After the launch of the AIR-706P “AIR-volution” router last year, Aztech follows up with the release of compatible AON Mesh nodes, WMB260(AC). In my previous review on the Aztech AON Mesh, I used 2 units of the full-size routers to test the mesh quality. Now that the smaller nodes are available, it would make more sense to expand the network with these.
These nodes support up to 1200 Mbps bandwidth with the dual band configuration – 300Mbps on 2.4GHz and 867Mbps on the 5GHz. With two mesh nodes, Aztech claims it can cover 7000 sq ft, more than any other mesh systems. These mesh nodes can also be configured as standalone access point routers, either wireless or wired.
Believe it or not, the most “eventful” part of the review is the set-up. Usually, for most routers, reviewers like myself would want the process to be as simple and fuss-free. But I couldn’t do that on the Aztech AON Mesh. The good thing is that because of the problem I encountered, I got assistance from the Aztech technical support who came to my apartment to resolve the issue. And after that episode, the mesh worked seamlessly without any technical hiccups.
The problem I encountered when I set up on my own is that the “AON Mesh” LEDs were flashing red occasionally (flashing red means no mesh connection). One of the nodes also seem to have problems broadcasting the Wi-Fi signal, causing the devices to get regular disconnections, or during connection, data could not transmit. For the first few days, the broadband quality was generally disruptive.
The other odd problem is that I cannot modify the router user name or set password when using the Aztech Smart Network App. But since it is a review, I left them at default.
Here are the right steps to ensure a successful setup:
- Connect the AIR-706P and wait for the router to be successfully connected to the Internet. Go through the SSID name and password configuration, which can be done either through the smartphone app or the web browser.
- For best results, power up the WMB260(AC) node near to the primary router, and then press the WPS button on both devices to get them to auto setup the AON Mesh. This will take about 5 minutes. Make sure the AON Mesh lights turn solid blue.
- Once turn blue, then do the same for subsequent nodes. That will take another 5 minutes.
- Turn off the nodes, move to the ideal location. Turn on, and wait for AON Mesh lights to turn solid blue. Once this happens, then the node is ready for use. Again this could take several minutes.
- For best results, the nodes should be turned on one at a time to let the primary router establish the protocols and get it work.
- It was recommended that if there is a firmware update, the devices should be reset and then set up all over again. This is to ensure the devices work optimally. (I think this is the best practice for every hardware, but who does that anyway?)
Looking at the above steps, if you have 2 mesh nodes, it would take about 30 minutes to get everything up and running.
In short, setting up the Aztech AON Mesh system is time-consuming.
But once you go through this one-time pain, everything else works no different from any multi-node systems. The 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports at the back of the nodes can be connected to other devices like desktop or webcam to deliver wired connection. The Internet connection speed is respectable at around 200Mbps, and seems to have no issue supporting my dozen devices connected to them. Through the web UI, user can configure all the usual networking configuration like port setup, DLNA, Torrent, DNS, QoS, etc.
Despite the “mesh” name, Aztech AON Mesh is based on star topology, which means all nodes talk only to the primary router. The AON Mesh can only support up to 3 nodes based on current firmware, hence this system is more suited for homes who prefer to install a traditional router as the primary base, followed by nodes to extend the coverage seamlessly. The closest router-based mesh system available is from ASUS, who uses existing consumer router models to implement the AiMesh system. In terms of cost, Aztech would be lower, while ASUS is more customisable.
The Aztech AON Mesh system is different from other mesh systems, but it has the advantage of a more conventional router configuration with 4 LAN ports and 2 USB ports on the main router. To extend the network coverage, you can either get another AIR-706P or the smaller WMB260(AC). The setup process is not user friendly for the consumers and needs to be improved to gain better adoption.
The AIR-706P retails at S$269 while the WMB260(AC) retail at S$129. Both carries a generous 3-year warranty.