Question Router Dying - Need Advice (WiFi 6 vs AC, SQM, and more)

lifereinspired

Junior Member
Sep 10, 2015
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Hi,

We have a Netgear X8 R8500 AC5300 router. It’s a little over 3.5 years old and starting to show signs of struggling (specifics below). I was previously thinking of waiting till fall and trying to invest in a Wi-Fi 6 (AX) router because the final specs of the new technology was supposed to be finalized/ratified by then but now I’m hearing that the new specifications won’t be ratified until sometime late in 2020. It feels a little early to be spending $400 on a router that isn’t guaranteed to work with the new spec (even if the manufactures do “guarantee” their WiFi 6 routers will work, how do you hold them to that when the return window is long since closed?). Having said that I know we have a fairly higher spec’d router and don’t really want to go backwards to something slower. And I don’t think that I can limp through with the router we have for another year or even 18 months (till WiFi 6 is ratified). I also think that I may see improvement with a router with SQM or something similar as my current internet service has a very lopsided up/down ratio (250/10). I hope to switch provider to a symmetrical gigabit but in the event that doesn’t work out, I think I need the SQM for bufferbloat. I did multiple test on DSLReports and got “D”s on the bufferbloat section.

What would you do? Would you look for a deal on a $150-200 router that you'd plan on using in 2 years? Would you try to keep rebooting/dealing with the current router? I’m not sure that’s practical or that it will make it that long. Would you take the risk on a WiFi 6 router now? I’ve heard that Netgear didn’t fully keep their promises on bringing features that were advertised but not included at launch online later but this was from online posts so I don’t have first hand info. I saw that Costco has a number of sales on routers that are possibilities - the TP-Link Archer C4000 is at $135, the Netgear X6S is $149, and their WiFi 6 AX8 is $220 (though not universally good reviews). I’m also intrigued with routers like the Asus AC88U (until the AX version will for sure have the final WF6 specs) because of the Asus-WRT interface and features (which should also give SQM), though it’s a dual not tri-band router. I’m trying to compare specs with what we have now and the processors are faster/powerful/more cores but the stated speed of the bands is slower. I don’t know how this works out in real world usage.

Here are some specific questions:
Are current AC routers like those mentioned going to perform faster or slower than what I have (given that the processor is better in the new ones but the stated speed capabilities are lower)? Our X8 is AC5300 and the others are AC3200, 4000, etc. Given the release date of our X8 router, it’s likely AC Wave 2.
Does having 3 bands actually help with speeds and stability w/a lot of devices connected being able to spread them across two 5ghz bands as compared to having just a 2.4ghz & 5ghz dual band in real world usage?
Will a WiFi 6 router have any benefits now (w/o WiFi6 clients)? I’ve read of people seeing improvements in their signal/speed of their AC devices on the new routers.
I’m seeing some mixed thing about Ubiquiti hardwear & the future development of their platform. I think it has SCM but speeds are slower than other routers. I’m wondering what you think about this too.
What routers would you be looking at, at this point? The $220 AX8? Asus or TP-Link WiFi 6 or AC? What other?

Any thoughts or advice would be super helpful. Thanks so much in advance!

Network & Other Info:
Internet: Cable Internet (Docsis 3.1 modem) 250mbps down/10 up (though we’re trying to switch to a different provider w/ symmetrical gigabit but it’s not a certainty)
Devices: Usually around 50 devices connected to the router at any given time including smartphones, tablets, computers, printer, scanner, IoT/home automaton, media server, 4K/HDR streaming media boxes, tv, voice assistants, etc. It’s much more when individual products are counted (ie we have over 30 smart lights connected to a bridge, which is then just seen as 1 device to the router. With this in mind, it’s over 100 devices, but likely less than 150).
We use wired Ethernet when possible, otherwise connected via WiFi.
We stream a lot of music, podcasts, & video (much in 4K/HDR), and often 2 streams at a time.
We do need to have access to devices from outside the network. The current X8 comes w/ one free dynamic DNS name for easy access in this situation w/o paying for a static IP.
Our apartment is a little over 800sf. Even in that small of a place w/ a router that says it will cover 5000 sf, we have no WiFi signal in the bathroom. It’s maybe 25ft from the router.
Router issues:
My iPhone won’t connect to our router most of the time while it connects immediately to other routers in the building (like Xfinity hotspot). Rebooting it sometimes works.
iPad is sluggish
Streaming video will break up and buffer
Sometimes router will just stop putting data through altogether (though the status lights continue like there isn’t any problem). Occasionally, it will be just the WiFi or the Wired data affected. This has happened multiple times while traveling for long periods which is a pain since we lose all access to our home server and can’t easily reboot/resolve.
The Nighthawk app can’t pull up any of the devices connected or complete a speedtest.
 

