Net­works

★★★★★ £155 • From www.ama­zon.co.uk

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - David Lud­low

Even if you haven’t heard of Tenda, there’s no doubt­ing its Nova MW6 is a won­der­fully straight­for­ward mesh Wi-Fi sys­tem

VER­DICT

A great-value three-pack mesh sys­tem, which per­forms well, and is quick and easy to set up

AN­OTHER MONTH, AN­OTHER wire­less mesh sys­tem, this time from Tenda, a rel­a­tively lit­tle-known router man­u­fac­turer. What the com­pany lacks in name recog­ni­tion, how­ever, it makes up for with a high-qual­ity and re­li­able mesh sys­tem that shows some of its big-name ri­vals how it’s done.

ROUTE ONE

The Tenda Nova MW6 ships with a three-pack of satel­lites, each one a neat cube that you can tuck neatly out of the way. With all three, Tenda claims that the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of giv­ing you 6,000ft2 of cov­er­age. In other words, that’s enough to cover most UK homes, even those with thick walls that usu­ally don’t play nicely with wire­less.

As with other wire­less sys­tems, the MW6 has to have one satel­lite con­nected to your main net­work, us­ing the ded­i­cated WAN port. This can ei­ther be into your ex­ist­ing router, or you can re­place your router en­tirely, as the MW6 sup­ports PPPoE con­nec­tions: you just need a router with an Eth­er­net port on it.

If you can, it makes sense to re­place your ex­ist­ing router with the MW6. If you don’t, then you end up us­ing dou­ble Net­work Ad­dress Trans­la­tion (NAT), once on the MW6 and once on your router. In ef­fect, you’ll have two net­works, which can con­fuse things. How­ever, this is nor­mal for most mesh net­works bar the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi kit (Shop­per 358).

The down­side of us­ing the Nova MW6 as your router is that you sac­ri­fice wired Eth­er­net ports. The main unit leaves you just one spare Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net port; the other two satel­lites give you two Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net ports (the WAN port on the re­main­ing satel­lites turns into a LAN port). As such, you may need to buy a Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net switch.

LOCK DOWN

The Tenda Nova MW6 sys­tem is man­aged en­tirely through the smart­phone app. It’s sur­pris­ingly easy to set up: plug the first unit into your router or mo­dem, then con­fig­ure your net­work name; plug in the satel­lites where you want them, and they con­nect au­to­mat­i­cally. Smartly, each satel­lite has an LED on top that flashes a dif­fer­ent colour to show you sig­nal strength. If you place one too far away, you can quickly see and move it. We had our sys­tem run­ning in a mat­ter of min­utes, which is im­pres­sive.

Once up and run­ning, the app shows you how many de­vices are con­nected and the sta­tus of the net­work. There’s no con­trol over the Wi-Fi set­tings, as the MW6 au­to­mat­i­cally se­lects the best chan­nel to use. It also uses chan­nel bond­ing, direct­ing in­com­ing de­vices to the best chan­nel (which could be 2.4GHz or 5GHz, de­pend­ing on speed or per­for­mance).

En­abling Fast Roam­ing is a good idea for modern de­vices. With this op­tion turned on, your wire­less de­vices will more quickly switch the con­nec­tion from one satel­lite to an­other as you move around. This helps you main­tain a strong con­nec­tion everywhere.

Parental con­trols are built in, let­ting you group one per­son’s de­vices into a pro­file, where you can tog­gle in­ter­net ac­cess or set an ac­cess sched­ule. It’s a shame that parental con­trols don’t extend to web­site block­ing.

The app also gives you Port For­ward­ing con­trol, a UPnP tog­gle and a firmware up­grade op­tion, and also lets you tog­gle on the guest wire­less net­work, but that’s about it.

THE QUICK­EN­ING

What’s re­ally im­por­tant with a mesh sys­tem is how well it per­forms, and the Nova MW6 didn’t let us down. The sys­tem uses dual-band 802.11ac, run­ning at up to 300Mbit/s on the 2.4GHz band and up to 867Mbit/s on the 5GHz band, on which we tested it.

At close range, we saw up­load speeds of 254.05Mbit/s and down­load speeds of 434.19Mbit/s; on the first floor, we saw up­load speeds of 220.15Mbit/s and down­load speeds of 378.91Mbit/s; on the sec­ond floor, we saw up­load speeds of 148.38Mbit/s and down­load speeds of 333.07Mbit/s. That puts the sys­tem a chunk ahead of our pre­vi­ous mesh speed win­ner, the TP-Link Deco M5 (Shop­per 358).

Out­side, at the bot­tom of the garden, we still man­aged to find a through­put of 69.79Mbit/s. That is very quick, al­though the

Tenda claims the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of giv­ing you 6,000ft2 of cov­er­age – enough to cover most UK homes

BT Whole Home Wi-Fi sys­tem man­aged slightly faster through­puts at the same range.

Ul­ti­mately, the choice comes down to what you want to achieve and how much you’re happy to spend. For a three-pack, the Tenda Nova MW6 is ex­cel­lent value. Its simplicity and abil­ity to re­place an ex­ist­ing router make it an en­tic­ing choice.

The main com­pe­ti­tion is the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi kit. This is slightly more ex­pen­sive for a three-pack, but also comes in a cheaper two-pack op­tion, which might suit smaller prop­er­ties. Its main ad­van­tage is that it in­te­grates nicely with ex­ist­ing routers, which makes it a better choice for any­one that doesn’t want to swap their main router.

⬆ The MW6 is man­aged en­tirely via your phone

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