The best smartwatches you can swim with featuring at least 50-meter (5 ATM) water resistance…
Waterproof smartwatches are still mostly niche products, but that is starting to change with the introduction of more models that are water-resistant to 50-meters and beyond. Most mainstream smartwatches have an Ingress Protection rating of IP68. These smartwatches have been tested to survive submersion in shallow water for a short period of time and are not intended to be used for swimming or water sports. Although they are water-resistant, you should try to avoid regularly exposing them to water. IP68-rated watches are designed to withstand accidental water exposure and the occasional dunking but they are not intended for regular wear underwater or for water-based activities. If you plan to expose your smartwatch to water regularly or want to swim with it, see the models listed below that have better water resistance.
Note: “Waterproof” is used as a descriptive marketing term when it comes to electronics and should not be taken literally (as increasing depth, pressure, and time will eventually overcome most waterproof devices). “Water-resistant” is the more accurate term and commonly used when referring to traditional watches. This list focuses on smartwatches that are at least water-resistant to 50 meters. A 50-meter (or 5 ATM) water resistance rating is suitable for swimming. For activities like surfing or shallow water diving, a watch with 100-meter water-resistance is recommended. For the best water-resistance currently available, consider the following smartwatch models for 2019.
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30: Casio’s Third-Generation Wear OS Smartwatch with GPS & 50-Meter WR
The third-generation Pro Trek WSD-F30 has 50-meter water resistance, built-in GPS, and a significantly smaller form factor than the previous WSD-F20. Other notable features include altimeter and barometer sensors, the dual-layer color (OLED 390×390) and monochrome (time mode) touchscreen display, new power-saving features, and Google’s Wear OS. With Casio’s excellent reputation for water-resistant timepieces and the MIL-STD-810-compliant rugged case, the WSD-F30 is recommended for those who want a Wear OS watch for serious outdoor use. A variety of apps for specific activities are available including trekking, skiing, golf, fishing, cycling, paddling, fitness, running, surfing, swimming, and horseback riding.
Buy Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 at Amazon
Samsung Gear Sport Fitness Smartwatch with 50-Meter Water Resistance
The Samsung Gear Sport features 50-meter water resistance, making it the lone Samsung Gear smartwatch (other than the Gear Fit2 Pro fitness band) that is suitable for swimming. As the name implies this smartwatch is designed for fitness with a built-in heart rate monitor, GPS, and a large selection of training and tracking apps available. Along with the 1.2″ Gorilla Glass 3 color touchscreen, a rotating bezel and side buttons make navigation easy. The NFC capability (a feature lacking in most other rugged smartwatches) enables Samsung Pay cashless transactions. Though it’s not a Wear OS by Google smartwatch like you might expect a Samsung to be, the native Tizen OS has thousands of apps available. The Gear Sport is available in black or blue with silicone straps.
Buy Samsung Gear Sport at Amazon
Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch with 50-Meter Water-Resistance
Fitbit is widely known for its fitness trackers and recently entered the smartwatch market with the Ionic, a color touchscreen model with a wrist-based heart rate monitor that runs the Fitbit OS. The Ionic has 50-meter water resistance and can track swim workouts with lap counting, duration, and calories burned. As a Fitbit product it has all the multi-sport fitness and all-day tracking features you would expect, including built-in GPS. It also has the ability to store 300 songs and play them through Bluetooth-connected headphones. Other smartwatch features include smartphone notifications for call, text, and calendar, as well as push notifications from smartphone apps. Other non-fitness smartwatch apps are also available.
Buy Fitbit Ionic at Amazon
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Smartwatch with 50-Meter Water-Resistance
Garmin’s new Vivoactive 3 adopts a more stylish round design that makes it more attractive than previous models for all-day wear. Like the other Vivoactive models it is water-resistant to 50 meters and includes swim tracking. Equipped with an optical heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, the Vivoactive 3 is a solid choice for those who are serious about their fitness and training. Features like the well-stocked Connect IQ app store, text message writing, social media updates, and music playback control will also appeal to more mainstream users. The new Garmin Pay feature allows payments to be made with the watch wherever a tap-to-pay card would work. The Vivoactive 3 has impressive battery life of up to 7 days.
Buy Garmin Vivoactive 3 at Amazon
Fitbit Versa Smartwatch with 50-Meter Water-Resistance
The Versa is Fitbit’s most recent smartwatch offering and takes some design cues from the Apple Watch, with more rounded and curved edges than the Fitbit Ionic. Like the Ionic, the Versa has 50-meter water resistance and is suitable for swimming. As a more affordable model than the Ionic, the Versa is lacking a few features. The Versa doesn’t have built-in GPS, although you can still use the GPS features if you carry a connected smartphone with you. The Versa also lacks NFC (except in special editions). Also, the Ionic gets slightly better battery life with up to 5 days, while the Versa is rated for about 4+ days. Those who don’t depend on built-in GPS for their fitness tracking may prefer the lower price and more fashionable design of the Versa.
Buy Fitbit Versa at Amazon
Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch: Rugged Google Wear OS Smartwatch with GPS & 50-Meter Water-Resistance
The Pro Trek WSD-F20 is the second generation of Casio’s Smart Outdoor Watch line. It is now under the Pro Trek brand, runs Wear OS by Google (formerly known as Android Wear 2.0), and has built-in GPS which the previous WSD-F10 lacked. This gives the WSD-F20 better outdoor capabilities with the ability to use GPS with offline color maps without a connected smartphone. The WSD-F20 is also 0.8mm thinner than the WSD-F10 and has the same rugged MIL-STD-810-compliant environmental resistance. Other features carried over from the previous generation include the dual-layer TFT color and monochrome LCD display, altimeter-barometer-compass sensors, vibration alerts, and microphone.
Update: Casio recently released the lower-priced Pro Trek WSD-F20A which has the same specs with the exception of a resin buckle (versus stainless steel) and non-textured side buttons.
Buy Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20A at Amazon
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series: Rugged GPS Fitness Smartwatch with 100-Meter Water-Resistance
The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series includes the latest ruggedized versions of the popular Fenix series of GPS fitness smartwatches. These watches have stainless steel or titanium bezels and are available in three sizes (42, 47, 51 mm) with a variety of lens and strap options. They feature 10 ATM (100-meter) water resistance, superior battery life (up to 7, 12, or 20 days in smartwatch mode depending on the model), and are capable of storing up to 500 songs. They have all the GPS and fitness features expected from a high-end Garmin GPS smartwatch, including a wrist-based heart rate monitor. While the advanced GPS mapping and fitness tracking features may be overkill for some, the Fenix 5 Plus Series is recommended for serious outdoor athletes and adventures. Other features like smart notifications, Garmin Pay, and the many non-fitness apps available from the Connect IQ store may appeal to more casual users.
Buy Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series at Amazon
Apple Watch Series 2 and Series 3 with 50-Meter Water-Resistance
Proper water-resistance is becoming mainstream as Apple revealed that the new Apple Watch Series 2 has a “swimproof” shell that is water-resistant to 50 meters. As is the case with other 50-meter water-resistant watches, Apple says it can be used for shallow water activities such as swimming in a pool or the ocean, but should not be used in activities involving high-velocity water or deep submersion such as scuba diving or water-skiing.
The Apple Watch Series 2 retains the same rectangular shape as before and will also have a built-in GPS chip for improved outdoor and fitness features. The Apple Watch Series 2 has a new dual-core processor and a new GPU which will provide double the performance of the original Apple Watch. There is also now an Apple Watch Series 1 with the upgraded CPU and GPU but without the waterproofing and GPS.
As the original Apple Watch was the leading smartwatch on the market and the Series 2 will most likely take its place, we expect other flagship smartwatches to follow suit with more advanced water-resistance features in the future.
Update: Apple released the Apple Watch Series 3 which also has 50-meter water resistance. New additions for the Series 3 include a more powerful and battery-efficient S3 processor, a barometric altimeter to measure air pressure and altitude, and a cellular LTE-enabled e-SIM option that can use the same phone number as your iPhone and provides connectivity without a tethered phone.
Buy Apple Watch Series 3 at Amazon
Garmin Fenix 3: Advanced Fitness GPS Smartwatch with 100-Meter Water-Resistance
The Fenix 3 is Garmin’s flagship multi-sport and outdoor GPS smartwatch. It is water-resistant to 100 meters with a 218 x 218 1.2” color screen. With its advanced tracking metrics and training features for running, cycling, and swimming, some may consider the Fenix 3 to be more of a hardcore fitness watch than an everyday smartwatch. It works with Garmin accessories like heart rate monitors and bicycle speed and cadence sensors to optimize training and recovery. It has smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth for music playback control and smart notifications for calls, emails, texts, and social media. Like the Vivoactive it also has a daily activity tracker with a step counter. Outdoor features include navigation, altimeter/baromter/compass sensors, and GLONASS support for superior GPS reception. Additional apps are available via the Connect IQ appstore.
The Garmin Fenix 3 is pricey and non-athletes may not take advantage of its full potential, but it is one of the most rugged smartwatches currently available. It is also available with a sapphire crystal (Fenix 3 Sapphire) and a wrist-based heart rate monitor (Fenix 3 HR). Read more about the Fenix 3 in our Best Garmin GPS Watches feature.
Buy Garmin Fenix 3 at Amazon
Suunto Ambit3 Line: Advanced Fitness GPS Smartwatches with 50-meter and 100-Meter Water-Resistance
The Ambit3 line is Suunto’s first Bluetooth Smart compatible watch line and is designed for fitness tracking and outdoor use. Like the Fenix 3 the Ambit3 is a GPS watch with advanced tracking and training features for running, cycling, and swimming. The Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Run are water-resistant to 50 meters and the Ambit3 Peak and Ambit3 Vertical are water-resistant to 100 meters.
The Ambit3 Peak and Vertical models have a steel bezel while the Sport is steel and polyamide and the Run is polyamide. The Ambit3 line has GPS reception for distance measuring, outdoor trekking, and navigation, and the watch also has GPS timekeeping. The Ambit3 has an altimeter (GPS-based for Sport and Run models), barometer on the Peak and Vertical models, and digital compass. Bluetooth smartphone connectivity along with the Suunto Movescount App provide phone notifications, the ability to use the phone as a secondary display, and photos with watch data overlays. Additional Suunto Apps are available to download.
The Ambit3 has a 128 x 128 monochrome display with an impressive battery life of up to 14 days in time mode (30 for Ambit3 Peak). Those who want the toughest model and the most features for outdoor use should go with the Ambit3 Peak or Vertical models. The Peak is heavier (89g versus 74g) but has longer battery life (30 days in time mode versus 14). The Vertical is the latest model and adds vibration alert, GLONASS support, and some additional software features (show current versus route elevation, ascent graphs, 3D distance).
Suunto Ambit3 watches are available in a variety of colors and also available with sapphire crystals for better scratch-resistance.
iPhones feature amazing designs and powerful hardware specs, but this is not the reason why they are so popular. Apple fans are in love with iPhones because they offer a premium user experience that is unparalleled. To make things even better, Apple is constantly updating the iPhone and iPad operating system with new features which take the user experience to the next level. On the downside of things, getting so many updates on a regular basis is also a double-edged sword because this makes it difficult for iPhone and iPad users to keep up with all the latest tips and tricks that make them pro users.
With that said, today we have rounded top three tips and tricks that iPhone and iPad users will love. These tips and tricks are not something groundbreaking, but they will definitely make it more enjoyable to use an iPhone or an iPad. Without any further ado, let’s jump straight into it.
#1 Close Multiple “Keyword” Tabs in Safari
As we previously mentioned, Apple’s operating system is renowned for offering a premium user experience and Safari plays an important role in that. This is Apple’s pre-installed mobile browser and it’s renowned for making web browsing an enjoyable experience. Therefore, our first trick for iOS is to teach everyone how to close multiple searched-for tabs in Safari at the same time.
Open the Safari on your iPhone or iPad;
Tap on the “Tabs” button which can be found in the bottom right of the UI (user interface) on iPhones and in the top right corner on iPads;
After tapping on the “Tabs” button, the browser will show all the websites that you have recently visited;
Now, swipe down on the touchscreen until the “Search Tabs” option appears;
Type in any keyword that you want in the “Search Tabs” option such as movies, games and so on;
The browser will automatically bring up all the matching tabs and then you can simply tap and hold on the “Cancel” button which will pop up a new menu from the bottom of the screen with the option “Close (Number) Tabs Matching the ‘keyword’”.
This is how iPhone and iPad users can get rid of multiple tabs at the same time. This is a neat trick to have, especially for people who share their iPhone or iPad with someone around the house and don’t want anyone else to see what they searched for.
#2 How to Save Mobile Data in Spotify
Spotify is the world’s most popular streaming app and lots of iPhone and iPad owners are using it. However, there is a big problem with Spotify. The music streaming app is infamous for using up lots of mobile data whenever people listen to music while on the go. Fortunately, there is a cool trick that makes it possible for iPhone and iPad users to lower the overall mobile data that Spotify uses every day. The great thing about this trick for Spotify is that the app features a special data saver mode and everyone can enable or disable it by following the next steps:
Open the Spotify app on your iPhone or iPad;
Tap on the “Settings” option which can be found in the top right corner of the UI;
Now, select the “Data Saver” option;
All that is left to do is to tap on the “Turn On” switch.
We have to mention that enabling this mode will automatically set the Spotify music quality to low whenever the iPhone or iPad is not connected to Wi-Fi and it runs on mobile data instead. Although, this is a small price to pay when considering how much mobile data iPhone and iPad users will end up saving in the long run.
#3 How to Set Apple Music Songs as an Alarm
In the previous trick for iOS, we showed everyone how to reduce the overall mobile data that Spotify uses on a regular basis. This next tip is a bit more useful because it will teach everyone how to set their favorite Apple Music song as their iPhone or iPad alarm. Although, everyone should keep in mind that waking up on your favorite song every morning will eventually make you hate that song. So, be careful about what you pick!
Launch the “Music” app;
Tap on the “Search” button and then type in the name of the song that you want to be set as an alarm;
Now, tap on the “+” button which can be found in the right side of the song and then select the “iCloud Music Library” option;
The next step is to tap on the “cloud” icon so that the song starts downloading;
Open the native iOS “Clock” app;
Access the “Alarm” tab from the bottom of the UI and then tap on the “Edit” option which can be found in the left top side;
Pick the alarm that you wish to have your favorite song playing;
Now, tap on the “Sound” option and then pick the song that you want;
All that is left to do now is to tap the “Back” button and then tap on the “Save” option in the top right in order to confirm this action.
These have been our top three tips and tricks for iPhones and iPads that will help everyone become a pro Safari, Spotify and Apple Music user. We hope that you find them useful and if you want more, then you can always check our other guides about useful tricks such as how to get the most out of the new Siri Shortcuts feature, how to remove the annoying top-notch on iPhones and lastly how to fix all Face ID issues with four simple methods.
Did you just get a brand-new Apple Watch? Well, you are in for a surprise because the Apple Watch is much more than a simple accessory. Apple’s latest Watch Series 4 is dubbed as the best smartwatch ever made because of the plethora of features that it has to offer. In fact, Apple packed so many features in watchOS 5 that most Apple Watch users don’t even know about them all. This is why we have scoured the internet in search for the most useful Apple Watch tips and tricks that all Apple fans who want to become power users need to learn. Without any further ado, let’s get straight into it.
#1 Track Your Sleep
The first tip that we have for Apple Watch users is to start tracking their sleep pattern. Having the information on how many hours people sleep at night is essential to planning your day, especially for busy people who like getting everything done in time. Unfortunately, Apple has yet to install a built-in sleep tracking mode to Apple Watch and this means that Apple Watch users don’t have any other option than to pick a third-party app to help them with this. On the bright side of things, there are tens of premium watchOS apps which can help Apple Watch users track their sleep and get useful information.
#2 Utilize the Digital Crown
Yes, the touchscreen of Apple Watches is nice and it makes people feel like they are using a gadget from the future. However, this is not the most effective way of browsing through apps or contacts for example. The fastest and most efficient way to browse on an Apple Watch is by using the Digital Crown. Just like the Home button works on iPhones that still have it, the Digital Crown can be used to take users to the home screen or to active Siri once the button on the Digital Crown is long pressed. Another cool tip that we want to share is that double tapping on the Digital Crown will take the user back to the last app that was used.
#3 Multiple Haptic Feedback Levels
Talking about nice Apple Watch features that make the smartwatch feel premium, haptic feedback is surely among them. On the downside of things, the haptic feedback can prove to be quite annoying when users receive lots of notifications at the same time from apps such as Facebook or Instagram for example. Luckily, Apple has thought of this and it decided to introduce multiple levels to the haptic feedback. The haptic feedback can be adjusted by Apple Watch users to fit their liking better by accessing “My Watch” and then “Sounds & Haptics”.
#4 Change the Watch Faces
One of the things that nearly all Apple Watch users seem to forget is that they have access to multiple Watch Faces. Therefore, we advise all Apple Watch users to try out difference Watch Faces such as Vapor, Fire and Water for example. All Watch Faces look cool and picking a more unusual one can make a Apple Watch look different than the others.
#5 Pair Your AirPods
Apple was the first smartphone company to remove the classic 3.5mm auxiliary jack from its devices and doing this was a big risk. However, the risk paid off and now all other high-end smartphones available on the market have also removed the 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Nonetheless, Apple also launched the wireless earbuds called AirPods when it removed the headphone jack so that Apple fans could have an official alternative other than using cable headphones that connect via the Lighting Port. Our advice for all Apple Watch users is to make sure pair their AirPods to the smartwatch. Doing this brings many benefits such as synching pone calls or checking to see how much battery charge the AirPods have left as an example.
