Synology Mesh in 2022: Still A Terrific Mesh Option


Synology first added mesh capability to its Wi-Fi 5 router back in October 2018 with the release of the MR2200ac. If that sounds so long ago, that’s because it has taken the company that long to make another router, the recently-released Wi-Fi 6 RT6600ax.

The known NAS maker never has an official name for this significant feature. I’ve called it “Synology Mesh” as a way to distinguish it from similar mesh approaches by other vendors such as AiMesh of Asus or OneMesh of TP-Link.

Synology Mesh is one-of-a-kind in more ways than one and it’s overall an excellent option to expand a Wi-Fi network for a home (or small office). It’s the only one that can genuinely rival Asus’s AiMesh in performance, flexibility, and features.

You’ll learn about it all in this post.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on Nov 1, 2018, after Synology released the MR2200ac, and I last updated it on May 22, 2022, based on Synology’s new router, the RT6600ax, which uses the latest firmware, SRM 1.3.

Synology RT6600ax Wi-Fi 6 Router
A pair of RT6600ax routers will make an excellent mesh Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi system.

Synology Mesh: It’s quite fantastic

In a nutshell, Synology Mesh enables users to create a robust mesh system by putting a few supported standalone routers together.

Users can start their network with a full-featured standalone router and gradually scale up Wi-Fi coverage and network capability via additional hardware units as their needs grow.

A brief history

It all started in 2018 with the MR2200ac, Synology’s third home router. Before this, there were the RT1900ac and RT2600ac, released in 2016 and 2017, respectively, as standalone routers.

With the MR2200ac, Synology updated its router firmware, called Synology Router Manager or SRM, to version 1.2. Among other things, the new firmware brings mesh functionality to select Synology routers.

Consequently, when you use two or more supported routers, you can link them together to form a Wi-Fi system, just like other (purpose-built) mesh systems, like those from Asus, Netgear, Linksys, or TP-Link.

Like all Wi-Fi systems, you use one of the hardware units as the primary router which connects to the Internet. After that, you can add more hardware units, wirelessly or via network cables, to extend the home network.

That said, like the case of Asus AiMesh, a Synology Mesh system has the features of the main router. Consequently, users have all the features, settings, and customizability, just like when they use the router as a standalone unit.

Fast-forward to 2022, Synology released SRM 1.3 with the RT6600ax that continued the mesh capability with minor improvement.

But, similar to Asus’s AiMesh, a Synology Mesh can do a lot more than provide a reliable seamless Wi-Fi network. It’s a system that gives you the most, if not everything, in regard to home networking needs.

Synology MR2200ac vs RT2600ac Routers
A combo of the RT2600ac (top) and the MR2200ac has been a main Synology Mesh setup before the release of the RT6600ax.

What you can expect from a Synology mesh system

Synology Mesh system has all the bells and whistles of the primary router. That means you can do a lot more with your home network than with almost any purpose-built system, like those bearing the home brands such as Deco, eero, or Orbi.

Following is the breakdown of what you can expect from a Synology mesh:

