What to build X86 with Wi-Fi 6

Hello everyone! I hope you are all well!

I am writing in because I would need some advice's on how to build a X86 AP machine with Wi-Fi 6.
I will repurposed an old PC that is power-full enough for the task.

:warning: Warning, unnecessary context. :warning:
I started looking for two reason :
My Home-Assistant equipped home has many ESPHome devices (ESP8266) and it put stress onto my actual Netgear R7000 with stock firmware (performance oblige) thing is, Netgear firmware from the last years is pure crap and it crashes all the time. Getting tired of it, I looked at what OpenWRT could offer and found this page.

That’s when I opted for the very nicely featured EAP615-Wall of TP-Link.
Getting OpenWRT on it was shockingly easy. Everything works. A true fairy-tale.

Until I realize something is wrong.. The AP performance is trully awfull. And that’s not OpenWRT fault. Even with the stock firmware, I can only get 20 Mb/s on average on the 2.4 Ghz radio. Even next to it. It’s much less worst on the 5 Ghz but this is just not usable as a whole. I’m thinking it has a defect since other people are reporting having great success with it and they’re buying multiple of them.
:warning: Warning, unnecessary context. :warning:

My needs are :

  • High-throughput Wi-Fi AP.
  • Cover a city apartment with a radius of 15 meters.
  • High density capability (around 20 devices permanently on the network [15 devices 2.4 Ghz] and [5 devices 5 Ghz])
  • Reasonable power amplification for battery devices.

So I am looking at my options and reading thru the documentation and the forum but still have some questions :

  • To my understanding the best would be to build an X86 (re-purposing an old PC) and get myself networking cards and put a mPCIe AP card that I can upgrade in the future ?
  • AsiaRF sell’s a nice? MT7916 that is DBDC. It has the perks of supporting Wi-Fi 6E. I saw commits about this card, does it mean it is now supported in OpenWRT, including the 6 Ghz part?
  • How can I make this card work in a PCIe slot? That would require a daughter card but they all seem to come with a AMS1117 which can only deliver 1A, yet AsiaRF cards require 3 amps, how can I overcome this? Are such daughter cards exist or I could I hack it a littleto make it work ?
  • Should I consider other chipsets / cards for my needs?

Thank you for your wise advices!

If you have good hardware for AP's then you don't need your router to provide wifi. Just set the AP's up as dumb AP's and you should be in great shape.

Your needs do not require an x86 PC build. If you want to do this anyway to have fun with it, that is another matter of course.

I suggest you take a look at a Belkin RT3200/LinksysE8450. It checks your boxes for WiFi6, decent throughput (500+ nearby with ax, 400-500 Mbps nearby with ac, 200 Mbps further out), plenty of coverage for a 15 meter radius, plenty of CPU and memory (512MB) to deal with 20+ clients and enough flash (128MB) to install a good number of packages. And it is supported by OpenWrt stable.

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A high amplification AP may not help as much as you think, because the AP and its clients both need to hear each other. A powerful AP (e.g., 30 dBm) can shout very loudly at a battery device, but this will not help it hear a battery device whispering back on low power from afar. Sometimes performance can even be better with the AP power reduced, because less amplification also means less noise.

An OpenWrt supported 802.11ax AP (or several) will be considerably cheaper than two (or three, wifi 6e) 802.11ax WLAN cards, risers, pigtails and antennas - in most cases the dedicated AP should also work better as well (as the rf chains are fine-tuned - and far away from a big chunk of metal (your PC case)).

Thank you for the feedback.

@jc1685 I am only looking at replacing my AP at the moment (the R7000). My router (Edge Router X SFP) still works if you don’t consider the fact that it is at the limit of my internet connection (500/500). I am definitively looking for an OpenWRT AP. Buying a new AP without open source drivers in most cases prevents me from certain features and will just make the story repeat like the R7000.

