Synology Mesh Router MR2200ac full review
Synology is best known for its DiskStation range of network attached storage (NAS) devices, which are very popular both with business users and more technically knowledgeable home users. However, it also uses its network know-how to produce a range of routers and access points, and is now the latest company to jump on the mesh bandwagon with its new Mesh Router MR2200ac.
Like most mesh networking systems, the MR2200ac routers can be placed in different rooms or locations throughout your home and then linked together in order to provide wider range and higher speeds for your Wi-Fi network than you might normally get from a single conventional router.
And, like most of its rivals, the MR2200ac only acts as a router – it doesn’t include a modem for internet access, so you’ll need to connect it to your existing modem or router in order to carry on using your home broadband.
Price & Availability
Synology sent us two MR2200ac routers to test for this review, but while most mesh systems are sold as kits containing two or three routers the MR2200ac can only be bought as a single, standalone device.
We’ve also seen a wide range of prices for the MR2200ac – most of which are higher than the RRP of £120 quoted by Synology. The MR2200ac is available from Amazon for £160, although one or two online retailers offer it for around £140, so it’s definitely worth shopping around before buying.
Even so, that price isn’t too bad for a high-end tri-band router such as this, and Synology claims that a single MR2200ac should be able to cover homes up to 2000 sq.ft. However, adding a second MR2200ac for larger homes brings the total price to around £300, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Synology to offer a more affordable two-piece kit in order to compete with their many mesh rivals.
Synology says that it doesn't sell the router in multi-packs because it gives the consumer more choice, but we'd still prefer to see a two- or three-pack offered at a discounted price.
For example, our favourite is the Linksys Velop Dual Band which is £219 for a set of three.
It’s worth mentioning that the MR2200ac is also compatible with Synology’s existing RT2600ac routers. These are faster and even more expensive, at around £240, but can cover 3000sq.ft each, so that might be a useful option for wealthy football players and the like who need to improve the Wi-Fi in their country mansions.
Design & Features
The MR2200ac isn’t as elegantly designed as some of its more eye-catching mesh rivals, simply consisting of a slim, rather nondescript slab of black plastic, propped up by a small pair of legs that protrude from the base of the unit. However, the router’s upright design does have the benefit of being quite compact, and easy to place on any nearby shelf.
It’s a tri-band 802.11ac router, that uses two 5GHz bands along with the slower 2.4GHz band, to provide a total speed of 2200Mbps for your Wi-Fi network. The router also supports 2x2 MIMO (multiple input/multiple output) to provide reliable data transmission to multiple devices simultaneously.
The router has a WAN port for connecting to your existing modem or router, but there’s only a single extra Ethernet port available for wired connections, which is a little disappointing in a router as expensive as this.
It does, however, include a USB 3.0 port for connecting a printer or storage device that can be shared on the network. We were also pleased to see that the MR2200ac supports Apple’s Time Machine for backing up Macs over the network, as well as FTP and file-sharing services, and DLNA/UPnP for streaming music, photos or video that you may have stored on your network.
Things got off to a slow start with the MR2200ac, as both the routers that we tested took rather a long time to boot. Synology’s DS Router app does warn that this might take up to three minutes, but our review units took closer to five minutes – and it initially seemed as though the Synology app simply wasn’t working.
And, like Synology’s DiskStation storage devices, the MR2200ac does rely on quite a bit of technical knowledge from its users. As soon as the app detects the router it prompts you to create separate names and passwords for the admin account and network SSID, and asks if you want to set up the router’s QuickConnect remote access features.
That’s a lot to throw at home users who might not have used a mesh router before, and we quickly found ourselves hunting around on Synology’s web site for a proper manual.
Once you’re past the initial installation, the DS Router app does provide access to most of the router’s key features in a more straightforward manner. The app provides a simple network map that allows you to monitor the MR2200ac routers, check upload and download speeds, and to control network access for individual devices within your home.
There’s a SmartConnect option that allows you to separate the 2.4/5GHz bands, or merge them into a single network. The guest network options are handy too, allowing you to activate the guest network for only a specific length of time, or to create a customized schedule for guest access.
The parental controls are quite versatile, with options for setting schedules for internet access and a ‘web filter’ that provides different levels of protection. However, the parental controls aren’t very well explained – in fact the rather jargon-heavy PDF manual that we downloaded doesn’t actually mention parental controls at all – so, again, Synology is taking a little too much knowledge for granted.
Synology tells us that upgrading to the latest version will get you Safe Access which is much easier to use and can do a lot more like creating user profiles to manager devices, internet quota and monitoring internet usage of any user or device.
More advanced users will feel right at home, though, especially as there’s a separate ‘dashboard’ interface available via a web browser. This provides detailed controls and settings for file-sharing, media streaming, port-forwarding and many other options, so the MR2200ac will be a good choice for people who want fine control over their network settings.
It’s not the cheapest mesh router on the market, but the MR2200ac does provide strong performance to justify its price. The first MR2200ac was connected to our existing modem/router for internet access, and devices in the same room showed data speeds jumping from their normal 475Mbps to 650Mbps when connected to the new Synology network.
However, it was the second MR2200ac installed in our back office that showed the greatest improvement. The normal Wi-Fi signal in that office can be rather unreliable, so we actually prefer to use powerline adaptors to provide a wired connection for our office computers instead. Admittedly, the speeds from the second MR2200ac in the office did still tend to lurch up and down rather erratically, but still averaged out at an impressive 452Mbps during the course of our tests.
There's some things to like about the MR2200ac mesh network such as the strong performance and an excellent level of control on offer.
The downside is that it's pretty expensive for a single unit when a multi-pack is fairly normal. Synology also needs to make the system more user friendly to appeal to the more casual user at home.
As it stands, the MR2200ac is only really suitable for the more advanced users out there.
Synology Mesh Router MR2200ac: Specs
- Interfaces: 1x WAN (for Internet access), 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 3.0
- Wi-Fi Networking: Tri-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/2x 5.0GHz)
- Dimensions: 154x199x65mm
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