|At a glance|
|Product||Open Mesh Universal 802.11ac Access Point (A60) [Website]|
|Summary||3x3 AC1750 class PoE-powered cloud-managed access point. Supports Wi-Fi backhaul|
|Pros||• PoE powered|
• Supports mesh backhaul
• Cloud-based portal supports multiple sites
• Good for indoor and outdoor use
|Cons||• No local admin option|
• Iffy, inconsistent roaming in open air tests
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Technically speaking, I shouldn't be testing the OpenMesh A60 here at all—the A60 is a 3x3 access point, and this is supposed to be a 2x2 AP round-up. But while Tim got A40s, I got A60s, so I tested what I had on hand. I do not believe that the extra MIMO stream really gave the A60 any advantage with my strictly 2x2 test stations.
The A60 is a pleasant-looking slim rectangle, with an unusual yellow activity LED. Unlike the rest of the APs tested here, it's a moisture-resistant indoor/outdoor design with a floppy rubber gasket securing the cable access bay in its back. The gasket also grips one or two Ethernet cables entering from the bottom—yes, two Ethernet cables. Also unlike the other APs in the roundup, the A60 (and its smaller brother, the A40, which Tim tested) features two RJ-45 jacks, which can be a significant benefit for more loosely-managed smallbiz or home infrastructures.
That extra Ethernet jack means that you can power the A60/A40 from a central Power over Ethernet switch and extend that connection to non-powered wired devices plugged into its second jack. This might not be a big deal for fully- and well- planned sites, but it could be a lifesaver for "I found it this way" infrastructure that tends not to have enough in-wall cabling available.
The A60/A40 are also different in that they have no standalone mode whatsoever. You'll need a working internet connection to set up and manage OpenMesh access points, since they're designed specifically for management by OpenMesh's "CloudTrax" cloud controller, with no local alternative possible. Philosophically, this is a downside. If OpenMesh goes out of business or stops operating CloudTrax, all these A60s and A40s turn into paperweights unless somebody designs new standalone firmware for them. But it's potentially pretty appealing to the "don't care, I don't have to fiddle with it" set, since it Just Works without needing to set up any apps, controllers, or what have you.
The A60 did a solid, workmanlike job on 2.4 GHz. It did not take top honors here, but all four stations showed very similar response curves, and three of every four page loads completed in under 1500 ms.
OpenMesh A60's 2.4 GHz application latency curves
On 5 GHz, the A60 presents a pretty solid profile. All four stations managed sub-1500ms page loads for 19 of every 20 attempts here, with an unfortunate "knee" at 95% for Station D, which failed to load a few pages. It's interesting how frequently this pattern repeats across the various models of APs we tested, since Station D has by far the best site placement of the four.
OpenMesh A60's 5 GHz application latency curves
The A60 posted very good single-client throughput numbers. Its 2.4 GHz performance was unexciting but solid, and its 5 GHz performance was outstanding, second only to the Edimax CAP-1200.
OpenMesh A60's single-client throughput
Unlike NETGEAR's Insight cloud controller, OpenMesh's Cloudtrax is "free as in beer". There is no cost to set up a single AP at a single site... or a thousand APs at a hundred sites. However many APs you bought, you bought the rights to cloud manage them along with at no additional charge. Cloudtrax is absolutely awash with retail-friendly options, like the ability to charge for access via PayPal vouchers, log in with Facebook, etc.
It also offers a greater ability to separate clients from infrastructure than most APs, going so far as to run private DHCP servers for each SSID within the network, unless that SSID has been "bridged" to the LAN within Cloudtrax. This is where it starts to get sysadmin-unfriendly, though; you can only bridge a single SSID to the LAN, which means you're stuck with multiple private subnets whether you want them or not if you need multiple SSIDs. Worse, I couldn't even find a way to configure what private subnets are allocated. So far as I could tell, you get whatever randomly-chosen 10-dot class C it feels like deploying for whichever non-bridged SSID you're on, and that's that.
Cloudtrax, like Insight, was decidedly pokey about applying configuration changes and adopting new APs, taking as much as ten minutes before a change propagated to the APs. The firmware upgrade process—which was automatic, no intervention required—was extremely slow; it took more than half an hour before the activity LEDs stopped being an angry red and the APs showed as available within Cloudtrax. The SSIDs were available and the APs active during most of that process, though.
The actual performance tests here were done with the appropriate SSID bridged to the LAN for the duration of the test. I did a little exploratory testing of the performance of un-bridged SSIDs, and I was decidedly unimpressed—I only saw about 40 Mbps up / 60 Mbps down on the Intel AC 7265 onboard NIC when standing ten feet in clear line of sight from an access point. I'm not sure if this is a NAT issue, or traffic shaping buried somewhere in the Cloudtrax interface that I didn't find, or what.
802.11r and band steering were both marked BETA in the Cloudtrax interface and disabled by default, so I left them that way. The A60s produced iffy, inconsistent roaming. The Intel AC 7265 generally would not roam until thirty plus seconds of standing at a new site and several iperf3 runs to prod it. It did not shift to 2.4 GHz in the downstairs far corner until several extremely shaky ~10 Mbps iperf3 runs, although it hopped back to 5 GHz willingly enough when I walked back up the stairs. As I've mentioned before, interpreting roaming behavior is unfortunately as much art as science, but I'm pretty sure the Intel AC 7265 was receiving no assistance at all from the A60s.