#6 Get Music on Your Apple Watch
We previously mentioned that all Apple Watch users should connect their AirPods to their smartwatch and now we want to show everyone the trick to getting music on an Apple Watch. The trick here is to download Apple Music on the Apple Watch and then simply sync your playlists with the smartwatch. We should note that Apple Music is not the only music streaming platform that works with Apple Watch.
#7 Customize the App Dock
One of the downsides about Apple Watches is that they look the same. Fortunately, this is not an issue for tech-savvy Apple Watch users because the app dock can be customized. Customizing the app dock will not only make the Apple Watch look more unique, but it will also make it easier and faster for users to access their favorite apps. To make things even better, users can add up to ten apps to the dock and this can be done by accessing “My Watch” and then the “Dock” panel. Keep in mind that apps which are marked as “Favorites” will show up at the top of the dock.
#8 Customize the Control Center
The app dock is not the only UI (user interface) element that Apple Watch users can customize. The Control Center can also be changed to look different and to feature special elements. Taking into consideration the fact that the Control Center is the first thing that users see when they swipe up on the Watch Face, customizing it to feature all the right elements such as Wi-Fi and DnD mode, for example, is quite mandatory. There are lots of modes that Apple Watch users can introduce in their Control Center so that they can find and access them with a single tap of the touch screen.
These are our eight most useful tips and tricks for Apple Watch. We hope that you learned something new today and that these tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your Apple Watch. Also, Apple Watch users should keep in mind that Apple is regularly adding new features to watchOS and therefore, updating the operating system should be a high priority for all users.
The FRITZ!Box 7590 is one of the latest modem routers released by the German-based networking company (AVM) and, while its minimalist exterior may not give it away, this device is more than meets the eye: it can function as a DECT station for up to six handsets, it is compatible with ADSL/VDSL/fiber optic lines, it can connect to an ISDN telephone system and it can be a part of a WiFi mesh system. So, there’s the traditional wireless DSL modem router that simply connects your wired and wireless clients to the Internet and then, there’s the FRITZ!box which includes as many features as possible under the same hood.
Obviously, the regular user won’t need half of these features, but, while the 7590 claims to be a fantastic modem router even within a home environment (we’ll test that in a minute), the targeted audience is mainly the small and medium businesses which require everything that the FRITZ!Box has to offer (and, truly, this type of device can be a godsend in a crowded office). That being, said, I’ve actually had a look a few years ago at its predecessor, the FRITZ!box 7490 and it was a decent performer, so let’s have a closer look at what the new FRITZ!box 7590 can deliver and where does it stand in this competitive market.
Design The FRITZ!Box routers aren’t known for their attractive design and the red and grey case of the 7490 is proof that AVM hasn’t really focused towards making its devices living-room friendly. The FRITZ!Box 7590 aims to change this perception by giving up the leather-book-cover-spaceship look for a more simple rectangular case which is slightly curved towards the front and, unlike the usual black or grey router, the 7590 is a lot more cheerful, the top surface being covered mostly by a white glossy finish, while the ventilation grill is red (the rest of the case is grey). The device is definitely more elegant than its predecessor, but it still has stubbornly kept that retro look – in a similar manner to the WRT series – and I do appreciate its uniqueness when compared to the other traditional routers, but, just like the WRT3200ACM, some people will love the design, while others will hate it.
After opening the box, you will immediately notice that the FRITZ!box 7590 doesn’t have any external antennas and, instead, it opted to use eight internal antennas. Sure, from the design point of view, this is good news since, similarly to the dedicated WiFi systems (Google WiFi, Netgear Orbi, etcetera), it loses the industrial look, but, from the performance POV, the external antennas are usually more powerful and can be replaced or upgraded.
The size of the modem router is significant and it’s no surprise since it packs so many features, but, at 9.84 x 1.88 x 7.24 inches (almost as big as the Netgear R7000P), it definitely requires some planning before positioning it in the room or office (especially because it can’t be kept vertically). Thankfully, on the bottom side of the FRITZ!Box 7590, there are a couple of holes that can be used to mount the device on the wall. Also here, you can find the info label (contains the default SSID, passkey, the Serial Number and more), as well as four silicone feet. The modem router has a reasonable weight (0.88 lb), so, along with the silicone feet, it won’t budge no matter the amount of connected cables.
Beside the top grill, the manufacturer has also covered the entire bottom surface with ventilation cut-outs, so, this should ensure that the modem router maintains an optimal internal temperature and, while I was testing it, the FRITZ!Box 7590 got a bit warm towards the top and bottom side. As I said in the introduction, the FRITZ!Box 7590 can also work as a mesh node within a mesh network, but, while it adhered to the minimalist design (lacking any external antennas), it has kept the traditional array of LEDs that show the status of the device: from the left, there’s the Power/DSL LED (flashing green indicates that the modem router is powered on and the connection to DSL is either being established or it has been interrupted), WLAN LED (if it’s on, then the WLAN is enabled – underneath the LED, there’s a button for turning the WiFi On or Off), a Fon / DECT LED (if it’s flashing, then there are messages in your voice inbox – dependant on your telephony provider) along with a dedicated button which, when pressed, it automatically searches for cordless handsets (paging call).
Furthermore, there’s a Connect / WPS LED (if it’s flashing slowly, then the WPS process has been activated and, if it’s flashing rapidly, then the WPS process has been aborted) along with a small button that activates the WPS pairing process and, lastly, there’s an Info LED: this LED is customizable, but, by default, it will flash green when the firmware is being updated or the time budget has been reached, it flashes red when the device has encountered an error and it will glow green when the Stick and Surf process is concluded.
On the rear side of the FRITZ!Box 7590, the manufacturer has added a DSL port (compatible with ADSL2, VDSL and with an analogue/ISDN telephone network), two RJ11 FON1 and FON2 ports (suitable for connecting faxes, answering machines or analogue phones), an RJ45 FONSo port (suitable for connecting ISDN handsets or PBXs telephone systems), a Gigabit WAN port (can be used for connecting to a modem or another router, but it can also function as a simple LAN port in case you use the DSL port for Internet access), four Ethernet Gigabit ports, a Power socket and a USB 3.0 port. On the left side of the device, you can find another USB 3.0 port, while on the right side, there’s another FON1 analogue socket.
Hardware Inside the case, the FRITZ!Box 7590 is equipped with a dual-core Intel® Lantiq AnyWAN™ GRX550 PXB4583 SLLZR SoC clocked at 1GHz, 512 MB of flash storage (Macronix MXIC MX30LF4GE8AB-TI), 512 MB of RAM (NANYA NT5CC256M16EP-DI), a LITELINK CPC5622A Integrated Circuits Telecom Interface, a DIALOG SC14446 A76R101LVP DECT SoC, an XILINK SPARTAN-6 XC6SLX4 TQ144BIV1741 FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array IC), a WE-NIDCOM 40799 SOP-IC, five Wurth Electronics 7490200141 1745 Transformers and it also uses the Lantiq (Intel) PXB4583 as a switch chip.
Furthermore, the modem router uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon QCA9985 4×4:4, bgn wireless chip for the 2.4GHz band and the Qualcomm Snapdragon QCA9984 4×4:4, an+ac wireless chip for the 5GHz band. I also noticed some embedded antennas: AIRGAIN N242ODGC2L, N2415DAMR and N2415DAML. The FRITZ!Box 7590 is an AC2600-class modem router, so it features a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 1,733 Mbps on the 5GHz and a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 800 Mbps on the 2.4GHz radio band. Note: The DSL port can handle 300Mbps VDSL connections by using the 35b supervectoring technology (assuming that the ISP in your area does supports it).
Features and Performance When I tested the FRITZ!Box 7490, I noticed that it focused more towards the industrial aspect (DECT station, cordless handsets) and, while the wireless performance was decent, the modem router didn’t really invest towards adopting some of the more interesting WAVE 2 features. This has changed with the FRITZ!Box 7590 which, besides having all the awesome features of its predecessor (such as the DECT Eco, HD telephony and more), it also supports the MU-MIMO technology, meaning that multiple clients can be served at the same time, instead of letting them compete for the bandwidth (the catch is that you do need compatible clients, but, thankfully, the MU-MIMO is getting more widespread even if its in its lesser forms: 1×1 and 2×2). There’s also the BeamForming feature that focuses the signal towards the connected clients, therefore maximizing the throughput and increasing the stability of the network, but, probably the most interesting addition is the mesh technology.
Yes, the FRITZ!Box 7590 can work as a mesh hub within a mesh network along with the FRITZ!WLAN Repeater 1750E and the FRITZ!Powerline. Of course, this is a proprietary implementation, so it will only work within the FRITZ!Box environment, but it has the same functionality as can be seen on the Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD or Netgear Orbi: the mesh network creates optimised paths for the data by detecting which nodes are the most suited for the task (depending on the signal strength, number of connected clients and more), it will auto-heal in case a node goes offline (the data gets rerouted to the next available mesh node) and, in case a new node gets added, then the network will automatically create new paths for the data. The connected devices are also dynamically steered towards the most suitable band (so it avoid overcrowding a single band).
At the moment, I have the FRITZ!Box 7590, so I will only be testing its wired and wireless performance (I’ll test the mesh performance and the backhaul traffic handling when I’m able to get my hands on the full kit). To initiate the test, I took two computers, one is a Desktop PC equipped with an ASUS PCE-AC88 which will function as the client, while the other is a high-end laptop that will function as the server. On the first step, I connected both computers to the LAN ports of the FRITZ!Box 7590 and, from the client to the server, I measured an average of 816 Mbps at 5 feet and, at 15 feet, the speed averaged at 722 Mbps; at 30 feet, I measured an average of 361 Mbps. From the server to the client, at 5 feet, I measured an average of 456 Mbps, while at 15 feet, I got around 422 Mbps; at 30 feet, the speed decreased to 280 Mbps. This type of performance is only possible using the PCE-AC88 and because I noticed that the connection wasn’t always stable (the downstream throughput would sometimes fluctuate until I reconnected to the network), I decided to also test the wireless performance using an Intel 2×2 MU-MIMO WiFi card.
This way, I measured an average of 512 Mbps from the client to the server at 5 feet, while at 15 feet, the speed went slightly down to 429 Mbps; at 30 feet, I got 192.6 Mbps. Afterwards, from the server to the client, I measured an average of 363 Mbps and, at 15 feet, I measured around 265 Mbps; at 30 feet, the speed went down to 181 Mbps. It seems that every problem has been solved when the client was connected the laptop (with the Intel WiFi card) and everything was smooth and stable, so I think that the modem router doesn’t play well with some ASUS WiFi cards (I could also reproduce the issues with the PCE-AC68), but hopefully, this slight incompatibility will be fixed with newer firmware updates.
On the next step, I kept the Intel 2×2 setup and I connected the two computers to the 2.4 GHz network. This way, from the client to the server, at around 5 feet, I measured an average of 198 Mbps, while at 15 feet, the speed went up to 202 Mbps; at 30 feet, I got 129 Mbps. From the server to the client, I measured an average of 179 Mbps at 5 feet and, at 15 feet, the speed went only slightly down to 175 Mbps; at 30 feet, I measured around 128 Mbps. Afterwards, I connected both PCs to the LAN ports of the FRITZ!Box 7590 and tested the LAN to LAN connection: from the client to the server, I measured an average of 886 Mbps (TCP) and 887 Mbps (UDP), while from the server to the client, I got 900 Mbps (TCP) and 467 Mbps (UDP).
On the last step, I decided to test the storage performance by connecting a Samsung T5 SSD (256 GB) drive and, while moving a 2.5 GB multimedia folder, I got the following results: 24.8 MBps while reading the folder and 58.2 MBps while writing the folder (the USB Settings were set to Power Mode USB 3.0).
Software and Installation Almost all modern wireless routers allow its user to configure and monitor their network via an app and only some have kept the web-based interface. The FRITZ!Box 7590 doesn’t have only one, it has several apps available, each with their own purpose, but, before accessing them, you need to first configure the network using the web-based UI (you won’t be able to do it by solely using the app). To do so, you need to connect the modem router to a computer, open a web browser and go to http://fritz.box/.
Excellent Wireless Performance
Nice Retro Design
The FRITZ!OS Is Fast And Full Of Features
Has An App For Remote Access
ADSL/VDSL/WAN + DECT Station Support
Occasional Hiccups While Using A PCE-AC88
Unimpressive Storage Performance
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San Francisco-based weatherproof bagmaker Mission Workshop has added the Radian Travel Pack to its lineup. The 42-liter Radian is compliant with most carry-on regulations and is designed as an all-in-one travel solution.
Along with its unique minimalist styling, the Radian has some special features that set it apart from other carry-on backpacks. The bag’s main compartment offers both roll-top access along with zippered horizontal access like a traditional flat suitcase. The roll top can be used with or without velcro.
The Radian has dedicated 15″ laptop, iPad, and water bottle pockets. There are also zippered interior organizational pockets for smaller items and accessories. The Radian is meant to be a one-bag solution and eliminates the need for any side bag. An internal aluminum frame provides support when used as a backpack. The back harness is adjustable to accommodate different body sizes and an optional waist belt is available. The shoulder straps are also fully concealable behind a zippered panel.
The Radian is also fully compatible with the Arkiv Modular System, which allows additional compartments and accessories to be attached to the bag’s six rails. Options include an extra laptop compartment, more easily-accessible compartments for smaller electronics and accessories, and a shoulder strap.
The bag’s main body is constructed of Mission Workshop’s advanced lightweight HT500 textile which has a water-resistant coating and is resistant to abrasion and tears. The Radian Travel Pack is manufactured in the USA in small batches and is available in three colors: black, gray, and black camo. It retails for $585 (pre-orders are currently available with $100 off) which is on the high side for a carry-on backpack, but not outrageous considering its versatility and build quality. The Radian includes Mission Workshop’s Guaranteed Forever warranty, which provides repair or replacement for failures that are a result of defects in materials or workmanship.
For more information and to order the Radian Travel Pack visit missionworkshop.com.
Radian Travel Pack Specs:
External dimensions: Height: 22 inches (Fully compressed) Height: 26.5 inches (With roll top extended up to max) Width: 14 inches Depth: 6 inches Internal max volume: 2,563 cubic inches (42 Liters) Weight (empty): 4.69 pounds
The Radian Travel Pack can hold up to a week’s worth of clothing for extended travel:
The last time we presented a list with the top wireless charger for iPhones was back in 2018. However, the prices and offerings from third-party accessory companies have changed since then and we decided that time has come to round up again the top ten best wireless chargers for iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR that can be found on Amazon in 2019. The rule of thumb in our top ten list is that every wireless charger is of premium quality and that it offers fast charging features. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
We are going to kick things off with the wireless charger for iPhones made by the company Lightgrey. The first thing that stands out about this wireless charger is the fact that it’s really cheap. However, you shouldn’t be fooled by the accessory’s cheap price because it doesn’t reflect the quality of its performances the Lightgrey wireless charger uses Qi technology and smart chip safety features which prevent iPhones from overheating. Price: $13.99 Purchase it from Amazon
The folks at Yootech have made a name for themselves in the accessory industry by always releasing high-end devices and pairing them with affordable prices. This is not something that all accessory makes can do and this makes the wireless charger for iPhones from Yootech a great choice. What makes this accessory stand out from the rest is its temperature control technology that can prevent iPhones from overheating and short-circuits from power surges. Price: $14.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Just like Yootech, Anker is renowned for creating powerful accessories for Apple devices. The wireless charger made by Anker features a sleek design that is paired with LED indicators and a non-slip pad. To make thing even better, the wireless charger also ships with a 3 feet micro USB cable that makes it easier for iPhone users to place it in easy to reach positions. Price: $21.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Here we have a wireless charger for iPhones made by Belkin. This wireless charger is a bit more expensive than the others, but it makes up for that with fast charging technology that will fill up an iPhone’s battery at 7.5 Watts. This is super fast and people who consider them iPhone power users are going to love the fast charging technology. Not only that, but the folks at Belkin also offer a 3-year warranty program. Price: $35.00 Purchase it from Amazon
If you are looking for a cheap wireless charger that will get the job done, then you might want to check out the one made by iTechShop. This iPhone accessory has a five-star rating on Amazon and it uses Qi technology just like the previous wireless chargers. The Qi technology means that the wireless charger can be used for a multiple of smartphones and not only iPhones, including Samsung and LG. Price: $11.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Right from the start, we have to mention that the Kuppet wireless charger for iPhones is not like the ones that we’ve previously presented. This is a 2-in-1 wireless charger that can also support an Apple Watch. Considering that the latest Watch Series 4 is the most popular smartwatch in the world, we think it’s safe to assume that having a wireless charger that can fill up your iPhone and your smartwatch’s battery at the same time will be quite useful. Price: $39.99 Purchase it from Amazon
#7 3-in-1 Wireless Charger
If you are a loyal Apple fan and you own more than one Apple devices, then this 3-in-1 wireless charger might be just what you need. As you can see in the picture featured above, this wireless charger can simultaneously fill up the battery for an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods. You can forget about having three different cables next to your desk after getting this wireless charger. Also, worth noting is that this accessory uses “charge forward” technology which features and advanced chipset and double coil design that takes the charging speed to the next level. Price: $35.59 Purchase it from Amazon
Some people like standard designs, while others like something more flashy. If you fall in the latter category, then the wireless charger made by Chuanghuike is the perfect fit for you. This wireless charger looks amazing and it uses 7.5 Watts fast charging technology that features QC2.0 and QC3.0 adapter. On the downside of things, the fast charging technology makes this accessory compatible with only the following iPhones: XS, XS Max, XR, X, 8 and 8 Plus. Price: $23.99 Purchase it from Amazon
This is another affordable wireless charger that doesn’t focus on offering an incredible design and it relies on its fast charging abilities instead. The Amir wireless charger comes with a fast charging mode that can take any Qi-enabled device’s battery from 0% to 100% in no time. A neat feature that this wireless charger offers is an intelligent LED indicator that shines blue when it’s in standby mode and green when charging. Price: $16.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Just like the Chuanghuike wireless charger, the one made by Lolypot is for Apple fans who like a flashy design. The cool thing about this wireless charger is not only that it supports multiple Apple devices, but that it comes with a power lamp that can be dimmed. The light is available in multiple colors and it provides 2700K warm white light. The brightness level can be adjusted by sliding the fingers up an down the plastic arm of the wireless charger. Price: $29.99 Purchase it from Amazon
If there’s something that Apple fans need, then that is a powerful charger. Apple doesn’t pack its iPhones with large batteries, but luckily, here is where wireless chargers come in and save the day. Having a wireless charger placed next to your office will make it seem like your iPhone’s battery will never run out. No matter how much you use the device.
