Tech review: Synology MR2200ac offers reliable Wi-Fi

Synology's first mesh router performs well and offers a powerful yet easy-to-use interface.
Synology's first mesh router performs well and offers a powerful yet easy-to-use interface.PHOTO: SYNOLOGY

The MR2200ac is only the third Wi-Fi router from Taiwanese firm Synology - known for its network-attached storage (NAS) devices - since 2015.

It supports mesh networking, a feature that links multiple MR2200ac units together so as to cast a wider Wi-Fi net than a single router could. A single MR2200ac router will suffice for those with smaller homes measuring 2,000 square feet or less, says Synology.

If you have Synology's previous RT2600ac router, it can be used together with the MR2200ac in a mesh network. But the RT2600ac must be the primary router that connects to the Internet modem, with additional MR2200ac units connecting to the RT2600ac.

Synology says the MR2200ac is the first WPA3-certified router in the market. WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access is a security protocol for wireless networks. A benefit of the WPA3 standard: it can mitigate the impact of weak Wi-Fi passwords by protecting against brute-force attacks. But client devices also have to support WPA3 to enjoy its benefits and there are currently few of them, seeing as WPA3 was only released last year.

The MR2200ac is designed to stand upright and cannot be mounted to the wall. The antennas are hidden inside a black and plain plastic chassis.

Its LED indicators - three lines of varying lengths that remind me of the Wi-Fi symbol - are a nice touch. Their colours vary depending on the status of the router, for instance, a solid red for an error and a solid blue when it is booting up.

It has just two Gigabit LAN ports, which is typical of a mesh router. For a MR2200ac unit designated to be the primary router, one LAN port is always connected to the Internet modem, thus leaving just one free port.

  • Specs

    Price: $199

    Ethernet Interface: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

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

    Security: WEP, WPA/WPA2/WPA3, Wi-Fi Enhanced Open (OWE)

    Advanced Firewall Features: NAT, DoS and SPI

    Ratings

    Features: 4.5/5

    Design: 3.5/5

    Performance: 4/5

    Value for money: 4/5

    Overall: 4/5

It has a USB 3.0 port to attach to an external storage device to backup data from computers in the network, or to a printer.

It has three wireless bands - two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band - with one 5GHz band used for backhaul communication with other MR2200ac units in a mesh network to improve Wi-Fi performance. A free LAN port can also be used for this purpose (wired backhaul), which frees up the wireless backhaul channel to serve client devices instead.

But this wired backhaul feature has a slight quirk. Synology says you have to add a new MR2200ac to an existing network wirelessly - it won't work with a wired LAN cable. After the unit has been successfully added to the home network, you can then swop to a wired backhaul connection.

You can set up the MR2200ac using the DS Router app (for iOS and Android) or with a computer browser. It is straightforward enough, though the MR2200ac can take a while to restart and apply the changes made during the setup process.

The app is probably less intimidating to novices, though the browser interface, which takes after a desktop operating system, is definitely more intuitive than most router user interfaces. Optional features like a VPN server can be added to the MR2200ac via an app-store-like interface.

It comes with comprehensive parental controls that let users restrict the amount of time online for each client device, as well as customise filters to block undesirable websites. A Network Protection feature is available to prevent users from accessing known malicious websites based on Google's Safe Browsing database. The router even lets you create a custom block page to inform users that they are being prevented from accessing the Internet.

I found that a pair of MR2200ac working as a mesh network offers sufficient coverage for my home. There were no Wi-Fi blind spots and the signal strength was adequate even in the farthest bedroom (with the door closed).

In my testing, the MR2200ac achieved an average download speed of 320Mbps between two laptops a few metres apart in the same room as the primary router. This dropped to 120Mbps in the bedroom.

At $199 each, creating a mesh network with multiple MR2200ac units may cost more than other mesh routers that are sold as a bundle of two or three. But neither is it the most expensive model in the market. Its user-friendly, yet powerful interface more than justifies its price.

Verdict: Synology's first mesh router performs well and offers a powerful yet easy-to-use interface.