Upgrading the home network

Finally after 4 years, I have decided to retire the venerable TP-Link TD-W8970 that have been providing me with relatively stable internet and not too bad of a wireless coverage.

After the place I am living in got hooked up to NBN FTTP in 2016, I started looking at possible replacement for the TD-W8970 that isn’t gonna break the bank.

I gave up after awhile as I just started out working full-time only the year prior which means I didn’t have alot of money and most it goes to paying for my Cisco certification exams; which was top priority for me at that time.

A recent speedtest shows that I am only getting half of the NBN speed that I signed up for and hitting a weird firewall bug on the TD-W8970 renewed my effort to build a home network fit for a network professional.

The Contenders

The requirements for my new home network device are simple:

  • Enterprise grade features
  • Affordable
  • Great GUI
  • Decent hardware specs

With those requirements in mind, I have narrowed the potential contenders down to Ubiquiti and Mikrotik.

The GUI

Even though both EdgeRouter-X and UniFi AC Lite AP are from Ubiquiti, the method of accessing the GUI and the GUI design differ greatly between both products.

As you can see below, the EdgeRouter-X GUI sports a gray-ish color scheme which gives it a professional and enterprise feel but dated look

Screenshot of the EdgeRouter-X GUI. Taken from EdgeOS User Guide.
Screenshot of the EdgeRouter-X GUI taken from EdgeOS User Guide.

This is in contrast to the UniFi AC Lite AP white color scheme and the use of icons, giving the interface a modern and casual feel. Though some of you might feel that the use of the white color scheme would cause unnecessary strain on your eyes!

To access the UniFi AC Lite GUI, you need to download the UniFi SDN Controller software on to your computer to start administering your Ubiquiti Access Point.

There is also a mobile app available though its’ functionality is limited.

Screenshot of UniFi AC Lite GUI taken from Ubiquiti demo site

Like Ubiquiti, there are two ways to administer Mikrotik network devices via the GUI.

The first is through its’ downloadable configuration utility called WinBox which looks like Mikrotik borrowed the color scheme from Microsoft Windows 98!

https://i2.wp.com/wiki.mikrotik.com/images/7/78/Wb-man-5.PNG?w=720&ssl=1
Screenshot of WinBox taken from the Official Mikrotik WinBox Manual

The second way is through its’ web-gui which reminds me of the Linux Desktop environment from back in the day.

https://i0.wp.com/wiki.mikrotik.com/images/a/ae/Webfig-2.png?w=720&ssl=1
Official Mikrotik WebFig Manual

Both the WinBox and webfig GUI may look dated but the vertical menu layout and no-nonsense design makes configuration of Mikrotik devices a straight forward affair.

Hardware Spec and price

Ubiquiti RouterEdge-X | AUD$90

CPU MediaTek MT7621AT880MHz (Dual-Core)
MemorySpansion S34ML02G200TFI00256MB DDR3
FlashNanya NT5CB128M16FP-DI256MB
SwitchMediaTek MT7621AT4 Ports (+1 WAN Port)

Ubiquiti UniFi AC Lite | AUD$129

CPUQualcomm Atheros QCA9563775Mhz
MemoryWinbond W971GG6KB-25128MB
FlashMacronix MX25L12835FMI16MB
2.4Ghz Radio ChipQualcomm Atheros QCA95632×2:2
5Ghz Radio ChipQualcomm Atheros QCA98882×2:2

NOTE: It has been observed that on wikiDevi, the QCA9563 is listed as 3×3:3 MIMO capable while on the UniFi AC Lite datasheet it is listed as 2×2 and the QCA9563 chip is used across the UniFi AC family of APs with differing 2.4Ghz performance.

Screenshot of QCA9563 2.4Ghz performance differing across the UniFi AC family of APs
QCA9563 2.4Ghz performance differing across the UniFi AC family of APs

Mikrotik hAP (RB962UiGS-5HacT2HnT) | AUD$187

CPUQualcomm Atheros QCA9558720Mhz
Memory128MB
Flash16MB
2.4Ghz Radio Chip Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 3×3:3
5Ghz Radio Chip Qualcomm Atheros QCA9880 3×3:3
SwitchQualcomm Atheros QCA8337

The Winner

After careful consideration, I have chosen the Ubiquiti RouterEdge-X and UniFi AC Lite combo to power my home network.

Even though the Mikrotik hAP would have better wireless performance due to its’ 3×3:3 MIMO configuration I have decided to go with the Ubiquiti router and access point combo as I have this perception that decoupling the router and the access point would have performance benefits.

The logic might be sound but in the absence of any testing, please take my assessment with a pinch of salt.

Stay tune for my next update on upgrading my home network as I eagerly wait for the Ubiquiti RouterEdge-X and UniFi AC Lite to arrive!


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