Synology recently introduced a range of routers capable of installing a mesh Wi-Fi network. Are they as successful as its famous NAS? Answer in this test.
Test performed with routers lent by Synology, with SRM 1.2.1-7779 Update 1
Two years ago, Google launched Google Wifi in France, with which it popularized a new category of Wi-Fi products: successful and reliable Wi-Fi routers / hotspots, easily bridging gaps in data points. integrated access to the "boxes" of our internet service providers.
Other brands have since developed competing solutions. This is the case for most network equipment manufacturers: Netgear, for example, offers the Orbi range, Linksys the Velop range and TP-Link the Deco range.
Some more specialized brands have seized the bargain. This is the case of Ubiquiti, which was previously dedicated to the company, but which opened to the general public with the AmpliFi range. And this is also the case of Synology, NAS specialist who has diversified and launched a range of Wi-Fi routers, which we are interested in this test.
At the antipodes of Google Wifi
After having tested Google Wifi, which we considered efficient, but so simple that it became complex, we are testing here two products opposite the spectrum, the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac, successors of a RT1900ac launched in 2015. The routers Wi-Fi from Synology are indeed ultra-versatile products, with multiple personalities, which are equally suitable for laypeople, who will install them in a few steps via the mobile application, as well as nerds, who will tinker with a custom-made multifunctional installation.
We offer a two-in-one test because Synology's two routers are based on the same software and share almost all of their functionality. The Synology Router Manager (SRM) is derived from the DiskStation Manager (DSM) that has made Synology's reputation in the NAS market. The administration interface is thus in the form of a desktop, and these routers fulfill some of the essential functions of a storage server.
RT2600ac and MR2200ac: what are the differences?
Although the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac are based on the same software, they have some differences in design, connectivity, performance, and functionality.
Launched in late 2016 to replace the RT1900ac, the RT2600ac is a high-end, imposing router with an SD slot, 2 USB ports, 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 4 external antennas. Using 802.11ac Wave 2 (renamed Wi-Fi 5) and MU-MIMO 4 × 4 technologies, it offers compatible devices a theoretical bandwidth of 800 Mb / s in the 2.4 GHz and 1733 Mb / s bandwidths. that of 5 GHz, ie a cumulative bandwidth of 2533 Mb / s.
The MR2200ac (MR for Mesh Router) inaugurates as its name suggests a new series for making a mesh Wi-Fi network consisting of multiple access points. This model launched late 2018 is more compact, more discreet with its internal antennas, and cheaper unit, so less powerful. This model uses the 802.11ac Wave 2 and the MU-MIMO 2 × 2 on three bands. It accumulates 2133 Mb / s, with 400 Mb / s over that of 2.4 GHz, 867 Mb / s on a first band 5 GHz and 867 Mb / s additional on a second band 5 GHz. What maintain fairly good speeds with multiple access points cascading. It only has two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single USB 3.0 port.
One or more MR2200acs may extend the coverage of a primary MR2200ac or RT2600ac, but an RT2600ac can not extend the coverage of an MR2200ac.
Easy getting started with the mobile application
Although Synology routers are much more complete than Google Wifi, they are not more complex to get started. We connect his or her access points to the power, we connect one of them (the "principal") to the box of his ISP with the Ethernet cable provided. Then you can use the DS Router mobile app, available on the App Store or the Google Play Store. In a few steps, you configure your administrator account, your Wi-Fi network, add any additional access points and configure external access if you want by creating a QuickConnect identifier. The procedure is within the reach of the first comer and the network is operational in a few minutes.
Note: Adding additional access points is mandatory on Wi-Fi, but can be connected to the router via Ethernet. What to remove access points, reduce the overlap of their signals, and therefore cover larger areas at lower cost.
Therefore, the DS Router application offers the essential functions. It displays an overview of the network, with the cumulative internet bandwidth, it lists the connected devices, with their bandwidths and their rates, and allows to prioritize them or otherwise to clamp or block them. It allows you to activate the guest Wi-Fi network (isolated from the main network), to modify the main Wi-Fi network settings as well as the Safe Access function, on which we return further.
