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Wireless Reviews

Backhaul

Backhaul tests run traffic between the root node LAN-side Ethernet port and the Ethernet port on each leaf mesh node. To me, this is the most reliable predictor of how a product will perform in the other benchmarks. A mesh node can, at best, only pass on received throughput to connected clients, i.e. low throughput in, low throughput out.

First hop backhaul downlink bandwidth of 186 Mbps beat original Lyra's 138 Mbps, but its 175 Mbps uplink throughput was significantly better than the 53 Mbps from original Lyra.

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 1

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 1

Throughput always degrades further with an additional hop. Trio's 71 Mbps downlink ain't great compared to other products, but it's much better than original Lyra's 49 Mbps. Trio uplink of 96 Mbps was again significantly improved from original Lyra's 40 Mbps. But the chart clearly shows other products with much better backhaul throughput.

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 2

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 2

Wi-Fi System

These benchmarks measure up and downlink 2.4 and 5 GHz throughput at each system node, by "walking" the octoScope Pal dual-band test client from node to node. Since tests are made with 0 dB attenuation between the Pal test client and each system node (except 9 dB for Trio on 2.4 GHz), all measurements are best case. In the following charts, A bars represent the root node, B bars the Hop 1 node and C bars the Hop 2 node.

2.4 GHz downlink results show Lyra Trio winning only one out of three benchmarks. Deco does better, winning two out of three.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

Results are similar for 2.4 GHz uplink, except at the second hop where the difference among products is much less.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

5 GHz downlink once again shows TP-Link Deco taking top honors at all three nodes. At least Trio does better than original Lyra in all three benchmarks.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

5 GHz uplink shows very similar results to downlink.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Capacity

Our Wi-Fi System capacity test uses three 2x2 AC clients, a 2.4 GHz client is connected to the root node and 5 GHz to the others. 0 dB of attenuation was applied between the 5 GHz octoScope Pals and each node and 9 dB was applied to the 2.4 GHz Pal for Lyra Trio only. This test runs for 30 minutes to see if any attempts are made to balance throughput by throttling backhaul or client bandwidth so that more bandwidth is made available to the other.

The Capacity bar charts show throughput for the three test clients in each direction. One of the dirty little secrets of mesh Wi-Fi systems that don't have a separate radio for backhaul is that loading the root node usually starves leaf nodes for bandwidth. It doesn't have to be this way; the system could balance the root node radio to limit device bandwidth to provide more bandwidth to backhaul. I've yet to see this happen, however.

Throughput is ok for the root node (179 Mbps), but barely usable for the Hop 1 (12 Mbps) and Hop 2 (9 Mbps) nodes.

Wi-Fi System Capacity - down

Wi-Fi System Capacity - down

Uplink is again good for the root node (221 Mbps), and again poor, but about 2X downlink for Hop1 (28 Mbps) and Hop 2 (14 Mbps). Note none of the plotlines show any significant shift, which would indicate a reallocation of bandwidth.

Wi-Fi System Capacity - up

Wi-Fi System Capacity - up

To place the results in perspective, the downlink bar chart below shows Trio almost as good as Deco at the root node, much worse for Hop 1, but best out of three at Hop 2. The Hop 2 results are nothing to brag about, however, given "best" is only 9 Mbps.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Uplink shows a similar pattern. Note original Lyra produced no usable throughput at Hop 2.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Closing Thoughts

With the market flooded with so many mesh Wi-Fi systems, most manufacturers are focusing on lower-cost products to lure buyers their way. After all, three hundred bucks is a lot to ask your typical non-technical router buyer to part with, especially if they're just trying to light up one dead spot in their home.

Since ASUS started out with a three-radio design in the original Lyra, they could have dropped the second 5 GHz radio and shot for a three-pack price closer to $200. But ASUS really doesn't use price as a competitive weapon. So they instead chose to keep the $300 price point, increase margins with a less expensive design and use a unique physical design that highlights Trio's three antenna (stream) design.

Unfortunately, for all this effort, what they produced in Trio is a slightly better performing Lyra, which isn't saying much. Because while Trio ends up outranking original Lyra, it's still in the bottom tier of Wi-Fi mesh systems according to our ranking system.

Wi-Fi System Rank, bottom tier

Wi-Fi System Rank, bottom tier

Given Trio's better performance and just-about-equal price to original Lyra, it's a better option if you prefer ASUS as your mesh Wi-Fi maker. Still, at just below $300, it's no bargain. If you want to give mesh Wi-Fi a try, but want to spend as little as possible, you might want to give either TP-Link's Deco M5 (currently at $210) or Tenda's Nova MW6 ($149) a try.

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