  • Available supported routers: Synology Mesh is currently available to the RT6600ax, MR2200ac, and RT2600ac. (Synology’s first Wi-Fi router, the RT1900ac, has been largely left out.) Chances are, future Synology routers will support this feature, too.
  • Combo requirements: All routers must use the same firmware version (SRM 1.2 or 1.3) to work with one another. The RT6600ax is the first that gets SRM 1.3 which will be available as an upgrade to the RT2600ac and MR2200ac within 2022 according to Synology.
  • Hardware roles: The RT6600ax and MR2200ac can work as either the main router or satellites (Wi-Fi points). When running SRM 1.2, the RT2600ac can only work as the router’s main router. Synology said that it may also be able to work as a satellite when upgraded to SRM 1.3.
  • Max hardware units: There’s no limit to how many hardware units you can use in a Synology Mesh. However, Synology recommends no more than seven hardware units, including the primary router. Generally, you won’t need more than 2 or 3 units.
  • Backhaul: Synology Mesh allows for flexible backhauling. Specifically:
    • Wired backhaul: You can use network cables to link hardware units. In this case, you can use any port of the satellite as the uplink to the router.
    • Multi-Gig wired backhaul is available when multiple units of the RT6600ax are in use — a switch is required if you use more than one satellite.
    • Users can also mix wired and wireless backhaul.
    • In a wireless backhaul setup, there are two possibilities:
      • When all-Tri-band hardware is used, the system will pick the faster 5GHz band (the upper channels or 5GHz-1) as the wireless backhaul. Users have the option to not use it to dedicate it to the job of backhauling.
      • When a dual-band router (the RT2600ac) works as the main router, it can create a virtual 2nd 5GHz band for the backhaul link. This band still suffers from signal loss but will work gracefully with Tri-band satellites.
  • Feature-riched: The mesh network retains all features and settings of the main Synology router, which is among the best on the market — more in the review of the RT6600ax.
  • Auto-update: You can set the system to auto-update to the latest firmware, which will take care of both the main router and satellite (Wi-Fi points).
  • Guest network: A Synology mesh offers an advanced and highly-customizable Guest Wi-Fi network. There’s even a captive portal — where users need to interact with a website, such as agreeing with the terms of use, before getting connected — making the Guest network excellent for public use.
  • Auto-sensing network ports. Other than the WAN (Internet) port of the router unit, which needs to connect to an Internet source (like a cable modem), the rest of the network ports in the mesh function as LAN ports to host wired clients.
  • Access point mode: The mesh (main router + satellites) can work in the AP mode, allowing you to use the system with an existing router/gateway as part of one single network. In this case, other than the Wi-Fi network, no additional features or settings of the mesh are available.
  • Optional vendor account: You will not need to register an account with Synology to manage a router or a mesh network remotely, though there’s an option — called QuickConnect — to do so for the sake of convenience. Or you can use Dynamic DNS.
Synology Mesh SRM 1.3 Synology Mesh SRM 1.2

Synology Mesh: There’s not much difference in the mesh function between SRM 1.2 vs SRM 1.3. Note how my SRM 1.2 set has been running for 78 days straight — it has had no issue.

Synology Mesh vs Asus AiMesh

I’ve used both for years and they proved to be equally excellent. It’s quite hard to say which one is decidedly better but it’s decidedly clear that they are comparable and both superior to any other home mesh brands for advanced or professional users.

It’s easy to see how they differentiate, as shown in the table below.

Synology Mesh vs Asus AiMesh: Hardware specifications

Synology Mesh Asus AiMesh
Supported Hardware
(at publication)
RT6600ax,
RT2600ac, 
MR2200ac
Dozens and counting supported routers and access points
Main Router Option Any Router Any Router
Satellite
Options
SRM1.2: Only the MR2200ac
SRM 1.3: All routers
Any
Dedicated Backhaul Yes, when applicable Yes, when applicable
Wired Backhaul  Yes Yes
Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul RT6600ax Many options
Firmware Robust Linux-based proprietary operating system with
with multi-tasking
(Synology Router Manager – SRM)
Open-source menu-based firmware
(Asuswrt)
Features Plenty plus 
add-on apps
Plenty
Guest Network Yes
(system-wide with login portal)
Yes 
(system-wide with Aimesh 2.0)
Online Protection Yes (free)
Via Threat Prevention add-on app
Yes (free) 
Via Network Protection
(part of AiProtection)
Parental Controls Yes (free)
(Safe Access app)
Yes (free)
(part of AiProtection)
Quality of Service
(QoS)
Yes
(Client-based only)
Yes
(Client- and app-based)
Dual-WAN Yes
RT2600ac and RT6600ax
Yes 
(on most routers)
Link Aggregation No Yes 
(on most routers)
AP Mode 
(as a mesh system)
Yes Yes
Wi-Fi Performance Excellent Mostly excellent
depending on the hardware combo
Wi-Fi Coverage
(2-pack)
≈ 4000 ft2 (370 m2) ≈ 4000 ft2 (370 m2)
Mobile apps Yes
DS Router and others
Yes
Asus Router
NAS Features Excellent Very good
Time Machine backup support Yes  Yes
Demographics Savvy home or business users Savvy home users
Network Settings Comprehensive Comprehensive
Remote Access Dynamic DNS,
QuickConnect
Dynamic DNS
Synology Mesh vs. Asus’s AiMesh

Asus AiMesh vs Synology Mesh: It’s kinda home vs business, options vs stability

Asus AiMesh offers more hardware options. You can pick and choose from dozens of routers and there’re going to be more in the future.