ch33zw1z

Lifer
Nov 4, 2004
25,434
5,217
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That's a lot of workload for a SOHO device. I would consider either some kind of mesh setup or ubiquiti for low cost enterprise solution.
 
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SamirD

Senior member
Jun 12, 2019
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www.huntsvillecarscene.com
Great detailed post. And I've got some personal experience in a similar setting that I can share.

First of all, those xfinity hotspots are the real problem. Not only do they use the airwaves, but so do the other 2 aps located in each of those devices. There's 6 ssids coming out of each one of those on 4 different antennas. Now, put a bunch of those in close proximity and your airwaves are completely jammed with traffic 24x7. We had this exact same problem in our apartment building once it filled up.

Our solution was multi-part. First, we got our own modem, a plain jane modem with no router so comcast couldn't add their noisy hotspots in our home. This helped with traffic inside our apartment since at least inside our apartment there wasn't yet another ap shouting over the airwaves. Next, we settled on an Archer c5 for wifi only--it was essentially only being used as an access point, and I had a business-class ipsec vpn router for work that handled all routing.

This set up helped with wifi performance, but was still not like the days when we had no neighbors. We were losing 100Mbps due to the noise, so I just upped the plan to the next tier as it was the quickest solution.

Now, in your scenario, you have much too much for that consumer router to handle. In large deployments like this, you really need to break it up, especially on the wifi side. Getting some of the newest ubiquiti wave 2 aps and turning off your router's wifi should eliminate any issues with the router. If that doesn't solve the routing issues, then I would suggest moving to enterprise equipment. And $400 buys routers that will do 1Gb/s symmetrical without breaking a sweat. We picked up our Watchguard M200 for under $400 in the CDW Outlet and on ebay they're even cheaper like this one for $200:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/WatchGuard-Firebox-M200-/202642287921?_trksid=p2385738.m4383.l4275.c10

The M200 is a ridiculously powerful router designed for corporations with hundreds of employees. Just check out the specs. Plus, it's designed for secure remote login, so you have real secure solutions vs consumer crap ones:
https://www.guardsite.com/Firebox-M200.asp

Our M200 handles over 100 wired devices as well as two 24x7 ipsec tunnels to two different states. It handles 2 different wan connections including load balancing and failing them over when one goes down. It handles all the dhcp as well as vlans, etc. This is a serious piece of equipment that's super overkill even for our environment as the cpu usage has never gone over 1%--and this is handling both a 500/50 connection as well as a 100/10 connection which both spike much higher on speed tests initially. I bet even if we had dual 1Gb, we would still never see the cpu over 1%--it's that efficient. Reboot times are...well...only when the power goes out long enough to drain the ups we have it on, which I think the last time that happened was about 1.5yrs ago? Yep, that's some serious uptime.

The M200 is just an example of what you can get in the enterprise world. Fortigate, Juniper, Sonicwall are just some of the names with very digestible price points when found open box or lightly used. And they get cheaper every day.

I shake my head when I see consumer routers for $100+ in stores--I can't believe consumers buy the marketing and hype for a product that is far inferior to a used $20 Fortigate. But I guess that's retail.
 
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dtaht

Junior Member
Aug 22, 2019
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One of the OP's requirements was that it also have SQM (fq_codel, rfc8290, or cake). Have you picked up on these QoS alternatives yet?
 