@eginnc I did look yesterday at the E8450 but it is hard (not impossible) to acquire in Canada. The only thing I don’t like is the need to change the partition which makes it hard to go back to the original firmware if need be. From my understanding you do own it? :slight_smile: If so, you find it reliable? Ultimately, I care a lot about throughput and density so if something is more capable in a AC mode I would also consider it.

@slh interesting. I’m wondering why I would need two 802.11ax cards (I'm sorry for the dumb question)? From reading the forum I saw you do have an X86-64 setup for your AP (or at least your router) is that right? What convinced you from doing so even taught it would be cheaper to have commercial gear?

Is the Reyee RG-E5 available in CA?

Using same setup as @slh, x86 + APs.

Router, yes - wired-only (just linking to a random third party blog with nice pictures about it); OpenWrt works very nicely in this capacity.
AP, no - classic 'plastic' APs (ipq8074a, ipq8071a, ipq806x, ipq4019) there. While I'd really like to add the AP side on x86_64 as well, it just doesn't make economic (and functional) sense. QCN9074 would cost 200+250+250 (2.4+5+6 GHz) USD, plus 4*5+4*5+4*5 USD for pigtails (12 pigtails, 4 per radio), plus 4*5+4*10+4*15 USD half-decent antennas (5- and 6 GHz antennas are more expensive; with a risk that your first choice of antennas might not be that good), probably plus risers (M.2 to desktop PCIe or mini-PCIe, expect 10-18 EUR per card)), plus shipping, plus import duties (and 'fun' with customs) - then you can't get away with a tiny to small mainboard, but either need to go µATX (big chunk of metal (case) in a very bad place for the antennas) or /very/ expensive XEON mini-ITX boards.

Yes, Mediatek's DBDC cards can drop these prices considerably, but you end up with 2x2, instead of 4x4/ 8x8 - and still have to deal with customs and considerably shipping times.

On black friday, the Belkin RT3200 was sold for 40 GBP, the (soon to be supported-) Dynalink DL-WRX36 sells for 70-80 EUR, down to the D-Link DAP-X1860 which sold for 15 EUR in cyber week - and there are a few similar devices on the market. It's hard (impossible) to beat those prices.

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@frollic On Amazon.com I could get the Reyee RG-E5 imported for about 130$ with coupon.
It’s all Realtek based is that right?

@slh oh I see! Wow, I understand why then. I can see the DL-WRX36 is very powerfull and reasonable to import as well. Even cheaper than the RG-E5 yet with a 2.5 G port. You own an ap with a ipq8074a? 8x8 look just crazy haha. What kind of AP supports that? I’m guessing I should avoid AX APs with Qualcomm chipset for now since thay don’t seem to be entirely supported yet?

I’m not sure what to buy now. :smile:

Same hw as the Linksys/Belkin RT3200, it sells for <$50 on US eBay (mostly open boxes), I paid $40 for mine.
It's already supported, but currently only in snapshots.

The WAX206 is also getting supported, it has a 2.5gbit uplink port.

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I do own the Belkin RT3200, and it runs well on 22.03.2. I flashed it with the UBI installer. OneMarcFifty has a good review showing stock firmware and OpenWrt perform about the same. I won't run stock on any of my network gear, so UBI is no problem for me.

Like you, I used to use an ER-X as my router, and like you I determined 500 Mbps service was pushing its limits. I replaced the ER-X with an R4S and GS308T switch in my in-wall metal telecom box. My AP's are on wired backhaul to the telecom box, which itself is no place for an AP of course.

If your router and one of your AP's can be co-located, an RT3200 will be more capable than your ER-X, and could also serve as an AP. Just something to think about if you go that route. It won't replace the SFP capability on your ER-X SFP though, and it would make the CPU handle both WiFi and routing. On balance, I think it's better to separate routing hardware from AP's, which of course is my current set up.

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Just found the Linksys E8450 at Walmart. It sells for 170$ which is a bit pricey but seems to be my best shot at the moment.

https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/linksys-e8450-ax3200-dual-band-gigabit-wifi-6-router/6000202826144?skuId=6000202826145&offerId=6000202826145

I listened to the video of OneMarcFifty and it is very convincing performance wise.

