This is where a good outdoor wireless access point can be the difference between a smooth browsing experience and a frustrating cycle of your wifi connecting and disconnecting nonstop. This is the Engenius ENS620EXT outdoor wireless access point.
The name may not be the easiest thing to say, but it makes up for it with a whole host of features that you would normally find in access points that cost more than twice as much.
With an MSRP of $159 USD, you’re getting a quad core processor, 802.11ac Wave 2, 2×2 MU-MIMO, Beam Forming, Band Steering, Power over Ethernet, and an IP55 rated enclosure. If you didn’t understand some of that, then don’t worry, we’ll be going over and testing each of those features. But for now, let’s start with a physical tour.
The first thing you’ll probably notice are the four antennas sticking out of the unit. All four of them are 5dBi high gain omnidirectional antennas with two dedicated to the 2.4Ghz frequency and two to the 5GHz frequency. Altogether, Engenius claims a maximum range of approximately 5000 square feet under ideal conditions.
As we mentioned earlier, the enclosure is rated IP55 which gives it protection against water projected at it from any direction. Underneath the protective cover, there are two Ethernet ports. One of the ports is a regular Ethernet port for connecting other networking devices, while the other one is a power over Ethernet port that transmits data and powers the access point itself. It does come with a power over Ethernet port injector in case your current network isn’t already powered.
This is one of the main differences between an indoor and outdoor access point. POE is very useful outdoors since shielded, waterproof cat cables are relatively cheap and network cables don’t require a qualified electrician to work on. It also cuts down the total amount of wiring, which is always a plus.
The next difference you’ll probably notice is how you mount the unit. Instead of just sitting on some feet, you have the option of either hanging it on two screws like a picture frame or clamping it onto a pole. Engenius includes drywall studs, screws, and a circle clamp in the box to help you get started.
With the tour done, let’s have a more in depth look at the features. It offers speeds of up to 867mbps on the 5GHz frequency and 400Mbps on the 2.4Ghz frequency. As we mentioned earlier, the ENS620EXT is a Wave 2 device with support for MU-MIMO with a 2×2 spatial stream. In other words, that means it can receive and transmit to multiple devices all at the same time without slowing down.
And finally, it also comes with beam forming and band steering. Beam forming essentially focuses your wireless signal to connected devices for a stronger connection, similar to cupping your hands around your mouth when trying to shout at someone. Band steering, on the other hand, lets you combine your 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies together into one SSID. It will automatically detect your device, and try to use the faster 5GHz frequency when possible.
Overall, a very solid feature set. So how does it all perform in practice? On our wired desktop systems, we averaged a download of 93.84mbps and an upload of 14.36mbps. Connected wirelessly to the ENS620EXT with our MSI GS40 inside the studio, we hit an average of 91.79 and 14.21 respectively. Obviously, speed is not a concern.
But since this is an outdoor access point, we’re more interested in signal strength, because range and reliability are the biggest factors that you’ll notice. When you’re streaming Youtube, checking emails, or playing games, the difference between 90mbps and 60mbps is negligible. But if your connection drops? Rage inducing.
Here’s a chart with a range of signal strengths and what it translates into. Just remember, signal strength is measured with decibel milliwatts, or dBm for short. It’s a logarithmic scale, so an increase of 3 dBm is double the signal strength, while a decrease of 3dBm is half signal strength. And everything is in negative, so the closer to 0, the stronger the signal.
To measure, we’re using a Galaxy s8 with the Wifi Analyzer app. With the access point set up indoors and us standing right beside it, we’re at a solid -41dBm. Once we mounted it outside, we stayed at -41dBm. Walking out 25 feet, our signal strength dropped to an average of -61dBm. Walking out a further 25 feet, to 50 feet total, our signal strength dropped to -71dBm.
In the end, the Engenius ENS620EXT offers a lot of high end features with very good performance for just $159. It’s a great addition to any existing network whether indoor or outdoors. If you’re running into weak signal problems, then we’d easily recommend adding one of these to extend your network’s reach.
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