It’s not easy to choose the best Ethernet switches for your network from the abundance of available Ethernet switches on the market (some may prefer a managed Ethernet switch, while others won’t need anything above an unmanaged or smart Ethernet switch), so, in order to make the process easier, I have divided the article into three main sections: the first addresses the best unmanaged Ethernet switches, which are more suitable for home use or for small business networks, the second section covers the best web-managed Ethernet switches which are also suitable for home use (tech enthusiasts) and for small to medium business networks and the third section addresses the best managed Ethernet switches which, as expected, are going to be used in an enterprise environment (medium to large businesses).
UPDATE 02.16.2019: Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-8XP Ethernet Switch has been added to the best Ethernet switches list.
An Ethernet switch is a networking device that connects a large variety of devices (like IP cameras, computers and even other switches) into a common network and it uses the packet switching technology to receive, process and eventually forward the data to the destination client. Network switches are commonly used to create a business network (especially devices with lots of ports), but there is also an increasing tendency to include switches into a home network, especially since IP cameras are getting more popular.
On the market, you can find switches that use physical addresses for data processing and forwarding at the layer 2 of the OSI model, but there are also layer 3 switches that besides all the features of a L2 switch, have routing functionality (so, similarly to some traditional routers, they’re capable of hardware-based packet switching).
Unmanaged PoE Ethernet Switches
Non-PoE Unmanaged Ethernet Switches
1. Linksys LGS116P 16-Port Ethernet Switch
The Linksys LGS116P is an unmanaged 16-port network switch that is part of the Linksys’ Business Desktop Gigabit PoE switch series along with the LGS108P and LGS124P, an 8-port device and, respectively, a 24-port switch. The LGS116P is a great solution for your office network, but it can also be used in your home (since this is an unmanaged device, which means that you can’t really configure it, it just allows the connected clients to communicate with each other). The LGS116P features a fairly large rectangular metallic case (but comparing it with other 16-port switches, it’s surprisingly compact), with two pairs of airflow vents on the left and on the right, and no internal fan (it relies solely on passive cooling). The top of the LGS116P is quite plain, with only the blue Linksys logo breaking the continuity of the black matte finish.
In terms of positioning, the The LGS116P can be positioned flat on the surface (its dimensions are 4.2 x 11.0 x 0.9 inches and it weighs 1.8 lb) and it can also be wall-mounted, but it’s not rack mountable (only the larger LGS124P has this feature). If you turn the device upside down, you’ll see that there are no airflow vents here, there are only three screws, four round feet, two holes for wall mounting and a label containing the information about the device (model number, serial number).
The front of the switch is home to all 16 Gigabit 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, from which only the first eight come with PoE+ support. The PoE+ technology allows you to transfer data and receive power over the Ethernet cable, so you can connect compatible devices without the need to have a power outlet in the vicinity (some of these devices can be access points, IP cameras, network hubs, intercoms, VoIP phones and so on). The entire dedicated PoE power budget is 80 W.
All of the ports have one green amber LED for Link/Activity/GB and the first eight ports have an additional green LED for PoE. On the left of the ports there are also two LED lights for Power (a blue LED) and for PoE Max (the LED will be amber and if it’s on, it means that the total power budget is over 67 Watts, otherwise, if it’s off, it means that the power budget is under 67 Watts).
In terms of hardware, the LGS116P is equipped with a Marvel 88E1685LKJ2 chipset and, since we get a total of 16 Gigabit Ethernet ports, there is a total bandwidth of 32 Gbps available. Setting up the Linksys LGS116P is simple, all you have to do is connect the power adapter to your switch and into a power outlet and then connect your network devices to the switch by using Ethernet cables (you can also cascade your switch to another switch).
Since this is an unmanaged unit, you don’t get to configure the switch, but there are some interesting features that are worth mentioning. There is the Quality of Service Traffic Prioritization (QoS) which ensures that regardless of network congestion, certain data throughput is still maintained for some connected devices (useful especially for video streaming or VOIP). There’s also support for Jumbo Frames (up to 9K bytes of payload frames, which means less CPU cycles and reduced overheads).
Another cool feature is the PoE prioritization. What it does is it assigns the highest priority to the port 1 and as you connect devices, the higher the port ID, the priority will be lower. So, if only seven ports out of the eight are connected, but the maximum power budget is already maxed out, the eight device will be declined, since it will have exceed the power budget. The Linksys LGS116P switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3x, 802.3ab, and 802.3az. Additionally, for PoE devices, it supports IEEE 802.3at and 802.3af standards. If a devices does not support any of these standards, it will not be powered ON. Note: Inside the box, you can find the Linksys LGS116P unit, a Power Adaptor, a Wall Mount Kit, a Quick Start Manual and a CD with the documentation.
2. TRENDnet TPE-TG81g PoE+ Ethernet Switch
Founded in California, TRENDnet is gaining more traction with every released product (including its popular router series, surveillance cameras and network switches) and it is slowly catching up with the other mainstream manufacturers of networking products. While routers go through continuous transformations and new technologies are implemented with every iteration, switches haven’t changed that much over the years and to be honest, one of the reasons these devices went back into the mainstream is the increasing popularity of IP cameras and other PoE-based equipment.
The TRENDnet switch that caught my attention is the TPE-TG81g, an inexpensive 8-port PoE+ rackmount unmanaged switch which, similarly to other switches on the market, it features a rectangular metallic case, covered by a black matte finish all around and the only relevant touch of colour is the green band on the top of the device, along with the blue spots on the front. Sure, the TPE-TG81g may not be as good looking as the Netgear Nighthawk S8000, but it has adopted the most practical design which allows you to place the router on a flat surface, mount it on the wall or for mounting it on a rack. That’s right, the TPE-TG81g comes with the necessary rack ears (included in the package) and can be mounted on a rack (advisable since it is equipped with a fan).
PoE switches aren’t as compact as the non-PoE counterparts, but, the TPE-TG81g fares well at 10.5 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches (3 lbs) since it’s a bit smaller than the TP-Link TL-SG1008PE. Furthermore, PoE switches have a tendency of becoming warmer, so TRENDnet has added a set of vent holes on the right side, as well as on the left side and on the rear, there are some cut-outs to reveal the 40 x 20mm 9000 RPM fan. When powering up the device, the fan will run louder for a short period of time and afterwards it will settle for a lower speed, therefore becoming a lot quieter.
On the front of the device you can find a single Power LED in the middle (solid amber indicates that the device is powered on), along with a block of 16 LED lights divided into two sets, so each port gets two LEDs which show the status of PoE and Link/ACTivity (if the PoE LED is solid red, then a PoE client is connected; if the Link/ACT LED is blinking a green colour, it means that data is transmitted/received at Half/Full Duplex, otherwise, if the LED is flashing a red colour, then the data is transmitted/received Full Duplex – 2,000 Mbps). Next to the block of LEDs, you can find eight Gigabit 10/100/1000 Mbps Auto-MDIX PoE / PoE+ RJ-45 ports.
The switch is compatible with PoE Class 2 (7 W), Class 3 (15.4 W), and Class 4 (30 W) per port, with a total PoE power budget of 105 W (so, you can add up to 3 PoE+ devices). Turn the switch around and, on the rear side, you can find the Power port (ACLINE 90-260V AC 50/60Hz, 1A) and the cut-out for the built-in fan.
As expected from an unmanaged Plug-and-Play switch, the installation process is incredibly simple and all you have to do is connect the TPE-TG81g to a power source, use an Ethernet cable to connect it to a modem / router and add any other devices using the front panel ports (besides the usual access points or computers, you can also connect 802.3af PoE cameras and 802.3af PoE+ surveillance cameras). The TRENDnet TPE-TG81g lacks any type of utility for managing or configuring the device and the network, but, there are some interesting built-in features that will make a difference.
Among these features, there’s the automatic detection of connected PoE devices, the Store-and-forward switching method (which ensures no corrupted frames are forwarded to the specific port), 16 Gbps switching capacity, 96 Kb memory buffer, there’s the Jumbo Frame support for up to 9 Kb, the switch supports 2K-entry MAC addresses and, in case a port is unused, it is powered down, but remains in standby mode ready for connecting a new device. The TRENDnet TPE-TG81g switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3 10Base-T, IEEE 802.3u 100Base-TX, IEEE 802.3ab 1000Base-T, IEEE 802.3x Flow Control, IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet, IEEE 802.3af Power over Ethernet (Power over Ethernet), IEEE 802.3at Power over Ethernet (PoE+). Note: Inside the package, there is the TRENDnet TPE-TG81g rackmount switch, the Power cord, some rack mount brackets and a Quick Installation Guide.
3. TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE 8-Port Ethernet Switch
TP-Link has gone a long way from its early days when it was only influential in the country of origin (China) and managed to achieve a top place among the best networking products manufacturers in the world. TP-Link’s interest spans over many type of products, including thepowerline adapters, wireless routers, ADSL modems, IP cameras and, of course Ethernet switches. The product I’m going to focus on is the TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE, a 8-port PoE+ rackmount switch which is part of the unmanaged type of devices.
The TL-SG1008PE features a rectangular metallic case, covered by a dark blue finish and with a slab of plastic where the LEDs and ports reside. The top of the TL-SG1008PE is quite uneventful, the only thing that caught my attention is the carved-in TP-Link logo. On the left, you can find a series of air vents that help deliver a better ventilation, but it doesn’t stop here, because TP-Link decided to go the noisy way and equipped the TL-SG1008PE with a fan (hidden under a hexagonal shaped vent hole pattern on the right side of the switch).
While other 8 and 16-port switches from this list were quite compact and could be easily placed anywhere, the footprint of the TL-SG1008PE is a bit large (it measures 11.6 x 7.1 x 1.7 inches and it weighs 5.5 lbs). So, you can definitely place the switch on a flat surface (like a desk or a shelf), but if you don’t have the space for it, you can’t mount the device on the wall. Fortunately, it can be mounted on a rack.
The front side of the switch is home to the eight 10/100/1000M RJ45 Ethernet Gigabit ports (all eight come with PoE+ support). On the left side of the ports, there are two main LEDs for PoE MAX (solid red means that the power of all connected devices is between 120 and 126W, otherwise, if the LED is flashing red, it means that the power of all the connected PoE ports is either equal or exceeds 126W; lastly, if the LED is off, then the power of all connected PoE ports is under 120W) and Power (if it’s flashing green, then the power supply acts abnormal).
Besides these two LEDs, there are three arrays of LED lights for every port, each showing the PoE Status (flashing green means that there may be a short circuit or that the power current may be overloaded), the Link/Activity and the 1000Mbps (if the LED is on, it means that the port connection runs at 1000Mbps; there is no distinctive colour for the speeds under the 1000Mbps). On the back side of the switch, there is a power port (100-240V~ 50/60Hz 2.0A) and on the bottom side there four protruded feet and a label with printed info about the device (the serial number).
Furthermore, the TL-SG1008PE features a total PoE power budget is 124W, but there are two additional variations of this Ethernet switch which can also be added to the best Ethernet switches list: the TL-SG1008P, an 8-port Gigabit switch that is equipped with only four PoE ports and there’s the less expensive TL-SF1008P, also a 8-port switch with 4 PoE ports which lacks the Gigabit speeds (it uses older Fast Ethernet ports).
Since we are dealing with a Plug-and-Play device, the setup process of the TL-SG1008PE is quite simple, all you have to do is connect the power cable to the back of the switch and to a wall outlet (keep a safe distance from the other devices that may cause interferences, such as powerline adapters) and then just add your devices using Ethernet cables (since this is a PoE+ switch, you can add 802.3af/at compliant devices, like IP cameras or IP telephones).
One interesting feature is the priority functions, that has the role to protect the system in case of power overload. So, if the power consumption is greater or equal to 124W, the eight PoE+ ports will receive a priority and the switch will cut the power from the port with the lowest priority (for example, port 1, 2 and 4 will use 30W, while port 3 will use 25W, so any port after the first four will have the power supply cut, as they will have a lower priority).
Furthermore, the TL-SG1008PE has a great energy efficient technology that detects if there is any unused PoE port, so it can reduce the power consumption by up to 75%. Additionally, the switching capacity is 16Gps and it supports Jumbo frames (16Kb). The TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE802.3i, IEEE802.3u, IEEE802.3ab, IEEE802.3x, IEEE802.1p, IEEE802.3af and IEEE802.3at. Note: Inside the package, you can find the TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE switch unit, a Power cord, the Installation Guide, four rubber feet and two mounting brackets, along with the fittings.
4. CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA Ethernet Switch
CISCO SYSTEMS is the largest networking company in the world and it’s well known for its enterprise-focused products (including routers and switches), but it also hasn’t neglected the consumer side. One such product that is more suitable for the homes/small businesses sector, instead of the larger offices and corporations, is the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA, a 24-port unmanaged switch that can offer network connectivity, as well as reliability for small businesses.
In terms of design, the SG112-24-NA looks pretty much the same as any other switch on the market. You get the black rectangular case, made of metal and with the matte finish on top. Since not much can be made for a switch to stand out from the crowd, manufacturers have resorted to making the devices as compact as possible. Cisco also adopted this new trend and made the SG112-24-NA surprisingly compact (it measures 11.0 x 1.7 x 6.7 inches and it weighs 5.05 lb), which means that it won’t take more space than a router.
So, you can position it pretty much everywhere in the room in the horizontal position, but, if space is important (in offices), Cisco offered the option to wall mount the device. Additionally, the SG112-24-NA can be rack mounted by using the two included brackets (before installing the switch into a rack, take into consideration the ambient temperature, don’t obstruct the airflow, use an overcurrent protection and a reliable earthing).
The bottom of the SG112-24-NA is plain, as well as the top, with only the CISCO logo that livens up a bit the device. On the front, you are greeted with all 24 Ethernet Gigabit RJ-45 ports (10/100/1000) positioned in two arrays of 12, and two more combo mini-GBIC (SPF) slots that converts the electric currents to optical signals and vice-versa (acts as an interface for high-speed networking and it’s used for fiber optic connections).
Each of the 24 Ethernet ports features two LED lights (on the left and right) for LINK/ACTIVITY and GIGABIT. On the left of the ports, underneath the small CISCO logo, there is a PWR green light that shows if the unit is powered ON. If you turn the switch around, there are a couple of labels, the first one containing information about the S/N, MAC address and PID VID. Next to the labels, there’s the Power port (100-240V~, 1000-500mA, 50-60Hz). This switch does not feature any fan (it uses passive ventilation), so there is no annoying noise. The heat dissipation is done by the series of vent holes on the left and right of the device.
In terms of hardware, the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA is equipped with 128 MB flash memory, 128 MB of RAM and, since we are dealing with a 24-ports switch, there is a total bandwidth of 48 Gbps available. Setting up the SG112-24-NA is very simple, since this is a plug-and-play device, so you only have to connect your devices using an Ethernet cable and the switch will do the job on its own without needing any configuration from the user.
Obviously, since this is a Cisco device, there are lots of interesting features that run automatically and help creating a reliable network. Among them, there is the Quality of Service (QoS), which senses the services that need prioritizing (like VOIP or video streaming) so you get a better network performance. The QoS also uses the weighted round-robin (WRR) features, which has the role to distribute the load among the resources, so the requests are evenly distributed.
Another interesting feature is the Loop Detection, which has the role to discover any accidentally created loop in the network, so it avoids any possible broadcast storm (the network is overwhelmed by continuous broadcast or multicast traffic). Additionally, there are also the cable diagnostics (identifies any cable faults or shorts), the flow control, Layer 2 switching, auto-negotiating, it support Jumbo frames (9216 bytes), 35.7 Mbps forwarding capacity, Energy Efficient Ethernet (it monitors the traffic on an active link and it puts the link into sleep mode during quiet periods, so there is reduces energy consumption) and many more. The SG112-24-NA is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3az, IEEE 802.1p, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3x and IEEE 802.3z. Note: Inside the box, you can find the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA unit, a power Adaptor, the Rack Mount Kit and a Quick Start Guide.
5. NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 Ethernet Switch
Netgear is a well known manufacturer of networking products, having a portfolio that covers consumer-level devices, as well as enterprise-type products. Among them, there are powerline adapters, routers (the Nighthawk series being incredibly popular), NAS devices, wireless VPN firewalls and ProSAFE switches. Maintaining the theme of the article, I will focus on an entry-level unmanaged switch, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108, which is suitable for home use, as well as for small business offices.
The NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 went through several revisions (the latest being v4), but it has kept the same design, looking very similar to pretty much every other switch on the market. It doesn’t really excel from the aesthetic point of view, but switches are all about practicability. So, you can expect a metallic rectangular case, covered by a blue matte finish, with the Netgear logo and name written on top, as well as two series of vent grills on both the right and left side.
The switch itself is very compact, as expected from an 8-port device, it measures 6.2 x 4.0 x 1.1 inches and weighs 1.04 lb (it’s lightweight, but the four feet should give it more stability). In terms of positioning, the GS108 can be placed horizontally on a flat surface (just make sure not to obstruct the air vents), but it can also be wall-mounted. As expected, you can’t rack-mount it, this option being available only for the 16-port and the 24-port variants (JGS516NA and the JGS524NA).
On the bottom of the switch, besides the four feet and the two holes for wall-mounting, there is a label with printed information about the device (the version of the switch and the serial number). The front of the switch is occupied by the 8 10/100/1000 Base-T RJ45 Ethernet ports and a Power LED (if it’s ON, it means that there is Link, otherwise, if it blinks, it means that there is ACTIVITY).
Every port features two LEDs: the left LED lights up if there is a connection of 100Mbps, the right LED lights up for a connection of 10Mbps. If both LEDs are ON at the same time, it means that there is a connection of 1000Mbps. Unfortunately, none of the ports support the PoE technology. The rear side of the switch is home to a Kensington lock, an OFF/ON switch and a Power port (12V – 0.5A). Overall, the power consumption is quite low and because it doesn’t feature a fan (it relies on passive cooling), the switch is quiet.
Furthermore, I saw some major improvements from the GS108v3 in terms of power conumption after Netgear added support for the latest IEEE 802.3az standard which should translate into reduced energy consumption (up to 50% less) when the cable is shorter than 320 feet (Auto Green Mode), when there is light traffic on any active ports or when no activity is detected (a features also called Auto-Power Down). Inside the case, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108v4 remains equipped with a Broadcom BCM53118 chipset. The advertised switching capacity of the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 is 16Gbps.
Since this is an unmanaged switch, the setup process is very simple (this is a Plug and Play device): you have to connect the power adapter to the back of the switch and connect the desired devices using Ethernet cables (Cat 5). For every added client, the corresponding LED should turn on and flash when activity occurs. Despite being unmanaged, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 has lots of built-in features that help crating a better LAN network. Among them, there is the support for Jumbo frames (9k), which has the ability to boost the throughput significantly, there’s also the Store and Forward and the 192 KB on-chip Packet Buffering forwarding modes.
Additionally, you get traffic prioritization and DSCP-based QoS, so, applications like VOIP and video streaming have a higher priority. The NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3i, IEEE 802.3u, 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3x, IEEE 802.3az and 802.1p. Note: Inside the package, you can find the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 Gigabit unit, the AC Power adapter, the wall-mounting screws, an Installation Guide and the Warranty.
6. Buffalo BS-GU2024 Ethernet Switch
Buffalo Technology is a North American subsidiary of the Japanese company Melco Holdings Inc. The Austin-based company is a fairly popular manufacturer of networking products and a leading provider of NAS devices, wireless routers and access points, external hard drives, network switches (both unmanaged and smart devices) and many other type of networking solutions.
One of the more popular products from Buffalo Technology is the BS-GU2024, which is an interesting rackmount unmanaged switch, suitable for small business offices or for a home tech enthusiast. The Buffalo BS-GU2024 is part of the Gigabit Green Ethernet Switches group and, since this series lacks the PoE functionality and, you can have a look at the 16-port BS-GU2016P (but be aware that it will cost a bit more).
The design of the BS-GU2024 follows the same guidelines as most other switches on the market, which is a good thing especially because I am talking about a device that can be rack-mounted, so it has to have a rectangular case. Furthermore, Buffalo made the device fairly compact for a 24-port switch (it measures 11.8 x 1.7 x 7.0 inches and weighs 3.5 lbs) and the chassis is made of metal, therefore it’s a lot more durable than the plastic alternative.
The Buffalo BS-GU2024 can be positioned in multiple ways: you can put it horizontally on a shelf or desk (but, don’t forget to attach the supplied rubber feet), it can be mounted to a metal surface by using the BS-MGK-A Magnet kit (which is not included in the package – see the note below), it can be mounted on the wall using the supplied mounting brackets (use the mounting holes from the bottom of the device) and lastly, the switch can be installed on a 19-inch rack by using the mounting brackets and the provided screws (use the four holes on each side of the device).
Note: Inside the package, you can find the BS-GU2024 switch unit, an AC 100-240V power cable, a retainer band for the power cable, the 19-inch mounting brackets along with the screws, the rubber feet, the serial number stickers, user manual and warranty. Since this device is marketed as a rackmount switch, the top of the device is plain and uneventful (except maybe for the vent holes from the top edges) and the same can be said for the right and left side. But, on the rear side of the BS-GU2024, you can find the AC-IN power port and a zone for the power cable retainer.
As expected, the front of the switch is the most eventful side. Here, you can find 48 LED lights, two for every port, each having three states: if the LINK/ACT LED is Off, the link has not been established, if it’s On, then the link has been established, otherwise, if the LED is blinking, it means that the data is being transferred and if the loop is blocked, the LED will blink once per second. If the 1000 Mbps LED (green) is On, it signifies a 1000 Mbps link, otherwise, if it’s Off, it signifies either a 100/10 Mbps link or no link. If the LED blinks once per second, it means that a loop is blocked. Additionally, there are a couple of LEDs, one for LOOP and the other for Power.
On the right side of the LEDs, there is a small Loop prevention switch, which can turn On or Off this function. Next to the small button, there are two blocks of 12 LAN ports each (1000BASET/100BASE-TX/10BASE-T). Overall, the power consumption of the switch is 13.5W at full load and, since this is a fanless switch (possible because it’s unmanaged), the device runs silent.
The Buffalo BS-GU2024 is an unmanaged switch, therefore setting it up is very simple (as with any plug-and-play device): all you have to do is to connect your devices to the switch, using Ethernet cables and that’s pretty much it, you don’t need to configure anything. But, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting features that help create a better and more secure network.
The BS-GU2024 is capable of Jumbo Frames (9K – Header 14 Bytes + FCS 4 Bytes inclusive), has a buffer memory of 512KB and a switching fabric of 48 Gbps. Furthermore, the switch features the 802.3az Green Ethernet technology, that scans which ports have connected devices and provides power only to the active ports, while also putting any transmitters in Sleep Mode if no data has been received or sent. Also, this feature takes into consideration the length of the connected cable so it can adjust the amount of power it needs to supply. Additionally, the switch has the Loop prevention feature which will turn off any port where there’s a network loop detected (you will also be alerted by the dedicated LED if there is a network loop detected). Note: The switch has an internal power supply.
Unmanaged vs Web-smart vs Managed switches
As you have probably guessed, you will find three main types of switches: unmanaged, Web-smart and managed switches. The unmanaged switches are the most basic from the bunch, as they require no configuration, no management and they work as plug-and-play devices (just add your devices one by one using Ethernet cables). But, this doesn’t mean that the unmanaged switches are devoid of any features. Quite the contrary, because most come with a basic form of QoS, there is PoE port prioritization (if PoE support is present), but, everything is done automatically and works as you power on the switch until you turn it off, there is no way to configure these options in depth (some can still be monitored by LED indicators).
In terms of appearance, there isn’t a difference between an unmanaged and a managed switch, they can be positioned on a desktop, wall or rack mounted. But, is an unmanaged switch the best device for you? Well, if a plug-and-play switch that doesn’t require any configuration and works well by its own sounds good to you, then yes, you should go for it (also, take into consideration the built-in PoE support). Also, don’t forget that unmanaged switches are the cheapest out of the three variations.
The Web-smart switches are a form of managed switches, but with a more limited feature set (they fall between the unmanaged and the managed switches niche). Smart switches are easy to set up and offer a web interface that allows you to configure a lot of features (a more basic set, comparing it with a full managed switch). You get Link Aggregation, Port Monitoring, VLAN, QoS, LAG and some other L2-level features, but, while most of the managed switches can be managed using a CLI (command line interface), a smart-managed switch lacks any console port, SSH or telnet support.
While some may argue that a web-smart switch may have a poorer management spectrum, less features and not enough security, technology has evolved a lot lately and some web-managed switches can now rival the full-managed ones. But, this will be reflected in the price tag (although, usually, smart switches are cheaper than the enterprise ones). But, do you need a Web-smart switch? Since these type of switches are the middle ground between the unmanaged and the managed switches, it means that they will work great with small businesses, as they offer some degree of configurability (especially if the features of a managed switch may be overkill) and, usually, they come at a more reasonable price. If this are your needs, then yes, smart switches are perfect for you (again, take into consideration the advantages of PoE support).
A fully-manages switch (also known as enterprise switch) offers the most out of the three variants and the biggest difference between them is the level of control over the network. As expected, the fully managed switches provide the greatest amount of management and control. You also get access to more than one interfaces (including CLI, SSH and SNMP) and layer 3 features (routing capabilities).
Now, do you need a fully managed switch? There is an IT joke that if you wonder if you need a managed switch, then chances are you that don’t. And there is a bit a truth into this, because a managed switch gives full control over the network and the manager can see everything that is going on and adjust it in such a way that the network will be perfectly optimized. This requires a clear understanding of how things work and a steep learning curve. Usually, medium to large enterprise-level networks would need such high-end switches, but lately, even small businesses seem to take an interest for the fully-managed switches.
What Features Should You Look For Before Choosing The Best Network Switch?
1. Number of Ports One of the most important factors to consider is choosing the switch with the right number of ports (Ethernet switches, usually come with 5, 8, 10, 16, 24, 48 and 52 ports). For example, if you have 4 or 5 devices to connect, then a 5 or 8-port switch would fit the bill.
Also, if you have 15 devices, then a 16-port will handle them, but if you want to expand the network in the future, you may want to consider purchasing a 24-port switch. At the same time, if you have over 50 users (a small business), then you may have to consider purchasing two switches to handle your network.
2. Gigabit or Fast Ethernet The Fast Ethernet is a term that refers to a traffic rate of 100Mbps (an upgrade over the usual 10Mbps rate), while the Gigabit Ethernet is a term that refers to a traffic rate of 1000Mbps. Obviously, a Gigabit switch is preferred, but depending on your network setup, it may not really be a necessity. You need a Gigabit switch if you need to push 1000Mbps per port and it’s ideal if you need to transfer large volumes of data and have a fast performing network with a low latency.
Obviously, there will be more stress on the link, but you get a better performance, more bandwidth and less congestion, but if your network focuses on Internet access or just for the transfer of low volume of files, then a Fast Ethernet switch (100Mbps) will be more than enough. Regardless, you should still consider a Gigabit switch, simply because the technology got less expensive than before and it’s clearly future-proof.
3. PoE The PoE (Power over Ethernet) technology refers to any system that passes electric power along with network data on an Ethernet cable. This technology helps to reduce the cost (since you don’t need to install any power cables), is safe (has protection for overloading or underpowering) and is flexible (compatible devices can be installed anywhere, without worrying about having a nearby power outlet).
Some of the devices that use the PoE technologies are VoIP phones, IP cameras and wireless access points. The last two types of devices are the reason why PoE switches are becoming more popular everyday. Nowadays, people value a lot more a flexible network infrastructure and a PoE switch allows you to connect any type of devices, but recognizes the PoE-compatible devices (such as IP cameras) and it enables power automatically.
The PoE technology obviously offers a series of advantages and can be found implemented on unmanaged switches and on the managed ones, but will definitely increase the price (and sometimes even the size of the switch).
4. With Fans or Fanless? This one may seem simple, because everybody prefers their devices to be as quiet as possible, so a fanless switch is the preferred one. Unmanaged and Web-smart switches are usually fanless, simply because they don’t emanate a lot of heat (due to a less powerful setup), but, if switches have the PoE tchnology and are managed (therefore a better performance), then the passive cooling may not be enough, so when things get heated, the fans can come into action to cool the situation down.
If you have a server room, having a noisy switch won’t really make a difference, but if you keep your devices on the desk or wall-mount them, then a fanless switch will be the preferred option.
5. Desktop, Rackmount or Wall-mount Ideally, a switch will feature all three options, but, depending on the size, the rack-mounting option may not make much sense. A desktop switch will have the default position horizontally, with four feet on the bottom, but, usually, you can also wall-mount it. The rackmount switches, on the other hand, will feature only this position (on a rack) as the only one available (the case will have no screen or LED on top) and some switches will also have the rackmount ears built into the body of the switch.
For those with a demanding job or lifestyle with constant exposure to environmental hazards, a rugged smartphone with military-grade protection may be the best option. A rugged smartphone is also a smart choice to use as a second phone when traveling. Ruggedized smartphone models meet military testing standards for protection against shock, water, dust, extreme temperatures, and vibration. They are water-resistant and can withstand submersion in shallow water for a limited time. When using a rugged smartphone, keep in mind that while these phones have been tested to military-specified standards, care should still be taken as glass screens can crack and drop test ratings do not guarantee you will always have the same results in the real world. Here are the best rugged smartphones for 2019 that are available unlocked. The following phones will work on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile but not CDMA carriers like Sprint and Verizon.
Ulefone Armor 3
Best Value Rugged Smartphone
The Ulefone Armor 3 is a 5.7-inch, dual-sim phone running Android 8.1 Oreo and is powered by an octo-core 2.6GHz Helio P23 CPU with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. With its IP68-rating, the Armor 3 can be submersed up to 2 meters underwater for 2 hours and is resistant to dust, dirt, and sand. The screen is 18:9 FHD+ (2160 x 1080 pixels) constructed of Gorilla Glass 5 and the massive 10,300mAh battery ensures operation for a week. The Sony IMX230 21MP-rear and 13MP-front cameras allow underwater shooting with the waterproof shutter button. Other features include a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, NFC+Google Pay, and a USB Type-C port.
PROS: Modern specs, very rugged, huge battery, affordable price CONS: Heavy at 364.9 grams.
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Industrial-Level Tough Smartphone for Professionals
Sonim is a serious player in the rugged mobile industry, holding the Guinness World Record for highest mobile phone drop (25 meters) with its XP3300 Force. Its rugged phones are often the go-to choice for professional use. Following the highly-regarded XP7, the Android 7.0-powered Sonim XP8 features MIL-STD-810G ruggedness and is a good choice for industrial workplaces or harsh outdoor environments. It is IP68 dustproof and waterproof and is also resistant to vibration, extreme temperatures, pressure, and oil and chemicals. It offers excellent shock and drop resistance and the FHD 5″ Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen can be operated with gloves or wet fingers. Useful features include 100dB+ speakers, dedicated push-to-talk and SOS buttons, removable 4,900mAh battery, NFC, and Quick Charge 4.0 USB-C port.
PROS: Excellent ruggedness, loud speaker, removable battery CONS: Expensive, heavy at 335 grams
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Rugged and Waterproof Smartphone With A Clean Design
The S41 is one of CAT’s latest models featuring significant upgrades over the previous S40. Featuring a full HD 5-inch screen with Gorilla Glass 5, the S41 is powered by a MediaTek P20 octa-core 2.3GHz CPU running Android 7.0 with 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM. It has a 13 MP camera with LED flash and a large 5000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices. The S41 is waterproof up to 2 meters deep for 1 hour and drop-proof to 1.8 meters. The S41 is compliant with MIL SPEC 810G standards and is designed to withstand thermal shocks and salt mist spray, making it one of the most rugged phones available. For a more affordable option, the CAT S31 offers a 4.7-inch 1280×720 HD screen, Qualcomm MSM8909 quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, and 4000 mAh battery, but it lacks NFC like the S41.
PROS: Very rugged exterior and excellent water resistance, decent specs CONS: No fingerprint sensor, more expensive than the competition
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Rugged Smartphone with Thermal Imaging, Laser Measurement, Air Quality Sensor
The new CAT S61 has the thermal imaging camera like the S60 and also includes a laser-assisted distance measurement function and an indoor air quality monitor, making it useful for construction work and industrial settings. Other improvements include a Qualcomm SD630 Octacore 2.2GHz CPU, Android Oreo, 4GB RAM/64GB ROM, 4500mAh battery (Quick Charge 4.0 compatible), shock resistance (1.8m drop tested), Super Bright 5.2” Display (Full HD 1920×1080), Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 16MP rear camera with dual LED flash, and 8MP front camera. The S61 features IP68 & IP69 dust and water resistance, extreme temperature resistance, vibration resistance, and MIL-SPEC-810G Category 4 Resistant to humidity and salt mist. The S61 offers significant upgrades over the S60 but comes at a significantly higher cost with a list price of $999 USD.