A complete and well-executed administration interface
If the mobile application will be enough for beginners, technophiles will turn to the administration interface, accessible from a computer at https://router.synology.com, to access many additional options and features.
Inspired by the DiskStation Manager, the Synology Router Manager offers in a web browser a familiar interface inspired by a real operating system, with its desktop, its menu of applications, its notification center and its windows.
It includes the "Network Center", with which we manage the access to the Internet and the router functions. This is where we manage the firewall, transmit ports, set IP addresses, prioritize or fix the IP addresses of some devices. This is also where we switch to sharing 3G or 4G connection of an iPhone or Android smartphone connected by USB, in case of failure of its main connection.
This is, finally, that we access some advanced settings (MAC address spoofing, DHCP client options) that allow the more adventurous to replace the box of their ISP by Synology router, often at the cost of the functions of TV and ISP phone. Otherwise, you can switch from Wireless Router to Wireless Access Point operating mode, without giving up any other function than that of a router, contrary to what Google Wifi requires. This avoids the Synology router to use a separate subnet from the box and the devices that would be connected to it in Ethernet (starting with the TV decoder).
It's all the local network or nothing
The application "Wi-Fi Connect" as it relates to its name indicates the Wi-Fi settings. It sets and it activates including the guest network. Unfortunately, unlike Google Wifi, SRM does not allow guests to access only certain devices, such as a TV or connected speaker. It's all the local network or nothing. It is also in this application that we can activate the new standard WPA3, more secure, as soon as the first Wi-Fi clients will be compatible. And it is in this application that users with only one RT2600ac can enable a 160 MHz channel width in the 5 GHz band, achieving the theoretical bandwidth of 1.7 Gb / s with compatible devices.
Advanced security features
Launched with SRM 1.2 at the Synology 2019 conference, the new flagship application of SRM is "Safe Access", which promises as its name suggests to secure the network. Using Google Safe Browsing and a home database, the application inspects Internet-derived (DPI) packages to block intrusions, unsafe websites, phishing, or "viruses."
It also offers advanced "parental control" features. You can create user profiles, associate devices with them, and schedule periods of authorized Internet access or set a time quota. Rarely, we can also filter the connections to certain sites or categories of sites (advertising, adult, hacking, social networks, shopping …). Parents or bosses are notified if attempts are made, and then children or stranded employees can apply for waivers.
Unfortunately, when the router blocks access to a secure website (HTTPS), which is most sites, the access request page has the wrong TLS certificate and the wrong IP address. It is therefore necessary to accept the false certificate to make his request, then reset the DNS cache, complex manipulations and which often require administrative rights on the computer. Above all, victims of "censorship" will only have to cut Wi-Fi and switch to 4G to bypass filtering.
Users with only one RT2600ac can also install the "Threat Prevention" app, a complementary security solution that blocks malicious packets for both user devices and connected devices. Unfortunately, you have to be very experienced in analyzing dozens of daily events. The MR2200ac is not compatible with this application.
Wi-Fi as fast as Gigabit Ethernet
Most modern mobile devices offer a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 867 Mb / s. In practice, with iperf3 to and from a local server, our iPad Pro 10.5 "and iPhone XR have achieved speeds of about 500 Mb / s. s in the immediate vicinity of the RT2600ac or the MR2200ac.
With the beamforming, which focuses the waves, the rates are maintained at around 250 Mb / s at the four corners of a 50 square meter apartment. That's at least 10 times the bitrate needed for any streaming service, and what to quickly back up your photos and videos to iCloud or Google Photos, or quickly sync movies or music for offline viewing, if we are lucky to have an internet connection at the height.
In Wi-Fi mesh, devices lose only 100 Mb / s when connected to a satellite MR2200ac, connected to the main Wi-Fi access point through a partition.