SamirD

Senior member
Jun 12, 2019
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www.huntsvillecarscene.com
One of the OP's requirements was that it also have SQM (fq_codel, rfc8290, or cake). Have you picked up on these QoS alternatives yet?
Yes, I saw the mention of SQM for the purpose of dealing with the asymmetrical connection which enterprise equipment deals with without drama. I've got 2 asymmetrical connections like that with 500/50 and 100/10. And I have a 400/10 at another site.

Bottom line is that no consumer anything is going to work consistently with that network load for more than a year as that's the load of a small business network, and you need proper equipment for that load.
 

dtaht

Junior Member
Aug 22, 2019
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I have no problem with using enterprise gear.

However most enterprise gear until fairly recently had very limited QoS and SQM options - some came with SFQ, others RED, few anything more advanced than that (choke, SFB, dozens of other alternatives - the new sqm stuff is built around fq-codel, or fq-pie)

So, what sort of QoS techniques are available to manage your asymmetric connections on this hardware? What are the actual results of using it? dslreports has a pretty good test, we use benchmarks like flent's rrul test for many things in the 10Mbit - 40Gbit arena.
 

SamirD

Senior member
Jun 12, 2019
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www.huntsvillecarscene.com
I don't know, but it works--my dad is streaming 4k from the Internet right now, there's 2 ipsec tunnels up and transfering data, and the isp is having some dropouts and still our M200 is solid on the dslreports speedtst (my favorite too):
 

dtaht

Junior Member
Aug 22, 2019
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6
Very good score. (the link would be interesting and show some detail). Did you have to explictly configure some sort of QoS system on this box to do this well?

Anyway, given the OP's requirements, what I'd do would be an openwrt based APU2, running sch_cake on the up and downlinks. I have these that would have multi-year uptime if it wasn't for power failures. I'd retire (because it seems to be flaky) the wifi ap (I have a very low opinion of the nighthawk - although reflashed with openwrt it can get better) and try to find something else to cover the apartment that worked - if you can handle snoopy gear with cloud based config, eero, and google are pretty good these days - as is ubnt. - but I'd have two APs in the house on the same SSID so if one was flaky the other would take over.

Presently (me being me) I use the uap-ubnt-lites or pros, reflashed with openwrt.
 

dtaht

Junior Member
Aug 22, 2019
5
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I can't remember how bufferbloated the default firmware was for the nighthawk. Some of your
symptoms sound like bloat - but with so many devices on it, I certainly would have more than
one AP in use.

https://lwn.net/Articles/705884/

QCA was pretty awful before we fixed it.
 

SamirD

Senior member
Jun 12, 2019
302
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www.huntsvillecarscene.com
I closed it already, but here's the link for another test:


I've never looked at these results before in detail. The 'proxy' that it's mentioning in the details is actually the IP for the second wan. Interesting that some multi-wan is working at all times even though we have the 500/50 set up as primary.

Nope, no fooling with anything QoS. In fact, all we did was configure the lan, both wans, our ipsec tunnels and that's it.

I think it's important that the router route, and be solid at it as well--that would solve a lot of the issues imo. And then a pair of the ubiquities with the cloud manager running somewhere so they will tune in real-time should make a huge difference. And if it's too slow on wifi, just bump up the Internet plan to the next level like we did.
 

dtaht

Junior Member
Aug 22, 2019
5
0
6
I used to be a big believer in web proxies, they made the sharing experience for web traffic much better - as the router controlled the tcp connections - and it seems likely you have one being installed automatically by (perhaps) a "wpad" advertisement from this box.

You can tell your browser to NOT use a proxy to get a better test of what's actually going on.

But certainly proxy access - particularly over wifi - was always a better web experience - prior to
quic.
 

SamirD

Senior member
Jun 12, 2019
302
28
51
www.huntsvillecarscene.com
I don't have any type of proxy installed anywhere that I know of, and I just ran the tests again on another computer with a different os and two different browsers:



What's interesting is that one of the tests again mentioned a proxy while the other did not.
 

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