PROS: Unique specialty features, latest Android Oreo OS, big upgrades over S60 CONS: Expensive
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Older Rugged Smartphones To Consider:
Budget Rugged Smartphone with Wireless Charging
Like Ulefone, Doogee is another Chinese manufacturer that has made a name for itself with its affordable rugged smartphones. The S60 is the company’s flagship rugged phone featuring a 5.2″ FHD display with Gorilla Glass 5, Helio P25 CPU with 6GB RAM/64GB ROM, Android 7.0, and a 5,580mAh battery. One advantage that the S60 has over other rugged phones is the wireless charging capability (but the phone does not include a wireless charger).
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Rugged Smartphone with Thermal Imaging Camera
The rugged CAT S60 was the world’s first smartphone featuring a thermal imaging camera. This technology by FLIR has many applications for work and around the home such as finding gaps in insulation, electrical faults, and monitoring the performance of machinery. It can also be used to check gas cylinder levels for barbecue tanks or to explore the outdoors at night. The thermal image camera is capable of taking photos, videos, and time-lapse footage. Like the rest of the CAT S series of phones, the S60 is rugged and waterproof can withstand drops up to 1.8 meters. In terms of water-resistance, the S60 has a Lockdown Switch that allows the phone to survive underwater up to a depth of 5 meters for 60 minutes. The S60 is also designed to take photos and videos underwater, and can be used with gloves or wet fingers. The phone is reinforced with a die-cast frame and other rugged features include extreme temperature resistance from -25°C (-13°F) to 55°C (131°F) and resistance to vibration. Other features include a large 3800mAh battery, 4.7″ 1280×720 Corning Gorilla Glass 4 touchscreen, 13 MP autofocus rear camera, 5 MP front camera, NFC, and GPS. The processor is a Qualcomm MSM8952-3 (4 x 1.5GHz + 4 x 1.2GHz) with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. The 3800mAh battery combined with the 1280×720 screen gives the S60 excellent battery life.
PROS: First smartphone with thermal imaging camera, underwater camera, Android 6.0, 3800mAh battery, 32GB storage CONS: Expensive
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The CAT S40 has an IP68 rating and is tested to withstand 6-foot drops and submersion in water up to 1 meter for 60 minutes. It is also dustproof and passes MIL-STD-810G endurance tests for shock and drop, operating temperature (-13°F to 131°F), and vibration (Category 4). The S40 has a quad-core 1.1GHz Cortex-A7 CPU with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It has an ultra-bright 4.7″ IPS display for viewing in the sun and Gorilla Glass 4 for scratch protection. The touchscreen can be operated with gloves on. The battery is relatively large at 3000mAh. Although its 540 x 960 qHD screen is not competitive with newer rugged smartphones, it will result in better battery life.
The CAT S50 looks similar to the CAT S40 but it is slightly less rugged with an IP67 rating. It has the one of the highest resolution displays on this list at 720×1280 but its 2630mAh the battery is smaller than the S40. It has a slightly faster CPU and 2GB of RAM versus 1GB on the S40. The 8GB of internal storage is the most glaring inferior spec on this phone, but it does have a microSD slot. If screen resolution is important then the S50 may be worth choosing over the S40. The newly launched CAT S50c adds push-to-talk capability but is only available on the Verizon network. PROS: 720p HD display, competitive ruggedness, 2GB RAM CONS: smallish battery, only 8GB internal storage
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Kyocera DuraForce E6560
The Kyocera DuraForce E6560 was a popular rugged smartphone on the AT&T network, and it is now available unlocked. The DuraForce is a great all-around choice featuring a 4.5″ IPS screen with 720×1280 HD resolution. Its IP68 rating allows it to handle water immersion up to 30 minutes and the touchscreen can be operated when wet or with gloves. It is MIL-STD-810G certified for protection against shock, vibration, extreme temperatures, blowing rain, salt fog, dust, and water.
The DuraForce is also designed for use in very loud environments such as construction sites or concerts. Its Smart Sonic Receiver technology sends vibrations directly to the eardrums and it has dual microphone noise cancellation, so you can use the phone even if the background noise is up to 100 decibels. The DuraForce also has a barometer sensor to measure atmospheric pressure, a useful feature for outdoor use to predict changes in weather. The DuraForce is surprisingly affordable but it doesn’t sacrifice features or durability for its lower price and it is a good choice for those who need a tough phone for work or those who enjoy spending time in the outdoors.
PROS: MIL-STD-810G, 3100mAh battery, barometer, programmable dedicated button CONS: New model may be on the way
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Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro is a good choice for those looking for a small yet tough smartphone. The Galaxy Rugby Pro passes military tests for blowing rain and sand, high humidity and thermal shock. It is also shock and dust resistant and can handle submersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. The 4″ screen is scratch resistant. The Galaxy Rugby Pro does not have the best protection or advanced specs, but it is one of the more affordable rugged smartphones. It should satisfy those on a budget, as long as expectations for performance are kept in check.
PROS: small and lightweight, affordable CONS: low-res 800 x 480 display, only 8GB internal storage, camera only 5MP, dated Android 4.0
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The best wireless access point is a networking device that can keep up with the fast pace of tech development by implementing some of the latest technologies suitable for both small and medium businesses (allowing the creation of large scalable networks), as well as for the home user, especially as an equivalent to the mesh WiFi systems (for people with larger homes or simply, for tech enthusiasts). Considering that the demand for such devices is very high, there is now a large variety of wireless access points to choose from and, based on the wireless performance, the amount of features, the user-friendliness of the UI, the design and the aforementioned scalability factor, I chose the best wireless access points on the market, by taking into account both the older 802.11n standard and the newer 802.11ac standard (the 802.11ax is not quite there, yet).
UPDATE 02.20.2019: The Xclaim Xi-3 AP has been removed from the best wireless access points list because the manufacturer decided to announce that the entire series will be EOL by 2021 (at the moment, the status is End of Sale).
UPDATE 01.21.2019: I have added the TP-Link EAP245 to the best wireless access points list
THE BEST 802.11AC WIRELESS ACCESS POINTS
THE BEST 802.11n WIRELESS ACCESS POINTS
The wireless access point has the role of converting the data received from a wired Ethernet cable into wireless signal (2.4GHz or 5GHz) and, since a wireless router can do pretty much the same thing, one my ask why would you need a separate access point? Well, routers can definitely do a great job at serving all the close-by clients, but, there are always WiFi dead spots where the signal just won’t reach and so, if you have a rather large house, you may need at least one additional access point to help with your network.
While the main purpose of an AP is to extend your network, some manufacturers have taken up to a new level, adopting the mesh networking technology, so you can use one or two small devices in your home (which are usually very easy to setup) or you can use a bunch of them and create a mesh network, where your clients can seamlessly roam the building and have uninterrupted access to the Internet and a steady, strong signal. Note 1: This article addresses both consumer and small business wireless access points (WAP). Note 2: If you have an old router laying around, you may try to convert it to an access point and save some money in the process. Note 3: I purposely left out the Outdoor Access Points, which will be the subject of another article.
CHECK OUT: THE BEST OUTDOOR WIRELESS ACCESS POINTS
1. Linksys LAPAC2600 PRO Wireless Access Point
Linksys is one of the most popular manufacturer of networking products which managed to reach its peak more than 10 years ago, when it released the wonder router, the Linksys WRT54G, a device loved by everyone and, surprisingly, even now it’s still one of the most sold routers on the market. At the same time, Linksys has also experienced some downs, as it had to transition through multiple companies (Cisco, Belkin), but it seems that it has fully recovered and it is already back up with the big boys of the networking world.
This time, I won’t focus on its router array, but I will have a look at one of its best wireless access points, the LAPAC2600 Pro from the Business series, a successor of the LAPAC1750PRO and, while it is also a dual band AC access point, it does come with some extra features, such as the MU-MIMO technology, it supports the 802.11r and the 802.11k standards and more, so let’s have a closer look.
The LAPAC2600 Pro respects the latest design trend of small circular or hexagonal-shaped devices that can be easily positioned anywhere (even on the ceiling). The case of the access point is basically identical to that of the LAPAC1750PRO, so we’re dealing with a hexagonal shape, but not with sharp angles, adopting soft, rounded corners instead (everything covered by a white matte finish). On the top you can find the Linksys logo, along with the model and a small bar for the LED lights just underneath. Also there is a narrow canal surrounding the top of the device and from this place, the case flows from the narrower top side towards a larger footprint.
Its size shouldn’t worry you, as it measures 9.6×9.3×1.7 inches (sure, it’s not small, but manageable – it’s identical with the size of the LAPAC1750PRO) and it doesn’t weigh a lot (1.87 lbs). Because it’s rather lightweight, the LAPAC2600 Pro was meant to be positioned on the wall or on the ceiling, as it comes with the whole kit for mounting (including a drill layout template). If you decide to keep it horizontally on a desk, there are four small round silicone feet that should ensure a reasonable level of stability.
Turn the access point upside down and you’ll be greeted by lots of punctured holes which ensure a proper airflow along with a carved-in area where you can find the ports and connections: there’s a Power port (only use the adapter that came with your AP), the first Ethernet port (PoE+ – if you dislike the idea of using the power adapter, Linksys allows you to power on the AP from an 802.3af/at compliant source, such as a PoE switch), the second Ethernet port, a Reset button (press it for less than 15 seconds to power recycle and more than 15 seconds to return to the defaults settings) and a Kensington Lock.
It may come as a surprise, but, while the second Ethernet port of the Linksys LAPAC2600 Pro can be used to connect to the network, it cannot be used to connect to other devices (such as PoE switches) or other access points and the real reason for its existence is to allow link aggregation. So, for higher bandwidth, the two Ethernet ports can be aggregated (the ports have static LAG enabled with LACP 802.3ad Link Aggregation Control Protocol, which means that you don’t have to change any settings), but you need a compatible device configured to use link aggregation on the other side, otherwise you won’t be able to take advantage of this functionality (no, it won’t work with a basic unmanaged switch).
The LED light from the top of the case will glow a solid green if the system is normal and no wireless client is connected (it will blink when the device is booting). The LED will blink a blue light if there is an upgrade in progress and will be solid blue if at least one wireless client is connected. Lastly, the LED will be solid red if the booting process or any update has failed. Note: While other access points come with a PoE injector, Linksys has decided to not include one in the package (which is unfortunate, because this is not an inexpensive device).
Inside the case, Linksys has equipped the LAPAC2600 Pro with a dual-core Qualcomm IPQ8065 chipset clocked at 1.7 GHz (it migrated from the Broadcom platform which was used with the LAPAC1750PRO), 512 MB (Samsung K4B2G1646E – double the RAM of its predecessor) and 128MB flash memory (Macronix MX30UF1G18AC-TI). In terms of wireless hardware, the access point features a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9990 chip for the 2.4GHz Radio and the same Qualcomm Atheros QCA9990 chip is used for the 5Ghz radio band. As a side note, each radio band supports a maximum of 8 individual SSIDs (16 in total).
Generally, access points focus on different things than routers (like multiple SSIDs with multiple VLANs), so it won’t come as a surprise that the LAPAC2600 Pro won’t outshine any other AC2600 router in terms of wireless performance, even though the access point itself is branded as AC2600. Despite that, the LAPAC2600 Pro is a worthy performer and the test results are really good. Using the 2.4Ghz radio band, the LAPAC2600 Pro reached a maximum downlink speed of 165 Mbps at close range (5 feet) and it slowly decreased to 127 Mbps at 15 feet and at 98 Mbps at 35 feet. The average uplink throughput at 5 feet was 158 Mbps and afterwards, I got 115 Mbps at 15 feet and lastly, an average of 72 Mbps at 35 feet.
Using the 5GHz radio band, things were a lot better (obviously, on a shorter distance). At close range, I measured an average downlink speed of 510 Mbps and then, the speed decreased to 398 Mbps at 15 feet and then it went down pretty fast at 35 feet, as it managed to reach only 184 Mbps. The uplink throughput was a bit better on the long range, as the access point managed around 210 Mbps at 35 feet. At close range (5 feet), the AP delivered a speed of 485 Mbps and at 15 feet, I measured 370 Mbps.
In terms of features, the LAPAC2600 Pro comes with the MU-MIMO technology which has the ability to serve multiple clients at the same time, instead of letting them compete for the bandwidth, but, unfortunately there aren’t that many compatible devices on the market, so this tech is more for future-proofing than for immediate use. Furthermore, there’s also the support for the 802.11r and the 802.11k standards, the former having the role of quickly choosing the next node to which the client will roam, while the latter negates the need for re-authentication every time the client roams to a new node (Fast Basic Service Set Transition). Another cool feature is the centralized management system which allows the creation of access points clusters which can then be managed by a single controller (similar to the way CloudTrax operates).
In order to access the web-based utility, you need to either insert the default IP address, 192.168.1.252 or, if the access point acquired an IP address from the DHCP server, you need to insert the new IP address. Next, you will be prompted to enter the username and password (admin for both) and click Log In. The interface features five main horizontal tabs: System Status, Quick Start, Configuration, Maintenance and Support. The first thing you should do is launch the Setup Wizard (through the Quick Start), where you can choose a password for the AP, configure the system settings (host name, time zones), enter the IPv4 address and create SSIDs.
The System Status shows you info about the System, the LAN, Wireless connection and clients, as well as statistics and the Log view. The Configuration tab has three sub tabs: Administration (User Accounts, Time, Log Settings, Management Access, SSL Certificate and LED), LAN (Network Setup and Advanced settings), Wireless (Basic Settings, Security, Rogue AP Detection, Scheduler, Scheduler Association, Connection Control, Rate Limit, QoS, WDS, Workgroup Bridge and Advanced Settings), Captive Portal (Global Configuration, Portal Profiles, Local User, Local Group, Web Customization, Profile Association and Client Information), ACL (Profiles and Association) and Cluster (Settings & Status, Client Sessions and Channel Management).
The Maintenance tab is home to the Maintenance sub-tab (Firmware Upgrade, Configuration Copy/Save, Configuration Backup/Restore, Factory Default and Reboot) and the Diagnostics sub-tab (Ping Test, Packet Capture and Diagnostic Log).
I got to talk about Ubiquiti quite a bit lately, since when you’re ready to purchase a product (from almost any networking sector), there’s always someone who taps you on the shoulder and points you to a Ubiquiti device, which most of the time, has a better price and pretty much the same features as its more expensive competitors. This shows how influential and widespread this ‘indie’ tech company has become over the last years.
Some of the Ubiquiti devices that I managed to have a look at include the TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO web-managed switch, the Layer 3 managed EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W switch, the outdoor wireless access points Ubiquiti Bullet M2 and Ubiquiti UniFi AP Outdoor+ and the 2.4GHz indoor wireless access point Ubiquiti UAP-LR. In the meantime, manufacturers went past the 2.4GHz-only access points and entered the realm of the 802.11ac standard. As expected, Ubiquiti immediately released the UAP-AC-PRO, which besides being an AC device, it also supports the 802.3af standard-based PoE and 802.3at PoE+.
If you got the chance to look at the older Ubiquiti UAP-LR’s design, well, there isn’t much else to say about the UAP-AC-PRO since it pretty much has the same case and, if it wasn’t for the size, it would be indistinguishable from other devices from the UniFi AP series. So, we’re dealing with a circular, flush-mount-like body, with a smaller inner circle from which glows a LED light and all around, the case is covered by a white matte finish (which does not retain any fingerprints). I could not see any ventilation holes present anywhere on the device (perhaps because Ubiquiti marketed the UAP-AC-PRO as also usable outdoors, but not in the open), so, since it relies on passive cooling, the unit can get reasonably warm (Ubiquiti AC access points run hotter than the usual WAPs, and, so far, the UAP-AC-PRO did get hot on the bottom area when put under stress, but I saw no performance loss).
I wouldn’t go as far as call it compact, but the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO is definitely a device of fair proportions (it measures 7.74 x 7.74 x 1.38 inches) and, while you could keep it on your desk (not that it would make much sense, since it lacks any silicone/rubber feet), the access point was specifically designed to be mounted on the wall or the ceiling. Taking into account the nature of its design, the UAP-AC-PRO is an unobtrusive, minimalistic device which will go well with the style of any room and it could actually improve it thanks to its built-in LED light.
Similarly to other newly released devices, the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO decided that the usually found array of LED lights which accurately show the status of your system is obsolete, so it went with a single LED light which will either show a solid colour or flash it intermittently, depending on the status of the device and network: solid white means that the access point is ready to be integrated, a flashing white LED means that the AP is initializing, while an alternate white blue flashing LED indicates that the device is busy (you should not unplug it); a solid blue LED indicates a successful integration into a network, a quick flashing blue LED shows that the controller software is trying to locate the AP and lastly, a steady blue LED with occasional flashes shows that the device is in isolates state.
Turn the device upside down to reveal a small Security Slot (that you need to use when you want to unlock the device from its plate) and a carved-in area where you can find a recessed Reset button (to simply restart the device, press and release the button quickly and if you want to return the device to factory default settings, hold the button for more than 5 seconds), a USB 2.0 port (useful if you want to connect a PA system) and on the opposite sides of each other, rest two 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (a Main port for powering on the device and a Secondary one used for bridging). Note: Inside the package, you can find the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO unit, a mounting bracket, a ceiling backing plate, four flat head screws (M3x50), four keps nuts (M3), four screws (M2.9×20), four screw anchors, a 48V, 0.5A Gigabit PoE adapter with a Mount Bracket (only in the single-pack), a Power cord and a Quick Start Guide (be aware that the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO-E lacks the PoE adapter).
