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Professional Wireless AC Access Points
Professional Wireless AC Access Points
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A friend turned me on to this MD and being an RF engineer professionally I wanted to offer some of my insight to some of the models I'm familiar with so people know what's what (if I don't list it, I'm not familiar enough on the product to comment). To my knowledge, all APs currently on this list are 802.3af PoE compliant with the exception of Ubiquiti, which is Passive only.
First, I wanted to comment on the Ruckus R710 specifically as it is currently the only Wave2 802.11ac AP on this list. This AP has all the features of Wave2, such as MU-MIMO, and an increased theoretical throughput of 2.34Gbps at 160MHz channel-width (remember to be a good RF neighbor!). Honestly, this AP is a beast - and the price reflects that. I would say, despite the Wave2 advantages, that this AP is massively overkill for a residential application.
On to vendors:
Ruckus APs can be deployed in either standalone, or controller-based. You lose a lot of enterprise-grade features (like meshing) with the absence of the controller, but you will get a lot of the RF advantages that Ruckus is known for. A standalone AP will offer up to 16 SSIDs, supports vlans, and auto-channel selection.
Ubiquiti UniFi APs require a controller for configuration, which is actually free software, obtainable from Ubiquiti. You will have to run it on a computer, but it is not required to run constantly once the AP is set up (you lose a lot of features and functionality if you don't run the controller though). Ubuquiti APs are on the lower-end of the enterprise spectrum, but they make good, and inexpensive gear that is perfect for higher-needs residential such as this.
Dell/Aruba: Someone else already mentioned this, but Dell APs are just Aruba rebranded. I've not used either extensively, but Aruba comes in second place in performance only to Ruckus most of the time - they made a quality AP. Not sure if you can run these without a controller though (either Dell or Aruba).
Extreme Networks: Enterasys APs with Extreme's logo (Extreme bought out Enterasys awhile back). That's about all I know about these things other than their CLI is confusing - probably not applicable to most people.
Meru: Meru's approach has historically been based on a Single Channel Architecture (SCA). I'm not sure if they're still doing this, but I can't recommend SCA in any application, especially not (dense environments).
Meraki: It's not on this list, and I would strongly encourage it stay that way. Meraki seems great at first, and don't get me wrong, their cloud dashboard is cool and included with the AP, but you have to license each AP annually to the tune of $150 per AP. I ran my own home network this way for some time, and it got prohibitively expensive with only two APs - if you don't pay, they shut your entire network down remotely and the APs you bought are literally bricks. Finally, Meraki's RF performance is very poor for an "enterprise" solution, compared to any of the other vendors on this list.
I hope this is helpful, and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has.
One of the great things about the Ubiquiti APs is that the controller software can be run on an old computer for free, but I'm starting to think about the Ruckus ones now. By meshing do you mean the large-scale mesh networks that span miles to connect networks together or another technology that would actually affect a residential user (meshing in feet instead not miles)? If I get more than one AP, then I definitely want to be able to have no interrupted connections (if I walk around, then I should automatically switch APs, and I shouldn't be disconnected and have to reconnect). Would I be able to team the Ruckus ones together in this way without the controller?
Yeah, UBNT is great for that. I've read about people hosting their controller on a VM at a cloudhost such as Amazon or Digital Ocean for a few bucks a month - great if you don't want to have a computer always running at home.
Ruckus's mesh is better described in feet than miles. For example, my house is old and has no existing wiring, so I have one AP connected directly to a switch along with the controller, and then several 'floater' APs that auto-mesh whenever they have power. It's a great solution because I can take the meshed APs to any room and have instant connectivity via the wired ports on the back of the AP (as well as WiFi from the meshed AP's radios). On a 40MHz-wide channel in 5GHz, I get about 500Mbps of throughput (both directions) and sub-1ms latency - I game on it, stream HD content, and it's always been solid for me. (Previously, I had two Meraki MR16 APs, and both coverage and meshing suffered a lot compared to my current solution.)
While roaming is primarily a client-based decision (which has gotten better with newer client devices), there are some features now on on the controller-side that can help the roaming process (especially for iOS devices) like the 802.11k,r, & d standards. As far as I know on Ruckus gear, these features, like the meshing, are only available for selection with the use of a controller unfortunately.
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