Year-End Tech Roundup: WiFi
I spent a year in Wifi Router Hell, but that's all over now thanks to some sweet prosumer gear recommended to me by a networking/IT friend of mine.
Previously the best (and easiest) wifi router I'd owned was Apple's 802.11n-class AirPort Extreme. So naturally when Apple introduced the faster (and just as easy) 802.11ac-class AirPort a couple of years ago, I upgraded.
But I got a lemon. It never did work very well, and a few months ago the wifi had degraded so much that Apple agreed to swap it out for a refurbished unit. And the refurb turned out to be another lemon. My experience flies in the face of consumer satisfaction ratings, which are highest for Apple's routers. But lemons do happen, and I was twice bitten, thrice shy.
I'd been very happy with my Synology NAS gear, and their RT1900ac wifi router got great reviews. At $149 it wasn't cheap, but it is well-reviewed and has the ability to run various media and security apps -- but you'll have to buy an SD memory card for storage.
Synology's router was easy to set up, and I may never again run a home network without their Intrusion Prevention app. You even have the ability to make custom parental controls and apply them exclusively to your kids' wireless devices. Very cool bit of kit, and Synology's browser-based front-end is simple and obvious enough for non-networking nerds like me to take full advantage of.
But it turned out that not even Synology's superior wifi strength was enough to provide the coverage we need to all three floors of our house.
So I met Matt (my networking friend) for lunch and asked him what would be good wifi gear for someone with zero tolerance for weak gear, but without much knowledge about networking.
"You want Ubiquiti," he said without a moment's hesitation. "I have three of their access points in my house and zero interference from the neighbors."
A wifi access point is just that: wireless access to the network; you still need a router to create your network. Ubiquiti makes routers, too -- but I already had one of those, even if I wasn't happy with the wifi part of it. So I made a Frankenstein creature out of Synology and Ubiquiti gear.