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Wireless Reviews

Mesh Performance

The second part of wireless testing used the open air mesh test process I've been using with all mesh products. I set one RE11S up as an access point and the other as extender. As I found with previous testing, the NETGEAR A6200 client appears to prefer to connect to the 5 GHz band and that's what it did with the RE11.

The RE11S' downlink performance was more like both Amplifi's and Luma than eero. Note I haven't retested eero yet with its new "True Mesh" firmware. You'll see those results in the upcoming Google Wifi review.

Note the Kitchen - Reconnect test does not represent a two-hop test for tht RE11S or Orbi, as it does for the other products. I forced multiple reconnects for this test to see if the client would change bands; it didn't. In each case, the NETGEAR A6200 adapter reconnected right back to 5 GHz. I don't know why Edimax throughput increased 10 Mbps on the reconnect test.

Mesh throughput summary w/ Hallway node - downlink

Mesh throughput summary w/ Hallway node - downlink

Hallway location uplink shows lower throughput for the RE11S, moving it below everything except Luma in most locations.

Mesh throughput summary w/ Hallway node - uplink

Mesh throughput summary w/ Hallway node - uplink

Previous tests show moving the hallway node to the living room improved performance and it did again for the Edimax, with downlink throughput more than doubling for most tests. However, the living room location also improved performance of the competition. eero once again stayed ahead of everything other than NETGEAR's Orbi, which blows all competitors away due to its dedicated 4x4 AC 5 GHz backhaul. The RE11 hangs out in the lower half with Luma and Amplifi.

Mesh throughput summary w/ Living Room node - downlink

Mesh throughput summary w/ Living Room node - downlink

Uplink results are similar to downlink, with the Edimax sitting between Luma and Amplifi for all tests.

Mesh throughput summary w/ Living Room node - uplink

Mesh throughput summary w/ Living Room node - uplink

Is It Mesh?

The question I'm sure you're asking is whether the RE11S really forms a mesh wireless connection. After all, it's only 130 bucks ($65 / node). If you define mesh as the ability of two wireless nodes to connect to each other without having to go through the root (Ethernet-connected) node, then, yes, the RE11S does form a mesh network. But my limited exploration found the RE11S' "mesh" is pretty rudimentary.

I tested by setting up the ASUS RT-AC66U used in the Wireless Extender test process in my office and reset both RE11Ses to factory default. I then linked the first RE11S to the ASUS using WPS and placed that node in the Living Room location. I then shut off that node, went to the Kitchen location and ran inSSIDer on my Moto X Gen 2 phone to check for signal from the ASUS router. There was no 5 GHz signal and only a very weak 2.4 GHz. To make sure the RE11S couldn't link back to the ASUS, I moved the linked Living Room node to the Kitchen. It did not connect.

I then moved the Living Room node back to the Living Room and waited for it to link to the ASUS. I then plugged in the second node, waited for it to boot, then started a WPS session on the Living Room node. Pressing the WPS button on the Kitchen node resulted in a successful link.

I repeated my tests with this two-hop configuration with the results shown below. I should note that for this series of tests, the test laptop with the same NETGEAR A6200 USB adapter connected to the 2.4 GHz band each time it roamed. I didn't need to force a reconnect in the Kitchen location, either. So the Kitchen and Kitchen - Reconnect tests both represent two-hop performance, with the test client connected to the Kitchen RE11S.

Edimax RE11S - Two node mesh throughput

Edimax RE11S - Two node mesh throughput

What's interesting here is that throughput didn't change much from the single-hop case, which produced 61 / 75 Mbps downlink and 62 / 60 Mbps uplink connected to 5 GHz.

While poking around, I found the IP address of the extender and logged in. The status display shown below revealed what looked like only the 5 GHz radio operating in extender mode, i.e. performing backhaul.

RE11S Extender mode status

RE11S Extender mode status

Edimax confirmed only one band is used for backhaul, with 5 GHz the default using WPS to link extenders. If you want 2.4 GHz to be used for backhaul, you'll need to use the setup wizard. In either case, backhaul connection does not change.

I performed two quick walk-around tests using a Moto X Gen 2 phone to see how smoothing roaming was. For the first, I started a Pandora stream and walked around the house listening for drops (there were none) and using Zoltan Pallagi's WiFi Network Analyzer Android app to monitor the connected BSSID (MAC address of the connected AP). The phone did indeed switch among RE11Ses pretty quickly. For the second test, I watched a Netflix video, which streamed without a hitch as I walked all over the house. Note my test included changing floors to move out of the RE11Ses range and to the ASUS router's.

Closing Thoughts

I have to admit I was skeptical of Edimax' claims for both "mesh" operation and smooth roaming. But both features actually do seem to work. Yes, setup can be confusing and you may lose some hair trying to use the setup wizard to set things up vs. using the WPS method. But once it's up and running, you may be surprised at what this $130 kit of smarter-than-average AC1200 class extenders can do.

eero / Luma / Orbi it ain't. But if you need to daisy-chain wireless extenders to reach a dead spot, Edimax' RE11 kit could be a (much) cheaper way to give it a go.

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