But the plentiful hardware also comes with the innate fact that AiMesh is more susceptible to bugs. For this reason, it can be quite hard to get a good combo. I detailed that in this post on picking AiMesh combinations.

But in return, if you’re a gamer, Asus is more applicable since it has many features geared toward online gaming. Get a gaming router to host your mesh setup and you have a gaming Wi-Fi system — make sure you use wired backhaul, too.

Synology Mesh SRM 1.3 Interface Asus AiMesh Interface RT AX82U RP AX56

Synology Mesh vs Asus AiMesh: The web interface of AiMesh has slightly more options. Among other things, you can control the satellite’s USB port.

On the other hand, Synology has much more advanced firmware and an extensive set of network storage features, including a powerful PC-less download app. When coupled with a good USB external storage device, the RT6600ax can work almost as a full-featured NAS server.

Synology’s SRM firmware has many business features, such as an advanced VPN server, robust VLANs, a DNS server, and the support for a login portable in Guest networking. It also has a more graceful way to deal with Wi-Fi backhaul when it comes to mixing Dual-band and Tri-band hardware.

That said, Synology’s approach to mesh is professional with business flavors. Asus AiMesh’s approach is a bit messy but fun and geared toward home users.

Both systems are effective in delivering fast Wi-Fi with extensive coverage — and you can use either a home or a small office. The two are similar in performance via wired backhauls but in a fully wireless setup, Synology Mesh can be consistently faster and more reliable thanks to its limited hardware options.

How to build a Synology Mesh

To create a mesh, you’ll need at least two hardware units. One will work as the main router and the other as a satellite. Later on, you can add more satellites if need be.

At publication, the MR2200ac and RT2600ac haven’t gotten SRM 1.3 so they can’t work with the RT6600ax yet. But no matter which SRM version you use, the process of setting a Synology Mesh is largely the same.

Synology RT6600ax vs RT2600ac
You have to wait till the RT2600ac (right) gets SRM 1.3 before you can use it with the RT6600ax in a Synology Mesh setup.

Steps to build a Synology Mesh

I performed the steps below using two RT6600ax via SRM 1.3 but will note the difference if you use older routers running SRM 1.2.

Housekeeping

A couple of things to note before we start:

  • Update and reset:
    • Make sure all routers involved need to use the same firmware version (SRM 1.2 vs SRM 1.3). After that reset them to the default factory setting.
      • You might skip this step if you buy new hardware units at the same time — chances are they already have the same firmware.
      • If you want to add a node to an existing router, then only reset the node.
  • Satellite placement/connection for the mesh building process:
    • For SRM 1.2: You can add only one satellite at a time and only wirelessly. f you intend to use network a network cable to connect a node to the main router, do that after the setup process:
      • Place a satellite node unit less than 10 feet (3m) from the primary router.
      • Plug it into power. Do NOT plug any network cable into its network ports.
    • For SRM 1.3: You can add multiple satellites at a time.
      • Place a wireless satellite at a good distance from the router.
      • Connect a wired satellite’s WAN port to the router (or existing network’s switch).
1. Set up the main router unit as a standalone router

All Synology has a web user interface and shares the same standard setup process as most other home routers.

You have the option to add a Wi-Fi point at the end of the router's initial setup process.
You have the option to add a Wi-Fi point at the end of the router’s initial setup process.
2. Add a satellite (Wi-Fi Point) to the router

At the end of the initial setup process above, you’ll have the option to add Wi-Fi points, use it if you want to add a satellite right away.

Synology Mesh SRM 1.3 Initial Wizard
The steps to initiate adding a mesh satellite to an existing Synology router with SRM 1.3.

Alternatively, you can always log into the router’s web interface, run the Wi-Fi Connect app, then click on Wi-Fi Point.

After that follow the wizard to add the satellite(s). Again, with SRM 1.3 you can have multiple satellites (both wireless and wired) at the same time. SRM 1.2 only allows for adding one wireless satellite at a time.

The wizard will walk you through a few simple steps and at the end, the satellite router will be part of the system. The process takes a few minutes.

And that’s it. Your Synology Mesh is now ready.

