PC

Aztech's mesh-ready router gives good value

Aztech's dual-band AIR-706P router can link up with other mesh-ready Aztech routers to form a distributed network of wireless nodes that will cover your entire home with Wi-Fi signals.
Aztech's dual-band AIR-706P router can link up with other mesh-ready Aztech routers to form a distributed network of wireless nodes that will cover your entire home with Wi-Fi signals. PHOTO: AZTECH

Mesh routers - or whole-home Wi-Fi systems - are all the rage now in the home networking scene because they can eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots and give you better wireless coverage.

Local tech firm Aztech, too, is jumping onto this trend. Its new dual-band AIR-706P router is dubbed "mesh-ready" and can link up with other mesh-ready Aztech routers to form a distributed network of wireless nodes to cover your entire home in Wi-Fi signals.

It is primarily a dual-band router with a theoretical aggregate throughput of 1,900Mbps.

It has four adjustable antennas that are free to rotate 360 degrees on its axis, so you can point it at where the majority of your devices are located.

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Its angular body can be wall-mounted. It has the usual configuration of four Gigabit LAN ports. It also comes with two USB 3.0 ports that can be used to share an attached printer or an external storage drive via the network. A built-in BitTorrent client means you can manage and download files from the Internet to the external storage drive using the BitTorrent protocol.

To set up the mesh network, press the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button on the main Aztech router that is connected to the Internet source - such as a fibre optical termination point - until the button's LED is blinking. Place the second router nearby and press its WPS button till its LED starts to blink too.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $269

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 4 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2, WEP

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

If the pairing process, which should take a few minutes, is successful, the LED-marked AON on the router will light up in a solid green. You can then move the second router to a location with poor Wi-Fi signals, such as a bedroom or the kitchen that is farther from the main router, to improve the wireless connection.

The AON LED is also used to indicate the status of the mesh network - a solid red light means that the link connection is weak, which probably means you need to reduce the distance between the two routers. A blinking red light, however, would indicate that the link is down.

This pairing method requires both routers to be close to each other during the set-up process. It is, thus, slightly more troublesome than others that can set up the mesh network using a mobile phone app.

The AIR-706P does come with a companion app, called the Aztech Smart Network app, which supports iOS and Android devices.

It is a very decent app with some useful features.

For instance, the Wi-Fi Connect feature can push a notification to my phone whenever a client device connects to the Aztech router, which is helpful for monitoring the network.

The Wi-Fi Radar feature checks the strength of the Wi-Fi signal for each wireless client to tell you if it is experiencing good or poor connection speeds.

However, the router's advanced featurescan be accessed only via a Web browser on a computer.

It does not have a dedicated wireless band, also known as backhaul, for communication between two routers in a mesh network. Hence, its performance at the furthest reaches of the network is not as good as others I have tested that have the backhaul feature. For instance, it managed an average download speed of 117Mbps in my bedroom, compared with 183Mbps of the Linksys Velop.

However, as a standalone router, the AIR-706P offers good download speeds, averaging 423Mbps in my wireless test. This is higher than the 300 to 400Mbps that I usually experience on other dual-band routers.

Vincent Chang

• Verdict: A good mid-range router that performs better than expected. The mesh networking feature is a bonus that improves your Wi-Fi coverage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Aztech's mesh-ready router gives good value'. Print Edition | Subscribe