To perform a proper hardware installation of the device, you need to follow these steps: take the mounting bracket and fix it to the wall by drilling four holes and using the provided screw anchors along with the necessary screws (the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO uses the same mounting bracket as the UAP-PRO, so, if you already have the older model, it’s very easy to just replace the unit without making any other changes). Next, remove the port cover from the access point, remove the rubber seal, connect an Ethernet cable to the Main port and afterwards, align the AP to the mounting bracket and rotate it into place until the lock tab engages.
The ceiling mounting process follows pretty much the same steps, but you need to add the ceiling backing plate before connecting the mounting bracket for better support (you don’t want it to fall on your head). The UAP-AC-PRO can be powered by a Ubiquiti Networks UniFi Switch, the provided Ubiquiti Networks Gigabit PoE adapter or by a 802.3af/802.3at PoE+ compliant switch (you can read here a list of the best ethernet switches on the market).
Ubiquiti provides you with the UniFi Controller software in order to make any configuration changes to the network. To get the latest version, you need to go to downloads.ubnt.com/unifi, download the suitable software version (compatible with Mac/Windows/Debian/Ubuntu Linux) and run the installer (which will eventually ask you to Launch a Browser to Manage the Network). Next, the wizard will guide you through setting up the location and timezone, selecting the device which you want to configure (in this case, choose the wireless access point), configuring the WiFi (SSID, security key and Enable Guest Access), the Controller Access (admin name, email and password), the Cloud Access and you’re done. From here on, you can log into the interface by using the chosen username and password – be aware that you need to keep an instance of the UniFi controller always running on your main computer for local access.
The interface has a left vertical menu divided into two sections: the first includes the Dashboard (a graphical representation of the download and upload latency / throughput, the number of devices on the 2.4 and 5GHz channels, the number of devices, clients and the Deep Packet Inspection), Map (you can view or create a graphical topology of your network), Devices (displays a list of all the UniFi devices discovered by the Controller), Clients (displays a list of the network clients and allows you to configure them), Statistics (number of Clients, the Top Access points, a Quick Look over the most active AP and client, as well as Recent Activities) and Insights. The second section includes the Events, Alerts, Settings and Chat with Us.
On the inside, the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO is equipped with a 775MHz Qualcomm Atheros QCA9563 chipset (MIPS32 74K series processor), 128 MB of RAM, 16 MB of flash memory and a Qualcomm Atheros AR8337 switch chip. Furthermore, the UAP-AC-PRO is also equipped with a Qualcomm Atheros QCA988x 802.11a/n/ac chipset for the 5GHz radio and a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9563 b/g/n for the 2.4GHz radio (there are also three 3 dBi Dual-Band Antennas).
The Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO features a maximum theoretical speed of 1,300 Mbps using the 5GHz radio band (802.11ac standard) and a maximum theoretical speed of 450 Mbps using the 2.4GHz radio band (of course, using the 802.11n standard). These rates are theoretical only and, even in close-to-ideal conditions there’s a low chance one would actually experience such link rates.
So, to see how does the access point behave in the real world, I took a laptop which will act as the server (get connected directly to the access point using a 1Gbps cable) and a computer equipped with an Asus PCE-AC88 WiFi adapter in order to test the wireless performance in different spots inside the house. But first, it’s worth mentioning that Ubiquiti has implemented some technologies to enhance the wireless performance, such as the band steering (clients are moved to the most suitable and interference-free 5GHz channels), the simultaneous dual-band setup (both radios can operate at the same time, each with their own clients) and, of course, the 3×3 MIMO technology.
So, I first connected the devices to the 5GHz radio band and I tested the client to server performance: at close range (no more than 5 feet), I measured an average of 440 Mbps, while at no more than 30 feet, the speed decreased to 302 Mbps. Afterwards, I tested the server to client performance and, at 5 feet, I measured an average of 258 Mbps, while at 30 feet, the speed went down to 170 Mbps. Next, I switched to the 2.4GHz radio band and, testing the client to server performance, I got the following results: at around 5 feet, I measured an average of 107 Mbps, while at 30 feet, the speed remained consistent and I measured an average of 106 Mbps. Testing the server to client performance, I got the following results: at 5 feet, I measured around 101 Mbps, while at 30 feet, the speed slightly decreased to 90.5 Mbps.
3. Zyxel NWA1123-AC HD Dual-Band 3×3 Wireless Access Point
ZyXEL Communications is one of the main suppliers of networking products in the world (both wired and wireless) and in the span of two decades it not only became dominant in Asia, but it also successfully branched towards Europe and North America. Of course, my main focus is not really towards its top-tier corporate devices, but on the more SMB and possibly consumer-friendly networking equipment which borrows some of the professional-level functionality, but keeps the price as affordable as possible.
Note: Some of the devices that I managed to test are the ZyXEL PLA5456KIT AV2000 HomePlug AV2, a great powerline adapter and the ZyXEL ZyWall USG40, a professional dual WAN router.
Considering the theme of the article, I’m going to have a look at another ZyXEL device, the ZyXEL NWA1123-AC HD, which is one of the latest PoE wireless access point from the Taiwanese company, featuring some of the most interesting 802.11ac Wave 2 features (such as the MU-MIMO and the BeamForming technologies) and, using the NebulaFlex controller, the user can control, monitor and configure multiple Zyxel devices on a single site or multiple locations (via the Cloud server). Of course, the access point can also be used as a standalone device, which should be the prefered option for home users. ZyXEL has followed a similar design approach to the Linksys LAPAC2600PRO, adopting a hexagonal shaped case (a popular choice for business-type APs, besides the circular one), but it has avoided adding any sharp lines, so there is a smooth curve to the body of the access point.
Furthermore, similarly to most wireless access points that get mounted on the ceiling or on the wall, ZyXel decided to cover the case with a white matte finish, therefore, further enhancing the minimalist design of the device and ensuring that its neutral look won’t attract any attention. Unlike the ZyXEL WAC6503D-S which had the top side slightly raised, the NWA1123-AC HD has a more subtle transition to the circular middle area and the ZyXEL logo in the middle is now less prominent.
I did look around the case and tried to pinpoint some relevant cut-outs which would suggest that the case has a proper internal ventilation and except for some bottom side small holes, everything seems to be sealed off. But there’s a twist. When I opened the case, I noticed that the bottom part seems to be made of a zinc alloy and Zyxel relies on this system to keep the internal temperature at a reasonable level. And it works, since even if it was under a heavier load, the temperature remained decent (there were some warm spots on the bottom) and, so far, this does seem to be one of the coolest access point in its category.
In terms of positioning, you can always put the device flat on a surface, but you will notice that it lacks any silicone feet, so it will easily slide off. This means that the AP was created to be mounted on the wall/ceiling and you do get all the necessary equipment in the box (mounting plate and mounting screws). One thing that took me by surprise is the weight of this wireless access point, as at its 1.65 lbs, it is one of the heaviest wireless access points that I’ve tested (the reason for that is the metallic lower body part). Furthermore, you don’t really have to worry about its dimensions because it won’t stand out if mounted on the wall or ceiling (it’s no larger than a flush mount lighting – it measures 8.31 x 8.78 x 1.54 inches).
Unlike the older WAC6503D-S which still kept the good ol’array of LED lights, the ZyXEL NWA1123-AC HD decided to adopt the same approach as the newer WiFi mesh systems and went with a single LED light which will show the status of the access point: if it’s green, then the device is On and functional (slow blinking amber, On for 1 second and Off for 1 second shows that the AP is booting up, while slow blinking three times and afterwards it turns Off for three seconds indicates that the device is discovering an access point controller); if the LED is bright blue then the wireless interface is activated, but no wireless clients are yet connected; a red LED indicates a system failure (fast blinking indicates a firmware update, slow blinking 3 seconds at a time shows that the Uplink port is disconnected); if the LED light is slowly blinking green (1 second at a time), then the wireless LAN is either disabled or it has failed.
I have said many times that I am not a fan of this type of approach since it certainly looks good and may make you feel that it is the simpler system, while it really isn’t and you will often find yourself checking the manual to see what’s going on with your device. The LED lights can be turned off by accessing the Maintenance tab > LEDs and then Suppression from the interface. On the rear side of the device, you can find a special area that gives you an easy access to all the ports: a 12V DC-In Power Port, a Gigabit Ethernet Uplink / PoE port (802.3at / 802.3af – the maximum power draw is 15.5 W – if you connect both a power cable and use the PoE port, the DC-In port takes priority), a LAN1 Gigabit Ethernet port (for connecting clients – it doesn’t support the PoE technology), a 4-pin serial Console port, a Kensington Security slot and a small, recessed Reset button.
Note: Unfortunately, ZyXEL did not include a PoE injector in the package, so, you will have to purchase one separately if you want to use this feature – you can also use a PoE switch/router. Inside the case, ZyXel has equipped the NWA1123-AC HD with a dual-band Broadcom BCM4752B0KRFBG Wave 2 3×3 chipset (800MHz), 256 MB NOR flash memory (Macronix MX25L25635MJ-10G), 256MB of RAM (WINBOND W632GU6MB-12) and a Realtek RTL8363NB Layer 2 Managed 2+2-Port 10/100/1000M Switch Controller. Furthermore, the ZyXEL NWA1123-AC HD is also equipped with a Broadcom BCM43525KMMLG SoC 3×3 Dual-Band 802.11ac. Now, let’s see how does the access point fare in terms of wireless performance. While using the 2.4GHz radio band, from the server to the client, the NWA1123-AC HD managed an average throughput of 120Mbps at close range and afterwards, the speed decreased to 119 Mbps at 15 feet and then it averaged at around 90.5 Mbps at 30 feet away from the access point. Furthermore, I tested the server to client performance and measured an average of 103 Mbps, 5 feet away from the device. At 15 feet, I measured 101 Mbps and at a bigger distance (30 feet), the AP managed 91.4Mbps.
Next, I switched to the 5Ghz radio band and, as expected, things stand a lot better. From the client to the server, at 5 feet, the NWA1123-AC HD managed throughput of 489 Mbps and then, at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 460 Mbps and lastly, at 30 feet, it managed an average of 303 Mbps. The server to client performance at 5 feet was around 266 Mbps and then, it slightly decreased to 248 Mbps at 15 feet. At 30 feet, I measured an average of 190 Mbps. If used in standalone mode, the ZyXEL NWA1123-AC HD features a Web Configurator that allows you to easily manage the access point (you can also use the Command-Line Interface CLI, SNMP or FTP).
On the main page there are multiple areas for you to explore, but first let’s see the top title bar which allows the users to Logout, initiate the setup Wizard, visit the Site Map, consult the Help or About sections, see the Object Reference or access the CLI popup windows (underneath this top menu, there’s a small Widget Settings shortcut). On the left, there are four main tabs for Dashboard, Monitor, Configuration and Maintenance. On the Dashboard you can find device information, the status of the system, the WLAN Interface status summary and any other type of general information (such as the Ethernet Neighbour, the WDS Downlink/Uplink Status or the System Resources).
The Monitor tab displays the Network status, Wireless statistics (AP Information, Station Info, WDS Link Info and Detected Device) and the View Log. The Configuration tab is home to a series of sub-tabs: Network, Wireless, Bluetooth, Object, System and Log and Report. The Network sub-tab allows you to configure the IP address for the Ethernet interface, as well as manage the VLAN settings and configure the Controller settings. The Wireless sub-tab is a bit more complex, as here you’ll be able to edit the AP info and manage all the APs, as well as configure the NWA/WAC monitors for rogue APs. Furthermore, there is the Load Balancing function, which is an awesome asset for businesses and you can configure the DCS (Dynamic Channel Selection).
The Object sub-tab allows you to create, manage and change the settings for all your users, as well as create and manage wireless radio settings and wireless SSIDs. Additionally, you can create and manage rogue AP monitoring files, WDS profiles and setup trusted certificates. The System sub-tab is where you can configure the system and the domain name for the NWA/WAC (it also includes SSH, TELNET, FTP and SNMP). The Maintenance menu consists of File Manager, Diagnostics, LEDs, Antenna, Reboot and Shutdown.
In an SMB environment, it’s best to use the access point along with the dedicated Nebula controller which allows the centralised maintenance of multiple APs, as well as switches and gateways and gives the user a higher level of flexibility. Some of the most interesting features are the Map (which shows the location of the access points on a Google Maps area), the AP Smart Mesh (despite being in Beta stage, it allows the creation of a mesh network if you have more than one Zyxel access points deployed), the Live tools (useful for testing the connection and seeing the traffic), the Captive Portal (which allows the creation of personalized access pages for your guests and there are multiple authentication methods available) and the Client Steering.
In a short period of time, Open Mesh has become the go-to company for small and medium businesses that need a reliable networking equipment which can be managed and monitored from anywhere in the world via a free cloud controller (CloudTrax). Until last year, the main focus of Open Mesh was to create a large mesh network using its small form factor access points, but, since technology evolves at an extremely fast rate, we got to see a new series of cloud-managed switches and a couple of dual-band access points (the A60 and the A40), which promise to cover a larger area with WiFi, to allow more clients to connect to the network, while keeping the mesh capabilities and the seamless integration within the CloudTrax environment.
The A60 differs in many ways from the previous generation (from which I already took a look at the Open Mesh OM2P-HS that still holds a top place in the best 802.11n wireless access points list), now being suitable for both indoors and outdoors deployment (you don’t need a special enclosure any more), it has better internal hardware and, along with the A40, it is compatible with the 802.3af PoE standard, so it definitely deserves a top spot in our best 802.11ac access points list.
Similarly to other popular 802.11ac access points, the Open Mesh A60 adopted a minimalistic design, having a flush-mount lighting look which has pretty much become the new standard because of the non-intrusive nature (it will easily blend in on a wall or on the ceiling). The case of the A60 is rectangular, made of plastic (feels sturdy), with rounded corners and it’s covered by a white matte finish (it doesn’t retain fingerprints). Open Mesh has stated that the A60 can be used indoors, as well as outdoors, so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find any exposed area or any cut-outs to show any vulnerability to dust or water, with every area where two separate pieces of plastic meet being protected by silicone bands (it is IP55 rated, after all). Naturally, some may be concerned about heat dissipation if there are no vent holes, but, so far, while the device did get warm under heavy load, it did not overheat (it actually ran cooler than the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO).
If you compare it with the OM2P-HS (or any other AP from the OM series), you’ll notice that the A60 and A40 grew in size (both measure 6.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches) and the A60 has become a bit heavier (it weighs 0.99 pounds) – couple that with the four sturdy rubber feet and you have an unmovable device if you decide to keep it on the desk or shelf (while other manufacturers have also stated that their circular access points can be positioned on a flat surface, I feel that the rectangular case makes the most sense, since it won’t take more space than necessary). Furthermore, the A60 can also be mounted on the wall or on the ceiling (including T-rail mounting).
On the top of the access point, you’ll notice a square area (where resides the OM logo) with a small canal surrounding it and from underneath, a LED light will shine through to indicate the different states of the system: solid yellow indicates that the device is starting up (solid purple – boot loader); solid red indicates that the A60 is upgrading the firmware, while flashing red is the state that should worry you, since it means that there is a net failure; solid white means that the configuration is not ready, while flashing white indicates a check-in failure with CloudTrax; flashing green indicates a mesh speed under or equal to 2 Mbps, while solid green shows a connection above 2 Mbps; a yellow flash, then green indicates that the AP is in Orphan mode, while a red flash and then green, means that the A60 is in Lonely mode.
If you turn the access point around, you’ll notice that underneath the removable piece of plastic, there’s a carved-in zone with a protective silicone seal (for outdoor deployment) and inside this area, there’s an Ethernet 1 10/100/1000M Gigabit port (for powering up the device and data communication – either use a 802.11af PoE injector or a compatible PoE switch – such as the Open Mesh S8), an Ethernet 2 10/100/1000M Gigabit port (to connect a wired client), a USB port (which is not enabled, but may serve some purpose in the future) and a recessed Reset button (to return the device to factory default settings).
Note: Inside the package, there’s the Open Mesh A60 access point, a small Ethernet cable (6 inches long), a mounting plate, two fixed and two adjustable T-rail clips, a channel cable cover, a blank centre tab for creating your own logo and a Quick Start Guide (the A60 does not come with a PoE injector).
As you can see, Open Mesh has added in the box pretty much everything one may need to easily install the A60: if you decide to install it on the wall, you only have to fix the mounting plate on the wall using a couple of screws and simply slide the access point until it stays fixed; connecting it to a T-rail requires you to connect the two fixed and the two adjustable clips to the mounting plate and then, once again, simply slide the AP into place; if you decide to mount it outside, on a pole, you could either use zip ties or a metal ring to lock the mounting plate.
After the hardware installation is done (and you’ve connected the access points to a power source and a router), you can create an account on the cloudtrax.com to build your first network and start adding the access points (using their MAC addresses). CloudTrax was originally built to accommodate the Open Mesh access points, but it is slowly becoming an integrative solution for all the elements of a complete network (including Ethernet switches, the only missing element being a router), allowing its users to easily monitor and configure their network remotely by either using the web-browser complete variant or the CloudTrax app (available for both Android and iOS – it lacks a few functions, but the app still allows an incredible amount of configuration by itself).
The CloudTrax interface gives you access to a network map (which uses Google maps) and shows the location of each access point, it gives comprehensive insight for each added access point (the number of clients, the outages, the size of the download and upload data, ping latency, mesh speed, hops and more), it allows you to remotely reboot the device and view its neighbours (and do a detailed Site Survey). Under Configure, you can set up each of the four available SSIDs (which goes from simply selecting the used band and name to enabling bandwidth throttling, block devices, enable band steering, client isolation or the 802.11r transition standard, as well as adding alternate SMTP and DNS redirects, access control list or bridge and tag traffic with a specified VLAN). CloudTrax also allows you to create vouchers for client access in hotels or coffee shops, configure the radios and set some advanced settings (such as enabling the AP Mesh, select SSIDs for when a wired client is connected to a access point, enable IGMP Proxy and more).