I’m gonna go grab one tomorrow and try it out. Will definitively make the bleeding stop while there is nice 6 / 6e chipsets supported in OpenWRT.

Can you find the Belkin RT3200 for less? Other than its color, it is the same as the E8450. An RT3200 is $69 online at Walmart or Ebay in the U.S. I gather Canada is more expensive, but still, $170 seems like a lot of coin for an AP - it would make me think about looking for an open box RG-E5.

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I feel ripped-off now haha
I just saw the price of the RT3200 in the US and it’s just so cheap.

Unfortunately there is no RT3200 in Canada from what I can see. :cry:
Where can you find open box of RG-E5?

Yep, was going to make similar points. As an RF, amongst other things, guy... I can tell you, at these frequencies, you don't want to have long coax cable runs to an antenna. And of course, you don't want the antennas on the floor with the PC. Better to have that cheap(ish) AP, centrally located, nicely up in the air or hanging from the ceiling, to better spread the signal across your place.

Also, if you are running OpenWrt on your AP's... and they are Qualcomm or Media-Tek, they (probably) will be able to use the Make-Wifi-Fast project SQM/airtime fairness improvements to Wifi. Though I'm not sure if that would only apply to N and AC and not to AX connections?

I'd wonder how well a RT3200 might do routing (and SQM'ing) the 500/500Mb connection, and handling the wifi radios... Would be interesting to find out. Probably some x86 (but lower power consuming than a desktop!) or RPi would be the better/future proof fit.

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Try Ebay for new and open-box. I see RG-E5 and RT3200 options for $69 in U.S. There may be plenty of room between $170 and $69 to cover an international shipping up-charge from the U.S. to Canada?

Used on Ebay with some patience and low max bids could also be an option. Broken in past the early part of the bathtub curve - perfect! There are many very nice used 802.11ac AP options to be had too. Most/all will not be the 802.11ax you were looking for, but 802.11ac remains quite capable.

Me too - especially if SQM is in the mix. It does have two cores, so if one is sufficient for WiFi and routing, the other is free for CAKE SQM (and fq_codel will use even less CPU). In addition, since the WED WiFi hardware offload (download direction only) on this device can be used independent of hardware routing offload, I've wondered if that would work with, and free up CPU cycles for, SQM on the WAN. In any case, no harm in trying it out first. If the MT7622 in the RT3200 or RG-E5 handles everything without or with WED, done. If not, turn it into an AP only as originally intended anyway, and add a device like a NanoPi R4S for routing, plugged into an AP switch to add Ethernet ports.

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When comparing router prices from across the border (either direction!) a chunk of that difference is U$D vs $CDN.

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I own the MT7916, installed in my topton variant x86_64 router, the performance with it is currently disappointing than those off the shelf dedicated AP devices.
Simple test result :
Client is Vivo v2120 getting ~ 123/66 Mbps (DL/UL) on 5 Ghz 160 Mhz
Client is Vivo v2120 getting ~ 50.5/53.6 Mbps (DL/UL) on 2.4 Ghz

Perhaps my topton just cannot support those 3 AMPS power it's required.

Also you need these patches :
luci,openwrt,mt76

My stock firmware Xiaomi AX9000 can beat it easily, my line is 300/300 Mbps, and AX9000 able to top it with 277/242 Mbps at 5 Ghz

For now yes, imho x86_64 router with separate dump AP would be the best for AX.

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There's also the Ruijie RG-EW3200GX PRO, it's physically the same device as the RG-E5, but the fw differ.
It's already supported in 22.03.

Mention of the Reyee RG-E5 in this thread inspired me to look for external reviews on it. Tom's Guide write up was favorable overall. The main negative I noted was poor performance broadcasting to a floor above it; however, I've noted this to generally be the case with many all-in-ones: they broadcast to a floor below better than a floor above. No mention if antennas were rotated toward horizontal to try to improve things in the review.