Synology Mesh SRM 1.3
Here’s a Synology Mesh in the wireless backhaul of two RT6600ax in action.
3. Hardware arrangement and extra mesh configurations

In terms of placement, keep the satellite (s) a reasonable distance — between 40 feet (13m) and 75 feet (25m) — from the primary router.

If you have more than one wireless satellite node, make sure you place them around the main router and not in a straight line to get the best performance.

If you use wired backhaul, it doesn’t matter the distance but you do want to arrange them appropriately to get the best coverage. You can daisy-chain them.

Synology Mesh SRM 1.3 Interface Synology RT6600ax Mesh Uplink Band

Synology Mesh: Users have some control over the backhaul link and certain aspects of the satellite unit.

Like the case of AiMesh, Synology Mesh doesn’t allow for a lot of control of the satellite. But you can pick the uplink type, including wired, and the band (5GH-1 or 5GHz-) used for wireless backhaul. On the satellite, you can restart, reset, and manage its LED status light.

Synology Mesh: Excellent performance

Synology mesh is generally one of the fastest and most reliable systems I’ve known. I’ve used a few RT2600ac + MR2200ac combos for a few years with no issues.

Most recently The RT600ax proved to be one of the fastest Wi-Fi 6 routers you can find. And that applied when it worked as a standalone router as well as a mesh system, via my month-long hands-on experience.

Synology Mesh Routers Performance
Synology Routers’ performance against Wi-Fi 6 counterparts

For now, you need two or more units to form a mesh. In this case, in a wireless setup, you can use the hardware’s 5.9GHz band as the backhaul to have a reliable and fast link — most reliable of all Tri-band mesh in fact. It’ll also work solely for the backhauling considering theres’ are no clients that support this portion of the band yet.

I tried that out and tested the backhaul link via a Multi-Gig computer connected to the satellite RT6600ax’s 2.5Gbps port the mesh had the sustained backhaul link of around 1700Mbps — the fastest I’ve seen.

Synology Mesh Satellites Performance
Synology Routers’ performance as mesh satellites against Wi-Fi 6 counterparts

For practical purposes though, I’ve used the system using a client-friendly portion of the 5GHz-1 band and it still proved to be excellent as you can see on the chart. By the way, I test all mesh systems via a wireless backhaul.

Multi-Gig wired backhaul worked on the RT660ax, too, but considering the router has just one 2.5Gbps port, it’s still not ideal hardware for those with Gig+ or faster broadband.

Minor issues

Like all mesh systems, a Synology Mesh is not perfect, even with SRM 1.3. The following are a few issues:

  • You have no direct control over the satellite unit; if you attempt to access its web interface, you’ll get to that of the main router unit.
  • There’s no way to configure or monitor the satellite’s network ports — for VLANs or even viewing their statuses — or use its USB port.
  • Firmware update and setup time can be time-consuming, mostly because the hardware takes a long time – up to two minutes – to boot up.
  • Limited hardware, there are no satellite-only options.

On top of that, the RT6600ax had some bugs in my testing. Specifically, at times I needed to connect wired clients a few times to the satellite for them to get an IP address. And often, though not always, the 2.5Gbps port on the satellite unit delivered the same performance as a Gigabit port.

Hopefully, most if not all of these will be worked out via firmware updates.

Synology RT6600ax Wi-Fi 6 Router

Pros

Fast, reliable, and large Wi-Fi coverage

Advanced interface with high-quality add-on features

Highly-customizable network and Wi-Fi settings

Effective Parental Controls and online protection

Cons

Limited hardware options, no satellite-only hardware, users have little control over the satellites

No 10Gbps or 5Gbps Multi-Gig option, no hardware with two or more 2.5Gbps ports

Conclusion

For those looking for a reliable mesh system, the release of the RT6600ax proved exciting in the sense it means Synology Mesh is here to stay. Among other things, Asus AiMesh continues to have a formidable rival and that’s a good thing.

But the RT6600ax doesn’t solve the Wi-Fi solution’s biggest problem: The lack of hardware options. While the fewer hardware choices can mean the vendor can focus on making them stable, that doesn’t help with costs.

And the lackluster support for Multi-Gig can be a deal-breaker for those with Gig+ or faster broadband. On this front, Asus AiMesh is far ahead.



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