On the inside, the Open Mesh A60 is equipped with a Qualcomm QCA9558 SoC, 16 MB NOR flash (from Macronix) and 128 MB of RAM (NANYA 1636 NT5TU32M16BG-AC). Furthermore, the A60 also uses a Qualcomm QCA9880 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 3×3 radio SoC for the 5GHz radio and a QCA9558 chip for the 2.4GHz radio band. The maximum theoretical data transfer rate for the 5Ghz radio band is 1,300 Mbps, while the maximum theoretical data transfer rate for the 2.4Ghz radio is 450 Mbps.
The Open Mesh A60 manages to offer an interesting alternative to the popular WiFi mesh systems (that also want to replace the traditional router), and similarly to the Linksys Velop or Google WiFi, you can also create a larger mesh network using more than one node, so you can take advantage of all the properties of this technology: the self-healing property (when one node fails, the data is being re-routed to the nearest and most convenient access point, based on the signal strength, the number of clients connected and more), the self forming and the self-optimizing properties (the system analyses the best route for the data and, if you add a new node, it will automatically have more roads available for a faster data transfer).
To test the wireless performance of the A60, I used two access points connected to two computers and I have measured the downlink speed using each of the two available radio bands. Using the 5GHz radio (802.11ac), at close range (no more than 5 feet), I measured an average of 390 Mbps and at 30 feet, the speed decreased to 120 Mbps. Next, I switched to the 2.4GHz radio band (802.11n, obviously) and, at 5 feet, I measured a downlink speed of 151 Mbps and, at 30 feet, the speed went down to an average of 120 Mbps.
5. TP-Link EAP245 Wireless Access Point
Read the full review
TP-Link has been building affordable consumer-friendly wireless access points for years, but, ever since Ubiquiti showed that there is profit to be made in the SMB area and the demand was very high for enterprise-level APs on the budget, the EAP series has been adjusted to accommodate both the needs of the regular consumer users and the exigences of smaller to medium companies that value the reliability and the scalability factor. The TP-Link EAP245 is one such device that promises to push back against Ubiquiti’s reach and to provide a similar level of performance and stability at a lower cost, so let’s see if it can deliver.
Similarly to most other ceiling wireless access points, the TP-Link EAP245 went with a minimalistic design, the case having a rectangular shape, resembling some flush mount ceiling lights (or smoke detectors?). The entire device is covered by a white matte finish, but, on the top, there is a rectangular glossy band to break the monotony; while the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO positioned the LED within a recessed area on the top surface, the TP-Link EAP245 was a bit more conservative and it put a single small LED light to show the status of the device and network.
The LED indicator will quickly flash a yellow colour when the AP is upgrading the firmware, it will become solid green when the device is working properly and it will be flashing red if the device has experienced an error. The TP-Link EAP245 may not be the largest access point in its category, but it certainly has one of widest, measuring 8.1 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches and weighing 1.0 lbs – it’s nowhere near the slim profile of the UAP-AC-PRO. These dimensions make sure that the EAP245 will stand out when mounted on the ceiling or wall, but this may prove to be an advantage in terms of heat management. While I tested the device, it did get warm near the bottom label, but it never got hot (still, the best solution for maintaining the temperature as low as possible seems to be the use of a metal alloy, as can be seen with the Zyxel NWA1123-AC HD).
Note: The EAP245 was created solely to be mounted either on a wall or on the ceiling, so, while you may keep it on a desk, it lacks the necessary feet to keep the device steady. On the bottom of the EAP245, there is a small label with info about the device (MAC address, Serial Number and more) and two cut-out areas which allow you to connect the mounting bracket. If you’re looking for the ports area, you’ll find it on one lateral side: from the left, there’s a Kensington lock, next to a recessed Reset button which, when pressed and held for 5 seconds, returns the AP to factory default settings; further to the left, there’s a single Ethernet Gigabit port (to connect to the router – it’s PoE compatible) and the Power port. Yes, unfortunately, TP-Link decided to not add an additional Ethernet port for wired clients for whatever reason (they’re not that expensive to implement), so, only wireless clients will be able to connect to the EAP245 – unless you use a PoE switch.
Inside the case, the EAP245 is equipped with a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9563 SoC, backed by 128Mb SPI NOR Flash memory (from GigaDevice). Also, there’s an Qualcomm Atheros QCA9563 b/g/n 3×3:3 chip (for the 2.4GHz radio) and a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9982 3×3:3 chip (for the 5GHz radio). Now that we had a look at the hardware, let’s see what kind of performance this access point can deliver. After I connected two computers to the EAP245 (one to the 5GHz network and the other through a switch), from the client to the server, I measured an average of 645 Mbps at 5 feet and 352 Mbps at 30 feet; from the server to the client, the AP delivered 328 Mbps at 5 feet and 147 at 30 feet. Afterwards, I connected the wireless client to the 2.4GHz network and, from the client to the server, at 5 feet, I measured an average of 151 Mbps and, at 30 feet, the speed went down to 104 Mbps; from the server to the client, I measured and average of 109 Mbps, while at 30 feet, the throughput decreased to 50.4 Mbps.
The hardware installation is very easy, all you have to do is connect an Ethernet cable to the port on the AP and then into the PoE (Power over Ethernet) port from the adapter (or PoE switch) and, using a second Ethernet cable, connect the adapter’s LAN port to the router; alternatively, simply use the Power cable and connect the access point to the router using the Ethernet cable (no PoE involved). The TP-Link EAP245 can either be run as a standalone device (the usual choice for consumer users) or as part of a larger environment by using the Omada controller. To do the former, you need to install the proprietary app on a mobile device and, under Standalone APs, you will be able to view some status info about the EAP245, as well as perform a basic configuration.
Using the controller opens up more options and the ability to configure more than one EAP access point under the same software – the problem is that at the moment, the Omada controller can only adopt and monitor access points, so it will feel more limited than the UniFi. If you decide to run Omada locally, you will need to run a local instance on your host computer. Some of the main features that you will be able to find are the Rogue AP detection, Fast Roaming (compatible only with 802.11k/v clients), Airtime Fairness, Band Steering, Auto FailOver and the Mesh ability; there’s also the Portal section (very useful for hotels since it allow the creation of personalized Terms of Service for guest users, as well as the ability to change the Authentication type – Voucher, Facebook, SMS, Simple Password, RADIUS or more), QoS, and Management VLAN.
6. EnGenius EAP1750H WDS / Wireless Access Point
EnGenius is a Taiwanese manufacturer of networking products, having its main focus towards the enterprise, business-class solutions and a bit less towards the home user products. The company has developed long-range wireless communication products and perfected radio frequency technologies for almost two decades and it has covered many types of products, including Gigabit switches, IP surveillance systems, indoors and outdoors access points (I actually took a closer look at the EnGenius Long Range ENS202EXT, a very capable outdoors WAP) and other types of unmanaged and managed wireless solutions.
To maintain the theme of this article, I am going to have a look at one of the more popular indoors access points from EnGenius, namely, the EnGenius EAP1750H. The device promises to deliver a proper wireless performance, while taking advantage of the latest technologies (like the Quantum Beam) to maintain a stable network.
The EnGenius EAP1750H’ design is very similar to the other access point in the list, featuring a round top side and a narrower base (similar to a thick mushroom). The whole device is made of white plastic, covered by a semi-glossy finish and on top side of the AP, there is a carved round canal which is a bit more reflective (and retains fingerprints a lot more, but who touches these devices on a daily basis?). Underneath the circular top, there are lots of airflow vent holes which ensure that the EAP1750H won’t overheat (every passive cooling device needs lots of vent holes and especially the AC routers/access points, which tend to become warm a lot faster).
Overall, the EAP1750H is a fairly compact device (it has a diameter of 6.3 inches and its height is 1.6 inches) and it’s quite lightweight (it weighs 0.65 lbs). The device is especially designed to be mounted on the ceiling (the only position available), therefore it won’t look any different than your usual smoke detector. Also, it’s interesting to see how EnGenius did not add anything special or out-of-the-ordinary to the design of the EAP1750H, so it will blend in nicely with any other appliances from an office room.
Returning to the top of the access point, on the outer circular zone, there are five LED lights which show the status of the WPS, WLAN 5GHz, WLAN 2.4GHz, the Ethernet port and for Power (the LED lights can be enabled or disabled individually from the interface). On the opposite side of the LED lights, there is a small hole for the recessed Reset button (you have to press and hold it for 10 seconds to restore the device to the factory default settings).
If you turn the device upside down, you can clearly see the two holes for ceiling mounting (or on the wall), the Kensington key lock hole (allows you to attach a cable lock) and a carved in canal for the wire and a rectangular zone which hides the informations label (contains the MAC1/2/3 addresses, the FCC ID and the Serial Number), the 12V DC-IN Power connector and the RJ-45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN port (802.3at PoE).
Note: Inside the package, there is the EnGenius EAP1750H unit, the power adapter, an RJ-45 Ethernet cable, a Quick Installation Guide, a mounting bracket, a T-Rail mounting kit and the ceiling and wall mount screw kit. Unfortunately, EnGenius did not add a PoE injector, so you need to purchase one separately if you want to take advantage of this functionality.
On the inside, the EnGenius EAP1750H is equipped with a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 CPU, 16 MB flash memory (Macronix MX25L12845EMI-10G), 128MB of RAM (Nanya NT5TU32M16DG-AC x 2), a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 and an Atheros AR8035-A Ethernet chipsets. There’s also a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 3×3:3 chipset (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) for the 2.4GHz radio band and a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9880-BR4A 3×3:3 chipset (IEEE 802.11a/n/ac) for the 5GHz radio band.
The EnGenius EAP1750H features a maximum throughput of 450 Mbps using the 2.4GHz frequency and up to 1,300 Mbps using the 5GHz frequency. Obviously, you won’t get these speeds in real life conditions (where there are lots of interferences and crowded channels), so I put it to test using a laptop with a 3×3 wireless adapter. Before this, let’s not forget that the access point has three internal 4 dBi (for the 2.4 GHz radio band) and three 5dBi (for the 5 GHz radio band) omni-directional MIMO antennas and that the device uses the Quantum Beam technology (which is a fancy term for the BeamForming tech) and the Band Steering (which automatically shifts compatible clients to the 5GHz band, so the 2.4GHz band is less congested).
So, using the more crowded 2.4GHz frequency, at close range (about 15 feet), I measured an average of 125 Mbps and at 30 feet, the speed decreased to 94 Mbps. Furthermore, I switched to the 5GHz frequency (802.11ac standard) and, at 15 feet, I measured an average of 260 Mbps. Afterwards, I increased the distance to 30 feet and the speed decreased to 63 Mbps.
The EnGenius EAP1750H allows you to use a web utility so you can make the necessary configurations. It can be accessed by going to http://192.168.1.1 (you may need to make sure that the computer is in the same subnet as the access point), insert the default user name and password (admin for both) and then you can freely browse the user interface. Please note that the EnGenius EAP1750H can operate in Access Point Mode, in WDS AP Mode and in WDS Bridge Mode.
The user interface looks relatively simple and easy-to navigate, with a horizontal top menu which shows the number of Changes, allows you to Reset the device and Log Out and there’s a vertical menu which allows you to setup every aspect of your access point.
The main sections are the Overview, the Network, the Management and the System Manager. The Overview section shows the status of the device and the LAN (IPv4) and it also hold lists of all the devices that have connected to any of the two networks at any time. The Network section has three sub-tabs: Basic (allows you to change the IP settings – IPv4 and IPv6), Wireless (here, you get to customize the way the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands will be used – choose the Operation Mode, enable Band Steering, the Channel, the Transmit Power and so on; create Guest Networks, configure the Fast Handover and setup the VLAN Management) and WPS.
The Management section is compartmentalized into four sub-sections: Advanced (SNMP Settings, CLI Setting, SSH Setting, HTTPS Settings and Email Alert), Time Zone (date and Time Settings and Time Zone), WiFi Scheduler (Auto reboot Settings, WiFi Scheduler) and Tools (Ping Test Parameters, Traceroute Test Parameters, Speed Test Parameters, LED Control and Device Discovery). The System Manager section allows you to setup your administrator Account, upgrade the current Firmware, backup or restore any previous settings and view the System Log. Note: The EnGenius EAP1750H can also be monitored using the EnGenius EZ Controller software.
7. OM2P-HS Enterprise Wireless Access Point
Open Mesh is another young company that spawn into existence in 2005, but it didn’t have an aggressive marketing plan (especially in the fierce competition of the networking market), so it is slowly being known for its reliable products. The main focus of the company is to create enterprise-level wireless networks using the mesh technology. This technology should allow everybody to have access to the Internet at a lower cost and should deliver a higher level of stability. One of the most popular products from Open Mesh is the OM2P-HS, an accessible access point that allows the creation of a huge mesh setup, thus being compatible with both the consumer and enterprise market.
Open Mesh wanted the OM2P-HS to be as simple as possible in order to make it ideal for system integrators and resellers, so you won’t find any logo on its devices. Besides that, the white case of the AP won’t attract any attention, being as small as a smartphone (measuring 3.5×4.5×4.0 inches) and as lightweight as one (only 8 ounces). The upper part of the body curves at the middle and stretches across, making way for the four LED status lights responsible for Power, LAN (if the LED is blinking a green colour, then the OM2P-HS is receiving and sending data), WLAN (Access Point or Client Bridge Mode) and Link Quality (green means good quality and yellow means medium quality).
On the other side, there is another couple of LEDs, one for the 18-24vPOE and the other for 802.3af PoE. Now, you may wonder about space and positioning. You can obviously position the AP horizontally and, because underneath the device there are four feet, it should ensure a reasonable amount of stability. In reality it doesn’t, as the device is very small and light, so the ideal position would be either wall mounted or on the ceiling (you may need an enclosure for that).
While we saw that Ubiquiti UAP-LR is quite generous and has added the PoE injector inside the package, unfortunately, Open Mesh decided to sell the injector separately. Also, you may have seen the OM enclosures, that allow for a better external aspect and access, well, those are also sold separately. If you don’t want a separate enclosure, the standard AP provides you with some holes on the back, so you can wall mount the device.
All around the sides of the OM2P-HS there are airflow vents which surround the device and they end where the zone with the ports begins. You get two Ethernet 10/100 ports and a Power port. Also, underneath the AP, there is a sticker with printed info about the MAC address, the EAN and the SN. The OM2P-HS is equipped with an Atheros AR9341 MIPS 74K CPU, clocked at 520 MHz, 64MB of DRAM and a dual internal antenna (802.11g/n 2.4 GHz WLAN standard). Similarly to the Ubiquiti UAP-LR, the OM2P-HS does not support the 5GHz radio band.
The testing procedure was pretty much the same as with the UAP-LR, I connected the access point to the Internet and have measured the download and upload speed using the 2.4GHz radio band. At 5 feet, the OM2P-HS managed to reach a download speed of up to 86 Mbps. Moving a bit further, at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 74 Mbps and going even further, at 35 feet, the AP managed to deliver 40 Mbps. Furthermore, I measured an uplink speed of up to 75 Mbps at 5 feet. At 15 feet, I managed to get a maximum of 56 Mbps and at 35 feet, the speed decreased to 32 Mbps. So, basically, wherever I would move around the house I would get an average speed of 40 Mbps. The OM2P-HS comes with a simple way to configure your network by accessing the CloudTrax controller. The CloudTrax controller is provided for free and it allows you to remotely control your network from anywhere in the world, all you need is an Internet connection (some may dislike that it depends on the cloud to function).
After you access the CloudTrax interface, you will be prompted to create a Master Login account and afterwards, you can create a new network (Network Name, password, email, network location and the email for notifications). From here on, the dashboard will allow you to add or remove nodes, view the traffic activity and overall, it gives you full access to your network. An interesting feature is the fully integrated PayPal system, so you can charge clients for using your network using their credit cards (great for hotels).
Other interesting features worth mentioning are the public and private SSIDs (so you get two independent networks) and the self-healing mesh. Like I said before, the OM2P-HS is something of a different breed, as while it is similar to most other access points from the list, it was created so you can build a mesh network. The self healing property ensures that even if a unit fails, its role is automatically taken by the unit in the close proximity, so you won’t notice any problem and can continue to surf the Internet uninterrupted.
8. Cisco Systems WAP561 Wireless Access Point
Cisco Systems has been in the networking business for a very long time, it holds a great number of network related patents (being a leading recipient, as a matter of fact) and its focus has always been towards enterprise routing and security products (although recently it has also taken an interest into the IoS technology). Obviously, there is a large array of networking products of different types and shapes, but I’m going to focus on a member of the 500 series, the Cisco WAP561, a small business access point that offers simultaneous 3×3 dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n.
The designers from Cisco haven’t made any radical changes on the appearance of its business access points, so the WAP561 will look pretty similar to its predecessors and its siblings from the 500 series. The case is white, with a matte finish, rounded corners and two recessed zone along the front, with the cisco logo in-between. The overall appearance is pleasant, even though the access point is quite large: it measures 9.05×9.05×0.98 inches and it weighs 24.1 ounces. This means that there could be some concerns regarding the occupied space. But, you don’t need to worry, as besides the horizontal position, you can also mount the WAP561 on the wall. Since this is a business access point, Cisco anticipated that the wall-mounted position will be the default one, so it has supplied the WAP561 with a mounting bracket, which delivers an easy access to the device and an easy removal in case maintenance is needed.