To test the RT2600ac's 1.7Gb / s Wi-Fi, we borrowed a Dell Precision 5530 from its manufacturer. This state-of-the-art notebook features an Intel Wireless-AC 9560 chipset, one of the only chips that supports 160 MHz bandwidth. It should be noted that the speed test server is connected to the local network in Gigabit Ethernet and that the theoretical maximum flow rate is therefore limited to 1000 Mb / s.
As fast as Ethernet
In the immediate vicinity of the router, the computer negotiates a link to 1.7 Gb / s, and our iperf3 test obtains data rates of about 950 Mb / s, equivalent to those obtained in … Gigabit Ethernet! And we transfer files to 100 MB / s (800 Mb / s) via the SMB protocol to a NAS, as fast as Ethernet. Separated by two partitions, the flow is maintained at about 500 Mb / s.
Finally, we measured the influence of traffic control functions on flow rates. On the RT2600ac, which supports hardware acceleration of the OSI model's high layers, neither traffic control, nor Safe Access, nor Threat Prevention have any influence on the bit rates. We take full advantage of a FTTH connection at 1 Gb / s with all these functions enabled. On the other hand, on the MR2200ac, the activation of the traffic control or Safe Access limits the connection to the internet to around 350 Mb / s.
The functions of a NAS first prize
In addition to its Wi-Fi router and access point features, the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac fulfill some of the basic functions of a NAS.
They mainly offer file server functions. You can insert a memory card into the SD slot (mounted upside down) or connect a storage medium to the USB 3.0 port (also upside down), which opens up many perspectives. Files can be transferred from the local network via SMB 3 or AFP protocols, and from the internet via an internet browser or the DS File mobile application. You can also automatically synchronize folders, like Dropbox and others, via the Cloud Station Drive home application. And you can back up your computers via the Cloud Station Backup application or via Time Machine.
If the bit rates, of the order of 20 MB / s (160 Mb / s), are unworthy with an SD card capable of 10 times better, they are honorable with a SSD connected USB 3.0: 90 MB / s read 60 MB / s write.
Finally, SRM offers some additional applications in a "Package Center". There is a media server (DLNA) for streaming video, music or photos to compatible devices. There is also a "VPN Plus Server" package, allowing you to connect remotely to your local network, via an internet browser (WebVPN home function), or via the OpenVPN or L2TP / IPSec protocols (but not via the young and awesome WireGuard). Finally, there is a "Download Station" package, a BitTorrent client, which only downloads at 4 to 8 MB / s a torrent downloaded at 30 MB / s with the same application by a real Synology NAS.
Compared to a Synology NAS popular like the DS218 +, equipped with an Intel Celeron J3355 x86 processor and 2 GB of RAM, Synology routers are significantly less efficient. The RT2600ac is based on a four-core ARM Qualcomm IPQ8065 SoC, including two Qualcomm Krait 300 cores, the 2013 Snapdragon 600 cores, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and embeds 512 MB of DDR3L RAM. The MR2200ac is satisfied with a Qualcomm IPQ4019 four cores ARM Cortex-A7, also dating from 2013, clocked at 717 MHz, and 256 MB of memory DDR3L.
This explains why the administration interface sometimes takes several seconds to validate an action, and that the catalog of applications is so limited … But it is necessary that Synology sell NAS!
The Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac are excellent Wi-Fi routers, powerful and above all versatile. The RT2600ac will delight the techies, to whom it will offer excellent Wi-Fi speeds, which can match in optimal conditions those of a Gigabit Ethernet link. Unless we already had it, we advise against associating it with one or more MR2200ac: it would reduce its performance, not its size! The MR2200ac is recommended for those who need multiple access points to properly cover large areas. And for beginners, because their access point mode of operation actually makes them more convenient than Google Wifi. The main regret is that their SoCs are so old and slow, which excessively limits their abilities as alternatives to a real SIN.
Quality of manufacture
Petty SoC Choices
RT2600ac SD Player Performance
Size of the RT2600ac