ASUS has recently added the ExpertWiFi line to its portfolio, which is a networking device for small businesses and home offices. It consists of several different gadgets, including a separate router, a switch, a VPN router, a PoE access point, and a Mesh system. A little earlier we managed to get acquainted with the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBR63 router, which, predictably, turned out to be quite fast and easy to use. This time, we also received the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 Mesh system, which we will now take a closer look at.
Scope of delivery
Usually, Mesh systems have similar bundles of supplies that you see with routers. However, the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 has more things in the box. In addition to the fact that the system consists of two devices, each of them comes with complete wall mounts. Also, as is traditional for the manufacturer, the power supplies have interchangeable connectors for different socket formats. A standard Ethernet cable is included in the box.
Thus, the manufacturer has basically taken care of everything that may be required for installation and full use of the system. It’s hard to say what else could be useful to a user who doesn’t have any specific whims, so there shouldn’t be any special criticisms of the kit.
Design and usability
As mentioned in the previous review, all ExpertWiFi gadgets have a similar style, and the Mesh system is no exception. Unlike the router, this set does not have external antennas, and the node cases are made in the form of “towers”. This is also not something new for the manufacturer (I’m pretty sure these systems have a lot in common, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside).
ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 has a rather simple closed white case. The front part has a small manufacturer’s logo and a bright status indicator, and on top there is a perforated recess with the ExpertWiFi line logo. Such an appearance will easily “get lost” in the interior of a small studio or coffee shop, and it will easily find a place in a home office, which the manufacturer also offers to potential buyers.
The bottom of the device has a pair of rubber feet and a relatively large “cutout” for ports. USB-A, WAN, and three LAN ports are hidden there, along with the power toggle switch and power connector. Below you can find the hidden reset and WPS buttons. There are also technical stickers here that will not be flashing in front of the user’s eyes.
This cutout plays an additional role as a place to install the wall mount. It is easy to install and remove if necessary. If the place for installing such a device was planned at the repair stage, this way you can easily hide all the wires. This is hardly the most popular installation option (especially when it comes to updating the network rather than installing it from scratch), but the manufacturer has provided for it, and that’s good. The 808 grams of weight of the routers will be easily held in place by the mount.
However, it’s worth noting that if you need to connect, for example, an LTE modem, it will be almost impossible or problematic with the lid closed. There is not much space around the port, so there is a high probability that an extension cord will be needed in this scenario. But this is probably the only design flaw, and not all users will face it.
So there should be no problems with the appearance and installation options. The matte white case will not be damaged by ordinary cleaning (after all, we have seen glossy routers that could literally be scratched with a soft cloth), and fine dust will not be noticeable on it. And with the status indicator turned off, the gadget will remain invisible. Perhaps the only thing I would subjectively like to see is more color options.
In many cases, mesh systems are a lifeline for the normal functioning of a local network. And this issue is relevant not only for offices or large premises of shops and restaurants, but also for relatively large apartments and private houses. ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 provides for any of these cases. And unlike the ExpertWiFi EBR63 router we recently reviewed, the EBM68 already comes with two routers for more demanding cases.
The capabilities of the Mesh system are slightly higher than those of a single router in the line. It also uses the Wi-Fi 6 standard, but not the AX3000 segment, but the AX7800. That is, with the 2.4 GHz 2×2 and 5 GHz 2×2 bands, there is an additional 5 GHz band, but 4×4. In terms of speed, it looks like this: 574 + 2402 + 4804 Mbps. And while the EBR63 uses four external antennas, the EBM68 has six built-in antennas.
The Mesh devices also have a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor and 256 MB of permanent memory, but have more RAM – 1 GB. Of course, support for MU-MIMO, 1024-QAM modulation, 160 MHz band, OFDMA, and Beamforming is also provided. All the VPN features, AiProtection, Adaptive QoS, traffic monitoring, and more mentioned in the EBR63 review are here too.
An additional advantage of the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 is its 2.5-gigabit WAN port. However, even with such a connection, it should be borne in mind that the user will need to take care of the appropriate cables on their own, and the package includes only a standard 5e cable. However, such a connection will still need to be searched for, so it is unlikely to become an urgent issue today or tomorrow.
Despite the fact that the set consists of only two points, the system allows you to create a network of 12 devices. Each of them can provide connectivity for hundreds of clients, so the Mesh system can meet the requirements of even a fairly large office. If possible, all the points can also be connected to the network using the wired method with Ethernet Backhaul, which will reduce the load on wireless networks and provide faster connection to customers. In such situations, you will also need to take care of the switch.
In general, a similar set of capabilities can be provided by the manufacturer’s Mesh gaming systems. However, the business line has options for creating additional networks. While conventional models can add several guest networks to the main network, ExpertWiFi has many flexible options with additional settings for different scenarios. These include a main local area network for employees, a network with a VPN connection, scenarios for different establishments, separate lines for smart devices, surveillance cameras, networks with a work schedule, and more.