On the front of the WAP561, underneath the logo, you can find three status LED light for Power, WLAN (if it’s solid green, then the wireless radio 1 is active, otherwise if it’s solid amber, it means that the wireless radio 2 is active and, lastly, if the LED is solid blue, then both the wireless radios are operating in concurrent mode) and LAN (solid green means that the GE Ethernet link is active and solid amber means that the FE Ethernet link is active) On the bottom you can find a label with printed information about the access point (the Serial Number, the MAC Address and the PID VID). Next to the label there’s an Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps port positioned into a carefully carved zone which allows for the cable to sit comfortably underneath the device.
Surprisingly enough, there is no Power port or switch, as the power is being supplied through the Ethernet port. So, there’s only one cable you need to connect to the WAP561 in order to make it operational. Inside the case, the WAP561 features a Cavium CNS3420 CPU clocked at 600MHz, a 128 MB of RAM and 32 MB of flash memory. Furthermore, the wireless radio is being provided by a Broadcom BCM43431 dual-band 3×3 chip and a SiGe SE2594L dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless LAN Front End. There’s also an interesting built-in antenna sensor that has the role to optimise the radio configuration when the device is mounted on the wall.
Like I said before, this is a dual radio access point and in the case of the WAP561, we get a 2.4GHz radio band (20 MHz, 802.11b/g/n) and a 5GHz radio (20/40 MHz, 802.11a/n). Both radio bands also feature auto channel assignment. By default, the radios are disabled and both have the same SSID: ciscosb.
Now, in terms of wireless performance, the WAP561 is not among the most powerful I have tested, but it did well nevertheless. Using the 2.4GHz radio band, I measured a downlink speed 123 Mbps at 5 feet, it decreased a bit to 95 Mbps at 15 feet and lastly, it managed 56 Mbps at 35 feet. Next, I tested the uplink speed and the WAP561 went up to 112 Mbps at 5 feet, it maintained the speed and I have seen a slight increase to 114 Mbps at 15 feet and afterwards, it decreased at 72Mbps when tested at 35 feet.
Furthermore, I tested the access point using the 5GHz radio band and I got a downlink speed of 205 Mbps at close range, 165 Mbps at around 15 feet and a decrease to 88 Mbps at 35 feet. Next, I tested the uplink speed and got 151 Mbps at 5 feet, afterwards, it decreased slightly to 136 Mbps at 15 feet and there was a rather abrupt drop to 45 Mbps at 35 feet. The WAP561 also allows you to access a web-based configuration utility by entering the IP address of the AP into a browser of your choice. Afterwards you have to enter the name and password (both are cisco) and access the interface. The WAP561 is very rich in features and you can access every single one of them through this interface.
The main page consists of a vertical menu on the left and the corresponding info on the right. The menu gives you access to the Getting Started page, where you can run the Setup Wizard, configure the radio, wireless network and LAN settings, run WPS and a lot other quick access options that you should consider when running the initial setup. Next, you can go to Status and Statistics, Administration, LAN, Wireless, System Security, Client QoS, SNMP, Captive Portal and Single Point Setup. I won’t go in depth with all the features and options the WAP561 has, but I will point out the Single Point Setup, a great asset which most business owners will definitely appreciate, as it allows the AP to control up to 15 other access points (from the same model series) by creating a cluster, therefore allowing the sharing of parameters and information.
9. TP-LINK TL-WA901ND V5 Wireless Access Point
The first thing that comes in mind when thinking about the TP-Link products is affordability and reliability. Sure, no company delivers perfect products (and TP-Link has been riddled with problems from time to time), but the Shenzhen-based company has relentlessly pushed competitive products on the fierce networking market (the manufacturer offers a large array of routers, adapters, Ethernet switches and other networking devices that serve millions of people worldwide). The product that I’m going to focus on is an access point from TP-Link (the TL-WA901ND) which is more of a consumer-type device and less suitable for small businesses, like the other access points from this list. But, since it’s still very popular (and it has recently got its fifth refresh), let’s have a look at what it can deliver.
The design of the TL-WA901ND V5 remains unchanged from the previous versions, so it still gives me mixed feelings, as while I definitely admire the concept, I cannot stop feeling that the case has a bit of a toy-like look. You get a white glossy case, with a circuit pattern on top, with small holes that should ensure a decent airflow and, on the top side, the plastic curves towards the sides and more acutely near the front of the device. The access point doesn’t necessarily lack style, but it does not have the premium feel of the higher-end routers and ends up looking more like an android ant head, especially due to its three detachable antennas. In terms of positioning, you get two choices: either put it on a desk or mount it on the wall (using the two holes on the bottom side). If you choose the first option, know that the access point has basically the same footprint as a normally-sized router, measuring 7.67 x 5.12 x 1.43 in inches and weighing 19.2 ounces.
The front panel of the TL-WA901ND is home to a series of LED status lights responsible for Power, System (if it is on, it means that the access point is initialising and if it’s off, it means that the device is working properly), Ethernet, Wireless, WPS (if it’s on, then a wireless device has successfully been added to the network using the WPS function). The back of the device is where you’ll find an ON/OFF button, a Power port, an Ethernet 10/100Mbps RJ45 port (it’s still limited to a Fast Ethernet port, but expected considering the price tag) and a recessed WPS/RESET button (to use the WPAS function you have to press it for less than 5 seconds, otherwise, you will perform the RESET function, which will return the device to its default settings). Note: It seems that TP-Link decided to add a PoE injector inside the package free of charge (unlike other manufacturers that make you purchase it separately).
Now that we had a look at the design, let’s see what’s on the inside. The TL-WA901ND is equipped with an Qualcomm Atheros TP9343-AL3A CPU, clocked at 750 MHz (with a Qualcomm QCA956x SoC), 32 MB RAM (Zentel A3S56040GTP) and 4 MB flash memory (from Winbond). The wireless capability is being provided by an Atheros AR9380 wireless chip (2.4GHz radio band, 802.11b/g/n standard). Performance-wise, the TP-LINK TL-WA901ND doesn’t feature mind-blowing speeds, but, considering its price, it will definitely be a decent addition to a network with lots of WiFi dead zones.
At close range (no more than 5 feet), the access point managed an average downlink speed of 75Mbps. Going a bit further, at around 15 feet, the signal slightly decreases and I measured a maximum of 55Mbps. At 35 feet, the speed goes down to an average of 20Mbps. Next, I tested the uplink wireless performance and, at close range, the access point managed up to 60Mbps. At 15 feet, I measured an average of 36 Mbps and at a longer range (around 35-40 feet and a thick concrete wall), the speed decreased to 15 Mbps.
I’m sure that some people have mistaken the TL-WA901ND for a wireless router (especially because of the design choice), but unfortunately for them, this device serves a different purpose. The proper way to setup the access point is first to connect the Internet cable to a modem, afterwards, connect the modem to a router and next, use an Ethernet cable to connect the router to the access point through the PoE injector (use the LAN port). Afterwards, insert another Ethernet cable to the PoE port and into the access point.
In order to configure the TL-WA901ND you can access a Web-based utility by either typing http://tplinkap.net or the IP address of the AP into a browser of your choice. Afterwards, you will be prompted to insert the username and password (by default, it’s admin for both) and click Login. Next, you will undergo the Quick Setup Start and you will have to choose between five operation modes: use the device as an Access Point, Client, Repeater (Range Extender), Multi-SSID or in Bridge with AP mode.
Obviously, we will choose the Access Point mode, which is easy to setup: insert a name for you network (SSID), choose the channel, select the Wireless Security Mode (the WPA/WPA2-PSK is the best encryption available) and enter a password to protect you network from unauthorized access.
Furthermore, the interface allows you to configure and manage the AP, by giving you access to five main tabs: Status (read-only list of the current status and configuration of the TL-WA901ND), WPS (allows you to add new wireless clients to the network quickly by function – PBC or PIN), Network (LAN, DHCP Settings and DHCP Client List), Wireless (access to Wireless Settings, Security, MAC Filtering, Advanced settings, Statistics and Throughput Monitor) and System Tools (SNMP, Diagnostic, Ping Watch Dog, Firmware Upgrade, Factory Defaults, Backup and Restore, Reboot, Password and System Log).
What should you take into account before choosing a wireless access point?
Wireless Performance and Range Obviously, the most important aspects of a wireless access point is the downlink and uplink throughput and how far can the signal reach. For example, if you use the 2.4GHz radio band, chances are that the signal will go for a long way, but the speed won’t be strong, while if using the 5GHz radio band, the speed will be greatly improved, but don’t expect huge distances to be covered. Also, you need to take into account the interferences, the number of clients, the surface that needs to be covered and if you need more than a single access point.
The Web Interface/App This is also a very important aspect, because you need to be able to configure and, if needed control a large network. Ideally, a good interface is easy to navigate, the settings are clear and intuitive and the AP should have as many features as possible for you to fiddle with. Also, you need to check out whether you can access the interface through an Internet browser or you need to use an app (or both) and if the software allows you to remotely control the network.
Price Lastly, we have the price to worry about, because you need to know where you stand based on your budget. Usually, the consumer-type access points are cheaper, but they lack a lot of the features of an enterprise-level AP. You should also keep in mind that some popular products can be overpriced (because of their popularity) and that there could be some rare gems from yet-unknown or rising networking manufacturers that could deliver the same experience at a lower price.
What features should you look for in wireless access points?
PoE The Power over Internet is quite a simple concept (but extremely important) that allows your access point to receive power through a twisted pair Ethernet cabling (so you get both electrical power and data, using a single cable). Why is it useful? Many organizations like to place the wireless access points on the ceiling in order to help the wireless clients achieve the best possible range, but they have to rely on extension cords (which have an ugly appearance and require a qualified electrician to install them). That’s why it’s better to use the PoE system, as you can install it yourself and it protects you devices from underpowering or overload. Some of the access points on the market have a PoE injector included in the package, while other do not (you will have to buy it separately), so be sure to check it out before purchasing, if this is a mandatory feature for your network.
Concurrent dual band You may be surprised that some access points call themselves dual band, but, despite expectancies, it allows you to choose only one band at a time. A good example is the Linksys WAP300N, which has both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz radio bands, but you can only use one or the other.
Load-Balancing I’ve touched the subject of load-balancing when I talked about the more popular dual-band routers on the market and the importance of this feature was clear for any business owner that values a stable network. Is this function also relevant for wireless access points? Absolutely yes. First of all you need to understand that the load-balancing feature was created to be used with more than one access point. This is because its role is to diminish the network congestion by spreading the sessions among the existing APs in such a way that they share the client load. So, if you have a large number of clients in a smaller space, instead of overloading a single access point, the load balancing spreads all the connected clients over all the APs, therefore there will be less interruptions and more bandwidth available.
The Man in the Middle (Defence against rogue access points) A rogue access point is an unauthorized WAP installed (usually with malicious intent) on a secure network. Therefore, the network becomes vulnerable to different types of attacks and can be accessed either from inside the facility or remotely (the more common occurrence). That is why it is very important that the access point to have a reliable wireless intrusion detection system which audits all the APs on the network on a regular basis to see if they are on the managed list and if they’re connected to the secured network or not.
Beamforming The Beamforming technology allows your access point to focus the signal towards each client and to concentrate the data transmission towards a specific target, instead of broadcasting it all over the room, therefore minimizing the data waste. If a few years ago this technology was optional and exotic, nowadays, almost all devices have this feature implemented (still, make sure to check before the purchase). Also, you need to know that every major manufacturer will have its own way of using this technology and it may have a different name and different performance, but the functionality should remain basically the same.
Mesh Networking Support The mesh network support is one of the most important features to look for when buying an access point because it allows you to add other APs and create a network where all the nodes (APs) cooperate with each other when distributing the data. An interesting characteristic of a mesh network is that the data is propagated along a path and it travels from one node to the other until it reaches its destination. This way, it has to find the best road and, if needed to reconfigure itself in case of broken paths (using self-healing algorithms). It also allows for an interrupted experience when travelling into a large building, by automatically switching from AP to AP so you won’t notice any disconnects.
802.11n or 802.11ac?
Future-wise, an investment into Access points that feature the AC standard should be the better choice. If you want to create a network using APs compatible with the 802.11n standard, you don’t have to worry, because, if needed you can replace them in time and the N-access points and AC-access points are compatible with each other and work great with clients of both breeds. Now, if you are curious about the technical differences between the two standards, let’s just say that the 802.11ac standard delivers up to 3 times faster speeds and, while a N-access point can handle no more than 30-35 clients in order to maintain a reasonable bandwidth for all, an AC-access point has no such limitations. Lastly, the price could make a difference, because, as expected, the AC technology is way more expensive than the N technology.
Some people enjoy using outrageous looking cases that make their iPhones standout. However, people are not all the same and others might like something that inspires class, elegance and also brings safety to the iPhone. This is where sleeves come in. Sleeves are a special type of iPhone cases that feature minimalist designs and their primary focus is to keep the iPhone safe from fall damage, screen scratches and so on.
With that being said, we have rounded up the top ten iPhone XS sleeves that can be found on Amazon. Keep in mind that the display iPhone XS and iPhone X are the same sizes and therefore, the sleeves that we are going to show you today can be fitted on both the new iPhone XS and the 2017 iPhone X. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
The first sleeve on our list is made by a company called Ceocase. This sleeve is available in the black and silver colors. As previously mentioned, the design of the sleeve is minimalist and what really matters is the fact that the sleeve will keep your iPhone safe at all times. Also, worth noting is that this sleeve is quite affordable being priced at $9.99. Price: $9.99 Purchase it from Amazon
If you hate carrying around a big wallet everywhere you go, then the iPhone sleeve made by Dockem might be just what you need. This sleeve is made from premium leather fabric and it features four separate card slots that are the right fit for bank cards, subway access and a driver’s ID. In addition, the Dockem sleeve features a thumb opening system which makes it easier for users to pull out their cards. Price: $12.99 Purchase it from Amazon
The sleeve made by Meilib is not a simple iPhone case. What makes this sleeve great is the fact that it features a belt clipper and also that it can be used as a card holder. The leather used to create this sleeve is of premium quality and Meilib guarantees that the holster is not going to break by offering a one-year unlimited warranty program. Price: $10.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Just like the previous sleeve, the Bomea sleeve for iPhone features a belt clipper and it can be holstered. The cool thing about this sleeve is that its 100% hand-made and people can wear it in different ways. For example, iPhone users can choose the belt loop option and clip it horizontally or vertically to their belt. Additionally, the Bomea sleeve features a built-in pen holder which is surely going to prove to useful. Price: $10.99 Purchase it from Amazon
Just like the manufacturer’s name, SafeSleeve has been designed for the sole purpose of keeping the iPhone safe at all times. The sleeve features shielding technology that is embedded in the front flap. This technology can block up to 99% ELF and RF cell phone radiation. To make things even better, the sleeve is lab tested and it has been certified by the FCC. Price: $59.95 Purchase it from Amazon
#6 Burkley Case
This sleeve is a little bit more expensive than the previous ones being priced at $29.00. However, the Burkley Case sleeve makes up for that with the genuine hand-stitched Turkish leather that it uses. The leather is soft to touch it features an ergonomic feel. Although, the best thing about this sleeve is the sleek design that it offers. Price: $29.99 Purchase it from Amazon
The Mujjo sleeve for iPhone X and XS is more than a simple protective case. This sleeve looks great and it uses full-grain vegetable tanned leather which makes it perfect to be used as a wallet. The slim fit gives the sleeve a great design and it helps it protect the iPhone better than others sleeves do. Moreover, the slim fit design makes it possible for iPhone users to fit it in their pockets and not have to carry it around in a purse. Price: $39.95 Purchase it from Amazon
#8 E Tronic Edge
If you are looking for a sleeve that can keep your iPhone X or iPhone XS safe during sports, then you can’t go wrong with the one made by E Tronic Edge. This sleeve has been designed to fit everyone’s arms and it can hold more than just an iPhone. The sleeve can also hold a wallet, money, cards and even car keys. The great thing about the E Tronic Edge sleeve is that its design makes it possible for bigger and smaller iPhones such as iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone 6S to fit inside. Price: $39.95 Purchase it from Amazon
#9 Sena Cases
Right from the start, the first thing that we want to mention about this sleeve is that it uses premium-grade leather that is wrapped in full-grain semi-aniline leather. This guarantees that the sleeve made by Sena Cases is of premium quality. What makes this sleeve stand out from the rest is the timeless and classic ultra-slim design that it offers. Furthermore, this sleeve supports wireless charging. Price: $12.97 Purchase it from Amazon
We are going to end our list of the top ten sleeves for iPhones with a shockproof sleeve created by the accessory maker known as Tainada. Just like some of the previous sleeves that we showed earlier, the one from Tainada can be used as a carry bag pouch because it can fit other items next to iPhones. The size of Tainada sleeve also makes it possible for users to fit in other smartphones such as Galaxy S9 + and not just iPhones. Price: $15.99 Purchase it from Amazon
These have been our top ten sleeves for iPhones. They all feature affordable price tags and premium designs which might make it hard for an iPhone owner to pick one. However, all these sleeves are high-quality and there is no wrong choice here.