the ROG branding, then you need not look further than the UI. The router UI has QoS settings placed under the Game Boost tab, and there’s a neat feature which has a ping list of popular multiplayer titles along with the different server locations. We didn’t find an option to add more entries to this table which was kind of a bummer. Essentially, it’s an improved RT-AC5300 with a swanky UI and newer hardware. Oh, and don’t forget the eight LAN ports.

Runner up: Linksys EA7500

Linksys has been one of the more expensive brands since the time they were a Cisco subsidiary. The quality of components used by them has been more or less top-notch with a build quality that puts most of the competition to shame. The Indian SKUs that were launched earlier this year, however, ship with Mediatek SoCs and not Broadcom SoCs, so that’s a major difference as compared to the international SKUs. However, it’s still one of the best AC1900 routers we’ve tested this year. Unfortunately, most AC1900 routers we checked out were released in India last year and don’t qualify for this year’s Zero1 Awards.

Best Buy: Xiaomi Mi 3C

Leave it to Xiaomi to bring hardware and software features of higher-end devices into the entry-level segment. Everything from the polished UI which is based off of OpenWRT, the inclusion of four antennae, remote control app and a great build make the Mi 3C a really good router. Especially when one is getting all of these for a measly price of `1,199. Unfortunately, it’s the only SKU from Xiaomi that’s selling in India, they could easily make a killing if they introduced the dual-band router in India as well.

Wireless Router

Wireless Routers

December 17, 2015 — by Digit

Separated by slivers, that’s the performance difference between networking contenders this year

We only have AC3200 routers this time since AC5300 routers are still undergoing certification for sale in India. Routers with 5.3 Gbps of bandwidth might seem overkill but when you consider that mobile devices are increasingly adopting Full HD / 2K screens then a household with multiple such devices will definitely require plenty of bandwidth for a seamless experience.

Zero1 Winner: D-Link DIR-890L (500)

D-Link’s crab-like DIR-890L turned out to be quite the attention grabber. For starters, it comes with multiple colour choices with one SKU sporting a striking red shade. The router makes use of three bands, one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz bands, to provide the massice 3200 Mbps bandwidth. What’s irksome about this router and every other AC3200 router on the market is that they all lack ADSL modems. The DIR-890L does feature some other neat technologies, though, like Smart Connect feature ensures that 802.11 devices with similar protocols end up on the same band so that the entire network’s quality isn’t compromised if a device with an older 802.11 protocol were to connect to the network.
Routing performance is quite good with each uplink and downlink handling around 200 Mbps on the 5 GHz band on an average. Even WAN to LAN speeds are quite high with speeds reaching nearly 800 Mbps. The D-Link DIR-890L edges past the competition by a narrow margin, after all the flagships are all powered by the same Broadcom SoC.
Price: Rs. 17,875

Runner-ups: NETGEAR R8000 and ASUS RT-AC3200

Netgear’s Nighthawk X6 and ASUS’ RT-AC3200 could all share the first prize with the D-Link 890L if you run the same set of benchmarks over and over because they’d average out. That’s how low the difference is between all three routers. And Zero1 is all about performance and by a stroke of luck these three ended up getting scores quite close to each other with the D-Link scoring the most. So if we were to look at other aspects then ASUS’ UI is more suited for an enthusiast since they make all those options easily accessible while the D-Link and Netgear routers have simplified their UI for the common man. Build quality is not a problem since brands rarely sacrifice on this aspect on their flagships.
Netgear’s Nighthawk X6 Price: Rs. 14,990 | ASUS’ RT-AC3200 Price Rs. 24,470

Best Buy : TP-Link Archer C20

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the majority of the internet consumer base in India happen to use ADSL and currently, AC1900 routers seem to be at the sweet spot when it comes to a balance between bandwidth, feature set and cost. But they still end up costing a bomb with the most economical AC1900 router costing somewhere around 12K, so you have to scale down till you end up with the TP-Link Archer C20. It is one of the few AC750 routers out there that costs next to nothing.
You will have to get another ADSL model to make it work on ADSL connections or you can wait out till the Archer D20 / D5 / D2 becomes available since they’ll be incorporating ADSL modems. ADSL modems are generally more expensive compared to their non-ADSL counterparts so getting two modems like we just mentioned is the economical way out. It might end up costing you more in the long run since you’ll have two devices consuming the same amount of power instead of one. The C20 is cheap and even has two external antennae, a luxury when it comes to cheap routers.
Price: Rs. 2,270