However, there are limitations in the number of such networks and dependence on band configurations. For example, just for the sake of experimentation, in our case, we managed to “raise” eight networks, of which one operated only in the 2.4 GHz band, two only in the 5 GHz band, and five more in both bands with Smart Connect mode (the routers independently selected the band for the client). Of course, you can customize such variations depending on your own needs. At the same time, the connection between the points was supported by the second 5 GHz band, to which customers did not have access.
According to the class, the administrative panel of such a system differs from the user panel. It has a fairly similar logic, albeit with some differences. Here you can see more data about the use of networks, but without parental control (which is completely understandable in this context). The main thing is that it is quite understandable and it will not be difficult to understand the features even for not very experienced users.
The system can also be controlled via a smartphone app. It is more similar to the standard one (ASUS custom), although it has a common theme with the administrative panel. It’s also worth remembering that some of the admin panel functions are not available in the app. It’s nothing critical, and most of the necessary things will be at hand, but there are still some limitations.
Connecting and configuring a business line Mesh system is not much different from the user options. One of the routers is immediately designated as the primary router by the manufacturer, so it should be installed first (although there shouldn’t be much difference between them).
After powering on and booting up, most of the “quick setup” steps here will be familiar. Except that in the case of the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68, you can create additional local networks right away during setup. At the same time, the router will check for updated firmware versions and install them.
And connecting a second point is much easier – you just need to turn it on next to the main one, and the system will do everything else on its own. After waiting for the indicator light to turn white, you can move the second point to the desired location and continue using the network. If this does not work with subsequent nodes from other sets, the corresponding menu is provided in the administrative panel.
In the same settings item, you should also immediately specify the location of all points, which will be useful for further diagnostics and optimization if you use a large number of nodes.
ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 in use
The basic set of two nodes can cover an area of up to 530 m², as indicated in the specifications. Our test conditions, unfortunately, do not cover that much. However, for best performance, the manufacturer suggests installing the devices at a distance of up to 15 meters, preferably without obstacles. We were able to provide such a situation, which allowed us to see how the routers would behave in the best-case scenario (without wires). Just like with a separate router, the capabilities of the Mesh system were tested with two gaming laptops of the ROG Strix line (SCAR 16 та SCAR 17).
To begin with, let’s start with one main device, the ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68. SpeedTest at the time of testing with a wired connection showed a download speed of 863 Mbps and 930 Mbps for data transfer. In wireless networks, along with the router, the 2.4 GHz band was able to demonstrate 210/218 Mbps, the first 5 GHz band – 858/808 Mbps, but the more powerful second band – only 417/450 Mbps (spoiler: later everything turned out to be better).
In the most remote part of the apartment, where the second node was later installed, the speeds in the same order (except without Ethernet) were 196/176, 726/765, and 419/429 Mbps. That is, the speed loss is almost imperceptible.
The internal data transfer between the two clients, when they were both connected to 2.4 GHz, averaged 172 Mbps near the router and 129 Mbps at a distance. By switching one of them to an Ethernet connection, these figures increased to 331 and 240 Mbps.
In both 5 GHz bands, of course, the experience is more interesting. With a wireless connection in front of the router, we could get 384 and 627 Mbps (maximum values: 420 and 715 Mbps). At a distance, the average speed was 284 and 454 Mbps (maximum: 328 and 634).
The same, but with a single customer with a wired connection, in the same locations in the room, the average performance increased to 609 and 813 Mbps (maximum: 812 and 955 Mbps), at a distance – 403 and 712 Mbps (maximum: 529 and 961).
The direct connection via Ehternet through one router was a maximum of 951 Mbps for Lan ports.
The results with one router are quite decent. However, the connection of a second point usually reduces some indicators, because maintaining communication between routers requires some resources, especially when it comes to exclusively wireless communication between nodes. Thus, leaving one of the clients connected by wire to the main router, and the other to the additional point and wirelessly, the average data transfer rate in 2.4 GHz was 150 Mbps (maximum: 235).
Meanwhile, in 5 GHz, we could see an average of 328 and 170 Mbps (maximum: 493 and 225). The drop in the second line should not be taken into account, because it is the line that the system relies on to maintain communication between nodes; it should be closed to users and kept exclusively for technical needs.
Connecting a second client on an additional node with a wire, the data transfer rate between them averaged 422 Mbps (maximum: 515).
In this case, the Speedtest results were 213/202 Mbps at 2.4 GHz, 346/276 and 459/437 Mbps at 5 GHz, and 475/475 Mbps via Ethernet.
For the next couple of weeks, the system worked without reboots, one of the 5 GHz lines was switched to the node-to-node communication mode, and Smart Connect mode was enabled. Under such conditions, random Speedtest speed checks did not show less than 500-600 Mbps (often even more), there were never any problems with the connection, and the connection between devices on the local network remained uninterrupted. It was quite difficult to simulate a public place situation, but in the case of the “home office” scenario, ASUS ExpertWiFi EBM68 fully provides everything you need. And in places where it is possible to establish a wired connection between the nodes, both speeds will be much higher and it will be even easier to handle demanding tasks.